Tag Archives: short story

Day 7

Instead of using the inspiration for day 7, I am going to expand on day 4 prompted by the picture and encouraged by Ridiculous Bharath.  I am trying my hand at Wuxia fiction. This is a new genre  for me so, if you are more familiar with it, I would love constructive feedback. Is it too predictable?

Tiger eye (2 542 words)

Behind her was her family’s burning farm and the warriors from the Wu kingdom. They had orders to wipe out all the members of the Xi clan- except for the young boys, of course. Su Yung had watched from behind the goat house as the unconscious body of her younger brother, Yan-lin, was carried out, bound hand and foot, before the farm was torched.

In front of her was the forest. All through her twelve years of life she had been warned about the dangers of the forest and of the tigers that lurked there. Now, as the evening sun was setting, she began running headlong into the trees. Her blue coat flapped around her legs uncomfortably but she was grateful for its warmth. The smell of pine trees mingled with the dank smell of the forest floor. Her breath was coming in short gasps but her legs continued to run, powered by a force that was stronger than her aching muscles.

Perhaps if she survived the night, she could still rescue her brother who would be taken to the kingdom of Wu and trained for their army. How dishonourable it was for her and her family if Yan-lin was forced to fight for the oppressors.

As darkness crept through the trees like a thousand black snakes, Su Yung began to move more slowly, straining her eyes to see the forest floor. She couldn’t go on much further in the dark.

She stopped and listened. The sounds of birds settling down in their nests had ceased and the comforting sound of the night insects had begun. Was that a rustling behind her? She had better move on again.

Su Yung shivered and buttoned up her coat. She looked around again. Straight ahead and slightly to the right was an area that was slightly lighter than the surrounding forest. She headed in that direction, trying to walk silently.

As she got closer, Su saw a fire ahead. It drew her with the promise of warmth. When she got to the edge of the clearing she lay down behind a large tree and surveyed the area. There seemed to be nobody around although she could smell food in the smoke. She lay entirely still for a long time and then, when there was still no sign of anybody, she crept forward.

On the fire was a metal bowl of soup. It was very strange. Nobody lived in the Tiger’s forest. The smell of onions and carrots taunted her, reminding her that she hadn’t eaten since early morning. Su took off her coat and used it to take the bowl off the fire. It was still too hot to drink. She was taking it back to the protection of her tree when the warriors attacked.

Strong arms encircled her, pinning her arms to her sides. The bowl of soup went flying. She felt the cold edge of a dao at her neck. Two warriors in their blue livery were crouching in front of her, their daos glinting orange in the firelight.

“Wait!” said an authoritive voice from behind her. He was obviously the leader. “I am going to get a little bit of pleasure from her before she dies. Hold her down on the ground for me.”

Fear was in Su’s heart like a dao. Dishonour upon dishonour! She wished she could rather kill herself. The crouching warriors in front of her seemed reluctant. “But, honourable Prince,” said the one on her left, “It is against the code of the warrior to take pleasure from a woman when engaged in a kingdom mission.”

Su felt the arms around her tighten and she sensed the anger in him tying his insides into a knot. “Jen Lan, am I or am I not, a prince of Wu?” he said, in a low, threatening voice.

“You are,’ said Jen Lan. His sword quivered slightly.

“I care nothing for the warrior code. It doesn’t apply to me. Do you remember the punishment for disobeying a member of the royal household?” His voice was cold, like steel. “Now do as I say!”

They knocked her to the ground but she saw disrespect flicker in their eyes.

At that moment Su Yung saw the tiger out of the corner of her eye. His golden body flew through the air towards her, rippling in the firelight. “It is honourable to be killed by a noble tiger,” she thought just before everything went black.

 

Su opened her eyes. The predawn light outlined the trees. For a moment she didn’t know where she was. She felt comfortable as if she were lying on a pile of leaves. Her coat was wrapped around her, keeping her warm. As she started remembering, fear settled around her neck like a noose. She sprang up and looked around. In the centre of the clearing were the ashes of the fire and, unbelievably, the bowl of soup. She reached for it. It was pleasantly warm. It soothed her gnawing hunger. She felt like she had woken from a dream. Perhaps there were never any warriors attacking her. Perhaps there had never been a tiger.

