The Tormented

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Part One

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/

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Microfiction 23: Persuade

For Muslims across the world, Ramadhan is a special opportunity to turn a corner and adopt desirable virtues recommended by our Prophet (p.b.u.h), among other things.

This Ramadhan am challenging myself to accurately depict at least five of these virtues, through the most expressive creative way I can think of. In my case I chose microfiction.

The singular rule of the challenge being that particular virtue to be depicted should be hidden in the subtext and left to the reader to guess which one it is, meaning neither the title nor the dialogue of the characters should explicitly reveal the virtue in question.

He tapped impatiently on the steering wheel of the rental he had parked on the side of the road.

He was afraid of coming down with something the longer he spent out here. Already there was the telltale taste of copper in his mouth preempting an incoming fever. He desired getting home to his comfortable bed and spending time alone with his thoughts once more.

He stared at the crowbar on the passenger’s seat once more, a damning manifestation of his intentions for this evening. Of course he didn’t care much for the sentiment attached to the object or the agenda it would carry out. He’d long convinced himself that he didn’t necessarily have to like his job or find satisfaction in it, he just had to be good in it, and he tried to understand his clients’ motivations for needing him too. He was an agent of persuasion, he told himself. Some of his clients could not afford obstacles barring their noble missions.

He spotted his target of the day and customarily took in her appearance, seeking for something on her that he could keep later after the deed was done. This part he treated with as much importance as the rest of the mission and he’d done it on all occasions, including the first, finding a sort of trophy to keep as a reminder, usually something simple but expressive, like a perfumed scarf, a silver-plated lighter and so on. But today something distracted from this crucial preamble, the girl herself. From the off, he could tell she was not his typical target, there was something about her that smacked of how would he put it…‘far-out’?

He fired up the car once she was a few blocks away and trailed behind her. She turned into an alley eventually and he parked once again and jumped out of the car. Again he had lost his usual confidence and now there was something of a stumble in his step, as if something the young lady was radiating was putting him off.

He rounded the corner to the alley and something inside him snapped. She sat cross-legged near an open bin, her grocery bag on the floor next to her, pushing a tin plate filled with milk to a family of cats. He froze in place as the constructs of the reality he’d built around himself crumbled into shards.

Late that night the OCS at the Central Police Station was visibly baffled when a middle-aged man strolled in going on about the world being wrong and that he was guilty to the core and that he had all the evidence the police would need to prove it.

Microfiction 22: Hobo

For Muslims across the world, Ramadhan is a special opportunity to turn a corner and adopt desirable virtues recommended by our Prophet (p.b.u.h), among other things.

This Ramadhan am challening myself to accurately depict at least five of these virtues, through the most expressive creative way I can think of. In my case I chose microfiction.

The singular rule of the challenge being that particular virtue to be depicted should be hidden in the subtext and left to the reader to guess which one it is, meaning neither the title nor the dialogue of the characters should explicitly reveal the virtue in question.

Though I’ve started very late I do hope my fellow writers will join in with their own particular genre and flair that they prefer.

 

He lay down under a canvas of black and silver dots, a sky mindless of him and his condition, contemplating a truth he had just stumbled upon.

He remembered a bed of roses that could fit twenty, now traded in for a cardboard that did just enough to keep the cold at bay.

Earlier in the morning, he’d seen his own reflection on the bonnet of a car. He had struggled to identify both the model and himself.

He wondered about those mornings spent in boardrooms and afternoons spent in courtrooms and evenings spent in ballrooms, in the search for consequence, now exchanged for days spent dodging municipal officers.

He’d been everywhere, seen everyone, done everything. He’d belonged to everyone and everyone had been his.

And now he’d discovered a truth that belonged to him and him alone.

The truth that he regretted not trading his billions for the happiness of people he’d never met, much earlier.

Microfiction 21: Doctor

For Muslims across the world, Ramadhan is a special opportunity to turn a corner and adopt desirable virtues recommended by our Prophet (p.b.u.h), among other things.

