I could see the limp had more clearly now; dark-skinned and somewhat callused as though it was accustomed to manual labor. It resembled the hand of a young person, a teenager, and by the looks of recently chewed fingernails, it must have belonged to a teenage boy.

Even with my sister’s song still echoing in my mind, I could clearly hear wails and screams of utter terror, and I visibly jumped at the sound believing it was happening now. Not wanting to see the horrid images anymore, I snapped my eyes open and gasped for air, my head in my hands and the salty tears trickled down my cheeks, staining my face and pajamas.

Suddenly a timid knock interrupted my crying and I hastily wiped the tears from my eyes as the door opened slowly. Clearing my throat, I turned towards the door and seeing Dabota standing there with her hair pulled back and a simple charcoal-gray dress that covered her petite frame, I stiffened visibly not wanting her to see my vulnerability.

With one quick glance at her solemn brow and telltale red eyes, I spun around to face the window, noting that the thunderous rain had slowly dissipated into a light shower.

“Dee…” Dabo started to say from behind me and I immediately closed my eyes against her penitent tone. Although she really had no reason to apologize to me for singing in the shower, I was furious at her for invoking this unwanted emotion–this vulnerability with her sad song.

I was more mad at myself for even crying, especially since I was the oldest–the “bravest.”

How could I just stand here crying and in turn make my younger siblings and even my strong, supporting mother look so forlorn? Why were we all crying like the world was about to end?

I screamed inwardly and my headache surged back like a broken dam, confused at the nightmare and our identical tear-stained faces. Holding my hands to my head to silence the echoes of the wails and screams, and my own voice scolding me for being weak, I was completely thrown back when Dabo’s hand touched my shoulder.

Shaking underneath her hand, I immediately stepped back as if her hand was on fire and spun around, glaring down at her. “Don’t do that!” I exclaimed, my heart bouncing rapidly against the walls of my chest.

Dabo stepped back at my harsh tone and raised both hands in surrender. “I’m sorry! Geez… I just wanted to see if you’re alright, that’s all.”

As she bowed her head in dejection, I bit my lip worriedly and tentatively touched her shoulder. “Look, Dabo… I’m sorry, I-I didn’t mean to–” I immediately paused just as a barely audible sniffle came from my sister.

“It’s not fair,” she sobbed quietly and lifted her dark-brown eyes that glimmered with tears. Involuntarily, my arms lifted and she shifted forward into them, burying her face in my shoulder.

Closing my eyes against the tears invoked by Dabo’s bitter sobs, I wrapped my arms around her tightly and listened to her as she cried out.

As she wept and spoke of the unfairness of life and death, the images appeared once again and they were even clearer this time.

Synchronizing with Dabo’s wails, the screams of horror got louder, pounding against my eardrums and I suddenly could see three bodies, two of them moving as they bent over the third that lay limp with the arms flailed to the side.

In my mind’s eye, I moved closer and could immediately recognize the two moving forms as my mom and dad, and moving closer still I noticed my mother visibly screaming in horror as she bent over the limp body. As my father bent closer to the body with his hands propped over the third body’s chest as if to perform CPR, I leaned forward to see the face of the person but before I could, my sister stirred in my arms and jolted me from my thoughts.

“Are you okay?” she asked me, considering I was the one doing the consoling.

end of Chapter IV