The Rich Kids of Musikoma Hills

The Quick and The Dead

What is your favourite scent in the world? She asked, body half immersed in the swimming pool.

I laughed in reply. We were both a little wasted, a little high. She wasn’t wearing a bathing suit and neither was I. She was in her bra and panties I was in my boxers.

Petrichor, I replied and she giggled. Lily never giggled. She pushed me back as I moved close enough to touch her.

You are messing with me, she said as she danced away from my reach once more.

Petrichor is the scent of wet soil when it rains after a long dry spell. But you? You come a close second.

Why?

Because being near you feels like drowning. The whole world ceases to exist and all I can think about is how overwhelming you are. I like that. Not having to think about anything else.

She is on me before I know it, straddling me, pinning me against the wall behind me.

No, why petrichor.

She laughed as she said that, her hand trailing against the side of my face.

I think it reminds me that rain washes everything away. That we can all start over one day. Like a phoenix.

She smothered that last part with her lips and the world around me ceased to exist once more.

It is raining. I hear it from a far, like one would a fading memory. Or a bad dream. I don’t think I am in a position to judge what is real and what isn’t anymore. There is a bottle of vodka in my hand, half spent already. There is music blaring all over the house. Pierce the Veil’s A Match into Water is playing. How apt. I am singing along to the music as loud as I can as I drip water all over the house. James is gone. I sent him home for the week, I think. I remember being rained on. I remember kicking her father away from the funeral. I remember threatening him with ruination. Maybe death. My memory is hazy. But the rain. I remember the rain. The track skips. Or maybe I am losing time. Gold Medal Ribbon is playing now. I scream and throw the bottle to the wall.

I am haunted, I think to myself, my house is haunted, I think to myself as I stumble through it. I find the bar easy enough. It is well stocked, thanks largely, I am sure, to James. I make a mental note to raise his salary some more. I am certain I will forget that too but it makes me feel a bit better. Asking Alexandria If You Can’t Ride Two Horses at Once…. You Should Get Out of the Circus. I laugh at that. I am coughing soon after. I think the liquor went the wrong way. I slip as I try to support myself against the wall. I am on the floor as Send Me Home starts. I am crying. I ache so bad and for the life of me I don’t know to fix it. I rip off my still wet shirt, struggle with my trousers for a bit before I am on my feet once more.

Do you think we will be remembered? After we are gone that is.

I doubt it. Maybe in a few years they will remember you.

And what about you? She asked me.

I’d be okay with just being remembered by you.

I am fading. A Day to Remember’s All Signs Point to Lauderdale wakes me up. I am on the floor, split liquor all around me. Pathetic. I need to shower. A shower and some sleep. Sleeping with Sirens If You Can’t Hang.  I think I have taken the wrong turn. I can see my indoor pool, vapour trailing off the surface. I shrug and sink in.

Do you believe in God?

The cosmic killjoy that takes away everything I love just when I start having fun? Him? No. Do you?

She is quiet for a beat and I am paranoid that she is pitying me.

I believe in God, sure. Just not the one everyone else does. The one who people blame every time a drunk driver hits a pedestrian or the one who everyone blames when it turns out the politician they elected is actually a crook. But yes, I believe in God, despite being such a terrible terrible Christian.

She laughs as she says that last part and I pull her close. She is still laughing, her bones quaking against my embrace. I found myself joining in, though for the life of me I couldn’t tell why.

The water is warm. I lay back and take a swig from the bottle. I am singing along to All That Remains’ Two Weeks. My voice is hoarse and I am beginning to realise that I can’t sing for shit. I don’t think it matters. My voice grows louder and louder.

I hear her walk in, her high heel stilettoes a sharp report against the marble floor. Bullet for My Valentine, Tears Don’t Fall. She snatches the bottle of vodka before I can and takes a long swig.

A bit lonely, isn’t it? May I join you?

