A slight wind howls across the room, gently picking up a white, shiny feather from the ground. It is gracefully lifted upwards, making it twist and turn in midair and as the wind grows wilder, the feather’s rotation becomes more haphazard. It is blown across a busy road with matatus and lorries raging in different directions, trying to overtake each other along the narrow, pot-holed road. Their exhaust pipes exhume extraordinary amounts of hot pollutant gases, making the road misty and humid. Our beloved feather is pushed into the road by the smooth afternoon breeze. The sparkling white feather suddenly turns grey and sickly as it enters the chaotic road environment. Its unceremoniously curls into a fluffy circular shape and making it descend towards the road. It rests at one of the lorries’ side mirror, curled and disoriented. The driver blows the horn and it hoots loudly. The vibration lifts the feather from the side mirror and into the air once again. It lands safely on the tarmac road. Relieved to have touched the ground at last, it uncurls itself ready to return to its former glory. Then a fast moving saloon car speeds next to it, drifting it away from the road. It drifts violently and lands into a water puddle. It slowly absorbs water, and gracefully sinks into the roadside water…
“Hey wake up you lazy boy!”
I slowly opened my eyes and blinked heavily. The curtain was wide open, letting in the bright morning sunlight into my dim room. I closed my eyes as I rolled lazily out of the bed.
After all. She was right. Being in high school, the holidays were mainly spent on sleep and loitering the neighborhood like a wild dog. Laziness was the only order of the holiday. Eat. Sleep. S@#t. Repeat.
Until the holidays were over.
But today was a Sunday. And as it was customary since the beginning of time, Sundays were to be spent at church. Nowhere else but church.
And my mother: she was everybody’s alarm. She ensured all of us were awake by 7AM.
And that she knew how to do it pretty well.
Very early in the morning, she would wake us up for the first time: By turning the radio volume to the highest level ever. Then she would play one of her favorite gospel songs of all times which goes something like…
“I’m walking in power…I’m working miracles…
I live a life of favor… I know who I am.”
Probably you have heard of it, if not then you are definitely living under a rock or something. The song would wake up not only us, but the entire neighborhood as well. The vibration of the woofer would send shock-waves across each room of the house, making waking up inevitable. She thought that by doing that, the ‘Sunday mood’ would be magically be activated and we would all be in a jovial mood.
She was terribly wrong.
We just wanted to chill. Nothing more. Nothing less.
But not in this house.
I finally got up, deeply thinking why on earth could I be dreaming about a feather drifting in the wind? As the rest of the dreams before, I ignored it and life went on. However, the rest of the dreams were something relatable. This was something else. A feather. My whole night was spent dreaming about a feather.
How strange. A feather.
“Hurry up people! We’ll be late for church…Chop chop,” She shouted as she kept dancing to her favorite gospel song. We got out of the bedroom and went into the living room, where she had prepared breakfast “ages ago” as she termed it, trying as much as possible our justify our laziness.
Of which it was true. Partially true.
We ate the breakfast, which was as heavy as it was supposed to be since it was meant to provide comfort to our stomachs for the better part of the day. As usual, our mother would normally go for the longest service, which would finish late in the afternoon.it was her tradition since she was a girl I guess. She was a very active member of the church, being a member of the women’s choir, a top member of the church committee.
And us. Well, we were just there. Tulikua tuko tu.
We tagged along with her and got back home immediately the service was over, leaving her with her fellow committee members. We had more important issues to attend to, or so we thought. A certain program called “Believe it or not” which used to air in one of the local stations. The way that TV show hooked us was unbelievable. We had not missed a single episode of it since it started airing. And missing it was not an option for us. Being young, dumb and broke meant less responsibilities and more free and idle time.
The best of times in this world.
In a short while, we were done and ready to head for church. There we were, clean and shiny. As a custom, we held our hands together, formed a small circle, and took a short prayer. She did that every single Sunday. After the short prayer, we headed for the matatu stage. The dusty stage was always packed with people on Sundays. People going to enjoy themselves at the beach since that was the main destination for everyone on Sundays. We stood under the scorching sign, looking in either direction for a sign of a matatu. Then a loud-hooting matatu drifted across the road and screeched next to us. It was empty. Its wide doors were opened and the scramble began. Lucky for us, we were just inches away from the door, so we quickly jumped onto the front and secured our seats. We began watching how people scrambled to save themselves one of the remaining eleven seats on the matatu. I sat next to the window, my younger sister sat beside me and my mother at the extreme end of the front seats. There were three seats at the front row and were occupied by us.