Su walked between the fire ashes and the big tree, looking for signs of a scuffle. There it was! In the damp earth near the pile of leaves where she had woken up, was the distinct paw print of a tiger. It was larger than she would have expected – at least twice as large as her palm. In the middle and almost buried in the ground, was something shiny. She dug it out with her fingers. It was an oval stone, brown and shiny. In the middle was a hole, perfectly round, with orange stripes radiating from it. It looked like an eye – a tiger eye. She cleaned the stone with the corner of her dress. How pretty it was. She could see the reflection of the rising sun in its shiny surface. It felt warm in her hand. As she held it in both hands close to her heart, she felt the noose of fear loosen. She had been given the gift of life, the gift of courage. Looking further she saw a thin strip of blue cloth. It seemed to have been sliced neatly by a sharp sword. She twisted it into a cord and threaded it through her stone and tied it around her neck.

Two paces from where she found the blue cloth was another tiger footprint, then another. As the sun continued to rise, Su Yung followed the footprints. Just before noon she saw him, a huge golden tiger asleep in a tree. Next to him were the tattered remains of a blue robe. She no longer had any fear.

“Thank you, Noble Tiger,” said Su. “You saved my life. My life is now yours.”

She heard him although he didn’t open his eyes. His voice was like honey, pleasant and mellow. “You have been chosen,” it said, “You will save the kingdom of Xi from the hand of Wu. You will free the captive boys. Follow my steps to your new master. Learn and obey.”

The paw prints continued and Su followed until she finally came out of the forest. In front of her was a small, rustic house of wood surrounded by a vegetable garden. In the garden was an old man, digging with a fork. His face was wrinkled like the bark of a tree and his grey beard was pulled together to make a point. On his head he wore a sunhat shaped like a flat bowl.

“Whom do you serve, honourable Sir?” asked Su Yung.

“I serve the king of Xi and Prince Ming Yong, known as the Tiger Prince.”

“I am sent to serve you,” said Su. She placed her hands together and bowed respectfully.

“I have been awaiting your coming, Daughter of the Gift,” said the old man. He put down his fork and raised himself to his full height. “I am Woo. You will help me tend the garden and look after the house and feed wandering travellers and students. I will teach you the ancient art of Qing-gong. Before we start, is there a message you would like to give your brother?”

Su thought carefully. “I would tell him and all the others, ‘Pretend to obey. Work with diligence and honour. Learn all you can from your masters and wait for me. I will free you.’”

 

Training began the next day. Every morning she would rise at dawn and meditate. “Stand like a tree,” said Master Woo. He planted his feet a little wider than his shoulders and bent his knees. Su imitated him. “Keep your spine straight! Now imagine you are hugging a tree but drop your hands a bit. Good.” He nodded. “Now while you are standing like that, get in touch with your qi. It is your life force and you must learn to master it. Breathe deeply.” Without another word he went outside.

Su stayed in the position until her leg muscles ached. She told herself that her body no longer belonged to her but to the Lord Tiger. She breathed deeply and felt the warmth of the stone around her neck. She wished he would come back. After what seemed like forever he did. “Relax your shoulders. You can’t breathe deeply enough if your shoulders are tense.”

After meditation she prepared food for the day and tidied the house, sweeping, airing the sleeping mats, cleaning the walls.

In the afternoon there was physical training. In time she learned the circle walk. Master Woo laid out a circle of logs. “You walk on the logs, keeping your centre of gravity low.” Every day he made her go faster and faster.  Over time the logs got turned upright then they got thinner and more widely spaced.

One day Master Woo came to Su even before the sun was up. “Daughter of the Gift,” he said, “today you have been with me for a year. Today you are going to try and catch me. I will run a course and scale obstacles and you will follow me, going as fast as you can.”

Su was surprised to find out it had been a year already. On one hand it seemed like yesterday that she had come and on the other hand she seemed to have been here forever. She had learned to run up planks which were leaning against the wall and every day the angle had got steeper. She had done ankle jumps into and out of ditches; she had learned to do high jumps over a horizontal tree branch the height of a horse. She could do the long low distance sprint for 10 miles in 30 minutes. She felt ready for the challenge.

They started when the sun rose. Master Woo ran in the direction of the village, away from the forest. As he ran through the wheat fields he made barely a ripple in the tall leaves. Su was right behind him, close on his heels. She lost a bit of pace when they came to the wall of the fortress. Master Woo ran straight up the wall but Su had to jump on a tall tree stump and then jump to the top of the wall. Running down again was easier. When they came to the gorge, her master jumped right over but she fell short of the distance and had to clamber up the other side, ignoring the pain in her ankle where she had hit it on a rock as she landed. When they came to the lake, Master Woo ran across the surface of the water but Su could not. She stayed on the bank, doubled over and trying to get her breath back.

