I open my eyes. Of course! That’s it! I realise.
I’m still in bed and it’s still dark. I sit up and check the time. 23:45. I know what I have to do. I jump out of bed and into some jeans. From under my bed, I blindly grab for some herbs and roots I keep for nights like this. The usual mix of things for protection against this evil, plus something to send the dead back to where they belong. I shove them into my pockets.
I put on a hoodie, remember to snatch my cellphone just before I leave in case Gogo wakes up in the night and worries. Then I run.
I run most of the way to Zakes’s house. It’s dangerous at this time for a girl by herself but I’m more afraid of what waits for me in that house than anyone on these streets.
When I get to the door, I don’t even care about being quiet. I bang on the door four times and Zakes’s mother opens it.
Her face looks shocked but it doesn’t seem like I woke her up. There’s no time for explanation. I rush past her into the house.
She’s shouting something but instead I shout above her, “I need Oscar’s jacket!”
That stops her. She blinks twice. “What?”
“Oscar’s jacket. He left it here. It’s brown and leather, I need it. Now!”
She goes into another room without hesitation and I go into Zakes’s room. His trembling from before has become shaking. His whole body shakes violently while I sprinkle the protective herbs around his bed.
I go back into the kitchen. Zakes’s mother has the jacket. It’s the same jacket I was wearing in my dream when I was standing in the river. She holds it out to me and I snatch it, throwing it to the ground. I’m not sure what to do now but then I remember Umkhulu’s words:
“The fire will come when you need it.”
Zakes’ mother holds a candle. I don’t even ask her, I just snatch it too and drop it onto the jacket. The jacket explodes into blue flames just as Oscar’s ghost lunges towards me, shoving me into the kitchen door. My head slams into it hard but the jacket continues to burn in flames that are not even hot.
Zakes’s mom just stands there with her mouth hanging open. Oscar’s ghost roars and moves to attack her but he disappears before he reaches her. In a few seconds the jacket is gone. There are no ashes. It is as though it never even existed.
She looks like she’s about to faint from what she just saw. She looks like she’s about to ask me what the hell that was, but then Zakes screams and we run into his room. His eyes are open and he has stopped shaking.
His mother cries with joy and hugs me as she runs out of the room. She must be going to wake the neighbours.
I go to sit in her chair besides Zakes’s bed. “Are you OK?” I ask him.
It takes a moment for him to answer. Eventually he says softly, “I think so,” and then quickly, “I’m so sorry about before.”
“Why did you threaten me? You know I’m not evil.”
“I know but I didn’t know how else to get you to help me. You’re always so tough at school. You act like you don’t need anything or anyone. You’re not like the other girls. They’re just worried about their hair and boyfriends.”
I frown. “That’s not fair. They’re not all stupid, you know.”
He nods. “Yes, you’re right. They aren’t that bad. But you’re still different from them. It scares them.”
I don’t know about that so I change the subject. “How did you know?” I ask. “About me, I mean? Was it really Ma Thlolo?”
“No. I just guessed that you had helped her after things got better for her. To be honest, I also had a dream about you,” he says. “In my dream, I was standing in a river and the water level kept rising. I couldn’t move. The water started to turn red. It was a river of blood by the time it was at my chest. An old man walked by the river. He told me, ‘Only she can save you’. I didn’t understand what he meant. By the time he had walked away, the water was at my chin. I was going to drown. But then…”
“Then you saw me,” I say.
He nods. “The last thing I remember was seeing your face and then I woke up.”
It was like the watery dream I had had. Umkhulu had given us both a sign.
“I won’t tell anyone about what you’ve done for me. You have a gift, Lindi. Your calling is bigger than me.”
I nod and squeeze his hand. I know he’ll keep my secret.
Tell us what you think: Can Lindi trust Zakes? Do you think he will stand up for her at school now?