The atmosphere was thick with dread. It had come to this; war with our brothers. Endless queues and inked fingers in polling stations for what? Civil war. The frustration in the country drew much deeper from a long time bottled hatred than the confounding 2007 election. Demons were loose. These people didn’t even know how to handle weapons but somehow overnight they had learnt to slit throats, lacerate wombs and gash out eyes. Tribes incensed. We stood and watched. Hope faded. We sat and watched. Churches burnt. We knelt and watched. People died. We all but watched. We picked up weapons and joined the madness.
Television broadcast images of shrapnel and debris in the streets of the city. It was a smidge compared to the anarchy in the countryside. Villainy was at its peak and decapitated heads and mutilated bodies were the evident results of political difference. Hell was rising in Kenya and we watched it raze.
This side of the country seemed to defy the standards. I had lived here for 18 years. We were a mixed community. We were friendly and at peace. Philip and Patricia, my younger siblings arrived in boarding school safely. Mum was in Connecticut away from this present madness. Threats were dished out. Threats of bloodshed and of murder. We crossed our fingers and hoped that the threats would remain as they were. Only threats. Surely no man had the conscience, let alone the hardihood, to follow up on a threat to drain his neighbour’s blood in front of his wife and kids. No chances were taken. The men kept vigil every night to protect the women and children. They slept in the day to gain energy to keep vigil at night. Wendy, my elder sister, dad and I had forged a truce to watch out for each other. It only took a phone call to cripple that truce. The look on dad’s face as he picked the call sent nerve-wrecking signals to my sister and I.
He might as well have said he was off to work. His voice was flat but there was no jest in it. It weighed tonnes.
“What?” I asked.
Dad rushed past the table to his bedroom knocking out whatever stood in his way.
“Get only what you need now! They’re coming for us!”
“Oh my God!” Wendy cried.
And there it was. Behind dad’s scrambling, behind Wendy’s cries and behind the quiet stillness that fooled peace, my heart threatened to beat itself out of my chest. This is what fear felt like. Dad returned with the keys to the Nissan and the Subaru. He threw one to Wendy. Subaru. She knew what to do.
“Quickly! Now get out!”
We raced past the dining room and living room to the front door. I asked myself a damning
question. What if they kill you, Ernest? What if they kill all of you? I was trailing my sister’s steps when I saw the laptop and modem on the dining table. Adrenaline commanded me to scamper. Logic begged me to run back for them.
“Ernest! Where are you going?!” my dad shouted. “They are at the gate!”
I ignored him. If we would live through this, it would only be fair for mum to know. We needed to communicate. I ripped the cords from the sockets and grabbed the laptop and modem. I dashed out of the house. My dad saw the cargo and understood my actions. He got into the Nissan and roared the engine to life.
“Ernie hurry!” Wendy cried.
Rocky, I thought. Rocky. Where was she? I panicked for her. If we left her behind, they’d kill her undoubtedly. I had lost one dog to a murderer. I wasn’t going to lose another. I opened the Subaru boot and threw in the laptop. As I did, Rocky raced from the rear of the house towards the car.
Good old Rocky was fast enough! She did not need convincing. She leaped into the boot. I shut it close.
“Go Wendy go!”
Wendy quivered as she placed the key into the ignition. Panic was eating her from the inside out. Her hands were shaking. I put my hand on hers and spoke as gently as possible.
“You can do this. Relax.”
It worked. The Subaru was a manual transmission and the angst did not make it easier. Rocky
whined in the back. Even the animals smelt the air reeked with murderous intent. Wendy drove in dad’s direction getting doses of encouragement from her equally frightened brother. And as we drove, you could hear it as lucid as ever. An approaching mob characterized my shouts, screams and cries of war. They were coming for us all right and they were bent to kill.
We drove to the Southern by-pass. We would drive a couple of kilometres east after that and end up in Karen. It was safer there. Dad pulled up. He quickly turned the car to the direction we came from. His actions needed no questioning. We saw it for ourselves. He voiced it anyway.
“It’s blocked. There’s no way out.”
So it was a planned attack. Dad looked away and I could have sworn having seen a tear in
his eye. He was desperate. He and his kids trapped in the boiling pot of civil war. If we died out here, if the cars were stoned and set on fire he wanted us to know one thing. He had done his best to be a good father and that he loved us very much.
“What now?” I asked.
Father looked ahead and repeated his initial command.
Follow me to the mob. Follow me to the only way out. Follow me to death. And follow him we did.
For Part 2 click here