Friday, December 31, 2010

Behind the veil

Chapter 1

“I hate you!” she stormed into her room and slammed the door shut. “Er, Daisy”, Mutu prepared to launch into a long-winded lecture aimed in the general direction of the door. He tried to march in time with the broken picture on the wall that swung each time the door was slammed. This was his private joke – trying to march in tune with this melody of lunacy while maintaining the semblance of a sensible conversation. Needless to say, it wasn’t often he succeeded. “Er, Daisy, you will find that the word ‘hate’ is probably a bit too strong in this context”, he began. “Oh, shut it”, came the voice from the other room. “I’m trying to get some sleep here”. Pablo stood in the doorway in a towel. “Look mate, I’m complaining to the landlord about you two. For heaven’s sake, poke her, drug her or kill her – I don’t care. Just let me get some sleep, ok?” He made to slam the door but, changing his mind at the very last moment, stuck out a foot to keep it from slamming shut. The towel fell off. He swore. Mutu laughed. Pablo’s baleful look was the last delightful picture in the doorframe before it slammed shut.

Midway between contemplating the imminent end of his battered, shapeless, hideously deformed dreams and the endless source of tasteless fun provided by Pablo’s overreaching ambition and desire to command respect; Mutu spared a minute to wonder whether Daisy was alright. He tiptoed to her door and raised his hand to knock gently. He could hear her sobbing. He lowered his hand, beginning to feel rather guilty. He raised it again and listened. Those weren’t sobs he could hear. Daisy was talking to someone on the phone, and she was chuckling. Chuckling! As he raised his hand the third time to knock on her door, his phone rang. It was Chris. He picked it up. “You coming down or what? We’re late!”, Chris yelled into his ears. Mutu could almost smell the liquor in his breath. “Sure, I’ll be with you in a sec”. Daisy could wait another night. Pablo could wait another day. His broken dreams would never be mended, Mutu had since accepted. He put on his coat and hat, gently closed the door behind him and walked down the stairs to Chris. He needed a drink too.

Chapter 2

Mutu loved night bus rides. He didn’t have to drive, and that gave him time to think. The calmness, the serenity of the night on the motorway, especially with sparse traffic, with no bright headlights in the eyes to disturb the lazy contemplation of his chronically overworked pupils; this was the stuff of dreams. He sighed and turned in his reclining seat. A great sensory experience was made even better if he could see the night sky littered with stars. Perfect if the company was agreeable. He stole a look at the girl sitting beside him. She hadn’t said anything to him for the duration of the journey. There was enough time to remedy all that, Mutu thought. He stole another look at her reclining form. Not bad, he thought to himself. The man to his right across the aisle was sitting upright and nodding in his sleep, like a drunk sleepwalking lizard. Then the driver braked sharply. The comedy of the moment as his nodding head hit the backrest in front of him at what must have been breakneck speed, and a mixture of saliva and unprintable expletives exploded from his mouth, was only tempered somewhat by the horror of the kindly old lady seated beside him as she recoiled in shock.

“Screech!” the tires groaned in anguish as the driver braked again, long and hard. There was something wrong. Mutu could feel it in his bones. His heart started to beat faster. His palms began to sweat as he gripped the armrests tightly. He could tell the girl beside him was awake even though he didn’t look at her. The driver braked again and then there was a big bang as they slammed into something stationary, something huge. There was a brief silence, and then the cries started. The cacophony around him might have provided a bit of gruesome entertainment if Mutu hadn’t quickly realized that this wasn’t over. He saw the driver clambering from his seat into the passenger section, tripping over an outstretched leg in the process and landing on his generous paunch. Then he heard the firecrackers outside. His questions froze on his lips as he saw, as if in slow motion, the man across the aisle pulling out an automatic rifle from his knapsack. In one smooth motion he leapt to the front of the bus, smashed a hole in the windscreen and opened fire. “Everybody get down!” came a voice as another man joined him at the front of the bus. Cowering in-between his seat and the one in front of him while making himself as small as he possibly could, Mutu slowly realized the horror of their situation.

In the pregnant silence, Mutu began to contemplate the meaning of life. With the thud of each consecutive bullet spewed out of a semi-automatic rifle into the body of the bus, he realized that this could be over very quickly. “Help me, I’ve been hit, help me!” a male voice cried out somewhere behind him. No one moved or said anything. People mumbled under their breaths, praying for a miracle as the gunshots became louder and the bullets came closer. He could hear the girl beside him crying softly. “Are you alright?”, he whispered as he turned to look at her. Big, fearful eyes moved up and down in response. A quick movement drew Mutu’s eyes towards the front of the bus. One of the two men had jumped through the open door. The other one followed. A few more minutes of unreplied gunfire ensued before the bandits realized they had won the exchange. Then there followed the most tortuous few moments of silence that Mutu had ever experienced.

The next few minutes passed in a blur. About 10 masked men, armed and laughing crazily at tasteless jokes; here and there firing off a bullet in celebration, stripped down everyone. In his mind he gave them names; the one that issued all commands he called Mkpi because his guttural voice reminded him of a pre-pubescent he-goat. The men first, then the women, lined up flat on the ground for inspection. No one protested. As he lay down there, Mutu toyed idly with visions of doing something really stupid, like standing up and getting shot for his troubles. Not worth it, he decided after less than a second of thinking it over. “ … Now run!”, he heard Mkpi’s guttural voice . His wandering mind had missed the earlier part of the instruction, but seeing others take to their feet in a mad dash towards safety was all the interpretation he needed. He stood and started running. “You, wait!” He froze in his steps as he turned. Mkpi was pointing at the girl that sat beside him on the bus. The bile rose up Mutu’s throat as he realized what was about to happen. His madness drove him. “Please don’t hurt my sister Janet, please, please, sir”, he pleaded as he started to walk back towards the armed men, both hands raised in the air. The men pointed their rifles at him and he stopped walking. “She’s very ill – she has these epileptic fits you see”. He stared intensely at her as her eyes almost leapt out of their sockets screaming “what on earth do you think you’re doing?!”. Then she understood. And she put up a good show too. The disgust on their faces was plain as she threw herself on the ground, foaming at the mouth. Mkpi turned away and walked towards their parked getaway minibus, its engine revving. “Shoot him”, he said.

Then Mutu heard the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard all his life. It was the sound of a siren accompanied by the staccato sound of gunshots. The men heard it too. He threw himself to the ground as Mkpi’s minion let off the first shot. “C’mon, let’s go”, Mkpi screamed at his minion as the minibus started to move, lurching crazily like an overgrown potbelly on the legs of a mosquito. The man threw himself at the window while the minibus drove off, legs waving in the air as he disappeared into the belly of the bus.

Mutu picked up himself gingerly. He walked up to where the girl lay still. “They’re gone now”, he said. She opened her eyes and looked up at him. He helped her to her feet. She was shivering with fear. “What is your name?”, he asked her. “D-dd-daisy”, she stammered. Then came the tears. Lots of them.

1 comment:

Katrina said...

Excellent stuff! I loved it
New chapter please