|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)|
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By Joseph T. Trivigno
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2011 Joseph T. Trivigno
All rights reserved.
The Dark Cloud
A steady rain fell on a quiet village in the middle of a hot, steamy summer night. The sound of rolling thunder could be heard off in the distance, providing a continued calmness throughout the hushed village. Peacefully, the village slept, each family tucked away in their warm, safe huts. As the wind blew, the makeshift roofs lifted up ever so slightly and then settled back down. A flash of lighting eerily illuminated the faces of men moving through the bush that surrounded the huts before the darkness of the night recast them in the shadows.
A young father has his arms wrapped around his infant daughter while his three boys lie asleep on the floor of their hut at his feet. The home to the left also has several children, all lying side by side next to each other with the youngest child being held by his mother. The father sat preparing his fishing lines for the next day's catch, keeping an eye on his sleeping family.
His two sons, Bahotie, age 10, and Mogli, age 12, looked up to him as if he were a great God. He was their teacher, showing them the way of their ancestors. Their people were of the bush, hunter/gatherers that lived off the land and fished from the big lake near by. They moved around as the seasons changed, guided by the light of the sun, by fire and the moon at night.
Out of the corner of his eye, the young father saw a figure moving swiftly through the bush outside his hut. He was startled when he heard a woman scream.
"No, please! Please!" the woman yelled.
A loud crack reverberated in the man's ears as the butt end of a gun hit the woman's skull. A group of rebels was yelling at her to give them money and food. The woman tried to reach for her babies but one of the rebels grabbed her by the throat.
The mother spoke out, "I am poor."
In response one of the rebels said to her, "If you are so proud of your kids then bring them with you. We like children."
She held all three of her children tightly as they walked outside the hut. Another rebel grabbed a branch and lit it. He looked at the mother and the three children who were crying and laughed. The rebel held the lit branch up to the top of the hut's roof and their entire home became engulfed in flames.
The father woke up his wife and children, warning them that the rebels were here. The mother gathered her children and moved toward the back of the hut where she comforted them in an embrace. As the father set foot outside of his home, he saw the mother choking her own dog as it scratched her. The dog had been barking and the rebels forced the woman to kill it. Her kids watched in disbelief. They covered their eyes when it became too much to bear, but eventually peered through the gaps between their tiny fingers out of curiosity until it was over. After the dog took its last breath, the rebels ordered the woman to kill her own flesh and blood next. The children were too young for their needs.
"How could I do something so horrible," the woman thought to herself. She brought them into this world, she loved them, she tried to provide for them. But what choice was there? Could they live a life after abduction and brutal treatment or should they live in heaven with God, peacefully? She looked at her children. The tears rolling down her cheeks blended in with the rain that continued to fall. The rebels yelled at her again and ordered her children's murder.
Another neighbor tried to say something, but the mother stopped him.
"No, don't risk your family for mine," she said.
It was too late. A desert eagle was pulled and drawn, the bullet penetrating the man through his chest.
"No, Thomas!" the woman said, as she saw her neighbor fall to the ground.
One of the rebels gave the mother her weapon and she shot her children, praying under her breath as each one fell to the ground. After her last baby was gone, she let out a loud scream and put the barrel into her mouth and fired. She fell to the ground, landing adjacent to her beloved angels.
Bahotie and Mogli's father stumbled outside, hysterical and fell on top of the woman and her children and sobbed. The rebels gave him no time to grieve and grabbed him. Bahotie and Mogli tried to intervene but the rebels were too strong. After seeing the boys and their other brother, the rebels focused their attention on recruiting some new soldiers. One of the rebels peered into their hut and said to their brother, "This boy isn't going." He was pointing to the youngest that appeared to be disabled. The rebel grabbed the other two boys. Their mother screamed and pleaded with the rebels but they continued to remove the boys from the hut. She held the girls and the youngest boy tightly. The father tried to fight back but he was outnumbered. One of the rebels took him, his wife, daughters and smallest boy to a tiny mud hut where they were locked in.
The two boys just stood there in disbelief as their hut was set on fire. They were horrified and tried to stop what was happening but the rebels just yelled at them and threatened to kill them if they tried to do anything. Over the noise of their humble home becoming engulfed in flames, the boys heard the cries of their loved ones. As their family member's lives were ended, tears rolled down the boys' cheeks. Mogli whispered to his brother to stay close. "I will protect you. We must stay together." Both boys were visibly shaken, but Mogli, being older, felt a sense of responsibility toward his brother and had to remain brave for him.
Not even a minute went by and the rebels were on to the next hut, acting as if nothing had happened. The two boys were horrified as they stood and watched their parents and siblings burn to death. The rebels moved the boys from the hut and continued on their mission to abduct more children in the night to fight their war. The brothers were tied up with rubber bands and ropes and as each child was added they were stripped of their clothes and shoes and possessions. Being from a hunter/gatherer tribe, they didn't have much in the way of material things, but the little they did have with them was very precious. Now all of that was gone.
