The smoke billowed in under the door. There were shouts from outside as the men from the braai realised what was happening.

Sbu banged on the door.

“Heyi!” He shouted. “Let us out! We’re trapped in here! Heyi!”

Airtime and K8 yelled out the window.

“Let us out of here!”

They could see the men running away down the street. The smoke from the burning house was visible outside now, pouring around the edges of the building.

“Don’t leave us! Come back!”

Song started coughing. Sbu took off his coat stuffed it under the door to stop the smoke, but it still came in around the edges.

“Get to the window!” said Song.

They all pushed up against the bars of the window trying to breathe clean air, but the smoke outside was getting as bad as the smoke inside. It was impossible to see anything outside through the smoke and the darkness. The light in the storeroom flickered and went out – somewhere in the house, the electrical wires must have melted.

Airtime and Song were both coughing now. K8 was still shouting, but she was struggling. Sbu’s lungs burned with the smoke as he yelled for help.

“We’re trapped in here! Please help us!”

“I hear you!” shouted a voice out of the darkness. “I’m coming!”

Sbu’s heart rose. K8 grabbed his arm in excitement.

“We’re locked in here!” said Sbu. “We need to break a lock! Hello?”

There was silence from outside. All they could hear were distant shouts and the crackling of fire outside the room.

And then there was the sound of running feet coming down the corridor. There were three loud bangs and the tip of an axe came through the wood. It struck four more times. The crack was big enough for someone to stick their fingers in and start yanking back the superwood to make a hole in the door.

Sbu rushed forward to help make the hole. Orange light poured in from the fire behind it, making the smoke in the room glow.

After a few seconds of tearing at the splintering wood with their hands, there was enough space to crawl through.

“Out!” said their rescuer. “Quickly!”

Song, Airtime and K8 crawled through the hole. Sbu was the last out. He crawled through, and got his first look at his rescuer – a young man holding an axe, with a wet cloth wrapped around the lower half of his face to protect him from the smoke.

“Quickly!” said the rescuer.

They ran down the corridor, past burning rooms, and out into the night air. As soon as they were clear, all of them dropped down and started coughing the smoke out of their lungs.

Their rescuer took off the cloth over his mouth and used it to wipe his brow.

“You!” said Sbu.

“You know this guy?” said K8.

“He’s the leader of that gang that almost beat me up! The guy in a 2Pac shirt!”

“That’s me,” said the guy, grinning. “Sorry, man. I thought you were a gangster.”

“I thought you were a gangster too!”

“Well,” said a voice coming out of the darkness. The old woman from the street, the one who had saved Sbu, walked up to them with her walking stick. “It looks like there’s a lot of things that weren’t the way we thought they were,” she said.

Image: M4rpk, CC-BY-NC

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Have you ever misjudged someone you met?