He walks slowly through the doors of the house they had lovingly made a home in, dreamed in, brought babies home to, held family gatherings in, spent many Christmas seasons in, and made memories in. He looks around and knows that with every sunrise, and each sunset, someone like him, a father and husband, is facing his greatest fear. He doesn’t know whose home will be targeted and invaded by strangers, and bring with them a kind of evil and darkness the world can’t even begin to imagine. For a moment, he can’t breathe. What if it’s him? What if it’s their home tonight? What if it’s his wife and children? What if?
He does everything right. He does all he can to avoid coming face to face with the devil himself. Just as the sun is about to set, lockdown begins. All gates are locked up, in and around his home. Each window is checked, and each burglar bar scrutinized. Every single door closed and locked, curtains are drawn, guard dogs are placed in patrol areas, alarm systems are activated, and indoor security gates are fortified.
Dinner is made early, but by then, nobody really has an appetite anymore. They can hardly catch a breath as they consider the night that is upon them. A long, dark night where every breath is a gasp, almost as though he is breathing through a straw. Each sound, each shadow, and each thump takes a farmer’s breath away. He tries not to show his fear. He does his best to calm his family who are looking at him with a debilitating fear, and horror in their eyes. He forces a smile and whispers, “it’s nothing.” He tells them it’s the wind, or a sudden gust. He tells them it could be the dogs playing outside. He says that perhaps, it’s a wild animal, or a bird looking for food. But, he isn’t sure, so he takes in another breath and prays with his eyes open. He doesn’t want his family to see, or to know how hard it is to breathe, and how desperately he is praying.
His life and that of his family’s is demoralizing. It is unnatural. It is sickening. It is smothering.
He knows that somewhere, someone else did everything right, just as he did. Someone else’s turn has come, and a father, husband or son is facing his greatest fear. He knows that the scenes that plays out in his mind night after night, can hardly compare to what a family is facing at that very moment. He bows his head when he thinks of what they will endure, before they are mercifully killed, all before sunrise. He knows that if it isn’t their turn tonight, it will be someone else’s.
He knows that there is a little boy running down the passage trying to hide from the monster chasing him. He knows that there might be a little girl screaming for her daddy to save her from a gang ready to commit unspeakable acts on her. He knows that her mother is dying slowly while listening to the screams of her children, desperately negotiating for their lives, offering hers up instead. She is quiet as they perform torturous rituals on her. She doesn’t fight back, frantic to save her children. She hears their cries. She sees the look of horror on her husband’s face. Her eyes try to let him know that she’s okay. She will survive, and so will they all. But she knows, not one of them will live to see another sunrise.
He knows that when they’ve had their fill, when their lust for blood, fear and screams are satisfied, usually just before the sun is about to come up, these barbarians will slowly kill her children, as she watches the life drain from them. He knows that before they gasp for that final breath, she is already dead inside. Killing her will be mercy. Killing him will be an act of kindness.
And, when the sun peers through the heavily guarded windows, he sighs. He can breathe again for the first time in hours. He says a silent prayer, and thanks God that it wasn’t their turn. By the time he reaches his fields, he is overwhelmed by guilt that it was someone else’s turn. He is overwhelmed by the fact that it wasn’t theirs, but someone else’s. Again, he struggles to take in a single breath.
He just can’t understand how many more farmers must be tortured and brutally slaughtered before someone says enough. He tries to understand how many white South Africans must still be discovered on their bedroom floor, in a pool of blood, before someone steps up. He plays out scenes of children drowned in boiling water, raped, sodomized, shot or stabbed, and wonders how their lives mean so little to the world.
He searches the news, and when he finds the names of those whose turn came, he hates himself. He hates his country. He hates his lands.