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Early in the morning on a cold day in 1965, Mark, five years old, has a nightmare in which he sees the bodies of dead Africans, lying in pools of blood. He wakes up and is unable to go back to sleep.
His father wakes, and begins to get ready for work. He's angry that Mama had forgotten to fix him a lunch for work.
Mama takes the chamber pot and heads to the outhouse. She tells Mark to go back to sleep.
Suddenly, she returns, shouting at Mark to wake up.
He bangs his head on the table, then crawls through the darkness, wondering what's going on.
But then he hears the sirens and whispers, wondering where his mother has gone. She whispers that she's "over here" but she's hiding, and as Mark continues to wonder what's going on, she tells him that "Peri-Urban" are here.
The Peri-Urban, the police who enforce the pass laws. They come in the middle of the night to see if people are living illegally in the ghetto. Without a pass saying that you have a job, or have a few days yet to look for one, you are not supposed to be living there.
Mark begins to dress, but as the commotion from the raid continues, he wets his pants.
Mama tells him to take good care of his brother and sister, and then she asks where her pass book is.
Mark doesn't know where and she begins to panic, shaking him.
Outside, they hear the noise of the police and people running. Suddenly, Mark remembers that he had shown his mother's picture to his friends under the table. She retrieves it and turns to go to her hiding place. The police light shines into their living room.
George, Mark's little brother, starts to scream. Mama tells Mark to go get his little brother. But Mark is rooted to the spot, afraid of the police.
Mama sneaks out the door while George screams. Mark locks the door and blows out the candle, but then he remembers how last time, the police smashed down the door.
Mark decides he should barricade it this time. He yells at his brother to shut up, there's a white man (the bogeyman) outside. He tries to stick George's thumb in his mouth, but George bites his thumb. Mark spanks him and he continues to bawl.
His little sister Florah wakes up and also starts crying for Mama, finally wetting the bed.
Mark looks out the window during all the confusion and sees two black policemen coming out of a shack across the street.
The Peri-Urban point towards Mark's house. He hears them talking about how many people without passbooks live there.
Mark hears a thud, but it's not the police – it's George. He's fallen off the bed. The police hear his screams.
Then Florah starts to scream, and she bawls for Mark to come see all the blood.
Mark hears the police saying the parents probably left the children alone. If there's nobody there but children, it's pointless to go in. So they leave.
George has a deep gash on his forehead. The three of them wait until Mama returns from her hiding place – a nearby ditch.