It was a typical sunny day in South Africa as millions of people were going about their own business. The cars were speeding, the people hurrying to their jobs, and the city was acting quite normal. No-one seemed concerned, and nothing seemed wrong.
Why, then, did I feel so afraid? Was it just paranoia? An unreasonable fear? Or was it something more? Did I sense something that was beyond everyone else? I did not know. I know now, of course. I wish I did not, but I do. I also remember the feeling that I had forgotten something important. Something almost fatal. And I felt like I wouldn't want to remember what it was.
As the day passed, I couldn't shake off how I felt. The feeling stayed with me as I went to work, as I ate, as I drove in my car. The feeling grew more intense as I left work and drove home. When I got home, I saw two children in front of my house. They just sat on a bench, staring at me as I got out of the car. Something about them struck a cord in my memory. Where had I seen them before?
Even as I got out of my car, their stares were unwavering, even pleading. But they never moved. Not once, not even as I walked past them. The sense of fear, of foreboding that I felt grew stronger the closer to them I got. Every muscle in my body pleaded for me to run away. Being the macho man I was, however, I simply ignored them and went into my house. When I was inside, I realised that I was sweating. I laughed nervously. Me, a grown man, scared of two kids? But I know now that I had had every reason to be afraid.
I went about my own business, making supper and sorting out paperwork. Every so often I would look out the window and sure enough, the two children had twisted around, still sitting on the bench facing away from my house, staring at me. They seemed patient but desperate at the same time. At this point my instincts were on an all time high telling me to run away. And now, I wish I had.
Eventually, my conscience and curiosity got the better of me. I had to see what they wanted. Stupidly ignoring every instinct in my body, I opened the door and walked over to the strange kids. When I saw them close up, a jolt of fear went up my spine. Their skin was deathly white and lifeless, but their eyes were black, more black than anything else I had ever seen. There were no whites in their eyes, no iris and no pupil. They were simply black. Those eyes seemed to be the colour of pity, of hopelessness, of extreme and barely contained pain. They wore dark clothes, as if they were mourning for someone. I briefly wondered if they weren't tokoloshes, a type of South African demon. "What do you want?" I managed to ask. I didn't like their answer. Not one bit.
"We visited you three years ago, remember?" I did remember. I had the same fearful instinct then as I had at that moment. "You said then that you couldn't help us when we asked you to. You wanted us to perhaps come back later, saying that perhaps then you would be able to help us. We perceived that three years should be long enough for you to do whatever you needed to do in order to help us." I swallowed. Three years ago I had told them to do exactly that, but I had then run away, hoping that they wouldn't be able to find me when they returned. But they had returned. They were here, now.
"Ah, how did you want me to help you again?" I asked, stalling for time to think. The last time I had seen them, they wanted me to let them into my car. Did they still want me to drive them someplace? "Please let us into your house sir, and we can talk in there," the one answered. I was too scared to let these strange kids into my house, so I said no, talking outside is fine. They both began fiddling nervously at this response, displaying the first real show of personality I had seen in them. "Please, sir. We are hungry. We need to rest. Hide us in your house. Its hot outside." They used every excuse they could think of. I nearly did let them in, as they were very persuasive. However, by an effort of willpower and fear, I was still able to say "no." They began to get angry, and one even commented on how heartless I was.
Eventually the one looked me in the eye and said, in such desperation, "Sir, can I at least hold your hand? I'm scared." How could I refuse this innocent request? I held her hand. Instantly, I felt drawn to her. "Sir, look into my eyes. Can't you see how desperate we are?" I looked into her eyes, and that, coupled with her touch, sent waves of pain through me, and fear, and hopelessness. I had never felt so helpless in my life, and this hateful mix of emotions seemed to last for an eternity. "Sir, this is what we always feel. This is why you need to help us. Why we need to go into your house." Eventually, the pain stopped. I realised that I was now lying on the floor, and got up. They were telling the truth, I knew, but not the entire truth. And after that experience, I was more afraid of them than I had ever been before.
"Sorry, I can't help you," I said to them. "But you can, sir," one objected. "Just let us into your house and we will be all right." I backed away from them, afraid. Eventually, I just got into my car and drove away as fast as possible. I moved homes as soon as I could, and sold the car. Nothing worked, however. Everywhere I go, they followed me. I can see them even now, outside my window, staring at me. They always want to come inside, and I always refuse. As always, I wonder if I am actually doing the wrong thing by not inviting them in. Perhaps someday I will invite them into my home. But not today.
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