We Can Lose Much More…

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(Fair warning ahead, parts of this piece describe a scene that might make your stomach queasy)

There are some subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) nuances that define as a people. Cornerstones of our society, so to speak. Tiny, often easily overlooked actions we do for others, things we say that bring a feel-good atmosphere and knit us closer together. They are values that are inherent in all of us even at the darkest of our times.

Lately, it feels like these foundations have been under siege.

Several months back, while heading back to campus from Thika, our bus zipped past a body lying in the middle of the road. I don’t remember where specifically. I don’t remember how the deceased was dressed. I don’t remember if it was a man or woman. I do remember that the head was not attached to the shoulders. I do remember that cars swerved around the body and sometimes over it. I do remember finding it near impossible to keep my food down for the next two days.

Worst of all I do remember that after the initial shock wore off, my fellow passengers got down to work speculating how the body might have ended up there. Had the man/woman been mentally ill? Had they willfully stepped in front of a car, driven by an urge they could not comprehend? Had they actually been murdered elsewhere and dumped on the road to cover up the crime? A consensus, completely uncalled for, was finally reached that there was no way the deceased had not been murdered elsewhere and then dumped on the road.

One thing that, ironically, seemed to escape everyone’s attention was the fact that there was a body on the road, and nobody seemed to care about school kids in other buses and vans who would pass by that same spot and have nightmares that night or that other drivers might be traumatized running over the body, because no one stopped. Always in such a hurry to get to wherever we want to, we don’t care what we throw away, when a simple hazard sign might have well warned other drivers to steer clear.

Fast forward several months and it seems we’re living in a constant spell of expiation for a sin we have no idea about. Our country is being held hostage by an election that just won’t go away. For those of you who aren’t fully versed on this yet, we held our election this August which inspired so little confidence in our judiciary that they declared them as null and void. The repeat elections, which are to be held tomorrow, are being overseen by more or less the same officials who bungled up the original one. Which is why the opposition is having none of it. Which is why for the past few weeks we’ve had demonstrations in the country to oppose the commission. The response of the government unsurprisingly is to use force and as a result more than a few lives have been lost.

But that’s nothing compared to the fact that the people who died are now used as icons of some ‘resistance’. Uncensored images of them in their undignified state have been plastered all over the ether to elicit some reaction from all of us. I see them when am on Whatsapp, they’re in my face when am on Facebook. A more considerate person might stop to think, ‘How will the deceased’s parents feel if they see their son or daughter in this manner on the news or social media? Should I really post this?’ But we seem to have lost that. We traded in empathy for higher resolution cameras and faster internet connectivity.

Then the unthinkable happened last week. One of the officials on the electoral commission, having fled to the States, penned a letter of resignation that revealed much of what happens behind the curtains. That the ‘independent’ commission was only independent in principle but not in creed or action. That her fellow officers were imposing influence on the whole process according to how it benefited their respective party, either way.

Because of people’s irrational party affiliations she’s been mocked, ridiculed, intimidated and threatened. That she fled out of fear for her own life, even as one of her colleagues was kidnapped and murdered under dubious circumstances a week before the original election, that she resigned out of fear for her staff, in the hopes that their security would be considered ahead of the plight of politicians who seek power and nothing else, seems to be lost on us. Whether she’s being honest and warrants our attention is beside the point. Once upon a time the search for truth used to be integral to the whole idea of us being ‘decent’, whether that truth resides within the people we call family or friends or our government. But that too appears to be gone.

As bloggers, as fiction writers, we often include conflict, tension, corruption and scenes of gore in our work, I know I too have been ‘guilty’ of this a few times. But we often add these things to mock them, to deride them, to expose them so we can fix ourselves, but in truth we do not want to see them creep into our daily lives and become the norm. I want to be comforted by the knowledge that if I end up lying in the middle of a busy road for whatever reason, people would be considerate enough to stop and shield my body, and not instead take photos and post them everywhere and make light of the moment. I want to believe that in a position where I possess forbidden information critical to the welfare of the public I would not be mocked and threatened if I choose to divulge such information. I really want to believe in the people I call my fellow Kenyans.

