The black jungle vibrated with sound, the rumbling of the big cats, the screeching of monkeys, and the roaring—the crackling roaring that drowned out all other sounds. The drooping branches hung heavy with the misty rains that never stopped. Amar huddled under the broad leaves of the peepal tree. His mother whispered against his head.
“Amar, you must go to the mission compound. You must go tonight. They must know.”
He turned to look in her face. He could see the fires reflected in her round eyes. He turned away, for he didn't want to remember. He didn't want to hear the men shouting at his Papa. He didn't want to see his father's face.
“Amar, listen carefully. You must find the missionary and tell him.”
He looked again into her eyes. “Mama, how will I find him?”
“Follow the smooth path of the elephants over the mountain.”
He peered into the inky darkness. Even the moon dared not reveal their hiding place. He knew the way to Raikia but had never walked alone in the jungle. The the tall teak trees wavered threateningly in the flickering shadows.
“Mama, I am afraid of the tigers and the cobras.”
“God will protect you. You must be a man. You must be like your father and not be afraid.”
A wailing scream from the village pierced the throbbing, roaring, raging night. They both looked and instinctively pulled back farther into the darkness. Mama's hand cradled his shoulder against her side, and she laid her soft lips upon his young head. Her breath came in short, sharp gasps.
“You must go, Amar.”
He felt her grasp him in pain. “Mama?”
“Do not turn back, Amar.”
“Mama, what am I to say to the missionary?” He looked at her bruised cheeks, then turned away. He didn't want to remember.
“Tell him these words, 'Many faithful have fallen, but we will not turn back.' Keep them in your mind.”
She laid her head back and shut her eyes. He could not see the fires in her face.
He felt the damp soil beneath his knees. He tasted salty drops upon his lips. He smelled the choking smoke in his nostrils. He could not see his mother's face.
She sat up.
He saw the flames again.
“Say it to me, Amar. Say the words.”
“Many faithful have—Mama, I can't do it.”
“Many faithful have fallen, but we will not turn back.” He closed his eyes, and he saw his Papa, Sudhir Raman, once a member of the head counsel of the province of Orissa, but now the pastor and leader of a Christian church. His father had stood tall, with head held high, with feet firmly planted, and with heart unmoved. The boy squeezed his eyes tight. He didn't want to remember.
“Say it again.” The last word mingled with her breath.
Amar repeated the words and wrapped his bare brown arms around her. He felt the silky soaked sari clinging to her body. He smelled the sweet jasmine in her hair. He lay there like he had when he was little, like baby Surhi had done just this morning. He didn't want to remember. He didn't want to see the angry men. He didn't want hear his sister 's cry. He didn't want to remember.
With sudden realization, he pulled away. “Mama, you must come with me!”
“No, Amar. I can't. You go. You must be strong,” she whispered.
Mama's eyes were closed. She did not move. Amar stood. He wiped the droplets from his cheeks and turned his face toward the mountains.
* Although the names are fictional, this story is real. We must pray for the Christians being martyred for their faith in India.
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