She confuses my silence for acquiescence. She disrobes, kicks off her shoes and slips into the swimming pool alongside me. I say nothing. She turns and reaches for her purse before resurfacing with a couple of joints and a lighter. All Time Low Dear Maria Count Me In. I consider changing the music. I consider a lot of things. I do none of them. I reach for my almost empty bottle of vodka and take yet another swig. She dives in and starts swimming. Memphis May Fire Unconditional. Sigh. Another swig and the bottle is empty. I consider leaving. I consider barricading myself in my room and burying my face in her scent. Instead I throw the bottle against the wall. Lostprophets Last Train Home.

She is back. She is beside me, looking up at me. She reaches past me and retrieves the first blunt, lights it up. She passes it to me after a while. She is saying something to me. I can’t imagine wanting to hear anything anyone else has to say. Bring Me the Horizon It Never Ends.

I can’t imagine what it’s like, she begins, losing someone like that. Her hands move as she talks, her tattoo flashing back and forth. I can barely hear her, like white noise in the background. I want to be alone. I want to grieve alone. She wants me to take her to my room and do unspeakable things for her. I can tell. I always could tell. I am disgusted, I think.

I can’t imagine being the one to find her, all alone on the floor like that.

My thoughts crystallise and I am awake.

How did you know?

For a brief second I am unaware I have spoken. My voice is hoarse, barely recognisable.

Know what?

That I found her, lying on the floor.

Bullet for My Valentine Hand of Blood.

I heard from someone, I think.

Who?

I don’t know. Why is it so important?

I told no one how I found her, where I found her. Think it through before you answer me, Lavenda.

Panic! At the Disco The Ballad of Mona Lisa.

It was an accident. She woke up while I was in your room so I went to the bathroom. She followed me there and wouldn’t let me leave. There was a struggle. She fell.

And you left her. You left her lying on the floor.

What was I supposed to do, exactly? Tell me.

You left her to die.

How the fuck was I supposed to know? I was on my way out anyways so I got the fuck out.

I used to think you couldn’t miss something you never had. I am beginning to think you can. We just use a different name when you do. It’s called regret.

She closed her book, holding her reading position with the tip of her left index finger. Victor the Assassin six, A Time to Die.

And do you? Regret, that is.

I like what I am, where I am. I might be an unconscionable unfeeling robot from the twelfth dimension but I like it. Fuck what these clones think, right? Every decision I have made has built this imperfect specimen of a human being you see. Every path I didn’t take, people I chose not to interact with led me to this moment, to you. If I had gone right instead of left that one time, chosen fish over chicken I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be having this conversation. Sure there is a version of me that made those choices and splintered off to form their own universe and shit if you buy into the whole multiple universe theory I think it’s called, but still. Do you know how fucking cool that is?

We used to say I love you, now we only think that shit.

I love you.

I love you more, I told her.

Sorry. I think I am drifting again. Oh. She is still speaking.

Marilyn Manson Killing strangers

I mean, given time, a couple of months more probably, you would have gotten tired of-

You murdered her

Don’t be ridiculous, she says, a stern look etched on her face. Normal rules don’t apply to us. We are gods. We can get anything we want, anytime we want, do anything we want. We spend more in one night than some people out there can comprehend. You and I? We are going places. The things we will do together will be the stuff of legend. And I know given time you would have seen I was right. I was willing to-

My hands are moving; of their own volition, it seems. She is all smiles as I touch her neck. Her hands are reaching for the side of my neck as I press harder. Her hands, wet from the water slip against my face, her nails trailing down my face. She kicks against me, the water serving as a cushion between us. I press harder still until all I can hear is Marilyn Manson in the background. I think I need more alcohol.

Asking Alexandria’s Hey There Mr. Brooks is playing. I veto the alcohol idea and head for my bed instead.

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The Rich Kids of Musikoma Hills

The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle

She was one in a million, I told her.

Travel the world, she said, travel the world until you meet a million more.

That was then.

If given the choice, would you save the world?

No.

Why not?

I think what most people forget is the problem with the world is that there are people in it. Saving the world would mean purging the world of just about everything on two legs. Leave a couple to continue the sick cycle.

Would that be so wrong? Pushing the button, I mean. Shift delete, start over.

I think it over. She nudges me urging me forward and I realise I have almost gotten our avatars killed.

