The day our beloved dogs ate the pork meat
Education Department looks for talented children’s story writers



An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Government Award for Short Stories

SAMAR woke up startled. She thought she was dreaming but she wasn’t. Before she could figure out what was going on, all hell broke loose.

The rustic door to her tattered bush-hut gave way to an earth-shattering blow as if hit by a ferocious whirlwind.

Samar’s blissful slumber had suddenly turned into a living nightmare. Now seated bolt upright, her mind was fully awake and in overdrive, fuelled by adrenalin.

She could sense something horrific unfolding before her eyes. It wasn’t a dream. It was real and her heart was gripped with terror.

Samar, 72, lived alone in a bush hut that had seen better days. Her husband had died decades earlier from a stroke brought on by a life of heavy smoking.

The cause of death had been confirmed through a post-mortem but the village folk thought otherwise. An aura of suspicion has loomed over Samar since.

Samar’s two daughters had married and gone their separate ways. They rarely visited but occasionally sent food or money through relatives. But being alone in her waning years never bothered Samar as she was busy with church and domestic responsibilities.

Silhouetted against the moonlit night, a figure appeared, followed by two others. They loomed over her, their breaths hot and foul. “What did you do to Timi?” the lead man demanded in a menacing tone.

Before Samar could utter a word, a firm hand fastened over her mouth while the other grasped her throat as if to strangle her. She tried to fight off the threat but the grip tightened as if to crush her jaw.

“Timi died suddenly just before noon today. He’s a child. He hadn’t been sick. His death ties to your sanguma. You had him bewitched and killed.”

The news about Timi’s death was so distressful it initially drowned Samar’s horror of her own circumstances.

Samar had known Timi since the boy was born. His family has been neighbours for a long time. They lived just two blocks down the dirt road. Timi would often come after school with his friends and comb the fruit trees in her garden for guavas or mandarins.

Samar loved the warmth and the carefree atmosphere brought by these kids and let them on her land. It was refreshing and fun to have Timi and his friends around. On many occasions, she’d cooked food for them.

“I’m not capable of such a thing you’re accusing me of and I would never hurt a child. I’m not a sanguma or whatever you think I am,” Samar said.

“Don’t think about denying it. We’re determined to end it. Your sanguma is known by everyone and you’re a threat to the community. We have to keep people like Timi from dying,” the lead man retorted.

A third person twisted Samar’s frail arms behind her back and another bound them tightly with a jagged cord used for tethering animals. Samar felt her hands grow numb and cold. Her legs were tied around her thighs and ankles.

Samar was unable to move. She felt physically and emotionally drained by the hostile inquiry and false accusation. The news about Timi’s death had made her situation even worse. But her tormenters would not allow her to clear the misunderstanding. Samar was at their mercy.

“Set the hut alight,” called the lead man to another who stood guard. He doused the straw wall and thatched roof with gasoline and lit the liquid with a gas lighter.

The flames spread quickly and the burning material filled the hut with smoke. The last man steeped outside. Samar remained tied and helpless.

She was now overwhelmed by a thick cloud of smoke. Her eyes began to water. Each breath throbbed and she choked. As her life slipped away, Samar had one last vision of Timi racing his friends to a wide expanse of blossoming orchard.


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