by Michael Akerib
The sun was shining and the wind was raising dust. My mother had taken me to the market and we were walking through the stalls. The fruits looked brighter than usual and the dresses more attractive and I was happy. We would occasionally stop at a stall and buy a few things.
The smell hit me then. Wood burning, a roast. But not the usual pork or lamb. Something more unusual.
Screams filled the air. Screams of pain. Deep, unbearable pain.
The sky was starting to be covered with smoke and the smell getting more acrid.
My mother held my hand tighter – to reassure me or to reassure herself. She led me away from where the smell and smoke was coming. We had to wade our way among a crowd moving in the opposite direction at great speed. My mother did not hesitate to elbow our way through the crowd.
At home they said a witch had been burnt at the stake. My mother said witches did not exist. That they had burnt her simply because she was too beautiful. Being beautiful was apparently a sin.
I looked at myself at the mirror and turned my face away. I had never hard anyone tell me I was beautiful.
I went to the kitchen and took a knife. I felt the pain of the blade entering my skin. I knew that if I cut myself beyond any healing it was obviously because I was beautiful and did not want to end on a stake.
I cleaned the blood that had spilled on the mirror and on the floor. Everything was now clean. Everything was in order.