Battered and torn, abused and shaken the women finally made it to the train, the only refuge in the wilderness of molestation that had engulfed the slum in the aftermath of the election results and the violence. They boarded the train to safety.
The train started moving.
Shami realized she was overstaying in the wagon and made for the door. She saw Venn running towards the bushes, and Collo, the man who had sexually assaulted her several times, was running after Venn. He caught up with her as she got to the bushes along the railway.
Venn was pleading for mercy. She was shaking her head in denial to his line of interrogation. Venn was courageous. She was refusing to give details of their whereabouts in the face of her impending death. As the train started to descend the other side of the hill she could make out the distinct shape of the dreaded Enemy Sweeper as he raised a machete high. She covered her eyes, but the image of her friend raising her hands into the air in anticipation of the lethal blow will forever be etched in her memory. She heard the last scream of her friend pierce the quiet night.
She withdrew back into the wagon.
“It seems we will have a long ride to nowhere. In one night I have lost two of my best friends.” She was trying in vain to hold back her tears, but the tremors and the shaking hands betrayed her efforts of concealing her agony. “Do you have a place along the towns the train will pass where we can find someone to accommodate us?”
“I don’t know anyone.”
“Don’t let what happened to you make you refuse to walk on in life.” Shami tried consoling her amid her sobs. “I have been through it too.”
Jenny was sobbing and she asked innocently, “Were you a virgin today in the morning?”
Shami looked aside. She tried speaking, and at first she didn’t know how to answer the question. “No, I lost it years ago to my teenage sweetheart. He got me pregnant, denied responsibility, and disappeared from the face of the earth.”
Jenny was deathly quiet for some time, and then she opened her mouth, almost in a whisper that was creeping in from the confines of the dungeons where she was reliving her torment, her loss, where her esteem had been shattered to pieces. Her worth as a woman had been cruelly robbed, and now what remained was a blemish in her life. For her it was a contamination that was not of her own making. She spoke in a voice that was not hers, a voice that had been scorched by cruelty to near-collapse in a desperate bid to pass its message. “The men who killed my father did this to me. I have tasted the cruelty of men, and I have tasted the bitterness of losing my chastity in this way. You had the choice to lose it the way you did, I will never ever have that choice…”
Two heartbroken souls, lost in the darkness of the moving wagon were embraced in pain and crushed from so much of life’s fortune that had been robbed from them in a span of hours in a single day. From the loss of friends to a permanent blotching of chastity, the emotional wounds would take a long time to heal.
The two women had no words to express their poignant agony aptly. The darkness was the symbol of the black blanket of grieving that life had bestowed to them on that night. Simply holding on to each other and hearing their own depressing sobs was a potent way of sharing their mournful tales, yet in silence and only by themselves, in the safety of the moving wagon.
The physical pain that the women felt was nothing compared to the inner suffering. The hurt in their souls, the train of thoughts in their minds, and the damage done to their bodies was a manifestation of the cruel side of life. They had been punished because of their tribe. For Shami it also reminded her of the agony of the wasted life of Shakia.
The train rumbled on, and its soft rocking and gentle rumbling soon lulled Jenny to sleep. Shami walked to the door and slid it closed. She then opened one of the wagon windows. Outside the full moon was shining bright occasionally when the cloud cover gave way. Far down to the left the Great Valley could be seen.