2016 had its quirks and fun moments, the very things that summed up a very busy year. Zimbabwe was trying to mitigate the economic crisis and the lack of jobs for the newly graduated university students, which were constantly making the masses stressful. Many graduates were fleeing abroad to acquire jobs in South Africa. Some were even going to the plains of Dubai, which was the trend of the day amongst the youth. However, not all were in this misfortunate circumstance; the lucky few either remained lucky or changed the formula once things had gone sour. Having connections, degrees and being assertive in front of the right people was the speculated right mindset of any serious Zimbabwean, especially those living in the capital of Harare. Materialism and the quest for wealth had engulfed the population, which was not entirely wrong, to a certain extent, but the superficial levels were ripe and vanity amongst the youth was running rampant in the capital. The environment used to be less tense back in the day, but things have changed since then. However, as much as this known truth of how things were now like in Zimbabwe was prevalent, such taxing thoughts were usually far away from form 4 students or at least from the majority. It was mid June, the time when winter was at its worst in the country and also the time when some form 4s wrote their June national exams. Zimsec, the country's examination board, which usually had a disturbingly low national pass rate of 20% to 30%, scared most high school students, though the 2015 stream defied those stats with a 50% plus pass rate. It was the bane of their time, the horror that both sexes dreaded. Those who usually passed with flying colours were from mission schools, the ones considered to be getting a really good education. All those who dreaded Zimsec had the mother Theresa of all examination boards, Cambridge, who was the go to girl. Her buxom bosom of hope was a comfort to any who sought after it. It even came with the benefits of groping with no deterrent for such an action. Cambridge exams were mostly taken by students in private schools and others from different schools who were willing to fork out an extra buck for examination fees. This was the state of Zimbabwe, and it was going to be like this for a long time coming.
The suburban neighbourhood of Mt.Pleasant heights was part of the group of neighbourhoods, known as the north side, a title commonly used by many snobby teenagers in Harare. It was June the 16th; the weather had fall winds and a tang of breeziness, one that the compact neighbourhood knew all too well. The high altitude of the raised plains of Mt.Pleasant Heights always made its own peculiar atmosphere, one that didn't attract the exotic kind of people. Its serenity bothered Tanaka Manyika, who had been used to a much more bustling tumultuous environment before his family had decided to move to this suburb. Even though they had settled and established themselves there for 3 years, Tanaka's roots were still engraved into his inner being. The suburbs, known for their little outside activity and at times, intermittent ghost town vibes, were not Tanaka's cup of tea. This was even worse for him due to the fact that his house was beyond the boom gate, an extension of the neighbourhood, which still had vacant stands. The vacant stands had already been purchased but had yet to have a house on top of them. This was usually due to insufficient funds to initiate the next stage of building the house or the buyer was still too comfortable with his or her renting lifestyle to think about the next stage. The vacant stands made the spacing of already existing homes far too lengthy. Houses would get to the extent of being spaced at a distance of 100m to 200m. The growing long tufted grass impeded visibility, giving that particular side of the neighbourhood an ominous aura. It became isolated and encroached with thick bushes to the point that many people dreaded walking at night. Serpents, muggers, and random things in the dark could make their way to the people and this made travelling at night dangerous. Little did Tanaka know that there was a danger coming from a foreign land to his doorstep.
The black BMW Z4 parked outside the boundary of the yet to be finished durawall of the Manyika house had not been noticed by the inhabitants of the home. Two men, Russian and British, both wearing black clothing were glancing back and forth at the house, checking if anyone had taken notice of the parked car. To their fortune, everyone inside was oblivious of their presence.
"Nicholai are you sure that taking one of them alive will get him to release Austin?" said Bob, the British man who looked like a by product of New Castle at its worst. He was mounting the silencer on his handgun, sitting on the passenger seat. He was well built and had a very hoarse voice. The heavy phlegm due to smoking quality cigars at Ibiza had left adverse effects on his voice. He reiterated his question, waiting for Nicholai to respond. Nicholai eventually replied, but the tone he used was cold and disturbing.