As each additional child was captured, they were forced to select a group to rally with. They could join the gang that killed people, the one that beat people, or choose to burn down homes and businesses. There were eight children in total, standing side by side in the rain and mud, bound by ties. Each was stone-faced, somber, confused and scared. You could see the pain in the children's eyes. They could not make sense of anything that was going on. Bahotie and Mogli tried to stay together but the rebels severed their brotherly ties. Bahotie chose the duty of being a spy while Mogli was swept off to be a lookout. When the rebels were satisfied with their night's work they left the village and escaped into the bush.
For the first three days, the children were starved of water and food. The hunger was beyond anything the brothers had lived through. They came from a poor family, but somehow their dad always found a way to provide sustenance for his kin. They were never hungry, not like this.
As they moved through the bush, the children quickly became attuned to the pain in their bodies other than from having empty bellies. The uneven terrain they walked over made their feet ache. They developed calluses and sores from the sharp rocks, and the jagged twigs that caught their toes made them bleed. The children started to realize that they, too, had to obey the commands or they would end up dead. The rebels sent word back to their home village that all the children had been killed and dumped on a riverbank far away so no one would try to look for them.
Back at their base camp, the rebels continued to train the children in their chosen areas. Bahotie, who opted for intelligence, quickly found out that bringing back the wrong information could get him killed immediately. The boy was frozen with tension at the thought of this. Mogli, on the other hand, was keen to the position he was selected for. He thought that maybe he could carry out an escape plan while he was on watch one evening. The training session started out with weaponry. Some of the kids were given guns so big they could barely hold them straight and they were terrified at holding such enormous weapons. The large machine guns outweighed a majority of the young rebels. Bahotie was so tiny that the gun he was given, an AK47, when resting on the ground, stood taller then he was. Every time he tried to fire the weapon he would fall over. He developed a large lump on his head from the backfire.
On the fourth day of their enslavement the children were given food for the first time since their abduction. They were weak and filthy, barefoot and lost. They were each so small to begin with, their tiny frames barely holding their weight, that for most of the children was not even sixty pounds, and the rebels made them walk through the bush for very long stretches at a time. Without clothes, shoes or enough to eat, most could not keep up. Mogli watched out for his younger brother, telling him to stay strong, because even the child leader was struggling since he was so weak. One small boy named Jacob really had a tough time. He started to cry, then all of a sudden got up and started to run. The children turned to watch as he sprinted as fast as he could. Jacob tried hard to out run the rebels but they weren't far behind. They eventually caught him and dragged him by his head back to the camp.
He was screaming, "Please let me go, please let me go!"
A rebel gave one of the boys, Patta, a machete and said, "Cut him."
The boy took the machete and cut Jacob, who screamed and cried. The sounds of the brothers' family burning resounded in their ears. Mogli clinched his face and wiped away tears.
Patta handed off the machete to another boy to cut into Jacob. The machete was then passed along to every child so each could share in the cutting. As Jacob cried, the rebels made each one of the children walk on him. As they stepped on his wounds, blood came pouring out. The rebels chanted, "We killed him," after every cut was made. As Jacob breathed, his body sucked in the pooled blood, and as he exhaled it poured out of his wounds until he was dead. The rebels told each boy that they had killed Jacob and if they tried to escape then his spirit would haunt them. The rebels were successfully working on the minds of these impressionable young boys, turning and twisting them into little killing machine with no regard for life. Bahotie and Mogli, however, were wise to the rebels' brainwashing scheme. They thought, instead, that "if this is what happens in this world we live in, then we're in a living hell." It appeared as if Mogli was praying over the dead body of his friend while others, glazed over and looking like robots, went back to work. The boys were in shock but didn't know what else to do except return to their posts.
The days continued on like this for months. They endured continuous torture from the rebels. They witnessed horrifying atrocities; innocent people being killed, villages pillaged and burned. As a watch guard for the rebels, Mogli was forced to watch as the men repeatedly raped young women. Another of the war's long-term consequences, many of these girls became child mothers.
The rebels taught the boys how to assemble a gun, enabling them to be more effective in raiding villages and, if necessary, killing people. There was nothing the children could do to escape this nightmare. The rebels would take their clothes at night so no one would try to run. The children's health was always poor with diarrhea, lice and other diseases weakening them. The brothers tried to stay close to each other but that was difficult since they belonged to different groups. It was constantly touch and go as to whether they would live or die or see each other again. The brothers tried to protect one another as best as they could. They were the only family they had left.
