Shadows Behind



Silence reigned on that winter’s day in 1999. Everywhere Niana looked there was nothing but virgin snow, with no footprints or tire marks beyond where the vehicle turned. A watery sun cast its light from a pale blue sky. The rest of the morning was but a numb memory as the hungry, freezing, pregnant woman staggered along the mountain road. Every bend lead to another and every step crunched through icy snow. By noon the temperature was still barely above freezing. Niana was so cold she was certain her cheekbones had frozen. The woollen gloves barely managed to keep her fingers from being completely numb, while walking helped to keep her feet from freezing.

After four hours, the exhausted refugee came to one more bend and another patch of nothingness. Thoughts turned to her family, husband, father, mother, elder brother and almost everyone else she knew. They were all dead. Her only other friends were those at the army camp. If for no other reason, she owed it to them and the unborn child within her to survive and to tell NATO of the atrocities that had befallen her people.

God, she was hungry. Her stomach rumbled while the unborn baby kicked. She staggered as the scene in front became blurred and the trees above began to spin. No, she was not about to give in. Somewhere ahead was her own kind, someone to help.

She took another shaky step, staggered and fell to her knees. “Oh, Zymer,” she cried but by now not even the tears came. “I’m so, so sorry. Our baby.”

Niana gritted her teeth and rose once more to her feet. Another bend was ahead, more snow, more trees, the weak sunlight and another bend. She stumbled forward and blinked. There was something else. A farm wagon covered in snow was parked on the roadside as if it had pulled over, perhaps to let an oncoming vehicle pass. Linked to the front of it, looking so bright in the white world, stood a tractor; a red tractor.

Hope surged through her. The depression and fatigue of a second before disappeared as she broke into a slithery run.

“Hello,” she screamed. “Is anyone there? Hello.”

But all was quiet. Not a sound returned.

She reached the wagon and grabbed a canvas cover tied to the wooden side. Shaking with anticipation, she lifted the corner of the flap and gazed into the dim interior.

Four enormous brown eyes ringed in terror gazed up at her and children’s sobbing filled the air.


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