This Ramadhan am challening myself to accurately depict at least five of these virtues, through the most expressive creative way I can think of. In my case I chose microfiction.

The singular rule of the challenge being that particular virtue to be depicted should be hidden in the subtext and left to the reader to guess which one it is, meaning neither the title nor the dialogue of the characters should explicitly reveal the virtue in question.

Though I’ve started very late I do hope my fellow writers will join in with their own particular genre and flair that they prefer.

 

If there was anything that offered him distraction from the terrifying fire in her eyes it was probably the unbearable pain he experienced in his forearms from her iron grip.

There was pain in her eyes too, though he only caught glimpses of it when she would occasionally let her guard down, like a flash of lightning on a dark night sky. He knew only too well why it was there, the pain, and he was not proud of it. The guilt of it made him feel small.

She was shouting. Screaming. Not the incoherent mindless babble of a madwoman, but the damning curse of a pained mother, each word a carefully hurled scimitar delivering a wound two-fold as punishing as that of the previous one.

‘You killed her. You killed my daughter. Daktari aina gani wewe? You should not call yourself a doctor!’

On the occasion when we didn’t question his qualifications for his practice he wondered how long he would have to spend in a psychiatric ward to recover from this incident. And prosthetic arms? Those felt like an inevitable future for him, he could barely feel his fingers anymore.

Then, as if having spent all her energy and will to mourn and scorn, he felt her grip on his arms weaken, the expression on her face soften, and he worried she might drop to the floor from exhaustion. In stead she pulled him closer and embraced him.

There she cried for a minute.

‘The best doctor in the world would have made the same mistake…it was meant to be.’

Kericho

I would have asked for one thing only. That I was better introduced to a place so cursed with beauty.

Instead we arrive on the epilogue of a dark starless night frivolously rubbing blank tired eyes just to see two steps ahead, the neon sign of a supermarket offering the only connection to the city life we’ve taken an involuntary recess from. Our bus having been consumed by distance and the imperceptible horizon, we struggle to identify signs of life.

A man we immediately identify as the security guard of the supermarket reveals himself, detaching himself from the background to which he had blended so well he catches us by surprise. Upon quick inspection I notice on him an axe, a panga, a spear and a nuclear football. Sufficiently armed I would say, though you might feel inclined to disagree. He is exceptionally tall and intimidating but all the posturing and tension evaporate as soon as he offers a greeting.

We greet him back and identify ourselves as guests of the owner of the supermarket and seek his advice for the nearest guest house where we tell him we hope to complete our quota of sleep for the night. He duly offers his assistance pointing us to a building that stands a fair distance away, lights from the top floor giving it the ethereal feel of a beacon in the night. He stops halfway, the tension creeping back into his face as a dark covered pickup strolls past, turns a corner and parks a few paces away for the length of time between two hiccups before moving on.

‘You can never trust these small personal cars. Always carrying the suspicious type.’

We inquire whether they’ve given him trouble before.

‘Plenty. Heh, but we always know how to respond, without mercy.’ He swipes his panga across the air.

We thank him for his help and set off to the guest house which initially appears deserted until the security guard there also melts away from the background that had swallowed him (seems to be theme in these parts) and greets us before he and a stumbling receptionist show us to the last rooms available. This exercise, like the rest of the night thus far, is not so straightforward, seeing as the rooms were sparkling new and thus unnumbered and the receptionist also hasn’t kept track of those that were occupied already and those not. We embark on a quest to try the keys yet to be taken on every door on the top floor, cause such a ruckus as sparks a protest from sleeping guests that threatens to set the whole building on fire.

We identify empty rooms for us to occupy eventually. I jump in immediately and set down my head on a pillow that smells of cigarette smoke and itches my cheek like crazy, unaware that in the morning, none of it would matter, as this land in the middle of the greatest of rift valleys would, like a bride on a her wedding night to her groom, dramatically and unashamadely reveal her charms to me.

