THE WINDOW FRAMES at the back of the rickety old Patrol were fitted with old wooden boards.
Just above Mati’s head a stream of orange light shone through the crack in one of the boards, indicating to her that they were travelling still within the limits of this wretched, forsaken city.
Mati did her best to tremble for as long as she could, before the impending numbness took over her body completely. She closed her eyes and relished that last morsel of pain in her throbbing knees.
A mascara-stained tear seeped down the corners of her eyes to the oily floor as she remembered the last soccer game she had played. It was the first half of the finals and she had injured her knee after falling on a dry dirt patch in the hot, dusty oval.
Up until now, that had been the worst feeling she’d ever felt, sitting on the benches for the first time; helplessly watching her team mates fall apart. And although she had never quite accepted the defeat that day it seemed quite trivial now, given her present circumstances.
She felt her heart race when she realized what was happening. Her mind was wandering into its grey areas, those unchartered depths where it logged its unresolved and unrequited matters. This must be what happens when people begin to die.
Stop! She groaned as she fought away the expensive thoughts. Her mind, the last of her ailing sensibilities should instead be spared for a prayer, a final silent plea to the will of God and the mercy of her captors.
As she focused her gaze on the light for solace, it suddenly vanished and the steady, melancholic murmur of turning wheels on cool black asphalt was replaced by crude unpredictable jolts of a dirt track.
Unable to tell if her eyes were open or shut, she tightened her grip on the metal frame of the worn-out passenger seat, took a deep breath and began to pray.
Earlier that night at the car park where she had been ambushed, she had prayed for strength to overcome. But here in the cold, dark confines of the rickety old Patrol, she asked only for the serenity to accept what lay ahead of her, not only for herself but for those she had known over the course of her life.
Those whom she was certain she would very soon leave behind. For a moment she wondered what would become of her bedroom and all her possessions, the most prized of which were her journals.
She wondered if her sisters would ever break their promises never to read them and what kind of women they would grow up to be.
She thought of her parents regretfully; their last conversation hadn’t been their best.
She was five years old and did not have to share her red tricycle - how much fun and easy it was when it was just the three of them, a new family finding their place in the world. On some weekends and school holidays they would drop her off at her mother’s village where her grandmother would comb her hair by the river.
She would tell her stories of the times when she grew up. A time when although you didn’t have much, you would want for nothing except for the things you needed and the things you already had.
The wet kunai track rolled out into rocky ground at the foot of the hill and led the rickety old Patrol to a small clearing close to the water. The man in the passenger’s seat stepped out of the vehicle and surveyed the area while the driver remained to keep watch until his partner was satisfied that it was clear.
The two men then carried Mati’s battered body to the water. The sound of the single gunshot rippled through the canopy. Winged creatures absorbed the shock waves in deafening shrills.
Even in the middle of nowhere she was beautiful and the water rushed to anoint her. Clothed with the fragrance of eucalypt and guided by solemn chorus of crickets, Mati breathed her last and gave up her life to the anonymity of the night.