What do these texts suggest to you about the ways in which individuals deal with the prospect of an uncertain future? Support your idea(s) with reference to one or more of the prompting texts presented and to your previous knowledge and/or experience.
War. That’s all I’ve ever known.
The sound of bombs and missiles; the distant cries of injured children; the shouts of angry men and women, followed by an eerie silence. It is all too familiar to me. This is Syria, home of the dead and the dying. It wasn’t always like this, my older brother would say. He often reminisced of his childhood— of a time where he could go out to the park with his friends and play a game of tag, or ride his bike to a nearby bakery and buy a baked bun. And he was happy when he thought of his memories. It was an escape to him, of sorts. Sometimes he’d get too lost in it and roll on the floor and laugh until he realized that they were the past, and things were different now. I thought that he was a little crazy, but Mama says that he’s coping. “Not everyone can handle the present, or the future,” she would explain. I suppose she’s right. Whenever a missile struck too close to our house, he would laugh a little harder, dig a little deeper into his mind, and stay there. As long as he had his past, it didn’t matter to him what the future may hold. I was the opposite— I longed for a bright future, where we would no longer have to be cramped up in that dark room, and experience the rain the way it was meant to be experienced. I’m sure that it will come. One day. The war will be over, and all will be well.
May 5th. It was a silent night, tonight. There weren’t any explosions nor cries for help. Strange. Mama laid beside me on the single bedsheet that we had. The room was unbearably stuffy, almost suffocating. I went to the doorway for a breath of fresh air and a glimpse of the night sky. There, seated outside on the dry grass, was my older brother. I watched him mix together a concoction of various chemicals in a cracked wine glass. What was he doing?
I called out to him. “Yacob?” He did not take his eyes off of his drink. It was as though he were in a trance.
“Listen, do not tell mom, okay?” He paused. “I’m sick of it. Sick of hiding in this small, bloody house all day. Sick of jumping at the sound of gunshots. Sick of being hungry and useless. Who are they to control my life? Every day I wake up unsure of whether it will be my last. And I’m scared of dying, Yasmine, you know that. But I’d rather die at my own hands than at theirs. I-” His voice broke, and he quickly wiped his eyes with his tattered sleeve. His eyes were still glued to his drink. “I just want to be certain of something for once.” Eyes closed, he softly muttered a prayer to a God he no longer believed in. Tears were streaming down his face. With trembling hands, he lifted the glass to his mouth, and took a sip. I stood there, frozen. Never had I seen my brother so vulnerable and overcome with emotion. Should I go stop him? Mama told me to never go outside. And Mama was always right. Wasn’t she?
I didn’t stop him. But something else did.
A bomb. Screaming. His? Mine? A spark lit up near where he was standing.
I came to my senses.“Move, Yacob! Move!” I hollered.
He did not move. As the flames engulfed him, he defiantly clutched the glass like it was a grand trophy. That was the last I saw him. Mama came running out of our house; it was starting to burn down. She grabbed my shoulders.
“Yacob! Where is Yacob?” The frantic look in her eyes sent shivers down my spine.
“He’s… gone.” Gone. Just like that. All it took was a second.
Mama collapsed on the ground and began to heavily sob. Her whole body shook. What was she to do? Five years ago, she had lost her husband. And now, her only son. Who knows who will be next.
That night, we slept in the rubble. Or at least tried to. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the image of my brother burning out of my head. How stupid I was. Why didn’t I drag him back to safety? I had the chance to change the future— the present— and I didn’t take it. I stood frozen, in front of multiple crossroads, unable to move forward or backward, and watched it all unfold, blind to the consequences. Perhaps I was afraid of picking the wrong path. What if I messed up again, and Mama leaves me? My blood went cold. She could be gone at any moment— I had no control over that— and I would be alone. No. I would not let that happen. I had to do something. There were too many uncertainties. I had to escape, had to move forward.
Morning came. I rolled over and tapped Mama on the shoulder. She was sitting there, blankly staring at the shards of broken glass and the remains of her home, which she had worked so hard to keep from crumbling. Even after my father’s death, Mama refused to leave where she grew up, and where she had hope we’d grow up. She too was stuck.
With as much courage and braveness as I could muster, I spoke.
“Mama, let’s leave.”
A bright future lay ahead of us.
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