Refugees I - Cover

Refugees I

Copyright© 2018 by Lazlo Zalezac

Chapter 1: A New Day Dawns

July 5, 1991

The barest sliver of the sun had just peeked over the horizon. It was already miserably hot, and it was only going to get worse. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Looking out the door of the ragged tent, Jomo stared at the horizon, wishing that it had been a red sunrise. They needed a storm to break the heat and drop some water on the area. They weren’t even into the high heat days of summer, yet. He didn’t remember last year being this hot.

Jomo settled back in his bed thinking that he’d better conserve his energy for later that day. They were out of food, and had been for two days. There had been far too many hot days of late, and his supply of water was dangerously low. If they were lucky, the relief group would drop off some food and water today.

He didn’t know if he looked forward to the arrival of the relief truck or not. It would be nice to eat again, but its arrival would trigger a small riot while he and the other refugees fought over handfuls of rice, yams, or whatever it was that was delivered. It didn’t matter that the fight often wasted as much as was salvaged. Hungry people rushed the delivery truck and grabbed what they could. He wasn’t proud of the fact that he was one of the people pushing shoving to get at the food. It was do that or his whole family would go hungry.

The relief group was smart. They would dump the food off of the first truck. While everyone fought over the food, they’d unload the water. It meant that the rush to get to the water would have been blunted by the fight over food.

His wife, Kiah, said, “Will the truck come today?”

Jomo answered, “I don’t know. We’ll die without water.”

“The kids need to eat,” she said.

It was a statement of fact, not a reprimand. They were weak and growing weaker with each passing day. Her words shamed him. He wasn’t doing a very good job of providing for his family and she knew it.

“I’ll try to get more food,” he said quietly.

He wasn’t physically big enough to push some of the others out of the way during the melee that formed around the truck. He often ended up with little scraps left over from the pushing and shoving. Last delivery, the only reason they ended up with food was that he and the kids had collected rice that had spilled onto the ground when several of the bags had broken. It had taken them hours to separate the grains of rice from the dirt by tossing the mixture into the air using a blanket, letting the wind blow away the dirt, and catching the grains in the blanket.

“I know you, my husband. You’ll do your best.”

“It’s too bad that my best is not good enough,” he said bitterly.

“We’re still alive,” she replied. “There have been others who haven’t lasted nearly this long.”

Seventeen months earlier, Desera had made the latest of many attempts to grab a stretch of land from Sumar that would provide it with a some fertile land and a port. Each attempt had cut another notch into the northeast corner of Sumar. Desera didn’t actually expect to make it to the ocean on this attempt, but the people of Desera were tenacious, and would try over and over until they made it. Each minor victory brought more land for crops, also.

Unfortunately, the most recent land grab included the area where Jomo’s had his farm was located. With Sumar soldiers advancing from the west, Desera soldiers advancing from the east, and fights to the south where the two armies had already met, Jomo had moved his family north into Gemort. He wasn’t a fighter, he was a farmer, and a family man. All he wanted was to raise his children and his crops in peace.

He knew he had done the right thing. The village he had left was now an empty spot on the map. Everyone who had still been there, was dead. His family hadn’t escaped unscathed. He had lost his elderly father during the walk from the farm to the refugee camp. The lack of food and water coupled with the long grueling walk under a hot sun had proved too much for the man. He had just dropped to the ground and died.

Jomo had headed towards an area that was fertile, but the Gemort soldiers at the border had taken them out to this refugee camp. It was in the middle of a desert. There wasn’t a supply of drinking water, much less enough to grow a crop. The local vegetation was rough fibrous stuff that couldn’t be digested. The roots were bitter and made people who tried to eat them violently ill.

The future, which had once looked bad, now looked even worse. The relief trucks, which had initially dropped off the tents and brought food on a regular basis, had become erratic in showing up. The amount of food delivered on each truck was decreasing with each visit.

Rumors were being spread around the camp that Gemort wanted to get rid of the refugees. If necessary, they would starve them out. Jomo didn’t believe the rumor, but that was more hope that it was false, rather than any real conviction.

He knew that rumors often had a basis in fact. There had been another rumor, which was later proven true, that one of the nearby refugee camps had been overrun by a gang who stole all of the food that had been delivered. The truth of the rumor had been proven when new refugees from the other camp had shown up at this camp. The handful of survivors told stories of how the gang had murdered the men and raped the women.

