| The candle that was burning in the otherwise dark room cast an eerie shadow of us, huddled in the corner of the room. I moved closer to the woman who was seated next to me to protect myself from the impact of the night’s cold. None of us spoke. We stared on- at nothing. Our gazes were fixed on empty space; our thoughts occupied with what lay ahead.
“I want my Mama,” a little boy whispered behind me. Silence reigned. “When will we go back home?” he pressed. The woman seated next to me muttered something under her breath, then a severe sob rocked her body.
“Your mother is dead,” somebody whispered. Those words cut the stillness of the night. I felt a lump on my throat and I struggled to hold back my tears.
“Dead… why?” the boy asked in a teary voice.
“She was shot dead,” the voice that had whispered replied.
“But Mama was no thief!” he stammered, and I saw his tears flow. I reached out for his shaky hand and squeezed it. I looked in the depths of his eyes and I saw innocence. He wiped his tears with the back of his hands, and more flowed. “Madam, is it true that my mama is dead?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied weakly. There was a sudden tensing in the crowd. The night momentarily held its breath.
“Then take me where Papa and the rest are,” he said.
“They died too,” I said in a low tone.
He breathed heavily and held his gaze on me. I felt my heart being set ablaze. “Who shot them?” he asked.
“They were killed after the elections,” I whispered, tightening my hold on his shaky fingers. Tears filled the corner of my eyes.
“Is elections a bad thing?”
“No, it is not”.
“Then why are people shot after elections?” I was unprepared for the question that hit me. Words froze in my throat. I looked on and said nothing. “What are we doing here?” he asked. Big tears slid from his eyes.
“We are waiting for the war to subside… for the fighting to cease,” I said.
“When will the war end?” he asked amidst sobs.
“Things will be better soon.” There was uncertainty in my voice. Suddenly, the night’s silence was interrupted by a thunder of sounds. A shrill scream rent the air, followed by a stampede of feet. We moved closer to one another, and one man rose to go and bolt the door. He secured it by placing several chairs behind it. The rest of us remained spellbound as mothers clutched their babies closer to their stomachs, and most of them wailed openly. Outside, people were running around, earnestly looking for a place to shelter and escape the night’s terror.
“Please do not kill him!” we heard a child screaming outside. My heart leapt and I felt blood rushing through my temples. We were on the threshold of death- we woke up daily to the sounds of people screaming and dying, and would fall asleep to the same sounds. There was a knock at our door- violent knocking.
“Open up!” somebody yelled. My stomach lurched and I covered my ears tightly. Children screamed holding whoever was close to them. Some hid behind the many lockers in the room. “Open up!” the order was repeated.
“We have done nothing, we are just seeking refuge in this building,” somebody dared to reply. The door flew open, letting in a cold rush of wind that blew out the candle flame. There was pitch darkness in the room. For a timeless moment, a hush fell over the room and I felt the love I once had for my country being consumed in flames. There was commotion all over as people struggled to escape. I did not rise from my sitting position. I smelled petrol fumes. Yes, they were setting the building on fire. I was overcome by a sudden inhuman weariness and I was incapable of thinking of anything at all. My senses were blunted, everything blurred, as in a fog, and the instinct of self-defence deserted me.
“Are these the people who killed Mama and Papa?” the little boy asked, choking on the fumes of petrol.
“Maybe,” I replied.
“Why do they want to kill me, I did not go to the Elections!” he added. His words struck me, and I felt the need to rise up and save him, his innocence, and his future. I used all my remaining strength to carry him towards the door. People pushed at the door, and several children were trampled on as we struggled to get out. I saw death; I smelled death; it was drawing nearer and nearer… so close to us.
From a distance, I heard someone whisper my name as I lunged out of the building. It was a relief to breath in fresh air. The building went up in flames moments later. I heard people scream inside the building, and I swear I will never forget how I stood watching helplessly that night as my fellow Kenyans were burnt up in the building. A part of me burnt with them; there remained only a shape that looked like me. A dark flame had entered my heart and devoured it. I stopped being me.
I stood staring at the burning building, unable to think or to do anything. In the background, I could hear sirens. The Kenya Red Cross Ambulance was coming. It hooted just behind me, but I did not move. I had gone through so much that night that nothing could scare me anymore. I was not scared of death, in fact, I so longed for it. In one ultimate moment, it seemed to me that we were damned souls, wandering in the half-world, souls condemned to die in their prime without achieving their dreams. The hooting got louder, and I felt somebody push me. I fell heavily on the ground and used all my remaining strength to weep.
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Mercy Adhiambo Orengo
My name is Mercy Adhiambo Orengo from Kisumu, Kenya. I am 21 years old and I am a writer.
Most of my writing talks about the marginalized in the community.I write on topics that other people fear to talk about, topics that affect us as humanity.
nice david mbitu
| May 1st, 2008
Thanks for making the world know about all this, its really painful what have been happening in Kenya, you are really inspiring, keep it up, its the best article I have read from Kenya so far.
great story! Kim Robinson
| May 9th, 2008
Mercy, you know we love you in Amercia!
your friend, ' Kim
Very touching Rachel Cannon
| Jun 22nd, 2008
Thankyou so much for writing beautifully.
For making us aware.
Inspiring, beyond words.
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