Master Woo came back, running on the water again. “You thought you were ready, didn’t you?” he asked solemnly. ”You were filled with pride. If you have self in your heart you cannot control your qi. Now breathe like I taught you and not like a tree chopped in the middle. Think yourself light like a feather.”

Once she had gained control again he handed her a handful of green leaves. “These are special herbs that will make you lighter and faster,” he said. “Eat them now.” Su obeyed. “Now we go back.”

They were off again. This time Su was able to run up the fortress wall although it might have been lower on the north side. She still couldn’t catch the master though.

“When you catch me, you will be ready to fulfil your destiny,” he told her once they were back at the wooden house again. “We will do this every year.”

And they did. By year five Su Yung could do the circle walk on chop sticks and jump distances she had never dreamt of.

“You are nearly ready,” said Master Woo. He had begun to show signs of aging. Often he coughed during the night and he seemed to be losing weight. “One last thing you still need to learn. “There is still hatred in your heart for the prince of Wu. If you don’t respect your enemy you cannot vanquish him. Anger blocks the channels of qi.”

At the end of the fifth year there was only one second’s difference between them and at the end of the sixth year Su Yung caught the master. She felt neither pride nor elation, only humble gratitude for the training he had given her.

“Now you are ready,” Woo said to her that night after she had settled him in bed. His voice was gruff with emotion and quiet with age and she had to lean over to hear. “My task is accomplished. Tomorrow you are to make your way to the Castle of Wu and free the young men who were taken captive. Do not take any personal revenge. Lead them to the fortress we ran over today. Prince Ming Yong will meet you there.” He put his hands over the stone that she still wore around her neck. “This stone is the eye of the tiger. I grant it all my powers. It will protect you, it will guide you, it will heal wounds. When you see another like it, you are to marry the man who wears it.”

The next morning, Master Woo was dead.

 

Legend recounts how a beautiful young girl called Su Yung ran all the way from the Kingdom of Xi to the Wu castle. She ran over the river, bounced on the high wall, flying over the moat and into the Guard house. She jumped over the guards, grabbing the keys from them in mid air. She released 120 young men. They had trusted the message, learning everything they could about swordsmanship and martial arts. Su Yung led them to Prince Ming Yong who wore a tiger skin as a cloak and had a blue cloth belt fastened with a stone that looked like a tiger eye. Together they trained the men in qing-gong and learned swordsmanship and weaponry from them.

After five years the kingdom of Wu was totally defeated and annexed into the Xi Kingdom, reigned over by King Ming Yong and Queen Su Yong.

The Yellow

 

Hostel Golly Bossy by Studio Up

Hotel GollyBossy by Studio Up

I am the only one left. The Yellow killed them. I feel bilious. (13 words)

This story is part of the Grammar Ghoul Writing Challenge

Badge: Shapeshifting 13 #49

Ghouls on Rainbows!

Each week, you will be provided a visual prompt. The visual prompt may have several colors in it, but we’re focusing on one color at a time. Each week, we will tell you the primary color of the week, and your job is to write a story or poem, abiding by that week’s word count, using/inspired by that color in that image. Sounds easy, right? I assure you, it’s not as easy as it sounds!

This week, in exactly 13 words, your challenge is to write a story or poem inspired by the following color in the following image:

Starting a book

Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I feel called to write, but I don’t know what. I have been playing with blogging and flash fiction and two short stories and now I am going to try a novel. I was inspierd when one of my short stories won first prize in our Writers circle and the judge said she’s like to see some of the stories turned into novels. I thought, “Why not?”

I have written the first chapter which you can find on Chapter Buzz.

I have also submitted it to the Writer’s circle. If it doesn’t win a prize then it is plain not good enough. I would also really appreciate feedback, positive or negative. I don’t want to waste my time if I don’t have the talent or skills to write a novel and if the first chapter doesn’t grip you then the rest won’t.

book-863418_640Please let me know what you think.

Short story

This is for my friends who might be interested in reading the short story that won the Writer’s Circle’s monthly competition. It is 3 000 words so don’t feel obliged. I know you are all busy.

