The Refining Fire

By: Rose Ntsepase

My uncle, like every other child, was born with dreams and aspirations. In an unfortunate and inexplicable manner, both his parents died a gruesome death. A bolt of lightning set their thatched roof on fire on a rainy day. The piercing screams and the thick, choking smoke are unimaginable. As a criminology and psychology major, it is safe to say that this is the day my uncle died too in the fire… and from the ashes, it was not a phoenix that rose but a sadist and homicidal maniac with an overdose of evil in his cup.

I’ve always had an evangelical zeal about the deviant stuff. The how’s and why’s people are driven to murder and the grizzly backstories on the individuals. I could consume hours and hours of criminal documentaries and forget that I need to eat and do every other ‘normal’ thing that millennials get up to. I could have probably used that time to instead equip myself with some makeup skills and so on, but that’s just wishful thinking. Soon enough, what I watched became what I talked about and coincidentally, an assignment that required me to profile a serial killer.

Upon telling my mother about this assignment, she sternly told me that I could write about an uncle of mine who I never got to meet or hear about till the day my family was contacted to identify a body of a man who had become a stranger and a fugitive in another country. My uncle was abusive and possessive. I could say that he expressed love in the form of fatal jealously. On more than one occasion, my parents would welcome my dishevelled aunt on their doorstep because she had nowhere to go to escape her diabolical husband. A few months down the line, the couple was expecting not one child, but set of twins. Most wives would hope that bringing another life in the world would bring some change to their marriage, however, things were still to take yet another tragic turn.

In one of my uncle’s violent frenzies, the injuries he caused were much brutal than usual. He consciously kicked the excepting mother in her fruitful stomach. As expected, she had a miscarriage. A few more months down the line, he murdered his wife. The crime scene – a body covered in blood with multiple stab wounds – was discovered by neighbours. She had also been sexually assaulted in the most inhumane way. By that time, he had disappeared and never paid for his actions.

As surreal as this may sound, I learned that a killer is not always biologically predisposed to committing such evil acts. The environment and childhood traumas form the fundamental parts of a person. Although the crimes are inexcusable, my uncle was still family. His funeral was not posh but a rather rushed occasion with immediate family members in attendance. What would be said in his eulogy anyway?

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