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PROLOGUE

It would be a moonscape if it wasn’t for the few scattered thorn trees, here and there, surviving the scorching sun and the ever present harsh, sandy, dry wind. The skinny trees survive, barely, thanks to the few small leaves, well protected by very sharp needles, that the goats cannot get to: and in this forsaken land, goats climb trees in order to eat the few things edible the earth has to offer.

N’Diouf is in front, Bertrand’s in the middle, and I close ranks. N’Diouf and Bertrand wear army fatigues: N’Diouf because he is an army sergeant, Bertrand’s because he is a gun and war games nut. I am dressed in jeans and a chequered shirt. One Senegalese, one native Quebecois, and one adopted Canadian.

N’Diouf is carrying a small back pack, containing a first aid kit, a bottle of water, white bread, probably onions, and a few cans of sardines; he also has with him a short waves radio: a rifle, at the ready, in his left hand, and the traditional army machete on his right’s. I know that he also carries a hand gun in the small of his back. His uniform wears no insignia: impossible to tell which army he belongs to, nor his rank. He walks half bent, briskly, but also so very cautiously, and he watches, constantly, front, back, left and right. The guy must be fifty, but walks like a teenager. He is not happy: he has lost his aviator glasses, one reason why he is not happy, but, mostly, he worries for us. He has been in so many close quarter battles in his life, he has been so very close to be killed in the process, he has killed so many people already, that I do not think he worries a bit for his own wellbeing: he wants us out of here, and alive. He also wants to understand what it is that happened on the cliff.

That’s it, as far as N’Diouf is concerned.

Bertrand’s bleeding: he has been hit on the left side of his body, just above his belt. It looks serious, and he is in pain. I wonder how he can walk at so brisk a pace with all the blood he seems to be loosing. We did not have time to dress his wound, not yet, so he tries to stem the blood from spilling out of the wound by pressing the flesh with his right hand. He is somewhat succeeding. His uniform is blood stained: he has no back pack and no guns. Bertrand’ not a thinker and he’s hurt: I am sure that he has not given a thought yet to explain the events.

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