The Twins

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“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.

For Now.

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…”

“I…I…I…

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.”

“Me too”

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.

……………………………

Edge Of Glory

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“… 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.

…….

The Bitten Apple

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“That is all, my Lord.” 

He said as he slowly grabbed his papers and neatly folded them into his black briefcase. He locked it and walked towards where I was seated. He gave me a nod and a faint smile. He placed the briefcase on the table in front of me and took a seat. From his facial expressions, I could see the confidence beaming from him. Despite that, my body could not resist the urge of slightly trembling: because in the next few minutes, my fate in this life was going to be decided. It was a matter of life and death.

Then he coughed two times as he arranged some papers in front of him.

We all looked up towards the bench, where the grey-haired judge was seated. He adjusted his spectacles using his left hand as he placed the papers closer to his eyes. He cleared his throat.

I swallowed a huge gulp of saliva from my mouth as I waited for the final judgment from him. I looked at my lawyer who was seated next to me.

“Don’t worry, we won this case man,” He whispered.

“Order in the court!” The judge spoke at last. The murmurs on the courtroom slowly descended into dead silence. I looked behind me and saw my family: my parents and two siblings who were seated together looking at me with reassuring eyes. My older brother raised his thumb at me and I did the same. That was our greetings sign since we were little.

It’s quite funny how crucial moments like these make one recall all his life within seconds and appreciating the good times while regretting the bad ones. Well that was happening to me at that time.

Some of my close friends from college were present. I nodded at them and they nodded back. I looked at the far end of the courtroom and I was met with deadly stares. Stares from the family of the late Mrs. Morgan. Particularly her husband and her daughter. They stared at me as their faces displayed pure anger and loathe towards me. I then turned and faced the judge, who immediately began speaking.

“After thorough analysis of evidence and hearings both lawyers, the judge finds Mr. Wilson guilty for the murder of Mrs. Morgan on the 12th of October 2018. You are hereby sentenced to ten years in prison and six months community service after the completion of your term.”

“What! No! My son is innocent! He isn’t capable of murder!”

My mother, who was calmly seated suddenly erupted and lashed at the judge. She stood up and was about to charge at him when my father held her by the shoulder.

I stood up shocked and about to burst into tears.

I was going to jail.

“I didn’t do it! I told you it was the man with a black cap! He sold the phone to me! Can’t you understand I’m telling you the truth!” I yelled at the top of my voice as I failed to hold back tears from my eyes. I was both sad and angry. I was about to bear the consequences for an act I had no hand in it.

A quite unfair world indeed.

I looked at my lawyer, who was surprised as well. He rushed towards the judge as he was leaving the premise in attempt to persuade him.

“Please my Lord, grant him bail,” He spoke to the judge.

“There is no bail for murder lawyer Kimani. The evidence was found in his house two days after the murder,” The judge spoke as he headed out of the courtroom via the front door, which was right behind the seat. His face was hopeless. I could not believe that I was going to jail. The courtroom burst into shouts as my friends and family were harshly against my sentencing.

I shifted my eyes at the back of the courtroom where Mrs. Morgan’s family was seated. They were calm. Her husband calmly got up and as he left, he looked at me and showed a wide smile. He held her daughter’s hand as they left the courtroom with their lawyer, who was overjoyed he had won the case.

The courtroom was filled with chaos as my parents came and hugged me tightly. I was in tears. For the first time in centuries. My path in this life was abruptly changed.

All for a crime I did not commit. There was no way I could have a killed a person.

All this was due to one single thing:

A black iPhone X.

That was the root cause led to these series of unfortunate events in my life.

A black, sleek, legendary phone.

The iPhone.

A police officer came to where I was and removed a pair of handcuffs from his pocket. As protocol, if found guilty, one was escorted out of the courtroom in cuffs: like a certified criminal. A societal disgrace. I raised my hands towards the police officer who cuffed them and led me out of the courtroom towards the neatly parked police car. My father wrapped his sweater around my head as we went outside. I could hear the endless snaps of cameras and murmuring, a clear indication that the press were anxiously waiting for the court session to end. I was led into the back of the vehicle and entered the police car. I removed the sweater and my family were seated next to me, with their faces dull and full of sadness.

And all this was caused by the events that happened three months ago.

THREE MONTHS AGO

“Wasee nadai phone maze! Yenye niko nayo imebeat mbaya!”

I said to my friends as we maneuvered our way past the busy crowds of people. It was on a Tuesday, and as it had been our culture since we joined college, Pizza Inn was the order of the day. It was where we looked forward to go to every single Tuesday. We usually arrived a few hours past noon in order to secure ourselves seats before the human traffic began filling the little spaces in the Inn.

“Pizza ya leo ilikua poa!” One of my friends uttered as we left the establishment to go to our respective homes.

We all nodded in agreement, as I caressed my full belly while softly belching. It was indeed delicious. We lazily walked along the pathways as our stories became more and more interesting.

“You should try and get an iPhone bruh,” one of them said as we roared into laughter.

“That’s a good idea man, I’ll get one very soon,” I answered sarcastically as we continued laughing. It was five o’clock in the evening and people were jetting back from their places of work and heading home. We meandered across the streets like slithering snakes dodging people from all directions. We crossed the busy roads and we were heading for the matatu stage.

Then we heard a loud burst.

I trembled as we looked back to see a bus swaying and eventually falling sideways on the road. Its back tire had burst, making it lose balance. People began rushing towards the bus. So did we. We reached where it had rolled. We looked through the broken windows but luckily, no one was injured as far as we could tell. They began moving out of the bus through the upper side until all of them were safe away from the bus. They dusted off their clothes and faces, took their belongings were on their way: as though they had not faced death a few moments later.

“Let’s get out of here guys,” one of my friends said as a tow truck came and towed the bus away. The County government workers immediately began sweeping the road and collecting the shattered parts of the bus. Within a few minutes, it was business as usual. The long, endless traffic started to seamlessly flow past the blocked road and soon, the traffic flow returned to normal.

We continued walking as we talked about how we were going to sit tomorrow since we were going to sit for an exam: one of the hardest.

“Tutaketi tu venye tuko. Mimi mbele, Brayo na John katikati then wewe apo nyuma,” said Peter, one of my friends; the most talkative one among us. “Formation” was what we called it. And it had worked miraculously the previous times. This time was no difference.

Business as usual.

We burst out into laughter as he explained into details the happenings of the next day. The night was slowly crawling in as we neared the stage. The streets lights simultaneously brightened the roads and pathways and soon after, a slight drizzle started pouring on us.

That was when I saw it.

Leaning at the extreme corners of the street was a short tall, slender man wearing a black t-shirt and blue ripped jeans with open shoes. I stared at him and we immediately made eye contact. He then started looking down and towards me repeatedly, clearly signaling me to look down. I shifted my eyes and then saw it.

In his hands was a shiny, golden object, which was clearly seen from far. He waved it with his left hand towards me. A large black cap was hanging from his head with the front part slightly lower than normal.

A master of disguise.

“Hey guys, come check this out,” I signaled my friends who were cluelessly walking in front of me.

“What is it,” they as I pointed the man to them.

“It seems it’s a phone. Let’s go take a look,” Peter said as he led the way.

“Are you sure guys? What if he’s a con and some thief?”

“Don’t worry Brian; just a look won’t kill you, “Peter said as his curiosity heightened above average.

We crossed the busy road and headed to where he was standing. He looked at us while smiling as we approached him. He stood upright, looked both sides and slowly walked towards us. He then shook his head towards the left side, and then entered into a dark alley. We followed him and took a left turn towards the dark alley. The fresh city air suddenly changed into a pale, pungent stench as we approached the alley. The whole path was littered with all sorts of rubbish, making it unpassable.

Niaje wazito,”

He greeted us with a deep, hoarse voice as we fist-bumped each other. We all greeted him, with our minds rather horrified by this encounter. He slowly removed the shiny object and showed it to us.

It was a golden, sleek phone. He handed it to me and I keenly observed it. The bitten apple logo was majestically visible at the back of the phone. It was an iPhone X. The latest one in the market at that time.

“That’s an iPhone bro, one of its kind. There’s only twenty of them in the country,” He said as he switched it on for us.

It was a legitimate phone. Period.

We were expecting to see some funny-looking logo pop out of the screen leading to us bursting into laughter for him taking us as fools: but it did not. The screen lit up in white as the logo faded in and out in some few seconds. My friends gathered around me as I began operating it.

“It’s a real one bro,” Peter said as he took it from my hand. It was indeed sleek. He passed it around my friends who were all eager to have it in their hands.

