Eventually, little Ciku and her friend arrived to the destination of the survivors. The number had reduced significantly but the cold had multiplied in hundreds. The destination was a police station where they were received by the men and women in blue handing each of them a blanket. They were then led to a shed where they were to spend the night. Ciku and her new friend combined their blankets and cuddled into the night hunting for sleep, perhaps morning would make more sense. Her friend fell asleep first but Ciku’s mind was with mother, where was she? Was she looking for her? That scream she had heard at Huruma Junction, was it mother? Had the men with spears and arrows caught mother and father? At this point Ciku sobbed uncontrolled not because of mother but because she had lost a mother and became one in a single night. She wondered what the future had for them.
The shed got silent eventually and beyond the shed wall Ciku could hear hushed deep voices of men mostly discussing what had happened. She heard that no one had survived beyond the fire, that they had been slaughtered mercilessly by the strange men in arrows. How Ciku hoped it was a dream but her ice cold feet kept assuring her that it was not a dream. She heard the reason for the attack was the election outcome and quickly she connected the dots to the loud stereo at Huruma Junction, it was the election results. Her mind was too young to comprehend who was fighting who but at least eavesdropping put her thoughts into perspective. Ciku was tired and soon after she was on the teeter edge of a sharpened razor, somewhere in between deep relaxation and unconsciousness.
She was not sure what had woken her up, but it was still dark when she woke up. She had been dreaming of the men in cow skin holding long spears and arrows who had been chanting something in a language she could not understand around a bon fire, big as the one in Huruma Junction. When she woke up, her mind was in a temporary state of amnesia and one by one she recollected her thoughts to where she was, what had happened and why it smelled like cow dung where she had fallen asleep. She remembered her companion and ran her hands in the blankets trying to feel her with no avail. She was all alone beneath two blankets. Her pillow had been a black polythene paper with it sukumawiki and tomatoes, the one mother had sent her to fetch at Huruma Junction. She was surprised she had held on to the package for this long. She wondered where her stranger friend had gone and it was then that she realised that she did not even know her name.
Slowly and steadily she lifted herself painfully through the joint aches from running and lying on the floor to an upright position. She veered her eyes through the darkness to establish the doorway until she saw a burst of light through a half open door and came to the resolution of the possibility of that being the way out. Occasionally bumping into sleeping people she made it to the door and took a deep breath, perhaps hoping for a burst of fresh air but what she smelled was the reek of burning. She adjusted her eyes and indeed there was fire in a structure around fifty meters from where she was standing. A horrendous inferno accompanied by screams and the smell of roast human flesh.
She did not even realise when she let out a shrill scream and again and then again. People woke up fast and it was then that they realised that the burning structure was a church where the group from Huruma had split into two when the shed had run full. The church had been set on fire with hundreds of displaced people sleeping inside. People tried to put out the fire with buckets of water and soil all in vain, people choked and fell unconscious, other succumbed to the burns and fell into their painful death.
Ciku stared in disbelief. When she could no longer stand she sat. She stared at death right into the eye as death swept over like a swarm of locust on a cold season. She did not move, she did not even speak until the morning light appeared from the skies. Medical aid came and took the injured to hospital and the rest to the morgue. Death had had a feast under the cover of darkness leaving behind wailing women and children whose lives would probably never be the same.
When it was morning, the self-appointed instructors of the group Ciku had spent the night with explained the insecurity that lay beyond the police gate. Even them, that were supposed to shed light and show the way to young ones like Ciku, could simply not hide the melancholy. They shed tears as the names of the dead were read out by the police officers that had not taken off already. They wailed when it was established that aid from Nakuru was not coming because the roads had been blocked by trees, stones and burning tires. Each one of them stared blankly into the other not knowing where to go or what to do, worse, what to eat.
Meanwhile, outside, the birds welcomed the new day with coordinated rhythms, the sun brought out its smile unaware of the crimes her brother had done in the cover of the dark. Little Ciku still planted by the doorway to their new place of residence felt the morning light fall on her face and she turned away from it, her feet had been cold the entire night but not even the sun could bring a sensation of warmth to her heart. She had even forgot mother and was too busy replaying the horror of the night in her mind such that she did not notice a truck full of people stop at the gate and people come in through the police gate entrance. She was too engrossed in her despondency that when mother came and stood in front of her blocking the sun from her face she did not look up.
Submitted to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize Competition 2016.
Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri
Edited by Essy Wanene
Written by Dennis Peters and Inspired by real events.