A Short Story, National English Writing Kryptonite Winner 2019
A kilometre down the road, an angry black snake rose into the air as thou challenged
by gravity itself. A stalking, hounding evil tornado of burning rubber. A group of angry
protestors hurl stones at by-passers and dance merrily around the burning tyre that
they seem to draw warmth from. Its angry flames lick the souls of the mob gathered
The streets are littered with stones, broken bricks and other debris from
looted homes. For once I am glad to be behind the bars of our thick, iron gates.
There is evil in the air ... I can sense it. I can hear their war song, it’s like the faint
chugging of a train in the distance ... like the hunters pray before he goes for the kill
... and it sends an icy cold death shiver down my soul.
Most of our neighbours have long left. Their looted homes stand bare and barren. In
retrospect, maybe we too should have abandoned South Africa. A lack of money,
foresights, planning, education and perhaps sheer guts chained us to a land we truly
believed was home. I recall our old neighbourhood as thou it was yesterday ... that
same neighbourhood I called home.
We would ride our bikes with all the other carefree children in our street. Our parents
stopped and chatted with other parents on their evening stroll. It was safe. Curry was exchanged for melktarts, pap and chakalaka. Oh and the braais! Those mouth-
watering braais ... we learnt what it was to “kuier”, to watch our cousins have a “dop” and dance ridiculously to Destruction Boys “Omunye” I grew up watching people
reunite around a braai talking about sport, family, you-tube videos and tasty recipes.
We were not privileged by a long shot. Times were hard but we always found the joy
in sharing the little we had.
We were the born-frees, the carefree youth of the rainbow nation – where our neighbours were respected as our own. That respect meant we always had a safe place to visit and people whom we could share good and bad times with. There was no Indian, Black, White, Chinese or any other label. We were human, and humanity was our link...
My train of thought was interrupted by my dads’ desperate cry, “Get the girls fast!
They’re coming up!”
His piercing words seemed to stop my world from revolving. That slow chugging
sound of the train, was becoming louder, more aggressive. More intimidating ...
More daunting. “OUT INDIANS! OUT INDIANS” My heart seized. It felt like I couldn’t
breathe, like someone reached down my throat and ripped out my vocal chords. Why
were they demanding we leave our home? Who are they to chase us away? I was
born here! This is my home! What right do you have to ask me to leave? Where is
your sense of humanity? I had so many questions racing my mind, but no voice to
question them, I was after all, just your ordinary, everyday sixteen year old South
My heart was beating faster than the train of looters headed towards my home. Their
footsteps that hit the hot tar beneath them burnt my chest and sunk my heart. I could
hear my sister howling in the room next to me. I watched in a dream-like stare as my
mum frantically tried to shut all the windows. Why is she taking the sunshine away?
How would we see the rainbow again?
They are outside now – all of them. I can sense their revulsion, their dirty hands that
held daggers at the ready blinded my vision. “Gupta! Ajay! Athol! Shabir-Sheikh!
Pravin! Pakistanis! Coolies! Chaarous ... these names hurdled at us like bullets from
a gun that we had no part in firing. Why are they so angry with us? Surly they
understand that we too are South African. I need to scream, shout, fight ... but I
stood there paralysed with shock. Fear chokes within me. I feel disorientated, as
thou everything that is happening is surreal.
I lost all sense of feeling, my eyes dimmed and my mouth sulked. I looked down to the soils I recognised as home ground, but today ... they were different, they were foreign to me, I couldn’t tell whether this was home or not. I am blessed to stroll on South African soil, but
somehow not welcome. What did I do? Why does my heart tell me I am South
African but others beg to differ?
“Go back to where you came from!” – where do I go? I come from here! This is the
country I grew up in, the country I belong to, the country I call home!
I am instantly transported to my classroom where Mr. Wit is delivering a lesson on
Nelson Mandela’s famous speech ... “Never again shall it be that this beautiful land
will again experience the oppression of one by another” ... Look at our “beautiful”
land now Tata, look at what they’re doing to our beloved land ... to our dream ... and
the tears stream like hot rivers down my cheeks.
The storm gathered outside, the scorching hot sun didn’t scare them away – it added
fire to their eyes. Millions of those eyes stared my father from head to toe, some
scanned the yard behind him as if it was all a shopping spree. There was a build-up
of the looters, they formed like an anthill and surrounded the premises, and like a
volcano ... they blew ... A mass of cold hearted looters stabbed away at lifeless
bodies with dirty smiles. I can see my dad’s back turned towards us. He stood guard
at the gate, alone and fearless. He faced the ruthless mob of looters. I can see him
begging with folded palms for the safety of his family. The thick black smoke is
circling above him like vultures waiting to pounce at their prey. They wouldn’t listen.
There is too much greed, hate, insolence, encoding and arrogance. My mums’ knees
fell to the ground and her watery eyes focused on my pleading father. I stood behind
her, with my shoulder shrugged and head bowed. My mums’ hands cover her mouth
to muffle her cry as she watches him slump to the soil beneath him. The tornado of
black smoke seemed to bring with it a hailstorm of pelting stones from the looters
that shattered our windows.
Black and dull coals filled the blue sky above us. Blood
splatters stained their path, and broken hearts fell to their feet. The tempest blew,
ranted, raved and destroyed and then left as if nothing happened, it wasn’t as if their own had been hurt ... there was silence. Complete and utter silence. The only thing
that remained was my fathers’ lifeless body. Back inside the house, my mother lay
there and wept for her dead husband who lay at the gate and the uncertain future of
her two teenage daughters ...
My mother lay there with no hope, her eyes moist. It was at that moment when I
realised the consequences of this outcome, it was at that moment where rage had
consumed me whole. I was willing to slit open the body that dare come between me
and my family, me and my roots, me and my country!
I looked down to my feet, “aren’t these the same feet that roamed the streets of the
South African sugar-cane plantations? – didn’t these hands mould together the
history of our land?” – If so ... why the revolt? We are one. We stood as one. Yet
why can’t we live as one? South Africa – the rainbow nation, the land where diversity
lies ... is this South Africa? Is this home?
I stood there behind the curtain, shaking and scared. I wiped the tears off my cheeks
and stared into the black smoke. My little sister attached herself to me, I could hear
her innocent voice mumbling a prayer, every word that rolled down her lips echoed in
my ears. I looked down at my palms, the same palms that my nails had dug into and
left sweaty and cut. These hands now carried the weight of my fathers’ pride. In
these hands I saw the struggle – the struggle my ancestors fought for – I clenched
my hands and retained their power, the blood that flew through my body, was
passed down by a dynasty of strong individuals, no dagger, no bullet, no sword ...
no-one could release the pride my blood carried.
The screams and cries of the neighbours up the road filled the empty walls of my
home, for the looters it was just another day at work. I looked at the gate, and a river
of blood connected my fathers’ heart with mine. Who would’ve thought red, such a
significant colour for us – the colour that represents love, would leak sorrow? I
looked up into the smoke infested skies and whispered, “This isn’t the end dad, I’ll
hoist our culture, our principals, our name, our faith, our dream and our flag up high”
And then the faint chugging of their war song began again ...