My grandfather was a young boy when he first saw them. They had six digits on each limb and very smooth skin that glowed unlike normal humans. Though they looked human, they spoke without opening their mouths in a way that was clear and a language that could not be described. They said to him that they meant no harm and that they were from a place far away in the stars…
They say children observe without inhibition. To my young grandfather, these strange people were a subject of curious fascination. They would speak to animals an even plants. They would do very unusual things that are impossible for a man to do. A few months before he died, he whispered to me in a way that was almost incoherent that he had seen them again. He said he had been walking along the stream that ran at the foot of his land when he saw them standing by the boulder that marked the last beacon of his land. He claimed they hadn’t aged at all. He hadn’t seen them since that time in the forest but it now seemed like they had never left after all. He had spent all his life trying to tell people what he saw. Naturally not one ever believed his fantastic tale. You see when he was young, my grandfather had a habit of creating these imaginative tales to entertain his parents and siblings. At one point, they started worrying that spending months in the forest herding cattle with his great grandfather had started wearing him down mentally. Eventually, they gave in to the realization that these stories were a part of his personality.
His great grandfather was also a man with a reputation of telling strange tales. Contrary to modern theory, he claimed that the Kikuyu had come from the far north, a place called Nekemte. Disease and constant attacks from the tribe of tall and dark people from the west had forced his ancestors to break into small bands and head south. The common understanding was that they would later regroup at the foot of the mountain of God. It took them many years and by the time they reached the mountain it had been five generations. They later came to settle at the foot of Koraba that is now known as Mount Kenya. In his narration he claimed that on reaching Koraba, they found these strange looking people with six digits on each limb; who did curious things. On consulting with God, the tribe seers declared these creatures evil and a danger to mankind. They directed the clan to organize themselves in readiness for war. They engaged these beings in a battle that lasted one hundred moons. In the end, we won and killed them all. At least that was the narrative according to the legend of the time.
When my father was a young boy, he too went herding cattle with his grandfather for months at a time in the forest. In those days, the land was still wild and so vast that they had to place beacons everywhere they stopped so they could find their way back. These journeys were long and lonely at times. After all, there’s only so much two people can tell each other after spending months trekking through the forests and wastelands. My grandfather would always tell him that if he ever saw anything strange and frightening the best thing to do was to keep calm and still until it [whatever it was] passed. My father was to later see many frightening things like lions but never anything strange. He too considered my grandfather ridiculous with his ludicrous strange tales.
Times changed and following the invasion by the british my grandfather went into the forest to fight as Mau Mau. The war lasted many years and many of our people were killed in what later came to be known as the struggle for independence. He had seen many of his comrades in arms die in the most undignified ways. He had experienced the horrors of war in an involving way that would be etched in his mind for the rest of his life. When he came back, he was a changed man. A far cry from the story teller he had been in his better days. The forest was gone, and all he had left was a five acre piece of land and a wife and children that he hardly knew and needed to reacquaint himself with. Of all the stories of war that he later would tell his children , one stood out. When he was in the forest, he always felt like he was being watched by the strange beings from his childhood. On dark silent nights, he would feel their presence. It was they were always watching him. The day before he got out of the forest he thought he heard them call out his name. They spoke in his head and just as before it was clear.
In the years before he died, he was a shadow of his former self. He was quiet most of the time and unable to feed or clean himself. He would come out to meet the sun sitting in his favorite colonial era chair just staring into space as if in a trance. I believe he got tired of speaking to a world that would not take him seriously. He still had that strange light in his eyes of a boy who had seen something incredible. He died still holding on to his tale.
During my grandfather’s funeral, I noticed these two strangers who were standing by the grave. They looked ageless and their skin was smooth and it seemed to glow. Their faces showed no emotion but strangely I felt their sorrow. Deep and hollow. It was a feeling I had never felt before. When they looked up, our eyes met and for a moment the earth stood still and and I felt my knees give way. I collapsed on the ground. I could hear a woman’s voice in the distance telling mourners to give me space to breathe. I felt them loosen my shirt and they started fanning my face. When I came to, the strangers were gone but I knew who they were.
