'Abdul! Come here.' Exclaimed my father. I hurried down the concrete steps and onto desert sand, each grain dusting away from the soles of my sandals with every leap. "Yes dad?!" I shouted to him across the other side of the farm. He raised his hand, 'grab the stick, you need to herd the animals.' He gestured to me.
The sun beamed onto me as I rushed towards the farmland, I inhaled the scent of fresh trees as I breezed through the clear air. Although I was used to the countryside atmosphere, I still had strong sentiments to my village. It was my home. I was born in a small shed only 15 minutes away, right by Juba River. Birthed on the blessed day of Friday. To me, nature wasn't just a part of the world, but part of my livelihood and identity.
I eased my way through the wooden gates as my father shuffled his way out. 'Do it correctly, okay?' He asked. I began to herd the sheep around, "I've been doing so for months." I replied. As much as I do favour my life in the country, it can get dull and tiresome, and living in the city seemed quite appealing. I go to the capital city, Mogadishu with my father a few times within the year for business trips. Our next journey is in a week. I'm looking forward to it's vibrancy and busy streets. It gives me a flow of energy that I couldn't sense here.
My dad handled the professional side of farming. My mother is a housewife who cares for my younger sister, Najma and I. And as for me, I help my father daily with the livestock.
As the sun later horizons, the stray neighbourhood cats emerged from the darkness and moved towards our dimly lit bungalow, meowing for meaty leftovers from dinner. My sister enjoyed feeding the animals, a lot more than I did. She grabbed a plate of food and hurried outside. She chucked pieces of beef for the cats as they gathered around her.
A high-pitched shriek suddenly erupted, a plate clashed onto the ground as I heard a menacing growl. I rushed out within seconds to see a sharp-toothed hyena ready to attack Najma.
I grabbed the nearest item. A metal pole balancing outdoors and beat the vicious animal with my right arm whilst trying to protecting her with my left. My sister quickly ran into my mother's arms wounded by her neck as my father came to my rescue and scared the vicious animal away back into the wilderness.
Najma was breathless and in shock. Although injured she didn't weep. We immediately called the village doctor who quickly hung up to rush to her survival.
Within minutes, the doctor lunged indoors, carrying a huge first aid kit. He took an immediate look as he knelt down, "The bite marks are quiet deep, keep holding pressure." He advised as he scrummaged around his case.
Najma laid in our father's arms as her lids started to shut, 'Wake up!' He jogged her slightly. She started to slip in and out of unconsciousness.
The doctor instantly got up as my dad carried Najma into the medics car with a towel wrapped around her neck. My mother and I quickly follow along and jump into the back seat. The tyres screeched and sped off moments before we slammed the doors shut.
My sister was immediately attended to, the nurse dabbed onto her wounds with antiseptic. Najma squirmed at the stinging sensation. The scarring left on her was an odd shape, formed like a strike of lightening. "Will this stay forever?" Najma asked, as the nurse finished plastering her up. "We'll have to see, fading will happen gradually." She responded.
Another nurse arrived and placed a kids bowl of pasta onto the table extending from Najma's hospital bed. 'Here's your food.' said the nurse, as she exited promptly, swishing the blue curtains closed. Najma took her first bite, she was hesitant to do so, tilting her head as she struggled to swallow her spoonful of food. You could tell it was extremely painful for her. 'Eat slower' Suggested our mum, as she took over and held the bowl, feeding Najma bitesize pieces.
Najma took her time, and after only a few mouthfuls she was done with it. She rested her head and started to fall asleep effortlessly. As if she had eaten a full course meal. To be honest, I was tired too, it was a long day. We all sat on chairs, surrounding Najma's bed. As I started to yawn, my mother whispered to my father. 'What if we were outside, supervising. This wouldn't of happened.' I overheard. My mother was naturally a worrier, but this took over her. You could see it in her eyes and demeanour. This is the first time an accident like this had happened, and we prayed it was the last.
A week had passed by, Najma's scar was starting to heal and her soreness began to ease up. Time was tight since we had only 7 days until our visit to the city. 'Where is your bag?' Asked my father, as I came outside heaving it into the boot.
