The rebels come into town suddenly, in the middle of the last prayer of the day. When they find each other later, having escaped, Kaloko tells Beah how at the mosque, everyone realized the rebels had come into town, and so they filed out while the imam continued the prayer. When the rebels came to the imam, he wouldn’t tell the rebels where everyone was hiding. So the rebels tied him to a post and set him on fire.
As brave as the imam’s actions are, the rebels are just as deplorable. The rebels have no respect for religion, and just as little for other’s pain. Part of the horror of the Sierra Leone war—and perhaps by extension the horror of child soldiers—is that the soldiers have been raised or brainwashed to not have respect for anything. It is as if the children’s innocence has been turned inside out.
When the rebels enter the town, Beah runs from the house he is staying at for the bush, not having time to find his brother. Eventually Beah finds Kaloko, who tells him, with great pain, about the imam. But they do not find Gibrilla, Junior, Talloi or Khalilou. Beah despairs that he will lose everyone, and remembers his father’s blessing, long ago, to a new home they were moving into: “that my family will always be together.”
Beah’s luck appears to be getting worse. As if losing his mother, father, and younger brother wasn’t enough, he now appears to have lost nearly all of his friends. The war’s devastation is extensive and can reach anyone. Beah’s memories of his family only serve to remind him of what he no longer has.
The boys hide for two weeks in a swamp, returning every three days to the village to see if anyone else had returned. But the village is silent, birds and crickets do not sing, and Beah is afraid of the wind. Eventually dogs come for the body of the imam.
Beah and Kaloko hope to find the people they have lost, but to no avail. Just as everyone has abandoned the village, so has nature.
Beah decides to leave, finally, as he is tired of the constant danger. Kaloko decides to stay, as he is afraid that by leaving the swamp, they’re putting themselves at even more risk. Beah walks for five days, alone, without encountering anyone.
Beah feels, on some level, that it was a mistake to come back east, in striking distance of the rebels, even if it meant shelter and some hospitality. His choice to strike out leaves him completely without companions.
Beah survives on cassava, until one day he is too tired and hungry, and decides to climb a coconut tree, which he has never been able to do before. To his own surprise, he does so without difficulty. When Beah tries to go back up for more after gorging himself on the juice, he finds he now cannot do so, to his own astonishment and humor. He hasn’t laughed in a long time.
Beah’s laughter is just as remarkable as his sudden skill with tree climbing, and subsequent evaporation of that skill. Despite the horrible things he has seen and all he has lost, Beah can still be surprised by himself and the world around him.
After six days of walking, Beah comes in contact with a family. He tries to be friendly, but it is plain that the man can’t afford to trust him. Beah asks the man’s advice for how to get to an island, Bonthe, which is rumored to be safe, but the man simply tells him to head for the ocean.
In the civil war, even children, or especially children, are not to be trusted. It is sad for Beah not to be able to take pleasure in meeting a person, but there is no telling what anyone’s intentions are, and Beah knows he will have to continue to be alone for the foreseeable future.