Little did Linda know what awaited her.
“Fire! Fire! Everyone wake up! Run for your lives! R-u-u-u-u-n!” The man’s chilling shout could be heard everywhere in Siyakhula Section.
The screams and cries, and the sight of people running in different directions, overwhelmed Linda. Her head felt heavy and sore. It was as if she was trapped in a very bad dream, her worst nightmare ever! The wailing sirens from ambulances and fire trucks filled the air.
“There is Aunt Rosy with her children! Oh, my god! Oh, my god! Our house is on fire! N-o-o-o-o!” cried Linda. She could not believe what she was seeing. For a few minutes she stood frozen to the spot, not even blinking.
Everywhere she looked shacks were engulfed by huge, blazing flames. The atmosphere quickly filled with smoke and the horrible fumes of burning furniture and old car tyres. She could no longer see Aunt Rosy or her cousins. Children were running around carrying bags of clothes. Some were carrying blankets. Smaller children were clinging onto their mother’s aprons. What a chaotic and terrible scene it was!
“What am I going to do?” Linda whispered to herself. Minutes passed and she was still standing where the taxi had dropped her off. She had wrapped her newborn baby tightly on her back with an old towel. Amidst the chaos and mayhem, strangely enough, the baby stayed fast asleep.
She clutched the small plastic bag containing the baby formula and nappies she had been given as a gift at the hospital. “I have nowhere to go. What am I going to do? Where will I live with this baby? How stupid I was!”
Though her heart was torn in a thousand pieces, Linda refused to cry this time. Crying time was gone. She had to think. She had to find a solution to take her out of the chaos she found herself in, but how?
As if the baby could hear her troubled thoughts, he started to whimper a little. Linda covered his head with the baby blanket and started to walk away from the burning shacks. The sun had already set now, but it was not dark. The street lights gave out a cold light.
“I don’t know where I’m going,” she said out loud, crossing the littered street. She was walking away from the noise, from the smoke, from the screams, from the crying women and children. The blazing flames had by now consumed the shack that was once home to her, Aunt Rosy and her cousins. The fire had also destroyed many others. Black smoke rose up so high it seemed to reach the clouds and mingle with them.
“Ek sê! Hola, suster!” a boy shouted. She acted as if she did not hear as she walked past the group of boys sitting in a dark corner smoking dagga and other drugs. They looked no older than about thirteen or fourteen.
She knew that passing through this area at this time of the night was not safe, especially for a woman. But she was beyond caring. She had other things on her mind.
The boys were dancing to some music playing on a … Fortunately for her, they allowed her to pass through.
“I know this is the shortest way to the railway station,” she thought to herself. “Forgive me, God, but I have to do this,” she said, as tears welled up in her eyes. “We are going to die together and come to live with you.”
Tell us: What other options does Linda have?