Though this is a work of fiction, I dedicate to the memory of my grandfather whose tales captivated my mind ever since I was a young boy. He died before he could tell his story.
My eyes fail me and my knees have turned into jelly. I can see the kids shouting yet I hear very little of what they’re saying. All my friends are gone and the world has changed so much in the last 50 years. I have to wake up several times to make an attempt to empty my bladder. It’s painful and tedious every time. Who would have thought this day would come? I used to feel proud at the urinal, peeing with one hand on my hip. I still place my hand on my hip but for a reason different from what it was decades ago. I’m always in pain. a blurry picture is what remains of the beauty I used to see. The earth spins slower than before. It’s almost grinding to a halt. The sun has turned more red over the years. it almost resembles a huge drop of blood.
I hate hanging out with my age mates. All they do is complain. Of things they didn’t do and a past they didn’t make right. Opportunities never taken and lovers that they were too proud to hold on to. I have seen better days. I thought my dream story would last a lifetime only to surprise myself in the end. I loved her more than everything else, yet I had to let her go. I couldn’t keep up with her complaining and dissatisfaction. She was never happy with where I was in life. It was natural for her to want all the good things in life, just to match up with the girls of her time. But she just couldn’t wait. Now I’m standing here in the middle of vast wealth that I don’t need. Riches that found me at the wrong time. I have travelled the world to all the places the curious child in me wanted to go. I have met good beautiful women of every color and tongue. I have dined with the greats and the most ordinary of folk. I have done everything I wanted to do and still I can’t get her out of my mind. The one I almost had.
The pictures in my living room tell of a gripping tale. Of a life that very few will ever get the chance of living. Of a past that I live in the present and the scary prospect of an uncertain eternity. I could give anything to have it all back. To relive it. I would give anything to have some of those cold, hungry nights I spent on empty pockets. I have everything now. I thought a mansion would make me happy. It made me lonely. I’d rather walk than sit at the back and be driven by my old friend who now calls me ‘master’. I’d rather skip my breakfast than suffer the prospect of abundance while the world outside falls in ashes. My left hand can’t keep still and this headache never leaves me.
I was there when they took over what was our home, now a mere province of the Union of Nations. When they took our children to depopulate the earth and redistribute resources. I keep hoping Nimi and Sally will one day walk through that gate. A parent can feel it when one of their own is not alive anymore. I am a sad man and I have not a way of holding back my tears. I never made any efforts to pray or read the bible when I was young and now it’s all gone. I can’t believe it’s now a crime to gather to pray. They say it interferes negatively with others’ beliefs and therefore a criminal offence. It’s a pity the child of today will never experience the warmth of the sun. Days are darker and times are hard. I want to die.
It’s funny how long the queues are at the wellness program center. I hear they can give you a life prolonging injection that will keep you young and add you 60 years. Why would anyone want more life? Look at them trying to smile through their suffering. Paupers that will never know the beauty of earning bread after an honest day’s work in the fields. They work for the order of the day and none have ever seen their master. They have never seen the money they earn. They are paid in credits and benefits. They work for a voice on the computer. This is all that is left, a race of hopeless creatures with no nationality and creed. No pride and zeal. Do they realize they lost their dignity even before they were born? Zombies, that’s what they have become.
I remember how it started. We took to the streets to demand freedom and liberty for all on earth. Our forefathers had warned us, that if we opened that door we would never be able to close it. We were too clouded to heed their warnings. We broke the law down and built it to suit our shortcomings. Instead of striving to better ourselves we brought the low to our level. In what was called the free world, it became a crime to marry more than one partner yet it was okay to marry the same sex and even adopt children. We made it okay for man to do as he willed. To be allowed marry their children and to be free to lay with the beasts of the field. We declared that love was just but an illusion. Our women became material and the men of our time became weak with greed. They could never keep their promises. We made the world ONE, all the while believing it was the right thing to do. Most of our leaders gave up their power to one man and they told us it was a new and bright dawn for all the universe . For those leaders, who did not agree with us, we vilified them and called them dictators. We made it our ambition to ‘free’ those under their rule. And we brought down governments and many a good man just to satisfy our selfish and most vile of desires. Domination. Control.
