(c) Anel Viz
Things were quiet in the village again. No rebel soldiers had been seen in the region for over four months. The United Nations workers had brought food, clean water, clothing and medical supplies; the people whose homes had been destroyed had put up temporary huts or rebuilt, and the broken shards of their possessions no longer littered the streets; a handful of shops had reopened. On the surface, life had returned to normal, but the memories remained, and with them the fear and emotional scars. Gunshots, screams, fire, limbs hacked off and bellies slit open peopled their dreams.
Fourteen-year-old Bkundé was going back to school. He had forgotten so much in three years. He wondered if he would be able to keep up with the lessons, but he was eager to return, although he would have to face his old classmates – those who had survived.
Bkundé and his mother lived in a mud-and-straw hut at the edge of the village which his grandfather had built for them. He missed his father. They had gone to live with the old man after the soldiers had come and taken him away, but after his mother was raped he would no longer let them stay. So many women raped. Girls too, and boys. Boys like him. Boys who had had things done to them that meant they would never be men.
The soldiers hadn’t desired him. They did it to hurt him. They hadn’t leered and laughed the way they had when they raped his mother. They had hardly looked at his body; they gritted their teeth and only touched him with their hands to hold him down. How many had forced their way into him while he screamed? Five? Six? He couldn’t remember. He could only remember the pain, the feeling of being ripped apart below, and how he wished they would kill him.
Everyone knew. After what happened to him his grandfather stopped coming to see them. When he had to go out, he walked through the village with his eyes lowered, unable to bear the shame. No one spoke to him, and he only saw the feet of the people he passed. He would not look at the shop clerk when he handed him his money. None of the boys who had been raped would look anyone in the eye, not even each other.
The refurbished classroom was finer than it had been before. There were new chairs and desks, a new chalkboard, and the walls had a new coating of whitewash. The roof had been repaired, the shutters on the windows replaced, and a new electric generator turned a fan on the ceiling to keep the air circulating. There was nothing in these surroundings to remind them of the soldiers except Makira’s missing hand and their own silence. The children didn’t chatter excitedly as they used to on the first day of school in the past. They didn’t speak to each other. The devastation was not in their surroundings; it was in their souls.
The teacher welcomed them back to school and told them that there were counselors who would meet them individually to help them with the trauma. Bkundé didn’t know what trauma meant, but he could guess. All the children had to sign up for an appointment. He signed up for ten o’clock. Then the teacher had them open their notebooks and began her lesson as if nothing had happened.
At five minutes to ten Bkundé got up from his desk. The teacher glanced at the clock and nodded it was time. He left the classroom, crossed the school grounds, and walked home. No, he would not go back to school, not ever.
Victor Banis says: “I can always recommend books by Anel Viz … they are each of them so unique and so thought provoking that the discerning reader cannot but be glad to have discovered them.” Anel has been a regular contributor to Gay Flash Fiction and Wilde Oats since their inception, and his works have appeared in a number of other magazines, in anthologies, and as individual publications. He writes in many different genres, from flash fictions to four very long novels, as well as verse, prose poems, stories, humor, and essays. His novel P’tit Cadeau won a 2011 Golden Rose for best contemporary m/m. Most recently, he published a two-volume anthology of novellas and short stories, Horror, Dark & Lite. He is currently working on more projects than he can keep track of.
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