Almost dead in Movember

In the closet: When 'the guns' came, all Billy Rivers could think of was his stupid 'Movember' moustache. (Madalene Cronjé, M&G)

In the closet: When 'the guns' came, all Billy Rivers could think of was his stupid 'Movember' moustache. (Madalene Cronjé, M&G)

It was not the best start to the morning – some asshole waving a gun around my living room. I hadn't even had my coffee yet. "They" say your life flashes before your eyes when things go south. As far as I'm concerned, that's a big steaming pile.

I got none of that – no revelations, no heightened senses and none of the other things that "they" keep getting away with saying. Just terror and a gun. It filled my vision. At its centre, the barrel leered at me: a swelling black pit threatening to pull me in. It would flash, I would smell burned powder and that would be it. Game over. So long and thanks for all the paranoia, Jo'burg.

The gun herded me to my mother's bedroom and then into her closet. There were more guns here, 9mms and shabby-looking revolvers gripped in gloved hands. Colour-coded clothing lined the walls and in the corner the safe squatted: closed, locked, but exposed. Usually hidden behind a blockade of women's lacy unmentionables, they had found it. Must be an inside job. I figured that out later. While it was happening I wasn't able to think straight.

I kept having goofy thoughts. One of the guns had a real dumb-looking pair of shoes. I just couldn't get over them, couldn't get over how unfair it was to have my life threatened by a man in pointy brown loafers.

The guns forced me to the floor and started screaming at me for the safe key. I didn't have it. I didn't know where it was and I told them as much, over and over again. "We'll kill you if you're lying," they said. The stink of my fear got thicker as I lay there, hands on head, face in armpit and still no flashback. None of the good, bad and predominantly dull parts of my life coming back to haunt me like a Christmas special. Nope, just beige carpet, shirt sleeve and damp pit.

Thoughts were forming, though; small little buggers that kept humping at my rattled skull. I didn't want to die like this, surrounded by my mother's underwear, murdered by a man in ridiculous footwear and with this god-awful moustache clinging to my upper lip.

The thing was hideous. A stupid Movember bet to see who could grow the most depraved 'tash by month's end – and mine was beginning to look like it snacked on children. I hoped the coroner would have the foresight to shave the bloody thing. To die is one thing, but to die looking silly, well, it just seemed unnecessary. Can't say why it bothered me so much; it just did.

In the end the guns locked me in the bathroom and left, valuables in tow. Maybe facial hair saved my skin. Maybe they didn't see me as a threat, couldn't take me seriously enough to do so. I know I couldn't – happened every time I looked in the mirror. That, and the deepest of hopes that I would win the bet (I didn't, the other guy looked far worse).

Billy Rivers is a freelance writer who lives in Johannesburg

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