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The Commute – 5

The Unanticipated Investment

Darling dearest,

Thousands of tire treads imprinted on a road.

Pages of a book, tell of an endless, eternal story of people and their heart-wrenching longing to be somewhere else,with someone else.

In a footnote somewhere are my bootprints and…your name.

History books won’t cease to wax poetic about distinguished men who were apt at turning out empires of cash from absolutely nothing, like one John from a clan of the Rockefeller’s. Future books will do the same am sure for one Warren from a clan with a salad sounding name I can’t recall. They will berate you with tales of great noble deeds that these men accomplished and they will aptly have you believe no one can possibly achieve the same feats as these men.

My dear, I tell you do not believe them, do not regard them for a minute, in fact stop reading them at all, stop now I tell you, because I found a man with a similar acumen for creating money if not better.

You see the tout in our bus was no ordinary man. This man you have to understand, with his matching brown pants and tees and tank top, holding the bank of Baroda in his left hand, and the central bank of Kenya in his extremely volumous pant pockets, his conduct merited my full admiration and attention.

You ought to have seen how the gears were grinding inside his head as he plid his noble trade, up and down the aisle of the bus, collecting our fares and handing out tickets..

I was all but a puddle on the floor from intense adoration when he finally paused next to me, took my hundred shillings and, expecting to give me back thirty shillings, bemoaned having not a single ten shillings coin at hand to pair with a twenty shillings coin as my change. But my hero was already ten steps ahead of this problem, you see. He inquired whether I had a twenty shillings coin on me to which I replied in the positive. He took it from me, and proceeded to hand me a five hundred shillings note, a thousand percent my expected returns! Yes, I stared at that undeserved fortune in my hands and imagined my life was set, I could run off to build a house on the moon and literally look down upon a planet of pitiable peasants, who would rely on the crumbs falling off my table down the gravity well. But soon guilt overtook me, and I corrected the man, to which he responded:

‘Nini wewe? You don’t want your money? What is this, a test? I cant take someone else’s money. My friend I’ve heard stories about you people from the Coast. Hio mchezo sichezi.’

And he took off.

I should’ve set off after him, I should’ve resisted more, I shouldve kept on insisting he take the money back, but I gave up too easy and as I would soon find out, where dubiously earned money is involved, tragedy follows in earnest.

The Commute – 4

The Appetent Operator

Darling dearest,

Time is a vessel, delivering me ever closer and closer to you,

Space is a fiend, taunting me constantly with reminders of our separation.

I’ve found that the most bizarre, the most inspiring – in their own particular ways – of characters tend to reveal themselves in the dark of morning…young illustrious kids trudging along to school, their ABCs and 123s not as easy as had been advertised, werewolves heading the opposite direction to hang up their boots after a hard night’s toil and, of course, this zealous captain who piloted our carriage.

This morning, while fleeing demons only apparent to him, this man put on quite a show. There was the poor defenseless gear stick that he assaulted with such senseless violence as might put a gear stick with less mental resolve in the madhouse. There was the chassis of the bus, which on occasions when it wasn’t five feet in the air, was scraping against the road at speeds of deliver-me-to-my-Maker kilometers per hour.

This man was blind to the law, deaf to our pleas to spare our lives and…er, seemingly medically mute since he communicated with aforementioned demons through nods and shakes of his head.

The last straw came when he drove our bus at full speed through a bump, it took off on a tangent into the air, performed a half-barrel roll, bounced off the road, yes, find any reputable book of records anywhere in the world and I promise it will affirm my word, that this morning, at the hands of a madman a bus on a road I journey on flipped, so that momentarily up was down, bounced off that same road, righted itself and continued on as if all was it was meant to be.

Upon this last act of anarchy, I decided to protest, and was on the point of walking up to the driver to give him a piece of my mind when I was thrown into the roof of the bus by its unpredictable trajectory so that I ran back to my seat humbled.

