A perfectly rational individual spends dinner with friends, shares his day’s misadventures with them and laughs heartily at every joke they throw in, but only six hours later is discovered wandering the streets, carrying a bazooka and laughing like a maniac.
Wouldn’t you say that is the very definition of rapid decline? Of madness?
But how does it even start? And what sequence of events build upon each other and draw the poor individual slowly but methodically toward their fall over the cliff?
It starts where the sign says “Begin” and ends in one of arbitrarily many possible points. But we already know our destination, we’re really here for the journey and nothing more.
It starts, more importantly, with me, no, not me, you. Yes. You. See, my sense of self-preservation being so high, I am forced to shield myself from the terrifying scenes and sequences that this story will take us through. So, yes. It starts with you.
You are a writer or a composer or a designer of some sort…someone who thinks creatively, who also pulls shifts at a dull day job which just sufficiently caters for your financial needs.
It starts with you being jolted awake by something in the middle of the night. Your mind is pummelled with fading memories of last evening’s soiree and…yes, the most brilliant idea you’ve ever conceived! All work you’ve ever written or composed pale in comparison to this new concept you’ve been inspired with.
Instinctively, you rush to turn the lights on and look for your notebook and a pen. But there’s a blackout. It’s rainy season, so why not? You turn back to your mobile phone and use its screen’s glow.
You manage to locate your tools and sit down, take a deep breath, call on your inner Zen to help you condense your thoughts. It’s getting clearer now, yes…it’s, oh boy…you are going to be stinking rich…this idea…this is a masterpie…
Something interrupts you. A familiar annoying sound from a familiar annoying source. The increasingly irritating creaking of a bed from your neighbor’s room.
At this point you begin questioning why you never moved out of campus after graduating and once again defend yourself by citing the affordable rent prices available here. It’s worth putting up with the shenanigans of these cannabis fuelled campus boneheads. For instance, your neighbor and his girlfriend jumping up and down on a spring bed like kindergarteners. You’d think they get a trampoline and indulge their gymnastics fantasies outside, when it’s warm and sunny, like all normal rational people do.
Thankfully, though, the creaking stops a minute later. Pfft, those pretenders don’t even have the stamina for sustained physical exercise. It’s laughable.
You don’t get to laugh though.
That idea, that crazy, awesome idea…it’s, uh…it’s gone! See ya gone! Vanished!
‘Tis a disaster!
Your mouth does that thing where it hangs loose, and any manner of detritus carried by wind blowing your way would find easy entrance into your system. Completely helpless. Rendered catatonic.
You start pacing around your room in a futile attempt to remember. Then bang your head on the wall, slowly at first and then more forcefully. Then you open your wardrobe and stare in it for a good long while, perhaps expecting a miracle there.
“Akhh!” You complain and decide to go outside and get some fresh air.
You don’t intend to walk too far. The night is too cold and you’re hoping that if all else fails you can just jump back into bed and pick on the thread again in the morning.
You don’t notice the crowd of night-revellers and club-goers is growing thinner and thinner until it’s too late and you’re all alone in a dark street. But, you’re not really alone it turns out. Up ahead, you see two dark silhouettes imposed against a light streaming out from a nearby open window, two stray voices engaged in a lively chat.
The conversation presently comes to an end. The bigger of the two spectres turns towards you, you can’t really tell that it did, you just notice its voice is now projected your way.
“You know the drill mister, phone, wallet, anything valuable, pass it over.”
You turn out your pockets to lay bare the desolate emptiness inside them for all too see.
The big shadow’s voice booms in disappointment, “Well that’s no good at all. Don’t you have anything to offer up? Your life might could depend on it.”
“Them jeans on him look pretty new.” The other voice joins in.
“Yeah,” the big shadow agrees, “I think I’ll have those if you don’t mind.”
“What? I think I’d rather keep them on, thank you very much.” You respond in outrage.
There’s a momentary pause and then the two disembodied voices roar in awful ghoulish laughter. When the bigger shadow speaks again, however, there’s no humor in its voice anymore, just irritation.