An angry woman yelled as she squeezed herself between two older men whose obese bodies blocked the entire door making others unable to board the vehicle. On one hand, she was holding a yellow purse while on the other hand, she held a large white hen. Its feet were tied with a sisal rope while the woman’s wide hands tightly held its wings. It flapped its wings haphazardly as the woman slithered past the two men and got herself a seat behind us. I turned and looked at her as she sat down, with her face filled with sweat. She opened the window in a bid to let in fresh air to cool her of the hot temperatures in the vehicle. The hen flapped its wings uncontrollably, releasing a bunch of feathers into the air. The feathers drifted out of the matatu through the open window and landed softly on the tarmac road.
Then we heard a loud hoot.
A large, blue trailer drove past us while its deafening hooting filled our ears. It left behind a trail of dust floating next to the road. I placed a handkerchief on my nose as the dust blew into the matatu, making the rest of the passengers descend into uncontrollable coughs and sneezes. After a while, the dust was blown away by the wind and the air became fresh as before. I removed the handkerchief from my nose and took deep fresh breaths. The matatu was now full and ready to depart. I looked out of the window and saw the feathers drifting away from the road and landing into a muddy puddle.
“Hey bro, there’s something in your hair,” my younger sister said as she pointed at my head. I placed my fingers in my hair and I felt something smooth entangled in my hair. I plucked it out, only to see that it was one of the hen’s feathers. It was white and curly.
I threw it out through the window and the wind blew it away to God-knows-where. The matatu was skillfully maneuvering through the Sunday traffic as we neared the church.
It was 11:00 PM. After a hectic public transport ordeal and a bunch of chicken feathers later, we finally arrived at the church. A usual it was packed to the brim. It was one of the largest churches in our County and the most celebrated one, courtesy of one Pastor Michael. Legend has it that he single-handedly built the church from scratch a decade ago to what it is today. Our mother constantly told us his epic story and how patience and perseverance were the keys to success. It was a large church, circular in shape: built similar to the Roman architecture. Outside the church, people were waiting in lines to enter into the church. Some were singing, others were praying, some hawkers were busy selling cold water to cool down the hot temperatures of the Coastal region.
But not for us. We smoothly entered into the church and sat where we had been sitting for years: the first row of the church, next to the pulpit. We took a seat and when the clock hit 11.30, the service began.
As it was customary, it began with a ten-minute long opening prayer. This was where one of the junior pastors led the church with a word of prayer. Then it was followed by a hymn song: which was proudly led by our mother who enjoyed every single bit of it. Her voice echoed throughout the church as she sang the first line of every paragraph as the whole congregation followed her rhythmically.
After the hymn was over, it was time for the main preaching to commence. Minutes before the hymn ended, Pastor Michael arrived: with an entourage of course. I watched as he entered from the front door at the pulpit. His blue suit brightly shone as he elegantly walked towards his chair; a large black chair placed at the center of the pulpit. It was engraved with biblical words from the top to the bottom and its handles were furnished with the golden color.
It was an Iron Throne. But a biblical one.
He gracefully sat on his chair as the church roared with celebratory shouts and applause. His entourage were all wearing white suits and neatly sat behind the pastor. He looked around the church, which was filled to the very last seat. I could see his wide smile: a symbol of pure pride and satisfaction by the work of his hands. He waved his right hand at us and everyone went wild. Wild with praises and shouts. He signaled the crowd to calm down and their shouts gradually reduced. They proceeded with the hymn singing, with their motivation elevated to extraordinary levels by the Pastor.
The hymn was over. One of the Pastor’s entourage members stood up and took the microphone.
“Praise the Lord!” He shouted with his highest voice while clenching his left hand into a fist and raising it up, shaking it vigorously in the air.
The congregation responded in unison as they cheered and clapped.
“Are you ready for the servant of the Lord to preach to you?” He asked.
“Yees…Yeees!” The church answered back filled with joy and anticipation.
“I said are you ready?”
The yells and noise doubled in amplitude. There was non-stop noise for some seconds.
Then he woke up.
He grabbed the chair’s handles by both hands and lifted himself up. He touched his tie and moved it slightly downwards.
The church cheered wildly.
A microphone was quickly brought to him as the one who was introducing him went to his seat.
He took the microphone, said a quick thank you to the young man who brought him the microphone. He cleared his throat and walked to the middle of the pulpit.
“Praise the Lord church!” He spoke. His deep voice reverberated across the church, making us feel the vibrations of his voice box.
A heavenly voice.
The voice of God.
He cleared his throat once again. Then he spoke.
“How many of you here would like to go to heaven?” He asked.
