My head felt heavy as I entered my bedroom and sat on the bed. I had cried so much but the headache was a more than welcome exchange instead of the all-consuming anger I’d felt earlier.

I opened my school bag and pulled out a black Samsung E250 cellphone: the ‘thing’ Themba had told me not to forget. I switched it on and it requested a pin. Too easy, I thought. I switched it off and threw it back inside the bag. I took out my books and did my homework. I had supper with Grandma. We said our nightly prayer (which I thought always took too long).

Grandma was a Christian, like most grandmas around Nkonjeni, but she no longer attended church. She told me that she had stopped going because church women gossiped too much, and if she hadn’t stopped she’d have slapped quite a few of them.

I realized now – after she told me about my mother – that her only daughter returning sick and pregnant was probably the reason she had stopped going to church. Her misfortune had most definitely become gossip fodder.

Grandma’s not going to church resulted in me having to spend almost an hour every night having mini church sessions with her, ever since I was a kid. The Bible was the first book I read from cover to cover. I was in Grade 6 and did it just to impress Grandma. It’s not that I hated church sessions with her. It’s just that being in Matric now meant I needed more time to study.

When I finally returned to my room I unlocked the Samsung E250 cellphone as easily as I’d expected. I just rebooted it and restored factory settings. A thought crossed my mind: mom had destroyed her life by dating a man for money. And I was probably going to destroy mine by unlocking stolen cellphones for money. I quickly shrugged it off as a stupid thought. The information was just one Google search away. I’d spent time at the Nkonjeni Library computers, learning what I needed to know about unlocking blocked cellphones, and made a few bucks from my knowledge.

After unlocking the cellphone I studied until 11, and then slept, my tired mind still reeling from the truth about my mom.

* * * * *

A few nights later, the nightmares started.

After the first one, I woke up to a thick, pitch blackness. As I looked around, a light blasted out of nowhere. The outline of our RDP house formed behind the light. Our house became clearer as the light shone brighter but everything else was pitch black – like I was blind unless I looked at the house.

An old woman wearing a brown and black striped blanket as a cloak stood before the front door. She was right under the light but her face was not visible. I somehow knew this woman was not Grandma, even though the blanket draped over her shoulders belonged to my grandma.

I tried to call for Grandma but couldn’t move my lips. I couldn’t produce a sound with my throat. I tried to move the rest of my body but my mind didn’t seem connected to it. I tried to scream and move at the same time, hoping I’d trick whatever was holding me down, but nothing happened.

“You’re not going anywhere,” the old lady’s voice echoed around the silence of the empty, dark world.

I tried to scream louder; tried harder to move but nothing happened. Sweat trickled down the sides of my face.

“Calm down and accept your fate, Sbusiso. This is the end for you. You are not going anywhere,” the old lady said.

I tried to close my eyes but couldn’t. All I had was the ability to change my focus, so I just focused on the bright light, and began to pray silently.


Tell us: Have you ever been ‘trapped’ inside a vivid nightmare like this? Did you believe it contained a message?