Short Story

Honeysuckle Dream

The dust sneaked up her nose, tickling it; but she pressed her forefingers on either side of it, resisting the urge to sneeze. She couldn’t make a sound. Not if she wanted to ever see the light of day again.

She hid behind the shadows casted by the evening sun, knowing that danger lurked in every corner. But danger was a distant warning signal that triggered nothing but an uncaged monster she called fear, that overtook her like a disease. But this state of petrified fear was perpetual for her.

Her palms were sweating, her frame shivering and her eyes wide and searching. But this too, she was used to. She was used to being so scared that her knees would begin to shake and she would feel as though she was going to faint. But she had to trudge on. She had to get away. She had no idea where she was going, all she knew was that she had to escape. She had promised her mother that she would.

A cacophony of loud bombs erupted, piercing through the silent evening air, sending her heart racing faster than the speed of light. A large curtain dust blinded her from seeing what was happening. More bombs poured from the sky, like a never-ending rain of death and destruction.

Another airstrike.

No, No. This wasn’t supposed to happen. She needed to escape.

She wisped past the broken buildings as fast as her legs could carry her and widened her tear-filled gaze so that she could see through the hazy roads. The only thing that kept her empty soul running was fear, pure unadulterated fear. And, the will to live.  The need to see the night pass by without the eminent threat of death. The need to fulfil her promise to her dead parents and find the refugee camp they kept talking about. This was the only thing that drove her forward, her will to live to fulfil her parents promise.

The sounds that deafened her were causing her to tremble forward, fear marking her every move. She searched for a haven, a place she could escape the rain of death that had a killer in every drop. Suddenly the haze cleared a little and she saw a small run-down house that she immediately recognized.

She ran as fast as she could, trying to reach her abode of safety. Her eyes zeroed in on her target and she ran with a mingled mixture of both blood-curdling fear and mind-numbing hope.

When she reached the door of the house, she banged her fist on the door, willing it to open and consume her, enveloping her in its safety, away from the evil clutches of the ones that caused the life-taking rain.

“Please! Open the door! It’s me!” she shouted, the hunger pangs that were holding her body captive, causing her words to fall more like a harsh whisper.

She was old enough to know that the government was doing this. But she didn’t understand why even though they had people fighting for their cause, bloodshed hadn’t reduced, but increased.

The lines between good and evil were blurred and she knew it. There was no longer a black and white distinction between the two; because both thought that violence was the best solution for everything and innocent people were caught in the cross fire. Hot tears rolled down her face as she started to lose hope.

The door creaked open, groaning at the effort like a wounded soldier being made to walk for the first time. A young woman, who’d seen much more than should be thrust upon her fearfully peeped through, her hands poised and ready to shut it back if evil lurked ahead.

“Aminah!” cried the lady, opening the door wider and pulling her inside the temporarily safe confines of the house.

“Khala!” she cried out, as she snuggled into the arms of her aunt.

All the sounds slowly faded out and a deathly silence once again settled upon the deserted streets of the lonely town she had sought refuge in.

The days passed and she slowly settled into a dangerous rhythm of nights that were held captive by fear and mornings that would reduce her hope to the dust that cleared and displayed the bloodbath the night had brought on.

Day and night, she would pray for a way out. Her parents couldn’t teach her much about religion, due to their constant fright and flight life, but what they had taught her was to pray to the god above, because he hears everything and knows what the deepest confines of our hearts wish for.

And where there’s a will there is always, always a way.

She prayed and prayed, wishing for some divine hand would come and lift he out of her plight and put her in a better place. She tried to imagine this better life, a life she had never experienced as she was born into a messed-up world were people preferred swords to the pen, even though the latter was stronger than the former. And now, these swords were big metal spitting machines that could bring an entire city down.

Maybe a place with a lot of greenery and a lovely little house, maybe with honeysuckle on its outer walls. She had learnt about honeysuckle from her aunt, who had been an art teacher in the days when life was a little more bearable. The sky would be blue, not like the ash coloured depressing looking sky that would crush any hope of optimism, that she lived under. There would be happy people in her home. And she would be the happiest person alive because the hate and sadness had all passed and she was now free.

She lived in her fantasy as much as she could. The nights in which the death rain would begin she would hide under her worn out bed, shut her eyes and think about the things she would do in her honeysuckle house.

She would have beautiful roses that decorated every vase in the house.

BAM! Another household losing their lives, and their futures.

She would have lovely dresses made of silver and gold.

BAM! More homes fallen. More lives lost.

She shut her eyes so tight that her tears wouldn’t slip.

She would help people, and everyone would love her.

