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

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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.

Little Ciku. Part One.

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A dark cloud gathers on the sky above chasing the blue away with one swift move. The wind blows and darkness descends slowly like a bride does on the aisle. The birds culminate their day’s rhythmic music and all over sudden it is as silent as tomb. At a distant, an owl hoots repeatedly, either in defiance to the bird law or in anticipation for the unknown.

A matatu stands on the estate’s shopping centre with its doors ajar. The matatu’s stereo is loud and the crowd gathering seems interested in the sound from the stereo. It is unusual, especially for little Ciku. This junction is on ordinary circumstances a beehive of activities particularly in Huruma estate, Eldoret at this time. Perhaps it is football, Ciku shrugs and walks away to run mother’s errands at the shops.

A little later, the crowd listening to the stereo dissolves into the darkness. Perhaps the football match is over or maybe it is the darkness that has sent them away but still things do not seem right. Little Ciku can be seen hurrying home with a black polythene dangling from her little hands. It does not take long before Ciku confirms her suspicion. Her little eyes above the chubby cheeks dart to the skies following a cloud of black smoke ahead. She becomes startled. She follows the cloud to the base and there it is, a big fire lights on the middle of the road obstructing her way back home. Ciku looks back and notices that within the blink of an eye, this familiar junction had become a desert with a few people running up and down in hushed footsteps; the apocalypse upon them.

Ciku becomes terrified. For the very first time in her short lifetime she had never felt so distant from home. She turns left, she turns right and just about when she turns ahead past the black smoke, darker than hell’s soot, past the raging inferno, is when she sees it. A group of young adults dressed scantily in cow skin holding spears on one hand, a bow on their other hand and a bag of arrows on their backs. They run towards Ciku, then at once, they stop, they lie flat on the ground and smear their faces with the white dust from the ground. Then they rise and start advancing towards Ciku again. By this time Ciku can hardly comprehend the circumstances surrounding her, all that she knows is that tonight might be a night she will spend away from mother.

The thought of mother triggers adrenaline in the little girl. She is determined to get home and deliver the package in black wrapping to mother. She hesitates then tries to dodge the blaze and rush home but the flame on the middle of the road appals her. Then she hears the screams breaking the evening’s silence, shrill screams as if someone is in pain. It does not take long, another strident scream runs the air, this time it sounds familiar and it sounds like mother. Ciku is now standing on the middle of the road muddled, her six years of age trying to comprehend the current conundrum. Looking back she realises people are running. Running away from the fire, their homes and the circus of the dirt smeared men with spears. Will she run with them or will she wait for the fire to subside so that she can go home? Little Ciku breaks into tears.

In her six years, Ciku had only learned to speak, to write a few alphabet and numbers and to calculate. Mother had taught her to do small laundry like handkerchiefs and her panties. She was bright, so mother had gone ahead to teach her to make green tea and pancakes. Father had taught her to make Ugali and ride a bicycle. But both had failed to prepare her for a predicament such as this, a day she would not get home.

Shouting men and screaming women urge everyone to leave Huruma estate as it is not safe anymore. The fire is not only a border between Ciku and mother but also death and escape. The terror on Ciku’s face can hardly be concealed as she sinks into the running multitude, most of them who she knew from Huruma Junction. She hopes that one of them would recognise her and at least tell her what to do. In death, everyone for himself and God for us all. It seemed like Ciku would have to survive the night alone until she could find mother or father.

In the rush to God knows where, Ciku finds a kid, much younger than her, startled and terrified in the commotion. She pulls the kid to her side with one hand and pulls her to where she was headed, perhaps thinking to herself that if the world was dark and unruly, little effort towards the light would sprout hope to the distressed and frightened souls. Now Ciku has someone by her side, not a protector or anyone she knows in particular but a terrified stranger looking up to her. Foot after foot away from the unsafe Huruma, her home that had changed with the tick of a second, where she was born and had lived her entire life now lay in shambles and total annihilation, with the stench of raw blood and death.

When walking in darkness for long, reality begins to fade and all you can hear is your breathing. When walking in darkness, scared and alone, reality hides somewhere at the back seat of your conscious and appears so distant. In a situation as such, survival kicks in and you make plans in your head, how you will survive until morning. Ciku might have had a good heart but her physical body was tired from running and helping her new stranger friend who had began falling behind. They had been walking for an hour.

***

End Part One.

Submitted to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize Competition 2016.

Feature Image: Mukiri Gitiri

Edited by Essy Wanene

Written by Dennis Peters and Inspired by real events.

