No Real Heroes (Finale)
By Katiso Thatho, Lesotho
Not knowing whether he’d been threatened or warned, Thuso was left stunned as the second officer made his exit. Thuso’s sister came back into the room.
“What did they want?” she enquired.
“Oh nothing, they were just taking my statement.” He replied.
Several days passed and he was discharged from the hospital. He still had a lot of recuperating to do but he was now able to take on most day to day tasks. For several weeks he stayed home at night instead of taking to the streets like he usually did. Although his sister had thought she’d be happy to see him staying away from danger for once, she felt the exact opposite when she saw him moping every single night. He would always just go to work during the day and immediately go to bed when he returned without saying a word to her. Meanwhile the rotten city seemed to be getting worse by the day. Every night he would tune in to the news on the radio in his room and the stories were so similar that it felt like the news was just being played on a loop each night like a bad song. One day when his sister brought him dinner she found him listening to the news like he always did and the stories were still the same, someone had been found dead in some alley or ditch and no arrests had been made.
“I don’t know what happened to you but I don’t like this person you’ve become. I honestly thought I’d be happy to see you coming home every night but now I dread it. I went to see mom yesterday at the home, she still doesn’t speak. I always notice how she always looks around to see if you’re with me and how sad she gets when she realises you’re not.”
“You know why I can’t see her; it’s my fault that she’s like that. If only I wasn’t such a stupid kid she wouldn’t be like that, I don’t deserve to see her.” Thuso replied
“You can’t blame yourself, there’s nothing you could’ve done.”
“Yes there is, you know there is. I know you won’t admit it but you blame me too, deep down. All she wanted was for us to get home that night but I wouldn’t stop crying. I don’t even remember what I was crying for, maybe it was a toy or the latest issue one of my favourite comics or something. Despite knowing the dangers of staying out during those hours she stayed just so I would stop crying, and that’s when they came and beat her to a pulp. If I hadn’t been such a spoilt brat she wouldn’t be brain damaged.”
“Maybe you’re right and it’s all your fault but sulking isn’t gonna help anyone. I see now why you always felt the need to get out there, because you were shouldering the guilt of what happened to her. I do not agree with your methods but I do think you should find some other way of fighting the rot that has infected this city, maybe then you can forgive yourself. The truth is we need more people like you.”
As Thuso gave some thought to what she had said, she placed the plate of food beside him and left the room. He got very little sleep that night because of the thoughts that circled through his head but when he woke up he was in a considerably better mood. Even his sister could see it and she was very happy too.
“Palesa, I’m going to see mom today after work.”
“That’s great, I’ll be heading over there too so you’ll probably find me there. She’s gonna be so happy to see you.”
He headed out to work with a pep in his step and everyone who knew him couldn’t help but notice. In the evening when he was headed home from work he decided to stop by the local florist’s to buy her some flowers. As he walked home he saw two very familiar faces. It was the two hoodlums who had given him a beating a few weeks earlier, they caught a glimpse of him as they disappeared into one of their favourite alleys but did not recognise him without the mask. He followed them into the alley and they were up to their old tricks. Without a second thought, he rushed to the defence of the person they had cornered. He fought as hard as he could but they were much stronger than him and because they were not aware of whom he was, they stabbed him repeatedly and took everything on him except the flowers he had gotten for his mother. Later that night the police found him dead in the alley along with the two thugs. They had both sustained a lethal gunshot to the head. Back at home, Palesa waited anxiously for him to walk through the door but no matter how long she stared at it, it did not open. Just as she was about to head out to look for him, she had a violent knock at the door. She reluctantly opened it only to find that the person on the other side was not Thuso. It was the police officer that had threatened him at the hospital. He held in his hands the flowers that Thuso had bought for their mother.
“This was the only thing they decided was not of any value when they plundered his bleeding corps, I’m sorry I couldn’t save your brother.” said the officer.
He then proceeded to explain to her how he had been following Thuso’s movements since the first time he took to the streets in his mask about two years back and how he had jumped in to try to save him from those thugs but had come too late. And how he shot them both in the head and fled the crime scene.
“The truth is I always wanted to help him but even at the precinct you can’t trust anyone. This city is rotten to the core and even those who vowed to protect and serve work to destroy it. I’m very sorry it ended this way.”
The officer then took his leave and moments after that, a police car arrived and two officers broke the bad news of Thuso’s death but little did they know that she had already been told by another. Two weeks passed and Thuso was laid to rest. His mother had come with the company of one of the nurses from the home and she sat in the front staring emptily into space. Time came for Palesa to get up to give her eulogy and as she did, she could not help but notice the pain in her mother’s eyes. Although she could not say it, it was evident for everyone around her to see.
“I know it is wrong to speak ill of the dead but my brother was a fool.” said Palesa to the shock of everyone in attendance.
“It was one of his best qualities and the thing I loved most about him. Most of us are smart enough to play it safe and always look out for ourselves and no one else. He however was the fool who put others before himself. That is what we call a fool now, isn’t it? Anyone who doesn’t just watch as one injustice piles up over another and nothing being done about it. He used to read a lot of comics about these amazing heroes who were powerful enough to vanquish any monster that sought to do anyone harm and he looked up to them. It killed him knowing that the world he lived in was full of real monsters but no real heroes. He got tired of waiting for someone to dawn a cape and cowl to save us so he did it himself. Ill-advised as it was, I was always proud of him for taking a stand. To anyone else it would seem like the power of his comic book heroes was in their ability to fight and to an extent that is true, but unlike most he saw their true power. The ability to inspire normal everyday people like him to do good in their own little way, the ability to act as a light to illuminate the often pitch black path that we call life. He had hoped to at least serve as a symbol for others, a symbol that the people shall not sit idly by as evil runs rampant in our streets, that the people shall unite and rise above this demonic force that wants to rule all human hearts. I’ll say it again; my brother was a fool and if being like him makes me a fool, then sign me up. We have a choice to make as we leave this place today, all of us. Will we let the bright flame that was this young man’s life die out or will we add more fuel to the fire to keep his will from burning out? Personally I’m prepared to go gather some wood right now and if there’s even a single one of you out there who feels the same, then his death will not have been in vain. Thank you all very much for coming to support us during these hard times.” said Palesa as she stepped down with tears flooding her eyes.