PART five: diin
Chapter 40: The Asylum
“This is where I leave you. Go through that gap in the wall there. That one right there,” KAYOTI said, as he pointed. “Then keep going straight after that. They will eventually find you. And remember, not a word about how you got in. We never met. You were by yourselves.”
“Thank you. Thank you for bringing us this far,” CREFY’s father said, as the group began moving again.
“You are welcome. Bye now,” KAYOTI said, as he ran off in the opposite direction.
“He actually kept his word, brother,” DIIN’s father said, after KAYOTI had left.
“I told you I had a good feeling about him. I knew it from the second he met our wives. He didn’t look at them the wrong way even once. That was why I had no qualms about paying him everything we had upfront,” CREFY’s father said.
“Your judgment was right, brother. We’re almost there. It’s almost over,” DIIN’s father smiled and said.
The group carefully made their way through the large hole in the wall, after which they continued walking in the direction KAYOTI had pointed out. The tiredness they had felt a few minutes ago was gone. The wall and the gap in it had renewed their energy. The prospect of their journey finally being over had taken over their stamina, helping push them forward, despite the complaints their bodies registered with their minds.
DIIN watched her father as she walked beside him. He had a faint smile on his face. It wasn’t as large as the ones he had given her the past few days, but it did seem to be a completely effortless one, unlike the others. Seeing it made her happy. She didn’t understand why, but she didn’t question it. Her father finally seemed to be like his old self again. This was similar to the expression they had left their home with. Somewhere along the way, she couldn’t recollect when, her father’s face had tightened, the way it did back home when she or her mother felt sick. Getting off the train had improved his face, but the place with all those weird cloth houses that they had just come from had made it worse again, and meeting KAYOTI had only added to the problem.
She didn’t understand why the OSZA they called KAYOTI affected her father in that way. He seemed nice. He had not been mean to them, and his red eyes had a playfulness to them that she liked. He was not like any of the other OSZA they had come across during their journey, the ones that had hurt her and CREFY’s parents. KAYOTI had taken all their belongings though. He had taken everything. All the currency the group had hidden away in their various pieces of clothing, all their extra clothes, all their food and water, everything. They had nothing anymore, other than what they wore on their backs, and DIIN’s little SKIMMA, which KAYOTI had briefly looked at, but then decided against taking. Could that be the reason her father had tightened up around KAYOTI? But CREFY’s father had happily given him everything he had asked for. He had said that they would be able to buy new things in the place KAYOTI was helping them get to. So there was no need to hold onto their old belongings. Maybe her father had some problem with that? She wondered if any of it mattered. Her father seemed happy now. Not as happy as she was used to seeing him, but happier than he had been for a long time. Maybe that was enough. Maybe he would slowly become the way he used to be, the way she remembered him from what felt like a lifetime ago.
Loud screaming snapped DIIN out of her thoughts. She grabbed her father’s leg in terror, and screamed as she saw uniformed OSZA running towards them. Her father put her behind him as he raised his hands and got on his knees. She held onto him as tightly as she could. The screaming seemed to go on forever before it stopped. Her mother picked her up, and DIIN watched in confusion as they were hastily put into the back of a vehicle with bright glowing lights on it. None of it made sense. Her parents were happily thanking the uniformed OSZA for some reason, despite the OSZA having screamed at them a few minutes ago.
“Where are we going, Mommy?” she asked, once they were in the vehicle.
“Where is Daddy?” CREFY asked. His voice indicated that he was just as terrified as her.
“It’s ok, child. Everything is fine. They are taking us to our destination. Your fathers are in the vehicle behind us. Don’t worry. Nothing is wrong,” DIIN’s mother said.
“But why were they screaming at us?” DIIN asked.
“They thought we were somebody else, that’s all,” CREFY’s mother answered.
“Who did they think we were? And why did they think that?” CREFY asked.
“I don’t know, my little baby. It doesn’t matter. They know who we are now. So everything is fine. Don’t worry. There’s no need to be scared,” CREFY’s mother said.
The vehicle stopped sometime later. The uniformed OSZA led the group into a building. DIIN had never seen anything like it. It was taller than every trash heap she had seen, and it looked strong, stronger than all the huts that she had come across in her home. It seemed stronger than all the buildings she had seen during her recent travels as well. Its insides were equally marvelous. They were clean and bright, full of lights and all kinds of devices. She wanted to take it all in, but the group was quickly escorted through the building and put into a room before she could.