Survival by Esther Wanene

Sometimes you take a long morning jog, longer than the arm of the law, to clear your head, but then you meet a boy called Kaniaru who has been in the streets for three nights since his mother woke up and just left. Vanished into thin air like our tax money.  Kaniaru asks you if you have seen his mother, in long blue dress and a PCEA women council head band and it crushes your heart like soft toffee. You end up terminating your morning jog with a heart heavier than the sins of hell.

Other times you buy a shoe, a classy Kardashian heel that you have been salivating over since forever and you put it on two days, now it has a sagging ass like a sinking ferry in your closet. You will never put it on ever again. Sometimes, you think to yourself that you have been eating shitty food for a week, so tonight you decide to go natural, boil some Nduma, make some Ethiopian brown rice and add a good old avocado. You put the Nduma to cook and because they take time you place your head on the couch. These are the times you fall asleep like a baby and you wake up to a smoking house and brown Ndumas like Satan roasting our politicians in eternal fire. These days you sleep hungry.

At times, you get into a relationship with a tall dark and handsome young man, who charming prince in the streets and a mind stopper in the sheets, then at the culmination of the relationship it is you seated on the same couch, with eyes, red as crimson sobbing of a love that happened but left too much a scar than you would like to speak of. 

Sometimes, most times, all times, shit does not work out. Ladies, Gentlemen, Esther Wanene.

 

Survival

He was nothing like the rest

There was a mystery about him that I longed to unravel

A man who’s face was stone

But deep down a fragile heart surrounded by walls he had chosen to build up.

He loved me, no, not with his heart but with an iron fist.

My masochist self would always want to run, but not leave.

The frustration, the fights…our polluted love seemed to oddly satisfy me

Maybe I stayed because I couldn’t entertain the thought of being alone.

He was a hurricane made of form and habit,

a narcissistic demon in whom I searched for the angel within until the last minute.

I proved my love for him time and time again while

He just stood there claiming love, offering nothing more than his clouded mind, a pocket full of lies and a heart unable to receive love.

I tried to breakdown the walls he built up, but he continued building them up.

With all my effort I seemed to have been feeding his ego day in day out

because he spent his days “reflecting” between a pair of thirsty thighs and claiming to be the ruler of the vaginal kingdoms of many

I stood in the sidewalks carrying all the hurt praying that he’d prove love, profess his fucking adoration.

My heart grew callous from all the maltreatment and months after my departure,

I lay on my bed tonight surrounded by a whirlwind of peace,

as I realize I didn’t need him to survive after all.

© Esther Wanene

Feature photo by Mukiri Gitiri

They Brought my Son Home in a Box

My son left this home walking on his two legs. He said that the village was no place for him, he had that tinge inside him and a curious light that glittered in his eyes when he spoke of the future before him. If it were up to me, my son would stay home. I would get him the village teacher with that tiny waist and that big behind to his wife, they would live in this compound, bear kids and inherit all this land I fought the white man to obtain.

 

I will say this and repeat it again until it gets into their thick heads, time for war was when we were chasing the white man away from our land. When we ate wild berries and slept in the forest, when the white man wore tiny faded grey shorts and carried big guns that made us urinate on our pants because they were ruthless as Satan. That was time for war. That was worth my brothers’ lives. That was a time when every tear had a varied reason to trickle down the fat cheeks of mothers. Children who went fatherless then knew it was for the course of liberation. But now, my son was brought to me in a box from is adventures, they told me that he had been a victim of noble course. That he had suddenly stop breathing in his line of duty to protect his country. I do not get it.

 

What do they know about war? Are they fighting for this land like we did? Have they been forced to work for the white man wives in his white kitchens? What do they know about loss that they claim they their course is noble? This heart in this box should still be beating. I am not sure if there is a heart here, they told me not to open the box because this is war and in war what we have lost is not exactly appealing to the eyes. Now I will never know if it really is my son inside this box.  But I hope it is his no longer beating heart in this box so that I can lay it to rest, pick my walking stick and walk myself to my grave too.

 

I have seen enough anguish that no man should bear. I lost everything that ever mattered when this heart in this box stopped beating. This land should be made a graveyard instead, all those days in the forest eating wild berries being hunted down like dogs finally got their match in misery. War war war! What do they know about war? Do they really expect to win? I will not be here for the results but mark my words, there is no winning in this war just short-term victories and then pain and anguish in double fold. They will not listen to me though, I am just an old man with no son and who keeps a pesticide by the bedside to sip when the torture proves unbearable.

 

 

Words: Dennis Peters

Photography: Mukiri Gitiri

[Mukrivity- Ingenious photography and text made comparative]