There was nothing to eat, food was scarce and war was rife. Such was the reality of two brothers, Hassan and Adam, orphaned from war. Many responsibilities rested on the shoulders of ten-year-old Adam and six-year-old Hassan.

One day, Adam looked up at the sky and told little Hassan about the railway of clouds. “On the railway of clouds, you can go anywhere you wish. You can travel to any destination beyond any time and any place,” said Adam.

“Is mom and dad on the railway of clouds?” asked Hassan.

“Of course!” Adam replied. “Didn’t you know that everyone who passes away gets a ride to Jannah (heaven) on the railway of clouds?”

“Where does it go?” asked Hassan.

“The railway of clouds goes anywhere you want it to go,” replied Adam.

“I want to go and get some ice cream,” replied Hassan.

“Okay.” Adam then jumped up from his seat and pretended to talk to an invisible person. “Mr. Conductor. Please take us to the best ice cream shop in the whole wide world.” The brothers could hear the choo- choo sound of the train echoing in the background. “Come on little brother, take my hand, let’s hop off here. I see the ice cream store. Do you see it too?” asked Adam.

Little Hassan wiped his eyes clean and saw a big, colourful ice cream shop. A shop so big and colourful; he had never seen one like that before.

“I see it now, big brother. Wow! Look at all the flavours!” he yelled, jumping up and down. Adam then gestured with his empty hand, “Yum! This ice cream is delicious, isn’t it Hassan?”

“Yes, brother, this is the best ice cream ever.” The two boys laughed and pretended they could go anywhere on the railway of clouds, far away from war torn Syria, so far away from their sad reality.

They could always hear the choo- choo sound of the train echoing in the background. Their imagination was a gift, a gift that shielded them from the everyday sorrows and the harsh realities of war.

For a moment, they were just two little boys looking up at the sky dreaming of travelling the world through their imagination. They travelled to many countries and dreamt many big dreams for dreaming was the only thing that kept them sane.

One day, Hassan became extremely weak due to hunger and malnutrition. Adam had no money for food. He had to make a plan for his little brother. He carried his little brother Hassan in his arms and looked for help.

“Does anyone have any bread to spare, please? My little brother…he is hungry.” No one responded because no one had food. Everyone was scrounging around, over, under and through the rubble for a piece of bread or a granule of rice and if they had found any food, they had nothing to share. In times of desperation, man took care of himself first, it was a selfish trait known to everyone.

They walked for a while until Hassan spotted a little garden filled with beautiful juicy fruit. Hassan then jumped out of his brother’s arms and ran towards this succulent piece of land.

“Hassan, no!” yelled Adam. He then quickly ran after his little brother and tried to stop him but it was too late. The sound of one piercing bullet had ripped through his brother’s little body. Hassan stopped in his tracks and fell to the ground. Little Hassan’s true reality pierced through him like a knife, ready for slaughter.

There was no succulent piece of land, it was a mirage brought about by extreme desperation. Hassan ran into a weary sniper’s breeding ground. He was no terrorist, he was a child desperate for food but now known as an unjust casualty of war.

The brothers could hear, like they always did, the choo-choo sound of the train echoing in the background.

Adam cried profusely and tried to get to his brother’s body immediately. He held onto him as tight as he could but he knew the grip of death was much tighter.

Little Hassan stared at his brother and said, “No brother. Don’t be sad, I will be going to the railway of clouds. There, I can go anywhere I want and have all the food I need.” Little Hassan then let out with a faint smile. “Don’t be sad brother, I will be fine. I will miss you,” said a tearful Hassan. Adam then kissed his little brother’s scarred forehead and whispered, “Greet mom and dad for me, I love you.” Hassan let out a smile and said, “Brother can you hear that?”

Adam held back his tears and tried to be strong. It was not the first time he had seen the death of a family member due to war. He never replied but he could hear it. He could hear the dawning of the landing of the passing railway of clouds. Adam could hear the choo- choo sound of the train echoing in the background, as always.

Extra notes: “The railway of clouds” is a metaphor for nuclear fallout (is the residual radioactive material propelled into the upper atmosphere following a nuclear blast)
* “The sound of choo-choos” is a metaphor for the sounds of bombs being dropped and when death approaches.

This story was inspired by ongoing wars and that children in war are often forgotten. This story was written in remembrance to each and every lost soul. #SaveOurChildren.


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