Nandipa stepped out of the MTN Taxi rank in Noord and immediately slung her school bag through her arms on to her chest like a baby. The gloomy space was rife with activity as people from all ages and walks of life ambled out of taxis or hurried up to them. A man selling boiled eggs kept rattling the Aromat shaker at the passing pedestrians, while another held a box packed with potato chips and cold drinks dripping water down the glistening cans. Nandipa barely gave these and the other hawkers a second glance, already marching through the hustle and bustle and into the warm afternoon sunlight among the rest of Johannesburg’s jaywalkers. She hated Joburg CBD with a passion. Hated the fear coursing through her whenever someone approached from the opposite direction. The unease when she heard footsteps approach from behind. Ignoring any form of whistle, hey, or anything trying to draw her attention because that was all they needed wasn’t it? Just a simple acknowledgement and it was over. And Ghandi Square was still so far.
Petros weaved his way to the far left of the M31 heading to Joburg from Alberton. His passengers murmured below his mbaqanga music, yet he barely heard them when his own thoughts seemed far away. He gave a single glance out towards the empty yellow lane and was about to swerve into it when an image, clear as day, appeared before his eyes. Further ahead closer to City Deep, on one of the roads leading left into Marco Fresh Produce, the JMPD sat in their car watching through the rearview mirror. And just as suddenly it was gone and he was speeding towards the back of a Toyota Tazz. He released his foot from the gas pedal, swerved into the lane anyway and pumped his brakes slowly to bring his taxi to a slower speed.
“Driver you’re going to kill us.” a woman said further behind him. He swept his eyes over the mirror and caught sight of her slack jowls, and dark beady eyes glaring at him.
“I’m sorry.” he said,
“Hey wena we almost died and all we get is a sorry? Heh!?”
“I said I’m sorry what do you want? A cake?”
“It’s that disgusting attitude that makes people hate all you mageza. You have no respect for your passengers.” Petros stomped on the brakes and lurched every one forward. He half turned in his seat, removed his leather cap and stared straight into her eyes. She buckled under the red-rimmed stare, her body slacking though her eyes remained alert as Petros dived into her mind.
She was a hard working woman. Stressed from the job she hated yet couldn’t leave. Stressed by the lack of funds for her child’s school fees. Stress from the father of her children who did little to support them let alone support himself. He saw the fear radiating through every aspect of her life – the fear of helplessness through poverty.
“Hey driver, don’t get upset.” the young man on the passenger side said, breaking Petros’ concentration and vision of the woman’s existence. He shook his head clear, adjusted the cap back on his head and resumed his drive towards Ghandi Square.
The buses were late as usual, and as thankful as she was for making it to Ghandi Square without getting mugged or hit on, Nandipa couldn’t help the rising daily irritations of a commuters life. If only she were able to get a car and avoid all of the inconveniences and fears of public transport. Then again, there would be the fear of getting hi-jacked or smash-and-grabs or running out of petrol. She looked out at the various groups across the large compound, each waiting at a bus shelter for their respective destinations. A group of high-school kids in one area, dressed in greens and greys, were blaring music from a phone. A few thin-lipped adults around them, no doubt in disapproval of the lyrics the kids sang too without care of shame. Along one side of the square were restaurants all bustling with people catching an evening snack or perhaps dinner. She touched her school blazer pocket and considered getting a pie from Pie City. She wasn’t sure how long she would wait for anyway, so she rose and began walking towards the purple and white sign. She walked past one of the bus shelters, the sides covered in pamphlets and signs promising all types of wonders and miracles. Usually she walked past with a smile, wondering how gullible people could be to believe that a mere man could make a potion that brings luck or love or make relationships whole again and other nonsense. Only this time she caught sight of a coloured picture that had a brain and five large words in thick black ink:
Know it before it happens. If only. She thought. How useful would it before to know things before they happened, then perhaps should would have less fear of being mugged or missing the bus or anything if she could just know when it would happen before it would happen. She was still exploring the possibilities of foresight when a taxi suddenly swerved towards her, the driver staring right at her below a black leather cap. His red eyes bore through her, the roar of the large vehicle rising along with screams from all around her and from within the taxi. No fear overtook her. Her body remained still and her mind calm. She had every right to be afraid and yet – nothing. Just as the vehicle was about to smash into her, the world stopped.
Deafening silence took over.
The taxi-driver was gripping his wheel tight, the knuckles pronounced on his dark skin. Two men on the passenger seat had squeezed their eyes shut, hands clasped in fear. The other passengers in the vehicle had their own surprised faces, a couple of them even leaning forward to see what the fuss ahead was all about. Looking back at the taxi driver, she noticed that his eyes were not looking at her but past her. She turned around and leapt back in shock at the man behind her. He had a dark face with deep lines spreading from his eyes and on either side of ruby-red lips. Thick grey hair cascaded down into a long beard that fell down to his bare chest. Thin animal skin strips slung from his shoulder down and across to his waist, where a traditional Zulu IsiNene hung down the front and iBeshu down the rear, -aprons made from calf skin.
“Nandipa my child.” the voice was deep and soothing, the words spoken in isiZulu. She took another step back and struck the taxi. A moment later the door opened and the taxi driver stumbled out, rushed to the man and fell on his knees before him, pulling the cap off his head hastily,
“Induna!” Petros cried. Nandipa shook her head, absolutely sure this was all a dream or a coma induced hallucination from getting knocked down by a taxi. But her eyes caught sight of a pigeon in mid-flight frozen still with a piece of bread suspended out of the creature’s beak. It was no dream.
“Hey! Nandipa! Get down!” the taxi driver hissed at her, breaking her trace, and when she didn’t comply, he rose hastily to his feet and gently tugged her down until they were both on their knees before the man.
“Don’t worry, she doesn’t understand the old ways, but she will.” he lifted his hand and placed it atop the driver’s head. “The time has come Siphokazi Petros Nxumalo. We must begin preparations – for a war is coming. A war that will require all the warriors we can get.” The old man turned to Nandipa, who raised her eyes to his and froze in fear before the rheumy green eyes.
“I know your fears, my child.” He said, placing a hand atop her head. She felt all her past fears swim to the surface, her insecurities and worries and doubts all bubbling through her heart, mind and soul. “But I’m afraid all of these are nothing compared to what is to come. Siphokazi here will be your guide.” The old man’s eyes faded to black and then he too was fading. Siphokazi – Petros – rose to his feet and jumped into his taxi, assuming the same position he was in.
“You might want to get out of the way, everything is about to come back.” Understanding, she moved away from the taxi, and just in time too as the world rushed back to normal and the taxi screeched to a halt, burning rubber and leaving black skid marks across the paved floor. He rushed out the taxi towards her and started shouting obscenities to her, but his face bore a smile . He eventually handed her a card, jumped back into his taxi and sped off. Nandipa was still reeling from it all as she tucked the card into her blazer. She glanced over at the purple Pie City sign and decided she wasn’t hungry after all.
Oh gosh I don’t know if I’m going to edit this story right now? I just finished it so it may have some issues. Let me know what you think of the story, I hope you were not put off by any grammatical errors. This is how most of my unedited works look haha.
Oh prompt courtesy of Rachel Poli. Actually I wrote this and then Rachel’s prompt arrived in my mail and I was like “How does she know what I’m writing!?”
Time To Write: Show Your Character’s Biggest Fear