“How much for the phone,” I asked. I took deep silent breaths as I waited for his reply. There was no way such a phone could cost less than fifty thousand, considering the fact that it was priced at one hundred thousand in the market. He placed his hands on his chin and began rubbing his beard. Then he spoke…

“Well, you know this is an iPhone right?” He said. We knew what he would say next was an unimaginable sum of money which we campus students were in no chance capable of having.  He then cleared his throat and spoke again.

“ Najua nyinyi ni mavijana…So just give me five thousand and the phone is yours.”

Wait. What!

My mind was in shock. We looked at each other in surprise and confusion. We were expecting ten times more than that. It seemed Lady Luck was on our side. Just some few minutes ago we were talking about that phone, now it was about to be mine. Without hesitation or second thought, I dipped my hands into my pocket and came out with some notes. I counted them and they were four thousand five hundred in total.

“I have 4500 man,” I said as I held the cash openly in my palms for him to see. He stared at the money for a while.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to…”

Before Brian could finish speaking, he stretched his hands towards the cash and took it. He handed the phone’s charger to me.

“Goodbye guys. Pleasure doing business,” He said as he fist- bumped all of us again. He smiled at us: a short half-smile to be specific. He wore his black cap and vanished into the streets amongst the busy pedestrians.

And just like that, he was gone.

I now had an iPhone. I looked at it with excitement, as I could not wait to officially use it. I dipped it into my left pocket and we got out of the dark alley. The fresh breath entered our noses and we felt freed and relieved. The horrendous smell was worth it. We boarded a matatu back to our homes and few minutes later, we had arrived.

We soon parted ways with my friends and immediately I got home, I removed my sim card form my previous phone and placed it into the new phone. I switched on and began using it.

No need to waste time.

I began adjusting the phone’s settings to my region’s specifications and language since they were all in French. It must have come from France, I thought. I filled in all my details and signed up. When everything was set, I placed it next to my bed as it charged. I was happy. Not happy, satisfied. Satisfied was the word. It was around 9PM and I began feeling sleepy. Some minutes later, sleep took hold of me and I was dead asleep.

I was woken up by loud knocks on my door.

I opened my eyes confused as I heavily blinked. I looked at the time in my iPhone and it was almost twelve midnight. It must be one of my friends, I thought as the loud knocks persisted .I got up from my bed and removed the charger from the phone, which was fully charged. I lazily walked towards the door and peeped through the window. There were two police cars parked outside and on my doorstep were three suited men continuously knocking on the door.

What are uniformed men doing in my door at this time of the night? I wondered.

“How can I help you?” I asked them as I opened the door.

They stared at me as one of them held the door wide open.

“Where’s your national ID. Can we see it?” One of them spoke as he sternly stared at me. I took out my ID and gave it to them. He took it and keenly looked at it. He then passed it to his colleague who looked at it. They then stared at each other while nodding.

“We’ve got him,” One of them spoke as they looked at me with fiery eyes. I stood there confused.

“Excuse me I…,”

Before I could even finish a sentence, I felt a tight grip on left arm. I found myself pinned to the ground, my stomach on the floor. My hands were placed on my head while on of them began emptying my pockets. My shirt was torn as they brutally frisked me from head to toe.

“He is not armed,” He said as he took some documents from my pockets.

“You are arrested for the murder of Mrs. Morgan and robbery with violence. The phone you stole from her has been tracked to this exact location. We are from the DCI.”

“Wait…What phone?” I asked as I lay in the ground, breathing in the brown dust on the ground. One of the men entered my house and went straight to where my bed was. He took the iPhone from the bedside and came with it outside.

“Here’s Mrs. Morgan’s phone Sir,” He said as he showed it to his colleague. He took it and keenly observed it.

“So you are the one who robs people and leaves them for dead. We have finally caught up with you. We could have ended you right now were it not for the orders from above you worthless piece of s@#t!” He yelled as he pulled me back up from the ground. He removed a pair of handcuffs from his pocket and tightly cuffed my hands.

“This is a misunderstanding…” I yelled as they led me away from my home. I looked around and saw my neighbors’ lights were all on while they were peeping through the windows witnessing the drama unfold. To them, they had been living with a criminal all along.

But not anymore.

I was manhandled into the awaiting police car and it immediately drove off.

To God-knows- where.

Light As A Feather

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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.

Nipishe wewe!”

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.

“Ameeeennn!”

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.

Who wouldn’t?

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.

It landed.

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.

Him And Her II

romantic-proposal-1245855PART II

HER

She stood there.

 

 

She just stood there. Her eyes wide open. Not even able to blink.  She was staring at the door. It was a few minutes after he barged out of the common room like an angry bull, leaving her speechless and confused. Her friends came next to her and held her shoulders, thinking she may decide to chase after him.

But she just stood there.

As though she was rooted to the floor.

She had no idea what to do. Continue with the birthday or just walk away. Or chase after him. Or just…She was completely indecisive. She looked around: everyone was holding their smartphones pointing at her, with their flashes a clear indication that photos and videos were being taken for the sole purpose of sharing around the hundreds of University groups on various social sites. She was going to be an internet sensation in the next few hours. And not forgetting the endless comic memes that would accompany her ‘fame’ afterwards. People had even climbed on top of their chairs to witness the drama unfold between them as she boldly said NO to his witiful proposal. Everything was recorded. Every single detail. There was endless murmuring in the common room as people were still reacting and doing their own analysis of the incident. Some were murmuring hurtful words right next to her while laughing hysterically. She looked at them, hearing everything that they were saying, and just looked away, hiding the bitterness in her eyes.

Because there was nothing she could do about it.

 

A cold breeze coming from the open door blew straight to her and she slightly regained some sense of the matter. She blinked for a few seconds and looked at her two closest friends who were standing next to her: as they always did. They held each of her hand and led her away from the door towards the front where they were seating. She walked towards her seat, with her friends by her side and she slowly sat as they sat with her. She placed her hands on her knees as she lay her head between the palms of her hands. Some of the people who were standing slowly began sitting as they saw her sit, while others roamed around the hall bursting out laughter as they showed each other the videos and photos each of them took. She heard her voice coming from one of the phones behind her.

“I’m sorry but no…”

She heard her voice playing followed a by a loud laughter from the back. Her emotions wildened as she recalled those words, which she uttered to him a few moments ago. She remembered the very exact words and both of their reactions.

“Let’s just cut the cake and get this over with,” one of her friends said as she stood up and grabbed the knife. The birthday girl was seated at the front of the room the whole time. She stood up and went beside the table where the cake was neatly placed, still in the box.

She watched as the cake was being cut. The” Happy birthday “song started being sung as the birthday girl held the knife gracefully as she sliced the chocolate cake into eight pieces. A Bluetooth speaker was brought on the table and music was played in a bid to eliminate the weary mood that was hovering around the room.

“Hey, get up! Let’s dance!” Her friends said as they stretched their hands towards her. She rolled her eyes in frustration as she stretched her hands as well. She lazily got up, as her friend led her at the center of the room. Her friends swayed her hands side to side in an attempt to make her dance but it was futile.

Then she heard it.

Don’t go am kujaiiiinnnggg…..

Tonight we are dunda…dundaiiinngg!!!”

Her favorite song started playing from the Bluetooth speaker. Her friends were still holding her hands while waving them aimlessly. She closed her eyes and she felt the happenings of that day slowly fading as her favorite song was reaching its climax. She felt relieved: almost as though nothing had happened. Her mind wandered away to the beat of her favorite song. She slowly started moving her waist rhythmically. She swayed sideways and went downwards, rotated back and forth as her friends watched in amazement.

“Now that’s more like it!” One of them said as they joined her in dancing her unique moves.

She felt relieved.

As if nothing had happened at all.

They danced their hearts out and soon one hour has passed by. People had begun exiting the premises and so they had to as well. The cake had been viciously attacked by those in attendance to the point where even the box was not spared by their brutality. But lucky for them, they had an extra cake safely stored in her room. They collected the rubbish that had been left behind by the party-goers, leaving the place just as they had found it: neat and clean.

She was happy.

The memory of that day had faded into history. She kept convincing herself that she had made the right choice. There was one memory that made her giggle: the one that he went on his knees. She remembered how that made her surprised making her speechless. She actually thought he was going to give her a ring or something. She giggled as she left the room with her friends. They went down the stairs towards the hostel’s exit.

“Hey miss! A moment please,” shouted the housekeeper as she rushed towards them. They stopped walking and the housekeeper stood next to them.