“Oya, nugu wee, can’t you tell when you’re being mugged?”
Clearly somebody forgot to give you the script. But you’ve never been one to stick to the script anyway so it wouldn’t have mattered. Stuck between complying and saving your dignity, you decide to do nothing, until the bigger shadow moves towards you and into the light, revealing a face so utterly ugly it pegs homo sapiens sapiens two eras back on the Darwinian evolution scale.
Prisoner to the principle of causality, you find yourself complying without really meaning to.
“Too late for that now.” The Picasso mask twitches in unnatural ways with each word. But while you’re distracted with his face you don’t notice his fifty-pound fist making due haste towards your head. It doesn’t feel like a fist though, more like a train or a truck. In your stupor you have lucid nightmares about metal fists, and trucks…and trucks with metal fists.
When you come to, you’re staring downwards at the moving ground and immediately infer that you must be hoisted on the big man’s shoulder. The pair are still talking. They can’t seem to find a reason not to. Even when they’re carrying an innocent man to God-knows what horrible destination to carry out what nefarious intentions they harbored, they were still in a light enough mood to chat.
The smaller man starts talking about El Estúpido, some rival crew from another part of town and how their ambitious plot to rob an army warehouse tonight is bound to fail. The big man asks him how he could possibly be sure the raid was happening tonight. The smaller man explains that he heard the news from Vickie, the spy that Freddie had planted within the rival clan’s rank.
“Who’s Freddie?” You dare to ask.
The big man laughs again and hurls you to the ground forcefully. “Who’s Freddie, he asks!”
“He’s Frederick Mwaura, of course. Only the most fearsome gang boss this part of the world? Kills hundreds when his heart so pleases? How dare you not know who he is?”
“Don’t worry, you’re going to meet him soon.”
“Yeah, you’re gonna have some good time with him too.” The big man agrees, “He likes his punching bags warm and breathing.”
You want to thank them for clearing that up but get the distinct feeling that your candor would be lost on them.
“Get up and walk,” the big man orders you and you drag yourself to your feet unwillingly.
“If I was the boss, I’d march into El Estúpido’s casa right now and get myself some easy bounty.” The pair’s conversation continues, despite your interruption.
“Yeah,” the big one agrees, “All that cash stashed up and only a couple of guards to protect it.”
“And the chicas man. All of ‘em sitting there pretty and bored and unguarded, waiting for us to rescue them.”
“Yeah!” They burst into laughter again while you continue to contemplate how unoriginal it is for a Kenyan gang to name themselves with a foreign-sounding word. What did El Estúpido mean anyway?
Presently the two thugs chaperone you through the dark streets of a neighborhood you’ve only read about in the crimes section of the local daily, where the dogs’ barks are a tad meaner than the acceptable norm, and the sun’s rays never reach.
Thump thump. A sound close by.
You’re shoved into a dark building where the air smells damp and polluted.
Thump thump thump. Closer and closer.
Paint is peeling off the walls at will and the corridor seems to gradually shrink in size and elegance.
Thump thump. Closer still.
You find yourself in this large room, a cathedral of a room, smoke from a hundred lit joints and a hundred churning mouths drifting around and the faintest glimmer from a flickering bulb reveals to you the source of the disembodied thumping sound.
A man built of bricks, a teenager by all looks of him, is laying waste to another man tied to a chair in the middle of the room while the spectators around him watch in contemplative silence. The teenager looks so imbued by the thrill of violence and so familiar with it, every swing of his hand feels like a well-choreographed and pre-rehearsed dance move. It is this same terrifying aura that seems to hold his audience in captive silence.
You cringe with every blow that lands on the poor man. Finally, the teenager yells. A yell somewhere between a powerlifter’s howl while breaking his personal best record of weights lifted, and a roar of deep pleasure, of release.
When he turns to the three of you standing at the door, for the first time in possibly your whole life you feel genuine panic grip you.
“Next customer, boss.” The big man giggles.
As he nudges you forward.
Looking for part two? Look no more, it’s over here: https://mylitcorner.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/the-tormented-2/