We hear the cracking of their guns long before anyone sees the dusty wake of their trucks.

I have just enough time to snatch my precious Mangeni from her wicker cot and crawl into the shelter beneath the church with the other villagers.

There is deadly silence, lest we be heard by the intruders.

We can hear Reverend Kaikara protesting above us as the rebels defile our place of worship with their presence. There is a gunshot, and we hear the Reverend’s voice no longer. This is followed by distant laughter and the sounds of overturning pews.

They are searching for the hidden hatch to our refuge.

Mangeni begins to cry.

Frantically, I rock her back and forth in my arms, but this only makes her crying worse. Yellow eyes—wide and terrified—plead with me in the darkness; the hot, sour breath of those nearest to me is redolent with fear and thick with panic. Sweat begins to trickle down my nose. Finally an old woman with yellow teeth hisses at me. I put my hand over Mangeni’s mouth and I softly whisper a Ugandan lullaby into her warm ear.

This seems to work.

When the looters have gone, the villagers pour from the shelter with a collective sense of relief. I remain behind, clutching my baby’s lifeless body to my chest.

At last, I can scream.

"Mangeni's Lullaby"
Copyright: © 2010 Eugene Gramelis

Eugene Gramelis is a barrister and dark fiction writer from Sydney, Australia where he lives with his beautiful wife and two gorgeous daughters. His fiction has appeared, or is scheduled to appear, in publications such as MicroHorror, Crime and Suspense Magazine, Flashes in the Dark, The Daily Tourniquet, Midnight Echo, Afterburn SF and The New Flesh. Please feel free to visit Eugene's official webpage: http://gramelis.blogspot.com/


  1. This is horrible and dreadful! How do you keep those babies silent under conditions like that. To have the mother do that to her own child....ahhhhh. The whole situation is wrong.

    Well written and good job poking into those uncomfortable places none of us like to think of.

  2. It is indeed horrible and dreadful. Mangeni’s Lullaby is a morality tale: a mother is forced to choose between sacrificing her child and sacrificing the entire village. We read stories like this one and are repulsed by the mere thought of such an act. But we live in the comfort of our suburban homes, and most of the time our toughest decision is whether to wear blue sneakers with our white pants or our white sneakers with our blue pants. In some parts of the world, however, stories like this one are part of everyday reality. Horror isn’t just the bogeyman in the closet; it’s the unthinkable thing’s we’re capable of when the thin veneer of our comfort zone is suddenly stripped away. I can only hope that this story draws some attention to the plight of those unfortunate enough to be caught up in the kind of anguish dished out by war and civil strife. The author, Eugene Gramelis.