They Call me Nothing

By Jenny Young

(2 993 words)

 

It was probably a mistake to come. Now that I am actually here it seems like my decision of last night was all a dream. Will they call the Police? The sign outside the church reads “The Lifegrow Care Centre, where you can share life’s difficulties confidentially with trained carers…” Does “confidentially” mean what I think it means or is it cancelled if you are a criminal?

I ring the buzzer under the CCTV camera. Do I look respectable enough or do I look like what I am, a housebreaker? I wipe my clammy palms on the back of my grey school trousers. I thought school uniform was my best bet. I wait. My heart is beating like a tribal drum in my ears.

The gate springs open with a threatening click. I take a deep breath and walk through into the church garden. I am committed now. The scent of jasmine encourages me. Spring. New beginnings.

Discreet arrows lead to the counselling room. I knock gently on the door although it is partially open. A white gogo  looks up and smiles. She flicks her grey streaked hair away from her face. I slide in noiselessly. She looks at me. She actually sees me. I am not used to that. Usually I can come and go without being noticed.

“Hi, please sit down.” She points to two comfortable chairs next to a low coffee table.

My eyes scan the room. I note the tissues on the table and a bowl of roses. At the far end there are shelves of books behind glass doors. My eyes linger on them. I love books. On the desk where the lady is sitting is a framed photo of a young man in a graduation gown and another of a girl in a long evening dress. There is a box of chocolates and a cell phone. I sit down a little breathlessly. She gets up and joins me on the other comfortable chair.

“My name is Kay. I am here to help you.” Her blue eyes are friendly and look really interested in me. She tilts her head ever so slightly and raises her eyebrows expectantly.

The pause hovers between us like a piece of burned paper caught in the updraft of a fire. She is obviously waiting for me to tell her my name. Words freeze in my throat.

I do have a name but it is eight years since anybody used it. It’s a memory that I can’t forget.

 

I strutted into my father’s repair yard with my report quivering in my pocket. I breathed in the oily, dusty smell with pleasure. The old blue Pontiac was still there waiting for its owners to find a good engine from the scrap yard. Baba was in the pit under a Toyota Corolla. The pit was nothing but a sloped trench that Baba had dug himself so he could see the undersides of cars. He smiled when he saw me, his sweaty face streaked with grease. I didn’t wait for him to wriggle his powerful body out from under the car. I ran to the pit almost splitting with excitement.

“Baba, Baba! I came first in Grade One. Look!” I whipped out my report with a flourish. He took so long to open the envelope and take out the important document. His eyes glowed and he put his shoulders back. A smile reached almost to his ears.

“Well done, Edwin. I am so proud of you.” He put out his arms to hug me but I stopped him.

“Don’t get oil on my school shirt. I haven’t changed yet. I came straight to show you.”

Baba ripped off a piece from the paper roll and put it between us, then gathered me to him.

“Is that better?” He laughed. I wriggled with joy. He smelled of oil and sweat.”

Baba raised his voice for all to hear. “Wozani nonke!  This is my son. He is the smallest in his class but he can read better than them all. I will buy him a special book.”

 

I hope the sadness won’t  escape from my eyes. Boys don’t cry.

The lady is still waiting. I look at her. She gives a half-smile and a little sigh.

“I help out at the counselling centre three times a week. My children have left home so I have time to help other people.”

“Are those your children?” I point to the photos. My voice sounds rusty but at least some words get past my throat in a coarse whisper. She nods then takes a tissue and dabs under her nose.

“Steven and Sarah. They have gone to Cape Town to study. I miss them.” She hesitates.

“Do your parents know you are here?”

I feel like my heart has dropped suddenly into my stomach. Is it a problem? I force myself to breathe slowly and evenly but I can’t do anything about my heartbeat.

“My parents are dead.”  The words sound flat to my ears but each one is like a dagger in my heart.

“I am so sorry. That must have made you very sad. Do you want to talk about it?” She grabs another tissue and blows her nose. It’s OK to blow your nose inside? I take a tissue too. My voice is soft, like air escaping from a punctured tyre. She leans forward.

“My father owned a car repair shop in Soweto. Two drug dealers wanted a place to store their stuff. They pushed an old beat-up Pontiac into the repair yard. Baba told them it couldn’t be fixed – it needed a new engine. They smiled their oily smiles and said no problem they would get one from a scrap yard. So the car just stayed there. One day Baba opened the boot and found bags of nyope stashed away. He called the police. They set a trap. They caught one of the Skabengas and took him to jail. The next day my father was shot in the yard next to all the cars. In his own yard. They shot him like a dog!” I feel the bitterness in me burning like sulphuric acid. What will this nice church lady think?