“Sorry to disturb you but I’ve been told you know him,” She said as she reached into her pockets and took out a school ID. She showed it to them.

It was his.

She took it and keenly looked at it on both sides. Indeed, it was his. “Yes, I know the owner of the ID,” she said.

“Well kindly give it to him. He left here in a hurry and I noticed he was angry. Someone must have pissed him off,” the housekeeper said while smiling.

She smiled back. A very fake smile it was. She took the ID and placed it in her pocket. Her two friends were staring at her blankly, confused by what she had just done.

“Have a good day,” said the housekeeper as she went into her office.

They continued walking towards their hostel, which was quite the distance. She began wondering where he might have gone to after displaying the angry rant towards her. It was around six PM and the sky was becoming dark. She felt the cold breeze, once again: this time it was colder than usual. It blew past her, leaving her skin with protruding goosebumps all over her body. She took out her red jumper from her bag and quickly wore it.

It was his jumper actually.

She felt warm.

They had now crossed the first gate out of the hostel they had been and they had and were now heading towards their hostel. They neared the students’ annex center and saw a huge crowd of people gathered at the entrance. “What’s going on here,” they wondered as they approached the crowd. People were murmuring as the sound of the school’s ambulance wailed loudly as the crowd paved way for it to enter.

She reached where the crowd was. With her level of curiosity getting higher, she squeezed herself between the rowdy crowd to reach the front and see for herself what had happened.

“Hey wait up!” Her friends said as they struggled keeping up with her. She was rather slender so it was easier for her to penetrate through the crowd, considering her plumper friends. She finally made it to the front of the crowd. She looked around, hoping to see something astonishing but there seemed to be nothing of interest. “Excuse me, what’s happening here,” she asked the person next to her, who was busy holding her phone upwards towards the wall, with the back flash shining brightly. She looked at the wall.

On top of the wall separating the annex from the lecture halls, he hung there like the way a cheetah hangs its prey on a tree after killing it. His hands were on one side while his feet was on the other side of the wall. There was a large gash on the left side of his head out of which blood flowed, coloring the wall red. She stood there: eyes wide open with her hands on her mouth. “Finally, we have reached you. Next time wait for….” Her friend stopped talking when she saw the body dangling from the wall.

“Oh my God.”

The three of them stood there as they watched the school’s Red Cross team climb up the wall and pull his body down. She took a few steps to where the ambulance was and looked closely.

It was him.

It was truly him.

He lay on the white trolley: lifeless. Unable to utter a single word.

Tears started falling, since she could not believe what she had just seen. The Red Cross team began searching his pockets and took out his wallet. They opened it and neatly placed the contents of the wallet on the ground.

“There seems to be no identification card in the wallet,” said one of them.

She dipped her hands in to her pockets and took out his ID card. She stretched it towards them and they looked at her in amazement.

“I…I…I know him,” she spoke, trying as much as she can to withhold the tears from streaming down her eyes. They took the ID and confirmed. It was indeed him.

“You will have to come with us miss,” one of them said as she was led into the ambulance.

“We’ll also go with as well,” one of her friends, said as they followed her into the ambulance.

The body was neatly put in a huge bag and placed on the ambulance next to where they were seated. She looked at him one more time. Her hands on her still placed on her mouth. She then noticed something odd.

Trapped in his right hand was a piece of paper. She looked closely and it was scribbled some writings on it. She bumped her friends to see the piece of paper.

They all immediately thought that the contents of that paper were the explanation behind his untimely and shocking end.

His reasons why.

Meanwhile, the crowd began showing the birthday videos to the Red Cross team while pointing at her. She sat on the ambulance bench, knowing very well that a long, unpleasant moment in her life was beginning to unfold.

The Drug Addict

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“We’re in this together,” They said. “We are more than friends and junkies. We are family,” They said.

…..

 

I hear the sound of ocean waves gracefully swooshing along the seashore in a slow but vigorous manner. The sound continues to duplicate, creating a rhythmic sound, which echoes towards us, mammals of the land. The waves bring with it the breathe of life: A smooth, cold and windy breeze that cools down the extremely humid temperatures. It caresses your skin and removes all the sweat from your body leaving your cool and relaxed. Mother Nature’s cooling system I suppose.

It was midday. At around 1300 East African Time.

The month of February is usually the hottest month of the year. That I can affirm to you with the greatest level of confidence. Walking for a few meters under that treacherous sun will doom you to a period of exhaustion, dehydration and unpleasant odors to the abnormal excretion of sweat from all parts of your body. You then console yourself that one shower would refresh your body and you would return to your normal self. You spend an hour enjoying the cold water trickling down your body as your body cools down like an overheated car engine. You head out of the shower refreshed and ready to face the endless struggles of life. Only for you to begin sweating heavily once more, which leaves you cursing and lamenting on Mother Nature.

But for us, sitting under the coconut tree next to our home did the trick.

There we were, seated in a long bench strategically placed under the tree in such a way that the tree’s long, slender leaves provided the cool shade for all of us. The coconut tree was a rather lucky one. It had escaped being cut for quite a long time despite its fellow trees being unceremoniously chopped down for human capitalist purposes. If only it could speak. The things it had witnessed will remain a mystery to us millennials enjoying its cool shade.

There were six of us. Seated on the long bench. We were the best of friends. Having known each other for more than a decade, we had considered ourselves brothers, much more than friends. But our connection was not solely based on our knowledge of each other from childhood. We had similar interests. Similar hobbies. Similar taste of music.

Similar everything.

Out of all these similarities, one similarity stood out from the rest. A unique comparison only the six of us shared in the whole neighborhood. One that made us be viewed in a totally different perspective by the community.

The six of us were seated there; each one busy with his phone, doing whatever one does with unlimited Telkom bundles. I was the third person to the right. Literally in the middle of the wooden rickety bench. I was glued to my phone concentrating on placing a bet that would secure my account with a few thousand shillings, if all went well that is. I was keenly analyzing the odds, switching form tab to tab of articles and analysis done by various international sports specialist whose predictions were most likely to come true. The level of concentration that was in me, one might think it was a matter of life and death.

Of which it was.

As I was finalizing, placing the bet and leaving the rest to God, the one seated on my left patted my shoulder to capture my attention. I ignored him as he proved to be a distraction as I was “busy”. He tapped my shoulder one more time. I logged out of the betting site and the one seated on my right hand patted my shoulder as well. I placed the phone into my pocket and looked at my friend on the left who was handing it to me. His eyes were bloodshot and sleepy as red veins protruded out of his retina.

“Oy…oy…oya bro..shika sss..ss.sinda..a..aano..o..” He spoke in a slow, stammering manner, evidence of gradual degradation of his cognitive skills. His name was Musa. A long-term friend of mine before I knew my other five friends. He slowly lifted the syringe he had in his hand and pointed I it towards me. I took it from him and pressed the nozzle to release the whatever contents which had remained. I took a piece of paper from my lower pocket and placed it on my laps. I was then passed a cup that was half-full of water by Musa. I opened the piece of paper and in it were the powdery substance we all were addicted to. A white, shiny powdery substance, which had an odor similar to the chemical elements we used to combine during our high school days.

That was what we had in common. We were all drug addicts. Really heavy drug addicts.

I poured the contents of the paper into the cup and it formed a yellowish solution. I used the syringe to stir the contents into a uniform mixture. I stirred slowly and carefully. I had to make sure none of it spilled or went to whatever wastage. A single ounce of that commodity went for two thousand shillings on a good day. If the supply was low, the prices would double or even triple, making it harder for a jobless youth like me to afford. After stirring for a couple of minutes, it turned into a whitish solution, an indication that it had been evenly dissolved in the water. I grabbed the syringe with my right hand and the solution with the other hand. I placed the syringe inside the cup and pulled its nozzle upward, sucking the solution into the syringe. As you all know, syringes are calibrated. I was supposed to inject 30ml of it every day for my normal body functioning. I measured the required amount and then passed the cup to the next person seated on my right.

