Here we are. Posting for the June WEP challenge for the Year of the Art. This month we honor Hokusai. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), a Japanese artist from the Edo period. His painting, Great Wave, is arguably his most famous work. My skin doctor has a huge print in his waiting room for me to meditate on each time I go.
There are so many possible reactions to the Great Wave, but I could never get waves of refugees out of my head. I hope you like my story which is a retelling of one previously posted for an earlier challenge.
Wave After Wave in Search of Freedom
down. African red dirt dyed his swollen, ripped feet as he put distance between
himself and his desecrated village. Burned and looted, everyone he loved, dead.
His eyes roved
the roadside. He found a rolled-up old mattress, a cringing dog, a goatskin
of water. For weeks, he'd been getting his swag together in the village - tins the warlords missed
when they swooped into his village, dozens of them crammed in the back of dusty
Jeeps painted to blend with the desert. Raiding and raping, they then drove off
into the hills, automatic rifles over their shoulders. They stole the UN dried
milk tins from the mothers’ tents, taking from the babies' mouths. They stole the
rice, showing not a whit of conscience for the starving villagers.
took more than supplies.
they returned, took the lives of everyone - all the old men, all the women, all
the children. The only survivors were young men like him, around the age of
sixteen, who roamed the sparse land where the grasses waved in the breeze, giving
up edible herbs to those who knew the secrets of the landscape. After a day
spent scavenging, he'd returned to unimaginable horror. Heart in mouth, he’d grabbed
his swag from where he’d buried it under the one remaining tree … and ran. If
the warlords found him, he'd be forced into the life of a boy soldier like so
many others who'd disappeared.
felt the sob in his throat. How he missed his friends, recently taken to be
trained to intimidate, to maim, to murder.
He was what they called a refugee. Wave after wave of humans
escaping privation, destitution, murderous gangs, a future without hope. Their
destination? The boats. The sea. Freedom.
from Tangier in Morocco. He'd work in Tangier until he saved the fare. He'd been
given the name of a man who hired young men to escort tourists through the
medinas*. He knew boats got caught in great waves of murderous seas. Many refugees died.
But he’d gladly take the risk. He’d cross the water. To a free land. A land
with food. A land with jobs. If all else failed, he would swim across the great
waves. It’d been done. He would do whatever it took to reach the new land. Utopia.
pulsed through him. It kept his mind off his painful feet and the sun beating
down mercilessly on his rag-covered head. He sipped from his meagre water
supply. He must make it last. He might walk for months and find no village, no
water, no food.
cried. He poured a little water into his cupped
palm. The dog lapped, not wasting a drop. It licked Abioye's leg. He reached down and patted the mutt’s head.
his makeshift belt made of vines. He'd lost so much weight in the past few
days, the trousers slipped over his hips. Now they flapped around his
ankles. He laughed at the ridiculous situation, then stopped, afraid he was
hysterical from horror or sunstroke. But it didn't matter if he laughed, cried
or screamed. There was no one to hear him. He was crossing the Sahara Desert.
Rocks tore his feet. He stumbled. Landed on his knees. Sobbed. He couldn’t help it
even though he was wasting moisture. The sun. The rough road. The hunger. The
thirst. The vision of his parents' burned bodies. His young sisters. His
beloved -- How could he go on?
licked his face. Abioye dragged himself to his feet. He must go on. In memory
of his father, his mother, his two sweet sisters, his Candis who’d been
promised to him when they were children.
whirled like when his father used to swing him around when he was a little boy.
Falling, falling, falling, but never hitting the ground.
How long till
he reached freedom? Surely, he must soon pass by the green plants that leaked
water. Then he and the dog could drink their fill. As he dreamed, moisture formed on the
tip of his tongue.
tired. I need to sleep. Just for a little while.
mustn't stop. To stop was death. Then there'd be no one to remember his family.
No one to remember his Candis. He saw her in his mind – her wide smile, her red
lips, her teeth pearly white, dazzling him, her short black hair cropped close
to her scalp, her graceful long limbs, her colorful, modest dresses that
brushed the red sand when she walked.
never forget you, my little love.
another step. For Candis.
God gave him life, he would press on. To a new life. Away from his cursed land.
The land God forgot. Maybe God had turned his back on Africa but still lived in
that new land where the boat would take him. Maybe God would welcome him to its
shores and surround him with love and plenty. He smiled, imagining the vision.
mirages in the desert many times. A mirage was coming toward him. A big green
tank shimmering through the waves.
mirage came closer. No! A Jeep. Soldiers in the back. Soldiers
in the front. Guns pointed. At him.
around. Away. Away from the killers. Away from bondage. Away from death.
He heard the
dog yelp. Abioye’s throat closed over. Turning, he saw its head a bloody mess
and its eyes stared sightless into the searing sky.
you're next!' One of the soldiers waved his gun, then shot a machine gun round
into the air. Takka! Takka! Takka!
take another step, boy. Or it’ll be your last.'
* Medina - the
old walled part of a North African town.
WORD COUNT: 958
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