"Bob I told you before that we are going to butcher the family and leave his little brother alive. Don't make me repeat shit twice; I am a man of action, not one to waste words."
"I get that Nicholai, but Collin has proven to be a heartless cunt before. He didn't even blink when his girlfriend was killed during that mission in Bangkok. He has even more disturbing exploits in the ISIS group flaying department. Are you sure that his brother being used as a bargaining chip will work?"
"Over thinking is a sign of old age, thinking enough is how elite men should conduct themselves," he said mounting the silencer onto his carbine, "Unless you're married to pussy, its death is like the flow of menstruation, it comes and goes like the four seasons." Bob was never ever prepared for Nicholai's misogynist remarks. His words always carried with them the venom of a cobra, always fatal and offensive to the core.
"Trust me on this one Bob; I know that this will work because Austin told me. The route to Collin's heart is through his brother." he said taking another glance at the house. Bob obliged and didn't pester him anymore. Austin's word was enough to make a doubting Bob believe. The two of them polished their weapons and prepared for their fatalistic entry. In a country where gun stores were not even readily available and gun control was so strong that everyday civilians only knew the weapons they saw on television, the Manyika family's fate was sealed.
"Wow he won!"
"Keep it down son, I am trying to read!" was what Thomas Manyika, Tanaka's father said to his son who was watching a popular survival zombie TV series. Its time slot was 21:00-22:00 and was the only show he was permitted to watch during a school day. The episode had reached its climax and had the young teen at the brim of euphoria. This was Tanaka Manyika, a heavy consumer of television, fizzy drinks, and food. He was medium in height, slender, dark in complexion and the youngest in the family. He was wearing a baggy jacket with white fur at the edges of the shoulder to the point of the torso. He also had a white silky T-shirt, denim trousers, and black and white converse shoes. His goggle like eyes, kinky short hair, and small lips synced well with his oval shaped head. In a sense, he was almost handsome but his nose stood out too much like a sore thumb. He was sitting on the couch, which was adjacent to the window behind him and strategically placed where he could directly view the TV. Dinner had been served at around 20:00, a nice meal that was a symbol of Mrs. Margaret Manyika's exceptional cooking. The shouting done by Thomas due to his son's fanatical rant was one of his rare out of character traits. Thomas usually never bothered with the youth. Little did Tanaka know that his father's grumpiness lately was due to severe constipation.
The show ended and his father then said, "The show is over, go to your room and study." This was said in shona, the local language of the country. Shona usually had more emphasis and impact when said than the English language. Tanaka left his seat and obeyed his father without showing any signs of resistance. The sitting room, which was a rectangular prism, was the largest ground floor room. It had the sofas, television set, fine china, wooden sledges on both sides to hold the books, radio, picture frames, and a nice mural of the father and mother embracing each other. Tanaka left the sitting room and headed for his room, which was upstairs. He went via the corridor, which had only one door to the right from his view: the entrance to the house, and three passages to the left. One was the stair case, another being a corridor, which was spacious that led to the ground floor rooms and inner lounge, and the last passage leading to the pantry. The room at the far end, which had no door, was the kitchen. Tanaka trotted via the corridor and bumped into his older sister, Nyasha. She was about the same height as him, short hair, big eyes, visible eyeliner, studs on her ears, small nose and small mouth. She was wearing a night gown. She was also dark in complexion like her brother but was more appealing to the eyes than her next of kin was.
"About to study little bro?" she said, patronising the youth who already knew it was a rhetorical question.
"Well I gotta get those 5 O’levels; shit will be real if I don't get good grades."
"By the way," she said, closing in on his ear to whisper, "how's my future sister in law?"
"Ah...um...ahem." he said, embarrassed by the fact that his sister asked about the girl who he was trying to get at school.
"You epileptic or what, speak boy, tell me the juicy parts."