Grim as it sounds that I thought I might see the end of days in this bus, maybe even that might have been mercy compared to the grimmer fate that awaited me.

The Commute – 3

The Upsetting Scramble

My dear Delilah,

I’ve always believed the two of us should never be further apart than the wheels of this bus and the road they kiss.

But it’s such a shame we can’t fit into a pea pod, if we tried with might or prayer.

Dearest darling, we stood on that bus stage for ages after the first bus had left. We waited and waited and waited.

And because humanity had outspent the auspices of the sun, which had today thus elected to rise on planets Mars and Jupiter and never on planet Earth, it wasn’t long before frost set in. I had a sudden sobering realization that I could not move my limbs. I tried to remember the last time I had blinked, and between the icicles on my lashes and the paper crisp eyelids judged it to have been so so many minutes ago.

So this is it! This is the end! So I believed it was.

I should make my peace. So I did

Maybe write a will? But I had nothing to will to anyone.

Then, even as I gradually grew comfortable with my inevitable end, a sound came to us hollow and distant. A honking noise, rabid, erratic, on any other day incredibly annoying, but today it was like the call of adhan to a Muslim lost in a foreign country.

It arrived a minute later, blue yellow paint peeling off, leaning too much on one side, some of its windows jammed in place in awkward angles. You should have seen the effect it had on the queue, how quickly the poor frozen humanity thawed and then just as quickly forgot every last lesson of civilized decorum. It was a fight for all I tell you as every man, woman and toddler scrambled after that poor carriage which strained under the new weight.

I made a run for it too before I found myself hurled to the pavement by a lady half my size who then gave me such a feral hungry look I wondered if she was considering how to prepare me for lunch. Marinate him first or, what the heck just throw him in the pan.

Then just as the madness peaked and the bus was nearly toppling over, another bus arrived and soon a whole fleet, and so we all calmed down, looked at each other overwhelmed with shame, picked up our handbags and backpacks and dismembered limbs and fell back into organized files once more and we were soon all comfortably accommodated in one or the other bus. I looked to my side to regard the passenger I shared a seat with and to offer them the blessing of a greeting but who else should it be there, next to me, than that old man from earlier, cross as ever with me.

Thus was there so much discomfort in this ride I took this morning, even as it paled in comparison to what disaster I was being delivered to.

The Commute – 2

The Magisterial Traffic Charmer.

My dear Delilah

Today I vowed to journey to you faster than a mayfly can write a legacy.

I should have known.

Some mayflies live longer than others.

You see there was this man at the bus stage this morning. He was a very spirited man, a hardworking man.

He reeked of some liquor, which perhaps explained why he looked a very happy man.

And between his ‘No Fear’ branded tee from the nineties and the ripped trousers he was basically a half-naked man.

And he was a charismatic man. Traffic flowed at his behest and ebbed upon his request.

He was the people’s man too i think. He paraded the queue at the bus stand ad libitum and any dissenters were put in their place. All he had to do was raise his arms, up high, and get really close and these souls would flee back to the comfort of the collective.

My eyes lie sometimes but on one occasion he brushed against a boy during one of his parades and the boy’s terrified mother frantically scrambled from her purse a syringe and vials of what my short stint as a nurse’s assistant once leads me to believe were vaccines, which she mixed into a cocktail and pumped the boy full of it, then hugged him so mightily I thought he might suffocate.

It might be a tragedy that the man’s sway with people at one point made think him the I-want-to-be-that-man man, but then again a far worse tragedy is going to happen today.

The Commute

Bus-Strike-2

The Interminably Long Queue.

My Dear Delilah,

Every road I take leads to you, every morning, evening and every summer.

But today something terrble happened. Something foul and very awful that will change everything about so many things.

You see there was this matter of the long queue at the bus station i had to contend with. I tell you my dearest Delilah, this queue was hellish. It spanned three abreast,and hundreds long. Strangely enough, it sequenced a member of every culture I can imagine. There was a man and his hijabi wife, followed by another couple with their toddler, all donning matching turbans, all the way down to a mysterious looking old woman with a twisted smile and a milk white scarf whose cult I couldnt quite place. And this sequence as it was repeated itself over and over ad nauseam.