I was in school when it happened, the whole Westgate fiasco. I remember people saying how terrible it all was and how the country needs to be united in prayer as if that would fix things. I saw it on the telly. I wasn’t glued to my seat urged on by some morbid curiosity as people with guns mowed down people without like video game characters like some people. For me it was just a by the way. It didn’t seem to bother me that people were dying for what seemed like no reason at all. It bothered me even less that it didn’t bother me. There is very few people I actually do like. The rest of them? Well fuck ‘em. If I actually cared enough about this world I would let it all burn. Turns out I don’t. Shocker.

Oh the irony, she says as she lops of the head of an orc. I match her smile as we move forward. The music is low enough that we can talk but not so low that we can’t hear it. A hip hop mix. Her idea. I managed to sneak in some Childish Gambino while she wasn’t looking.

Do you ever get tired, tired of it all?

I turn to look at her.

The repetition, wake up hungover, eat go to town for some obscure reason, start planning the next party, booze, loud music, women, travel a bit for a change of scenery, hit up clubs come back rest, hit up local clubs rinse repeat, rinse repeat. These lives we live, these choices we make, people we interact with, how irrelevant and phoney it all is.

I don’t have to think up an answer.

Ages ago.

Then why?

It’s all I know, I tell her.

Is that all there is to life? Doesn’t it bother you?

I say nothing.

What are we doing?

Right now? Saving the world.

I expect her to laugh. She doesn’t. Tough crowd.

Look at us, at what we do. We try to act like them, the aspect of them they show us, that we oh so foolishly believe to be real. We spend all our time looking up celebrities, obsessing over the shit they say, the shit they eat, how they dress then in our own very inept way try to copy that as if they have this whole shit figured out. We forget that their country is buried in debt to several foreign and local investors, their lives are probably miserable as fuck and their clothes, if we are being honest their fashion sense is for shit. So why, why do we do this? Why do we fashion our lives after theirs? Is there a point to all this?

People think moments are all about timing. There is choice, some you make yourself, others people make for themselves and there are those they make for you, whether or not you are aware. Then there is time. Everything has to exist within time and space. Of course that means there is space too, not just the one you occupy, but also that which choice occupies. Moments are a convergence, I believe. I suppose this is one of them even though I could be wrong. Tell me, if you weren’t here, in this moment, where would you be?

I want to travel. Not just staying at one place for a weekend, a week at most. I want to stay at a place long enough to learn a new language, immerse myself in the local culture. Then I would leave, find another place, another language. And again and again.

Say I leave with you, forget about all this shit, the life, the parties, the shitty parents, what would we do?

I hear Instagram models are a thing now. I would even start a lifestyle/travel blog where I can share what I see with the rest of the world.

I see the gleam in her eyes, the laughter as she talks about modelling. But hey, it’s all make believe, right?

And what would I do?

You will immerse yourself in the local music scene, follow in the blogosphere trail I have set a fire with one of your own. I think a YouTube channel would be in order too. Who knows? Maybe one day you will discover the next big thing.

Something in her eyes as she speaks. I find myself answering.

Let’s do it.

Both our characters suffer terrible deaths as her concentration falters. Beyond the soundproof walls the world goes on, people dancing to loud music while they drink up hundreds of thousands in alcohol, making it rain in both local and foreign currency. I know, I know. Sigh.

Slaves to the unnamed, never live long/live and die by the line, never-

You are serious.

I have destroyed worlds before. This is not the first time.

What about Cassandra? Your brother and sister?

She will understand. She might even insist on it. We will visit, she might too.

Why?

I’d like to think it’s because she actually loves me but with women you never really know their motives.

She doesn’t laugh. I am beginning to suspect my sense of humour is for shit.

No, why would you want to live it all behind?

A woman I loved told me once that I needed to live a little more. I have done all I can here. Lived on both sides of the divide as it were. I am admitting I have reached the limit of my own wisdom.

She says nothing, just looks at me, her stare deep and potentially unnerving. Like she is looking into my soul.

Where would you like to start?

She is quiet for a moment.

Fiji, she says, I never did learn how to surf.