I looked at him and his state was worse. He was trembling. His hands and feet were shaking uncontrollably. He had gone for two days without his dosage and he was one step closer to mental instability. I rolled the sleeve of my right shirt until it reached the elbow. I took a brown scarf, which I had tied on my forehead. I  clenched my right hand into a fist and tightly tied the scarf on my hand, making my arm veins protrude outwards. I counted the second vein from the elbow which was normally larger than its counterparts. That was where I was supposed to inject the syringe into my body. I placed it on the vein and slowly pushed it inside the vein. It slid in for a few centimeters and knowing it was well placed, I pressed the nozzle downwards with my left thumb, pushing its contents into my vein. I felt a sharp pain as I pressed the nozzle until the last drop was transferred into my body. I removed the syringe from my vein and immediately, the drug took effect. I began breathing heavily and feeling nauseated. I could feel my heart beat increasing its pace and my eyes became blurry. The six of us were used to sitting under that tree which was next to the road. I looked around and saw people looking at us with eyes of pity and disgust. Despite the road being wide open, people resisted passing next to us on fear that we might pounce and rob them of their belongings. School children passed the road while bursting with laughter, pointing at us and imitating our dizziness selves. Then an old man yelled at them, telling them to rush home or we would kidnap them. The kids ran away laughing, as the old man looked at us in a disgusting manner. He clicked and continued walking away. We had gotten so used to the endless mean stares by the public that it did not affect us anymore.

But that was not a good way to live.

I passed the syringe to my friend seated on my right to repeat the same procedure. We had only one syringe, which all six of us used. For the past two years, that single syringe had kept our drug urges satisfied without any malfunction. The syringe was not just given to us on a silver platter. Our desperation led us to break into the local dispensary and steal a packet of syringes. Some of them slipped and fell as we were running for our lives since the security guard heard the commotion and was on our necks. Only one syringe lived to be used by us: and ever since, it has served the six of us up to date.

The drug was finally reaching its peak and I felt my brain become ‘elevated’.

Then a sudden memory flashed before my eyes. The very memory that led to me being in this hopeless state.

The events of a decade ago that completely changed my life. I was in primary school when I received news that both of my parents were involved in a road accident and their lives ended as they were transported to the hospital. That was when my life took a different path from the dreamy, surrealistic path of one day becoming a pilot, doctor or a lawyer. The unbearable trauma connected me to Musa, who introduced me to the drug world. On trying out the drug for the first time, I felt a relaxed sensation and I felt as though nothing had happened. It was an interesting experience.” If this simple dose made me forget my problems for a whole day, then if I used it daily I can get on with my life without feeling traumatized,” I thought as the drug took effect on my body. Musa took me to meet his so-called ‘family’, which were other five users of the drugs who were undergoing or have undergone a fate similar or worse than mine. We immediately became friends as we shared our stories, something that made me realize that my experience was the least tragic compared to theirs.

From that day on, we became the best of friends. We went everywhere together, did everything together. “We’re in this together. We are more than friends and junkies. We are family,” one of them said as he patted my shoulder. Those words became our slogan from that day.

But we had a major issue. We grew heavily addicted and we could not survive a single day without injecting ourselves with the drug. And it was quite expensive. We were more focused on getting the drug than having basic needs.

Then another memory flashed before my eyes.

I saw the old man before my eyes. He was looking at me with eyes of disbelief. He could not believe what had just happened. He was on the ground, eyes looking up at what I was holding. There I was: a stone stained with blood on my right hand and his wallet on my left hand. I looked at him with fiery eyes as I clenched the stone tighter. I had just stolen his wallet after a rough confrontation. I hit him with the stone one more time and he lost consciousness. I dropped the stone, looked around to see if anyone was looking. It was dark except for the crescent moon, which dimly lit the sky.

“Come on bro, let’s go!” Musa said as he came to where I was. He looked at the old man on the ground and looked at me. I threw the stone into the nearby bush and we began running. That was my first time to commit crime: with violence.

More memories flashed into my mind as the drug continued its journey throughout my body. Normally when I took the drug, my mind became empty and void. But this time round, memories of all the bad things I had done in the past returned before my eyes.

I felt a tight grip on my left shoulder. The grip became tighter and tighter.

I opened my blurry eyes and looked to my left. It was Musa. His eyes were bulging outward as his grip became tighter. He was still. Then a white substance began coming out of his mouth. Then his nose followed. I looked at him, trying as hard as I can to think what could be wrong.

Then he fell to the ground and started shaking. Shaking vigorously. With his hand tightly gripped on my arm.

My other friends woke up in shock and observed him. One of them came closer to him and peeked into his eyes. We were all shocked, as they had turned from white to green. His shaking continued as he wet his pants.

“We have to go now! He injected the drug to the wrong vein. He will not survive. We must get out of here.”

When he finished uttering those words, everyone ran in different directions. The bench fell on the ground due to the commotion, making dust rise in the air. I stood there for some seconds trying to contemplate what was happening. Musa was my best friend. I looked behind me and all the four of my friends had vanished into unknown locations. I walked a few steps away from him. I looked at him one more time. His shaking was gone. He lay there still, not moving a single muscle. The white substance stopped coming out of his mouth and nose.

He was no more.

I could not begin to imagine what would happen if I was found there lingering next to a dead body. It was almost 4 PM and soon people would be streaming on the road next to the coconut tree.

I took off as fast as I could. Not looking back at all. I had no idea where I was heading. I just kept running. Deep down I recalled the words we told ourselves each and every day for the past decade.

“We’re in this together,” They said. “We are more than friends and junkies. We are family,” They said.

They meant nothing.

Nothing at all.

 

Him and Her

 

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Part I:

HIM

The day had come. That day when he, with his twenty years of life on this planet, had to do what any male species would do.  He took breaths. Deep breaths first, followed by a few short breaths. It’s called pumping yourself up, for those who have no clue about it. The ancient art of giving yourself psyche when you are about to do something which you have been planning for weeks or months. One way or another, the outcome of this upcoming event would shape your days towards your favor or go totally against your expectations and backfire with epic proportions. It’s one of those moments of uncertainty we all have to face, whether in the near or distant future: but eventually, it will come knocking.

He was seated at the edge of the lower bed of the double-decker, a common feature in all hostels in the University. He wore his clean white t-shirt which he had just gotten it from the clothesline after being thoroughly scorched by the midday sun. It was white and shiny. Just what he needed. He looked down at his black jeans, which was also washed. The black color matched with the white t-shirt like a match made in heaven. He went towards his locker, opened it and took his prized possession. A pair of black, original Timberland shoes. They were fresh off the boutique just a few weeks ago. His pride and joy. He went back and sat on his bed and began wearing his shoes.  He tied the shoelaces to the last hole, something which he was not used to.

But today was special.

Both shoes were tied to perfection. He stood up, glanced at himself one more time from head to toe. He stretched his hands wide, observing all aspects of the clothing he was wearing, especially the white t-shirt, making sure it had no strange spots.

Mi ni ule msee,” He whispered to himself as he rolled his dreadlocks to a man-bun at the top of his head. The whisper of self-belief that all would go as planned.  He was now all set to go. Then he remembered something. Something very crucial. How could he have forgotten such a thing? He went and opened his locker and quickly grabbed it. It was a rectangular, red-ish, ‘Versman’ cologne. He looked at it and it was empty except for some few scattered droplets dangling at the lower left corner inside the bottle. He tilted the bottle at an angle towards the left side. The scattered droplets slowly began moving towards the tilted side and they all merged forming a small portion of applicable perfume. He pressed the spraying nozzle of the perfume and the little amount quickly got sucked into the straw which released the bottled contents to the outside world. He held the nozzle against his chest and sprayed once into each armpit. He looked at the bottle and there was still some left inside the tiny straw. He sprayed in strategic parts around his upper body, making sure they got equal amounts of the perfume. He was now, finally, ready to go. He went out of the hostel towards his destination.  He passed by the mirror next to the washrooms. He paused. A rare event was happening. Never had he ever stopped to look himself in the mirror. NEVER. But today he had to. And in his eyes, he was best dressed than any other day.

And off he went.

The midday sun made his white t-shirt shine even brighter. He walked from the Eastern Zone of the campus towards the ladies hostels. You know you can’t just enter the ladies’ hostels as though it’s your playboy mansion. He followed the usual boring protocol of signing in and leaving some sort of identity, ‘just in case’.  He went up the spiral staircases and reached the second floor.  As he was informed, the event would happen in the Common Room, a place which was used for students’ social purposes.  He walked a few meters from the stairs and reached the said location.

The chairs were neatly arranged in a circle and between, a considerable amount of space was left and a small table was in the middle. On top of the table was a medium-sized cake surrounded by all sorts of drinks. People were seated calmly, some hooked to their phones while others were chatting as they waited for the birthday girl to arrive.  He scanned the room from left to right.

He saw her.

