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.

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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

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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.

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.

Microfiction #15: The Prohibition

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…wherein everyone seeks the same thing…

That morning Sami woke up craving blueberry pie but felt a bit of angst as he looked into his wallet and noticed the five dollar bill.

The lonely octogenarian spent the rest of the morning frantically looking around town for a possible benefactor of his small fortune. The first two of his neighbours slammed their doors in his face when he showed up to donate the sum to them and soon after that the rest closed their shutters long before he’d approached them.

He ventured into town, growing ever more distressed, until by pure chance he came upon a man of the streets, one of the remaining few who’d chosen such a life for themselves. After a frivolous back and forth, reaching a point where Sami almost broke into tears in defeat the man finally accepted his offering.

“ ’Spose I should trade this in immediately.” The street rat grumbled.

Flushed with a fresh breath of life, Sami finally settled down to serve himself a slice of blueberry pie from the nearby food dispenser and sat down on a bench to take in his latest moment of triumph. It was to be short-lived, however, for a young lady appeared from around a corner, every manner of her relaying an innate disruptive nature, walking towards Sami with wide eyes and an impatient gait.

“Am sorry old man,” she grimaced, “They’ll probably sentence you to life for this, but I exhausted my trade-in tokens and anyway let’s face it, you have what…seven maybe ten years left to live?”

With that she knocked the old man out cold with a single punch.

When Sami came to, he noticed immediately the swansong siren call of the moral police drawing closer. His hands instinctively reached for his pockets which he realized with dread were now bulging threefold. He reached into one and pulled out its contents, neat bundles of crisp hundred dollar bills.

“Oh dear….” Sami agonized, “They don’t make blueberry pie in prison, do they?”


Photo credit: WallDevil.com

The Order of The Forgers (A microfiction Series)

 

Late to the party are you? You can still read part one/two here and here.

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Part Three: Darn Them All

Darn all these secret government buildings with their fifty cameras in every hallway or room. Darn them to heck with their keycard doors everywhere.

Give me a lock any day, I’ll have it open within a second. These darn keycard doors, with all their complex constitution and extravagant merriment, why they take me way too long to open using just my natural talents, and worst of all, every effort I put into one of these shaves off a couple of years from my life.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: a nigh-immortal like me worrying about losing a few strands on the grand tunic of life he cloaks himself with, what is he smoking? But you have to understand, a nigh-immortal I might be, am still carved from the rock of humankind, thus do I still dread the end and of course, if I am to carry out my noble duty, it would do us all much good if the blood is still pumping in my veins.

So yes, darn them key card doors, and darn whoever invented them. Darn the fact that I have to break into the rooms where they keep the keycards or knock a few amiable security guards senseless to steal theirs.

But then darn the sight that meets my eyes when I finally arrive at my destination. A man sits on an actual throne in the middle of the dark room, lean as a chicken leg, with a beard long as my arm and not half as charming, sunglasses so dark they could be tiny black holes manifested, a demonic blood-red halo swirling over his head and smoke billowing from his nose and mouth.

And there on the floor, what else should lie there except the limp, chained body of Sofia. The girl, my girl.

Well darn the whole world, because the rage I feel could conjure up the spirits of billions dead and forever doom the living.

Click HERE to read part four!

The Order of The Forgers (A microfiction Series)

 

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Looking for part one? It's over here!

Part Two: The Girl

Her voice carries the softness of a feather on silk.

Her aura is that of a sunset on a tidally locked planet. Perpetual, haunting, notoriously hard to tear yourself away from, as if the key to its liberation lay in the sharing of its imprisonment with others.

I am never in control when am around her. I run away from her only to tumble and find myself reeling back into her arms again.

‘So you can unlock every door in the world, is that it?’ She asks one day.

‘Well, everything with a lock on it essentially, yeah.’

‘With a magical master key?’ She teases.

I sigh. How do I explain this part? Do I have a key or am I the key? Am I a manifestation of a practice or simply its practitioner?

Am I but a sorcerer?

No.

I am not a sorcerer. I am hardly better than your average chemist. Or artist. Why then, if you think about it, your best of writers and artists are mere chemists too. How else would you explain how they affect their audience so? They intrude upon their audience’s chemical composition, causing them to ‘feel’, and laugh or cry, using otherwise lifeless symbols on paper or canvas. So men of art as it turns out, are men of science after all!

As am I. Only I don’t just make the science, I am it as well, but how do you go about explaining something you can’t quite articulate, barely understand yourself.

‘Yes.’ I reply.

‘Cool!’ She replies. ‘Well, what else can you unlock besides doors?’

Your heart and mind, and should I do it long enough I could bend your will to my own amusement if I choose. Maybe then I could be rid of you.

‘Just locks. Am afraid as far as superpowers go, mine’s not that glamorous.’

The Order Of The Forgers (A microfiction series)

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Part One: In Deplorable Company.

‘This is a secured government building. How did you break in?’

He’s in full control of this conversation. It ebbs and rises as he sees fit. He alternates between using his tongue or his fists to communicate. I in turn respond well within my disposition with silence, grunts of pain or the occasional insult against his mother. I’ve crossed paths with men of his ilk before. I’ve been through worse than him.

The conditions could have been worse, of course. Not to say I enjoy being suspended in the air with my arms clamped and chained to opposite walls of the room, and a cup of coffee would have been nice too, but I’ve been in worse positions. One room I was exiled in once, I stretched my hand before my eyes and could not see it. When people talk of purgatory, I remember that place.

This place, it’s nothing. This man, he will tire. They always do. He does, and he leaves.

That’s when I whisper to my arm, ‘Mif-tahun.’

There are exactly seven hundred and twenty nine locks in this entire building. I can feel each one of them, but right now I need to focus on just two.

The process has always been painful, it’s never not been, but I need to be rid of these chains.

It stings.

It burns.

Then it gets worse.

In my haste, I drop my newly acquired key. It clinks mockingly as it kisses the floor, then rolls away and disappears into a drain in the floor.

I swear in exasperation.

Right then, let’s try that again.

 

In case you're wondering, Part Two is over here!

Microfiction #14: Origins

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There was a clock. Ticking and tocking.

Tick, tick, tock, tick.

He couldn’t see it, but it certainly was there, constantly.

Tock, tock, tick.

It ticked whenever he did something good, like that time he helped the sickly old lady cross the road and she thanked him by telling him he had a very special destiny to fulfill

Tick tick tick.

It tocked whenever he did the opposite, like when he punched the homeless guy in the dark alley out of rage for being fired from his third job.

Tock tock tock.

In spite of himself, he often found the tocking more soothing. So he bought himself guns, until later he could afford rockets and a presidential campaign.

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!