Naveed – extract

From chapter 1

The explosion jolts him awake. He sits up, gasping for air, heart thumping.
Was the blast real? Perhaps it had only happened in his head, a bad dream. He’d had plenty of those, nightmares real as real. Demons of the dark, his father called them.

‘Push them away. They’ll only poison your thoughts. Seek the light and they can’t hurt you.’

The boy peers hard into the tiny room where he lives with his mother and sister. He listens intently. But the room gives nothing back. Its mud walls hunch over him. The two windows, holes patched with plastic bags, look down like a dead man’s eyes. The blanket covering the low doorway to the outside shifts in the morning breeze; a mouth that might speak but only sighs. He catches a whiff of its stale breath, a mix of smells he knows well – garbage, diesel, sewerage, dust. He grimaces. But almost immediately his father’s words are there again.

‘In every darkness there is light, Naveed. Never forget that. Always look for the light.’

‘Yes, Papa,’ he whispers into the pre-dawn greyness that fills the room. ‘I will.’
He means it. He will never forget anything his father said. Never. And he does always seek the light, or at least tries his hardest to do so.

‘It’s just not that easy, Papa. Without you here the darkness seems so great.’

‘The darker it gets, the harder you must seek.’  Papa always had an answer, always a reason to see good, even when it seemed to be nowhere in sight. ‘The world lives on hope.’

‘Of course, Papa.’

Of course there is much to thank Allah for, Naveed has to admit as he looks around the room they moved into barely a fortnight ago. It might be tiny and cramped, with a wide crack down one wall and a ceiling in need of repair, but it is a thousand times better than the tent they’ve lived in for almost two years after Papa died. Perishingly cold in winter, unbearably hot and filled with dust in summer, that tent was a kind of hell.

The room is heaven by comparison – a solid roof over their heads, a place to call home. Mr Kalin charges far too much rent, but that only makes Naveed more determined to work harder and longer. After all he is the man of the house now, the head of the family. It is all up to him now.

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