It was a large room, cramped and damp. People were milling around, bare-foot and silently working. There was a woman who seemed to be stitching pieces of fabric together like patchwork. She sowed one side to the next in a random way, so that it hung diagonally from the other piece of fabric. She pinned it to a piece of string that was hanging like a washing line above her. She gave it a puzzled frown and went back to working on another piece, first turning this way and that to understand it`s constituent parts and then finally picking up a needle and stating to work. The patchwork fabric hung limp from the string line in an odd fashion.
Other people all around me were dressed in brown and black rags. Everyone looked dirty and down-trodden. There were a few steps that led down to the central part of the room. It was sunken and the floor was bare stone or concrete, I couldn`t make out because of the dirt and rags of clothes that were strewn across it. A gathering of people were milling around a table at the back. It was here that there was a large metal pot where people scooped up slops of food into their bowls.
Suddenly in the quite desperation that seeped the air, there was some disturbance at the back of the room. A man, dressed in a dark green uniform, picked up a girl by the back of her ragged top. He was holding a rifle. First shouting at her and then at the people around her. His boots were shiny and black with trousers tucked into them. He walked towards the center of the sunken room. People dressed in rags started to move away from this person that was making his way through the crowd like an angry pit bull terrier in a swamp. He wasn`t very tall, but unarmed we were victims.
Grabbing a boy, I backed up against the wall where others were gathering and pulled him against me. Touching the top of his head as I pulled him into chest, I felt his hair matted, and congealed with dirt. Realising that he hadn`t washed for days, probably months, I looked down and saw that his face looked tanned from the mud. The pit bull continued to bark. Without food and proper sleep, you can feel your own shudders of fear come quickly.
Pinned up against the wall now by his fury, he comes closer to me and pulls the boy and I apart, “But he`s my son”, I cry, several faces turn to me in disbelief that the well-fed and alert officer instantly sees and realises my game. Fresh anger whips into his frenzy and he comes first towards me and then towards the boy that has run to the other side of the room and is hiding behind others. The pit bull, turns back again towards me with the back of the rifle up and ready to hit strike against my face.
I awake in sweat, feeling dread and guilt. How could I do such a thing? Is that what survival is like? When you are faced with death? Can we be that selfish? Or is it just blind desperation?