All we have left are shreds of memory of good days gone by. We were too occupied to stand back and see what we were doing to ourselves. And when the sun finally set, it set for good.
Freedom comes at a price.
His face shows that he died a very shocked man. It is now 8am.
Sit back and I will tell you why Kimani is lying dead in a trench right in the middle of Africa‘s largest slum.
Yesterday at 8 am. Valentine’s day.
Kimani got to work a very happy man. It was Valentine’s day and his wife was finally coming home. He had missed her dearly and after six months the least he could do was wait a few more hours till she showed up. He greeted his boss happily as he passed to collect his scooter and begin the day’s deliveries. Among his first assignments on the log was a letter to deliver to a Mr. Shah in Westlands and another one to a Udi Djembe at lodging house in Eastleigh, 1st Avenue. This would be an interesting day. The lodging at 1st avenue was famous for infidelity escapades. It is where old men and women took their ‘sidekicks’ for ‘meetings’.
And so off scooted a happy Kimani to Mr. Shah in Westlands. On his carrier was Shah’s letter and Udi’s huge-heavy-suspicious package. On his way, he stopped at the supermarket to buy a present for his wife. A red and white teddy bear with the inscriptions ‘I Love You’ embroidered in the little animal’s shirt. He only had 200 shillings to spare and so this bear was top of the range. It was the first time he was going to buy his wife such an expensive gift. Now he only had one more item to buy. Flowers. The colorful plastic flowers. All his adult life, Kimani had always wondered why you’d buy a woman you love flowers that would wither in a day. Plastic ones were cheaper and long lasting. One could even wash them if they got dirty!
He found Mr. Shah’s address easily but was disappointed when no one answered the bell. he knew what it meant; he’d be forced to come back later. That was going to ruin his plans. Kimani decided to go round the house to the back of the house assuming that Mr. Shah would probably be in one of the inner rooms. There he was on the patio with a group of suspicious looking characters. It looked like they were in an argument but they all went quiet when they saw him. Kimani introduced himself as the delivery ‘guy’ and proceeded to hand the letter to Mr. Shah; evidently the only asian in the group. On opening the letter, Mr. Shah’s face turned into a red and angry knot.
“The letter is blank!” He cried. ” Where is the letter you were supposed to deliver?” Now the attention was on Kimani.
“That’s what I was given to deliver to you” whispered Kimani in a scared voice, “Is there any problem?”
Mr. Shah now rightfully refered to as ‘The Shah’ ordered one of his mean looking goons to accompany Kimani back to the parcel collection point to sort out the ‘issue’ and make sure they come back with the ‘letter’. Now Kimani was really scared. He’d done everything just as his work log had stated and now this? He couldn’t understand. Before they left the compound, Kimani requested the Shah to allow him to deliver the Eastleigh parcel enroute to the office. He obliged. So off went Kimani to Eastleigh, behind him was the goon following in a dark tinted car.
When he reached the lodging house, Kimani untied the parcel and proceeded up the stairs. It was heavy. Hanging in the air was the heavy distinctive smell of sex and damp-unhygienic-space.
“This must be the most vile whorehouse in all of the city” said Kimani to himself as he reached the fourth floor. He knocked lightly on the door assuming his client would be in the middle of business. It took a long minute before the door was answered. What followed will never be understood clearly. There standing naked in the door was Kimani’s wife! In the confusion that followed, Kimani dropped the parcel, breaking it and spilling the content therein. A white powdery substance. He slapped his wife the same time a heavy fist shot out from within the house and caught him in the temple. Ude Djembe. A huge beast of a man with the bloodiest eyes he had ever seen. Kimani ran down the stairs in terror and shot out of the building screaming with Udi and the goon hot on his heels.