'Wait, I want to go!' Shouted Najma running around outside.
My mother looked at her absurdly.
'No,no,no. You are not going anywhere!' Said my father, shaking his head as he entered his car.
'Please! I've never been.' She began to cry as my father started up the car.
My mother grabbed the phone and dialled.
'Hello, hi. How are you?' She asked. As she leaned against the open door.
"The family are coming to Mogadishu, can they stay with you?"
My dad glared at my mother angrily through the car window.
'Ok, thank you. We'll speak soon.Bye.'
'All set, she can stay with aunty. No excuses, take her.' Ordered my mother.
My mother was extremely clever, she knew when to step back, when to be assertive and how to solve a problem. She always said that's the key to a long marriage.
'Yayyyyy!' Najma cheered. As she climbed into the backseat.
My mother quickly arrived with a small packed bag of clothes.
'Enjoy your trip, say hello to the family for me.' She said, waving us goodbye.
I could hear the chitter-chatter a mile away from the city centre. The street lights were lit and markets were still open. The breeze from the coast eased into the car as I rolled down the windows. The city and all its elements never ceased to amaze me.
We parked up at my aunts house, she happened to live 5 minutes away from the seaside.
As the sun was setting, we took an evening trip to Lido Beach. The scent of the flavoursome dishes hit my nostrils, as well as the aroma of the freshly grounded tea.
I could hear the playful screams of the other kids in the ocean, the elders discussing matters at the coffee shop. Community didn't just stop at the outskirts of the countryside. But in the city alike.
It was getting dark and so we started to gather out belongings and head back to my aunts house.
I could tell Najma was in awe of the city life. She ran around frantically in between market stalls.
'Najma! Stay here!' Our father commanded.
But she wouldn't listen, she got carried away with the market toys and sequenced fabric that hanged and flowed through the wind.
'What did I tell you?!' My father yelled, as he rushed into the stalls.
A unison of screams broke out, I was thrown onto the floor and my head began to ache. I inhaled what tasted like dust, choking on polluted air as it filled my lungs.
Faint sounds of prayers echoed in the background, I became dizzy as I heard wails for help.
Could this be death?
'Dad!' Najma cried.
Trapped under a heap of cracked rubble. She cried out for her father and brother, but no one heard her pleads.
The calm after the chaos finally settled into the neighbourhood. The people rushed from their nearby homes, coughing and heaving their way through the aftermath to aid those victim to the explosion.
A group of ladies overheard Najma's cries and quickly came her rescue.
Digging through each piece of rubble until there was enough room to pull her out.
Najma was stunned, she cried out in hysterics. They took a look at her skin for wounds and bruises. 'The scar on her neck healed too quick to be recent.' One of three ladies said.
Each of them examined and agreed, they quickly carried Najma and fled the area for safety as one disruption would often be followed by another.
Najma looked back, lost and confused.
But her journey awaited elsewhere...
Abdul's skull ached more intensely as he gained consciousness. He struggled to get back onto his own two feet.
'Where am I?' He whispered. He glanced around, the familiar livelihood of the city was wiped away, the centre looked like a broken ghost town. Bodies wrapped around in white cloth and collapsed market stalls were scattered around him.
He limped as he took in his surroundings.
His shirt was ripped apart, shorts covered in dust and powder, grazes marked all over his body.
He looked perplexed. He continued to shuffle down into the neighbourhood.
Abdul turned a corner, still unaware of his whereabouts...
'Stop!' voices called out behind him.
He turned around in shock, to see five men dressed in khaki green militants clothes with automatic guns pointed at him.
'Who are you?!' Shouted the man in the middle.
Abdul delayed his response. It was simple question. Who was he?
An old lady watched from her kitchen window... watching Abdul lift his arms in surrender.
'Wait!' Screamed the elderly lady as she swung her front door open. "This is my grandson!"
'Your grandson doesn't know his name?'The militant scoffed in disbelief.
'He was injured, he's not well, he doesn't remember things.' She said hastily. 'But he is my family.'
