by Christopher Luppi
Our city is a small one. To most of us here, even now, there is what is here and there is what is outside. That is all. And because we are a small city – not much more than an overgrown village really – and because the knowledge of what is outside is to most of us, especially then but even still now, limited to the very basic awareness of the fact that what is outside is much bigger than what is here, for this reason what is outside can sometimes appear threatening, sometimes very threatening indeed.
There are only two roads from which the story could have come. There is the road from the south and the road to the north. That is all. So the story must have come from one of those two directions. But then very much comes to us along those roads, so the story could have come with any number of people. A vendor from another town may have carried it here along with his pots and pans and crockery, to one of our two markets. A local who had traveled in either direction, to visit a hospital or do some work or attend an affair, might have heard the story in another city and come home with it to share with family and friends. Or someone from the south or the north, someone who had come through on their way to the other, stopping off for a meal or a drink, might have had opportunity to talk with one of those among us and leave the story behind, without a source, to fester and grow. But this is hard to say. Our city is small, very small indeed, but it is a city nonetheless and so the search for where and how this or that rumor begins is no easier than it would be in any similar sized city, I suppose.
When our police first started asking questions, in the square, there where it happened, just after the two foreign women had been carried away, people were still yelling and screaming and holding sticks and machetes and there were already two or three times as many people there as had been there when it happened; news of any kind travels quickly in our little city. So it was the police that first had to do the answering. When they couldn’t answer, they walked back to the station and locked the door. But later in the day police from the capital arrived, and then foreigners, men in gray suits and ties, and people were taken into the station two or three at a time, and then sometimes just one, and the same questions were asked again.
One woman – and I leave out names here because much time has passed and I see no point – said that she had heard the story from her sister who had been to the northern market in the morning and had heard it from a vendor. The vendor said he had heard it from a customer. The customer could never be located. One man said he had first heard it from a friend who he’d been drinking with, despite the early hour of the day, and that this friend had heard it from another friend who he’d been drinking with even earlier. This third friend said that he had heard it the previous evening from the woman who sells fresh vegetables from a pull-cart in his neighborhood, and she said she’d heard it from a vendor in the southern market. This vendor could not remember telling such a story and said that he’d only heard about it after the event.
According to the foreigners who had come from the capital, there was no truth to the story. They couldn’t explain where it had begun either, but they assured us that there were no reported cases of people of any nationality, in our country or any other, kidnapping and killing children for their organs. When we asked them why the women were chasing the little girl, they told us that the one who had survived had said the girl ran away from them when they’d tried to talk to her and she had left her things. She said they were only trying to return the little girl’s things. When we asked about the strange silver tube the woman was carrying, the one who did not survive, they told us it was a machine to clean water, a water purifier they said. When the little girl was asked why she ran away she said that she had heard from her brother that foreigners were hunting children. When they asked her brother, he said that he’d heard it in school.
About half of the people who were part of the event said they had heard the story earlier, from this or that person, in this or that location. The other half said that they heard it there in the square, after the women were seen chasing the little girl, from the crowd. There were men, women and children among the group, and all asked the same questions afterwards: Why were they chasing the little girl, then? And what was that strange machine one of them had strapped to her bag?
I was there, but I was not part of the event. I was very young then. Ten or maybe eleven. I was with my father. We saw the crowd chasing the women and we asked what was happening and we too heard the story. I can’t remember who told us. Many people were shouting it at the same time. And so we ran with the crowd. I watched, but I was not part of it.
It is not often discussed these days. Those who were part of it never mention it and those who weren’t seldom do. I don’t think anyone was to blame. We are a small city. And the people here are good people. No one is to blame. It could have happened anywhere.
Note on Author’s Work:
Apart from The Event, Eastlit has published the following work by Christopher Luppi: