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.

 

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.

The Sword 

There I was. On that sunny Saturday afternoon. Seated on a public bench somewhere in Nairobi county, with my phone at hand, slowly but keenly skimming through my facebook page:somewhere I can get even the most breaking of all sorts of news. My earphones were intact on my ear-canal, contemplating the Afro beats and deciphering the lyrics to Runtown’s ‘Mad Over You’ .One hell of a song right there I can tell you that. I was just an ordinary human being connecting to social media. Then I spot a video posted by a concerned citizen. I click onto it and it begins loading. In matter of seconds, the video starts playing. It’s a rather clear video, of a person one or two storeys high, overlooking the road which was overcrowded by passers by. There is a dead guy on the road and another one is soon after sprayed with bullets and the video unceremoniously cuts to an end. I then read the caption given by the concerned citizen, only to be shocked :I go back to the video and watch it again, this time in complete disbelief. They were two suspected thieves gunned down by the Flying squad. In Eastleigh . That was when it hit me real this time.

Of course after watching it, the minute-est (if there’s such a word) of thoughts, and God forbid, that one day I will ever think of stealing, quickly evaporate from my head and vanish to the outside world. That feeling was one of my immediate reactions to the video. I could never imagine myself (and all who watched) being a law breaker or a menace to the society. I’m pretty sure if someone was planning to steal on that day, then sees the video, whether he’s within or without the scene,he would think he’s decision over and hold back. 

Second of all, I realised the two people gunned down were not some aged men with decades of experience in the crime. They were young guys. The youth. In my age bracket shockingly. So it got me thinking. What could have gone wrong? Then it hit me. I looked at myself, my thinking. Thinking of a typical guy in his 20s. We all have things in common. And as I read somewhere that we have the most of energy, the plentiest of time, but unfortunately, the least of money. Yes, we all have that burning desire inside each one of us -getting money. That feeling : doing whatever you must to get it. To earn it. Y’all get it, right. Which brings me to one thing I realised we in that age bracket lack -Patience. We youth have none of it in us. We are the masterminds of shortcuts. Not that shortcuts are bad, but choose the right one. You see all your friends swagging their designer shoes or rolling in flashy cars and you think “I must be like them. Really fast” . That’s a bloody wrong shortcut. Stealing ain’t hustling. The video can clearly prove how short life is. I looked at the other thug being manhandled by the flying squad. He was constantly looking at his dead ‘comrade ‘ lying in the middle of the road with bullets all over him. Thinking ,in his mind, his chances of seeing the next sunrise have reduced to almost impossible. That short period of time before his demise: The thoughts of regrets. People spoke on social media that he was a hard nut. One of those thugs with no humanity. But it was his fate and he knew It. His ally dead. Him next. Crowds chanting for the police to end him. Their mission failed. Terribly in fact. If only what he was thinking he could do in case he survived, I hoped it would not have been a decision he would regret afterwards. But it was nowhere near what he was expecting: soon to be rained with bullets at point-blank range. The officer was just angered by them. You are dead but still bullets are penetrating your lifeless body to annihilate any slightest hopes of survival in you :even if there’s none. It’s joke. He was one frustrated man and I also read that the gang killed an officer back then. So I saw where his ruthlessness came from. Not distant from the moment Pablo Escobar was gunned down after his endless mischief and tactics came to an abrupt end. His dead body being added bullets long after he’s gone. 

So for all of you who think of doing something that is not worth it, THINK. H_art the Band best put these words in poetic form for them to sink deep into your minds.