“Go back to sleep…”


Short Story By: Sara Kjeldsen

Wails travel through the walls of our home – if you could call it that. Crying comes from the streets, from my neighbour’s houses, and from my mother. She has not left her seat at the table for over two days, because she cannot stop looking at the picture of my older brother that used to rest on the wall.

My brother is dead now. Another drone hit him and his friend when they were on their way to school. Both of them lost their legs and bled to death before anyone could help them. In my dreams, I see the terror in his eyes during his final moments. He was a kind and beautiful boy who always wanted to be a doctor, yet we couldn’t even go to his burial site for fear of being targeted. Yes, they really do bomb our funerals.

And the crying. It will not end. I just want it to stop!

Being a girl on the verge of womanhood, my education is not a priority now that my mother is unable to perform her usual tasks around the house. Father died years ago and we have barely any money to support ourselves. I’ve missed two weeks of school already, and I do not know if I’ll ever be able to return. I am afraid of being given away to one of my uncle’s sons just as much as I am petrified of being blown apart by another explosion. This is hell.

I don’t understand why they are punishing us when we are already repressed. Can they not speak with those that they consider militant? Would it be so difficult to send ambassadors and speak with the men that are oppressing us? I ask these questions and no one will answer them.

I miss my brother so much, but I need to be strong for my younger one, who is sleeping on the blanket next to mine. His thick black hair falls over one of his eyes as he dreams. I pray that no nightmares plague him. He is only five.

Mother’s sobs are gnawing at the final threads of my sanity. I cannot stay in the house any longer. I dress and open the window to climb outside. It is after dark and I breathe in the fresh air.

“Where are you going, Lanja?”

I sigh and look over my shoulder at my baby brother. He rubs his eyes and crawls out from under the covers. He makes me smile and for just one moment, I forget about the tragedy hovering in the air, encircling us.

Angry shouts from the outside drown out the weeping. We both jump.
I rush to the window and cover my mouth. Some of the men and boys are rushing through the street with machine guns.

“Please God … not again.”

My brother is crying now. He runs to my side and I take his arm.

“Foad, step away from the window. I’ll sing you a lullaby so you can go back to sleep. All right?”

He nods. I wipe away his little tears. I tuck him in and cover his ears as the roars of an oncoming plane grow louder until they shake the floor we are lying on. I kiss his forehead.

“I love you, my little toad,” I whisper.

I wrap my arms around his quivering body. I’m so scared, but I keep singing for him.

My mother’s scream rages from downstairs. Then, deafening noises agonize my ears as my arms are ripped away from Foad and I am flown into the air. I hit the wall. I can’t breathe. I’m burning, but I can’t scream.

And then death, mercy, sweeps in to claim me. Forever.

-Sara Kjeldsen


Out of Sight, Out of Mind – A visualization of the drone attacks in Pakistan.

Photo by Ujjwal Chouhan from Pexels


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