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02.04.2018

Promised Land (Part 5)


"Almost there," he says. "We made it!"

"Not yet," I whisper back. "The most difficult part lies still ahead."

"Don't worry. We're swift runners and used to climbing. Think of the lion. Everything will be fine."

Now Mr Rahmani gives the signal. We sneak up the dune, run down the other side. Some fall and slip to the dune's base in a whirl of sand. I stumble as I reach the firmer ground but Mbelu grabs my arm and drags me with him.

The plain bursts ablaze with headlights. There are stop-shouts and scared cries from us. 

"Don't pay attention," I can hear Mbelu's voice. "We're almost there!"
 
And I do what he says, I run on. 

More shouts, then gunshots. Still I race on, my head low, zigzagging. I reach the fence, climb it. There's a searing pain in my arm as I jump down the other side. Cries, shots, orders, the rush of blood in my ears mingle to a flurry. With my last breath I reach the wall, wipe the dust out of my eyes and look up. 
 
No ropes. No friends waiting for us, hauling us up.

Two, three shots explode on the wall beside me.
"Stop!" a megaphone voice bellows in my back. "Not another move!"

"We've been betrayed, Mbelu. They've found us. What shall we do?"
 
But the man beside me isn't Mbelu. He's one of the married men, his face smeared with dust and tears. He's looking back towards the fence where his wife is desperately calling at him. She's being dragged away by two soldiers.

Three figures are lying on the stretch of sand between the fence and the spot where more soldiers are holding the crying husband and me at gunpoint. The rest of our group hasn't even made it over the fence. I scan the cluster of waving and shouting people on the other side. Mbelu is not among them. 
 
Then, just before the soldiers drag us away, I look again at the bodies huddled in the sand. I know that shirt, those trousers.

THE END