WHAT’S ON THE OTHER SIDE?

He could hear them converse in low tones. At first, he thought they were at least three but as he approached them, he could hear more distinct voices arguing and asserting what they were talking about. He wanted to turn back and run but his weak legs carried him forward. He tiptoed in a bid not to make any noise that would warrant their attention. He moved in the darkness approaching the railway crossing. This was his final bridge as he crossed over to safety. 

At this very crossing he had heard cries of grown men as they wrestle at first to protect their belongings then a few minutes trying to fight for their lives. He could hear the voices as they drowned over blood and pain. They were growing stronger by the minute. Each step he took, came with a different plea of mercy.

“Help me,” one begged.

“Help me please,” another one requested as he choked over in his own blood. 

“Why are you doing this?” this seemed genuine.

“Why me?” this one shook him to the present. 

He tried squinting his eyes to adjust to the darkness but he couldn’t see beyond his nose. The darkness was thick and as black as his skin. He soldiered on.

As his feet touched the railway metal, he felt a cold hand touching him, as something colder came in contact with his back. He knew exactly what it was and as such kept his cool. His voice disappeared along with his courage. In their place was fear and tears that threatened to drop any minute. 

In front of him stood three guys in their mid-twenties dressed in pair of jean trousers and t-shirts that had imprints of Vybz Kartel before and after he bleached. They shone a torch on his face. His eyes twitched trying to adjust to new light. He met them, the ruthless five.

One of them was busy emptying his pockets as they remained silent. No one spoke for a minute before Karim got his voice back. 

“I don’t have much, please don’t harm me.”

He was doing the opposite of what the victims did. He had learnt from them that caring more of your belongings will leave you lifeless and so he wanted to live. 

The short one busy in his pockets, took out everything even from his jacket. Karim remained still not to attract the piercing as he felt the coldness parting his skin on the back. He wanted to live; his mind went on an overdrive. 

“I can take you to my home if you want more. I am from a funeral.”

Silence.

They went for his jacket, then his t-shirt and his shoes after which his trouser came off. He did not complain. He wanted to live.

“Do you know Mercy, the famous street dancer.”

“Yes, I do, what about her?”

“Well, she sends her regards.”

With that Karim was dropped to the ground. Blows and kicks landed from every side. He could feel his ribs crack as his breathing became troubled. His heartbeats increased. His brain was fighting to find the best way out of this. All he did was lay on his stomach and covered his head with his hands. The kicks concentrated on his ribcage. 

A few meters after the railway crossing on the sixth floor of the house number 23F overlooking the crossing was his mother in the sitting room. She had been calling him for the past one hour warning him of coming home late but he was already late. She grew patient and let him handle it as a big man. She concentrated on TV as she tried keeping her eyes occupied.

When the cries landed on her ears, she felt a sharp pain cutting across her stomach. The voice was so familiar, so familiar that had her heart racing. She knew at once something bad was imminent. 

She called.

It went through but remained unanswered.

She was pacing around the house, visiting each room in trying to calm down but her mind didn’t allow her. She called again. This time it was off. And so, she knew something was off. She went directly to her neighbor’s. 

“Hodi, hodi, hodi, hodi.” The normal three times didn’t suffice. She resorted to knocking which turned into a soft banging before the door flung open. Before her stood a heavy-set man in his vest and shorts. His eyes were drowsy from being woken up.

“Ni nini wewe kwa milango za watu usiku hivi?”

“My son. Mtoto wangu.”

“What’s wrong with him? Isn’t he supposed to be at that funeral thing with Mercy?”

“No, he left early to come home. I thought Mercy is home too.”

“No.”

“I have heard cries by the crossing and I think that’s him. He wants my help.”

“Really, I didn’t hear anything. What makes you be so sure its him?”

“A mother knows.”

“Well then let’s go but first carry anything to defend yourself with. She went back to her house and came with machete. Her neighbor shook his head as they hurried off down the stairs.

Stuck like a pig, Karim bled. His broken ribs had injured his lungs and so breathes were shorter. His voice was indistinct, he made unintelligent noises with a few short words.

“Why would M…m… want me de…”

He hadn’t realized he was alone and so he went on asking. A few seconds later the heart palpitations increased as his blood loss was extreme. His brain was fighting for the little blood he had as his heart tried to pump it.

In the fogginess of the moment, he saw him with his mother. This was his first time seeing them after seeing him on pictures. He was handsome with an athlete body. He had a weird moustache that was well kept. Karim smiled as he tried calling him out.

“Father, fa…ther”

He closed his eyes. It was over.

His mother and the neighbor crossed the bridge to find him growing cold with pools of blood all over the place. Karim had travelled by train.

His mother gave him one final look closely before collapsing. It was done.

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