It’s time for part three of my story. This part was hard to write, but it is said that beginnings can only come from endings, and that life has many chapters.
I was big for a village donkey. Food and nourishment from my owner helped my muscles develop, and I looked much older than eighteen months.
The drought was getting worse. Heavy rains hadn’t fallen for years, and
younger donkeys didn’t even know what a storm was. The people were hungry, food expensive, and jobs scarce. Most school leavers couldn’t find work and questioned why their parents had even bothered paying to send them. Reading and writing got them nowhere.
Crime was high. People stole food and other things to sell, and there were some strange people who had visited nearby villages offering to pay money if a donkey was stolen and brought to them. So many donkeys went missing! At first it was thought wild animals were eating them (hyena’s!), but there was no evidence. No drops of blood or footprints in the sand.
Then one evening, dark scary clouds gathered round the setting sun, and we knew the moment we had been waiting for had come. I left mum for a bit to watch the approaching storm and listen to the growling thunder. There was the odd jab of lightening, and the wind picked up. I saw mum turn away from it and brace herself in preparation, so I did the same. I stood stock still as the thunder grew louder. Soon I could hear nothing else. It felt like it was just me, thunder, and whipping wind.
He took advantage of the noise and slipped the rope round my neck so fast I barely knew what had happened; until he started to pull. I pulled back, turning quickly to see where mum was and there she stood, with a rope round her neck too and another man yanking.
The whip the third man held cut into my skin, burning like fire. I leapt forwards, calling out to mum, but it was no use.
On and on through the stormy night we were made to run as the sky continued to roar and dust stung my eyes. I fell to my knees often, scared and exhausted. Rocks sharp as nails dug into my skin, and I felt warm liquid trickle down my legs.
The night seemed endless, and I thought we’d be running forever. But at last the sun began to rise and the storm faded.
We found ourselves in a clearing amongst some thorn bushes. Mum’s head was low, and looking at her legs I discovered what I felt on mine was blood.
One of the men grabbed my ear, another man grabbed mum’s, and the chap with the whip went off through the thorn bushes on his own. He returned pulling a cart and made mum and I stand in front of it while he tied the long pole in front of the cart round our necks with wire. I shuddered when I saw mum’s legs, but nothing prepared me for what I felt when I saw what the whip had done to her eye.
Tears streamed down my face, and the feeling of helplessness was like a knife in my heart. What had we done wrong to deserve this?
The men got onto the cart and shouted. Our terrible journey began again as we were made to gallop through thick sand until we came to a hard road. I hoped with all my heart someone would see us and save us, but there was no one.
On and on they drove us with that terrible whip. We galloped as fast as we could, but over and over it lashed us. One final blow hit mum’s eye again. She couldn’t see a thing, and stumbled on a rock. As she fell to her knees I pulled back, trying to stop the cart. But neither of us had seen the bridge.
Time seemed to stand still as we plunged towards the dry river bed. The cart smashed over us, but luckily, the wire snapped and we managed to roll away. As I struggled to my feet I caught sight of the men still beneath the cart, and I shakily took a step towards mum. She trembled, and her hind leg was lifted off the ground. I reached my nose out to touch hers, willing her to be alright. But the way she hobbled forwards told me she was not.
We shuffled along the riverbed, figuring out the way back to the village. I was pretty sure the men would not be following us, but we moved as fast as mum’s shattered leg would allow. Hours passed. Long endless hours with the sun beating down on us. Mum’s breath shortened, but I couldn’t let her stop. We had to keep going.
Eventually, it was just too much for her and she crumpled to the ground. As she lay in the burning heat, we breathed into each other’s breath until she breathed her last. I tried to pull her up with my front hooves, but it was useless.
By the time the sun had come to rest I gave up, and simply lay next to her. When the birds sang in the morning and a new day began, I had to accept she was not going to get up.
Slowly I said my goodbyes, and with head hanging low and tears in my eyes, I followed the river bed. I barely knew how to continue, and it was only when I caught the smell of water that I found the strength to go on.
If only mum was here. A drink just might have helped her.