Jomo said, “Maybe we should think about leaving the camp.”

“Where would we go?”

“I don’t know. Maybe if we head far enough south, we can get back into a region of Sumar where there isn’t any fighting.”

His wife said, “That would be a journey of hundreds of miles. The kids would never make it.”

“We can, too,” little Rudo said.

Jomo didn’t say a word. His wife was right, the kids would never survive the journey. He doubted that he would survive it. His wife would give her share of water to the kids and wouldn’t survive the journey, either.

Rudo said, “I hear a truck.”

“It’s too early for the relief truck,” Jomo said dismissing Rudo’s observation.

The sound of a truck approaching grew louder. Jomo frowned, and moved to look out of the tent. He could see the dust track of an approaching truck. It was coming from the wrong direction.

“It’s got to be a gang.”

“What’ll we do?”

“We’ll run for it,” he said.

He, his wife, and two kids were the first to flee the camp. They had gotten a hundred twenty yards out of the camp, when a group of soldiers wearing tan outfits stood up in front of them. The sound of gunfire and dirt being kicked up in front of them, brought the four of them to a stop. Others, who had followed them out of the camp, stopped as well. Terrified, they stared at the soldiers. All of the stories of murder and rape leaped to mind.

“Return to camp. It is the safest place for you. There is nothing out here except for a hot hostile desert. Leaving would be sure death,” one of the tan soldiers said.

Jomo thought, ’Staying here will be death of my son and me and the rape of my wife and daughter.’

They were forced back into the camp at gunpoint. The people who had remained in camp, had already been herded to an area just outside the camp. Visions of mass death flashed through the minds of the refugees. Women cowered, children cried, and the men stood stoically knowing they faced certain death. It was a pathetic scene.

There were so many soldiers, and they were armed with rifles. The expressions on their faces were grim, not friendly. Jomo knew that only horror awaited him and his family. He pulled his wife and children behind him as if sheltering them with his body. Then he looked past the rifles and the uniforms, toand saw see the people wearing them. He was shocked, as most of them were women!

There were three trucks parked in front of where they had the people gathered. One truck was parked length-wise to the crowd of refugees. In front of it, the soldiers were erecting a canopy to provide shade for a table and two chairs. The other two trucks were parked parallel to each other, and at a right angle to the refugees, with a wide gap between them.

The refugees watched the erection of the canopy, confused by what they were seeing. Who ever these people were, they were well organized. They were also some of the most serious people they had ever seen at the camp. When everything was set up to the satisfaction of the soldiers, one of the females stepped in front of the table.

“I am Hearth Maria. I am a Jade Warrior. We have contracted with Gemort to take over operation of this and the other camps. That makes you our responsibility. We take our responsibilities very seriously. Work with us, and all will be well. Fight us, and you won’t like the consequences.

“I know that you are afraid. We are not here to harm you, but to help you. I know the you will not trust us. I know that you are hungry, thirsty, and dirty. You have been treated poorly in the past. That is now in the past. Now is time to move forward to a better life.

“Let me go over the rules. There will be no pushing, shoving, or fighting of any kind. There will be no theft. There will be no rapes. Our punishments are very harsh. You will not like what happens if you violate the rules.

“You will get along with each other, or you will be punished. You will work at your assigned tasks or you will be punished. If you have a problem, you will come to one of us, and we shall work to solve it.

“We will now collect some information about each of you. It will not take long. So please be patient.”

The woman didn’t wait for anyone to acknowledge her. She moved behind the table and took a seat. She grabbed a manilla folder, and a pad of paper. She talked to one of the other warriors. Those who could hear didn’t understand a word she said. The warrior then talked to three other warriors.

The first warrior walked over to Jomo. The other three walked to stand beside his family.

In a soft voice, she said, “Follow me and bring your family along with you.”

Jomo said, “What are you going to do to us?”

“Nothing. Now come along.”

“I don’t think so,” Jomo said.

He didn’t see the pistol get drawn. All he knew was that he had a gun to his head. From the sounds behind him, he knew that the other warriors had drawn guns on his family as well. The refugees around them pulled back several steps. Jomo wondered if it was out of fear of getting shot or if they were afraid they’d be hit with his blood splatter.

“Okay. We’re coming.”

“Good. I thought you would see it our way,” she said.

He was led up to the stand in front of the table facing the woman seated there.

“What is your name?”


“Is that your family name?”

“My family name is Sy.”

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