She took him into her home, as the militants placed their guns down.
The old lady slammed the door shut. She dragged out a stool for him in the kitchen. But who was she?
Abdul felt safe, yet more bewildered than to begin with...
'What's your name?' Abdul asked her.
'Halima. Want water?' She asked bluntly. Placing the glass of water onto the kitchen table without Abdul's response.
Najma waited patiently in the mosque whilst the ladies prayed, still recovering from shock
She wasn't alone, it was humid and packed as many children and women fled into places of worship during attacks.
A group of kids were being huddled into the back corner, Najma was placed among them as two of the ladies who rescued her exited the mosque.
The last remaining lady of the three promised to remain with Najma until the children were gone.
As time passed, more and more lost children were gathered inside.
'No more, no more for now.' Called out a lady at the front, forming the group.
'Goodbye Najma, I'll pray only the best for you on your journey.' Said her remaining guardian.
Najma watched her leave abruptly, she looked around with trembling fear... left alone and displaced.
Abdul was brought to Mogadishu's largest hospital located in the city centre, although huge, it's walls couldn't handle the capacity of the injured.
At the main desk, the receptionist was over-worked, along with the rest of the staff. Immersed in her work she quickly turned around, 'Hello, what can I do for you?' She asked, with her focus towards her papers.
'He injured his head.' Said Halimo, she stood behind him and placed her hands on his shoulders.
The receptionist glanced, finally taking notice of Abdul. She noticed his dazed state of confusion. Even herself looked concerned.
'I'll try and get the doctor to see you soon.' She said, glaring at Abdul sympathetically.
'What are your names?'
'Halima Hussien, and... Abdul, Abdul Hussein' She informed to the receptionist.
'Okay, take a seat to your left in the waiting room.'
Abdul sat down lifelessly, the glisten was taken from his eyes.
'Hello, Halima' shortly appeared the doctor, 'I'm Dr. Ricci' He reached out his hand.
'And you must be Abdul?' Smiled the doctor, as he gestured a handshake.
Abdul was present, but his mind was miles away. You could tell from his dull glare out into the distance. He sat there in silence.
'I will see you now.' Said Dr. Ricci as he retracted his hand.
They walk into the doctors room, 'what can I do for you today?' He asked Halima.
As searched for his heart rate monitor, he lifted Abdul's arm. It was as light as a feather.
He stared at Abdul in concern and placed his arm down softly.
'He was there at the bomb blast, I think he hurt his head.' She said, gently turning Abdul's face towards her, showing his injury.
'Is it painful?' He asked.
Abdul nodded. As Dr. Ricci examined his skull.
'How is he doing mentally?' He asked. 'He's startled. I don't think he remembers much.'
'Ok. I'll asses his memory and give him painkillers for his soreness.'
'Here's a list of words, Abdul. Read them for 30 seconds and tell me how many you remember.'
Abdul stared into the sheet, his fingers shook, creating a flutter of waves onto the paper.
'...Okay, thirty seconds is up.' Said Dr. Ricci. Abdul placed the paper down slowly.
'What words do you remember?'
'Car, um, tree' Abdul stuttered, rattling his brain.
'It's ok... any more?'
Abdul shook his head.
'Okay, well - Halimo, his memory is very poor, and I'm more so concerned for his mental well-being.' Said Dr. Ricci.
'I'll have to discuss with the other consultants on what we can do to best assist Abdul. He may have to go overseas for equipped treatment.'
'Is there anywhere overseas that your family resides? For accommodation purposes. Italy? England?' Asked Dr. Ricci.
'Yes, in London, I - we have family there.' Halima corrected.
'Okay, We will keep in touch, I'll speak to doctors in London and for now, let him rest. Keep safe of crowded areas, it's quite dangerous in the city at the moment.' Said Dr. Ricci, as he swung his door open.
'Thank you. I appreciate this.'
'It is just my job, Ms Hussein, Goodbye.' He waved.
Najma endured a bumpy journey throughout the tattered city. She shared a rusty blue van among several other kids, to her dismay were bawling in hysterics the whole way through.
