I am still battling the health scene, but more of that later. What I really want to share today is an short story I wrote for an assignment for a group of writers to which I belong. We have a group of writers called “Out of Africa” which is given assignments by our leader, Margherita Wohlitz.
Twice a month she sends us a first line, taken from other literary sources and other places and we are asked to submit something using this first line. We have twelve writers who participate and who each writes whatever they like. It is quite inspiring what comes out of these first lines and the variety.
We are a group of women from diverse backgrounds, living in far off countries, away from each other but it is sometimes quite amazing what comes out of these offerings – always inspiring, thought-provoking, humbling, amusing or any other adjective that you can think of. One of our latest was one that I would like to share with you.
And what is more amazing is how we can empathise with one another and how the similarities of our life experiences binds us together.
This was my offering on the theme of “One night after the family was in bed…”
I wrote this piece remembering all those farmers, and their families, who have been killed at the hands of callous murderers and for very little reason other than greed and wanting more firearms to commit atrocities. Our government has not reported much on this ‘genocide’, and in fact it receives little if any press. May we remember them when there are no longer farmers left to provide food for the masses.
JUST ANOTHER FARMER
One night when the family was in bed, I thought I heard a sound outside. Jason was snoring softly, tired out from the day’s harvesting. We lived on a farm forty kilometres from our nearest neighbours so my ears were attuned to the normal sounds of the farm. I lay quietly on my back, not moving, but listening.
There it was again. But what was it? I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was nor where it was coming from. I started eliminating sounds, Somebody was in our kitchen. Now I knew what it was but he question remained. Who? Both the kids were asleep in bed. They were also tired from the day’s activities. The farm gave them so many opportunities to be on the go that they never stopped from the moment they opened their eyes. Once asleep nothing would awaken them.
Yes, there it was again. I could hear somebody opening the refrigerator. My heart nearly stopped. There was somebody in the house. I heard another set of footsteps. There were at least two people here who should not have been. I wondered whether to wake Jason or to just stay where I was. Or should I send a signal through to our distant neighbours. There had been a spate of farm attacks by miscreants lately. Was this one of those times?
I listened again to discern a whisper of voices. No doubt about it. There people in the house. I looked across to the clock which glowed red with a time of 3.30. I heard the creak of the floor boards in the passage, I hoped they would not go up the stairs to the children’s bedrooms. The intruders seemed to be moving towards the front of the house though. Our bedroom was the last room to the rear of the stairs, whilst the dining room, t.v. room and sitting room were on the right hand side in front of the kitchen.
Muffled voices echoed through the house. I would have to wake Jason. We both needed to be fully functioning to deal with this. I gave him a nudge putting my hand over his mouth to prevent him speaking. I did not need the intruders to know that we were awake and aware of them. He sat up, taking my hand from his mouth. With the moonlight coming in from the window where the curtains billowed gently in the breeze he could now see my gestures and understood that there were people in the house. He started getting out of bed, and had half donned his trousers when someone opened the bedroom door and burst into the room.
I screamed, as did the intruder and two other burly figures dressed in camouflage came flying into the room. Jason, whipped around, but before he could say a word or do anything to defend himself the first man to enter the room, hit him flat on the side of his head with the butt of a rifle. I recognised it as one Jason had left in the hall when he had returned from the fields earlier, having hoped to get rid of a couple of pesky rabbits who were intent on ruining the crop of wheat we were in the process of harvesting. He fell to the floor and I flung myself towards him. However, one of the other men made a grab for me and wrestled me to the ground.
Jason uttered not a sound. I looked at the balaclava clad face above me. The eyes were sheer malice. He picked me up by my ponytail. I winced but didn’t utter a word. I didn’t want the children to hear. They had to be kept safe. The cb radio chattered in the corner. It was Neels, our neighbour asking if we were okay. The third man took the butt of the rifle he was holding, bringing it down onto the radio with a thud so that it shattered in pieces.
Jason was coming around now, he tried to lift his head, the first man hit him again, and kicked him in the ribs. Motioning his other compatriot to come forward and lift Jason up whilst he stood surveying the room.
Jason was now groggy but awake. He turned his head and I could see blood streaming from a wound at the back of his head. His left eye was swollen shut and blood was dripping from his nose. The men screamed at us in a language I did not recognise. It wasn’t one of those used locally. I did not understand. Finally, the man holding onto my hair stuck his rifle into my side. “Guns” he saidddd “We want guns.” I saw Jason out the corner of my eye, he nodded, “I will show you where,” he said.
“No!” Screamed the man at him. “She!” He dug the rifle deeper into my side. “She will show,”
Jason tried to protest. I heard a shot ring out. Jason let out a groan, and crumpled to the floor once more. I was shaking all over. The man closest to him stayed where he was, whilst the other two now grabbed me by my legs and dragged me out of the room into the passage.
“Where?” They asked irritably and menacingly, waving the guns over their heads. I was still praying that the children would be safe. We had rehearsed a similar scenario many times. There was an external staircase on the outside of the building that they could use as an escape hatch should the need arise. I did not dare look up. I indicated the men should go into the study. There was the gun-safe, housing the three rifles we used for game hunting and a couple of revolvers.
As they pulled me into the room I could hear their heavy breathing, they were now psyched up knowing where the guns were.
They found the keys on the book case when I told them where they would be. It did not take them long to open the gun-safe. The greed and lust in their eyes frightened me. However, once they had taken the guns and placed them on the desk, they now turned to me.
I knew not to expect any mercy. Just then I heard sirens in the distance. They were coming closer and closer. The men heard them too, and turned from me. I saw one had unzipped his pants and was in a state of arousal. I blacked out.
Our neighbour arrived with a posse of others, with guns at the ready. As they came into the house, they aimed and fired, killing the two men who were with me, outright. This was their last farm raid. The third must have heard the commotion but by the time they got to our bedroom he had fled, leaving his weapon and Jason behind him.
Neels rushed over to Jason, feeling for a pulse. He had lost a lot of blood, but he was still alive. “You okay?” I nodded, my mind reeling.
“I must get to the children,” I said.
I rushed up the stairs weak at the knees but like a tigress needing to protect my cubs. At first I couldn’t find them. “Leighann, Christopher,” I called. Slowly, the little door to the outside staircase opened. Two frightened little faces stared back at me with tears in their eyes.
At that moment Neels shouted.
“We are taking Jason to the hospital. My men will stay with you. You will be safe.”
Months later I gave up the farm. The dangers of living there were just too great. Jason was barely alive, paralysed from the neck down. He would need care for the rest of his life. The police weren’t particularly interested in our story. There were so many of these happening every day on farms throughout South Africa.
The perpetrators were never caught. I considered myself extremely lucky not to have been raped and killed. This was one genocide that was not being reported in the international press. Nobody gave a damn.