“We are gathered here to celebrate a life well lived of my brother, Mr. James. His sun rose on August 24th 1985 and set on the 30th of June 2019. His life on Earth was full of up and downs, to say the least. But this did not stop him. He went from a young farmer in the sloppy hills of our region to one of the richest men in the country. He has helped thousands of people all over the country with the great position and wealth given to him by the Almighty. Everything he did was for the benefit of the community. We are all angry and bitter about what happened to him. I am personally very angry about his sudden and shocking death. He was my brother and I loved him so much. I cannot even imagine his last moments as he watched the watched the horror unfold in his eyes. This is just…just disheartening…I…I…” He stopped talking and looked down.
He could not hold back his tears. Not anymore after this short speech that filled the compound with tears and deep emotions.
His brother was gone. Taken from the world. Gone forever. And that was something he was going to live with until the last of his days. The whole family was there. Plus James’ friends and business associates. The large compound which was surrounded by a 6 foot wall was filled with people: for the first time since the house was constructed. The large mansion stood at the end of the compound: a one of its kind in the rural area.
A few meters next to the main entrance of the mansion, he lay there. A golden coffin, shinning in the midday sun, filled with flowers from end to end. The coffin was placed on a metallic stand, complete with beautiful decorations from the top to bottom. It was placed there so that all could see.
The dress code was of course black. All black from head to toe. People were seated on black plastic chairs. Black glasses of water. Black. Black. Black. Black was everywhere.
And so was the mood of the day. Black.
Everyone who knew Mr. James was there. From his huge number of business associates all the way to his family members. After all, he was the wealthiest individuals in the region, so who wouldn’t come to his final day above the ground? People were seated on the neatly arranged plastic chairs, each one of them holding the eulogy of the departed. A black, 200 pages book containing his history from sunrise to sunset. Indeed he had lived a long adventurous life: one of a kind. Seated at the front row of the plastic chairs were James’ family. His beautiful, young wife Cynthia and two children, Mercy and Faith: two gorgeous twins. His princesses as he used to call them. They were seated together with Cynthia between the twins, holding them tightly while trying as much as possible to prevent them from seeing her cry.
“What’s wrong mommy?” One of them asked in a sweet, soft voice.
“Don’t worry baby. Everything is going to be all right.”
“You told me daddy is asleep in that wooden thing over there. Why hasn’t he woken up?”
“Yes, baby. Daddy is just sleeping. Don’t worry. Now take my phone and play your favorite game.”
She took out her phone and gave it to them. She watched them as they giggled while pressing the phone. She felt sad for them. Her included. She knew that when they were older they would be able to understand the inevitable concept of death.
But for now let them enjoy Candy Crush.
On the far right end of the first row, she sat quietly, staring blankly at the golden coffin. She had not uttered a single word since she was told of her son’s untimely death. She wore a black hat that covered a considerate proportion of her upper face. The outfit was completed with a black gown that went all the way to her black leather boots. She took out her black handkerchief from her black purse and lightly wiped away a drop of tear that escaped from her right eye after being held captive for too long. She wiped the tear and neatly returned the handkerchief to her purse. She looked at the coffin. Keenly. As though it would magically open and her son would get up and do whatever dead people do when they resurrect.
But it was not going to happen. Not for a very long time.
She looked towards the left side and saw Cynthia. Next to her were the twins playfully laughing while playing their favorite game. She looked at her for a while. Hoping that she will turn and face her side. Cynthia looked towards the right and saw James’ mother staring directly at her. Her deep blue eyes locked onto her brown watery eyes. The look was of both grief and loathe. Her eyes were hot steel and she was solid ice: smoothly piercing her from the outside on the most brutal way unimaginable.
She looked at her. She looked back. A fierce battle of gaze exchange.
But this was not something Cynthia had wanted.
Overwhelmed, Cynthia looked away from the mother and faced her daughters’ direction and pretended to play with them. James’ mother still gazed at her for some time before looking down, bursting into tears.
“Look mommy, grandma is crying” one of the twins said as she pointed towards her.
“Yeah why is she crying?” The other twin asked their mother. They got up energetically and ran towards their grandmother while smiling.
