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!
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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 #9 : Adjusting.

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…wherein a new home is made…

‘Don’t worry buddy, you’ll get used to it.’ Father promised his son.

‘But it’s too empty and too…noisy.’ The son criticized the vastness of their new home, and the echoes that bounced off the walls.

‘It’s only as empty as we let ourselves imagine it. See that spot? We can bring in sand from the beach and build a sand castle right there.’

‘Whoa! A sand castle?’

‘Yes,’ the father laughed, ‘The biggest sand castle anyone has ever thought of, we can build it me and you. With your mother gone, we can do anything we want now.’

Even as tears stung his eyes, he trusted the words coming out of his mouth like script off a holy book and like a scientist on the cusp of a cosmic discovery, let the thrill of freedom wash over him.

They did get used to it, of course.

Which is why the boy slept soundly in his father’s arms, even as the blistering heat of the noon sun bore down on them and the patter of the cityfolks’ rapid steps on the pavement and the thrum of vehicles around them reached a crescendo.

They made a home and they got used to it.

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credit: hobotraveller.com

 

Microfiction Monday #5: Frozen.

…wherein Razim is stuck…

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Razim never once passed a chance to complain that he never had enough time to do all he wanted to, and so it was quite a surprise that when time froze one day, he had no use for it.

To his credit though, it wasn’t just time that froze, his body too was stuck in stasis. At best all he could do was count all the raindrops hanging in the air like diamonds. There was more than enough time for that, or to be more precise, there was none to worry about. He couldn’t remember exactly how it happened, except for the bright flash of light that came immediately before it all, and then after that everything just stopped.

Given his lack of motor functions, his mind naturally wandered.

It took him back to high school, where he remembered a queer little girl who turned down the romantic advances of the school’s most fetching guy, with his cleft chin, chiseled jawline and all, because she found his chi repulsive. Oh, what a laugh it caused around the place for a month or so. The poor guy, never having experienced such dejection before was absolutely devastated, if at least humbled.

Martha, or Masha was her name?  He couldn’t recall, because presently his mind slipped away to a less cheerful memory, the day when he lost his leg in a car accident and blown away were any lingering illusions that he’d move on to university in the States on a football scholarship. He remembered every painful detail of that horrible day in stunning clarity and well-ordered chronology like sequences in a movie. He’d lost a lot that day, and gained just as much, like the metal leg that stuck to him now like an endless taunt.

Then his mind fetched another memory he’d forgotten but ought not to have, and he couldn’t quite remember why he’d forgotten it. It concerned the girl, Masha was her name, there was no doubt of that now. Another thing there was no doubt about was that Masha was in fact, his wife!

Yes he remembered now. Masha the little girl who confounded many with her quirks, had found his chi endearing and married him. And she was now carrying his child. As a matter of fact, he’d left his bed tonight to fetch her almonds from the store around the corner because she so craved them.

He suddenly had a burning desire to be released from the time void. He desired to reunite with Masha because she needed him and he wanted desperately to see her again. He wanted to be released, to be unfrozen.

The master of his prison seemed to be listening, for soon he felt motion return to his limbs, but with it came a great heat that enshrouded his body with blinding light like a massive beacon. The heat would not let up and increased steadily and when finally the bolt from the sky released him, he was crisp as a leaf in the summer sun and rain drops fell once again, eager and unfettered.

Life Is Art

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Courtesy: themindunleashed.org

Life is art, living is a form of art. I know, it sounds like a cheesy line you would expect an eccentric antagonist in a B movie to use when gloating to his bemused opposite number, while sipping on a glass of margarita with olives, but yes indeed I have uttered those words and I cannot un-utter them now.

When I came back to campus last year, I decided I would start cooking my own food. I arrived at this decision after several episodes where my stomach disagreed with my choice of hotels where I ate, the most extreme of which culminated in me spending half the night hunched over the toilet bowl screaming bloody murder and cursing all cooks who refuse to wash their hands after “using the facilities”.

After several spills and hiccups during my brave journey into the world of cooking, there came a time where I began to actually LIKE my own food. For a moment I wondered if maybe my tolerance for terrible food had taken a bump but then I realized my cooking skills had actually IMPROVED. As I grew more and more confident, I began to EXPERIMENT, adding a few more spoons of spices than was the norm or mixing them up, adding sugar or salt where it wasn’t meant to be added until at some point the little voice in my head shouted: “Cooking is an art and am an artist!”

Yes indeed, I am an artist, not the best in the world as far as cooking is concerned but still an artist, because cooking is an art, just like painting, drawing, writing too and yes you guessed it: life…living. That’s an art too. We are the painters. Time is our canvas. The opportunities we are given: youth, wealth, health, intelligence those are the paint brushes and the colors we paint with are the choices we make, the memories we leave behind, what we choose to believe in.

There are some who paint bright Da Vinci-esque lives, lauded through time long after they are gone. Others paint abstracts like Picasso, their choices and behavior understood by few but still remembered and maybe even loved by many. Others are condemned or condemn themselves to lives no different than a hurried-through draft painting, blazing through life with abandon, making mistake after mistake and sowing discord among people until they are tossed under the easel to be forgotten forever.

