Writer’s Note: The following narration is a work of fiction inspired by true life events.
I was hidden in the crowd the day it happened – the day he was beaten and lynched. It was on that day I had my conviction, a conviction that brought in anger and hatred towards human beings, towards my countrymen, and their inhumanity. I remember the grief-stricken figure of the boy as he was led by an angry mob through the streets, the look of shame playing itself on his face every time I glimpsed it.
Or was that fear? It was hard to tell. His face was monstrous.
The crowd booed loudly at him. There was such malevolence in the air, sticks and stones too. Not everyone knew what this young man had done, but they didn’t care. All that mattered was that he’d been caught. Whatever the crime was, he should be punished for it.
I remember what I felt that day. I was disgusted by the hostility, inflamed by their brutality, bewildered by this heated oppression of all against one. My bewilderment pushed my interest to know what he had done. So I joined the throng of people milling around him, not to hurl curses or throw objects at him, but to get a grasp of why he was the object of such hate and violence on what started out as a beautiful morning.
When the crowd got to the bus-stop, they stopped moving. Right there, as vehicles moved this way and that while their occupants peered out at us with avid interest, the aggressors immediately surrounding the boy became frenzied in their assault on the boy. I watched with a feeling of wretchedness as he staggered about under the weight of their wrath, feebly warding off the flying fists and cowering in defense. The blows lashed out at him from different directions, clenched fists and open palms striking his head, cheeks, neck, back, everywhere. His voice, the one he cried out repeatedly with, was hoarse. And he looked like he was running between alternate realities, between the reality of this doom and one where he had followed his heart and partaken of whatever had led him to this brutal condemnation.
The crowd had increased by now, and had grown wilder. Many of us still had no idea what the boy’s crime was. Yet, many were enjoying themselves too much to care. Some had brought out their phones and were taking photos, recording videos, saving for posterity depictions of a young man who was getting mauled by his fellow humans.
It seemed stupid to try to stop them, but I was fearless at this point. I couldn’t do anything on my own, so I sped to a police checkpoint that I knew was close by. I wailed my urgency at the uniforms I met there, and eventually, succeeded in getting two of them to follow me.
As soon as we got back to the junction, the policemen lifted their guns and let off warning shots into the air. The crowd scattered, parting like a tide of angry ocean waves to afford me a view of the still figure splayed on the ground. My heart broke as I darted forward to his side. He stirred as I dropped to the ground beside him, and a silent prayer of thanks that he was still alive escaped my lips. He turned his face weakly to me. It was distorted now, a grotesquerie of bruises and blood.
Around me, the crowd began to surge forward again. Their anger was relentless. They were like a predator whose prey was getting taken away. Someone began to chant, “Shoot him!” This immediately caught on. Everyone joined in unison, chanting and thrusting clenched fists into the air, while threatening to engulf the boy and I in their tide. The policemen obeyed and released fresh shots, not at the young man, but again into the sky. Their shots scattered about in the atmosphere, staccato sounds intended to frighten and subdue. The crowd was however unintimidated, their baying for blood amplified. Suddenly overtaken with a sense of urgency, the policemen hurried to my side and attempted to pick the boy up, to save him from the horde of angry people swirling around us. But the mob wouldn’t hear of it. They closed ranks against us. When the uniforms saw how mad the opposition had become, they dumped the boy to the ground, broke through the crowd and fled, leaving the young man once again at the mercy of these people. I let out a cry of aggrieved frustration as they surged forward and reclaimed their prey, shoving me aside in the stampede.
“He should be hanged!” someone screamed.
“Burn him alive!” another shrieked.
As if this had already been orchestrated by some macabre powers-that-be, a jerrycan of petrol materialized into the crowd. Some men had descended on a nearby vehicle, attempting to dismember it of its tyres.
I stared in mounting horror. When had human beings fled the earth and left demons behind? I wondered. And what, in God’s name, had he done to deserve this thirst for his blood to flow?
I got my answer just then, from two men standing apart from the mob, and close to me. They were conversing, and I caught snippets that let me know they were talking about the boy.
”But I cannot understand why this boy would do something like that,” one of the men said with a small shake of his head. Whether it was pity or disgust that was etched on his face, I could not tell. I could not see his face clearly.
“I can,” said the other man. “People like him are cursed, and they should be treated as such.” He spat the words like they had a sour taste.
“Sir, sorry sirs…” I turned to them with an earnest expression. “Sir, please, what did this boy do?”
They turned twin expressions of disbelief to me, clearly aghast that anyone could not have known the obvious.
“He was caught doing the abominable,” the second man said, snapping his fingers and shrugging his shoulders in the universal gesture of revulsion. “The person he was seen doing it with was lucky enough to run away before he too was caught.”
“What abominable thing did he do? What did he steal?”
“Steal ke?! He was caught doing nonsense with another man, the fag!” He hissed and snapped his fingers again. “Abomination!”
Shock rocked through me like the tidal waves caused by a nuclear attack. He didn’t steal. He hadn’t killed. He had just been with another man. And this was the consequence for it?! I could not believe the nightmare I’d become a part of. I stared, my horror nearly complete, as the boy yelped under the burning splash of the petrol getting poured on him. He renewed his begging for mercy, flailing with his hands, desperately trying to reach the humanity of his assailants. But none of them was listening.
“He deserves this,” one of those men hissed quietly beside me.
I turned an outraged look to him. He was an elderly man, looked to be in his fifties. How could he condone life taken away from someone who looked young enough to be his son? He deserves this? How could he say that? I wondered if he would think differently if society didn’t think being gay was such an abomination. I wondered if he would regard the injustice going on any differently if tradition didn’t kick so fiercely against homosexuality.
I stared at the man and I saw it on his face – his prejudice and savagery. His face represented all these people, people like him, people who could look beyond the humanness of this boy and go on to claim his life so violently.
I looked miserably at the beleaguered young man, and I wondered what his name was. I tried to imagine what kind of life he had led up to this point. I wondered if someone had loved him, if he had loved someone. I wondered if at that point he regretted being who he was, or if he’d do it all again, be with a man again if given a chance to live. I thought about what the crowd was seeing as they howled and cried for his blood – an abomination, a curse, one ridden with a disease that was curable only by fire.
“Go to hell,” I heard someone hiss.
And a match was struck. The flame sprang to life and was thrown at the boy. I recoiled when the fire hit him and greedily began to feast on him. He shrieked and whirled madly about, attempting futilely to beat off the flames. He was burning and the people were cheering. The joy of his executioners thrived in his anguish.
A heavy pall of despair descended on me. My eyes welled up and riverlets of tears streamed down my face, tracing tracks of sorrow across my face. I wept. Right there and then, I wept. I wept for this dying man and a life cut so brutally short. I wept for a future that now would never be, and the dreams and hopes that were going up in flames. I wept for these people, and the loss of humanity. I wept for a creation that had lost everything godly in them.
I wept so hard because it was hurting so bad. And when I turned away from the charred mess the young man was quickly becoming, I wept still.
I wept on that day when someone’s brother was killed, someone’s friend, someone’s son.
Written by Mister Pee