Welcome to the Family

 

I walked from school to home, the same way I had done for the past six months. It was an uncomfortable five kilometres walk, hard to imagine walking to and fro each morning but the white man was sharing all his knowledge, all the people had to drink from his cup of wisdom. Every African parent in my village sent their kids to school stating the importance of becoming knowledgeable like the white man.

 

 

So we went to school. Got hit several times on the butt for being late or being indiscipline, but it was acceptable to our parents, therefore enforceable to us. We knew nothing and he knew everything. Times were changing fast and no one wanted to be left behind.

 

 

In the hilly outskirts of Murang’a town on one cold and windy evening in June. I was barefoot as most of us were in a six-month-old white man’s green uniform that was only worn on school days. It started like a commotion from the boys that were walking home a few paces ahead. They had heard a gunshot up ahead. They were getting excited and they quickened their pace to get a glimpse of what had transpired for the white man to shoot from his killing machine. I was barely interested but as I kept walking, a dump and cold feeling settled in my gut and I also began walking fast.

 

 

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Writer’s Last Log

 

 

Today is on a Monday, a busy day for people with dreams to chase and money to make. To me, it is just a usual day, not different to a Thursday or a Saturday. It has been the same for close to three years now and as we slowly draw closer to the end of the year, I find myself in a period of self-reflection and evaluation of choices I have made so far. Outside, young women and men the same age as me rush up and down to find their calling. Young men and women who will once be referred to as fathers and mothers by future generations. I have found myself constantly inspired by their energy and ravenous hope for the future. Despite the prevailing economic and social difficulties I have tried to remain optimistic and objective. It is hard not to in the face of such beauty of life. I have constantly reminded myself the needless purpose of self-pity and sadness and the magnificence that could be born from chaos and destruction.

 

 

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Deep Dives. Part Two.

 

 

Nataana Leshan had been brought up in a traditional Maasai home together with three Maasai Morans as her brothers.  All her life she had felt the warmth of family, the protection of brothers and the appreciation of culture. She spoke perfect Maasai at the age of twenty and was not afraid to shove it down our throats of how distinct her exceptional language made her. So many times we would be engaged in a basic conversation, and a Maasai friend of hers would join in, and they would automatically switch to Maasai language. It was rude, and it was mean, but it never bothered me, although it should have. I would be kicked out of the conversation just like that, and I would do what any normal Kikuyu would do when everyone is busy speaking Maasai, I would grab my phone and click on my Twitter App.

 

 

For the longest time, when we the Kikuyu tribe were not busy fighting Luo’s for politics, then we were busy fighting Maasai’s for land. Regardless how many years it had been since 1982 when the battle of the Rift Valley lands terminated between the two tribes, it was always a general feeling that us, Kikuyu people, were land grabbers in the eyes of the Maasai’s, not even the internet could make that fade off.

 

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No Witnesses

 

 

 

I was born in 7th March, 1987. The day I was born, it rained hard, a storm that brought down trees and houses. I was born in my mothers and fathers house by a midwife. My father hated hospitals, he said that they reeked of weakness and infection. So my mother pushed without anaesthetic, cried and cursed until my head popped out. Outside, lighting struck followed by deafening thunder as if in protest to something. The midwife with really rough hands probably from harvesting tea in the fields, pulled my small body in the world.

 
My father worked in the armoury where he tended to the army’s weapons. I can remember him cleaning more guns in our living room than I saw him shower. He held himself on high regard constantly claiming that only a man of great responsibility could be accorded such an important task. Before I could stop pooping my pants, I knew how to hold and clean a gun.

 
On the evening of 27th January 1996 as I came from school, I found my father’s body splattered around the floor like a red carpet on Christmas. He had blown himself to kingdom come on his favourite seat in the living room while tending to his guns. Poor guy had taken his wife with him without even asking. Asking was not his style, he was a dictator, issuing commands and hitting mother on the head was more his style. Now, standing on the doorway, all I could see was brains and decapitated limbs of both him and mother.

