lightning-1577896

“… You cannot imagine the level of excitement that is within me.  Finally, after seventy-five years of hard work and determination after acquiring our independence, the people of this country have achieved the first of its kind in Africa. We are so happy to be officially recognize as a first world country. All I can say is that we made it.”

“Thank you Mr. President for coming to the People’s radio station and delivering that amazing speech. Today is indeed a special day for all citizens to celebrate our achievements as a nation. And thank you once more Mr. President for leading us to this great achievement.”

“As I always say it’s my pleasure serving my people. Unity is everything. But this does not mean we should stop there. We have worked so hard to make the nation where it is today. We must continue upholding the nation’s laws to the latter. Thank you once more and God bless Kenya.”

…………

The date of this day was today, 27th October 2038.

The news spread like wildfire. Radio stations, televisions, both local and abroad were focused on our small East African nation. World leaders from the powerful nations, including our beloved President were holding meetings at the State House, which was broadcasted live for the citizens to witness. You could see the excitement everywhere.

“As you can see, the World leaders are greeting our president, a sign of respect for what the nation has accomplished. The United Nations Secretary General is holding some documents, which he is now showing them to the President. They are now heading to a table just opposite them. Live pictures are showing that the papers are actually the acknowledgement that our country has officially been recognized as a first world country. The President is smiling as he signs the papers. Next to sign is the Deputy President. For sure this is indeed a glorious day….”

The Radio presenter continued his accurate descriptions of what was happening in the State House. The public train was full of murmuring and whispers as people were holding their own meetings and debates in the train. For the first time in ten years, public transport systems were allowed to use their speakers to broadcast the events of the day. Thirteen years ago, public transport system used to be a noisy and reckless means of transport in which traffic rules were technically nonexistent. My father used to narrate to me tales of how they used to move from one place to another through small rectangular vehicles, which were known as ‘matatus’. I recalled how I used to laugh at the phrase every time he mentioned it.

“ Mata.. Mata..tu? What kind of a name is that?” I remembered how I used to ask him. He showed me photos and I would laugh hysterically.

“This is what you used to travel with? Damn!”

“Yes, son, those were the good old days when we were still a third world country. The matatus were banned two years before you were born. A lot has changed for the last twenty years. Our discovery of oil has proven to be a blessing from below I guess.”

I recalled the conversations with my father as the train moved slowly through the city center. A snake in the concrete jungle. Electric train systems had been installed throughout the major cities of the country. Roads were often empty since people preferred them for their punctuality and efficiency. There were dozens of train stops in one part of the city alone and they has a reputation of always being on time. I was seated near the window, watching from afar people going about their daily lives. It was a Saturday so of course the streets were empty. The train stopped and two elderly men walked in. One sat through the door while the other slowly walked and sat behind me.

“They must be full of wisdom,” I thought as they looked across the train, observing people busy scrolling through their phones. I watched as one of them pulled out a phone. Not an ordinary phone. I t was a black phone which had a small screen. He keenly looked at it as he began scrolling.

Then I felt a light tap behind me.

“Young man, come sit right next to me.” I looked behind as the old man spoke to me with a wide smile.

“ Oh..ok.”

I rose from my seat and jumped behind.

“Wow, I remember during my days when I was that energetic. I used to participate in high jump races. Those were the good old days. Good heavens! I had forgotten. Please help me check my phone’s date and time. It seems it is incorrect.”

He handed the phone to me: an iPhone 30. The latest smartphone on the market which had been released on December 2037. It was among the transparent version of smartphones which were launched five years ago.

“My son just bought me that phone. I am used to the old ones which you could control with the screen. These transparent ones are quite complicated,” He spoke while laughing. I turned the phone backwards and next to the back camera, which were also transparent, was a round black spot. I pressed the spot and the controller popped out. The controller was a white circular object which looked like a ball bearing. I placed my thumb on to it and it stuck.

“This is the controller. You are supposed to stick it the back of your head, just at the beginning of the neck,” I showed the old man the tiny object on my thumb. He quickly wore his glasses and leaned closer to see it.

“Ooh wow, let me put it then.”

He took it and stuck it at the back of his head.

“It feels quite comfortable, but its electric impulses are annoying,” he said as the turned his neck from side to side.

“Now think of something, like opening the camera.”

“Okay, let me try.”

The phone’s camera opened in an instant.

“Well that’s how it works. You use your mind to control the phone. No need for touching it. Here you go.” I handed the phone to him.

“Thank you so much young man,” He said as I jumped back to my front seat.