Am an artist! So are you! And now that you know that, what does it make you feel? Are you worried that you might be a poor artist? That you can’t tell apart the handle end of your brush from its bristle end? That you can’t find the right texture and hue for your paint mixtures? Well hush dear, and listen close. To master anything, you always have to start with the basics.

For instance with writing the bare basics you have to master are language and grammar. A book filled from end to end with unsound sentences like “goo goo gaa gaa” and “baa boo” is unlikely to end up a best-seller. I mean, even toddlers won’t understand your book, and they actually speak that language. With football, it’s passing and movement. As hard as it is to imagine, there was a point in time when Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo did not know how to kick a ball, and they had to labor through training with their frustrated coaches shouting their throats dry whenever 5-year-old Messi or Ronaldo would miss hitting the ball after running to it, maybe pirouette on the spot there before falling on their backs like clumsy characters from a cartoon. But they put in their day’s work every day until they could perform the basics of their trade with their eyes closed, before building upon that and perfecting it to get to where they are now.

The basics of the art of life, and maybe am reaching a bit here in which case my comment section remains open to anyone with a different opinion, but the basics of life as an art from what I gather are intention and interaction.

Why do you do what you do?

Do you genuinely want to help people?

Do you simply want to be famous?

What do you think about the people around you, friends and strangers alike?

Do you treat them with respect or at least the dignity to which every human has a birth-right?

These two have to be it, surely. If we purify our intentions and cultivate our interactions with others, some of the mistakes we make may even be excused or addressed with lighter scrutiny. We master those basics and maybe we may even rid ourselves of these mistakes. Okay, that’s too optimistic.

But at least it will be a step in the right direction.

Life is art.

So make your painting colorful.

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Courtesy: pinkjooz.com

What’s In A Legacy?

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“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

-Benjamin Franklin.

 I’ve come to acknowledge the fact that there is no good time to receive bad news. But boy, there are times worse than others. For instance early in the day when you’ve only just shaken off morning nerves, or late at night when you’re so deep in sleep a horde of mosquitoes couldn’t possibly get you to wake.

A few months before the turn of last year, I received such kind of news just as I was bedding in to milk those final few minutes between pre-morning prayers (Fajr) and when I finally get ready for school. One of my cousins had been involved in a fatal accident and had died on scene. He was one of those cousins who seemed half a generation older than you so he was in fact succeeded by a wife and a couple of (very young) kids. Like my father, he spent most of his days on the road, driving cargo trucks to Uganda and back.

We had never spent a lot of time together, truth be told, just the occasional visits to their home during Eids and most recently a few months before his death while I was travelling with my father. My dad on the other hand, seemed to know him like the back of his hand. Which is why it puzzled me how calm his voice was, in the face of such tragic news, when I talked with him later that day. So I, indirectly, put the question to him and he simply sighed, ‘That’s just life.’ That’s just life. Life. Death. And a string thinner than silk strand to hold one aloft and keep it from plunging into the other.

Just imagine that! One moment someone’s here, the next they’re gone! Adios! Goodbye for good. Whatever brilliant ideas they held in their brains, whatever beautiful thoughts they once conceived gone with them. That life force and energy is no more, we can no longer tap into that and share stories, concerns and laughs with anymore. A few months later no one will even remember them…unless of course they left behind a legacy.

When most people hear the word legacy, thoughts of heroic acts, juggernaut corporate empire, a mind-numbing scientific discovery or a large estate including mansions in different countries springs into their minds. Sure that’s one way to etch your name in the minds of people for as long as there is an earth to live on, but the truth is, a legacy can be much simpler than that.

The purpose of life for those of us who are religious is simple: worship God. And while this may sound a bit vague for the not-so-religious, there is actually a lot that is entailed within that single statement. It includes doing right by oneself by leading a good healthy life, reaching out to those around with an open mind and a clean heart, helping those in need at the expense of one’s own comfort, inspiring others to improve themselves spiritually and otherwise, in other words being the best possible humans anyone could ever be. That’s the bare minimum legacy we should aim for.

The opposite of that is what breeds wars among men. Sure we’re humans, we’re prone to err. We step on people’s feet every once in a while because we are not perfect. Once we decide to do it purposefully however and make a habit of it, that’s when we create a legacy that leaves much to be desired.

Over the past two years, i’ve had to attend funerals of friends and relatives who were more or less my own age. But if there is any lesson I learned from that, it is not that we should fear death, for it is inevitable regardless of age that but we should worry about the legacy we want to be remembered by.

Timely Coincidences and a Timeless Lesson.

It’s the most curious thing! Long before I knew who John Denver was, one of his famous songs used to come on the radio almost every time I travelled long distance away from home. The chorus would go something like:

“Am leaving on a jet plane…

I don’t know when I’ll be back again.”