 
I shed a few necessary tears for mother, collected the remaining guns and set foot on my way. Let the dead take care of themselves; the Bible says something like that, I think. His guns were now my guns. I remember vividly packing no clothes or food, the only thing I packed were the deadly guns father loved. To this day I do not know whether father blew himself up by accident or on purpose. Maybe it was mother who got tired of him and shut him up by blowing his brains, whatever happened, I was not staying to find out.

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

I loved blood. I made acquaintance with the butcher in the place I moved to. He supplied me with raw blood from the cattle they butchered and I would put in a cup in the secrecy of my wrecked house and sip it slowly like Asian tea. A cup in the morning and a cup in the evening, sometimes even more when the spoils from the slaughter house accommodated. I lied to the butcher man that I used to make mutura. Stupid dumbass believed me.

 

 

 
A usual day for me was working out and cleaning my guns which were often dirty from hunting hare in the Aberdare forest. I ate a lot of meat. My body was more meat than brains but so is everybody else’s’. My body was curved like a sculpture from the workouts with all kinds of vein patterns on my arms. Strength was mandatory, that was one thing I had picked from father. I was hairy, very hairy all over my body like a caveman. But I was a caveman of sorts, living on the edge of the forest and hunting deer and hare for meals.

 

 

 
At the age of seventeen, as I lay on the grass a scorpion climbed up my boot and chewed my left heel unceremoniously. I barely survived the poison but the living were not done with me so I survived day after day until the only thing left to tell the scorpion story was a limp. This limp stays with me to this day.

 

 

 

 
At nineteen I began working on contracts. A man and his wife were walking home when an armed guy in a hoodie approached them, pointed a gun and promised to put bullet holes in their stomachs if they did not hand over their phones, wallets and jewellery. On ordinary circumstances, I would have kept to the darkness and watched the free film before I went on my way. The two victims handed the thug everything they had and begged for their lives. Cowards deserve to die, so I hoped that the gun the hoodie guy held would get to be fired. Then it happened that the man threw himself in front of the lady and asked the hoodie guy to shoot him and let his wife go in peace. In my mind, I quickly resolved that this man was not a coward. He was brave he did not deserve a bullet after all. I snuck behind the bushes stealthily and silently like a serpent and struck the hoodie guy on his back, disarmed him effortlessly, cautiously and swiftly, just like hunting deer before I put bullets all over his body. The first bullet on his left foot, second on his right knee cap, third on his belly button, fourth on his left eye, sixth on the right lung before the last bullet put him to eternal sleep from the forehead. I would have shot his groins too but the bullets ran out.
The man and the wife rewarded me heavily even though I had not expected it with six thousand shillings and that became my first contract.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

When I met Maria, I had just come from the Rift Valley. I had been there for three days, working. This assignment was special. It involved a very important man. My contact, the person who had handed me the assignment also sounded important but identity was not any of my concern. So on a misty Tuesday morning, as a helicopter sailed an important person to the plains of the Rift Valley for an occasion, I lay flat on a raised ground one eye shut to put all the juice on the other one that was looking on a tiny aiming hole of my father’s M21 Sniper Weapon machine. I shot three times; at the pilot, then the choppers propeller and finally just as the chopper begun to spin, I shot one passenger. The last shot was unnecessary. The chopper landed on a hill and blew up like the fourth of July. The job was not done until I walked to the crushed site and shot the remains gratuitously. No witnesses.

 
I was paid twenty thousand shillings. I met Maria on my usual visits to the butcher. She was barely dressed. All she had were pieces of cheap fabric covering her private areas seductively, I assumed it was fashion. She stood by the butchery calmly as if waiting for someone. I had never spoken to a girl so I was specifically surprised she talked to me first. It was a quick hello followed by a question I did not have a response to. She asked me whether I had seen anything I liked. It was a weird question but one that demanded a response. I threw my eyes to her hair, artificial but so beautiful, her body, the way it graciously made a figure eight and the waist, the tiny waist held me captive that I only murmured a yes.