“That’s awful. You must hate them very much. It is only natural to be angry. You probably wish you could kill them.” She looks me in the eyes.

She does understand. “Yes, I wished I could kill them but I was only eight.  I have always been small for my age. I had to look after Mama. She tried to do her best for me. She used to read to me every night from the book Baba had given me. It was called Stories of Heroes and Courage for Boys. Life  was never the same. Her light had gone out like a torch when the batteries get flat and it just gets dimmer and dimmer. She got sick. The doctors say she died of pneumonia but I know she died of a broken heart. I used to wish I had died too. Maybe I did.”

“Why do you say that?”

“They call me Lutho. It means Nothing”

‘Who calls you that?” She is speaking gently, kindly.

“Everybody. My cousins, Sipho and Lucky.”

 

How can I explain to her? It is still such a painful memory. Sipho was four years older than me and big and strong. “Don’t think you are part of our family now. You are not. You are nothing! Lutho! Do you hear me?” His big ears seemed to quiver with indignation. His twelve-year-old voice cracked. That made him even madder.

 “Lutho, You can’t sleep in our bed. You can sleep under it.”

His younger brother joined in. ”Hey look, Lutho is leaking! He’s making the pillow wet. Out! Out!” He pushed me off the bed. That was when Edwin died and Lutho took my place.

In the end I crept under my aunt’s bed. I felt safer with my mother’s sister. It was a link to my mother. All I wanted was her love. Any love she had to give was reserved for the parade of boy friends that came around.

I never told my aunt when her sons bullied me, when they stamped on my fingers, when they tore up my homework. I figured it was enough that she had to look after her sister’s child. Now that I come to think of it, I didn’t talk at all. I tried to be as little trouble as possible and to keep out of the way. That was until I ran away.

 

The lady is still looking at me, one hand cradled under her chin, listening to my silence.

“I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” I turn my head. My eyes stray to the bookcase. “What a lot of books!”

“I think you like books.” Did she notice I was looking at them? I had better not look at the cell phone. Or the chocolates.

“I sometimes go to the library. I read there and then I will take a book home. When I am finished reading it, I bring it back.” I don’t tell her that I don’t have a card and just leave with the books when nobody is watching. I do usually take them back though – I don’t have space to keep them. I can be invisible when I want.

“This is the church library. Would you like to borrow a book?”  I nod, gazing at the book case.

She gets up and takes a bunch of keys out of the drawer and walks to the bookcase. I could so easily steal the phone. She shouldn’t leave it lying around like that. But it’s not my style. I only take things that won’t be noticed.

She holds out a small book lovingly. I read the title, I am David. My eyes start prickling. David was my father’s name. David Mabaso.

“It was my son’s favourite when he was your age. You can bring it back next time you come.”

I take the book. I feel like I have entered into a contract.

“I suppose you live nearby?”

Eish!  She asks such difficult questions. I am not sure where I live. I ran away from Soweto when one of my aunt’s boyfriends got Sipho hooked on Nyope. He got my cousin to run errands for him, do deliveries. That was when I first stole. I put a loaf of bread and R10 from my aunt into my school bag and took a bus to Alexandra. I was so naïve then. I have a picture in my mind of ten-year-old Lutho, starving and shivering on the steps of this same church building. It is on the border between Alexandra and the white area.That was before they added the security fence and the fancy gate. It turned out to be the meeting place for my partners, a successful gang of burglars.

“Hey Bafana, want some food? Maybe you can help us. I have locked my keys in my house and these friends of mine have come to visit. Do you think you can get through the burglar bars and let me in?”

That first time I wasn’t scared. I thought I was helping. Afterwards it didn’t matter. Life was not worth living. If I got shot, I got shot. If I went to jail, I was as good as dead anyway. Later they paid me R50 per job. We still meet at the church at midnight when there’s a job on. But I don’t live with them.

Nor do I live in the yard with Gogo in 20th Street although I am certainly there a lot – especially for Sunday lunch when Gogo makes chicken for everybody. About eight families live there and there are lots of children. Everybody thinks I belong to somebody else, if they notice me at all. Only Stella, Gogo’s granddaughter, sometimes smiles at me when she is washing clothes at the same time as me. We don’t speak but we are comfortable together. She is different. She goes to school and works hard and does her homework and doesn’t dress up and try to attract boys. Most of the boys my age are in gangs anyway but nobody ever invites me to join. They think I am 12.

