For those who flee.

by Gabriel Furmuzachi

Last time when he could use his phone, he found out that the others were nearing the border. He hopes he will meet them soon. Then he hears someone: a voice shooting up as if from nowhere. Then another one. There is a little hill in front of him and his instinct tells him he is very close. With a firm gesture he tightens up again the plastic bag around his broken shoe. Then he even tries to run. His cheeks flush. He forgets the cold and the mud and the soggy feet. The voices are getting closer, they become clearer. He can even distinguish words. But he can also hear people shouting. And screaming. Acoustic fireworks, bursting in empty evening sky. He slows down for a couple of seconds unsure of what he should do next. Even if he’s just a boy, in the last five months he had to learn to decide fast, to jump into unexpected and hope he’ll get out in one piece, like in the games he used to play not long ago. He goes ahead. He does not run any longer. He looks around attentively, scanning for eventual hiding places: bushes, holes in the ground, trees. A figure appears on top of the hill, a dark outline moving about on the grey-blue background.

“Ameen”, he hears himself shouting. “Ameen!” The figure turns toward him. “Ameen!”

“Khaled”, he hears finally. “Oh, Khaled… Oh, Khaled…”

Ameen is next him now. He gives him a hug.

“We thought we lost you”, he says.

“What’s happened?” asks Khaled.

“We’re too late. We have to go back. I don’t know how… Bad luck…”

He feels his blood draining from his hands and feet. His heart throbs in his little chest. In a faint voice he mutters: “Back?” He wants to say that there is no back, that there is nothing left behind them. He knows though that he does not need to. Ameen, his older neighbor and, of late, good friend, knows that too. After a while he asks:

“What’s over the hill?”

Ameen looks behind his shoulder and says:

“Nothing…” He inhales deeply and continues:

“Fences. Barbwire. Police.”