It was not even raining when they came. There was nothing to indicate the impending doom that would change our lives forever. When I set my memory back in time, 15th August 2018, I remember I was in a public transport vehicle, riding past Karura Forest at Kiambu Road, I remember a deceptively bucolic atmosphere with leafy trees and birds playing in the clear blue skies and small buildings innocently scattered along the extensive landscape. Mostly, I remember peace. So much peace that the person seated next to me had in his hands a newspaper with a huge headline, “COWS SET TO LOSE THEIR JOBS AS MILK PRICES DROP”.
Then came the darkness and the grief that fell with both hands and never left.
It changed so fast. First was faint traces of something unwonted in the skies, spitting and sparkling in the blue. Some said it was the clouds, others said it was a planet, meteor, comet in our atmosphere. All of them were wrong because the phenomenon defied everything we knew about extra-terrestrial bodies. It was huge and just stood there making the sky look insubstantial and unreal.
First to go, was the internet. And this came with a lot of panic and disarray but it was not until democracy diminished too, did people discover that we all faced death and extinction.
The visitors were not from our planet and what they had in mind was neither petals nor pearls. Africa was first to go, then we whispered amongst ourselves about how the Americans would come to our aid. There were even rumours that the Americans were ready to launch a nuclear attack to the enemy that would send him packing and on his way from where he had come. The attack never came.
The Koreans and Iranians under dictatorship survived longer. They even managed to cause a scratch on the surface of an Alien ship using their nuclear missiles. We had spent so much time building weapons of assault on each other that we were barely ready for an enemy that was not us. Eventually, the fight was not for our own survival but for the survival of the human race. We became desperate.
We turned our eyes West to the countries that had brought the world on its knees in the nineteenth century, Germany, United Kingdom and France but they all seemed to be dealing with this conundrum by burying their faces in the dirt, ostrich style. They had built community sheds and underground tunnels and consequently tried to secure them. The enemy was far much patient and perspicacious, the food ran out, the water ran out and the Europeans found themselves right on the ruthless arms of the enemy.
What followed was strife, condemnation and an unerring air of desertion.
There was this quote that a man has a chance after losing everything of worth to him provided he does not lose hope. I remember scavenging in abandoned food stores for my family. We just wanted a single meal a day, yet, we were not always lucky. Sometimes we found some maize floor and made Ugali in the shed we were living. Sometimes the Unga was spoilt but we did not care. Most times it was Ugali and nothing to take it with but it was still supper, and it had to be enough.
Our last born child, only a few months old was first to go from circumstances I cannot tell until now. We just work up to his cold body sixty days since this whole nightmare started. My wife mourned. She would wail at night so much that I could not tell from sadness and pneumonia. She succumbed a few days later and my first born son and I buried her next to our little boy. Then it was two of us to face the anguish and torture. We would lay for the night and my eight-year-old son would say…
Daddy, remind me how it was before they came.
And I would start with how the landscape along Kiambu Road had been beautiful. He would listen attentively like he had never been there and I would tell it like I was the only one who had been there. When I was done, he would ask…
Do you think we will have all that back?
It was not really a question because he understood that I did not have an answer. It was a remark. A faithless and hopeful remark.
One day after we went out hunting for hare, moles and whatever else we could find and after a long chase, I turned back and could not find my son. He was gone, vanished like the wind, never to be found again. That day and many others that followed, I lay in the bushes waiting anxiously for my bride in black, death. The wind blew hard, the windows rattled, doors slammed against houses and leaves fluttered up like lost kites. Just like the American rescue, death never came.
Then came the diplomacy heroes, those that thought that the greatest conflicts in history had been resolved by sitting down and talking about things that mattered. They went with an offer. One that gave half our planet to the invaders. Or was it two thirds? It did not matter, our visitor did not understand our language and neither, could we. The diplomacy terribly failed and ended up with the diplomacy ambassadors slaughtered live on international television. And, with them, hope felt like it was lost into the oblivion. Somewhere so far that we were afraid we would never have it back.
The trick was to stay alone and stay moving. That way they could never get to you and you would never get attached to anybody. I remember one day recognising Kasarani Stadium in the morning and by evening I was at a building that was formerly Taj Mall on Outering Road, a distance of about forty kilometres. At Taj Mall, I was lucky to find something that looked like rice for food. The next morning I was woken up by a scent that rose like a gigantic bird and hovered higher and higher finally enfolding everything that was in the vicinity with the spread of its wings. It was an acrid, suffocating, putrid odour of rotten eggs or something worse. It wafted out, nearly thick enough to see, waking me up unceremoniously and back on my feet, walking to somewhere but nowhere. I later realised it was the dump site graveyard for unusable garbage that initially used to be life.
So much had changed in a period of 365 days. I remembered the age of the internet like it was the age of dinosaurs. The days we stayed in pyjamas all day logged on to Twitter and Netflix simultaneously and ate junk and food from the fridge passing it through a microwave. I remembered how that was ordinary life for anyone with a salary and wondered whether we had problems back then. What problems?
Grief often pounded over me in waves. I gasped for air and when every wave washed back I found myself looking back in regret for all the things we took for granted. The hopelessness left was so lucid, so heartsick and empty that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead. My memory of Kiambu Road faded, slowly at first, then all together at once. It was difficult to see the landscape, even in the mind, when your eyes were always cloudy and misty.
Like a lyrical poem, it happened on 15th August 2019. I was walking with a bag on my back, with it everything I owned. I must have been somewhere around the former game reserves of Masaai Mara or Tsavo. I had not seen a shallow ditch on my path that when I fell in it and broke my two appendages, I felt more shock than pain. After that, I could not move. The pain was excruciating. I lay there, on the formerly popular green savanna grasslands of Kenya totally impaired in movement. My end was here, finally, and I knew it was.
The first visitor I got was a disgruntled Lioness. She did not even smell me twice, I was too bony to be worth her consumption or her time. She walked away. The second lot that came, following her, was less sophisticated. It was a bunch of hyenas. They began with my arms and my legs and I let them. It was a welcome non-pleasurable pain. They must have been having a party. Then, I started teetering on the edge of the narrow fence between life and death before everything turned ultimately black. I was not there for the vultures or the worms, but I am sure they came too.
Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri