BITTERSWEET part 3

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Two years later…
A lot can change in two years, anybody can tell you that. Especially Aminat. The town was a ghost of its former self.
Fishermen came in daily with less and less fish till the fishing baskets were hauled in empty.
The water levels had reduced.
The ground became hard, like iron, unyielding. The cassava tubers had shrunk beyond what was edible. Vegetables were brownish-green and lacked their former abundance of leaves.
Things were hard. Very hard.
All the families were suffering.

Well, almost all the families, because things seemed to be different for the people from the north. Quite familiar with the changing pattern of nature, and quite conversant with the tales of their forebears, they had prepared from the start for lean times.

During the times of plenty, they made huge fish ponds, growing their own fishes from the excess they caught.

They had vast farmlands with irrigation systems in place in case of drought. And so it was, that as the townspeople suffered and languished in penury, they started to sell food to the villagers and so they grew rich.

At first, the villagers were grateful, as the available food saved them and kept the brutal, biting hunger at bay.
But then as is the nature of man, the whispers started.
Rumors of a needed sacrifice, a hefty one, to turn the situation around. The drought was too much, the famine was terrible. And what better choice for such a sacrifice than a human being?

Perhaps several human beings, people who weren’t part of the community, like these strangers who had come to settle within them and grown prosperous overnight.

It was at this juncture that the northerners began to pack up and sneak out of the village. Most had been born there, and it hurt to flee the land of their birth, but survival was important. Better a living dog than a dead lion. And so almost all had gone, only Aminat’s parents and Bello’s parents were left. She was on her way to tell Bello that they were to leave the following day, her parents had packed everything together, ready to flee in the morning.

She would miss him, and she knew seeing him would only make things harder, but she just had to say goodbye. She finally got to the bend that led to his house and when she saw what had happened, the beautiful clay pot she wanted to give him as a keepsake fell from her hands and broke…

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