Later one witnesses would tell the police that it must have been a drug deal had gone sour, while another swore that Kimani had been found with another man’s wife. Rumour, heresay and confusion.
It is now 8am.
It is raining and onlookers in the sprawling Mathare slums are puzzled why a man tied by rope on a scooter, is lying dead in a trench. It is even more peculiar that his face is still twisted in shock. One couple in particular (seemigly in love) can’t seem to piece together why the dead man is still clutching on to a teddy bear. I personally think God made rigormortis to freeze one’s final moment in death so the living can learn from it.
Kimani’s wife could not live with the fact that he was poor and couldn’t buy her nice things. Her plan was to dissappear, make enough money then go back to Kimani and make his life better. Now she can’t live with herself. That is why she is hanging from the ceiling of room 4G of Gituamba lodging in Eastleigh’s 1st Avenue, dead by suicide.
Love is denied expresion by poverty – Wallace D. Wattles
No one knows what was supposed to be in Mr. Shah’s letter. No one has an idea who Udi Djembe is, or why a box full of cocaine was to be delivered to him. All that, doesn’t matter. It’s the dead delivery man and his dead unfaithful wife that matter.
This story is dedicated to my sister and partner in crime Marcie Mugendi whom I love to death. She says I’m a good story teller. Well here’s a story for you little sister.
If I was given the chance to choose a brain from any living human being in the world, I wouldn’t have a problem. It would be Laura’s. I admire how she thinks and expresses herself. Spontaneous in thought and deed, Laura Walubengo is described with the highest accolades by many. Apart from being hypnotized by her sexy voice on radio, I follow shamelessly in her footsteps.
I am not fine. There is a poison in my veins that won’t give me time to think of an antidote. Yesterday my eyes lost all colour and my tongue no longer experiences taste. The only thing that works for me now is chicken; and only if it has chilli. In fact it’s good I mentioned that. Now I must remember to get some from Galitoes tonight. They have the best!!! Anyway, back to the poison – Apinda even my hair has begun to fall out. I know this because when I’m not the one pulling it out, I still find some on the pillow. Apinda, are you there? Can we chat instead? Can we chat so I can explain how my lips are beginning to crack? My mouth now can’t even hold in heavy words any longer imagine? I have never seen anything like this. Apinda I am scared… I am going to the gym, but the muscles don’t form. Instead my skin hangs – and there is so much of it like you wouldn’t believe! I don’t know what kind of poison this is… Have you ever heard of it? I have begun checking what foods to eat that would rejuvenate my body, but they only work for a few minutes and then I start choking again. I actually cough small bits of life out of me… I didn’t even know black people could turn blue LOL… I should send you a picture.
Apinda, it’s been only three days, and now my stomach doesn’t stop running. The doctor says I am well and that all my organs are intact. But I can feel it. My bones crack when I walk!! Sometimes it’s like they form a powder that stains my clothes… 🙂 Ok, that was a joke – ha ha ha! But what do you think I should do?
Apinda, it’s moving faster. Yesterday I had to stop after walking from the kitchen to my bedroom – to catch my breath! What if this poison gets to my heart Apinda? It’s so much harder to breathe. Come and sit with me. Tell me stories because tomorrow I don’t think I will be able to get out of bed. Do you think I will die? I don’t want to die Apinda.
Walubengo is Senior Editor in Lifestyle on capitalfm.co.ke
February 8, 2011 at 11 am
In the dungeons below the city council building there is a man who has been locked up for the last twenty days. He has been denied trial and the council officials even deny that he exists. He has not been logged in the offenders book. He was accused of jay walking. That is, crossing or walking in the street unlawfully in disregard for approaching traffic. This man has not been charged nor has he been given access to a lawyer or even a phone call. The council refuses to consider his plea for medical attention.
