My pale skin glittered against the ghostlike threads of sun light that penetrated through the window of my tiny room. Surrounded by four tiny walls; my chest heaved, and the heaviness of it threatened to crush me in to nothingness. Drops of perspiration secreted from my now reddened pale skin. It was boiling in there, and I felt barbequed alive. I felt desperate filled with exasperation. I wanted to scream from that prison they had called it safety. They had told me that was my Fort to keep me safe from the vultures but to me that was no fort but a prison that not only locked my body but my entire being.
The killings of people like me had climaxed in Buseresere and many other parts of the lake zone, it was said that strangers had attacked and chopped body parts of people like me before they disappeared with them. there were stories of horrors and anguish allover. Walls could not keep away the whispers of family and neighbors about each day attack. I felt angry, irk filled my whole being I was hopeless, a victim on my own soil and a stranger in my own home land, I was the deer amongst my predator kind:
“Oh! Why can the human kind be so cruel?” I asked myself
They had made it clear that there was no hope for me, that people like me never amounted to anything let alone get to live to see their old days
” Mwanike Albinos do not live long they vanish from this world just like smoke, one time they are here and the next they are nowhere to be found” Mamaa had made it clear to me
Her eyes red, her face solemn, then uncle Masele had come up with a solution that will keep me safe until the day I vanish, the one that will save me from the savages who hunted people like me and cut them like trees dividing then in pieces like a chopped meat
Before the misery fallen upon us, there was hope for me, I had found something to look forward to they had fund a match for me, a young man from Sengerema, his aunt had the same condition like mine but she had died years back from a wound on the nose that could not heal. Rumor had it she was bewitched and casted with a bad spirit. Masalu the young man I was betrothed said his aunt had died in excruciating pain; her skin as white as paper and her bones threatened to come out of her thin pale skin. The story of that poor woman was nothing but sad.
Masalu was to marry me then; he was my break of dawn after the prolonged night of my life. Mamaa had tried; I was even enrolled at a local school but it was kilometers away and the environment was harsh and I kept failing every subject, I could not see anything on that huge ugly blackboard in the class. I was the last on every subject so they named me Minza alendo hamasala in Sukuma language which meant “Minza the stupid” I gave up and quitted school. In most activities I was useless I could not fetch water for my skin burned and I wondered why!?
Mamaa had help applying all kinds of leaves hoping that my skin will stop burning, she even got some herbs for my eyes and did some rituals to the gods so that my eyes get to see, but all efforts were lost in vain, Mamaa eventually gave up, she told me the gods were silent when it comes to my redeeming; everytime she said that she would turn her head away from me. I knew that silently she thought I was cursed just like everybody else but only she could not bring herself to say it loud like others and eventually I started to feel the same way too.
Now as I was sitting inside that room perched on the cold soil at the corner ell hope had fled from me. Masalu’s visits had ceased and no one had said anything about him anymore, I sniffed my running nose and blew on my tattered sarong that I had around my skinny waist, sighing heavily I wiped away the tears with the back of my hand. A sudden heavy footsteps of people running towards my door made me jumped from where I was curled up, my heart pounding I thought that was it and the savages were finally coming for my poor pale limbs, I shuddered; panting like a bull I pressed my palms firmly against the wall, then the door busted open and my heart stopped;
Mamaa stood at the old wooden door, her face was ashen and there were four people behind her, it took me a while to make out their faces as the sunlight blinded my eyes when they opened the door, I could finally figure them out when they entered the room. Mamaa was with Mama Shubi our neighbor, Manyama an elderly who was also a chairman of the village, another man whose name I did not know but knew that he also worked at the village office and my big sister Kemilembe, my heart was so relieved and tears streamed from my reddened swollen eyes, Mamaa took me in to her arms and engulfed me in a tight embrace.
