Flygtning

Do you believe in ghosts?
Do you believe in coincidence?
Do you believe history repeats itself?

Struggling to fit in after fleeing his native country, Divij sees these ghostly figures wandering in the forest. The next morning he dismisses it all as a dream until it repeats the following night.

Why do people avoid the woods at night?

Based on characters created by Mercury Chap

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4. Running Away

 

Six Months previously

“Divij,”

“Divij”

“Divij”

Through my slumber I heard my name three times, each louder than the one that went before. My brain sought to cut through the sleep, but the body was rebelling as usual wanting to spend more time asleep.

“Divij, come on son, you need to wake up.”

Mother once again calling me for school. Well maybe I could get another ten minutes before rushing for the bus to take me to school. Then a thought went through my head which broke through all the sleep and got me bolt upright.

“It’s Sunday today. No school, why are you getting me up this early?” I shouted.

Mum rushed into my room, she must have been hovering around the door.

“We have to pack, Dad is meeting us at the airport. Sunitha is packing some bags right now, but we need to go. It’s urgent.”

I could tell by the strain in her voice she was worried. She rarely showed much emotion but she was obviously flustered. I reached for the light switch but the light didn’t respond.

“Another powercut.” Mum said, “there was more fighting in the night. No doubt another power station was blown up. Come on get up, we need to go.”

Mum was now going through my drawers pulling clothes out with force and throwing them on the floor. I sat on the end of the bed and watched her.

“What do I need to take? How long are we going for?”

Mum turned to me and I could see she’d been crying.

“I don’t know, plan for the fact we might not be coming back.” Mum replied, “now get your lazy backside out of bed and help me. I need to be checking Sunitha is packing what I need.”

She threw some t-shirts at me and was out of the room shouting to Sunitha down the corridor. Realising what she had just said, I started to quickly fill my bag with clothes and a few possessions like my phone and laptop.

The last few weeks there had been an increasing amount of violence as the rebel supporters of the opposition fought to overcome the government. It had all started innocuously with a rally in the centre of New Dehli. Shots had rung out and over fifty protesters were shot. No one quite knew where the shooting started or on which side but the anger felt by the protesters bubbled over. My dad was a congressman, for the main opposition party and had been there that day. He thought the shooting was started by some government troops up high in one of the buildings who fired on the police.

That didn’t stop the government condemning the hundred thousand demonstrators’ and imposing martial law on the country. The opposition was powerless to do anything. Outwardly the government seemed to be functioning as usual, but Dad had told us that they weren’t listening to the voices of the opposition, but using the shootings to prove there was a threat to the countries democracy. Dad had been on the TV, along with several of his colleagues, telling the protesters to calm down, that they were playing into the hands of the government. They also alluded to the fact that it appeared to be the government who fired first. However, the news was quickly censored and didn’t make it out. All we got was the Prime Minister asserting his authority and blaming the opposition for trying to start a coup.

Each night the violence between the mainly peaceful protesters and the army and police forces got worse. Power supplies were hit by one side. Dad had a theory it was government forces trying to cause uncertainty. Hundreds had been killed in cities all over India as the disturbances gathered momentum. I’d watched a Chinese TV feed that showed troops shooting a group of peaceful female protesters in Mumbai.

We were guarded in our society by police who were loyal to the opposition, but lived in fear that we’d be captured and imprisoned. Even worse, we lived in fear the pro government supporters would attack us in the night. The family of one congressman had already suffered at the hands of a mob. It was obvious the situation had worsened in the night. I guess Dad was going to fly us all to the mountains to be safe until everything calmed down.

“Divij, the car is here for us. Hurry up you lump.” Mum called.

I grabbed my bag and took one last look around my small room. Hopefully I’d be able to come back soon, but as I stood I feared it was the last time I’d see it.

In the entrance, Mum was passing Sunitha an envelope. Tears were in both of their eyes as they hugged goodbye. Then it was my turn. I guess I never thought about leaving Sunitha behind. She’d been a servant in our house since I was a baby. She’d looked after me so many times when Mum and Dad were away. She was like an auntie to me. Always there when I’d had trouble at school, when I’d broken my arm falling off the bike, she’d been the one to take me to the hospital. I never thought of her as working for us. To me she was family and to be leaving her behind suddenly was too much.

I fell into her arms, tears flowing like tidal rivers down my cheeks. At that moment I didn’t want to leave. I could stay and Sunitha would take care of me.

“You look after yourself Div” she said wiping my tears away, “you’ll be back soon and I’ll make you a tray of barfi all for yourself.

I couldn’t look back at her as the tears were too strong, but followed mother to the car.

“It’s OK Divij, we’ll be back as soon as your father sorts all this mess out.” Mum said as the car pulled away.