A rebel commander got wind of a mistake Bahotie had made in his intelligence report and became furious. The misunderstanding of the young brother could have cost the rebels several men had they tried to ambush one of their targeted villages. The commander jumped at Bahotie who cowered under him. Before the rebel could make contact, Mogli came rushing up behind him and grabbed the commander by the neck and held a knife to it.
"Don't even think about it or I will cut your throat," Mogli said in a deep, foreboding voice.
The commander stood motionless, unable to speak out of fear. He believed the boy and lowered his fists, letting Bahotie go. The two brothers paused and looked at each other with trepidation. Then they embraced and walked away.
That night, a higher-ranking commander came up to the brave Mogli and said, "You did good, boy. We promote you." Shocked by this, the brothers looked at each other in disbelief and tried to get some sleep.
The next day, the rebels took the fearless Mogli away to be recognized for his courage. The boy's promotion included training in hardcore fighting and it once again separated him from his brother.
Mogli turned to his brother. "Don't give up, Hotie. I will find you. I will find you, my brother." He watched Bahotie walk with his head hanging down back to camp until he disappeared off in the distance. At the sight of tears falling down his face, the rebel leader yelled at Mogli to pick himself up. "You are an officer in the Lord's Resistance Army now. Wipe those sissy tears off your face."
Turning now to include the other two boys in line with Mogli, the rebel shouted out, "We have a little game we are going to play. We are going to count to three, and after three, you will run. Who ever doesn't fall down, wins. The young boys looked at each other with confusion and fear in their eyes. The rebels counted up in soft voices, taking long pauses in between each number. "One. Two." Before the last number left the lips of the rebel, the boys were already crouched down as if on a starting line.
All Mogli could hear was rapid gunfire. The boys ran as fast as they could, dodging hundreds of sprayed bullets that blazed on either side of them. Mogli didn't look behind him but he knew that bullets already hit the others. His fear and adrenaline propelled him forward, much more than his legs ever could do on their own. Hundreds of yards later, he dove into a ditch and collapsed. He lay there a long time, pondering his luck to be alive.
* * *
For the next two and a half years, Mogli worked as a fighter. He, along with some of his other comrades, made a promise that they wouldn't do anything bad unless they were forced, revealing that somehow within the hearts and minds of these children, conscience and humanity could remain intact.
Thirty months after his abduction Mogli convinced two other boys to try and escape with him back to their home. Guided only by the yellow moon resting high up in the sky, they zigzagged through the bush at night avoiding all of the villages where they might be reported and caught. After three miserable and terrifying days, the boys reached home only to find their families dead, their huts and possessions gone. The worst of this experience for Mogli was when he received word that his brother, Hotie, had committed suicide by hanging himself. The sad news came from another boy who had escaped earlier. No one really knew for sure, but the young boy was found dead by himself, all alone. This saddened Mogli and he started to cry uncontrollably. He felt his circumstances were unbearable. He continued to live in fear that the gang of men would return for him. Paranoid, the boy spent most of his days humming and singing halfheartedly to himself, songs that he had heard his mother and father singing over and over. Mogli constantly watched his back, never relaxing. Despite his feet having no chains, he was not free. He was still a captive of the rebel mentality.
After being back home for five months, the boy's worst fear was realized. The rebels returned and he was abducted for the second time. Realizing he could be dead at any moment, he miraculously dodged another spray of bullets. The boy was fearless now. He promised himself he would do whatever it took to survive, no matter what that entailed. The boy continued to do as the rebels told. He did so to survive and for the reason that he wanted to find a way to stop this from happening to other children like him. Mogli played along with their game. He was obedient and earned respect from his leaders. Unbeknownst to them, the clever young rebel was devising a plan to break free again with the ultimate goal of being able to fight back. The boy was a fighter, and after all, they made him into this machine.CHAPTER 2
Mogli maintained the image of a robot fighter, doing as he was told, emotionless. Then one day after a horrible attack on another village his placid façade was broken down. The boy was saddened and sat in silence while thinking about all the awful things he has witnessed. Mogli had been forced to watch young girls get raped repeatedly and little boys getting stabbed. But this time the rebels really had him under a lock and key. He fought back his tears and carried on, not thinking twice about it.
For weeks Mogli secretly plotted an escape. About a month went by and he knew exactly what he was going to do. He had everything in place. The perfect evening came when the rebels were fully engaged in a tumultuous encounter with government soldiers. The boy, braver and more fearless than ever, decided to take advantage of the confusion and escape again.
Excerpted from Finding Bob by Joseph T. Trivigno. Copyright © 2011 Joseph T. Trivigno. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 - The Dark Cloud,
Chapter 2 - The Escape,
Chapter 3 - Power,
Chapter 4 - Freedom,
Chapter 5 - Lucky Duck,
Chapter 6 - Doctor Fish,
Chapter 7 - Love,
Chapter 8 - Little Lion,