 
Maria must have been a very free person because while I expected her to turn away and move on like I did not exist, she simply asked me another question. She wanted to know whether I had money and food because as she put it, she was starving. I explained to her patiently that I had had good luck that morning and caught a gazelle that was lying waiting to be roasted at my place and yes, I did have money. With that, Maria held my arm and we walked talking about everything until we got to my house.

 
This had been the first time I had company at my place so while I stayed nervous, she eased the mood by constantly holding my arm. I liked the way she held my arm and looked into my eyes. Instead of roasting the meat, we boiled it as per Maria’s suggestion. She served the meat on a plate and we ate while she went on and on about different things in her life. This strange creature amused me but I let it.

 
When the meal was over, Maria said that she would teach me something new and I gladly accepted. She took her clothes off until she was completely naked. The lamp shone on her nakedness like the sunset of the Tsavo. The she cautiously got my clothes off too while looking deep into my eyes like she was looking for approval. I let her have her way. A few minutes later, I had proudly had my first sexual encounter.

 
I did not have much use for money so the morning Maria left, I handed her ten thousand shillings and told her to use it since we were friends now. She accepted gladly and did that naked thing for me another time before she hurriedly left. We made plans to see each other later in the evening where she promised she would teach me something else.

 

 

 

The same day, I got another contact from a woman who wanted her husband gone forever. As usual I was not concerned about the reasons why she wanted her husband dead so I asked for details like where he would be, an image of him and all that shit. I was determined to finish this assignment fast and join Maria later in the day. When I got to the location directed by the wife who wanted her husband gone, it was a function. The husband was launching his new flats that he had built with his wife and now they were ready for tenants. It was an easy job, I let the function terminate before I met the husband in the restrooms, told him that his wife had decided to let him join the dead and put two bullets, one on his head and the other to his heart to make sure he would never wake up and left him face down in the toilet bowl like he was hugging it and left. Let the dead take care of themselves; the Bible says something like that, I think. I was paid four thousand for this job.

 
I was late for the agreed meeting time with Maria, so when I got to the butchery, I was not surprised that she was not there. I asked around but nobody around seemed to know her. I decided to head home and see if she was home. It was dark when I got home and unluckily she was not there either. I blamed myself for getting late and fell asleep immediately. I had a very nice dream about Maria and her naked body which made me so happy.

 
The next day went on slow, too slow. When it was evening, I left the house to look for Maria. I was determined to apologize for the previous day. I wanted her back more than anything. I got to the small town centre just in time to see Maria vanish to a turn with another accomplice. I ran as fast as I could to get to her but eventually I decided to just follow them like I did with gazelle, deer and hare before pouncing on them unawares during hunting.

 
They walked to a house, which by the fact that it was Maria who opened the door, I assumed it was her house. It was tiny and spoke a tale of limited resources but still better than mine yet I felt sorry for her. I would have liked to give her everything good this life had to offer. They walked in with the man and I waited for about twenty minutes. When they did not come out, I decided to walk in myself and explain everything. Explain the reason I had been late for the hook up the previous day. I had it planned out in my head, everything I would tell her, yet cautiously leave the part about me killing people for a living.

 
When I go to the door, I could hear Maria’s voice, she was screaming all kinds of words beginning with her maker followed by all kinds of curse words. She kept screaming and I thought she was in trouble so I stormed into the house to the biggest disappointment of my twenty one years.

 
There she was doing out thing with another guy, both entirely naked and worse was that she seemed to be enjoying it more. They stopped the moment I stormed in. I could feel my anger rising like mercury in a thermometer. I could not comprehend why she was doing our thing with other people. Maria started to say something but stopped the moment I held the man’s neck with both hands and lifted him up like he was a cup of coffee.

 
He chocked. Maria begged. I was not listening to either of them. He spoke, he said something about Maria being a prostitute but I did not care. He had to die. He writhed like a worm until his legs relaxed. Maria screamed her lungs out. I threw the lifeless body away and headed for her neck too. When I caught her I felt something inside me, I hesitated. It was something I had never felt, not even when I watched my mother’s body lifeless on our living room. It was a weird emotion.

 
She tried to reach for something from the table, a kettle which she threw to my face missed and it landed on the floor splashing hot water to my left foot. The scorpion bite hated anything hot. It was painful too painful, I let her go and limped out of the house and ran.