“No…No…No… Come back here… Don’t disturb your grandm…” Before she could even finish her sentence and think of getting up, the twins were hovering all over their grandmother. They ran towards her, as she quickly wiped her tears with her gloved hands.
“Hey grandma why are you crying…”
Dust blew in my eye that is why…” She stammered as the twins sat next to her, with smiles all over their faces.
If only they knew.
“Why don’t you go and play with your uncle…” Their grandma said as she pointed towards him.
“Ok,” They said as they quickly ran towards him. He was seated a few meters next to her, not uttering a word since he broke down into tears a while ago while giving his speech. He sat there, eyed fixed to the coffin. The twins came at him with all their little energetic selves. But he was totally unbothered. The twins were running around him but he did not move a single muscle. A man in deep thought. Wondering why did his beloved brother meet his end in the most horrible way.
Nobody knew. And no one would ever know.
The front row seats were occupied by James’ family, with the far sides sat by two sworn mortal enemies: his mother and his wife. It was clear that the only thing which prevented them from attacking and wreaking havoc to each other were the two young beautiful twins whom they both loved dearly. They were the family’s weakness: the unseen bond of love that held the family intact. The other seats were occupied by his uncles, nephews and all his close family members. The other seats behind were occupied by his huge number of friends he has gathered throughout his life. And the diversity was unmatched. The compound was filled with people from all corners of the globe. His ‘global family’ as he was fond of calling them. It was a sight to behold how an individual from one of the most rural areas in the country could amass such wealth and friendships from all over the world.
Such a wonder.
The clock was ticking 3 in the afternoon. The day that once began as cloudy and dull began to change as the clouds drifted away, leaving the sun to bless the planet with its light. People were finishing their lunch, which was prepared by hired chefs who came all the way from the capital. They has prepared a wonderful three course meal which everyone enjoyed before commencing with the main activity of the day.
“I’m so sorry for you loss,” an elderly man came to Cynthia and comforted her. She looked at him and immediately recognized him. It was Eliud, one of James’ closest and most trusted friend. He was a good family friend. Cynthia got up and gave him one huge hug while crying. He hugged her back while comforting her.
“Don’t worry. We are with you until the end,” He said as he helped her sit down. He proceeded to greet James’ mother who was also delighted to see him.
“Just sit here, with us. You are family remember,” she said as she offered a seat next to her. He gladly accepted and sat next to her.
In some few minutes, the murmuring was over and everyone was seated calmly. The pastor woke up from his seat and went and stood next to the coffin. He was scheduled to deliver a summon before the body was laid to rest. This was going to be his second sermon of the day. A wooden pulpit was neatly prepared next to him. He made two loud coughs and everyone was dead silent. All eyes were on him. He looked at the coffin once again and began preaching. On this day, he did not wear the usual white garment: this time it was all different. He wore black; from head to toe, complete with a black cross dangling from his chest.
“We are gathered here to commemorate the life of the late James, whose life was ended abruptly by some enemies of progress in this country. We all know he was a great man. What he has done for the community will make him keep receiving blessings even after his death. Whoever killed him will not have peace for the rest of his days. He will pay for what he has done to our beloved brother. Malipo ni hapa hapa duniani.
Everyone nodded rhythmically as the pastor continued with his bitter summon. He narrated how he had known the deceased since he was a little boy and how they would go to the river and fetch water. He gave detailed description of how they were raised together in the same community and how his death was shocking to him.
Shocking to all of us as a matter of fact.
Everyone listened to him as he emphasized the need for unity during these trying times. James’ mother and his wife Cynthia looked at each other once more. Eyes of fire. And then they looked away.
The pastor noticed the tense moment but simply continued preaching.
His preaching lasted several hours as each and every family member stood in front of everybody and say whatever crosses his or her mind about the departed. First was James’ mother, who had wrote an emotional tribute for his son. He had personally penned it down for him the previous night. She got up, her knees weak from the grief; her son rushed towards her and helped her walk straight next to her other son’s coffin. She opened her purse and took out a piece of paper with writings on it. A microphone was quickly given to her. She held it, her hands visibly shaking. And then she began reading from the paper.