 

I wake up alone. At some point we had sneaked out of the gaming room and into my bedroom without being noticed. Her side of the bed is cold. I shrug it off. I need to tinkle. I stumble my way across the floor to the en suite toilet. I consider going back to sleep. My phone reminds me it’s already eleven though and we were supposed to be on our way already. I curse as I disrobe, littering the floor with my clothes. I am down to my boxers when I enter the bathroom and freeze at the entrance.

She is lying on the floor. There are blotches of red on her night gown. Her neck feels cold, so cold. I am on the floor beside her before my brain can compute. The floor is cold. That’s what you get for installing marble tiles. I pull her close and together we lay on the cold floor, unmoving. I think all around me the world collapses and dies. I bleed. I bleed.

The Rich Kids of Musikoma Hills

All My Exes Live in Texas

“You have thirty seconds. Impress me.”

“Sorry, what?” I asked as I sat down.

“Less so now,” she added, still not looking up. I can tell from her profile that she is beautiful. I should pull back, find myself another table. Beautiful women are notoriously treacherous.

“For my eighteenth birthday my step mother took me to Amsterdam to listen to Sharon del Adel sing. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. Still is.”

“So you are rich. Good for you.” She still didn’t look up. I was okay with that. I am not saying that I am ugly but put me next to a Calvin Klein model…….no I wouldn’t want that.

“My first term holiday, Form One, my step mother hooked me up with an unpaid internship. News reporter stuff, field work, grunt stuff. There was a guy there, sharpest dresser in the office, at least from a far. Up close you notice things, the wear and tear of his shirt, the creases on his trouser, each carefully disguised.”

“Is that supposed to mean something? Some philosophical shit?” she asked, looking up as she did. I liked her eyes. Brown, like chocolate.

“Means you are lucky,” I told her

“Is that so?” she asked with a smile.

“Beautiful things were sometimes mixed with treacherous things, they could even happen at the same time, or one could lead to the other, I thought.”

She cocked her head to the side.

“You got an original thought in there?”

“Let me guess. English lit student.”

She smiled.

“I am Sal.”

“Thirty seconds are up,” I told her and she laughed. Second most beautiful thing I have ever heard.

I woke up one year after the fact, in a different place and like Sal would have said it, a different man. I had been out of school for two weeks plus change. I had spent the best part of that time masquerading as non-productive member of society. I went through the motions. I slept, I woke up, I ate. The rest of the time I was in my gaming rooming. I know I know.

There was a man in my room. I heard a screech and then there was light. I scrambled off my bed, a vampire escaping sure death.

“Wake up,” he said as I made a mental note to myself to fire James.

“What do you want?”

For a moment I couldn’t recognise my own voice. Over ten hours of sleep can do that to you. And I wasn’t even hangover. Go figure. The duvet fell off my bed as I clawed up to my feet. I shied off the light as I growled the question a second time.

“We got invited to a party. You are coming.”

And with that royal declaration my cousin left my room.

 

I don’t remember what possessed me to follow my cousin that evening. Five hours later and there I was, trapped in his German monstrosity heading to a party where I probably knew three, five people at most.

“Where are we headed?”

“Remember Max?”

I shook my head.

“Come on, man. We went to school together.”

My cousin and I shared only one alma mater, our primary school. Come high school his father thought he deserved an exclusive private school with fellow rich arseholes while mine thought a public education would fit me. He did his post grad abroad while I stayed home.

“Nope. Not a clue.”

He shook his head like a disappointed father before completely ignoring the first chapter of the origin story.

“Well his father used to be something, sometime back. He passed on while we were in high school. Now the mother wants to dip her toes in the murky waters of politics. Women rep for starters.”

“Cool back story bro.”

He shook his head though I am reasonably sure (yes, even now) he didn’t get the reference. I sighed. Loudly. I should work on my disappointed father shake.

“What does any of that have to do with me?”

“She needs your father to back her.”

“And since she can’t exactly call him up……?”

“He is hoping you vouching for him would be a good point to start.”

I wanted to open the car door and jump into the tarmac. Maybe some enterprising bodaboda rider would have put me out of my misery. Instead………. sigh. Loudly.