The train went on and snaked through various streets. The emptiness of the streets was satisfying to watch. The huge screens on top of the skyscrapers kept repeating the same advertisement over and over: the one thing that got all of us addicted. It had over two million users countrywide and more were joining as its popularity spread across the nation. The internet was filed with thousands of articles about it and how it has corrupted the minds of the young population into participating in behavior and actions that had deadly consequences. Despite the various accusations, its popularity was rapidly growing. The train hooted several times and came to a gradual stop. The city screens continued repeating the same exact advert.  I looked out through the window and saw them. Five of them. My best friends.

My people. My squad.

The “savage seven” as we would call ourselves. I waved at them and they waved back. The train doors opened and people flowed out of the train then others started boarding.

“Oya buda niaje,” James, the loudest member of our group, shouted at the top of his voice as they came and sat next to me. We bumped fists as the train continued with its movement.

“How have you been man, long time no see.”

“I have been fine man, you know the usual stuff. School and such. How about you,” I answered.

“I’m doing fine bro. Just stressed, with Sandra you know.”

“Ooh yeah, I remember you telling us about it. Eti sasa utakua babake mtu. Congrats man,” I said hysterically.  He smiled as he answered.

“Yeah man. I talked to Sandra about it and instead of aborting; we will just have the child. And the funny thing is that none of our parents know. If they find out, I do not know what is going to happen. Or maybe I should tell them when the child is born…”

“Don’t worry man. All will be well. We will support you and Sandra and your son…or daughter?” I assured him.

“We are having a son,” James answered back.

The seven of us were the best of friends. Having grew up in the same neighborhood, went to the same primary school, and coincidentally attending the same high school made our bonds stronger and inseparable. We trusted each other ever since, and when they said they would support me, they meant it for sure. We talked and laughed as the train slithered from stop to stop. We were going the last stop which was at the edge of the city. The stop which had a very infamous reputation. We were going to see James’ younger brother who was admitted in a mental hospital for attempting to burn their house down. Before that, he has attempted suicide several times but was luckily saved by curious onlookers. They could not keep up with his behavior and they had no other option but to send him to the mental institution for further treatment.

“Hey guys!!! I have just remembered!” James shouted. Once again.

“Remembered what James,” I responded.

“Have you tried playing E.O.G?”

We all looked confused for a moment.

“Ati EOG? What on earth is that?” We asked James, who began laughing.

“Yani you don’t know EOG? All of you seem to be living under a tree or something. It’s the famous game, Edge of Glory.”

“Oooh, you could have said that earlier. No, I haven’t played it yet. Not even thought about  downloading it.”

“Well what are you all waiting for? The game is really fun. There are even real prizes to be won. And money as well. Pesa buda!”

I took out my phone and googled the game. I had seen its advertisements everywhere but I had never really has a keen interest about it. After all, I had little belief in these games that offered payments. They were all fake, I thought. My friends took out their phones and downloaded the game. I did as well. The game was huge in size. One whole Terabyte! I downloaded it knowing very well my phone would have to suffer the consequences. Within five minutes, I downloaded the game and it took another five minutes for it to install.

Finally, it opened. After another five minutes.

“Please select language..” A deep voice began talking. I chose English.

“Now listen to the instructions carefully,” James said as the rest of my friends’ games opened as well. I took my pair of earphones and fixed them into my ears. The deep voice continued talking.

“Welcome to Edge of Glory. Prepare to be amazed, frightened, entertained and experience all other thing that rush the adrenaline in you. But before we proceed you must allow us to access some of your phones tools as well as your private information…”

I read their terms. I was to allow the game to access all of my phone’s applications, social media profiles, files and all my personal information including my Mpesa and bank accounts.

“So I must allow them to access all of these things? Isn’t that illegal? What if they steal my money man?” I asked James.

“So many questions bro. Just tap allow. Trust me. I have done it too. Me and other several million people who have downloaded the game. So no pressure bro.”

I looked at the rest of my friends and we all agreed to tap the ‘allow’ icon.

After all, it was just a game.

We allowed the game to access all of these demands. Then our phones went dark all of a sudden. I pressed the power button severally but it didn’t switch back on.

“ What is this?”

We complained to James as he looked at us while smiling. “Keep calm, all of you. Do not panic. Give it some time it will switch itself on.”

Five minutes later, all of our phones vibrated and came back on simultaneously. “Welcome Westwood.” The words were shown on the screen, followed by a large smiley emoji. ‘Press here to continue.’ The deep voice spoke and I pressed the said button. They know probably everything about my

“Well you are now officially in the game my people. Now all you do is just follow the instructions and voila! You earn some money! Easy, right?” James said as we all waited for the instruction.

“Hey guys, an instruction just popped up in my screen,” Jack said as we all gathered around him, curious to know what the instructions were.

“Well, read them for us.”

“Ok, it says that I should do a back flip. Then I receive five thousand shillings. It sounds easy to me. Just a back flip.”

“If you can do it press ‘Accept’.”

