Mwende woke up in the middle of the night. She had no idea why, but whatever it was pissed her off, it was the first time in nearly 6 weeks that she was finally able to fall asleep. The wind was blowing hard, flicking her blinds violently, she could hear screaming outside.
She rolled her eyes; it was Saturday night when all the drunken brawls spilled in to the neighbourhood. Then a huge thud was heard. Mwende listened in again, a bit keener trying to figure out where the sound was emanating from. The sound stopped, she slithered back beneath her duvet and closed her eyes.
“Please let me sleep tonight. Shhhhh! Pleease” she thought in her mind as her eyes slowly closed. With a smile she turned and felt the warmth snug her up for some more sleep. As she adjusted herself, she felt her hand brush against something furry. It wasn’t Bobo her teddy bear. Its fur was smoother. She reached again and felt it this time screaming as she flung the duvet off to reveal her guest; it was a rat.
She screamed hysterically looking around the room for something to kill it. The rat scurried off the bed toward the nearest exit. Mwende quickly jumped over the bed to the window and flung the curtains open; the rat ran in the opposite direction. She kept screaming, lights in neighbouring apartments began to light up. People opening their windows to see where the noise was coming from.
Mwende hopped over the bed again in the hopes that she could chase the rat outside. She banged across the floor with one of her shoes. She couldn’t see it. She lifted her head to the mattress level of her bed and noticed the rat scurry out the window. As she sighed in relief closing her window, she heard more screaming from a neighbour. It was a manly scream, he heaved heavily in between screams yelling, “Mwiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiziiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!”
The air rent with whistles, gates opening, security guards and apartment caretakers emerging with torches and crude weapons in their hands all making a beeline to the apartment block gate where the sound came from.
About two gates down from Mwende’s apartment, two men were scuffling over a TV. The TV fell not before ,John the caretaker, grabbed the assailant and bashed him in the head with what looked like a steel rod. The man screamed violently and started to run away. It was too late a crowd had surrounded him with crude weapons.
Men in pyjamas holding hockey sticks, baseball bats, steel pipes, tree branches surrounded the man. A war cry was heard in the distance, some looked back, others eyes fixed on the panicking assailant who was trying to push his way out of the circle. As the war cry drew closer, men steadily moved and then finally a rock landed straight on the assailants head and he fell to the ground.
The men descended on him with their weapons, other pummeling him wherever they found space. The assailant screamed begging for his life. No one said a word, they just beat him. When the screaming died into whispers, a woman emerged with a jerican and steadily poured its contents on the frail man on the ground, who now mumbled incoherently. Then with a strike of a match a roar of flames followed. Everyone moved out of the way as the man stood and walked around in agonizing pain pleading for people to extinguish the fire.
No one said a word, they just watched, the men who had beaten him walked toward their gates where women stood and watched from afar- others from their windows. The assailant fell to the ground, silent, and he burned all night into the morning.
The morning came and people steadily drove out of their apartments and went off to work, the air filled with burnt flesh. Mwende walked past the smouldering corpse unmoved like her neighbours. Everyone went about their day. No one called the police. There was no need to; they had found justice for their neighbour’s theft. They had all found an outlet for their frustrations. The rat had it better than the thief.