 
I had never left any witnesses. She was the first one. I had to go, I had to leave the Central region to another region. I did not even bother to go pick my father’s guns. From now I did not need them, using my hands to finish my work had felt more gratifying. I ran into the forest to an uncharted region where Maria would not lead the police.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

My clients still reach me. If someone wants you dead then you will die by my hands. I will not use a gun. Guns are too quick. I will use my hands and watch life escape your body like a treated plague and then leave you dead. Let the dead take care of themselves; the Bible says something like that, I think. I will get paid as low as four thousand for your life. One day I will get Maria. I know now that she is a hooker but she is still mine. I will let her body do things to my body and then I will kill her slowly and respectfully. No witnesses.

 

 

*

 

 

END

 

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri

A Guy with a Girl

 

 

I am a guy without a girl, lying awake in the dead of the night thinking about a girl. Deeply rooted in the proverbial uncontrollable love screaming a girl’s name to no one in particular yet hoping to be heard. Sleep is a long lost visitor, coming in unannounced amidst a pillow wet with tears. For that reason, I am the guy always on the phone or on a computer forcing distraction upon a troubled mind so that it can accommodate peace. I am the guy with a hint of happiness as a distant memory, cursing time in between breaths for moving too fast.

 

 

 

I am the guy jogging every morning on the sidewalk. Talking long walks deep in the countryside in the evening with white earphones dangling loosely from my ears, speaking but barely being heard. The guy taking a shower after a jog and letting tears flow smoothly with the warm water from the shower. Taking really long showers and losing myself in the meditative walls of the bathroom.

 

 

 

The guy holding a large novel at noon in the living room with a glass of whisky placed on the coffee table begging to be sipped but constantly being ignored. A guy that knows the value of control when it comes to alcohol because it always starts as a means to terminate the melancholy in the living room and ends up in a rehabilitation centre’s reception somewhere in Limuru. A guy that is not curious to find out what lays on the bottom of the bottle yet still opens the bottle anyway.

 

 

 

I am the guy who used to have a girl. Then, nothing could go wrong. A guy who once held fate by the throat, but now is held down to the filth by fate’s fury.

 

 

 

A guy, busy making plans in the middle of diary pages and notebooks only for it to turn to shit just moments before implementation. A guy who is weary of praying for the same thing from January to June and now wondering whether the omnipresent heaven tenant took a long vacation to the Bahamas. Tied to my mind with voices screaming from every medulla of the mind but ineffable torturous silence and unrest on the outside. The silence preceding a catastrophe.

 

 

 

I am the guy whose girl means the entire world to him, busy scribbling romantic notes in the middle of the night and then deleting them because they will never be read. And now staring long and deep into the framed art on the walls reliving each photo painfully like the plucking of a broken molar tooth.

 

 

 

The guy alone in a big house secretly afraid of a monster under the bed, a monster I call time. Twenty turns to twenty-one and then to twenty-two and everything moves but I have nothing to show as progress. A guy aware of important dates in July, surreptitiously aware of what they mean and their implications on the flow of life.

 

 

 

An old lion chasing young love across the savannah grasslands of the Mara. A prey faster than time, swift as the wind and seductive as forbidden fruit. A predator aware of the sweetness and thrill of the hunt but forced by prevailing circumstances to settle for unfulfilling scavenge life.

 

 

 

A monkey gracefully gliding from branch to branch in the dense Aberdare forest in the middle of the rainy season. But now lost a limb and living in caves hiding my face away from the cold June weather.

 

 

 

The guy who found a girl to be bliss, the definition of love, the true purpose of life and the only ingredient to happiness. The guy cooking in the kitchen, food made with love but only gets enjoyed by solitude, desolation and a tasteless tongue. Then waking up in the morning to dirty dishes and hot coffee, another day to exist and feel shitty in the evening when there is still nothing to show for twenty-four hours.

 

 

 

I am better with the girl than without. But in a callous world full of individuality and commitment to independence nobody seems to get this. Maybe the white man took too much freedom from us, such that to this day we feel enmeshed and buckled up in chains and handcuffs when we feel that we indeed need dependence.