The streets were different from when I’d come home from school yesterday. Burned out cars testified to the carnage that had taken place. A few public buildings were gutted, some still smoking from the fires that destroyed them. The army stood on every street corner, automatic weapons in hand. People seemed afraid to be out, rushing along to go about their business rather than strolling as usual. A lot obviously hadn’t gone out at all as the streets were very quiet compared with a normal Sunday.

The car stopped at the lights and down a side street I saw a mob of pro-government supporters raiding a shop that I knew belonged to a opposition voter. The anger on their faces was clear to be seen. I watched as one pulled out the shop keeper before a group of them swarmed around him on the floor, boots flying. I cringed at the thought and wondered what could ever possess anyone to commit such a crime. I saw one of them look directly at us, apparently recognising us. It was Arjan Singh, the caretaker for our society. He gestured to the person next to him and they set off up the street towards us brandishing sticks. My heart was in my mouth as I saw others heading towards us.

“jītā mānsa,” Mum atoned with enough force to force the driver to run the red light.

We got away just in time as a brick hit the boot of the car. My heart was beating twenty to the dozen. I hoped we’d soon be safe in the airport, but if that sort of violence occurred in a quiet suburb like ours then I dreaded what to think might happen elsewhere.

The journey to the airport was fraught. I could sense Mamma was scared, but then again so was I. What was happening to our country when normally mild and placid people like Arjan were turned like that?

We were rushed through the airport foyer but to my surprise instead of heading for domestic flights, we went to the international section. There in a private room off the main lounge we met dad. My mother and him hugged.

“So good to see you got here safe, the streets are a mess at the moment. It seems that the government is cracking down and arresting congressmen and party officials.” He said quickly.

“We nearly got caught by a mob down Windsor Street,” mother told him, filling in the details. He looked worried.

“Are you both OK?”

“Yes,” I nodded, although I still felt shaky. I was worried we wouldn’t get away.

“Look, I was going to get us to the mountains, but this violence is all over India. I fear that the government will soon start cracking down on people leaving so I’ve arranged for us to go to London. There we should be safe.”

“What about your work?” Mother said.

“We hope to pressurise the government with our friends in England. The world must know about what is really happening. The party leader has asked that I represent them, but I wouldn’t go without my family.”

There was a commotion outside the door. Angry voices could be heard and then it was thrown open. In came a group of soldiers with guns raised.

My blood froze at the sight of them. It wasn’t the sort of thing that happens every day. All I could see was the black of the muzzle nothing else.

“Congressman, you are under arrest by order of the Prime Minister. You are charged with sedition and plotting against the lawfully elected government.” The Captain said with authority.

“Trumped up charges, it’s the PM who is plotting against the state.” Father stated.

“You can take that up with the state prosecutor.” The Captain replied, “take him away.”

“Wait, what about my wife and son?” Father asked.

“I have no orders about them … yet” he replied.

“Look Captain, I’d appreciate it if I could have a minute or two alone with my family. Then I’ll come with you.”

The Captain looked dubiously at my father and then at us.

“Look I promise I won’t make a run for it, just a couple of minutes?”

The Officer nodded and gestured to the guards to leave.

“Two minutes Congressman”

Father nodded and waited until the door shut.

“Look Shreya, Divij, you have to go to London. It’s the only safe place. They’ll realise their mistake soon and arrest and intern families.”

“No we can’t do that,” mother replied, “we’ll stand by you.”

“Look Shreya, it’s not going to be easy. The government is cracking down on all dissidents. I fear for our countrymen. By the time they realise what is happening it will be too late and the democracy will have gone. Too many people have vested interests in making sure that India is not democratic. They want to exploit the people for profit. We have to stand up against corruption.”

“But what will I do with out you?” mother asked.

“There is money in our bank account, use that to live on when you get to London. I will contact my friends in London who will look after you.”

“Divij,” he said turning to me, “look after your mother for me. I’ll be there as quickly as I can. Be strong son, for all of us.”

We hugged, tears coming from all three of us. Today would go down in my mind as Black Sunday. We stood shaking unable to speak, all of us wondering if we would ever see each other again.

The door opened and the officer came back in.

“Congressman, are you ready,”

My dad nodded and two guards came in. One of them held him whilst the other handcuffed him roughly.

“Goodbye, until we meet again” father said, “Keep faith in me.”

I watched through streaming tears as he was led away at gunpoint. This was the worst day ever, the day my life collapsed in a festering pile. The day I started to question my existence.

I saw dad raise his hands in the air as he reached the doors.

“Bhaarat ke lie svatantrata” he shouted before getting a rifle butt in the back.

Freedom for India, it needed to come soon or I may never see my dad again.

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