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By the Pricking of My Thumb
A few miles from the Chadian border; there’s a tiny settlement dating back to the era of Belgian colonization. It’s a hamlet of barely a hundred souls, with only a half a dozen disused rifles between them; but they’re safe from the wars and violence. It’s an island of eerie calm amid the waves of chaos and destruction sweeping through Sudan.

Superficially, Oudeslaap resembles any other farming village in the region. Most of the Massaleit villagers are subsistence farmers, and those who aren’t mostly work in a nearby copper mine. A casual visitor might not notice that the townspeople raise no animals. They might not the unusual care the residents take with sharp objects, or the way the children always go far from the village before they play any rough and tumble games. Even if a visitor did notice these things, they would find the locals strangely reluctant to comment on them.

But if while moving through underbrush, the visitor cut their skin on thorns, then they would understand: whenever blood touches the earth within a mile or two of the village center, the ground moans and grumbles. Though the tongue is unfamiliar to the residents who have heard it, one cannot escape a feeling that one is hearing a strange mixture of angry blasphemies and cries of despair. This is why the villagers raise no animals, only rarely eat meat, and ply their floors with thick carpets.

Every native for a hundred miles knows that something unclean lurks beneath the soil of Oudeslaap. Even the Janjaweed will commit no violence in or near the village; in fact, most stay far away from it and try to pretend it doesn’t exist.

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