 

 

 

Writing down and reading a lot of words each day, yet feeling drained of words. Words are not oxygen, you cannot live off them. You cannot fill your lungs with words and breathe out bad words leaving the good ones to sustain life in the body.

 

 

 

The scientist in a cruel lab, performing ninety-seven trails and receiving ninety-seven failed test outcomes. A scientist slowly becoming a monster with each trial because it gets to you brain, it feasts on your sanity with a big spoon and serves your heart as dessert.

 

 

 

A man, sinking into depression, first with a single toe, then a foot and now gasping for air with the whole eternity finding its way to the bottom of the sea.

 

 

 

The prisoner serving time in solitary, marking dates on the walls with a rock waiting for the day they will allow the sun to touch my lips again and entrust her with my presence. The sun to place a warm hug on my shoulders, never to leave him alone again in damnation and anguish of darkness. The prisoner who tried to do everything right in the beginning yet stays condemned with zero chances for redemption.

 

 

 

Devastated, angry and desperate.

 

 

 

I am the author of who scribbled this sad short memoir in January, yet flinches with familiar acrimony in June because the plot still the same old. A mad man persistently doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. The guy with a girl but without her altogether.

 

 

 

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri.

The Legend of Cornelio

 

 

 

My grandfather Chief Cornelius Kuria Kahuba always said that age is never about the number of years one had lived but rather the number of lifetimes one had experienced. Seated on the visitor’s seat on the edge of his mud-walled living room with his black and white old portrait towering above my head, this sentiment never made much appeal to me. In line to his beliefs and antics, grandfather always asked for everyone’s opinion in a discussion. To him, opinion from an eight year old mattered as much as one from his age mate. The twist in all this was that he heard all opinions but always came to resolve from his own opinion. Grandfather was chief and his leadership frolics could be felt from the moment you walked into his compound. He had two beautiful wives, Racheal and Rebecca and a huge piece of land that extended to the horizon. To the rest of the villagers, grandfather was chief, not by any government appointment but by merely his status to the community. They called him Cornelio.

 

 

 

 

We all thought heroes need caps and masks, that they live in Gotham, New York and Hell’s Kitchen flying around lazily during sunny Sunday afternoons assuring the people that they are protected. That heroes needed to stick to the shadows like Batman and come out when villains attack the city. That they need to save kittens from tree tops and damsels in distress.  Cornelio was a hero. He did not were a mask, he did not put on a cap, or fly, neither did he have the keys to his village but still he managed to assure people of protection. He was an alpha among wolves teaching people the virtue of love and pure kindness.

 

 

 

 

Cornelio was my grandfather. I never really did meet him because he passed away immediately after I was born in 1995. If I had known him I would have revered him. I would have sat beneath his favourite chair every school holiday and drank from his enormous cup of wisdom. I would have listened to every single tale of his time, and wrote stories of how he grew up and how legends are bred. I have heard tales that he held me once in his arms immediately after I was born but that was not fulfilling, I would have liked more. And last year as we did a memorial service to commemorate twenty years since he left us and I got to experience how it felt to be with him around, the conviction he had to the masses and most of all the scar he left on his sons, daughters and grandchildren.

 

 

 

 

He was a community man and a church head. Every Sunday after church everyone from the church would go to his home for lunch. Cornelio was not a rich man but his will was to keep on giving. His thing was for communism not accumulation of wealth. He did not see the essence of having a lot when his neighbour had none so he shared, gave freely to those who needed his help and services. He worked to solve the problems of his people, social and economic alike.

 

 

 

Whenever mother speaks about him, you can see her eyes go into a delirium, she goes back twenty plus years and narrates to me when father had first taken her to grandfather. Cornelio had asked father if that was the lady that had pleased his eyes above all others and he answered ‘Yes’. I would like to think father was filled with ineffable excitement to have landed a beautiful lady with captivating looks, my mother is quite a catch to this day. Cornelio had then asked again…

 

 

 

 

Njenga ūyū nĩwe ukweda?