“…Rest in peace my son,” she finished reading five minutes later. She tried as much as possible to hold herself together. She was escorted back to her seat. James’ wife followed next with her emotional tribute to her husband. She held her two daughters with each hand. Both of them were smiling and waving at the congregation as they looked at their mother while giggling.
If only they knew.
She completed her tribute and proceeded to sit down, bursting into tears. She had lost the hang of it. Next were the friends and associates of the deceased who poured out their hearts to the departed. Soon, all those who felt they had something to say had spoken out.
The pastor gave the signal for the commencement of the next schedule.
The coffin was brought next to him. He removed the beautifully arranged flowers on top of the coffin and carefully placed them on a table. On the right side of the coffin, there was a blue button. He carefully pressed the button and the top part began to open up.
It was time to view the body.
The first ones to view were the family of course. James’ mother was first in line. She slowly got up and walked towards the half-opened coffin. She reached where the coffin was and saw him: lying there: unable to move a single muscle. His son who was a source of life and love for the family was no more. Forever silent in these four wooden walls. She gave her son one last look while leaning towards him. He gave his cold cheek a kiss, looked at him one final time and went towards her seat.
Next was his wife.
She slowly walked towards the coffin, with her two daughters closely following behind her. She had never seen her husband after his shooting. She was nervous. More nervous than ever. She walked towards the coffin while the pastor let out his hand to move her closer. She stopped next to the coffin and looked inside.
He lay there. Dressed in a shiny blue suit: his favorite color.
She looked at him. His face. And neck. He was the same person he once knew. Except for two things. His neck had a large gaping hole next to the throat. It was visible from far. It was covered with a white cotton cloth tied around his neck. On top of his right eye was another hole, which was covered with a cotton cloth as well. They were both bullet wounds inflicted by his killer. Or killers. His face was still intact despite the physical injuries. She looked at him while crying.
“Hey mommy, can we see daddy?” One of the daughters asked her.
“Umm…Umm… you’ll see him next time honey,” she told her as she could not begin to imagine the children’s reaction when they see him like that.
“Is father waking up?” They asked while shaking her black dress.
The kind of questions children ask. They will leave you speechless because you don’t know the most accurate way to answer without revealing the whole truth to them.
“Yes, he will wake up. One day,” she answered them as she glanced at James one last time.
“Ok now, let’s go and sit down. No more questions,” Cynthia said as she led the twins to where they were seated. She went and sat down, the image of her dead husband’s disfigured structure still clear in her mind. She wondered who would do such a thing to someone who was loved by literally everybody in the community.
But that will remain a secret between James and the Lord.
One after the other, people lined up in long queues to view James’ body before he is laid to rest: final respects for the departed. The queue curved as people were eager to see him one last time.
“They are going to disturb daddy while he is taking his nap!” Yelled one of her daughters as she pointed at the coffin. Cynthia held her closely while bursting into tears.
“Poor child. She doesn’t know, does she?” One of the mourners murmured while they went to have a glance at James.
Few hours later, everyone had paid their last personal respects to him and it was now time for the final event. People returned to their seats as the pastor began his last sermon for the day. The last one for James.
He uttered a short prayer and told everyone to stand up and head towards the far end of the compound. Where the grave had been dug. His final destination.
Slowly, people rose from their seats and went to the gravesite.
“Let’s go now girls,” Cynthia said to her daughters as she began walking towards the grave.
She reached there and saw the six-foot rectangular hole. The depth only made her dizzy. She held her daughters tightly as the pastor stood next to her, holding the Bible in his chest with one hand.
“From dust you are and dust you shall return.” The pastor said the famous lines as he prayed painting the grave. The coffin was carefully placed on the lever and as the pastor finished reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the coffin was slowly and carefully laid down. People were crying and screaming as his body went into the grave. The coffin was lowered and it finally landed on the ground and stopped.
It was six feet under.
Cynthia reached for the pile of sand next to her and grabbed a handful of sand. He gave some to the twins and they went closer to the grave. She lifted her hand towards the coffin and released the sand, which fell on the bouquet of roses placed on the coffin. The twins followed her steps and poured sand on the coffin.