The size of this crowd intrigued me so much that thought I foolishly, given to abandoning foresight, to ask the old man in front of me, ‘Which gate of Heaven do you think this bus pulls up to?’

For that, my dearest one, for my childish kidding ways, I was reprimanded in every tongue available and my parenting brought to question. Then I was banished by the crowd to the end of the queue, which was where I stood already, only now it had the coat of shame and guilt painted over it.

And thus began my commute Delilah. Yet not even this was the worst that happened to me today.

That comes soon after.


photo courtesy: Africa News 24-7

Microfiction #20: Up Is Down

 

Is peanut a type of butter.
What about upside? Is it a type of down?

Stop it with the pointless questions. You won’t amount to much in life if you persist so.

But Kevin never listened. And he never ceased persisting so.

When he got his first job, he questioned why ties had to be so unyieldingly stiff.

He custom made his own ties, from soft material that flailed gleefully in the wind. It was horrible. He would spend the majority of the day pulling it off his face. He had trouble communicating with his colleagues.

But he persisted on, obviously, seeking solutions to his new formed problem.

One day, he finally got it, and like a small child learning to stand, shivering with fear of failure, fear for his life and worse his reputation, he did the unthinkable.

The next day he walked into the office, much to the horror of everyone he met, walking…on his two feet!

It was awkward at first, seeing things upside down. Reading people’s expressions was particularly hard. But over time he found his thoughts grew more lucid, he fainted less and less per day than his colleagues did on average. He soon conducted research to prove that walking upside down improved life expectancy vastly because of the new ease of ingesting food that came with it.

His new antics, originally a source of ridicule, soon earned the attention of the Council of Revered Upsiders who put out the word that he be captured immediately. He evaded capture effortlessly, because his pursuers couldn’t keep up, running on their hands as they were and passing out every few meters.

Legend has it that he outlived his rivals, spending the rest of his days in the woods, persisting in his research and silently inspiring a cadre of rebels like him, at a camp known to a few exclusive where an inscription in a cave wall of him with arms and legs outstretched in midair doubles as tribute as well as proof that he was the closest a man had ever come to flying.

Microfiction #19: Unfit

Something caught in Joanna’s throat. It might as well have been the finger of death how mightily she coughed.

She coughed and hemmed and wheezed and her eyes watered incredibly. Then she coughed some more, forcefully and without apology, until her airway cleared.


Then she cursed her ancestry on her father’s side, out loud. Having done that, she proceeded to curse her ancestry on her mother’s side in most flowery language.


Then she cried for a short minute when she remembered how close she had just come to death. That inevitably graduated to sniffing and snorting the phlegm that blocked her nose.

Then she receded once more to cursing and swearing. She swore by the Christian and Islamic God, and threw in a few deities whose names she remembered.


Then she calmed herself once more, readjusted the headphones on her head, and rasped into the microphone:


‘Asante mpenzi msikilizaji for being patient with me, you’re still listening to the one and only Radio Mwuungwana,…’ While her bewildered colleagues looked on in horror from the other side of the studio.


Joanna didn’t last long in her new job.

Limuru

Limuru1

I find myself where many traditionally end up the week after they graduated, in the countryside (ushago) where tall tales of villages gathering to feast and celebrate their sons and daughters achievements stand up well to scrutiny seeing as how folks here really take their time. The landscape outside is a portrait stolen from the textbooks I used to begrudgingly flip through in primary school, endless green dripping down endless rolling hills. I stare at all that green and lose the past quarter century I’ve lived. I lose my name. I am a free entity floating without purpose or history. I forget about the four hour trek it took to get here in the morning or that one hour of that time I spent stuck in a monster of a jam.

It doesn’t last.