They have attacked on a nearby village, ana older man who went to his farm few kilometers from his home” Manyama spoken after we had sat down and I had a bit calmed down. My heart felt numbed and I was suddenly so tired but deep down I knew I had to remain intact and strong. “Masalu had found help in Busisi, he has not abandoned you Mwanike, there are people willing to help as we speak he is arranging transportation for you” Mamaa spoke and by heart warmed, I could no longer hold myself. So after all the ghosted skin child was so loved and people were risking everything just to save me.
Manyama also informed me that the killings were plotted by close members in the families and they were suspicious with my distant uncle Mlemambi and they were worried that savages may attack soon and if he had found out that Masalu was planning rescue he would have done something bad. Kemi held my hands tightly in hers, looked me fully in the eyes and told me that it will be okay.
Subconsciously I watched trees flashing by through the car windows, the car drove at full speed it was dead silent and the only thing I could hear was Masalu’s heart beats which were rapid and loud. The horrifying night flashed before my eyes and still fear gripped me enough that I shuddered, Masalu tightened his grip. They had attacked and for one good hour I witnessed people who loved me fighting to save my life. I could clearly see Masenga Kemi’s husband on the roof throwing stones, I could see Manyama and others pressing a huge rock barricading my old wooden door, still Kemi’s image kneeling praying played in my mind and the firm hug of Mamaa swearing that she would not let go even if the savages managed to break in. what more was a ghosted skin child needed to realize that she was loved dearly?
My heart broke realizing that it would take a long time to see those loving faces again, the savages no only deprived me from the life that I deserved but even to experience the loved that I needed. The man on the wheel finally spoke.
“Minza you are now safe my dear, we will be getting on a ferry and it is okay to get out we are with you” he spoke and I could see all the faces in the car warming up, with a teary face I managed a faint smile as I nodded my head.
I held Masalu’s hands crying “But I do not know anyone else out there” I lamented
“I will be visiting, the organisation has assured us with that” he soothed I could see that he too was holding tears and was doing his best to not break in front of me. Masalu was to remain behind, I was to lose him too and God knew when will I ever see him again. As the plane took off my mind hardly had the fear of the first time flight experience but the anguish of losing all that was familiar to me.
Eight Years later
It had not been easy, the killings had ripped me from so many things but I was not alone and at very least I was not ripped from my limbs and only the distance bordered me from those I love, others had lost it all and I had to learn that the hard way.
“Minza we have found them” Vicky shouted storming in my office and my heart stopped- so they have finally found them? my eyes flooded, they have found them after all these years they have finally found them, I was to see them again.
I walked hastily and my feet crashed the hard paved ground at the parking lot, my footsteps matching my thumping heart. He got out of the car and half ran towards me, my heart flooded as I ran to him, he took me in to a tight hug, I held him tight running my hands on his big scar on the side of his head, a clear reminder of what he had to go through as his punishment for saving me. Masalu was attacked twice and almost got killed after my rescue, the organisation had to take him too. My family had fled to the unknown and we could not find them for good six years until uncle Mlemambi had passed when we had heard from them but could not see them for another two years and finally the day had come.
When the car stopped few steps from where I stood, I could not move and all of a sudden I could see my fragile self in that tiny room, I covered my mouth with my hand when Mamaa stepped out of that car. Her face bloomed, she looked so old and I cried. “Mwanike, my poor girl, my beloved one” she cried as I ran in to her arms. Oh! Wasn’t that the moment I had waited forever?
In her warm hands I was no longer the ghosted skin child but her Mwanike and her my Mamaa, I was safe, I was finally home, she was home miles away from that tiny room with four tiny walls. I could see everyone smiling Kemi winked and Masenga thumbed up. The darkness still loomed but we were still the light to triumph.
IRENE AYLA is a creative writer and author of long and short stories of various genres who has Albinism condition. She has worked with various organisation that propel writing and reading culture such as SOMA Bookshop and Writers Space Africa in Tanzania. Her dream is to advocate for people with disability and grassroots through writing.