Sisters Aflame

Published on 27 April 2024 at 17:36

A Darkness came over our land. The light that had shone on my future dreams of being a lawyer vanished into the void. Our lives extinguished, like a flame in the rain. I am only fifteen and yet I have become a soldier, engineer, doctor, chemist and mother. I am learning hard and fast, for I cannot see in this darkness, I can only feel.

My group, for that is what we are, is shrouded in materials, in secrets, in silence. But we are learning to use the darkness to our advantage. To use our silence and learning the patterns of the Darkness that came.

We are planning the greatest escape ever seen in this world, our world. We are creating a world for us, somewhere safe, where we can be ourselves, be human.

It is my dream to get every woman and girl who wants to escape the Darkness and free them into the light. We will sing the songs of The Light Torch to celebrate!

But for now, we are patient, we are busy and we work in silence and darkness.

It has taken two years of preparation, but tonight we move. A new movement.

I am scared and excited. If for whatever reason we are discovered, death will be slow and awful. But what is the alternative? A living death! We have no life; therefore, we have nothing to lose!

My sisters and I prepare the great feast that will be replicated across the land. The New Year feast!

We have picked out all those who pose a danger or risk to our plan, including sisters. Yes, this is what it has come to, that we have been forced to abandon some of our sisters because they abandoned us. Not in any fear or concern, but to gain a granule of power over others. To put themselves above others. These sisters will sleep with their brothers tonight.

We cook now, adding herbs and spices, and all natural ingredients to our traditional New Year dishes.

All over the land, the task assigned to women will be the task that allows us to escape.

My sisters and I cook in silence, but we feel each other’s heightened emotions as we add every ingredient, every stir of the ladle, brining us closer to what we hope will be our freedom.

Then a sister who is not our sister comes into the kitchen. She is evil and likes to beat those she can control. She has made herself indispensable to the Darkness and complicit in our torture. She checks the food. Her greed is voiced in her words as she excitedly talks about the celebrations and her favourite dishes. If it wasn’t for the Darkness, she would have tasted everything by now, but she restrains herself for even she would get a beating for touching the food first. She leaves the kitchen, satisfying herself that all is as it should be.

A wave of relief ripples through the kitchen, just as a draft from her closing the door ripples our materials.

Not long now. I am sweating from the heat in the kitchen, from my nervousness, from the pent-up energy that I cannot hold for much longer, the freedom I must have.

Do you know what it is like to have your freedom, your individuality, your rights taken from you and still be expected to live?

It is the hardest life to live. Every second, minute, hour, day, week, year is a living death. You stop feeling, you block, you numb yourself to the harshness, but you still breathe. Every now and again, you find that tiny bit of yourself to bring to the surface, to confirm you are still living. You hope for life. And then you put the real you back, replacing it with the numbness you felt before. Sometimes, you cry. It is dangerous to cry in this state. You lose hope. I want to cry when I have my freedom, when I can be me and truly cry.

We get the call – bring the food. We all face each other, take a deep breath. We are ready. We have been ready for a long time. We carry the dishes into the main room, carefully placing it on the dining mats in the correct order of serving. Everything else is already prepared; water bowls and towels, the few flowers we could find, fruit.  The men watch us. Strictly-speaking they shouldn’t enter the room until after the food has been laid out and we have left, but they make up their own rules when it suits their needs.

I can feel them watching, thinking, waiting. Hunger is not the only appetite they want to satiate.

We leave the room. Our evil sister stays to fuss over them. Because of her sycophantic ways, we promise her a special portion of her favourite dish to lure her into the kitchen. She must eat at the same time as them. She bounds into the kitchen only a few minutes later. We have her treat ready and she dives into her bowl, almost mad with the foods’ aroma. Soon there is nothing left. Her selfishness prevents her noticing we are not eating. She leaves us after a minor complement, returning to the room of Darkness.

We wait.

We prepare ourselves. Everything is ready. We hear the laughter of deep voices and some crude comments about us. The Darkness has two sides, both evil from our point of view. The side it shows to the outside world and the side it allows in private.

I look at my phone secretly. Ten minutes have passed. We are all on tenterhooks. Joviality erupts from the room. We know we must be patient, but the tension is exhausting. Twenty minutes and a noticeable quietness spreads throughout the house. I open the back door to the garden to allow some fresh air in. We need air if we are to run.

Then there is a deathly silence – not just from the house, but from the land. This task has been replicated across the land. Trusted sisters worked together to blanket the land in sleep. It is a long sleep for those who supported the Darkness. I look back at the others, we count to ten, sing the freedom song of our mothers and walk out into the starry night.

The jeeps are there. We take all the vehicles and drive away. We have our route to freedom. There are stops for fuel, carefully concealed and pickups of sisters who are ready to live. The brothers who helped us, stay and will try to take back the land from the Darkness. That will be when we return.

A long drive, an ever-increasing number of vehicles joins the freedom convoy. After six hours of driving, we have reached the border. There is no-one there, so we drive across to our rendezvous point another 100 miles away.

Some of the sisters are exhausted and scared. Scared of the unknown, now that we are here, relatively safe. But I sing to them, calming, soothing, caressing the fear away.

We have agreed to check in with the other groups at 24 hours from food serving time. It is a hard and long wait. I am exhausted and emotionally empty. I cannot sleep until I know all our sisters have arrived safely. I keep myself busy with looking after the others; blankets, water, humming childhood songs.

I go outside the building to watch the sky brighten with the sunrise. A new day and a new year has started.  I think about what we have achieved, even with our group of 10, 000 sisters.  Who would have thought those beautiful pink and red flowers would have brought us salvation?

Finally, it is our check-in hour. We use our code names and passwords to communicate. Two groups have yet to check-in. We wait – give them another hour. But to our relief, every other group has made it out!

We still have a long journey to go to meet out our main rendezvous point. We will get help there. The outside world will now be a part of our world.

We give the signal for groups to start travelling to the main destination. I stay behind with about fifty sisters, waiting to hear from the two missing groups. It is a tense time; they cannot have any signal or power and we cannot imagine what they are going through or where they are.

Then three hours past the rendezvous time, they check-in. Someone had stolen their hidden fuel. Amazingly, they had not been found out.

Did they have everything they needed to move on? Yes. They were very tired, but wanted to reach their sisters. They would continue the journey.

It was another 24 hours before we were all safe and saw the news. “Where have all the women and girls gone?”