Dried up leaves crunched under the racing steps of Fatima. She ran almost as fast as her beating heart, pushing aside weak branches and swatting at insects. She was barely breathing, but she couldn’t stop. If she did, she was dead.
She could hear heavy footsteps behind her just a couple of metres away. She knew it wasn’t Abdul. Her hijab flowed wildly behind her, but she clung onto it like a tight rope that would save her from her nightmare.
Branch, leaves, more branches, ripping through the fabric of her dress. Tears poured from her face, blurring her vision until all she could see on her path was dark.
“Stop wasting time, Fatima,” a gruff voice called out from behind her. “Just go join your father.”
She tuned him out and kept running, clutching the necklace her father gave her for her birthday. He was dead now and she knew she would be next unless she found a way to escape.
A large tree root lying close to the ground trips her right foot, and she crashes hard onto the ground. The silver necklace falls off to the side and her hands scramble out to look for it. She shouldn’t stop. She shouldn’t stop, but this was all she had left of him.
Her fingers circle around the chain of the necklace and she quickly lifts it off the ground. Suddenly, a hand grips her upper arm, pulling her roughly inside the bushes.
“No. No. No,” she screams as she wrestles the air blindly.
“Fatima, stop! It’s me.”
She knew that voice. It was the same voice that had teased for almost all the ten years of her existence.
“Abdul,” she breathed in relief, wrapping her bleeding arms around him. He pulled her up, supporting her with his scrawny arm.
“You can’t hide forever!” the same voice called out.
They cowered quickly on the ground using a tree as cover. Fatima clung to her elder brother for comfort, but his chest movement told her he was just as scared.
She offered a hushed prayer with Abdul’s “Amin” interjecting in between.
A gunshot rung sharply in the air and it was all Fatima could do to stop herself from screaming.
Another shot pierced their ears followed by a floating sing-songy voice, “Come out, come out, wherever you are.”