Chapter 3: Obliteration

Akefia staggered away, wincing in pain with each step. Climbing that cliff face so fast was most likely not the best idea, but what else could he do? He had to get away. Slowly, he turned around one last time to watch. The soldiers were riding off into the distance now, and he wasn't sure whether to be thankful that they didn't get him or angry because he didn't get to die with the rest of his village which was now consumed in flames. Tears fell from his eyes as the realization hit him, really hit him, that he was alone. Even if the only ones who survived where him and the boys who hated him, it would be enough. But no, there was no mercy in this, not even a little. He was on his own, no one to turn to.

No, there was still one person left.

He forced himself to move, even through the pain. He remembered her saying that she and her father would stop in the next village for a few days before they set out for Giza.

She was waiting at the edge of the town when he came. Her mind was occupied with trivial things: the color of the sky, animals you could play with, animals you couldn't, and the like. That was when she saw him.

At first, he just looked like some random kid wandering through the dunes on a hot Egyptian day. But when she looked closer she could see that it was her best friend. She ran to him, her intention to ask him what he was doing here and if he was going to stay and play, but as she drew closer, her cheerfulness disappeared. Her pace increased out of desperation to get to him.

He fell face first into the sand just before she got to him. Without hesitation she rolled him onto his back so he wouldn't be breathing in sand. Being a small child and not knowing what to do, she could only offer him what little water she had with her. "Hang on Akefia; I'm going to get help!" She ran off towards the village before he could give her an answer, not that he would have, for his mouth was so dry he was unable to speak in any case.

He was unconscious by the time they returned.

Akefia awoke in a strange house, lying in someone else's bed. He sat up and his head swam dizzily. Where was he? Where were his parents? For a few moments, he was afraid. Then, he remembered why he wasn't at home, why his parents weren't there. It was all gone.

He jumped slightly when he heard the door open. When he looked over, he saw his best friend trying to close the door as quietly as she could. She let out a frustrated huff as the door squeaked in protest. Turning back to him, she was surprised to find him awake. In her hands was a pitcher full of water, and he looked at it longingly, for he was incredibly thirsty. She giggled at his yearning expression and gave him the water. "Don't drink too quickly; father says it's not good for you." As parched as he was, he did his best to heed her warning. When he was done, she took the pitcher from him and set it on the floor.

In his eyes, she saw his torture. Although she was little, and wouldn't really understand what had happened to him until later, she could plainly see that he was in anguish. Not knowing what else to do, she pulled him into a hug. He hugged her back almost immediately, grasping onto her tightly, as if he was afraid that at any moment, she would just fade away. It took a while, but he finally convinced himself that she was real, and let her go. By that time, they were both crying, him for his losses and her for her friend.

They cried together for a time, until her father came in and asked her out. "I have some things to discuss with Akefia, run along." Reluctantly, she did as she was told and slipped from the room.

He sat down beside the boy with a heavy sigh. "I heard what happened from some merchant friends."

Akefia said nothing.

The man looked at the child, and put an arm around his shoulder. Akefia was slightly surprised by his kindness, for he did not know her father very well. "It would make you feel better to talk about it."

Akefia looked towards the door, but her father caught on.

"I know that you are best friends, but you must not tell her."

The boy was confused by this remark; he looked up at the other with a puzzled expression.

"She is still youthful at heart, and not ready to hear it, no matter what she may tell you." He gave a half-hearted laugh. "My daughter may be strong, but she is still just a child yet, unlike you." His face fell again, "You poor boy. To have your childhood taken from you so early, it's not right." Another sigh.

For a while it was quiet, than he asked Akefia again to relay his horrors. When Akefia again would not speak, he put his hands on the child's shoulders and looked him right in the eyes. The child marveled at the way the man's eyes had a way of boring right into him. Not in an uncomfortable way, though. Akefia felt warm, comforted, like he could tell this man anything, and he would nod his head and understand. And Akefia wanted someone to understand desperately.

Akefia spilled out his heart, and with his kind and loving words the older man took the broken pieces and fitted them back together again. And Akefia began to call him Father.