Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Brown (11/26/09)
- TITLE: the barren pathway to hope
By Beth Wilson
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Amina stood in the doorway, stunned. Her eye caught a glimpse of the familiar, brilliant blue water. She gazed at the breathtaking view. Her entire life had been spent within sight of the Indian Ocean. It was unchanging, both powerful and peaceful. Many considered it the only remaining treasure in war-torn Mogadishu. The once beautiful, booming capital of Somalia was shattered from eighteen years of violence.
Nearby gunfire jolted Amina from her thoughts. She stepped inside her home and closed the door.
“Are we going with them, Mama?” asked her oldest daughter, Miriam.
Amina couldn’t answer. She picked up the baby that cried at her feet. Her thoughts raced, a flood of memories, worries, and questions. How could she leave the only place she had known? What if her husband returned to find them gone? She knew there was little chance Ibrahim was still alive. Six weeks had passed since he left to look for food. He disappeared. No one had seen him. Amina knew there was no other logical possibility, but she couldn’t bring herself to believe he was dead. How could she go without him? Panic washed over her heart.
The route of escape – the only way to Dadaab, Kenya – would take them through the desert. The brown sea of sand beckoned, but it was a harsh and inhospitable host. Amina looked at her children. How could they walk those hundreds of miles? They were already malnourished. Hunger was their daily reality. The war and the droughts made it impossible to plant or harvest crops. A basket in the corner held a few remaining potatoes. Once eaten, there would be nothing left.
Death had stolen two of her children already. A four year old daughter succumbed to a raging fever. A stray bullet from a skirmish on a neighboring street took her eldest son as he was returning from the market.
The battle was escalating. Staying was no longer an option. “Oh,” Amina thought, “if leaving only held more than a fragment of hope.” Her heart was heavy – despair threatened – but her decision was made. They would go.
Early the next morning, she walked away from her city without looking back. She was numb. Her children were beside her, the youngest ones not understanding the significance of the day.
Miriam carried the baby on her back. Amina couldn’t look her in the eyes. She couldn’t bear to see the fear or – worse yet – the emptiness that they held. Miriam was now twelve years old, the same age Amina had been when the war broke out. Her daughter had never known peace. Would she find it on the other side of this journey?
Sooner than Amina wanted, they entered the desert. There was no evidence of life here – only barrenness – a reflection of the emptiness she felt in her soul. She caught herself. This introspection had to stop. She turned her attention to the children and began to tell the folk stories she learned from her mother. The distraction was good for all of them.
The days passed. Amina’s strength was gone. She couldn’t think in complete sentences. The endless sand and shrubs blurred together. The sun beat down on her. Sheer willpower kept her feet moving, survival drove her onward. The entire group grew quiet. Their progress slowed. The toll of the desert trek seemed more than they could bear. How far until the end?
Amina stumbled, her thin frame crumpling to the ground. She fought to remain awake, but darkness closed in around her. The next few days, she lapsed in and out of consciousness. Reality came in disjointed fragments. Cool water on her lips. The sound of her baby crying. The bleating of a goat. Her husband’s voice. Ibrahim! Her eyes struggled open. Ibrahim’s worried face came into focus. It was not an illusion. He was there. He was alive.
The joy of the reunion renewed Amina’s strength. She walked beside her husband and listened to his story. He had been captured and held. Against all odds, he escaped. Now they fled together.
Dadaab came into view. Hundreds of thousands of refugees were crowded into this camp. Amina knew their challenges were far from over, but there was no sound of gunfire. They were safe.
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