Everyone’s hands were up. I looked around and saw thousands of hands raised in the air. I raised both of my hands up and shouted a big Yes.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to go to heaven, right? The land of milk and honey and golden mansions.
Everyone’s hands was up. Up in the air.
The he looked around once again. He nodded his head as he smiled, displaying his array of neatly arranged teeth. He then placed the microphone next to his mouth and spoke.
“All of you want to go to heaven. That’s good. Very good. Even I want to go to heaven. I don’t want to be left out.”
We all laughed hysterically.
“I have another question. How many of you want to die?”
The whole church was silence. The silence you experience when you pass by a graveyard. Except for the chirping of birds who flew around the church. They had even built a nest at the extreme corner of the church.
The silence lasted for some minutes as we looked at each other in confusion.
I looked around the church. Not a single hand was up.
Nobody wants to die of course.
He looked around, shaking his head while showing a slight smile.
“So you want to go to heaven but you don’t want to die?”
The crowd began murmuring while dipped his hands into his left pocket.
“I have something for you,” He said as his hand came out of the pocket.
We watched as they slowly slithered into the outside world. He lifted his hand up and he was holding something light. I looked closely and saw it.
He was holding a white feather. A bright white feather.
He lifted it higher for each and every one to see. Then he spoke.
“What I have here is a feather as you can all see. This is a determinant if you will go to heaven or not. I have anointed this feather and I will blow it towards you. If it lands on you, then you get to be the lucky one and you shall go to heaven.”
The congregation was astonished. He lowered his hand next to his mouth. He took a deep breath and blew the feather towards us. We watched closely as the feather twisted and turned in midair. It went up then slowly started descending towards us. It steadily descended, and it came closer towards one of the choir members. They gazed at the feather as it rotated downwards, coming closer and closer to their heads. James was one of the choir members. He watched as it came close to landing on him. He was breathing heavily as the feather came a few inches from his head. He wondered what to do. In his eyes, it was the end of his life. He then took a shallow breath and softly blew the feather away from him. He heaved a sigh of relief as the feather drifted away from him. He smiled as all eyes were on the feather.
It was now coming towards us. It gracefully drifted, rotating and turning while heading to where we were seated. I was directly facing the direction of the feather. It came closer and closer to us. I took deep breaths, anxiously waiting for it to come my way. As it came near me, a cool breeze blew into the church, carrying the feather past me: and towards my sister. The feather rolled and was inches away from my sister’s head. She was shorter than I was so I could clearly see its advancement towards her. I quickly blew it as far away from her as possible.
I do not want her to die; I said to myself as I watched the feather drift away. It was almost landing on one of the clergy members when he quickly blew it away. The feather hovered above the congregation, and each time it landed, it was blown away.
Another cool breeze blew and the feather followed it, this time not towards the congregation’s side, but towards the Pastor’s side.
We all watched as the feather changed its course and headed towards Pastor Michael. He watched it as the feather came directly towards him.
After all, he was our leader. He was to lead by example. There was no way he didn’t want to go to heaven.
The feather came inches next to him. He lowered his arms and closed his eyes. He took slow breaths while uttering some prayers. We watched in astonishment as the feather began to descend towards him. He continued praying as the feather came closer and closer towards him. We watched as the top part of the feather touched his head and stayed in that position for a few seconds, before fully landing on him.
It landed right on top of his bald head.
The feather landed on Pastor Michael. We held our breaths and awaited the outcome. Behind him, one of his entourage members quickly got up and ran to where Pastor Michael was standing. She suddenly blew the feather off him and it quickly drifted away.
“I don’t want you to die Pastor,” She said as she held his hand. All this time, his eyes were closed and he was deeply engrossed in prayer. He slowly opened his eyes and looked at her. His eyes were bloody red and veins were protruding from his eyes.
“What have you done my young one,” He spoke at last, while looking at the feather, which was now far away from him.
Everyone including the Pastor watched as the feather floated away. The cool breeze made it sway left and right and it finally landed.
The feather landed on top of a black crow, which was busy eating ants on the church’s floor. The bird made a loud rough noise and it fell down on the floor, shaking vigorously as its eyes turned blood red. We watched in shock as it trembled for some seconds then it lay still on the ground, its legs up in the air and its mouth wide open.
The ants it was feeding on began coming out of its mouth: escape from the jaws of death.
We were mind blown. We all turned our eyes towards the Pastor who was sternly staring at us.
The whole church was dead silent.
I looked back at the dead bird, still unable to believe what just happened.
The feather was lifted by the wind and we watched as it drifted out of the church through the window, heading for the church playground, which was filled with children playing all sorts of games in the hot sun.