“And what do you hope to gain from this entire endeavour?”

“Your father isn’t a fan of you shutting yourself in for days at end. Your weekly appearances in town have become something akin to legend. Like a big foot sighting. You don’t like the party; you tell Max to fuck off I still get credit for dragging your arse out of that castle. You like it, want to step into your rightful place, I still get credit. Major cred sure but still……”

“Rightful place?”

He gave me a look as we pulled in to the drive way. We weren’t the first car there. SUVs and a few sedans were parked ahead of us, leaving little space for us to park. That’s what you get for being fashionably late.

We pulled up short at the door, two gorillas in barely fitting black t-shirts and shades were holding a pair of clipboards.

“Names?”

I thought Mike would have a heart attack. No. Let’s go with transient ischemic event. Makes me sound smarter.

“I am Charles.”

“The fuck?” it came out like a bullet, slow at first and then uncontrollable at the end.

I ignored him as the gorillas went through the lists attached to their clipboards.

“Sorry, you aren’t on the list.”

“Jesus Christ, do something,” he told me, his face contorted in incredulity.

“Okay cool. Can you check for Mike or Michael?”

There is a word for the killing of one’s father, patricide, matricide for mother, fratricide, I think for you brother killers. There has to be something for cousin killers. These were my final thoughts as my cousin contemplated the best way to kill me without getting blood on his shoes.

“Hey, Mike. What’s up? Sorry for the hold up, man. Have to take precautions man, we do have standards to maintain. Still, so hard to get good help these days. Charles! You came! (he pulled me into a forced half hug like we were long lost friends) Sorry about that man. Come in, come in….”

And he kept on and on. I tuned him out like any reasonable human being would. He was accompanied by two girls, one on each arm. He was dressed like the typical rich American teenager (I assume. Never been, you see.), designer wear from top to bottom, gold chains and golden Rolex with a pair of white Nikeys. An ear piercing caught the light as he turned his head from side to side. He was a very animated talker. I decided I disliked him. I decided then too that I wouldn’t be staying long either. I know. Best laid plans and all that.

He sheperded us to what he claimed were the best seats in the house. There were two more girls waiting for us there and this time he had the decency to introduce us.

“Charles, these are W, X, Y and Z. Ladies this is Charles, His Royal Highness. And of course you know Mike.”

They smiled at me, all at once.

“Hello Charles,” they said in unison and I wondered how long they had practised that. Of course their names aren’t W, X, Y and Z. It’s been over six months. You are lucky I remember this much. Two of them (the so conveniently named X and Y, I think) attached themselves to me as I sat before attempting, and failing at starting a conversation with me. I am not a people person.

“So what’s your poison?”

I hadn’t drunk in close to a month (the glass of vodka I had during my last day of school doesn’t count.) and I wasn’t about to buck the trend just for him.

“Yohana Mtembezi,” my cousin replied. He gave me a look as though he had just realized his faux pas but I had moved on. I had seen her. Beware of beautiful women, for they are treacherous.

“Who is that?” I found myself asking.

“Oh that’s Lavenda. Her father is a business man, I think, not yet big time though. Her grandfather used to run in the same crowd as ours back in the day.”

I was on my feet even before he finished explaining.

“Is this seat taken?”

She looked up as I spoke, rebuke on the ready.

“Free country.”

Not really. But I didn’t tell her that. I was a gentleman back then. Cassie told me that gentlemen don’t contradict ladies. I know. Sounds tiresome.

“I am Charles,” I told her, offering my hand.

“Lavenda.” She shook it, I think. I don’t really remember the little bits. Sue me.

“So what are you doing sitting here alone, Lavenda?”

She looked over my shoulder for a moment before responding.

“Trouble with the jet set crowd.”

I considered asking for a drink. One of the waiters passed by and I stopped her without even thinking.

“Vodka Martini. Shaken, not stirred.” Yup. Didn’t get that one either. “Vodka please.”

She was still smiling when I turned back to face her.