I will not take a stand here about whether or not I will vote tomorrow because that would make this a political statement, when this is far from it. This in converse is a rallying call to all of us, especially right now to all Kenyans, to stop and reflect about where we’ve come from, where we are headed and how we want to be judged by future generations.

Only one person can ever win an election, but all of us stand to lose so much more if we don’t stop to reflect and change.

Stay safe tomorrow everyone and God bless you all!

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Microfiction Monday #13: The Meet.

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…wherein curious meetings take place in the witching hour…

Two men stood in the middle of the park, wrapped by the darkness of night. One was tall and lean, the other conspicuously rotund.

I spotted them on my way home, having stayed late at work, and took my time to observe them from a position of isolation.

The tall man remarked to his friend that the ‘radius of your midsection keeps defying expectations by steadily growing past its cap.

The round man replied that he worried his friend’s closer proximity to the sun would render him inoperative in a few years with a plethora of skin tumors and such.

Both men then laughed a hearty and long laugh before the tall man asked of his friend’s wife. The round man replied that she’d seen better days, but that her ailment had yet to put a damp on her spirits. The tall man explained that his own wife and the kids had gone to their grandma’s and he was fascinated by the unbridled peace and clarity of mind that it brought him.

He then took off his jacket and asked his friend in a most forlorn voice how they’d let their friendship get down to ‘this’. The round man took off his jacket too and retrieved a blade that glinted in the moon’s light and complained that he too did not like how things had turned out and that he would rather prefer to be done with it in the swiftest of manner.

Then the lean man cocked his head to one side and told his friend he suspected someone was watching them. His friend turned and shouted in my general direction, ‘Oy if you don’t mind, we’re trying to settle a private dispute here, so…bugger off now.’

Shivering and shaking from the tension of expectation, I took my cue to retreat to the beckoning comfort of my home, all the more worried about the fate of the two men, despite my knowledge that they would turn back into oak trees by the first light of next morning.

Microfiction Monday #12: Receipt

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…wherein dissent is punished…

In her defense, she hadn’t meant to do it, or rather she hadn’t done it consciously. The dust bin just happened to be there, at the supermarket’s exit and she extended her arm and threw the receipt inside. There was no thought to the action, just a habitual reflex.

Which is why she was more than mildly surprised when she answered the door a few hours later and was accosted by two sneering policemen. One of them held the offending receipt at eye-level for her to read the contents there.

‘This yours?’ He asked.

She pored through it once more, before confirming to the officers that it had in deed once been in her possession.

‘CCTV cameras caught you dropping it in the bin a few hours ago.’

‘Nothing odd about that, is there?’ She asked, puzzled.

The second chuckled, ran his fingers over his tablet and started reading rapidly, ‘Chapter three section four of The Accords states, “Any and all pieces of parchment, pamphlets, documents, clothing material, fabric, posters and all other manner of signage bearing an image of his Highness or the Crest of the Crown shall henceforth be treated as holy as his Sovereignty and any show of dissent towards such material will be treated as a show of dissent towards the King himself.”’

The first policeman flipped the receipt and the blood drained from her face. There, inscribed at the bottom of the receipt using cheap ink and barely visible to the unfocused eye, was the Crest of the Crown.

‘But, I love the King,’ she protested, ‘I named both my first son and my first daughter after him.’

‘Very funny in deed. May your humor assuage you in whatever bin His Highness’ magistrates decide to dump you in.’ The first policeman mocked as they dragged the poor struggling woman into the waiting police van and with each desperate cry for help, she noticed painfully her neighbours windows and doors shut ever tighter.

Microfiction Monday #11: Life-Size.

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…wherein the professor advances his plan…

‘I think I’ve finally cracked it Sam.’

