In my village, they kill old people. So long as somebody suspects you are one, then you must die. They will attack at any time. Nobody ever determines their arrival. They are like the wind. The come strong and fast. They are numerous like bees. Maybe the only sign you get, if you are lucky, is your nerves. You become uneasy and on edge. It is as if you had just done something wrong, like breaking a cup in the house. When mother comes home she lashes at you with her rod. She tears at you impetuously. No mercy can be traced in her veins.

When they arrive at your home, all hell breaks lose. Fire greets you at the doorway. Rage slaps you in the face. Fear grasps your arms. Hatred grabs you from the back. Then horror. Pain. Darkness.

Last week they lynched my grandmother. I remember it clearly. The tears still sting my eyes. My heart hasn’t stopped racing. I wish that day could be erased from my memory. How I wish.

We were seated round the fire, as usual. My stool was the tiny one, for the little children, she said. She was peeling the bananas for supper.  Her hands worked fast and skilfully. She was focused, and experienced. Nyanya bent over occasionally to adjust the pot. It was cracked on one side. It threatened to pour out all the water it held so carefully. She pushed the firewood further in, and then she went back to work. Silently, she peeled. I was watching her intently, hoping to catch her attention. Maybe today she had another interesting story, at least I hoped so. I stared at her face. It was lined and etched like a macabre carving. Her skin was smooth, like soapstone. The folds on her cheeks were hunched together, as if protesting an injustice. They vibrated gently as she pulled and pushed at the firewood. Her nimble hands seemed adept.

I turned my gaze to the door. It was partly open. The air outside was still. It was formless in the dark. It had this urge to it, a desire to receive shape. It longed to be lifted up and thrown into order. The pitch darkness clung to it all the same. It gave me a sense of uncertainty, it was void, hopeless.  I wished there be a stir. A simple movement somewhere. Something to raise my spirits.  I rested my head on my knees and bent over.  I was slowly being lulled to sleep.  No breeze, no sound. It was just the consistent crackle of the fire.

Crack! A sudden shatter startled me back into reality. A cup had fallen off the shelf. Suddenly, there was an event. Maybe even the loudest commotion of the evening. I looked around to where the cup was and noticed a swift swish out of the door. Something had moved very fast. A tail then nothing. Long and brown: a cat. It was Fifi. I lay my head back on my lap. This time I folded my arms round my legs. I was getting cold. A dog wailed somewhere in the distance, maybe Fifi was going to have a better night than I.

© Samson de lui