“What are we doing mommy?” One of them asked.
“This will help daddy wake up,” she answered back while smiling at them. They looked at each other while giggling. James’ mother did the same, followed by his brother, and the rest of the family followed suit as well.
Five men came with spades and began shoving the sand into the grave. The coffin was soon submerged in sand and the sand was filled to the top. He had now returned to dust.
From dust you are. And dust you shall return.
The burial ceremony was now over. The grave was filled with sand to the brim and a large wooden cross mounted on top of it. The final prayers were uttered.
The sun was now setting, as the wind blew the dust from the grave upwards into the sky. One by one, everyone began leaving the site and heading where they came from. He was now resting in peace. Cynthia, the twins and their grandmother went into the mansion since they were going to spend the night there before heading for the city the following morning.
“Ok girls, let’s eat and then go to sleep. We have a long day tomorrow,” Cynthia said to the twins as she poured food into plates and served them. The five of them; Cynthia, James’ mother, the twins and James’ brother were seated in the mansion’s living room as they quietly ate their food: still in disbelief as to what had happened. Nobody spoke to each other; just slight glances and stares. Everyone had now left the compound, leaving them to their home. They finished eating and the twins were led to their bedrooms.
“No mommy, I don’t wanna sleep alone. I’m scared.”
Cynthia understood. After what they had witnessed today, whether they had an idea or no idea at all, they hesitated to sleep alone.
“Ok then, you’ll sleep in my bed tonight. We will sleep together. How about that,” she told them and they all nodded in agreement. She led them to the master bedroom in which James and Cynthia used to sleep. She tucked them into their bed and told them goodnight.
“Let me go back and talk to grandma and uncle. I’ll be back in a few.” She said as she left the bedroom.
The three of them were now seated together. Looking at each other suspiciously.
“Ok now let’s talk about it. What happened to my brother,” James’ brother talked while staring at Cynthia. They both stared at her fiercely.
“Wait. You think I would kill my husband! Are you insane! I would never do that.”
“No one has said you killed him. Have we son?” James’ mother spoke while looking at her son.
“Nope,” He responded.
Cynthia looked at them shocked. For them to think that was unimaginable.
“We all know you hated your brother, maybe you tell us. And don’t you ever tell me that I did this to him.” Cynthia shouted to James’ brother.
He stood up furiously.
James’ mother stood up as well.
So did Cynthia.
The leather sofa sets had proven to be unsitable.
They all stood up looking at each other bitterly.
“The true killer is out there and we are busy fighting amongst ourselves instead of probing an investigation to the police. If James were here what would he have said if he saw us fighting?”
Everyone was quiet. Cynthia left the living room and went into her bedroom. She banged the door furiously behind her and jumped into her bed. Her two daughters were asleep next to her. She wept uncontrollably as she looked at her late husband’s photo which hung on the wall. She heard James’ brother and mother faintly murmuring in the living room before they each went to sleep in the other two large bedrooms. The whole mansion was quiet once again, except for the loud rumbling of thunder from afar. Moments later, it started raining. Heavily.
She tucked herself into her bed, said a short prayer and closed her eyes; which were still watery. She could not believe what she was being accused of. Of all things.
She slowly drifted into sleep.
She was woken up by a loud scream.
She opened her eyes and sat on the edge of the bed, blinking heavily. She brushed her eyes with her hands and lazily wore her slippers.
“I heard a scream mommy, who was that?” Her daughter spoke as she opened her eyes.
“Stay on the bed. Don’t move,” She told them as she got up and went out of the bedroom into the living room. She switched on the lights and saw the doors and windows were wide open. Cold wind blew across her, swaying her night dress. Lightning flashed outside, making the heavy rain visible. The trees in the compound were dangerously swaying as lightning kept on flashing. She looked on the floor and saw what appeared to be mud stains. A trail of mud stains went from the door into the bedrooms.
Another loud scream was heard.
This time she confirmed it was coming from the where James’ mother’s bedroom.
“What is it?” Asked the brother as he came out of his bedroom.
She pointed at the mud stains which led to her bedroom. They were surprised as they both rushed into the room.