Seated on the far left of the room, he spotted her chatting with her friends. The stories that were being told seemed quite interesting since she was hysterically laughing as she touched her long braids and rolled them playfully. He walked and sat on one of the front chairs, a short distance away from her. He looked at her one more time and he was short of breath.  He looked behind and more people were streaming in as time went by.

He knew the perfect moment to act.

Moments later, the birthday girl everyone had been waiting for finally arrived. The quiet and calm mood of the room quickly changed and everyone became ecstatic. All eyes were on her as she gracefully walked in and headed where the cake was.

The time to act was now.

It was now or never.

He took a deep breath and stood up. He slowly walked to where the birthday girl was standing and whispered in her ear. She nodded and went to sit right where he was seated. He looked around the room, which was now full of people.

“Hey guys,” he greeted the multitude and they responded back. Then he proceeded.” My name is Michael and I know you are all wondering why I’ve stood here disrupting the birthday celebration. There is something that has been bugging me for so long and I have finally decided to let it out. I cannot leave like this anymore and I had to say it now. “

Everyone was dead silence, gazing at him as he touched his chin. He walked and stood next to her.

Their eyes locked.

“Honestly speaking I have been madly in love with you for a long time now. I have persevered for so long but the more I hold it in the more it hurts. I want you so f@#$ing bad Jane. You’re beautiful and smart and I would love to be your girlfriend.”

He moved closer to her and got down on one knee. He stretched his hands towards her hands and looked at her straight in her eyes. Everyone was amazed. Her friends who were seated next to her could not believe what was conspiring before their eyes. Their mouths were wide open as their hands found themselves covering their wide mouths. Phones were unleashed out of the pockets as people moved closer in attempt to get their photos and videos in 3d. She was seated, her eyes looking at his as she curved out a smile.

“She is going to accept. Holy @$#!” He thought as he tried as hard as possible to conceal his joy with a serious face. “I’m winning,” He thought. His hands held her warm hands as he anxiously waited for her reply. She looked down smiling, a clear indication that his courage had her blushing. All this time he was staring at her reaction. People on the background were whispering in excitement, especially the girls who were even screaming with joy, unable to control their off-the-chart emotions.

In his mind, he was winning her, bit by bit. If only knew what she was thinking at that moment.

If only he knew.

After looking down for some time, she looked up and straight towards him, who was still on his knee, eagerly waiting for her to speak.

Kubali maze!” Some of the males inside the room began chanting behind them, a show of support and solidarity to their counterpart. She looked around and saw the multitude of people gathered to witness the beginning…or the ending of a love story.

Then she spoke.

“I…I…I don’t know what to say.”

She paused for a moment and looked at him again.

“I’m sorry but no.”

The excitement that was in the room immediately vanished. His face which was beaming with hope frowned unceremoniously. He looked at her with shock in his eyes, unable to believe her response. He looked down, bit his lips and heavily blinked. He opened his eyes, took a deep breath and looked up at her. Behind her, people were hovering their phones around both of them in silence. The males who were supporting their counterpart were surprised by the unexpected turnout of events.

He lifted up his bent knee and stood up. He let go of her hands. He didn’t utter a single word. He walked out of the room as everyone’s phone recorded and took shots of his silence exit.  She was still seated as he left.

He climbed down the stairs and headed outside the ladies’ hostels. His face was a clear depiction of sadness and anger.

“Hey Mister, you’ve forgotten your ID,” shouted the housekeeper who was seated at the entrance of the hostel. He heard her call but totally ignored her and continued walking.

His hands clenched into a fist as he walked, making people move away from him as he walked along the school pathways. He walked past the school’s annex and stopped. His mind was in shattered pieces as he could not believe that the girl whom he wholeheartedly loved refused his proposal. He being the only known case of a male student proposing to a female, something out of a fairy tale and supposed to be a flawless ‘yes’ went contrary to his expectations.

He dipped his hands in his pocket and it came out with a one thousand shilling note. He looked at. That was the only cash he had for surviving the oncoming week.

He looked at it one more time and made his choice.

He entered the students’ annex center and the smell of alcohol blew into his nostrils, luring him to come and drown his sorrows and failures.

Puff Puff Pass

 

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IT WAS RED. Deep red in particular.

The kind of red most people would associate with what runs through our veins in an endless marathon across our bodies. Bloody red.  The deep, dark, disastrous kind of red that would mean imminent danger to whoever was in possession of it. That color itself was enough to warn anyone of the dire consequences one would face: not today, not tomorrow, but eventually in the near future. It’s quite funny how despite all this “RED” warning all over it, no one seems to care about what would eventually face them: A slow, painful, agonizing end.

I looked at it from top to bottom. No, I literally stared at it cluelessly wondering why on earth I was about to make a rather crazy decision. The sun, as usual, shone with all its brutality upon us innocent souls of the coastal region, making the temperatures abnormally higher than ever. As it was a norm, siestas were a thing we all loved. That nice, long nap in the afternoon after eating a very heavy lunch, in addition to the hot blazing afternoon sun. There you are, dead asleep on the bed, or seated outside next to the cool breeze of the ocean. Next to you is a cold; by cold I mean extremely cold glass of whatever you enjoy drinking, complete with a neatly peeled lemon slice and a colorful straw to complete the puzzle of enjoyment. Nothing in the world beats that feeling of utmost serenity amidst the cruel blazing sun.

The small rectangular piece of paper was covered in red, except for a black stripe going all around it near the top end of the paper. This black stripe divided the paper into two sides: the upper side which was white and the lower side which was RED. On the lower, red side, there stood and inescapable icon of a horse in a white circular enclosure staring straight ahead. A brave, noble horse it seemed.  Below it was the words “King Size” written in golden capital letters. On the white upper side, there was a name written in red. It was visible from miles away. The name seemed energetic and lively.  A kind of name that would grip your interest and curiosity in an instant.

The name was SPORTSMAN.

“Hey Wilson, what are you looking at down there!”

Those words knocked me hard. I immediately looked up and realized that all eyes were on me. All attention swayed from the teacher and unceremoniously landed on me. My eyes were looking at the teacher while my hands were on my desk. That feeling of sudden attention made my nerves go haywire. In my hands was a Sportsman cigarette paper with two sticks of cigarettes in it. I looked around the class one more time and then straight ahead at the teacher, whose large, red, spectacled eyes were staring right into my soul.  As slow as I possibly could, I folded the contents in my hand while staring at the teacher. Since our desks were covered all the way down (To God be the Glory), I slowly moved my hands into my left sock, pulled it outwards and placed the cigarette pack into the sock near the heel. All this time I was just staring blankly at the teacher.

“I thought I asked you a question. Or did I stutter?”

The class erupted into laughter as I heavily blinked, having completely forgotten about the question.

“Nothing…” I finally answered making the class burst into more laughter.  The teacher, “Mr. Death” as we were all used to call him, gave me one of the fakest smiles ever and then looked down.

He looked down. If during any class he talked to you then looked down, things were about to get real serious.

“Hebu njoo hapa,” He spoke with a pure Swahili accent. The kind of accent that only those chosen few individuals who have mastered the most complex structures of the Kiswahili language.  Everyone who was laughing suddenly kept dead silence. Those simple three words meant nothing to smile about. I stood up, pulled my chair outwards and slowly walked towards him. Being the backbencher since the beginning of time, it was customary for me to make that long walk of shame from the back of the class towards the front. And on this day, the walk was longer than usual. This was courtesy of the endless strings of thoughts in mind which were in a dilemma on whether he had noticed me staring at the cigarettes under my desk or he was just going to set an example for the rest of the class through me. None of the suggestions in my mind was anything positive.  But the thought of him unleashing my hidden artifacts for the whole class to see was my worst nightmare.

“Show me your hands,” He commanded while reaching for them. I opened them wide and he began frisking me as though I was some kind of terrorist. From my upper shirt pocket, he then proceeded and emptied my trousers’ pockets. In there was a black pen and a fifty shilling note which was for my lunch.  He keenly observed them and returned them to my pocket. I breathed in and out. I had just escaped “death”. I looked back and saw my classmates smiling at me, a clear indication that I was safe and sound.

“Remove your shoes.”

My smile turned into a painful frown. Wait… What!

I was doomed. I lifted up my right leg and swiftly removed my shoe. I lifted the left leg and removed the shoe as well. At that point, I knew I was in a deep mess. He looked at me sternly as he grabbed the shoe from the floor. The right shoe was the first in line. He gave it a keen, up-close look inside, turned it upside down hoping for something sinister to fall off the shoe. He returned it to me and held the left one. He followed the same protocol and nothing fell.  He looked down for some time. I closed my eyes, waiting for the words to come out of his mouth. The words that would unleash doom into my young life. If he were to tell me to remove my socks, all would be over for me.

