I’ve walked passed Zakes’s house many times before. When Ntokozo and I were still friends, we’d take the long way home after school, passing by his home. With our arms linked, she’d giggle all the way home, wondering out loud if he ever noticed her. It wasn’t too long until he did.

Now, I stand in front of his door, in the middle of the school day, feeling nervous as hell. Even from here, I can hear someone crying inside. I knock on the door and some of the neighbours are in the kitchen. I introduce myself as a friend from school. I say Zakes is friends with my boyfriend and I came to see if he isOK. The neighbours look at me with suspicion but they point me to the bedroom.

I walk to the room and hear that the crying is coming from there. In it, the woman I assume is Zakes’s mother sits by his bed. She cries violently as another woman rubs her back.

On the bed, Zakes lies with his eyes shut tightly. He trembles slightly and he’s mumbling something, too quietly for me to hear. The woman looks up to greet me. I tell her the same lie I told the neighbours and ask what’s wrong with Zakes.

“No-one knows,” she says. “We called a doctor when he came home early yesterday. The doctor said they need to do more tests but Zakes is too sick to move. The nurse came this morning and took blood. She said she’d do some tests but they don’t know when they can get the results. There are many people to test at the clinic.”

I nod my head in agreement. It could take some time for the doctors to find out what’s wrong but I doubt his problems are medical.

I hear Zakes start mumbling again. “Does anyone know what he’s saying?” I ask.

The two women look at each other.

“We think he’s saying ‘Oscar’,” says Zakes’s mom.

“Who is Oscar?” I ask.

“My ex-boyfriend. He died a few weeks ago,” she replies.

Fresh tears flood in her eyes. I guess she’s thinking about whether Zakes is going to die too.

I decide it’s time to leave, thank them and go out as I came. As I walk out of the house, I think I hear someone whisper to me. I turn around and at the kitchen window, I see a man with black eyes smiling at me. All of his teeth are missing. He lifts his finger to his throat and slides it across slowly. I understand his message perfectly: you’re dead if you come back here.

I can’t believe no one else is seeing this! I think.

This dead man must be Oscar. Which means Zakes was right: he needs my help or he’ll be dead soon too.


Tell us what you think: Should Lindi go back to save Zakes even though her life will be in danger if she does?