I’m reminded quickly of my responsibilities when we pull up into Limuru town. Calling Limuru town a town is unfair to all the other towns. It’s a strange little open market, flanked by shops and the occasional residential building. Everyone here seems to be selling, you could start a drinking game for every person you spot who is actually buying, if you’re for that kind of thing. The stalls spill over from the shade put up to house them and choke the road. Our driver and, coincidentally, the first of my pair of students complains about this fact and leaves his post to raise issue with a lorry driver who’s gleefully slothing up, having gobbled up the last inch of the road. This mistake by my student is about to cost us dearly.

There’s something so gangster about having a badge flashed at you, even if it be a mere municipal officer’s badge. It stirs the resting Kisauni guy inside of me. I might as well have a rolled up joint in my hand and a rusted panga down the back of my pants. But the man behind the badge is uncharacteristically charming for someone doing this job that he spoils the script for such a setup. He’s so lean and sharply dressed might have passed off as a teacher under different circumstances.

‘Why do you park in the middle of the road, kijanaa?’

It doesnt help that I stutter my response a bit when I protest.

‘Tuende ofisini.’

To my relief my student returns imminently but the look on his face tells me he’s not confident about his chances either.

I leave the two in the car to sort things out. Their private congress lasts well over an hour but by the time its over, a ‘fine’ of 8000 is reduced to a quarter that price. I inform my student that he might have well toppled my mother as the ultimate shopping partner when you’re on a budget. The officer even left him his number to call should he ever get troubled by other county officers while in town. Good of him to secure his client as all good businessmen (public administrators)  do.

The whole fracas has taken its toll. We realize quickly that the day has run out on us. My student hits the dashboard in frustration. ‘I’ve never gone a day without making sales, man! Hiyo pesa amekula, what will he buy with it when we’ve been unable to supply the places he shops at?’

Today everyone has something to learn in that case, I muse. As for myself, I have seen both the good and the bad working Kenyans go through less than three days after graduating. I do not look forward to the ugly.

The journey back thus begins amid morale-hitting acceding to defeat, idle reflection and my dreading of the very long commute that awaits me, and my buns have turned into cold hard steel from sitting in a car for the most part of the day but man the view this place offers me!

You know I think I wouldn’t mind getting stuck in traffic here all day.

Microfiction 18: Jacob and TIM

For the heck of it let’s call this the second half of a two-part microfiction ‘series’. In that case, it would probably be better to read the first part here first before reading this one.

…wherein a scientist is drunk…

Jacob was a man obsessed with balance although, ironically, but through no fault of his, his life had been devoid of it for a while now.

When his ex-wife had strangle-armed the kids away from him that had been the tipping point. He’d regressed from the brilliant particle physicist to an ordinary man married to the bottle. On the eve of the day when his boss would lay him off after repeated attempts to return him to the man he’d once been, Jacob did the unthinkable.

He broke into the facility, commandeered a tank from the yard in the military wing and ran with it straight through the TIM (Temporal Interface Machine) even though it hadn’t been commissioned for human testing for another month.

Drunk as he was, he’d still been aware enough to set the destination timeline to the era of Ancient Greece and just toward the end of the conflict between Athens and Troy and more precisely right before that infamous event with the wooden horse which he’d always considered an imbalance of imagination. He was going to set that right! He was going to bring balance!

Having sufficiently and satisfactorily determined where he had landed in time he proceeded to lay out his afore-engineered plan before stepping out and addressing the crowd.

He had never been a man of linguistics, so he couldn’t speak Greek or whatever tongue these Trojans used. In stead he gestured wildly and with little coordination. He pointed to the tank then to himself and then tapped his finger on his temple. Creature/Machine. Man inside. Think.

One thing he had failed to predict was that once they had seen the sheer power of the machine that they would have wanted to know how the machine worked so they could use it against their enemy as evidenced by the sudden appearance of the sharp point of a spear inches away from his right eye.