Then he spoke.

“…Go back and sit down. If I see you doing that again, you will know you don’t know.”

How will I know I don’t know? I wondered as I went back and sat at my desk. Before he even proceeded with his teaching, the bell rang. It was 4:00 pm. When you are in primary school, nothing gives you joy in this world like the sound of the final bell of the day. He stopped, took his books and departed out of the class to towards the unknown.

Then chaos erupted.

People started yelling and screaming after holding their silence for the whole day. I quickly took the cigarettes out of my socks and placed them into my pockets.

“What were you thinking bro?  You could have been caught.”

I looked back and saw Jimmy. My partner in crime. He looked at me in a surprised manner, probably thinking how stupid I was to carry cigarettes to school. We lived next door to each other and we used to do all mischievous things together. We were even suspected for bringing drugs to school and being negative influencers of the class.

“Remember who we are supposed to see after school,” Jimmy said as we headed home while narrating to him how I felt as I was being scrutinized by the teacher. I quickly recalled since my near-death experience made me completely forget about our ‘appointment’. Our homes were just a few meters away, and we took approximately five minutes to walk from home to school. But on this particular day, we had an ‘appointment’ which was about to make us arrive extremely late at home.

We diverted from our usual route to home and headed towards the town’s graveyard which was not far away from our school. The silence was haunting to our ears.  In front of us was a large mango tree which was comfortably standing at the extreme corner of the graveyard. Bats hovered all over the tree and the sounds of their wing flaps were enough to give anyone chills.  We passed the tree and as he told us, there would be an old building next to the tree. The building was really old as he had mentioned.  It was as though it was built until halfway then the owner mysteriously went missing, and decades of lack of maintenance made its walls to crack and grass to grow to heights never seen before.  We walked into the ruins and there he was. The person who gave us the appointment. He was seated at the corner of the ruined house on a brownstone. His head was facing the ground, showcasing his long, unkempt dreadlocks to our eyes. He gave out a loud, long, wheezing cough as he turned his head forward to see us. His eyes were blood red and in his left hand was a long piece of cigarette whose tip was blazing hot, filling the area with smoke.

“You made it. How is your experience so far,” He spoke, after which he let out a loud nasty cough three times. He folded his hands into a fist and placed it in front of his mouth in an attempt to reduce the impact of a cough. We watched in disgust, our faces clearly showing the disgust in our hearts and souls. “We have smoked all the packet and we are left with only two cigarettes.  You have taught us to smoke and you were right, there is that ‘head rush’ you’ve been saying we will feel each time we smoked.” Jimmy said as he showed him the sportsman package which I was hiding in my socks earlier on. I had given it to him after he endlessly insisted to have them for better safekeeping.  He got up and came towards us, with the stench of concentrating smoke tagging along with him. It filled our noses and made me almost choke. “You see, I told you so!” He said as he came closer to us. He let out a loud cough once again as his dreadlocks covered his face. He then placed the blazing cigarette in his mouth, puffed it in for a pretty long time. He closed his eyes and held the smoke in for a few seconds and then finally released it out. He breathed the smoke out and we could all see the sense of satisfaction and relaxation in him. “Here, you try it. That is how you smoke Sportsman my young ones.” He said as he stretched the hand with the cigarette towards Jimmy. He excitedly took it and placed it in his mouth. He did exactly what the dreadlocked man did.

“Man this is dope,” He said happily as he narrated how he felt his soul leave his body for some seconds and wander into another dimension.  “Here, your turn,” Jimmy said as he handed the cigarette towards me, which was now halfway burnt. I grabbed it by the edge and placed it in my mouth. I puffed it in as deep as I could. I felt a burning sensation in my lungs which made me let out a vigorous cough. I = hurriedly gave the cigarette back to ‘Dreadlocks’ as I struggled to cough. They both laughed hysterically at me since it was now clear I had not mastered the ‘art’ of smoking. I looked down as I gasped for fresh air, holding my chest with both hands hoping the burning sensation would stop anytime soon. I suddenly noticed something dripping on the feet of Dreadlocks. I looked closely.

It was blood. Real blood.

I looked upright towards him and I was shocked. Dreadlocks placed his hands on his mouth and nose. Then he looked at them with eyes wide open.

They were red.

His pale brown hands were filled with blood. His eyes were a clear sign of shock. He then inhaled deeply and let out a loud cough. This time it was louder and more vigorous than the rest of a cough.  He held his hands onto his mouth as he coughed continuously while we were there gazing at him. Some few seconds later, he stopped coughing. In his hands, there was a large lump of meat covered in blood.

A large lump of meat particle that he had just coughed out from his lungs!

He stood there, his eyes wide open, staring at his bloody hands, his mind in denial that he had just coughed out meat from his lungs. And not forgetting Jimmy and me, two innocent souls witnessing the gruesome details before our very eyes. He looked at us. Turned to his hands. Then finally he looked at the blazing cigarette which was still intact on his left hand.

The inevitable was happening. And he knew it.

And for us me, having seen what the cigarette could do to a grown man’s body, I began imagining what would happen to my fragile little body if I continued smoking. I consoled myself that smoking for one month could not affect my body since Jimmy was the one who introduced smoking to me a month ago. And for him, since he and Dreadlocks knew each other for a few years now, I couldn’t begin to imagine how messed up his insides were.

Jimmy moved closer to his friend, not me but Dreadlocks to get a closer look at what just came out of his mouth. He held his mouth coughed and ran a few meters away from him and vomited all that he had eaten that day. I quickly left the ruined house, leaving both of them looking at each other, walked past the graveyard and followed the road that led home. I stopped at one of the shops along the road, bought the blue PK chewing gum and gobbled all four of them into my mouth in an effort to conceal the smell of the cigarette smoke from my parents.  The thoughts of smoking were completely erased from my mind. What I had just seen would definitely stick in my mind for a really long time and there was no way I would even think of smoking after seeing all those gory scenes in the ruined building.

“Hey! Wait up!” I heard Jimmy’s voice behind me. I looked back and saw him running towards me. I stopped walking and waited for him. He reached where I was and grabbed me by the shoulders.

“You wouldn’t believe what happened.”

“What happened,” I asked curiously.

“He just collapsed right in front of me. I’ve tried waking him up but he just laid there, not breathing not moving. I don’t know what happened. I… I…I think he’s…gone. I think he just died.  He’s a dead man!”

I was speechless. My mouth didn’t move but my mind was overworking with thoughts and images of Dreadlocks, who a moment ago was alive and kicking, now was no more.

 

Fun and Games

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It’s all fun and games until hell breaks loose.

~Anonymous

It begins as a whisper. A tiny speck of reality slowly unfolding right before your eyes, with total cluelessness of what is going on, how to react to the said tiny speck of reality. It then gradually increases its momentum and ferocity upon your innocent self and you are left there: standing with eyes wide open, caught in an inescapable dilemma of whether to escape: by escape I mean the literal direct version of you running the hell away from the crazy, life-threatening situation like the way a little girl would run away from something that looks straight out of a horror movie. The kind of running that would even shame the fastest of species in this cruel world of ours. Or the second option would be to face your deepest darkest fears: face them like the warrior you think yourself to be. A warrior from the ancient kingdom of Mphoko-something (You know those crazy names they give to those outstanding legendary African kingdoms) that our grandparents used to grace us with their long heroic tales during the Christmas holidays when we people from the urban areas undergo the annual mass exodus from our homes in the suburbs and retreat to be with the rest of the family members in the remote areas of our beloved country. Well, this particular incident would put me through one of the greatest dilemmas in youth history.

There’s no greater time of the year in the history of Mombasa than during the Christmas holidays. The sandy beaches are filled with fathers dressed in shorts, publicly portraying their round bulging pot-bellies to be feasted by the eyes of the public while they escort their children, who most of them happened to be seeing the ocean for the first time, into the shallow sides of the beach while tightly holding their hands in fear that the warm, rough waters of the Indian Ocean would scoop their children off their feet and drag them into the depths of the ocean where they would be devoured by hungry sharks who silently lurk around the shores, robbing them of their highly educated infants. At least such rumors serve an important role of ensuring an all-time surveillance of children as they enjoy the pleasure of playing in the soft sands and being washed by the pure white foam of the ocean waves as they calmly swish towards the edges of the shoreline. And all that fun is just the tip of the iceberg. When the sun finally sets and the night breathes its darkness into the world, everyone suddenly exits the caves they have been hiding into and slowly crawl out into the atmosphere. The whole area begins beaming with life as people head to their favorite night spots to “pass the night” with style (Drinking horribly while dancing like possessed people). And the next morning you are greeted with the sight of endless numbers of people lying dead asleep on the roadside, some snoring, others robbed of their belongings while drinking to the point of no return. No one tends to wake them up since the brutal heat of the daytime will soon install some sense into their hangover brains and reality will soon catch up with them of how they went past the limits of fun.