“Once, I came back from school and I found my step mother at home. Father wasn’t around and she couldn’t write a paragraph to save her own life. She dragged me to a car parked outside. There was a biplane, four seater I think, waiting for us at the airstrip. I was back in Nairobi less than half an hour after I had returned home, and on a flight out of the country soon after. She took me to Monaco. It was the most humbling experience of my life. You see these posers around here? This is not the jet set. There are kids blowing money out there that make them look like amateurs.”

She said nothing for a moment.

“How long have you been back?”

“From school? Two weeks and some change.”

“Lost the accent rather fast, haven’t you?”

At some point my drink had arrived, not a vodka martini but then again you can’t have everything.

“I didn’t study abroad. My father wanted me to, he even puled some strings to get me into Duke but I didn’t want to. We settled on a compromise. Local private university.”

“Why not?”

I shrugged, took a sip and considered asking for a screwdriver but thought better of it.

“Where to begin. Is it the crazy president or the misinformed public? Maybe it’s the trigger happy cops and the ignorant half of the population that think global warming is a hoax and Donald Trump isn’t actually for all intents and purposes a joke. I would rather stay here, with our corrupt politicians and rather shockingly if you can believe it, more corrupt cops. At least here the policemen that will try to kill me are ours, the corrupt politicians are ours.”

She says nothing in reply. I considered that screwdriver once more.

“What’s that?” she asked pointing at the ink on my inner upper left arm.

“Once a friend of mine bullied me into accepting his side in argument over the meaning of life. When I came back home I had a similar discussion with my step mother. Her answer was simple. I have loved, I have been loved, I have lived.”

She didn’t get it. I could see it in her eyes.

“What about yours?”

“It’s my name in Arabic.”

There. Conversation over.

“Want to get out of here?”

Somebody please stop me.

 

We stole my cousins German monstrosity and headed into town. We hit the clubs one after the other. I recycled the James Bond joke till it got stale and yet not even a single person got it. Ridiculous the shit I remember, yeah? I didn’t want the evening to end. I suggested Eldoret, then Nakuru perhaps even Kisumu. In my defence I was drunk. We kissed. At first an awkward accidental bump and then on as many rooftops as we could find until finally I drove her home. I woke James up in the wee hours of the morning, leaving the German monstrosity for him to park properly. I remember him grumbling but I don’t think I cared. I went to sleep smiling.

 

My cousin woke me up. I considered locking my room every night I slept. I considered buying a gun but the sheer cost of it (a quarter a million) gave me pause. Maybe a sword. A katana, old fashioned. Would cost more, I think but the very idea of it? Worth it.

“What do you want?”

He grabbed my hand and gave me a glass of something. I swallowed the contents in one swig and almost retched. That is trust for you.

“Wake up.”

I did.

By the time I got downstairs Mike had already ploughed through half of my breakfast. Behind him James was grinning like an idiot. I made another mental note to replace James.

“You are eating my food. Why is he eating my food?”

“Because, sir, he is a guest. Guests get preferential treatment.” The way he said sir. Hard to find good help nowadays. Loud sigh.

“And there is no more food in the kitchen?”

“No sir.”

Yup. A katana would do nicely.

“Why did you wake me?” I asked him.

By my estimation I had had six maybe seven hours of sleep. I was grumpy. Sue me.

“There is a thing. You are invited.”

“No. And fuck off. You are eating my food moments after rudely interrupting my sleep for the second consecutive day. Seriously. How the hell are you still up?”

“It’s a hike. A bunch of us are going on a hike,” he went on as though I had said nothing, still eating my food like I wasn’t sitting across the table from him.

Loud sigh.

“She will be there.”

Shit.

 

They were waiting for us on the hoods of SUVs passing around blunts in a circle. The girls were clad in Lycra shorts that barely descended below their knees, exposed midriffs and ankle length white socks with even whiter sneakers. The gents had traded the leather jackets for double XL NBA jerseys of players I am sure they didn’t really know, shorts that reached mid-calf and an assortment of NBA standard kicks. I shit you not. She stood apart from the pack talking to some guy I didn’t recognise. Probably her ride. He scattered the moment he saw me, not even bothering to stop for introductions.

“Hello,” she said with a smile.

“Hello yourself,” I replied, “sleep well?”