Another thing, far worse, that in his state of imbibement Joshua had failed to recall, was that the TIM still only worked one-way and that he was by definition, stuck. In the past. Tipping balance from one side to the other.

Microfiction #17: The Curious Beast

…wherein confounding events threaten everything…

Edonis was understandably irritated when his junior commissioner burst into the room and with bated breath gasped the words, ‘Well, sir, I don’t know how to explain this…’

His irritation turned to consternation when his junior escorted him to the courtyard right outside the royal palace, where a gathering crowd poked uncomprehending gazes at an awkward beast that commanded attention as much as it repulsed. It was unimaginably flat and bulky looking, with no discernible limbs but for snaky coil or belt that rattled underneath it and all around its sides.

For Edonis, the creature’s appearance presented a complication. Having been charged with outthinking the filthy Greeks, who right now were busy building some infernal contraption outside the city walls, his failure to predict this event and worse, his inability to recognize the puzzling creature exposed an embarrassing weakness in his leadership.

‘Where…’ he began to ask.

‘From nowhere sir. It just appeared.’ Came the rehearsed response.

Presently, the creature’s snout swung from end to end and like puppets the crowd cleared away at least two paces from the direction it pointed with each swing. Then something remarkable happened. A most unsettling hiss emanated from the creature, and a bright light blinded everyone within the courtyard. The guard post fifteen yards away was, as if through sorcery, reduced to a pile of rubble along with the guard who had been inside it.

It took a while for relative calm to return to the courtyard after that, but with reasonable efficiency and speed the civilians had been cleared and Edonis’ charges had formed a half-hearted perimeter around the beast, and right then a hatch swung open on top of the beast’s back (or head?) and to the ire of the soldiers around, who should step out from in there but an ordinary mortal man?

 

Microfiction #16: Swift and Fair

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…wherein the law is preserved…

There was quite a lot of excitement in Lady Millicent’s court that day. The 57 stone mother of three century pups swung her great hammerhead periodically as the case wore on, a far cry from the benevolent manner in which she usually carried herself and through which she had drawn the admiration and respect from her people.

‘So, set me straight on this article Mr Amida, you were performing a Mambo Jambo dance at the marketplace when Mr Japeth here, apparently affronted you and tried to ‘make a meal’ of you, is that correct?’

A lone figure graced the defendant’s row, a self-proclaimed paradise fish who’d journeyed to the town from whence no one knew, whose colors for once were not the only interesting thing about him, exceeded in eccentricity this time by his half-missing tail fin. Any traces of his characteristic pride were missing on the day, and his voice almost quivered as he responded.

‘Well, you see it’s this traditional ritual we like to perform…’

‘It involves some form of jiggling, does it not?’ The Lady interrupted.

‘Yes, ma’am.’

‘Well,  then,’ said the Lady shaking her head in pity, ‘You do realize exciting your person in such a manner creates what the loony science man over there calls an electric field. No matter how noble a bull shark like Mr Japeth here may be, you do realize such an excitement is enough to rouse the killer he works so hard to suppress, isn’t that so, Mr Japeth?’

In the prosecutor’s row, the bull shark was thronged by sea creatures of equal or more proportion in girth or menace, save for the two adorable pups flanking him who were the youngest of his litter.

‘I just don’t know how to explain it, my Lady,’ he reflected, ‘It’s like the devil took over me all so suddenly. I just couldn’t stop myself if I wanted to.’

‘I imagine no one could,’ empathized Lady Millicent, ‘That settles it then, Mr Amida this court finds you guilty of provocation and as punishment will have you relinquish half of your plankton farm to Mr Japeth and his sons for the next full cycle to do with it as they so please. Fair punishment for equal…’

‘But…’ came and went a weak protest.

‘As for your hesitance to comply with the law, the court bequeaths the other half of your farm to the town council for the same duration, again to do with it as they please.’

The blue seas shook with the roars that followed. Everyone was happy with Lady Millicent’s faultless justice. Yet it only worked so long as no one questioned it.