When the power dies, you know you got to leave.
You little brother, Malik, still sits down in Dad’s chair in the front room, arms wrapped round he knees and staring at the door as though at any moment we parents going fling it open and take we up in them arms and tell we everything going be all right again.
You peep through the window. Outside black-black. You can’t even see the rows of cassava in Mr. Leacock ground short there so.
But at the horizon a column of smoke lit by flames.
You turn on you cellphone light. You fingers wash in silver.
You grab the two bags a mind did tell you to pack a few hours earlier. Each got in a few snacks, couple bottle waters, change of clothes, some money your mum had hide way in she top drawer, and you and Malik’s passports. You shoulder the heavier bag and grabble up Malik from the chair.
“We leaving,” you whisper.
Malik love to talk but now he real quiet. He shake he head and try to pull away back to the chair.
“Daddy now message me,” you say, even though the internet and the cell network did get cut off this is two days now. “He tell we to meet he in the park if he and Mummy ain’t get back by a certain time.”
“I ain’t hear you phone make no noise,” Malik says.
“I got it pon silent.”
“Wah going happen if they come home and don’t find we here?”
“Malik, them at the park and we gotta go meet them.”
“But, Kaleb, the people pon the radio say to stand in you home.”
That’d been the last thing coming through the radio before the static.
“Look at me,” you say. “You feel I going lie to you?”
You and Malik eyes make four, then he shake he head. You know it going hurt he to know you did actually lying but you couldn’t care less right now. The last post you did see on Facebook before everything get disconnect was fellas dress-up like soldiers with black bandanas wrap round them noses and mouths in big green and black trucks and carrying big-able guns driving through a village that did pon fire. Bodies sprawl out in the road and on the steps to chattel houses.
“You remember wah old Mr. Leacock woulda ask we if he did need a favor?”
“If I plant you, you will grow?” Malik says.
“Yeah, you got it. Now, I need a big favor from you. Help me be brave, okay?”
Malik’s face get serious, and he nods like this is the biggest thing he ever agree to do.
You put the next backpack over he shoulders, grab he hand, hurry to the back door.
You barely have you fingers on the doorknob when you hear rumbling like nuff big trucks coming down the gap.
Easing open the door you pull Malik down the steps and into the yard. You push through a piece of the loose paling that a high breeze from the last storm did lick off. Out here behind the house is bush. But there got a little path people does take to reach the main road in the next gap. You know out here like the back of you hand but in the dark and under the light of you cellphone everything look strange.
You hear truck doors slam. Voices rising louder. A feeling grab hold of you and you wanna start pelting down the path but you catch youself. There got plenty big rocks out here. Probably a million centipedes big as you two hands put together. And a deep well nobody didn’t know bout that Mrs. Gamble’s sheep did fall in and dead only last year. You gotta take care.
So you pull Malik close and crouch down. You take a breath, picture the path in you mind. You off the light.
The night rush back over the world. You creep forward, left hand out. Malik’s breaths getting shorter. He bony hands trembling. He did never like the dark.
You don’t like it neither but if you don’t act brave how Malik going know how?
Every step feel like a marathon. Behind you a gunshot ring out. Then a next one. Rat-a-tat-tat. You don’t dare glance back.
You count the steps to keep you head focused but lose count after five. There got noises in the bush, like feet running past, like hooves galloping ‘cross paling, like somebody sharpening a cutlass.
By the time wunna reach the part where the path does cross over a little hill, both you and Malik shaking like neem branches in the night breeze. He got you grabble up round you waist. You feel like you could barely breathe but you don’t tell he to let go.
The village burning.
Shadows with guns chasing shadows with empty hands. As you watch, something explode in wunna backyard. The house catch quick so.
Everything wunna did know up and gone. You stand up and turn Malik away from the village. If you honest with youself you ain’t sure you going make it to no park. But you going hold on pon you brother and keep putting one foot in front the next.
Brian Franklin is a writer from Barbados. His stories draw inspiration from the societies, history and mythologies of the Caribbean region. His short fiction has appeared in the anthology Old Worlds, New Ways. He was shortlisted for the Frank Collymore Literary Award, Barbados’ premier literary prize for unpublished manuscripts. Find more of him at antisungrey.com