Tanaka decided to make a run for it, heading upstairs to avoid his confession of shame. Nyasha somehow mustered the energy to chase him and yanked him. She even twisted his hand and began to repeatedly say, "Tell me or I won't stop."
"Okay, let go of me, you're hurting me sis," he said, being susceptible to her burst of power and wanting to mitigate the pain.
"Okay um listening."
"The truth is," hesitating at first, "she rejected me."
In that moment, humiliation poured down on Tanaka like a heavy storm. His sister laughed at him to the point of halting for a bit after a burp and then continued on. The tears of laughter were on her face.
"Wow, just when I thought you could handle things like a man."
"This is why I didn't want to tell you... um going to my room."
"Sorry about that, okay I won't ever laugh again," she said, patting his back to cheer him up, "but tell me, why did she break up with you, were you fooling around with another girl? Did she get jealous or bored? Give me a reason and I will let you go."
Tanaka and Nyasha were oddly enough, were very good with each other. As siblings of the opposite sex, quarrels were to be expected all the time, but they were somehow different. They were pretty much best friends. The only logical explanation would have to be their age difference. Nyasha, who was a 3rd year university student at MSU (Midlands State University), was on attachment (internship). She was an intern working at the CBZ bank in the city. Their bonding was a way to compensate for the fact that their brother, Collin, had left home for university at Wharton business school when Tanaka was 10years old. Boys who usually yearned to bond with the alpha male for guidance at a young age would lose face, but his sister managed to fill in the void. Her subtle traits could also explain why they got along so well.
"Truth is," fumbling his brain to remember his ex's exact words, "she said that 'um too nice and too accommodating... it’s fun at first, but gets old quickly.' I don't even know what the hell that means."
"Well bro, I kinda agree with her." she said, raising her hand upright, thumb drawn outwards and forefinger raised whilst the rest of the fingers were folded. She wanted to stop him for a bit of sister to brother advice.
"You do realise that' that doesn't make me feel any better right?" he said, looking as sullen as an abandoned child.
"I won't take too much of your time but hear me out." she said laying her whole arm on his shoulder, escorting him to his room.
"Pretty boy George? You mean the nice guy who you called a supermodel...?"
"He liked to spoil me, bought me pizza. He bought me that game console and took me out to food joints. He was a cool dude. You're an idiot for dumping him."
"Well apart from the obvious benefits you gained from him, he was boring, ever always smothering me even when I would behave like a bitch. He didn't man handle me..."
"My mental image of you has been tarnished for life, man handled!?"
"What I mean is that he wasn't spontaneous and was too nice, being nice isn’t a bad thing, but its kinda pathetic when the guy always wants to please you because his afraid to make you angry. Um human, um allowed to be angry, but I don't want to date a pussy."
"Even if it was Trey Songs being nice?" he asked, trying to validate whether she was being serious or not.
"Even if Mr. Gorgeous smile smothered me, I wouldn't say no... "
"Just cut to the chase."
"Um saying that you should be more assertive and give it to them rough."
"Another offside of the night, you owe me a dollar for violating my innocent mind."
"Oh please, as if you don't cry out Asa Akira during your sleep, nympho."
"Whatever, I will be in my room." he said, entering the room and slamming the door dramatically. This was nothing serious at all, no one had really insulted the other, and it was their natural way of discourse, their definition of eccentric bonding. Thomas heard the loud thud of the door and shouted out, "Don't bang your bedroom doors!" Nyasha quickly descended down stairs to encounter her mother, Margaret Manyika. She had come from the corridor that was connected to the inner rooms to check on her boiling cattle in the kitchen. She was quite large and the typical early 50s out of shape aged Zimbabwean woman. She had her hair net on top of her weave and was in her night dress. Her figure, which had once given Thomas a drastic increase in libido in the past, had become flabby and aged.
"Nyanya don't forget to call Simon about finishing the durawall tomorrow, this habit of people walking into my yard will end."