There were three options. Accept, Deny or Refer a Friend. He quickly pressed accept and the phone’s back camera opened.

“Someone is supposed to record you doing the challenge for them to confirm if you’ve really done it,” James said as he took the camera and faced Jack. “Ok, now stand up and do the back flip.” James stood up and walked towards the space between the train’s seats. James stood in front of him while recording. He looked up and did the back flip, landing on his feet.

The phone beeped for some time and a smiley emoji popped up. ‘Congrats Jack’ the deep voice spoke from the phone.

We were all waiting for the money part of the challenge.

“MERT4356YU Confirmed. You have received 5000 from Edge of Glory…”

The message arrived. We were all left in shock and surprise.

“So it’s real huh. Alright.”

We were all believers after that. 5000 shillings for just performing a back flip.

Real believers.

We began waiting to see who was next. My phone was glued to my hand while staring at the screen, waiting impatiently for a pop up.

“Come on,” I whispered as I looked at my phone.

“Has anybody got a challenge yet?” Peter, one of our friends asked. The answer was of course no.

Then we heard a loud beep.

A huge pop up appeared on my phone.

It was a challenge.

“Hey people, I have a challenge!” I shouted in disbelief as my friends gathered around me.

“Well what does it say? Quick. look?”

I pulled the screen closer to my eyes and read. I read the challenge and looked at my friends in surprise. “What does it say Westwood? Show us?”

I was shocked. Shocked for real this time. Of all challenges I could have done, they chose to pick this one for me. Why me?

The challenge was that I stand at the edge of the T.M Towers for 20 seconds. With one leg up.

“Wow, that’s a tricky challenge man.”

“And what is the prize by the way?”

The prize for risking all this was astonishing. “The prize is twenty million shillings.”

My friends wowed in amazement.

“What! Twenty million! That’s a lot of cash man. Just accept the challenge. The next stop leads to the towers.

That’s a lot of money man. Just accept it yo!”

I began thinking about it. Twenty million shillings was a lot of money. That was nothing but the truth. I began consoling my inner mind and soul about it. And I has ten minutes to decide if I was going to accept, deny or refer to a friend.

“You have to choose. The stop to T.M Towers is just some few minutes away.”

My mind was in a dilemma. Deep down I knew I could not do it. I mean honestly, I stand on the edge of the tallest building in East Africa: staring directly towards death. Just because of a game! Bur here comes the other side of the story. The prize. The reason for doing all that risky activity. The chance to be a millionaire in less than a minute. Who wouldn’t want that right?

A golden opportunity. Sent from heaven by the Almighty Himself.

I came to a conclusion and made my choice.

The final choice. And that was it. No going back. Ever. I breathed in, breathed out and spoke to me friends.

“You know what guys, I have made my choice. Whatever happens just know you are the best of friends I have ever met in my entire life.”

“Oh God, you are going to do it, aren’t you?” Peter spoke as I saw excitement beaming from his face.

“You are the man Westwood!”

I smiled and then spoke.

“Actually what I’m going to do is not what you are thinking. I am not going to deny it, but I will instead refer it to a friend. That is my choice.”

My friends’ excitement faded away. They looked at me, and then looked at each other then to me again.

“What! Who are you going to refer to and why? You are letting twenty mil slip away like that.”

“I am referring the challenge to you James. I thought since you are expecting a child, the money might be of greater help to you. And it will also help pay for your brother’s treatment in the hospital.”

I pressed the refer option before James could speak a word. My phone beeped I entered James’ details on the space provided. Immediately, his phone beeped and a smiley emoji popped up followed by the deep voice.

“Hello James, challenge 563 has been referred to you by Westwood. Please select your choice.”

“The choice is yours man. Accept or deny.” I told him.

He looked at his phone and murmured for a while.

“Ok. Screw it, I’ll do it. Happy now.”

A few minutes later, the train came to a slow stop. We had no option but to postpone seeing James’ brother. The seven of us alighted from the train and began walking towards the T.M. Towers.

“You know what, I think you are right. Let me do it for them. But of course well share it amongst ourselves if I win right. How can I forget you six idiots,” James said jokingly as the approached the building. “And by the way, I was told the game was developed by an engineering student in the University of Nairobi. Rumor has it that he had remained anonymous since the game gained popularity. The authorities have been looking and tracing him but they have never caught him. And another rumor is that it is being operated by an artificial intelligence software hidden in a house somewhere in the city.  Who knows?”

We reached the entrance of the building and I looked up. It was so high that the end was covered in the clouds. We walked in the building and a young female sat at the reception office.

“Hello, welcome to T.M Towers, how may I help you?”

“We are here because of this…” James said as he showed the receptionist his phone.”

She looked at us in a frightened look.

