Elementary Novels

Dora’s Turn by Jackee Budesta Batanda

War is a terrible thing. In any country, city and at any time – it is bad anyway. There were no occasions when it made people happier. A person does not want to kill another person, but he has to do it. In Uganda, Dora and her friend are forced to fight at the war. They have reliable AK-47 assault rifles and heavy pistols. They had time to learn a lot about pain, death and murder. They are only twelve years old, still children. Their commander is called Mad Tiger. He is already fourteen. The cries of a little boy are getting fainter. The Tiger is screaming louder and louder. He orders to go on beating this boy. He shouts that they have to kill bad people, because they are soldiers and this is their job. Other commanders are smoking and smiling not far away.

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Dora’s Turn by Jackee Budesta Batanda

War is always, in any place, at any time, a terrible thing. The heart cries out against the killing, but still it happens.

Somewhere in Uganda, Dora and her friend Acayo, who tells this story, are fighting in a war. They carry big AK-47 guns, and they know all about death and killing, pain and fear. They are children, twelve years old…

Dora's Turn by Jackee Budesta Batanda

The little boy’s cries are getting quieter, weaker. I can only just hear the words. ‘Please, please… ah, no, no, no… Help me… help…’

Now there is a louder voice, the voice of Mad Tiger, our commander. He is fourteen years old.

‘Hit him harder!’ he shouts at us. ‘Get closer to him. Use your whips – harder!’

The noise of our whips through the air is louder than the boy’s cries.

‘Our war is good,’ shouts Mad Tiger. ‘We must clean out bad people. We are soldiers – no escaping, no running away, everyone must fight.’

The other commanders smoke their cigarettes under a tree. ‘Go on,’ they laugh at us, ‘get blood on your hands.’

The boy on the ground stops moving. Our whips are still. It is over.

I feel ill. There is something hard in my throat, like a stone. I can’t breathe. My friend Dora also tried to escape, and she’ll be next. They will order me to kill her. Dora and I have been close. We are both twelve years old. Dora, who is going to be a doctor after the war… Dora, who wants to save lives, to stop the killing… Dora, who has been my friend when I wake in the night, screaming, because I can see the faces of all the people that I have killed…

The AK-47 is heavy on my shoulder, and I stand, waiting… waiting for Dora’s turn, and the stone in my throat gets bigger.

‘Acayo!’ Mad Tiger shouts. I turn and look at him, hiding the fear in my eyes. It is a crime to show fear. My mouth is shut in a hard line. This helps to stop the tears coming into my eyes.

‘Yes, Afande’ I say quietly. My voice must not be angry or unhappy or afraid, just quiet. That way he will not hear my fear. I give a soldier’s salute to my commander, take my gun off my shoulder, and hold it up against my body. The gun points up to the black sky and the full moon. And the moon looks down at us, watching these deaths…

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