I was awoken by the taxi driver at zone F complex in Lebowakgomo, as I was the last passenger, and because it was winter, the darkness had changed shifts with daylight. I opened my eyes and it felt as if I was asleep for a very long time, even though it was just for a few minutes.
The taxi was from Mokopane, just 45km away from my native township Lebowakgomo. It was the last taxi at the taxi rank and I was still going on with the journey because I was from zone S, just 6km away from the complex.
I opened the taxi door and the cold winter air was intolerable. The coldness was not the problem though, what worried me a lot was how I was going to reach my homestead safely. Hiking at that time of the night was totally out of the question because the killings and kidnappings were in fashion just like the fashion shows hosted in Milan.
From where I was standing, the only obtrusive thing was the taxi rank paved with red and grey bricks, the petrol station that had one of those pendulous lights and a hardware store, locked with a heavy chain that wouldn’t open until a man was dead. Panic seized me. I stood there for a couple of minutes, irresolute, feeling very cold and scared.
I took out a jersey and a beanie inside my backpack took out my wallet that was in my pocket and tied it very tightly with my belt, for the sake of safety, because being mugged was the only thing roaming in my mind. There was no way I could take the tar road as it would have been more dangerous. So I decided to take the shorter route to my place, which was through the forest.
As I was walking, a few meters from where I was there were people, particularly middle-aged men, sitting around a fire. I couldn’t sway my mind off the danger that could’ve happened to me, no matter how hard I tried. It was like a small voice was on repeat, inside my head, warning me about the danger ahead. But I had no choice; I had to get home right then and there.
As I approached them I took a saunter, my heart beating like a wild thing in my breast. They were so garrulous, to an extent that they didn’t see me past near them. And for that, I thanked God with a little prayer after passing them.
I quickened my pace as I was approaching the last building of the complex, which was a municipal building. After the municipal building, I was faced with the forest. Just when I was approximately 5 meters after that building, a car came behind me and by the lights of it, I saw figures of young men waiting under a huge morula tree.
That was the thing feared by all, to be waited for by young men. It was a straight tarred road but with thorn trees on the sides, so I had no choice but to go past there.
Suddenly something within me was crying out in protest against the coming event. By that time I had two separate minds: the other one was telling me to go back and sleep at that petrol garage, and the other one was telling me to man up and face my fears. I quickly decided to man up and approach those young men.
When I was near the big tree, 3 of those young men blocked my way. They did not speak, their intention was unspeakably clear. In the back pocket of my trouser I had a nail cutter. One of them lit a lighter on my face and I took out the nail cutter, with its shining spark they opened and I saw a gap to escape.
With the grace of God, I ran towards the forest with a hope that darkness would protect me, plus I was wearing dark clothes. I thought they had given up on me, but then I heard the sound of their feet coming on the wind to me, and not only that, but whistles too. When I heard whistles in the forest, I knew that there were other young men there too.
By the sounds of it, they were coming towards my direction but still far away. I saw a pile of big water pipes and near those pipes was an abandoned truck. That was my only hope. I took that direction.
But before I could reach there, something grabbed me by my jersey and without even looking at it, I stabbed it with my nail cutter knife so that it can set me free. And again by the grace of God, it let me go and I went heavily under the truck.
I was sobbing and out of breath, while behind me they were coming also.
I fell into some grotesque shape of wire, it was barbed and it tore my jersey and flesh. Death was near me, and for a moment I was filled with the injustice of life. I remembered my uncle’s words when he told me that he would take me home the following day, but then I insisted that I wanted to leave, as I was missing my mom. I now felt guilty because my mother would have blamed my uncle if anything happened to me that day.
The young men reached my hiding place, spread around to look for me. My heart was beating like a double sub-woofer inside a small Picanto. I tried to calm it down, thinking that it might be heard, but the young men were breathing heavily too. As they were busy searching for me I heard one of them say, “”Listen…”
They were all quiet for some few seconds. I listened too, but I couldn’t hear anything except the beat of my own heart. There was a sound of cars, not only one, but about five or six cars heading to our direction. The sound was from nearer and nearer to where we were.
They quickly moved away from the pipes and headed back to the complex. The sound was of police cars, raiding, coming from my section in Zone S. After the last car passed the abandoned truck and those pipes, I came out of that truck and took the opposite direction, running faster than a dog, heading home.
Tell us what you think: Have you ever been in a similar, dangerous situation? How did you escape?