Ali carried the tray to his grandmother’s room. The boy was only seven years old, but he shouldered the responsibility of his mother’s mother like a grown man.
But were grown men afraid of their own shadows?
The wooden staircase wound like a serpent ascending to the second floor of the stone cottage. But Ali thought of it as the pit of hell. Though many would say hell lay beneath and not above.
The smell hit the boy just as he placed his bare foot on the tenth stair. The pungent odor was a mix of oils, medicines, herbs, and impending death. But the old woman seemed to be clinging to life with a stubborn and defiant will.
Her shriveled body and twisted mind resembled nothing human. Ali was sure that his grandmother was a witch who practiced black magic. At the oddest hour of the night, when all were asleep, the old woman would rise from her bed and chant spells, drink potions.
This was his little secret and it toyed with his mind every time he paid his grandmother a visit. She must be feasting on toads and bat wings, washing it down with the blood of rats. Ali had noticed a decrease in their number. Though his mother insisted it was the work of the rat poison.
The boy’s thoughts deserted him as he reached the door of his grandmother’s room. Cowards…he muttered under his breath, left alone to face the aged woman. But he was courageous. His mother often called him – her brave man.
Ali nudged the door open with his elbow. The darkness jumped out to grab him. But he would not show any sign of weakness. His feet felt their way towards the foot of his grandmother’s bed. He lay the tray down and listened.
His ears were sharp, but they picked up nothing. The usual rhythm of raspy breaths was missing. He listened harder. There was no guttural gurgling of thickened spit. And the odd moan and cry was replaced by the still quiet. It was refreshing.
The boy found the stick he hid under the bed and poked the misshapen lump on the bed. There was no reaction, no movement, no sound. He then beat the woman harder. Each blow landing on sick and diseased flesh. But still nothing. It was over.
Ali’s grandmother was dead. Her dark ways would no longer haunt him. The boy cried heartily, joy and sorrow flowed from his eyes. He turned on the light and through the blur of his tears, he saw the foamy vomit. It covered his grandmother’s mouth and chin and the pillow under her head.
He knew the rat poison would destroy the witch. He had fed her a large dose in a can of peaches. She was greedy and had slurped down the last bit. Ali would now wait for his mother to return home. It would be difficult to break the sad news to her.
But he was the man of the house. No job was above or beyond him.
He’s lost his phone. They want to help him, but they need his number. Only one thought now eludes him – What’s My Mobile Number?