She could feel her heartbeat on her throat, slowly pacing down like a switched off turbine. She had regained mild conciousness that perhaps served her well since it gave her the time to see the world one last time. Or maybe not, because when she woke up, she could barely remember what had happened. All she could hear was voices of people dressed in white and green exchanging medically induced statements as they pushed the stretcher she lay on through a corridor that didn’t seem to end.
“She is awake.”
“Lydia can you hear me? Unaniskia?”
Her brain must have shut down to thousands of it’s normal functionalities. She didn’t try to speak, she didn’t even try to move. Everything to her was moving so slowly. Just like the way a new born baby sees things for the first time. Nothing makes sense in their world.
“How is her oxygen?”
“Oxygen check! But she is breathing very shallowly.”
“… as well as her pulse.”
A nurse begun cutting carefully what was left of her Rupenzel hair. Like a miracle, the senses of her brain resurrected, but not entirely to her advantage because it woke up her sensory nerves as well – pain. She could comprehend that she was in a hospital through the medical terms, bright lighting, the smell of iodoform, snapping rubber gloves, beeping machines and nasal cannula.(For the oxygen you mjango!)
Her mind began a curious quest as to why she was in hospital. The specialist surgeon walked into the theatre.
“What’s her name?”
“Where did it happen from?”
“Dandora, where she lives, at around 3am.”
Her mind took hold of that and took her on a virtual journey back to about six hours before. Dandora Phase three, that was home definitely after rubbishing every other east, west, north and south. She is the second born among three of her siblings to her parents. She was just about to join uni this September.
She had been to a friends party in Umoja Two on the previous night. You bet she could not remember the number of monster cans she emptied. Her friends gave her the respect she deserved when she hit the dance floor. Her prowess on the floor is evident through the way she dances with her long runway braids too. You should see the way mjangos ran over each other for her. Not to say how others ended up becoming enemies. They didn’t know they had almost no time left to man up and just win her lovely heart instead of grueling dares and cheap stunts. Men these days!
She was not the centre of attraction only because of her unintentional ability to make mjangos drool. She was a cheer leader and a comedian at the same time. I guess that is why she was invited to parties; to get the pysch out of people for the sake of a good time. Ask her friends and they will also tell you how ambition has never left her mind.
“Lydia, shika. Your mum is calling.” Her friend Elsie hands her the phone.
She goes to the balcony to escape the noise inside. “Hallo mum.”
“Wewe sasa?” There was a clear weight of concern in her mother’s voice.
“Poa sana mum.”
“Kwani uko wapi?”
“Bash tu. Umoja Two.”
“My dear it’s getting late ebu kuja home. Si tuliagana?”
“Okay sawa mum. Nakuja.”
“Harakisha. Lakini sisi utapata tumelala.”
She hangs up and reflects for a while on whether to go or hang around a little longer. She double-taps the screen, it was 10.09pm.
Elsie interupts, “Lydia si uingie ndani.”
“Naah, nafaa kuenda home.”
“Woiyee this early?”
“Yea. It’s only on a Tuesday. Friday bado haijafika. So dont’t worry. Friday is a plot. On me.” Smiles.
They hug and bid like girls do.
Her phone went off when she reached at the door step of their semi-urban ironsheet house at 10.47pm. She walked in, “No lights.” She headed straight to bed.
In the theatre,
“What’s her temperature?”
“The fire must have been terrible…”
“Though nobody knows how it began…”
“Sister and mother…?”
“They were found…”
“Christ! If she makes it, daktari it will be a miracle…”
“… its a 78% TBSA burn”
She was taken aback for the last time by the inception of those words.
The smell of burning wood, plastic and fabric had clouded the small house. The temperature was comparable to a furnace in hell, sponsored by the flammable energy of coal and sulphur at the same time. Their house must have descended into one of the pits there. The copious black smoke chocked her first to waking up – with strained breathing and an uncontrollable cough in effort to gasp for fresh air; if it was still their hanging somewhere. She opened her eyes but shut them almost immediately as the smoke mercilessly tortured them to tears. She could feel the heat around rising drastically. Her senses slacked as an army of confusion broke in.
She did not know that the mad-consumer had already creeped on to the sheets and blanket of her bed until she felt first a sting, then sharp pain as it crawled on her clothes, down to her skin. The skin that was once more valuable than wild game trophies. Her runway braids were not to be spared either. She jerked out of bed without thinking. Where was the room for thinking yet she was already occupied by horrific burning sensations, suffocation and the inability to see? Just where? She could hear her five year old sister cry and cough chokingly in the next room – but only for a moment.
She had a mild intuition that she could make it out, so she slightly opened her eyes to locate the exits. The effort was oftenly interuppted by the raging fire on the walls and burning house equipments along the way.
Yellow-orange flames danced on everything that caught fire.Maybe the fire didn’t know what it was doing. He was like a kid who had been locked up for so long and had now gotten a chance to escape and play outside. He didn’t realise the potential he had was a distractive one, one that was feared by all living beings. He doesn’t know that he has the power to bring the world to its knees. Maybe the fire looked at Lydia, her sister and her mother and thought they were enjoying how he was playing and showing off his talents. He didn’t know that they were inwardly begging for mercy, but they were too weak to say it to him. Maybe fire was expecting to see them cheer him, nowonder he burnt even the more in effort to make them cheer him.
Yes she got closer to the main door, but her body didn’t have any other token of oxygen and energy and everything else necessary for movement. The pain, suffocation and tearing was too much. A helpless shutting down process began there and then…
“Doctor look, she is shedding a tear…”
The surgeon turned to look, “She is even smiling…”
They didn’t know that Lydia was smiling her way into heaven. She was already seeing heaven’s mighty gates.
Her pulse began dropping, as the nurses and surgeons panicked and struggled to resuscitate her – to keep her soul from leaving her body, that was once the figure and depiction of an angel. The angel she already is up there and above, in the land of no pain, tears and sorrows.
A tribute to a beloved mjango: Lydia Karori Mugure, her small sister and mother.