  Gogo knows me I think. I try to make sure she doesn’t know about the stealing. She is tough but kind. She lets me sleep in her kitchen when it rains .

I suppose I live on the Church Property at the end of 20th street behind the spaza shop. The land was going to be a big Nigerian church. Some of the church members even started digging the foundations but they didn’t finish. Maybe the money ran out. Somebody drove a car over the north side foundation trench, perhaps to see if they could fix it like Baba used to. They probably couldn’t because now there is only an empty, rusty shell – no wheels, no seats, no doors and not much left of the engine. However, under it is my pit, surrounded by dumped appliances, old wood pieces, broken furniture. I have lined it with an old blanket and some plastic and that is where I sleep. Nobody knows I am there. I keep my treasure there – the book that Baba gave me, Mama’s brooch  that I managed to keep from my cousins and a CD player that I stole. It has earphones and a remote. It only has one CD. It’s called “Bang Bang” and the title track starts with the sound of gunshots.

On the southern leg of the rectangular foundation trench, about 50 metres from my pit, is more junk, including an old mattress. Last week they found a teenage girl’s body there. She had been gang raped and strangled. That is the place they always take the girls. Usually the girls know what is going on and don’t fight, but this was the first time it had been a gang rape, and the girl had been murdered.

The white gogo clears her throat. I have forgotten the question. “Sorry, my mind was away. What did you ask?”

“I said, I suppose you live nearby.”

“Yes, in Alex. Just across the main road.” I was about to add 20th Street when I caught myself in time. Nobody can know where I live. They might tell the Police.

“So, why are you here?” This was the question I had been expecting. This was what had kept me awake all last night.

“I want to change. She called me a hero.”

“Do you want to tell me about it?”

“Well, you see, I love chocolate. I always buy chocolate when –“I must be careful here,  “when I get paid. I take it up into the tree behind the spaza shop where I do my homework.” I don’t tell her that I never hand my homework in. I am not registered at the school but when there are more than 40 in a class, if you keep very quiet and don’t cause trouble, you just blend in.

“Anyway, yesterday I was up in my tree, eating chocolate. I noticed the walk first. It was the walk of a man who is about to…”.I am not sure how to put this politely.

“Have sex with a girl?” she shocks me a bit. How does she know? I nod.

“Yes, he was walking the tiger walk. Then I saw the ears and I recognised Sipho, my cousin. He is not supposed to be in Alex. He was wearing a leather jacket and gold chains around his neck. He looked rich. How dare he come to pollute Alex!” Heat runs through my face and I can’t breathe properly.

“Then what?”

“I looked around and then I saw the other two. One on the right and one on the left side of the road but a bit behind him. And then, the worst thing, I saw Stella. She is the granddaughter of a lady I visit some times. She’s the one they were watching.”

The gogo holds out the opened box of chocolates. I take one gratefully. My mouth is getting dry. It feels like I have a tissue in my mouth.

“Go on.”

“I couldn’t let it happen. I knew what they were going to do to her. She’s only ten. I had to stop them. I am not brave. I am not strong. I can’t fight.”

“So what did you do?”

“I have a CD player, see, and I have a CD with the sounds of gun shots on. I distracted them.’’

 I could feel the scrape of the stony ground rubbing against me as I crawled on my belly along the foundation trench. I tried to control my breathing but I was panting and each breath was a nose full of dust. I heard the sickening noises, the scuffle, the scream that was muffled, the whispered threats.

“Ngangesaba!  Sorry. I was so scared. I knew they would kill me if they saw me. Then I used the remote so the CD started. They got a fright and ran and I got Stella and we hid under a car. We lay there shaking. She was crying but trying not to make a noise. I thought they would hear our breathing if they turned around and came back. I nearly forgot to switch off the CD. I was so scared. She said I was a hero, but I was sooo scaaared!”

There is silence. I have risked everything. My invisibility. My way of life. What now?

“Lutho, courage is not the absence of fear. It is being scared but doing the right thing anyway. It is fear gripping the hand of God. It took courage to come here today. You are a hero.”

I feel the smile starting in my heart. “My name is Edwin. Edwin Mobaso. I am a hero.”