BAM! Another honeysuckle home lost. Another set of faces she’d never see again.

The mornings flew and the nights dragged on.

A few days later she slowly slipped out of the house to find some food. She and her aunt had gone three days surviving on just a few slices of stale bread and water. She had to get some food into her, and try to bring some home for her aunt. Her aunt had forbidden her but she had to go. There was no hope of survival otherwise.

She once more found herself creeping in the shadows, trying to find an unnoticeable pathway to another house that could spare some food and water.

She saw a little girl waddle her way with her brother towards a small house. She followed them and saw them getting a loaf of bread from the man inside. She rushed towards him and begged for a slice of bread too.

The man asked for payment.

Payment?! She had nothing to give and he knew that!

Except for one thing.

She slowly removed a small necklace from her neck, a blue coloured pendant dangled from it as she handed it to the man with the greedy gleam in his eyes. Her eyes were probably gleaming too, but from hunger not from greed. That necklace had been passed onto her from her mother. It was a family heirloom, the only thing that reminded her that long, long ago everything was different and she belonged to a generation of nobles. But now, it had been ripped from her as if it were nothing. Her identity was the cost of placating her hunger.

Suddenly she heard a loud familiar whistle that made her blood run cold. An airstrike in the morning?

Those horrible good for nothing cowards.

She hid under the roof of a house, clutching her loaf of bread as if it were life itself.

Her eyes darted towards her aunt’s house. It was just a few meters away, she could make it if she ran fast enough. Whispering a silent prayer, she ran and ran and ran.

Her legs carried her past the dusty lanes that were slowly starting to blind her and the sound of the bombs that caused the earth to quake and her to stumble.

Panting, she reached the door and opened it slipping into the house, but as she was about to close the door she heard a cry. A baby girls cry. She was sitting next to her dead brother, still clutching the loaf of bread in her hand.

Her aunt called out from behind her, but her naïve little heart went out to the baby that lay thrashing her little body in the bloody mess that used to be her brother. How she wasn’t affected by the killer rain was a miracle.

She was now given a choice. Save the baby or save herself. Suddenly, with a force stronger than anything she felt her aunt push her out of the house. She felt herself hurtling head first towards the crying bloodied little girl and an ear-splitting scream escaped her. She pulled the baby towards her and cocooned her in her embrace but immediately looked back.

Behind her, her aunt stood stock still, paralysed as the death rain caught her in its wretched clasps. Aminah screamed once more as a heart wrenching sight unfolded before her. A bomb whistled passed her aunt’s house and landed a few meters behind it causing an ear shattering noise, throwing her and the baby backwards. Her eyes landed on her aunt, who was mouthing her love to her before the house collapsed on top of her.

She felt her whole body pulsate in a never-ending pain as she watched the abode of safety she’d sought refuge in slowly crumble to the ground.

She felt hot fat tears pour down her face as she realised she had no one else left in the world. The little girl beside her kept crying, her sooty black face matched her own. The deathly silence ensued the killer rain, proudly portraying the destruction it had caused. It wasn’t a warning, it wasn’t a threat. It was all the evil doers just putting on a bloody show. A show that told them;

‘You are nothing and we are everything. We are going to eradicate you. Every one of you will die and that’s a promise. You have no hope. Just fear.’

She felt wetness on her stomach and realized that the growing stain on her shirt was not sweat, but blood. She choked as she felt herself growing weaker and weaker.

No more honeysuckle house. The government had made sure of that.

She felt her meagre life flash before her eyes, knowing that the ambulance would never reach her in time. Maybe the little girl would be saved, but not her.

But what was the use of being saved, if the world that awaited them was one of fear and not of happiness. Things would never change.

The government would put on their show and the world would watch. Tears would be shed, the fake would fundraisers and consume the money, the ones who cared would spread awareness. Maybe some funds would be raised; but half of them would be lost on its way into the pockets of corrupt officials. Only a few would benefit from it.

But no one would dare step out of the confines of their abodes of safety to help grant all the poor people of her despotic country their honeysuckle houses. No one would want to risk their lives to come to a country of death and fear.

No one.

She heard the ambulance before she saw it. But she didn’t want to fight to live. She saw the light at the end of the tunnel. She wasn’t going back to the darkness. Maybe God would let her have her honeysuckle house. She prayed for a good end as she felt the darkness call to her. She smiled as she let go of all the pain and suffering that held her down in this world and closed her eyes and drifted on to the next. Hopefully the next world would be a better one, where good and evil were like black and white and happiness and peace reigned her joyous life in her honeysuckle dream.

***

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