The Bystander

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic


A chapter from the story of the fictional nation of Wensimbi, told from the perspective of four different characters. The annual address of Lethabo Dlamini, leader of Wensimbi, will not end like
they expect.

Submitted: June 03, 2018

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Submitted: June 03, 2018

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  Lethabo Dlamini stood at the balcony. He looked down at the crowd in the Plaza, regarding the cheering masses lit by the floodlights mounted upon the mansion walls. They were people from all around the country, representing each of the seven states by wearing their ethnic costumes.

  ‘Look at my people,’ he thought to himself, ‘The people that I, leader of Wensimbi, have brought out of poverty.’

  The microphone stood atop the parapet, waiting for his voice to enlighten his people. He glanced down at his watch. Once the clock struck twelve, he would speak to them. He would give them what they so badly desired.

­—

  ‘So much death,’ thought Amahle, ‘But it is necessary. The revolution must happen, and for it to happen, Lethabo Dlamini must die.’

  She kept watch as her brother Prince wired the bomb. Around her, dead bodies lay. Men in suits; Dlamini’s bodyguards. In her hand, a silenced handgun, handmade by the men of the cell that recruited them.

  ‘We are doing God’s work,’ she convinced herself. Dlamini was an evil man. The woman who ‘accompanied’ him now was the seventh this month, the rest of which have never been heard from after they went to meet him. As he stood on his balcony in his mansion, wearing his gold watch, the people suffered in the far and forgotten corners of Wensimbi. So long as they weren’t contributing to the iron mines, they were nothing to Dlamini; even less significant than ants; but he was too arrogant to see it.

  Amahle looked up at the clock. It was going to be midnight soon. It would all be over, then.

  Michael glanced over at Percy. The pistol in his waistband dug into his hip.

  “Do we have confirmation?” he asked.

  Percy slid his phone into his pocket. “Yeah. We gotta move fast.”

  That was the plan. Contrary to popular belief, Lethabo Dlamini was of no great import. He was just a puppet of the Ubumnyama. They bought incredible amounts of iron from Dlamini and were the de facto rulers of Wensimbi. Michael and Percy had to find out where the iron was going and stop it, if the Umeluleki was to win their war with Ubumnyama.

  The pair began to make their way through the crowd. They needed to be at the side gate of the mansion by midnight, so they could insert themselves when the crowd would be distracted by Dlamini’s speech.

  I looked up at Mr Dlamini. So proud, so satisfied with himself. So oblivious.

  ‘Tonight, everything will change,’ I thought. They were all oblivious, yet they all played a part in the Grand Scheme. They would start a chain. A series of seemingly unrelated events, made related by Those-Who-Knew.

  I looked down at my watch. Tick, tick, tick, tick…

  The rough pipe of the improvised weapon in Amahle’s hand was slippery with blood. She took a deep breath. Her brother looked up at her.

  “It is done,” he said.

  She nodded. It is worth it. All the blood… was worth it. Right?

  The clocktower’s bell rang out, sounding the hours. It was time.

  “For the people,” she said.

  Dlamini was stood right up to the microphone. He opened his mouth to speak, but then he felt it. The ground shook, the air froze and the sounds stopped. It was a crushing silence, if but for the slightest fraction of a second. Then, the heat came and a great wind lifted him off his balcony. Fire poured forth from the door of his room, swallowing his woman, his guards and everything else, but not quite yet reaching him. It was incredible and terrible and horrifying. It was almost beautiful.

  Then, he fell.

  The crowds were thick enough that Michael and Percy hadn’t reached the gate as they planned, but it wasn’t disastrous. Dlamini would take his sweet time with his speech anyway. Through the robes and cloths and scarves they walked; through the talk of politics and the iron mines and Dlamini himself.

  Somewhere, in the distance, the clocktower chimed. Midnight. They would have to quicken their—

  A deafening roar threatened to blow out their eardrums. They fell to the ground, as they were trained to do, as the explosion shook all of Dlamini Plaza and blew out every crowd-facing window the mansion had. A fireball had shot out of Dlamini’s bedroom. The crowd was screaming.

  “Michael!” he heard from somewhere in the crowd, “Michael!”

  A pair of arms lifted him up. “Michael!”

  He shook himself from a sleep he never knew he’d fallen into. Percy was hitting his cheek and looking into his eyes. Michael’s ears were ringing. Everything was so loud.

  “We have to go, now!” Percy yelled.

  Michael looked up. Guards were running up and down the building. They were going to lock it down to find the bombers. They needed to find that shipping manifest, now.

  Tick, tick, tick…

  Boom.

  The bomb had gone off just as our spies had predicted. The terrorist cell—the Umnyakazo—had done their job. Obviously, they’d assumed that they were starting a revolution, or something like that. We don’t sell high explosives to revolutionaries.

  No, we’d sold it to terrorists, who would use it to get rid of Dlamini for us and cause a scene while they were at it. I pull up my binoculars. Dlamini is sprawled grotesquely across the plaza named after himself, broken and burnt. Ironic. He is, without the slightest doubt, dead.

  I open the folder on my lap and leaf through it. Wensimbi Iron Company. Shipment of eighty thousand tonnes of iron… right back to us. I smile and light the corner of the folder in the lantern that hangs from the railing. I raise my binoculars again, this time back to the crowd. From my vantage point on the clock tower, I see clearly the two Umeluleki spies that shove their way through the hysterical crowd, faster and faster towards the mansion.

  I sigh. We never needed foreigners like them or the Ubumnyama in Wensimbi. They treat our land like their battleground. ‘This is my land,’ they cry, ‘And this is mine,’ the other shouts. They are wrong. This is Wensimbi land and it will always be Wensimbi land. I tap a button on my cell phone. Dlamini’s guards will make sure they get the message.

  Shooting erupts in the mansion, as it soon will throughout all of Wensimbi. We will chase the foreigners and their influence out of this country. We will show them that the far and forgotten corners of Wensembi should never have been forgotten.


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