"Yes mother." she said, heading towards her room, which was on the ground floor. Her mother went to the kitchen, finished off the dishes, and made herself tea. The front door suddenly began to thud. There was a knock at the door. The knock startled Margaret who shouted out, "There is a knock at this hour? You see! This is why Simon should finish the durawall!"
"Don't stress yourself mother, I will get the door, it’s probably Tariro who wants his jerrycan returned to him." she said, rushing to the door. Her mother's complaining was an annoying cacophony of irritating sounds. Nyasha first checked the front door via the window and noticed two tall white men standing by the door. She was surprised, for it was rare, actually highly unlike to have white visitors at all. She marvelled at the sight of them and then glanced at the kitchen to say, "We got white people at the door!"
"Mavheti? (A colloquial shona term for white people)."
"Yes, white people, I wonder who they are and what they want...," she began to think to herself, "Maybe they have just moved in and are having some ‘we have arrived’ party."
"Nyasha don't be silly!"
"Well you never know with these white folks, knocking at someone's house at around 10pm might not be a big deal to them, these foreigners!" she said at the same time laughing at herself.
"Well we will find out what they want and if it’s not anything good I will come there to shout at them," she said frowning and pouting at the same time, "these white folks should have learned that the president meant business when he chased them away!" The political rhetoric she had spouted had been out of pure annoyance and not racism, but you could never know with Margaret. Unfortunately for her, her daughter had just made the worst decision in her life. Opening the door ended her life.
Bob took out his handgun as soon as she had opened the door and pulled the trigger. Nyasha had no time to react to the sudden adverse results of her decision. The bullet went through her head, exiting with blood that splattered on the walls behind her. Nyasha's corpse fell backwards hitting a wooden stool, which had a vase on it. The sound of the crash triggered a lot of attention from the living room and kitchen. The disturbing sound and no reply whatsoever from Nyasha changed the mood quickly. Bob moved in first pointing his gun ahead. He walked in and turned left whilst his partner took the right. Margaret glanced and saw the gun men. She screamed, but what made her not flee was seeing her daughter's dead body. Blood was all over the face of the dead girl as if she was in a masquerade party themed red flow. As one who had raised this child from scratch, her maternal instincts kicked in, over shadowing her confusion in the situation. She began to throw several plates and pots at Nicholai. Nicholai fired a shot, which hit her shoulder and then took cover away from the arsenal of deployed flying objects. After things had stopped from the other end, Nicholai pursued her. Margaret who was already running to the door that led to an exit was struck by two bullets, one going through her nape, and one piercing her back. She collapsed, hitting the ground. Margaret chocked on her blood as her life dissipated from the world. Nicholai looking at the cadaver smiled and said, "It’s like how Austin had stated it, his clairvoyance has no bounds."
Bob had encountered a sprinting old man who was heading towards his direction. Thomas soon realised that the perpetrator had a gun, something he didn't expect. The final contribution he made with his life was the sudden shouting of, "Tanaka run for your life..." The effort ended as soon as Bob's shot hit his temple. It was all over in a flash with no effort at all. Nicholai already knew where Tanaka was. Bob who was about to check the inner corridor was told to stop by Nicholai. Bob wondered why and heard the reply, "It’s what Austin predicted." Nicholai then waited out of view from all the vantage points that anyone upstairs would have. Tanaka who was listening to music at the same time going through a gruelling geography text book would soon come down to quench his thirst. He would come down to get a glass of water and would fall prey to them. This is what happened, this is exactly what Austin had predicted. Who he was and why he was Collin's hostage was a mystery in itself. Tanaka would come down as planned with the music in his iPod pumping to the noise in his earphones. As soon as he reached the bottom, he saw the dead bodies and the two men. Tanaka didn't have the time to process the shock of the aftermath that had just occurred before his eyes. To avoid the boy running away or any form of struggle that could go ugly fast, Nicholai used the hilt of his gun and knocked the boy out as soon he was within a meter’s distance from him. Nicholai took hold of the boy's body and lifted it, placing it on his shoulder. He glanced at Bob and said, "See we are done now. As long as you trust Austin all will be right."