They arrived to a location by the coast, far away from the city centers beach, but had an uncanny similarity to it. Najma was confused by the kids, the unknown location. Where was she?
Until she finally looked up towards a largely sized shack, titled 'Sun and Smiles Orphange'.
She burst into immediate tears.
Not knowing how she got here, why she was here and where her family are, but all she now knows is that she'll never see them again.
A randomer who worked at Sun and Smiles Orphanage came to Najma and carried her in comfort, but the tears continued and she couldn’t be reassured. All she wanted was her family, peace and stability. All of which was ripped of her within a few mere seconds.
As she entered the shack, Najma wasn’t alone in her tears. Many children cried and cried, for hours. And some were silent in complete shock.
As the day went by, the night had fully set. She started to fall asleep on a thin, shabby mattress. Each of which were placed beside each other. The babies were small enough to share and so they did.
Najma mumbled in her sleep... restlessly turning sideways every few moments.
Destruction was becoming a normality to Najma.
And even in her moment of escape, the nightmares wouldn’t end.
'Abdul, wake up.' Halima gently nudged him. He groaned, twisting and turning in his bed.
'You have to be on time for your flight!'
Abdul sat up slowly, exuding his frustration with furrowed brows.
'This is important, and probably you're only opportunity.' said Halima.
'Okay' he sighed and nodded, as he slipped on his sandals.
'Aisha, my eldest daughter will pick you up from the airport. Ok?' Informed Halima.
'Okay' Abdul said. Rubbing his tired eyes.
As he got ready, he had a small collection of clothes to choose from. He wore denim jeans, a loose white shirt and a black cap. All new and fresh clothes from the local market.
He looked his very best.
Halima gathered his belongings for him. He brung the rest of his remaining clothes and quickly stepped into the kitchen and zipped them into his small bag.
'Thank you... for everything.' Abdul said.
'You're welcome. Now hurry up! The cab man is waiting for you!' Shouted Halima.
Perfectly timed, the cab driver honked as Abdul rushed out.
The loud honk woke up the whole neighbourhood, all the excited kids and mothers watched from their windows and doors. Waving Abdul goodbye.
He waved back eagerly.
Najma woke up to half the kids outside running around the beach with the volunteers. As the days went by more and more kids came to the orphanage.
A well-suited man was around the shack speaking to a few workers. I peeked outside the door to see a big van blue and yellow van, which looked clean and freshly painted.
I sat by the door eavesdropping... 'This isn't suitable for little children' I overheard the fancy man say.
'We're going to have to relocate' I became more curious, I leaned in closer towards the door.
'Well, you're the boss.' Said one of the two workers.
'Keep it under wraps, we'll arrange travel and housing for all the kids' He said.
'Quite a lucky bunch,' He said glancing across the beach, proudly fixing his tie.
Najma watched the big boss drive away. How could he call us lucky? Najma thought, but she quickly disregarded the comment. Where are we going? She more importantly questioned to herself.
Later that day, all the kids gathered around the other side of the beach to collect food.
'Okay, kids! We're going somewhere very special for lunch!' A worker shouted out enthusiastically
'Where?!' The children replied at once.
'It's a surprise!' All the kids hurried excitedly into a new van and found their seats. This one was a little bigger and much more clean.
Not knowing where their journey would take them, they also gifted with snacks in the van.
Najma ate her biscuits slowly, savouring some for later.
After a long journey, Najma was haunted passing by the city centre. She looked away and focus on her snack in her hands.
Finally, they arrived at the airport. 'What?' Some of the older kids whispered to themselves.
The others just stared at the huge building in awe and confusion.
'Where are we going?' Najma asked. 'We're going on a trip! To London.'
The volunteers avoided mentioning permanence, just incase some of the kids wouldn’t want leave... like in Najma's case.
'Forever?' Najma asked, remembering what she overheard.
'No, no.' The volunteer said.
Najma wanted to be close to her family... unaware of her blessing in disguise.
'Wow!' The kids said in awe 'Can we go on it?!' A kid pointed towards the London eye. 'No, not at the moment I'm afraid!' A volunteer replied.
