Jamie hurried us along through the dark, ushering the little ones across the narrow bridge one by one. I brought up the rear. It was the only way across the river and into the safety of the forest where the trees were denser and would conceal us from view. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the tiny, bobbing rays of flashlights searching for us around the house. We had left the orphanage in the nick of time and were still well within earshot when the shouting and screaming began. None of us dared make a sound. Even the youngest knew instinctively to be quiet. I tried in vain to block out the desperate cries, the distorted voices of people begging for mercy, but I heard them all and I recognized each and every one of them. They were the voices of people who were dear to me. And they were voices I knew I was hearing for the last time.
Halfway across the field between the bridge and the edge of the forest, I suddenly came to a halt and turned around. The screaming had stopped. There was not a sound coming from the house anymore. I stood on the cold, hard soil, my feet covered in mud and half melted snow, and listened to the silence that now rang in my ears. Fear makes you scream, I thought, the certainty of death hushes the world. I knew what would come next. I waited and listened. There was only one at first. Then another a few seconds later. And another. And another. And another. Five gunshots, then silence.
I stood rooted to the spot for a moment longer, then continued running, sloshing and slithering across the rest of the field until I caught up with the others and led them deep into the forest. We dragged ourselves through the undergrowth until our legs gave out from under us and we slumped down on the ground. I knew we couldn’t linger long, that we had to keep moving, but none of us seemed to be able to. Fear makes you run, I thought, but naked terror stuns the world.