I had a terrible dream last night. I was in deep sleep when suddenly, I heard noises outside our home. Groggily, I woke up and tried to make out the nature of the noises. When I heard screams from my neighbours’, I sat up. Was this an incidence of domestic violence? Were my neighbours at it again? Should I get involved? I was too sleepy and I wanted to get back to sleep.
But as my body was about to hit the mattress, I heard gunshots. That got my attention. My eyes opened wide and my maternal instincts kicked in. I rushed out of bed and dashed to their little corner of the home where they slept.
As I fumbled through the house, it occurred to me that I was in a different type of house, not my usual stone house in Nairobi. I also realised something else – our house was on fire. I began to scream, calling out my husband’s name and crying for help. I couldn’t see much because of all the smoke. When the man of the house did not respond to my appeals for help, I began to panic.
My screams woke up my children and they woke up slowly, rubbing the sleep from their eyes and without the foggiest idea of what was going on. “Mum, what is it?” My firstborn son, aged eight, asked.
I couldn’t control the panic in my voice. “Get out, get out!” I screamed. I reached out for my daughter and picked her up. She was only four years old and could, therefore, not move as fast.
As we ran out of the house, I saw from the corner of my eye that my son’s shirt had somehow caught fire. My heart almost stopped. I held him close, hoping my body would help put out the fire as we ran out.
The gunshots got louder and increased in number. They were too many! This was not accidental fire! We were under attack! And all my neighbours were running, screaming, panicked!
My next-door neighbour came out shouting, “Fire! Fire!” as she pointed at me. I couldn’t stop to look. I came to learn later that she was warning me that I was on fire. But I kept running, heading for the cluster of bushes and trenches that were on the northern side of the village. Everybody else seemed to be running in that direction. There was chaos and confusion. What was going on?
Ahead of me was one of my other neighbour. Her son loved to play with mine and we were good friends. Her son stopped to help her, crying hysterically, but a gun ripped through him and he fell on top of her. I kept running. Where was my husband and the father of my children?
I was fast running out breath. Each intake of air was a painful gasp and I was fast getting tired carrying my two children (though I was dragging my son more than carrying him).