The professor said to the silicon bust sat on the study table in his library. The weather outside was dreary and windy but it was not raining, though a storm appeared to be brewing on the horizon. While it didn’t serve as the best set for the professor’s newest milestone in his research, it did, in a manner, reflect the stir that he suspected was coming along with it.

‘What’s that, professor?’ The bust responded in a semi-monotone.

‘Intuition.’ The professor laughed.

‘Intuition, my dear Sam. Everybody else seems to miss this point. Lost they all are in their belief that for you and your likes to be more ‘human’ you have to make decisions that are your own, but the thing is, we humans occasionally make some decisions we can’t quite explain, based on no evidence that we can produce to…to…support it.’ he stuttered from excitement.

‘Am sorry professor, I still can’t quite understand.’

‘It’s…it’s hard to explain. Some attribute it to external intervention from a Malevolent Being, some call it a gift of evolution. Either way it’s indubitably ever-present in o…our lives, like how a mother may warn her child from going on a ship cruise and the ship ends up capsizing. Or how a  businessman may choose to invest in a venture that shows no promise at all even as every other businessman gives it a wide berth and yet it…it proves to be his windfall. We, humans bluff and fluke our way through most things, can’t you see it Sam?’

‘But you say you’ve cracked it, professor?’

‘Five men drafted the Declaration of Independence, three of whom were part of a group of men that were eventually called the Founding Fathers. Can you tell me who these three were?’

The bust stared into the distance in thought, the creases on its forehead growing increasingly pronounced.

‘Um, am sorry professor but I can’t quite remember past Jefferson and Franklin.’

The professor bawled with joy, marching around the room in a guileless victory dance.

‘Memory decay!’ He announced finally, ‘So far, every decision you’ve made has been calculated based o…on the knowledge and experiences ma…my students and I have fed you Sam. But now, now there won’t be any single time when you’ll have an over-abundance of information for you to reason through to arrive at you…your decisions. No no, you are now truly human, s…stumbling in the dark, second-guessing your every step. We aren’t quite there yet my boy, but soon, oh soon you’ll be truly ready to raise hell on earth.’

The professor laughed again, this time his laughter was accompanied by the crack of thunder.

Outside it started raining.

 

photo credit: Universal Studios.

Microfiction Monday #10: Encounter.

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…wherein they make themselves known…

‘Ground Control to SS Madura, please respond.’ Mike breathed into the microphone once more, the words growing wearier each time he said them.

The SS Madura was presently somewhere between Earth and Mars. The crew on board had stopped transmitting a few minutes ago following a loud crashing noise which often meant that something had gone wrong. The spacecraft’s current distance from earth meant that there was a delay of almost three minutes of transmission between them, which meant having to wait twice that time to hear a reply from the crew.

‘Ground Control, I can barely hear you, you’re breaking up.’ the response crackled through the loudspeakers of the control center to the collective sigh of everyone but the voice was hardly recognizable.

‘Welcome back sir, we lost you there for a minute. Can you give us a status report?’

‘We crashed into a projectile, a spaceship possibly, sustained damages to the outer hull and other critical components, life support system operating at fifty percent efficiency.’

The response had come back after four minutes instead of the expected six, which could only mean the spaceship was heading back to earth. Mike made a quick mental calculation of the speed it would take the spaceship to close the gap that quickly and almost fell on his back. That kind of speed was simply not attainable by the SS Madura.

‘Um, could you elaborate further on your last, you crashed into a spaceship, possibly? And please identify yourself.’

The response came after just two minutes now, the rapid manner of its arrival and the new edge in the voice making Mike feel as if the speaker was standing over his shoulder.

‘I can conclusively confirm that we did crash into another spaceship,’ the man still hadn’t identified himself and that bothered Mike very much, ‘The inscription on its outer hull read SS Madura. There’s a habitable planet nearby which we can assume was the launching point of the Madura. We’re heading there now to investigate.’

Mike looked around the room at the uncomprehending terrified faces of his colleagues looking up to him. His voice came out shaky and uneven as he whispered, ‘Oh my God!’