I looked at myself one last time as I headed out of our home to meet with my friends whom we had planned about how we would memorably spend the night leaving us with endless stories to tell our friends when we went back to school. It was the 31st month of December, the last month of the long, the treacherous year of 2013 which was filled with all sorts of scandals and mishaps that rained down on me. But today I would make sure I had the best time of my life, whether 2013 liked it or not. I took a thirty-minute walk towards my best friend’s home. Tony, he was called. I got in only to find that my whole squad was already there, patiently waiting for me. I froze. The kind of freezing that happens when you suddenly see someone whom you had not anticipated to see in due time. She was there. Seated at the edge of the brown couch, Lillian sat there like the angel she was: my all-time crush that made my hormone levels rise abruptly making my judgment vague and impaired. I stood there unable to think and act. Then she looked at me and smiled, displaying those teeth: those white teeth. My cluelessness increased. I thought of the best way to smile back and curved my mouth into a banana-shaped catastrophe which made her laugh hysterically as she placed her hand on her mouth trying to hide the laughter. Tony, after all this time, discovered my presence and got up from where he was sitting. We went outside where he briefed me of tonight’s plan. He was the formation captain after all. This night was all courtesy of his ingenious thinking.

“I saw the way you looked at her,” he said while laughing. He obviously knew but had to say it anyway. I did not comment on that.

“Here, take it and keep it safe,” he said as he handed me a blue backpack. I took it and opened the zip to have a peep inside. I dipped my hand and it came out with two medium-sized firework sticks. They were known as medium-sized but they were really heavy. There were more items in the bag. Two 500ml bottles of William Lawsons lay at the bottom of the backpack together with one whole lemon. “Quite the planner,” I thought to myself as I observed the rather expensive drinks wondering where he got the money to purchase such drinks considering the fact that we were all way underage. “Where will we light these fireworks?” I asked as I keenly looked at the instructions which stated that there has to be a stand for it to be thrown into the sky for it to explode marvelously and satisfy our eyes with an array of colorful displays lighting the night sky. “Hii unashikilia tu na mkono na inapanda juu yenyewe,” he replied confidently, contrary to what the instructions stated. “By the way, we should get going,” he added as he looked at the time. I looked at my watch and it was 11.00 PM. One hour until the annual display of fireworks in the shores of the Indian Ocean. That was where we were supposed to head. Tony rushed into the house and informed the rest that time was not our side. One by one, they emerged out of the house and stood where I was. I didn’t know some of them but who cared. We became connected as we were all about fun. Nothing more nothing less. Then she eventually walked out. Her white dress shone against the dim light of the crescent moon. Her long black braids swayed sideways as she walked towards us. She stood next to me and gave me the annihilating smile. Tony came and we left their house and headed to the beach. She winked at me as she began walking intentionally in front of me.

God’s plan I tell you.

The matatu stage was overcrowded. Multitudes of people were standing on the stage, all heading to the same destination as we were. We stood there for almost thirty minutes with each matatu doubling the price to the public beach as time went by. Lucky for us, one of the drivers happened to be my neighbor and we were quite good friends. He shouted my name and I saw him waving at me. We quickly entered the matatu before all the seats were taken. Luck was on our side as I couldn’t wait to see the fireworks unleashing colors into the sky. There was this particular street which was aligned with nightclubs and the way people were packed outside trying their level best to gain entrance before the night dies.

But the night was young. Really young. And so were we.

So, after twenty or thirty minutes on the road, we arrived at one of the legendary public beaches off the coast of East and Southern Africa. The crowds that were there… Unimaginable. People were streaming in their thousands, wearing all forms of clothing their deep pockets could afford. There was an exodus of people from the comfort of their warm cozy beds towards the cold windy shores of the ocean: all in the name of fireworks. Some loud, colorful explosions in the sky that gave people, me being one of them, a great sense of happiness and content into my young soul. The way they shoot up the night sky making the ocean shine and reflect its cool waters, burst into thousands of colors then slowly trickle down like dust into the ocean: and the cycle continues for the better part of the night.

She came out of the matatu. Then I swiftly followed behind her, following her every step like a zombie. We walked together, the lot of us that is, carefully maneuvering the endless curves formed by people walking in different directions, talking as loud as they can, some yelling about how the incoming year would make them formulate some goals and ambitions, which as usual, would be dumped and forsaken immediately the second month approaches. The sea breeze was blowing in a cool soothing manner as we approached the sandy shore side. People were irregularly seated on the sand, all facing one direction: the designated side for the throwing of fireworks. Tony glanced at his watch and quickly reminded us that it was almost time for the party to begin. He began running slowly towards the area, and so we followed him. I suddenly felt a soft hold on my hand and on looking; it was her hand, soft as silk, holding mine as we began running like the rest of us. She gazed at me with those eyes. &#@$ !!!

She held my hand.

My hand was in her hand.

And so we held hands.

We reached the spot. And it was packed I tell you. People of all races were represented in the upcoming fireworks display. It was three minutes before the start of the event. Fireworks were set on their stands, some were huge, others were small, but they all had one destination: up.

“Tony, where’s the stand bro?” asked one of us as Tony began unpacking the two fireworks we had brought.

“I think I forgot, but no worries my people. One of us shall do the honors and launch them while holding with both hands. Like this…” He said while holding each one with his arm and raising them up.

We looked at each other, hoping that one of us would emerge and unleash the fireworks. We looked at each other blankly.

“I’ll do it.”

And then she stepped forward.

Just like that, she took the two launchers with her hands, looked back at us: at me and gave us/me the killer smile. I watched in amazement as she walked towards the center of the “spot”, held her hands up high, placed her fingers on each of the switches with were located on the side of the launchers. I stood there staring at her white dress as it swayed away from me.

The countdown had begun and everyone started shouting from 9 going downwards.

“…THREE!… TWO! …ONE! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!”

The crowd went wild with wails and screams and chants as the clock ticked 00:00. A new year had begun. The fireworks began being launched as people backed away from their stands as soon as the fireworks were ready to launch. Lillian looked at us as she pressed the ignition switches on. We cheered her on as she smiled excitedly; anxiously waiting for the fireworks to shoot from both arms and splash the sky with all sorts of colors.

The sky became lit with fireworks and it was breathtaking. We all looked up as they shot up the sky making a loud explosion then scattering into tiny specks of colors as they trickled down the sky and vanishing into the atmosphere.

Then we heard a loud explosion. Followed by one of the loudest screams we’ve ever heard. Then another explosion. And soon there were multiple explosions and we were surprised that there were explosions but no fireworks. We looked at the ground and saw her.

It was Lillian.

What we thought were screams of joy as she unleashed the fireworks into the sky was the total opposite. There she was: instead of the fireworks exploding into the sky, they unceremoniously exploded all around her. We watched in shock as the fireworks kept erupting all around her. Her screams filled the air and her beautiful, long braids suddenly caught fire. She vigorously shook her head as the fire quickly spread all over her hair due to the cool sea breeze which increased the intensity of the fire. The specks of fire fell on her white dress and all hell broke loose. She made a loud scream as we stood there, shocked and clueless about what to do. Her screams synchronized with the loud explosions of the rest of the fireworks being launched. I was speechless. We all were. The look on Tony’s face was that of shock: eyes wide open, mouth open even wider, hands on the head. We looked at each other as the horror unfolded before our eyes.

“She’s on fire!” People finally noticed her on the lower side of the dress was in flames which were on the verge of submerging her into their brutal heat. I lifted up my foot ready to dash towards her when Tony’s hand swiftly gripped my forearm. I stopped and looked at him, wondering what on earth he was doing.

“Bro, where do you think you are going? If we remain here and the police come we are all screwed. If she asks who let her hold the fireworks knowing it is prohibited without a stand, who do you think she is going to point at? US bro! We need to leave right now!”