She smiled back in reply. My cousin found a way to wander towards us, half a blunt in hand.

“Ready?”

My mother took me up the trail once when I was a kid, maybe five or six, a couple of months before she oh so helpfully exited stage left. It was meant to be a whole family affair but father excused himself at the last second. Something to do with the president, I think. I am certain they argued for a spell before he left. Mother insisted on keeping our date, as she called it and so we went. I don’t remember getting to the top. I just know that we did, mostly because if we hadn’t something significant and worth remembering would have happened. Fast forward all those years later and there really wasn’t much to it. I started the climb with Lavenda to my side with Mike the uncomfortable third wheel. Every once in a while someone would join our party, intrude in our conversations and insist on taking selfies. Kids nowadays, yeah? Our party of three had increased significantly by the time we made it to the top. In all that time I had successfully avoided being alone with my old buddy and friend and Max. I noticed him gravitate towards me so I ducked. She was alone once more, staring off into the horizon.

“So what happens next?” she asked the moment she felt my presence.

“You ever gone skydiving?”

 

It started with skydiving in Diani. And because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut I suggested scuba diving in Zanzibar. We spent the day and night in my father’s apartment at the EnglishPoint Marina as we waited for her passport to be fast tracked. After Zanzibar I told her I knew a better place in the Mediterranean. There was shopping in Milan by way of Dubai. We visited places I hadn’t been to in years, and some I hadn’t even thought of. For a week I did my level best to put a dent in my father’s bank account. My barely passable and I suspect broken Spanish got me a screwdriver in Madrid while an English bartender in Cyprus (long story) finally got my James Bond joke. After Amsterdam and their weed cafes, it was time to crash back to reality. A black chauffeur driven sedan was waiting for us at the airport. At Wilsons there was a biplane fuelled up and ready to take us home. We were met by yet another black sedan at the airstrip. We took her home, luggage and all and I went to face the music.

He was waiting for me in my living room. Just behind him was his bodyguard Maurice. I don’t like Maurice. There is something rather off-putting about him. Could be the fact that he is allowed to carry a gun, or maybe it is the fact that he is six foot four, packed like a rugby player and never smiles. I think it’s because while many politicians of my father’s stature walk around with an army of bodyguards my father has only him. Yup. Terrifying.

“Father, Maurice. Fancy seeing you here.”

“Son.”

Maurice said nothing.

“You know the way out,” I told them as I kept walking.

“End it. You can do it today or tomorrow if you choose. I could care less. End it. Soon.”

“If I don’t?” I asked, pausing mid step.

He was silent for a moment. I imagined him readjusting his already impeccable suit.

“When we were expecting you your mother used to joke about our family legacy. This was just after your uncles had fucked everything up with their hare-brained get rich quick scheme. I could see where they were headed and what it would mean for your cousins. So your mother suggested a way I could secure your future. It was meant to be a joke. I was to open a bank account for you when you were born and every week we would drop in a k or so whenever we could. She forgot all about it, I didn’t. Only it wasn’t a k every once in a while. It was a little more than that. And the older you got the more it became. High school, campus. This house? I bought this house with your money. I pay James with your money. That little trip you went on? All you. As it stands the only person worth more than you in Western Kenya is me, purely by design of course but still. The only other person who knows this is Cassandra, of course. Now imagine if the rest of them knew.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” I think I was still stuck on my money isn’t everything phase.

“There is a piece of land as you approach Kanduyi a little bit before Total that I bought some time back. It was insignificant at the time so people thought I was being eccentric just for the sake of it. Then Bungoma started expanding and suddenly there is barely enough land in town. People start looking to the outskirts. Suddenly this little insignificant piece of land is worth a little bit more than everyone thought. So the bidding war begins. A few days ago your girlfriends father comes to me. He has great plans, that one, but not enough money to compete. So he has a plan. He names his figure. I am about to laugh him out of my office when he suggests a way to make up the difference. He is building a shopping mall, one of a kind if he can be believed. He already has investors lined up. What he can offer me that the rest of them can’t is shares. I will own a piece of the business, benefit from the property ad infinitum. He even has the papers drawn up. I am sold. Of course he doesn’t know that. So he goes for what he considers the killer blow. How about as a favour. We might be family one day after all.”

