Akram was sitting under a tree in the pasture near to the camps. He was counting the stars, which looked like diamonds twinkling in the darkness. Every night, Akram enjoyed making different shapes out of them: As a child, one of his favourite pastimes had been to sit outside at night with his grandfather, where together they enjoyed describing the different shapes that each constellation made. These memories were now the essence of his life, and it was one reason he liked this area of pastureland so much; it provided the perfect gateway to those precious childhood memories.
He was a shepherd boy, and would spend his day taking care of a herd of sheep and goats in the pasture. When night fell, he only had one thing to entertain himself, to talk to the stars and create his images. Afterwards, he would move back to the camps late at night and rest, before starting the same routine the next day. In fact his life revolved around an endless cycle of traveling between the pasture and a small shabby camp house with a thatched roof, but that had only been his routine for two years. Before that, he had been living in a small village in Afghanistan with his family.
He was just ten, when he had been labeled as an immigrant, and forced to travel across the border of Afghanistan to the adjoining country of Pakistan, leaving behind a wonderful childhood in the dust of political turmoil deeply rooted in the soil of his country of birth, making it more barren day by day.
“Come back you stray souls,” Akram shouted, punctuating his words by waving his stick towards the herd.
After settling down in the valley, he had adjusted to his new life by accepting the title of shepherd, something that he had never thought of doing before his forced immigration. It was his job to lead the herd to pasture and let them graze randomly on the lush green patches. Once the herd was settled, and busy grazing, he would sit down under his favourite tree and rest his head on the tree trunk and watch over the herd. He would often daydream of his beautiful village in Afghanistan: he missed the giant, dry mountains that stood erect like soldiers, as if they were guarding the village. Sometimes he had flashbacks of sandstorms that used to whirl around the village, leaving behind a thick sandy layer all over the houses and even on his face.
Sometimes, he imagined losing himself in those whirling sands, and reaching another world, free of misery, pain, and cruelty.
In this way he passed his time, keeping his memories alive by simply recalling them again and again, refusing to let them fade. Usually, his chain of thoughts broke when some goats or sheep started bleating, then he hurled his cane stick in the air to distract them from their quarrels with each other. He had trained his herd, using his stick like the conductor of an orchestra.
From time to time, he would take his herd to a more remote valley, because it reminded him of his village in Afghanistan. He had found a small forest full of wild fruit trees, berries, and flowers, it was like a mystical place from another world, but he tried to keep his herd away from the forest as he knew the sheep and goats would ruin the beauty of it like a hungry beast. As time went by he became more and more possessive of this place, and never told anyone in the camps about it.