I went as far south as I could, carrying my rifle, my canteen, and a big American hat I found floating in the Gulf of Aden. I walked until my shoes shredded on the gravel road. Then I bandaged the broken leather and tied the soles to my ankles with the remains of my shoelaces. The first time I decided to give up I was in Hobyo. I woke up underneath a destroyed jeep and I could not see for three hours. My empty stomach churned against my ribs. After the third hour the black fog in front of my nose resolved into white pinpricks, like sea foam. And then I could see.
But I did not want to move.
The second time I decided to give up was in Baraawe. I had just arrived and the sound of the ocean calmed me. But I skirted the city and kept low to the scrubland. The city was as white as a clean leg bone draped over the shore and pitted with coarse black windows. Beneath the blue sky it seemed more beautiful than the nearly empty canteen at my waist. But al-Shabaab would not have me.
I struck out west into the unpeopled land, turned up to the sun and saw the noon was past its zenith. So I rolled out my mat and laid it on the cracked dust. I used the sand to wash my hands. I rubbed the grit into my forehead, my cheeks, even my eyes for at this moment I was mad with fear, and fearful, hoped only madness would surfeit me. I began salah facing North. In the midst of my duhr, my grainy forehead pressed to the cloth, a high-pitched whine pierced the dead air.
I looked up. An aardwolf was loping across the heath. Its front and back legs were bloody, the left paw smashed and its bone shining through its skin tucked against its striped chest. The animal had been hit by a car and was running half-crazed from pain, a broken dog, tongue lolling from its yellow throat.
I reached down for my rifle. It heard the clack of the bolt, its enormous, furred ears pointed at where I crouched. It must have caught the glare from the sight because as it turned, I swear, it closed its eyes. And bowed. And died.