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.

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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 #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

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!