The first time it happened I said to myself: “Well that’s a neat coincidence!” Then the next four times it happened, it really piqued my interest. So I decided to dig up some information about the song and what I discovered or rather the impact of what I discovered was, well…simply incredible! But maybe I should digress a bit before sharing my discovery as I let that revelation condense into the right words.

So at the moment (of writing this post) am far…far…far away from home. These boring dull four walls, uncarpeted floor and solitary window make up what I’ll be calling home for the next six months. No, am not describing a prison cell, but rather my hostel room. Comparing this to my actual home, several hundred kilometers away, is much like comparing a cube to a tesseract. One of them is infinitely more complex and interesting than the other. They exist on different levels of dimension and must therefore never be compared.

It’s the price some of us have to pay though in the quest to fulfill our need for knowledge and to become meaningful in society. We travel far from home, sometimes across borders and do our best not to think back. It is hard to explain the roller-coaster of emotions you go through during that whole time but I think I may have managed to atlast nail down the pros and cons points of studying away from home:

The Cons:

Pain of separation. I get calls from my folks back home almost every week. The theme of our talks is mostly consistent. However beyond the usual ‘we miss you’ messages, sometimes I get something like: ‘we still see your ghost hanging around the house, rummaging through the empty fridge, or lazing around in the sitting room.’ When you’ve been the only child of a single mother for a really long time, the pain of separation can be overwhelming, and they don’t make it easy when they make those kinds of calls.

Home seems like a different planet. Everything happening back home seems to be happening on a different universe and leaves you feeling left out. I’ve missed a fair share of my cousins’ and childhood friends’ weddings because I was stuck at college studying for an exam or in class. Worse is when you hear news of a funeral. You can’t help but pray every second that everyone back home stays safe and healthy just a little longer so you can see them again.

Cultural divide. This one’s a doozy. Even shifting a few paces right here In Kenya, the land of 40 tribes, means having to acclimatise to a really different way of life. Making conversations with locals means throwing grammar considerations out the window most of the time. There are a hundred different slang names for the same thing so shopping can sometimes be a royal pain. At one time, exhausted from repeating the proper Swahili name for something I was looking for, I had to search for its photo online and rub my phone’s screen up the shopkeepers’ faces for them to finally get me.

On a positive note though, studying far from home presents the following unique opportunities:

Chance to grow. For some reason I can barely sustain an interest in anything useful or creative when am back home. Throw several hundred kilometres between me and home, and suddenly I want to learn all the programming languages that exist out there, I want to learn and be fluent in a new language and am juggling several plot lines in my head for a short story that I want to write. My mind switches on just like that which presents me a very significant opportunity to improve myself and help me grow into a more useful individual.

Chance to grow UP. Am lucky enough to have found the right bunch of friends out here, around whom I can still be goofy every now and then but who when the time calls for it, can switch into serious mode with no fuss. Far from the distractions of home and close relatives, I find it easy every day to come into my own. There’s no one to coddle me and stand up for me when am in difficult situations, so every experience I go through is an opportunity to learn and grow up.

Fresh start. Leaving familiar territory means beginning with a clean slate. You get to make new friends with no worries about whether they will judge your past mistakes, simply because they have no need to know about your past mistakes, unless you decide to run around campus or town shouting it to everyone, in which case have fun you miserable weirdo.

Now back to John Denver, whom the universe strived so long to bring to my attention. He dropped out of college doing a course in architecture to take up a career in music. At the time of his death, John Denver was an accomplished songwriter, singer, actor, aviator, philanthropist and environmentalist. So popular was his music that one of his songs was adopted as one of the official state songs for the state of Colorado. He was something of an over-achiever, some would say. Then he died, tragically, while doing something he was passionate about, flying a test aeroplane.

What this discovery essentially did was remind me of what I am most afraid of: settling. I strongly feel everyone should share in my fear. We tend to settle for less than what we are capable of. We settle for what others project as the limit of what we are capable of, what we apparently deserve.

So many times we hear of folks who are forced to compromise between their happiness and what the people around them want for them. There is rarely a middle-ground established in such cases and they end up settling for something which makes them miserable forever. Whoever among us who finds themselves in this inextricable situation, where you are tied down to a job or study course which dumbs down your creativity, listen to the message the universe wanted me to hear: ‘NO ONE holds a leash on your happiness. No one should have the power to stop you from being what you want to be, to do what you are most passionate about.’

If you can be Muhammad the lawyer, the writer, the artist, the daredevil or Jane the schoolteacher, the illustrator, the thrill seeker then be that and don’t settle for less.

Once you have achieved that, look beyond the tiny radius that makes up ‘ME’ world and strive to inspire others to be better. The more people you affect in a positive way, the more fulfilling your life will be. Most likely, you’ll find yourself doing this naturally, as one Mikhail Pokhorov once said:

“When you have gained a certain amount of experience, you find that a desire to help all people arises in you.”

To that end, here’s hoping this blog will be a good start for me. Your comments, critic and support will be much appreciated. Love you all and thank you for reading.