And with that said the rest of the ‘crew’ whom we came with begun vanishing into the crowd in different directions. Tony patted me on the shoulder, a sure sign of “Goodbye bro, you’re on your own” and quickly disappeared amongst the crowd. I was left there, gazing at Lillian as her screams became louder and louder. People were rushing towards her with buckets of water and sand in an attempt to kill the fire. Two uniformed policemen arrived at the scene and desperately began to control the wild crowd which had formed around her.

“Why didn’t she use a stand….It’s against the law….”

I overheard two men speaking as they spectated the life-saving attempt on Lillian. The crowd had gathered so much that I was now unable to clearly see her. I had to make a choice. To run along with my friends and be at least on the ‘safe side’ or stay put and see what happens next. Whether she would be taken to the hospital, whether the police would question her. Would her pretty, angelic face be disfigured from this incident?

Would she know me as the coward who left her while she was in dire need or the one person who stood by her through thick and thin? If I stay will I risk myself or I should just run and be safe with the rest of my friends?

I had to make a choice.

I had to make a choice fast.

Meanwhile, the sounds of exploding fireworks continued echoing in the air as people who were on the far side of the beach enjoyed themselves while chanting the “Happy New Year” word again and again.

Ray Of Sunshine

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Steps. Not so long, not so short kind of steps. Those kind of steps you walk when the Almighty has showered you with abundant blessings unto your life. Each time the leg rises, you feel as though you are walking on a well-tarmacked road which you personally financed. And as you touch the ground, the lower part of the shoe smoothly caresses the ground, followed by the other part of the shoe, which lands carefully, raising tiny fragments of dust into the atmosphere. The wind blows in return, this time with a force never anticipated, dragging the fragments of dust suddenly from their resting place, which was at the back of your shoe, round and round the road towards a young man standing at the edge of the road next to a tiny green structure, inside it has a woman trying to go about her daily business. The wind blows past him, making him quickly turn him head the opposite direction in attempt to reduce the torturous experience of the wind gushing at his face armed with all sorts of crude weapons: weapons gathered along the way as the wind gathered momentum during its unexpected departure…some plastic papers, small stones here and there and what not. But little does he know that today lady luck is not on his side, probably busy with more pressing concerns. The tiny fragments of dust which were risen by that pair of shoe being worn as if it ruled the world, by chance or fate happen to enter the young man’s eyes making him shut them unceremoniously as tears in her eyes quickly react to the abrupt intrusion by foreign particles. The hands also grab a handkerchief from his pockets, covering the nose and mouth to prevent another foreign, irritating invasion from taking place. The dust corrodes his eyes as he tries all possible ways to get rid of that awful sensation.

 

“Wasee bet imeingiana…”

When you hear those words, know that the ancient spirits from your homeland have remembered you from wherever they are. Nothing brings as much joy as gaining money which you didn’t break much sweat for. Yes, of course you used your brain to mathematically calculate the probability of a certain team to win, so somehow one is reaping foe his hard work. But on that day, it was purely luck. For days on end, I had been wasting my precious bundles surfing the web for in-depth details of how teams had performed during the last century hoping to eventually predict the outcome of the oncoming match.it didn’t work, even a little bit. I was losing spectacularly. Money was flying out my account like bats flying out of their hidings when darkness arrives. So I decided on this day I would do things differently: totally differently. I placed my bets without even giving a second thought. And boom! Few hours later, the rarest of occasions occur. A message from the betting firm starting with the magical, soul-satisfying word “Congratulations…” followed by my full names known by the government. The feeling that comes with that message is simply amazing. But i tend to wonder, in real life, when we over-analyze something, nothing good comes out of it. Yet when we just do it without stressing, the universe rewards your efforts in plenty.

So after telling my friends how God shone his light on me, and how they began wondering why me and not them, they decided to escort me towards the nearest Mpesa agent. Winning more than twenty times the amount you staked during the driest part of the month is no joke. The nearest agent was some fifty meters away. Strategically located beside the road, a young, beautiful lady was seated inside the green structure, patiently scrolling through her phone as she waited for customers. Her shop was a hit in that area, especially for us boy-children. Her eloquent grip on the Queen’s language, her beauty, plus her politeness when talking to customers wooed us all to her shop. My entourage and I : and by the way the reason for the entourage(friends) which followed me was not to keep me company but rather most of them I had accrued debts from them loaning me during various situations so I had to pay them back. They knew that I was their lifeline in these trying times. The night was dark and full of terror. So I arrive at the Mpesa agent with a wide smile showing all my teeth to the outside world.

“Nataka kutoa,”I said in a confident, stiff voice.

She looks at me and nods twice, with her famous smile. I took my phone from my left pocket and quickly logged into my betting account. I hurriedly searched for the “Cash out” option, and it seemed, out of nowhere, to have vanished. The devil never ceases to amaze. I scrolled until the end of the page, went back at the top only to find it there, boldly written at the far left of the page. I had previously looked at the same place and couldn’t see it. I pressed it and in an instant, the Mpesa message soon followed, indicating that the money was almost within my physical reach. I went on and withdrew all the money I had transferred in the account. The feeling that in a matter of moments, the money will be safely in my deep pockets was getting the hang of me. The lady’s phone beeped. She took it and her eyes widened as she read the mpesa message. She looked at me, looked at the message, looked at me once again, in a rather uncertain stare.

A tight grip held my arm tightly. One of my friends held my arm as he pointed towards the road.

“Look at that!” he said.

I shifted my mind’s focus from the money I was about to receive to what my friend was trying to show me. I turned my head and faced the direction, which surprisingly everyone’s eyes were glued upon, unable to utter a single word.

It was there that I saw her.

I saw her.

Dressed in a black dress with white stripes, she majestically walked on the left edge of the road. Her black converse shoes carefully touching the dry, dusty ground as she walked: or rather cat walked. The dress, which was neither too tight nor too loose; it fit perfectly with her body. And it reached somewhere slightly on top of her knees. A perfect fit as her brown legs shone thanks to the evening sun. The way she walked. She took short, tiny steps each time she walked, slowly lifting one leg after the other, a clear show of how cautious she was. All eyes were locked on her. She swayed her long, black braids towards one direction as they neatly fell on one side of her shoulder. All this time, her face was facing downwards as she walked, obvious of the attention she was attracting due to her flawless beauty. Cars and motorcycles drove past her as they hooted uncontrollably, all in attempt to capture her attention. Necks were strained in attempt to get a good glimpse of her. We, on the other hand, were totally brainwashed by her presence. It was as if someone switched off our brains and left us for zombies. Our eyes and mouths were wide open as we followed her walking along the road. We were lost for words. Even the Mpesa lady was keenly observing her: obviously not admiring her of course, but rather in total envy of how she stole the spotlight just like since she thought she was the only center of attraction in that area.  As she walked, she lifted the brown dust from the ground, which was slowly carried away by the wind. The dust headed towards us and we quickly closed our eyes and blocked our noses to prevent it from being inhaled. Some, unfortunately, landed on my eyes and soon I was endlessly blinking while wiping my eyes with a handkerchief hoping to get rid of the dust from my eyes.

“Sema ID number,”

The lady spoke as she took a pen from one of the drawers located at her left.

“Hey you!”

I quickly looked back towards the lady. The dust finally came off my eyes. She had placed the book in which she recorded the customers’ details on the table, with a pen on her hand, waiting for me to tell her my Identity Card number. My mind was clogged at the moment. With images of the pretty lady fresh in my mind, I tried to pull out the memory of my identity card but it seemed they were thrown out of my brain and instead replaced with her images. I dug deep into my brain, trying as hard as I can to remember it. It was nowhere to be remembered. My very own ID number? How on earth can I forget it? I scratched my head as she gazed at me telling me to give it to her. I slid my hands into my pockets but the ID card wasn’t there so that at least I could check the number.

“Yani you mean you’ve forgotten your ID number?”

My friends looked at me in disbelief as they roared with laughter. I tried one more time to recall it but nothing came into my mind, except the descriptive pictures of the girl that had just passed. I was totally blank. Brainwashed if I may add. Everything else in my brain had mysteriously vanished. Do I even remember my own name I wondered?

I looked back and saw her again. Her short steps had eventually gotten her far. She was now some meters away, slowly disappearing as the road went downhill. The wind gracefully blowing her dress in one direction after the other as her braids were neatly resting on her back. She continued walking and eventually vanished from sight. I then remembered how she looked at me for some few seconds, gave me the ‘smile’ which showcased her perfectly arranged teeth. A ray of sunshine indeed.

The Mpesa lady kept insisting on me to give her my ID number or she would not give me the money. My hard-earned money. And there I was, trying as much as I can to remember. I was even unable to guess.