January 12, 2011 at 1 am
It’s two hours since it started raining and she still has not showed up. She knows I’m waiting for her. I know she can’t wait to see me. I am a lucky man. What are the chances of a girl of this calibre falling in love with a guy like me? Thank God for small mercies. Thirty minutes. She’s probably held up at work. Let me head on home and wait for her to call me. No, I’ll walk to her house and wait for her at the door. It’s almost three in the morning. It’s not safe for a young woman to walk from the car to her front door all alone. I will wait. I wonder how she’ll react to see me waiting for her. She will be too excited! She’s lucky to have me love her. She knows it.
I’ve been happy the last few days I think. I think it was the meds that were the problem. The doctor says I’m crazy. I say HE’s crazy. I mean, don’t crazy people walk naked on the street? I felt insulted when he told me I had a psychological disorder. He says the voices in my head are not supposed to be there. What does he know anyway! They (voices) tell me things. Important things. I would die without them. I feared they had left me when I was taking the meds the doctor gave me. Now I’m convinced that the crazy doctor wanted to kill me. That is why I’m never going back again. How can my own family conspire with a doctor they hardly know to kill me? Their only son?
My life has changed since I met Sarah. You see, Sarah and I have a bond. We have never spoken but we understand each other. I like following her wherever she goes. I know every place she visits in a typical day. She likes the shawarma at the mall. Red is her favorite color. She owns thirteen pairs of shoes. She has two best friends who I happen to hate because they point their fingers at me whenever they see me near her. They also think I’m crazy. If they only knew how much Sarah and I love each other. One day, we’ll get married and I will propose to keep these vexing friends out of our lives.
The watchman at the building where she works doesn’t like me. Her workmates don’t like me too. They claim Sarah told them that she’s scared of me. They’re just jealous. That won’t stop me from waiting for her. It will not stop me from loving her. It’s the least I would expect froma beautiful woman. Every man would die to have her to himself. In the end, they will realize it is me she loves. You’ll see.
She hasn’t been picking her phone lately. But it’s ok, I know she’ll call me back when she gets the chance. You know how busy people in the media are. She must be working hard at the station. One more reason why I like her. She does her job well. I never miss the news when she’s on tv. I like how she matches what she wears with her underwear. Private joke. I think I’m the only one who knows the color of her underwear. I watch her laundry dry when she’s at work. Through her broken window, I have watched her dress and undress countless times. It is the reason why I quit my job. It is funny the things that love can make you do. Being a manager in the biggest software company in the country didn’t give me as much happiness, as falling in love with Sarah. The headaches were a sign that there was something else out there for me. Sarah. they voices told me that our love was pre-destined. They were right. I can see it in her eyes when she looks at me. Other people would say she looks scared but if you know her well, you’d know that’s how she looks when she is excited. I would lay down my life for her.
It’s been two years since I met Sarah. It’s been hard to keep up with her lately. She’s always walking with a man. It must be her brother. Why else would a man hold a woman by the waist? Then there are these city council askaris who keep chasing me from my spot. They say they will arrest me for loitering aimlessly. They should know I am a man waiting for the love of his life. She knows i am waiting for her. She’ll show up I’m sure. Then what will they say? Because I am a good man, I will accept their apologies. For now, I am willing to stick around until the day she talks to me. We’ll get married immediately and have beautiful kids. Dad will be proud of me. Mum will love her. I love my life. I love my woman. I hate doctors. I hate medicine.
I know she’s thinking about me wherever she is. I could be with anyone in the world but I choose to be with her. What a lucky woman!
Erotomania: a delusion in which a person believes that another person (typically of higher social status) is in love with them. It is also characterized by excessive sexual desire.
As life gets harder in the third world, more and more people are exposed to mental challenges that prevent them from living as normal human beings. I thank my friends Kikata, Muba and Yoram for reminding me of these misbegotten people.
I dedicate this post to persons suffering from erotomania. We call some of these people stalkers. In a society where mental health has not been taken seriously, these people continue to suffer in obscurity. For most of psychological disorders arise in childhood. Maybe it’s time we raised our children better. It’s time you treated your siblings with care. It’s time you got your stalker some help.