“They’ll come soon.”
She nodded – a weak, forwards slide of her head – then leaned back and closed her eyes. He knelt beside her, peering into her face, at the rise of her chest as she breathed, assuring himself that she was still there, in body and soul.
Raj peered at the little hole in the ceiling from which rays of lights were filtering into the room, he thought the hole resembled Baabu’s head and a giggle rose from somewhere down his throat. He stopped himself, shamed by the wrongness of his mirth. He peered at Shuka’s face again, his laughter had wakened her.
She regarded him with large, questioning eyes.
He forced a smile.
“They’ll come soon,” he said again.
She closed her eyes again. He sat on the wooden floor beside her and looked around the space that used to be a room in their house, but was now an enclosure of ruins. The three-storey building behind their house had crashed into theirs when the earth shook. Hide-and-seek had saved them; she was hiding under the table and he was seeking her under the bed.
He wondered where mamee was. She had left them minutes before, to borrow salt and matches from Ogla next house. The same house that fell on theirs.
His throat hurt, he’d been screaming for over seventy-four hours; the words reverberating across the broken-down walls in a rhythmic dum-dum of panic: help-me-help-me-help-me-help-me.
Suddenly, he heard it. The roar of a helicopter in the distance that made him jump to his feet. Soon the whirring noise was coming from directly overhead them.
“Hello!” an amplified voice called. “Is anybody there?!”
He wanted to yell a response, but the hours he had spent screaming had numbed his voice to a whisper that barely went above the hole in the roof when he said, “We’re here. We’re here.”
The whirring blades of the helicopter came into view; it hovered for a brief moment, and then was out of sight, its roar growing fainter and fainter before fading altogether in the distance. He turned to Shuka, wanting badly to burst into tears of frustration. Instead he bent to both knees, wrapped her in a hug and whispered into her ear, “They saw us, Shuka, they saw us. They will come again. Soon. Soon. ” He was rambling now, the words as much for himself as they were for her, “You hear me, Shuka…very soon…they will…come…soon…”
Written by Hymar David