 

 

 

 

And amidst self-assurance and determination, he had mumbled…

 

 

 

Ĩnĩ nĩwe.

 

 

 

 

Cornelio had made him promise to take care of his bride through all kinds of situations, live to make her happy and build a home with her. Cornelio had further made him promise that whenever a problem came up they would solve it both of them. And father had heed his words and practiced them daily until now. Mother had made Cornelio’s home her home too and had found the strange lands as peaceful as if it were her own home. That was Cornelio. Pacific and sagacious.

 

 

 

 

Cornelio’s kids grew up, ten of them in total. Four girls and six sons. In no time father, been the oldest had his first pay check and as all sons, father wanted to come home with shopping bags from Tuskys, those old enough know that it was called Tusker Mattresses back then. They had these yellow plastic bags with a lot of letters, ‘Tusker Mattresses’ is not a short name as you can all see. I suppose this was the reason their marketing manager had suggested the chop the wordy name off to Tuskys. So that their plastic bags would be prettier. I digress.

 

 

 

 

Cornelio had met father midway through the gates and made him put all these bags beneath a certain tree in the middle of the compound. He had opened the yellow Tusker Mattresses bags and one by one divided the contents into two each half for his two wives, Racheal and Rebecca. Racheal was the mother of the ten kids meaning that Rebecca had no children. Grandfather ensured that his kids knew that no mother was significant than the other, that biology did not make Racheal more their mother than Rebecca. So, he opened up the bags, the wheat flour bags were divided into two and the sugar too but even when one homestead had ten children and the other had none, to him things had to be shared equally.

 

 

 

 

Cornelio indignation was against insolence. His benevolence ran across genders and age groups. In the course of his memorial his age mates spoke of him at such a high repute. One of them just had few words and they sank in me like ice water on a scorching sun day, I thought through them like my life depended on them. They were simple yet imploring, they were in Kikuyu. He said

 

 

 

Cornelio was a giver, it did not matter if he had or did not have he just wanted to give

 

 

 

 

It took me back to the current world where everything is about grab and keep. Feign giving in form of fake foundations to build you reputation whenever there is a coming election and the cameras and are in an exaggerated frenzy, swaggering past a homeless family on the streets and thank you favourite gods that that is not you and then keep walking in you Ksh 4000 leather loafers.

 

 

 

 

I am grateful for the tenets Cornelius Kuria passed to us. I see them every day in father he has every bit of semblance in comparison to Cornelio historic tales, he is a front-runner everywhere and every time in the estate people want him to head their functions. He is my role model. His brothers alike, each has attained a governance role in their various professional fields, every single one of them. And to my family, my sisters the same, even the twelve year old Viona has indicated this early that she is going to be a leader as our firstborn has been on it for as long as I remember. Me, I just blog here but I am thinking of challenging myself sooner than later, let’s just make it later.

 

 

 

 

Grandmother Rebecca left us and Grandmother Racheal was left to carry the legend, I remember when we were kids she used to come visit us with a bag full of plums during the December holidays. When we went to visit her she made this roasted maize that was just legendary. She used to burn it together with the covers until the entire maize was evenly light brown and when you chewed that maize, trust me, you would never want to leave. We called this maze gara. One glance at her and deep in her eyes you will see the grin of achievement, she has made men and women of mettle to change the society, her legend will never be rendered to ash alongside that of Cornelio.

 

 

 

 

Grandfather’s name was Chief Cornelius Kuria Kahuba and has been laying with the ancestors for twenty two years now. He was a light from a lamp shining bright amidst troubled times like the sun in January. I still wish I would have met him.

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri.

Little Ciku. Part Two.

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Eventually, little Ciku and her friend arrived to the destination of the survivors. The number had reduced significantly but the cold had multiplied in hundreds. The destination was a police station where they were received by the men and women in blue handing each of them a blanket. They were then led to a shed where they were to spend the night. Ciku and her new friend combined their blankets and cuddled into the night hunting for sleep, perhaps morning would make more sense. Her friend fell asleep first but Ciku’s mind was with mother, where was she? Was she looking for her? That scream she had heard at Huruma Junction, was it mother? Had the men with spears and arrows caught mother and father? At this point Ciku sobbed uncontrolled not because of mother but because she had lost a mother and became one in a single night. She wondered what the future had for them.