“Oh… oh… okay go right ahead. The elevator is on your left,” She stammered as she pointed at the elevator. We headed towards the escalator as I contemplated about her reaction. I looked back at her and saw her phone on her hands pointing it at our direction.

We entered the elevator and pressed the top most floor.

It was floor number 200.

“I hope it works guys. Pray for me,” James said while laughing hysterically. Then he kept quiet. I am sure all of us have that habit of calculating how you would spend money which is not in your pocket or account. We have all done it. At one time in this life, when you are a few hours or days away from gaining a lump-sum of money, you suddenly become an accountant and plan your expenditure to the very last penny.

James was no exception.

Two minutes later, the elevator opened and we were at the top of the building. The wind was strong and cold as it blew across us, drifting my cap into the air. I watched it as it swirled round and went overboard. Dark clouds had formed, and it was uncertain whether it would rain or not.

“This place is really high man.”

We walked towards the end of the building and looked down. It was a long way down. The clouds covered most parts of the building, making it impossible to see the roads and trains beneath us.

“Now which edge is the right edge?” James asked as we looked around the building.

His phone suddenly beeped. He looked at it then the deep voice spoke.

“The edge is on your far right. Get there and perform the challenge.”

We looked to the right and went to where the voice said.

“Are we being watched or something?” I said as looked up and round us to see if there were any drones following us.  We reached there and it was indeed the edge of the building. Except one thing.  The protective barrier was not there. Instead, a long horizontal structure protruded from the edge, like an antennae of some sort, except it was metallic and relatively narrow.

His phone beeped again. The camera opened and it was time.

“Give me the phone, I will record,” I said.

“Okay guys, wish me luck. Its only twenty seconds and we are stinking money!” He shouted as we walked towards the edge. I closely followed him and I stopped as the horizontal structure began getting thinner.

“Na uchunge buda,” I said as he tiptoed towards the edge of the structure. I looked down and the height made my eyesight blurred, as though I had been under the influence. I heavily blinked as I focused on recording him.

Then his phone vibrated. It quickly switched from the camera to the timer.

“It has switched to the timer. Are you ready?” I shouted since he was now far from where I was standing. Slowly, he began lifting his left leg up.

The countdown immediately began.  From twenty seconds downwards.

19….18…17….16…15…

I looked at the phone as the countdown neared fifteen seconds. I looked at James as he maintained balance at the edge of the metallic structure. We cheered him on as I zoomed the camera to let the game see that he was going to make it, if they had any doubts about it.

10…9…8…

The countdown was clocking into the last five seconds.

He was really going to make it. Unbelievable. Twenty million, just like that?

..5…4…3…

I looked at the phone in excitement as the countdown was almost over.  My eyes were wide open in amazement as we cheered him on. James looked at us and burst out into laughter. His unique laughter.

..2…1…0

The countdown was over. He won the challenge.

He won.

The phone vibrated and then a pop up emerged from his screen. “Challenge Won!” It wrote.

“Ha ha ha!! You see guys. It was not that hard. You could have done it Westwood.” He said while laughing.

“If only you weren’t such a co….”

A bright flash of light suddenly appeared out of nowhere. The light blinded my eyes and I heavily blinked. The light was followed by a loud rumbling.

I opened my eyes slowly and looked at James. He was standing still, with his eyes wide open.

“What was that?” Peter asked.

“Lightning bro,” He was answered.

“Is everyone okay?” Jack asked.

I looked at James and he seemed ok. I looked behind me and my friends were all laughing after what happened.

“Hey James, the challenge is over. You can put your leg down now bro!” I said.

He stood still. With eyes wide open looking at me.  He was still.

“Hey something is wrong with James,” I told my friends who came towards me. “Oya James acha ufala,” Jack said as he waved a middle finger towards him. He did not respond and continued staring at us.

A strong wind blew towards us.

We stood there in shock as James slowly began swaying towards one side. My mouth opened wide as he fell off the edge like a cut tree. We watched as he went down towards the ground. The clouds swallowed him and he was no longer visible. We looked down, but the clouds surrounding the building prevented us from seeing the ground. I turned back at my friends, my eyes and mouth wide open, not believing what I had just witnessed. We gazed at each other in shock and confusion, trying to comprehend what had just happened.

His phone beeped. I looked at it and a smiley emoji appeared on the screen. And then it vibrated.

“MWTRO85YT Confirmed. You have received two million from Edge of Glory…” The message was followed by another one of the same exact amount. And another one. And another one. Ten messages came to the phone, each with two million shillings. The total balance was twenty million shillings. We looked at each other, as we saw the balance right before us.  I looked over the edge and James was gone. In his phone there was twenty million shillings.

We knew exactly what to do.

Meanwhile, the lightning flashed once again, followed by the loud rumbling of thunder. This time it struck the lightning arrestor of the next building which was a few meters away.

…….

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