Notsie. Not a day goes by without my mother cursing this town and the man who rules it. Not a day goes by without her cursing our ancestors for settling here. She thinks I don’t notice the tears, the pain in her eyes, the suffering of our tribesmen. “You’re a little girl,” she’d say to me, “You don’t know a thing.”
But I do. I’m a grown little girl. I see the bleeding scars on my father’s feet because he tread on mud and straw mixed with broken glass to make bricks. You shall build this town with your blood, the man who rules this place had said. And that we did. I can’t count all the scars on my elder brother’s back from being whipped, or the number of times the evil guards have beaten my father because he’d always protect my older sister and I from being ‘used’ by the guards. She’s just twelve, he’d shout at them, as they beat him with the blunt ends of their spears.
Notsie. We had to escape. And we did.
It all started with some rain. A small part of the wall that circled the whole town and prevented us from escaping crumbled. The king ordered that new bricks be laid. But we had seen the weakness of the wall: Water. So we came up with a plan; A brilliant one.
Every time we the girls and women washed, we did so near the part of the wall farthest from the guards. And when we were done washing, we’d pour the water on the wall. Every single time. It became our tradition, our source of hope and strength, the match that lit the light at the end of the tunnel. Then the wall crumbled.
My mother woke me up that day. It was dawn. “Sesi … Sesi,” she called me. I looked at her face. In her eyes was a light I hadn’t seen in a long time. My mother was happy. “Let’s go,” she said, “It’s time.”
Even for a little girl, I understood. The rules were down and unwritten. But we knew them: Take all valuable things, the rest got left behind. No torches. Women should carry as much food as possible. Children should remain silent.
But the one rule I thought to be most funny, was the most important: Everyone should escape, walking backwards.
As we left my hut, a place I very much hated, I saw my people. The faces of the adults were grim, but there was that glint of hope in their eyes. The other children were confused, but I was not. I knew. We all had our necks craned at odd angles as we tried to see behind our backs. The logic behind the backwards walk was simple. Our footprints were to lead to, and not from, our place of escape. This was to confuse the guards-To bid us time.
We passed by the crumbled section of the wall, not once stopping to admire our handiwork. We were leaving. In the absence of the torches, our warmth and comfort lay in the fact that we were all together. The night was silent as the last of us slipped past the boundaries of Notsie; Past the tears, screams and anguish. Past the stench of evil and death; of malice and wickedness. Past our old lives, and on to new beginnings.
Notsie. We have left.