It is Sunday morning, in the school on a hill. For some strange reason, people don’t wake up to go for the Sunday Morning Glory Fellowship that makes heaven come crashing down in the school for the entire week. The rains are pounding hard, all you can see is gum-booted legs, black rain coats and umbrellas everywhere as we rush to the dining hall to get the tea, bread and eggs for our breakfast. Everything is absurd, the D-hall captains don’t restrain people from carrying breakfast to class, and the matron looks on as we do what we want. The cooks eye us curiously as they serve us tea. Their usual chatter and smiles aren’t not there. It’s going to be a different Sunday.
I settle down at my desk, with my four slices of bread from the famous and industry -entrenched Broadways. It’s too cold to exchange my loaf with money today, I opt to get that allergic heartburn. A bite into the bread and it doesn’t taste as sweet as it should be, or as it does on other days. Mloafy if a favorite snack in the school on the hill. If somebody sacrifices their morning bread for you, then you’ve got a loyal friend.

Sliced white bread, 2006.
Loaf of white sliced brad Photographer: Jennie Hills Science Museum Date: 12/05/06

I fold my bread and cover my tea, I don’t feel like eating. I open my locker. A note greets me glaringly, “We are going immediately the first window gets smashed, 9 a.m. sharp!” It is written in read bold ink, and it is more of a command than a statement. I glance at my watch, it is 8.45 a.m., forty-five minutes to time. I shut my locker hastily and look around to see if someone is watching me. Then I relax, almost everyone has the same note in their desk. The Devil’s Advocate must have been here last night.
There is a blend of excitement and tension all over. Then my head goes wild, “I don’t have any fare to go home incase anything happens, my clothes are all wet and on the hanging lines”. I can’t understand how I am going to make an escape with no money. Luckily, the rain takes on a new twist, it pounds harder and harder, like it is trying to obstruct some happenings. 9 A.M comes, the windows are smashed, but no one dares venture outside. The rain is glaring, menacing even, daring anyone to step into its fury. We sit silent, I don’t know where the engineers are or who they are in the first place. I relax. It’s not going to happen.
One hour goes, still no action. Time for tea and church service. I pour my cold morning tea and go for some in the dining hall. My mloafy tastes better now, but not as usual. I get the keys to the instrument room, get the piano and other electronics and set-up the sound system for the church service. All through this my hands are shaking. I ask myself severally, will I still bring out the D-jay in me today? I put on the instrumental piano Amazing Grace track as the church hall fills up with students, the students don’t shout like the other times. Is my music boring today? I sit and watch.
The service starts, worship session is poor. My ears are cocked and my eyes wide open as my fingers tremble rhythmically over the piano keys. No one is going down on their knees apart from the worship leaders, no one is speaking in tongues apart from the CU Chairlady. The Holy Spirit doesn’t come down.
The praise session is difSUPER HIGH TENSIONferent though. I hard press the DJ keys, as I put the club-danc dance beats, much to the excitement of the congregants. I can hear my pals shouting over, “DJ, DJ, and DJ”. I am fired up, the praise team is ignited, my hands regain their strength and my fingers stop trembling. I can hear myself strumming the keyboard keys more beautifully than ever. It is so sad when the session ends. “At the end of the service, some girls tells me, “You were terrific today!” I thank them with a roll of my eyes. I know better than to swell with pride. I wish she knew how catastrophic it would have been if my fingers would have failed me.

My heart doesn’t warn me that there are more catastrophic things laying in waiting.

After lunch, the notes again. This time reading four pm. The devil’s advocates have been here again. The afternoon preps are long and boring. More teachers are present in school today. Our beautiful deputy head teacher, Flamingo makes sure we notice her presence. She tours the school with an authority and unfazed demeanor. Someone might think she can hold the school in her hands and crush it like a bird’s egg.

Four p.m. comes, everyone runs out to the dormitories as if it the day for house business. Some to secure some cash, some to dress warmly, some simply because others are going.

The school president orders that all houses get closed and orders everyone back to class. The plan is foiling again? I pray and hope. I am a risk-taker, my clothes on the hanging line sup the dorms need to be overturned, the sun is shining now. With my daring legs, I rush up to the dorms, position my clothes to face the sun and I run back down through a panya- route.

Just on the last block of dorms, I stop mid-track. A scream rends the air. My mind, my legs, my whole body freezes. Down the block of stairs next to the washrooms are fourth-formers screaming their lungs out, jumping up and down. My first though is that maybe there is a snake. I finally find my voice, “What is it?” I shout over to them. “Fire! Look behind you!”

Burning building with smoke billowing out

My heart sinks and my legs spring into action, ready to run. I look behind me, smoke is billowing from the bathrooms of House 5. By now everyone has started running towards the screams. I start running. “Halt! I say stop!” I hear from behind me. Flamingo stands there and dares me to run. I stop with a shrug and an adamant resignation. There is a crowd of students and staff before me, the deputy and the raging flames behind me, feels like a crucifixion. I am trapped.


This post originally appeared on the 2015 Storymoja Festival Blog.