The group sat in the room by themselves for a long time, before a blue eyed, uniformed OSZA came in and questioned them. He wanted to know who they were, why they were here, how they had come in, and all kinds of other things. Nobody said a word about KAYOTI, and her parents seemed to repeat the word asylum every time they could. When the OSZA’s questions had ended, two others came in and told both sets of parents that they needed to take the children away, to clean them up and give them something called a medical checkup. DIIN and CREFY protested, but their parents managed to convince them to go with the strangers. It was for their own good, they said. The strangers only wanted to clean and feed them, and to make sure that they were not sick after their long journey, which was a good thing. And if they behaved themselves, the strangers may just give them lots of sweet treats, ones that were much better than anything they had ever come across so far.
And so, DIIN and CREFY went with the strangers willingly, and yet, full of fear and hesitation. Their parents waited patiently for hours, but they never came back. A slight panic began to set in, but they calmed themselves by reminding each other that this was utopia, that this was nothing like the land they were from after all. These OSZA were kind. Their children were in good hands. The OSZA here were nothing like the ones back home. They were not as cruel. They would not harm children like the ones back home did.
CREFY’s mother had begun to breastfeed GOBA, when one of the OSZA from earlier walked back into the room and asked for the baby.
“It’s time for her checkup,” she said.
“Where are our children, madam? It’s been a while and they have not returned. Can you please check?” DIIN’s father asked.
“I am not aware of their whereabouts. I need the baby,” the OSZA said impatiently.
“Please, madam. We beg you. Please. Please find out where our children are. It’s been hours and we have heard nothing,” CREFY’s father said.
“The baby. Now. I will not ask again.”
“Madam. Please. Please find out where our children are. My wife is breastfeeding the baby. She needs a few more minutes. Please do us a great kindness and check on our children while she finishes.”
“I need backup in Room 10! ASAP!” the OSZA screamed into her communicator, in a language the group did not understand.
“What is she saying? She was speaking our tongue until now. Why is she talking in hers all of a sudden?” DIIN’s mother asked.
“Could she be asking about DIIN and CREFY?” CREFY’s mother asked.
“I hope so. Her tone sounded angry though. Did we do something?” DIIN’s father asked.
“Madam…” CREFY’s father began, but the OSZA immediately lifted a hand and motioned for him to be silent. Five uniformed OSZA stormed into the room a few seconds later.
“Madam, please! We meant no disrespect!” DIIN’s father screamed, as the OSZA held the group down.
“No! Madam! Please! I beg you! She is still feeding!” CREFY’s mother screamed, as GOBA was ripped from her breast.
“What is happening? Why? Why! What have we done? All we wanted was to know where our children are!” DIIN’s mother said between sobs, as the uniformed OSZA who held the group down let them go.
“Please! Sir! Sir! Madam! Sir! Please! One of you please… please find out where our children are. Please! I beg you! I beg you…” DIIN’s father said, as the uniformed OSZA walked out of the room with GOBA, who had begun to cry as loudly as her lungs let her.
“What is happening, my love? Why are they doing this to us?” DIIN’s mother asked her husband.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” DIIN’s father said.
The group sat in silence for the next few hours, stunned by everything they had been put through, trying to piece it all together. Their ears perked up a few hours later, when they heard the screams and cries of a large group of children coming from one of the adjoining rooms.
“DIIN! DIIN! Are you there, child?” DIIN’s father screamed.
“CREFY! My little baby! CREFY!” CREFY’s mother screamed.
All four parents pressed their ears against the wall, hoping to hear a reply from DIIN or CREFY. But all they could hear were the screams of a hundred terrified children. The parents did everything they could to isolate the cries they heard, hoping that one of them belonged to their little babies. But their efforts were futile. There were simply too many voices, too many innocent little children crying for their mommies and their daddies after being cruelly separated from them, too many little bodies trembling with fear, too many tiny souls unable to understand or cope with the barbarity they were experiencing.
“How many of them are there?” CREFY’s mother asked. “A hundred? A thousand?”
“Too many,” CREFY’s father replied. “Too many.”
“They’re just children. Helpless little…” DIIN’s mother said, as she fell to the floor sobbing.
“What is happening? What is this cruelty?” DIIN’s father asked, as he fell to the floor. “Is this a nightmare? Is this hell? Is this a nightmare? Is this hell?” he began repeating, as he held his head in his hand, and rocked himself back and forth, alternating between screams and sobs.
“This cannot be the utopia we sought. It just cannot be. We traveled all this way. We sacrificed so much. It can’t be. Not for this. Not for this…” CREFY’s father muttered. He ran to the door and began banging on it, screaming for help, begging for answers, hoping that there was at least one kind soul in the building that would respond, that there was somebody out there who would take pity on them, and listen.
But no one did.