Chapter 6

Time to return home for the night. With a sigh of regret I stood up, and started to make my way back to the souks to where Ma would undoubtedly be waiting for me with the promise of a cuff round the ear for being so late. Still, it was better to have a home, I was much luckier than any urchin under the Company’s wing. They were treated as less than slaves, picked up off the streets and sent out to beg every day, never to see the dirham that briefly crossed their palms. I would rather die than join the Company, who wouldn’t? But I knew my days living at home were numbered, I wouldn’t join any of the street gangs under Ma’s orders but without their support the Company would catch me one day and wring a profit out of yet another kid. The souks were closed for business and fast slipping into the usual but still eerie silence, even the locals preferred to stay behind barred doors at night for safety. A few still hurried through the “streets” but none caught my eye; heads down, no eye contact. That was the unspoken rule burned into every adult and child. I almost laughed to myself, tourists thought the souks during the day could be rough, they had no idea. Why would they though? Each night after eating their fill at the square or in the nearby restaurants they would retire behind locked gates to their hotels with their double bedrooms, hot running water and heating systems, luck didn’t even come close to describing their situation in comparison to mine. I was on autopilot, tracing my usual route back home whose familiarity was so great that I failed at first to notice the three or four skulking figures melting into the background. It wasn’t until a shadow fell across the ground just in front of me that I realised I was being followed. Quickening my pace I headed in the direction of the main road, where bright lights and constant traffic would hopefully provide some security. Now fully alert, I could hear the thuds of heavy feet easily keeping up with my pace. I could see them in my minds eye, they would be much larger than me, taller and stockier built, a gang tat peering out from under a ripped shirt, eyes glinting at the prospect of a late night theft. For I knew that was their aim; any street urchin would always have some takings from the day, a few dirham that they had managed to pickpocket. And I knew they were catching up, I had maybe a minute left before they would reach me. Breaking into a sprint I rounded the corner and fled down the last alleyway towards the main street, where beacons of hope were shining down, flooding the world with light to banish the menacing shadows behind me. But lo and behold my luck in this world struck again, too late, a second, a minute, who cares, doesn’t matter. What matters is they’ve caught me and my waist pouch is already disappearing into a hidden pocket. They won’t leave me alive to talk now, I’ve seen their faces I even know their names; I grew up with 2 of them, their “home” was minutes from mine before they joined the gangs and left the calm serenity of home life forever, which gang? It doesn’t matter. Their blows are raining down on me now, each fiercer than the last, and each with the promise of another and another. I’m seeing red, not from anger but from blood pouring down my face and over my eyes; my blood, my life, it’s spilling out from cracks and rips in my ravaged body, it’s gathering in pools around me and soaking through my shredded clothes into the ground. The last thing is see is the earth bleeding with me, sharing my pain as I slowly lose my focus and slump into the dust. The last thing I hear, footsteps accompanied by the muted clink of stolen dirham, a laugh, too cruel. Why so cruel?  The last words I think…

The End

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