No one knows why they came, only that we woke to a sound we’d never heard before. In the months that followed we became as familiar with that noise as we had been with the class bell that had rung minutes before the Utter Unknown reached us. The moment this all began.
Taniele had been pulled out of class. That was always our barometer for a fine pile of something steaming hot about to hit the fan. His stepfather, shiny keys in hand walked in and yanked him up, up from his chair. Two scrapes later they were out the door. Out of the corner of my eye, Mr Mckinley and Mma Nthebolan arguing outside the classroom. Something wet and slimey hit the back of my neck. Stupid boy and his spit balls. I’d been waiting for him to ask me out just so I could finally say no.
‘Quit it Thabang or eat sand after class.’
The girls giggled, Mary Anne got up and sat on the edge of his always grimy desk.
‘Poor Thabang why don’t you cast your eyes on me instead?’ she said batting her eyelids.
Suddenly if not unexpectedly for those who had been waiting for it, a ringing bell.
Then the roof fell in. Just like that.
|Since I don't know where I took this photo, it'll fit here|
Jesus. Its hours maybe two later, I think, I can see the plastic clock Mma N pokes, poked, used to, with her ruler to straighten each morning. But even I could tell, this time we were the ones all lopsided and wrong way round. Everything had caved upon itself then turned to hold those living afloat. You know, the way a dead body might rise to the water’s surface, except there was no water, just us floating. Only the ones who didn’t make it, their limbs strewn helter skelter seemed bound somehow in the way we were not, to whatever now passed for the floor. I’ll never forget how the air tasted at that moment, thick with rubble dust and heavy with something else. Something not quite from here.
Out of two million one hundred and four people, there are 68,371 of us left, the whole goddamn city gone. They’d never stood a chance out in the country. Farmers out in the open, women fetching water with babies on their backs, children playing.
Yet 311 babies had been born since we’d arrived here a little over a year ago. Some women who had survived were already pregnant before the… before, but there were those who had conceived during the weeks and months that followed when the cavalry finally came and it wasn’t who we were expecting.
There had been confusion after the first child had been born but now there’s a classification system in every camp, half of them stateless babies who we could not count as our own because their fathers were part of The Sent.
These Hangers, as we called them, had to undergo DNA testing as soon as they passed their Apgar to determine whether they were free from the Unknown or whether their mothers had contaminated them at birth. All 311 scored a 10 which was impossible, except it wasn’t, not any more. The eldest among them would easily pass for a sixteen year old boy now, no one knew what the fuck was going on. And that, was only the first of our goddamn problems.