She was standing at the corner of her bedroom, with hands on her head.
“What is it mother,” she was asked by her son.
She looked at him and opened her eyes wide.
She then pointed towards the other end of the room.
They turned their heads and saw what she was pointing at.
Cynthia made a loud scream as she moved backwards, her hands on her mouth. She made another scream. And another. And another. She heavily blinked, and then opened her eyes. It was true what she was seeing.
The brother just stood there, immobile. He moved his head forward to ascertain what he was looking at. He shifted his head sideways and it was indeed real what he was seeing.
He was standing at the corner of his mother’s bedroom. His whole body was covered in mud, which dripped on the floor, leaving behind a trail of dirt. He was not moving, except for his head which was slowly moving from side to side. His eyes were unusually open. On top of his right eye was a huge gaping hole which was wide open and one could see through his head. His neck also had a large gap that made his head slightly inclined towards the left.
It was James.
He looked at his wife. Then at his brother. And then at his mother. They were all shocked beyond normal. He shifted his eyes around the bedroom.
“H…H…How are you here?” His brother asked him while stammering, after gathering the little courage that had not been engulfed by fear and disbelief.
James turned his gaze towards him. Slowly, his right leg began moving. Followed by the left leg.
He was moving towards his brother.
He steadily walked towards him, with mud still dripping from his body. James reached where his brother was standing. His brother felt his horrible stench diving into his nostrils. He smelt strange. Smell of death. He gazed I directly into his eyes, which were pale white without pupils. His mother and wife watched in shock as his brother stood his ground. He looked at his bullet wounds, his blue suit which was now completely covered in mud.
James leaned to his brother’s ear. He opened his mouth and a deep, faint voice could be heard. He whispered for some seconds to his brother and then stopped. He moved away from him, looked straight at him and nodded.
“So that’s who killed you… Oh my God. Why?” James brother said as he could not believe what he was told. He looked at his mother, and sister-in-law in shock.
This changed it all.
He finally knew who killed his brother.
“Hey look, its daddy!”
The twins ran into the bedroom towards James.
“No…No…No…” Before Cynthia could even finish, they were all over him.
“I told you daddy would wake up,” One of them said as she held her father’s hand while smiling.
“You smell funny daddy…. And you are all dirty…..And what you have a hole in your neck.”
James turned his eyes towards them. He knelt down and looked at her daughters.
“Why are your eyes white daddy,” One of them asked as she pointed at him. He looked at them. His daughters. His flesh and blood. His joy.
His two princesses.
He slowly pulled them to his side and gave them a hug. His head was dangling on his neck. But it did not seem to bother him.
“Get away from him girls!”
“Please don’t hurt my babies.”
Cynthia shouted as she waved at her daughters to come to her side.
James placed his arm around them and carried them up. He smiled as the twins enjoyed being carried by their father. The last time they were carried by their father was two weeks ago. When he was alive and well.
He looked at his wife, mother and brother. They looked at him back: shocked and terrified. He looked at his brother and nodded.
“Mommy, aren’t you happy? Daddy came back to us.”
Cynthia was horrified as she watched her daughters giggle in their father’s arms.
“Come grandma,” One of the twins waved at her. She was utterly speechless. Her cross was tightly held in her arms.
The lightning and thunder continued to cause havoc outside. A flash of lightning lit the bedroom, causing the lights to burst, spraying glass across the bedroom. The bright light made everyone cover their eyes. The twins could be heard giggling and their soft sounds slowly began to fade.
The flash of light disappeared and the room was plunged into darkness.
The emergency generator immediately went on and the lights came back on.
Cynthia, the brother and mother slowly opened their eyes. They heavily blinked and slowly looked around. They saw each other. They gazed their eyes towards the bedroom.
They were only the three of them.
James had gone. Disappeared. Vanished.
The twins were nowhere to be seen.
The spot where James was standing was empty. Except for the mud stains and two bracelets on the ground.
The twins’ bracelets.
They looked at each other in confusion.
The rain continued pouring as thunder and lightning fiercely rumbled outside. All windows and doors were wide open and the cold night wind blew across the room, smearing the mud stains across the mansion.