by Aarif Khan
It was a while before he spoke. With apparent unease, he strung words and uttered them in greater reluctance. The bonfire gleamed in his eyes, and each word slashed the air with a cold vibe, demanding absolute attention and a silence spread amongst the group. His bare hands lay, raw and hard, with dried blood in apparent neglect. Between his shivering words, one could hear the dark and cruel night; as dark silhouettes swooshed among the swaying trees through the sky, without a cloud in sight. The moon was full tonight and hung still, bathing the group below in its white and ghostly shine.
The orphan was no older than twelve and barely had cloth to cover his bare torso. However, it was his eyes that seemed to draw us into its depths. They glistened, moist and blue, echoing the pain he had endured. Yet they allured the lot of us, into an ocean of mystical depth, where we could delve into peace and quiet and the emotion most unknown to him; happiness. He seemed to be looking into nowhere; far from the present being. The dried tracts of tears running down his hollow cheeks betrayed the horror of his life and the uncertainties of his future.
When he fell silent, I found myself silently crying, like every one of us surrounding the lad. It seemed surreal; his words had struck our deepest chords of childhood fears, troubles and insecurities, when we could huddle up to a warm blanket and be held in caring and strong arms. Yet after so many years, I felt alone once again, almost vulnerable. Strange it did seem that a town slept peacefully below, where children still dreamt and men hoped of tomorrow. Dawn was breaking, and a rooster crowed in the distant far. Life was serene, perhaps beautiful, in this forgotten part of the world.