In my final year of secondary school, I was home, up in bed reading at about 1am, when I heard what sounded to me like an explosion. We had filled two gas cylinders the night before and had left them on the veranda, so my first thought was “fire!”; that they’d exploded or something. I was expecting to see it, feel the heat…something. I was wrong. My bedroom was directly opposite the main door to the house, and so seconds after the ‘explosion’, I saw figures jumping into the corridor. That’s when I knew – armed robbers had shot open the door. My light was on, I had just a cloth around me, and my heart was pounding in the back of my head. I shook badly, and my throat had gone dry; swallowing was impossible. I knew they’d enter my room first. You had to go through the sitting room to get to the master bedroom and past my room to get to the other room on my wing, the kitchen and then the bathroom. I feared the worst – the worst being that they’d rape me, I’ll fight them, and they’d kill me; and that I’d either get killed before they succeeded in raping me, or they’d succeed and then kill me for giving them a hard time. Fear had me hugging my knees in the center of my bed.
Three of them entered my room. Or two and a half, I should say, because the third stayed at the door, and left shortly after. First thing the robber that entered first did was to place a finger on his lip. I understood very well, and it wasn’t as if my voice was with me at the time anyway. They had huge rough-looking guns in their hands, and the first guy, who had walked up to my bed opened his left hand and thrust it at me, indicating that I look. There were bullets in his palm; red, gold-rimmed, thumb-sized bullets. He put them in his pocket after. The other guy then rummaged my open wardrobe, surely found nothing worth picking, and shot into my clothes and left, while the other picked my phone, collected my jewelry and money; including my “susu” coins, into one of my bags. I heard another gunshot from the master bedroom and then I started to cry. The one left in my room dropped the bag and made as if to grab me by the arm but I moved back against the wall (my bed was in one corner of the room). I can’t remember what happened after that but it seemed as if he’d heard something, because he moved towards my window facing the corridor, looked out, turned at me again with the gun in hand, picked up the bag and moved into the corridor. Then I heard my sister (I don’t remember what she was saying. I don’t think I heard it clearly). One (or two) of them was leading her in the direction of the bathroom. I heard nothing from the other room on my wing (where my cousin and nephew were), and nothing more from the master bedroom where I’d heard the other gunshot. I thought they’d killed my brother-in-law. They were turning things over in the corridor, and it seemed they were arguing. They spoke pidgin English and another language I did not understand. They argued about taking the cars. It went on for a while. I counted about four of them in the corridor. One opened my door again, and that was when I thought it was over; that he was going to rape me. The shaking grew worse and my hands and legs were numb by then, but thank God another came in shortly after and said something in the language I did not understand, to him. He hesitated for a while before they both left the room again. It was another minute or two of what seemed like an argument, and then I heard them throw the keys (to the cars, we later realized) away somewhere on the corridor floor. Out in the compound they shot into the air a few times and then they were gone. I don’t remember how long it took me to find the strength to move off my bed, and guts to walk out my room, but the moment I stepped out, I walked straight to the bathroom, stood outside the door, and whispered my sister’s name. She did not respond on the first call, but after the second I heard her make a sound and opened the door. First thing she did was let out a loud sob and hug me. She had come home from surgery just about a week before and she told me the one that asked her to follow him to the bathroom had asked her to strip and she’d begged him that she’d just had surgery, and when he saw that truly her lower abdomen was covered in band aid and gauze he closed the door and locked it. Soon my cousin and nephew also came out of their room, and then my brother-in-law also stepped out. We were all alive. They hit my brother-in-law because they’d found money after he’d said there was no more (he honestly forgot about that one they found). The whole house had been turned upside down and we all sat in the sitting room in shock. It was after 2am by then. The front door was still open…and we just sat there till morning when neighbors came around, some telling how they’d tried calling the police, some that they even called peace FM. We found out too that ours was the third home they robbed that night, that a mother and daughter in the first house they’d been to had both been raped and the husband shot but not dead, that there was little luck in the second house because they were unable to break into the main house or so…and other things I do not remember, or may have cared less about then.
For weeks after that day, like clockwork, I was up at around 1am, and couldn’t sleep anymore after. I would swear I heard a gunshot. My heart would pound till morning. Now I’m not sure how common it is for one to fear dying in a particular way, or fear being killed by a particular thing, but I have come to realize that I have this fear of getting shot. Where I live now is a developing area, and we’ve had several armed robbery attempts. The house alarm goes off anytime the electric fence is tampered with. The few times we’ve heard gunshots from neighboring houses have been the worst. If I need to use the washroom I’d try to avoid walking past a window because I’m afraid they’d shoot through the window or something. Sometimes it’s as bad as fearing the bullet may go through the wall (my bed is against the wall) and kill me. One time my brother-in-law had to give a warning shot and my heart stayed fragmented and lodged all over my body pulsing erratically till morning. It’s been 8 years since that robbery, and I do not know if this fear is rational or not, but I’m only now acknowledging that there IS a fear at all, and that I’ve got to face it, rational or not.
Perhaps I should learn to shoot a gun (?)