Bulelwa sat in the dark with Gogo. A couple of hours previously the electricity had gone off. She lit a candle.

Once or twice she had ventured outside, as the evening drew in. She saw, with alarm, that the sky had suddenly turned red to the right of where she was standing. Every evening that same piece of sky used to turned a gentle orange as the sun set. At first, she thought it was that. Just another sunset, made a more violent crimson because of the smoke in the air.

But then it grew! The glow of red grew and grew, until the whole sky on that side was one huge glowing fireball. Standing outside she could hardly breathe. The dense smoke was catching in her throat.

“The big houses of the rich are burning!”

Bulelwa turned as she heard Lunga’s voice behind her. He was standing with his friends and laughing.

Suddenly there was a very loud explosion, like a gunshot, but near. Bulelwa covered her ears and closed her eyes. Lunga laughed even louder.

“That’s the sound of gas bottles exploding, you stupid girl! Gas bottles in the houses, exploding as the houses are burning! Sipho and the others have already been in those streets and picked up a few! As all the fools were fleeing they moved their bottles onto the pavement – for us to pick up!”

Lunga laughed again.

“You disgust me!” said Bulelwa angrily. “You and your friends! There are girls in my class, friends of mine, who live in those houses.”

Lunga sneered. “And that’s not all they have left behind. There are cars in the garages and computers and screens and other stuff. The fools are so terrified that some of them even forget to lock the door as they went.”

Bulelwa blocked her ears again as more gas canisters exploded. Lunga had left, disappeared into the smoke.

Bulelwa’s eyes were burning and she ducked to avoid a huge burning ember that suddenly appeared in the boiling air and came spinning towards her. She rushed inside, being careful to open the door as little as possible, to try to keep the smoky air outside. Inside the house Gogo was still coughing continuously.

“What is that sound?” Gogo asked. Bulelwa could hear that she was struggling to breathe, and there was fear in her voice. Bulelwa paused.

“Exploding gas bottles,” she said softly.

She was trying to dampen a towel for Gogo to put over her mouth and nose, so that she could breathe easier.


Tell us what you think: Will Lunga stay to protect his sister and grandmother? What is he planning?