He was running, running, knowing that if he stopped he would fall down and die. He wanted to turn back and look at the thing that was chasing him, that unknown fearsome thing. He wanted to look at its face, observe it up close and see what it was made of. But he was too scared. And he had to run. He had never felt this scared in his life, he was sure of it. He couldn't remember how long he had been running away from this terrifying thing, and his legs felt like they were going to fall apart any moment. He could see a light in the distance, and decided to run towards it, hoping to find other people who could tell him what he was running from. Gathering all the energy he had left in him, he picked up his speed, and came closer and closer to the light. Suddenly a burst of light fell on his face, and a loud noise filled the air.
That must be his phone ringing. Without opening his eyes he groped under his pillow and found his cell phone.
It was U Siama, he could tell from the way his voice fell.
Charlie opened his eyes. Ouch! That was really bright, his eyes hurt. He closed them again immediately.
“You there, Charlie?”
“Are you sleeping? Did I wake you up?”
“No you didn’t wake me up; I was just about to get up anyway.”
“What are you doing today? Are you going over to Zotea’s?”
“I don’t think so, we were there until five this morning. Pi Hlimi was sleeping quietly and there was nothing more we could do so we came home.”
That was such a scare last night. Everyone was sure Pi Hlimi would not make it, but somehow she held on. You should have seen the look on her family’s face. Charlie had never seen anyone die, and had never been so near to someone so sick, and he never had anyone close to him die. Death was a concept he did not fully understand. But last night was different. He saw the despair, the anguish, the helplessness that the death of a loved one brings. Or near death. What if anything was to happen to his family…
“... and anyway my father was going for his checkup,” U Siama was saying.
“So, are you coming over to the shop? I have something great to show you.”
“I don’t know. I’ll call you and let you know.”
“Okay. See you then.”
It was noon, and the house was very quiet. Christopher must still be sleeping, his parents must have gone off to work, and only God knows what U Mazuala was up to, probably working on one of his get-rich-quick schemes. If Cecilia was around she would be filling the house with her music - Pussycat Dolls and Rihanna and Beyoncé - and singing and dancing along. He missed her presence, her girly presence, her laughter, her silly conversations, her watching sappy Korean movies with her friends on his computer and crying their eyes out.
Charlie reluctantly got up - it was too bright to go back to sleep. It was going to be a hot April day. He decided to go over to Zotea’s and keep Cecilia company; she was after all his baby sister and he couldn’t leave her all alone in a house full of sadness and suffering (he still couldn’t get himself to think of it as “her” house, it was still Zotea’s house). And maybe afterwards he would go and see U Siama at his shop and find out what the excitement was all about.