One morning, my brother, Aan, and I were playing in the garden of our house. I was only 14. Mom had told both of us to stay close since we were meant to leaving soon. She had told us many times over to stay close, but we never understood why. As such, neither of us took her declaration seriously. We continued to play innocently as normal little boys. As the days passed, my older brother and sister kept giving me the impression that we were, in fact, living. In a way, they understood what was going on. However, I could not piece any of it together, so nothing bothered me. My sole focus was on completing my daily chores. The thought of leaving our home never crossed my mind. A few days later, our lives would change completely.
Aan and I raced to her and embraced her tightly. Mom would later explain to us that dad and the rest of the family had to leave town suddenly. I could not understand why, and I could not help but cry. Aan and I asked why our family had to leave. She wore a sad face, shook her head, and exhaustedly said, “They came looking for your dad.” Aan and I looked at each other and our hearts sank. With tears streaming down our cheeks I realized how helpless and desperate we were. Fear crept in. We knew who could be responsible for such an act. For a long time, we had suspected our neighbour and a few other individuals with big, fuzzy, hair.
I remember that as we made our way along the forest path, I looked up at mom and even with the darkness, I could tell that she was trying to remain stoic and calm. However, looking closely into her eyes, they betrayed the courage and boldness. Her eyes showed fear and worry, and I could tell that she was more concerned about us than herself. She constantly scanned the surrounding jungle, remaining ever so vigilant of the looming danger that if anyone found us in that jungle, we would have been as good as dead.
I never wanted to see her hurt or tortured in front of my brother and me, yet I knew that this would be the case if anyone found us. I also imagined that they would kill the three of us on the spot and leave our bloodied and broken bodies lying on the floor for the jungle to swallow us up. Our neighbours had spent years spying on our family, patiently waiting for the perfect time to attack and drive us from their lands. Finally, that day came, and it dawned on me that I might never go back to the place I called home. I kept thinking about my dad and what would happen to him.
As I was engrossed in my thoughts, our presence unsettled a couple of crows. The crows angrily took to fly above the canopy. However, as if feeding off our growing fears, they turned back and flew over our heads, cawing loudly. They broadcasted our exact location throughout the gloom of the dense foliage.