The shed got silent eventually and beyond the shed wall Ciku could hear hushed deep voices of men mostly discussing what had happened. She heard that no one had survived beyond the fire, that they had been slaughtered mercilessly by the strange men in arrows. How Ciku hoped it was a dream but her ice cold feet kept assuring her that it was not a dream. She heard the reason for the attack was the election outcome and quickly she connected the dots to the loud stereo at Huruma Junction, it was the election results. Her mind was too young to comprehend who was fighting who but at least eavesdropping put her thoughts into perspective. Ciku was tired and soon after she was on the teeter edge of a sharpened razor, somewhere in between deep relaxation and unconsciousness.

***

She was not sure what had woken her up, but it was still dark when she woke up. She had been dreaming of the men in cow skin holding long spears and arrows who had been chanting something in a language she could not understand around a bon fire, big as the one in Huruma Junction. When she woke up, her mind was in a temporary state of amnesia and one by one she recollected her thoughts to where she was, what had happened and why it smelled like cow dung where she had fallen asleep. She remembered her companion and ran her hands in the blankets trying to feel her with no avail. She was all alone beneath two blankets. Her pillow had been a black polythene paper with it sukumawiki and tomatoes, the one mother had sent her to fetch at Huruma Junction. She was surprised she had held on to the package for this long. She wondered where her stranger friend had gone and it was then that she realised that she did not even know her name.

Slowly and steadily she lifted herself painfully through the joint aches from running and lying on the floor to an upright position. She veered her eyes through the darkness to establish the doorway until she saw a burst of light through a half open door and came to the resolution of the possibility of that being the way out. Occasionally bumping into sleeping people she made it to the door and took a deep breath, perhaps hoping for a burst of fresh air but what she smelled was the reek of burning. She adjusted her eyes and indeed there was fire in a structure around fifty meters from where she was standing. A horrendous inferno accompanied by screams and the smell of roast human flesh.

She did not even realise when she let out a shrill scream and again and then again. People woke up fast and it was then that they realised that the burning structure was a church where the group from Huruma had split into two when the shed had run full. The church had been set on fire with hundreds of displaced people sleeping inside. People tried to put out the fire with buckets of water and soil all in vain, people choked and fell unconscious, other succumbed to the burns and fell into their painful death.

Ciku stared in disbelief. When she could no longer stand she sat. She stared at death right into the eye as death swept over like a swarm of locust on a cold season. She did not move, she did not even speak until the morning light appeared from the skies. Medical aid came and took the injured to hospital and the rest to the morgue. Death had had a feast under the cover of darkness leaving behind wailing women and children whose lives would probably never be the same.

When it was morning, the self-appointed instructors of the group Ciku had spent the night with explained the insecurity that lay beyond the police gate. Even them, that were supposed to shed light and show the way to young ones like Ciku, could simply not hide the melancholy. They shed tears as the names of the dead were read out by the police officers that had not taken off already. They wailed when it was established that aid from Nakuru was not coming because the roads had been blocked by trees, stones and burning tires. Each one of them stared blankly into the other not knowing where to go or what to do, worse, what to eat.

Meanwhile, outside, the birds welcomed the new day with coordinated rhythms, the sun brought out its smile unaware of the crimes her brother had done in the cover of the dark. Little Ciku still planted by the doorway to their new place of residence felt the morning light fall on her face and she turned away from it, her feet had been cold the entire night but not even the sun could bring a sensation of warmth to her heart. She had even forgot mother and was too busy replaying the horror of the night in her mind such that she did not notice a truck full of people stop at the gate and people come in through the police gate entrance. She was too engrossed in her despondency that when mother came and stood in front of her blocking the sun from her face she did not look up.

***

THE END.

Submitted to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize Competition 2016.

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri

Edited by Essy Wanene

Written by Dennis Peters and Inspired by real events.