A Small Chance
“I’ll go,” whispered Anuli.
Even as the words slipped from her quivering lips, she wished she had not said them. The pounding in her chest now pulsated in her ears.
The passageway extended downward into the inky black, with only a small river of moonlight streaming into their darkness from an opening far above them. Only this separated Anuli and her family momentarily from the paralyzing grip of fear.
Really, there was no other choice. The only one small enough to slip through the narrow opening of the tunnel, Anuli was their single hope of survival. Barely nine years old, part of her wanted to cling to her mother’s side, but the stronger, more determined side of her said, “You must go.”
Many times her family had come to this place, wrestled from their restless dreams into a nightmare of reality. The Hutu’s left no village untouched, and no one remaining in the camp survived their boorish torture. If Anuli’s family returned to the village, they knew the horror that would be displayed before their eyes.
Now, their “safe place” would become their grave. The collapse of the cavern’s main tunnel made it impossible for the adults or her older, stronger siblings to squeeze through. But Anuli, thin and wiry, sucked in her breath as far as her ribs would allow, and slithered through the dark opening underneath the immovable boulder.
Her breathing grew rapid and uneven as she scrambled through the now widening tunnel toward a hint of light beyond her.
When she escaped the black tunnel, where would she even find help? No doubt, the rest in her village were slaughtered. She would not return there. If she were caught by the militants, she would surely die, or worse.
Now, under the night sky, Anuli traveled as stealthily as the pounding of her weary feet would let her. She fled to the only place she knew of where there might be someone to help, the mission just beyond the border. Anuli was fascinated by the milky color of their skin and multi-colored hair. Their appearance was odd, but their eyes were kind.
Her family had traveled to the mission once before when her brother was very sick and in need of their medicines. She knew the way, but now she must find it at night….alone.
Electric lights. The mission was the only place she had ever seen such a thing. Now, she spotted their glow just ahead of her. She had made it.
As she crept up onto the concrete porch, she could hear voices, but found no understanding of their words.
Suddenly, someone threw open the door, finding her wide-eyed and fearful, her mouth gaping at the huge ghostly white stranger. She almost turned to flee, but the stranger’s wide smile told her to stay. The man brought her into the house where the sight of several children close to her own age brought comfort to her anxious eyes.
Anuli’s restlessness told the strangers at the mission that food and comfort were not the purpose of her presence there. They would go with her.
Just as the glimmer of the dawn arrived, the group came to the entrance of the tunnel.
In the darkness of the cavern, came the echo of Anuli’s tiny voice to her family’s waiting ears. She was alive!
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