All the children were dressed accordingly to the chilly weather. Najma was covered in all pink from head to toe, wrapped up in a warm fluffy scarf and new branded shoes.
She was awfully silent unlike most of the kids, who beheld adventure and admiration for the bustling city.
Maybe to Najma a busy city isn't what she wanted, just her family and her normal life back home.
After a long day of roaming the streets of London, they arrived to a massive building. Considerably scarce of people, solely other than a receptionist.
'This is home for now kids. Who wants to watch TV?' A worker asked eagerly. 'Me! Me!' The kids responded. 'Lets go!'
Najma ran into the living area in astonishment of the flat screen TV and furniture.
The attention of the kids were turned towards watching brand new and colourfully vivid cartoons
As they did the workers and volunteers focused on paperwork, counselling and school registration.
The contrast of the life back home and the one they're about to live were polar opposites, little did the kids know they were going to make home out of a holiday.
The tall buildings caught Najma's attention. Excited by the glass revolving doors she jumped onto it like a game of hopscotch.
Najma and a volunteer at the foster care arrived at the front desk,
'Just sign yourselves in right here' said the receptionist. As she handed a piece of graphed paper.
'And the waiting room is through those doors' she pointed to the right. 'Thank you' said the volunteer.
Najma ran and sat on a colourful bean bag placed in the waiting area. Along with the toys and dolls.
'Hello would you like to come through, Najma.' Said a soft spoken lady. As she left the toys, the door swung open.
She stared in confusion and disbelief. It felt like time stopped and grabbed her by the neck.
'Najma, c'mon lets go.' Said the volunteer. Najma shuffled slowly with her attention towards her brother, surprised yet unsure of his familiarity. Was it really him?
She left the room, still staring through the opaque glass.
'Who was that?' Said Abdul. 'Who?' Said his aunt Aisha.
'That little girl, she was staring at me'
'I don't know. Don't pay any mind.'
'Hey Abdul, come through.' Said his psychologist.
Abdul was old enough to attend his sessions alone. He walked in to see the young girl sitting in the middle of the room.
'Come take a seat' Abdul sat down two seats away from his sister. 'Whats going on?' Said abdul as he looked at his sister.
Najma sat there wide eyed, unsure of what to say so she kept silent.
'Hello, my names Hilary and today is quiet a special session.' Said the soft spoken psychologist. 'We're going to retrace our steps back to before the outbreak. I would like to know what you both remember from home.'
'Uhh, I remember the countryside, we had a lot of animals.' Said Abdul. 'We? as in your family Abdul?' Asked Hilary. 'Yes.' He confirmed.
'Okay, what do you remember, Najma?'
'Um, same, countryside, animals.'
'Could you tell us a little bit about the scar on your neck?'
Abdul stared in confusion.
'A hyena attacked me.' Najma said timidly.
The memories flashed back to Abdul like a whirlwind. He gazed at the scar and it's unusual shape.
The harsh memories of the attack hit him abruptly... Abdul and Najma sat there silently, although the atmosphere was quiet, it spoke vast volumes.
He finally remembered that he had saved her that night. He was left speechless.
'Don't you remember me?' Najma asked bravely.
Abdul failed to respond.
'Najma is in a foster home, Abdul. Would you like her to come and stay with you?' Asked Hilary.
'Of course.' He said, holding his head in shock.
'Is that okay with you, Najma?' Hilary asked, serving a smile and teary eyes. 'Yeah.' She said.
We'll have regular family sessions together, until you both get settled and reacquainted.
'Good luck to the both of you, see you next week.'
Najma left with her foster care volunteer.
'Bye,' Abdul waved 'See you.' Najma replied, hesitating to hug him incase it was too soon.
Najma's moving arrangements were finally in process and Abdul's slowly regaining his memory.
Fate worked in funny ways. To Najma, her scar was a repercussion of an unfortunate event. Little did anyone know that same mark would assist in her brothers recovery from memory loss.
It was a tough journey, but the both of them had triumphed through the trials and tribulations.
A story of strength, separation and survival.