I heard him get up.

“End it,” he repeated, looking at me as he said it. He stopped at the doorway to add, “oh, I already wired the money to your account.”

And then he was gone, dragging his shadow with him.

Fuck.

 

I slept. I know I know. But when in doubt go back to the classics. James woke me up the day after the moment she arrived. She was waiting for me in the living room, standing uncomfortably close to where father had been just the day before. I noticed the make up the moment she turned to me. Seemed like something I should have noticed in the beginning doesn’t it? She was a black dress with black heels. She looked delectable. Caveman me wanted to give civilised me a high five. We tapped that.

“Nice house.”

“Yeah I keep hearing that. Something to drink?” I asked as I offered her a place to seat.

“Orange juice will be fine,” she replied.

“Chilled?” James asked somewhere behind her, momentarily startling her. She nodded her reply and he was gone.

“What do you want from me?”

The question shocked her almost as much as it did me. I don’t imagine I had planned it all out, seeing as it’s not every day a man breaks up with a beautiful woman. Typically, all my relationships have had the decency to end after I find my girl in bed with another man. My first break up. Yay. Nerve wrecking as hell.

Her face cracked for a moment and I got a peek beneath the mask. It was only for a fraction of a second but it gave me pause, made me doubt myself. What had I seen in her, really?

“I am sorry?” she asked, her voice cracking instead of stammering.

“My first girlfriend, I met her in campus, one month or so after school started. I saw her and I loved her, almost immediately. Or so I thought. I pursued her with the single mindedness of a T-100. I did things, mostly because I was under the misguided impression it’s the sort of shit a man does when he is besotted. One day she came up to me and asked me, what do you want from me? I have never been able to really get the answer to that one, smart guy that I think I am. I suppose turnabout is fair play, right?”

She looked at me like I had lost my mind. I couldn’t blame her, not really. I was talking in circles, a snake eating his own tail. For the umpteenth time I asked myself what I saw in her.

“I don’t understand.”

“Father thinks you are using me, taking advantage of me.”

“And how exactly am I doing that?”

I thought that over for a moment. Yeah, I had nothing.

“You’ve never done this before, have you?” she said, inching closer as she smiled. Only it wasn’t a smile. A smile that isn’t a smile. There is a riddle for you, Mr. Sphinx.

“What do you want from me?”

That stopped her short. Sounds like a simple question, it really isn’t.

“You do everything your father asks of you?”

Different tact. I didn’t answer her. Oh I could have. I had the perfect anecdote on the tip of my tongue. Anecdotes are kind of my thing. You noticed that, didn’t you?

She shifted in her seat, uncomfortable. Here is a random thought. Where had James vanished off to?

“We could be something, you and I. I had hoped to have this talk a bit further along but beggars really can’t be choosers, I suppose. The things we can accomplish, the doors we can open, together. Think about it. Your connections, my brains and ambitions, the whole world at our feet. You ask me what I want from you? I want the world.”

I didn’t laugh when she said her brains. Point in my favour. I would like you to note that I wasn’t that big an arsehole back then.

“Wow. I was really hoping you’d go for the whole love thing.”

She shrugged.

“There really isn’t much point to it, is there? Been there, done that and it got me nowhere.”

“And every king needs a queen, right?”

I think I might have inadvertently quoted someone there, don’t remember who though. Oh, Fabolous. Or was it Tyga? Bieber? I really hope not. She nodded, and there was that smile again as she finally got her message across.

“Yeah that’s not going to happen.”

“I am not beautiful enough for you?”

I considered for a moment how best to answer that.

“There was a woman I loved and she loved me. She is by far the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. She has these deep engaging chocolate brown eyes that hold your attention. She was intelligent. That’s an understatement. Incandescent. Transcendent. Inimitable. She could talk circles around me for hours and I suppose I loved that the most about her. I have been to places you wouldn’t imagine, seen cultures that amaze and confound at the same time but she, she was something else. I suppose now that I think about it, putting her on a pedestal wasn’t really the way to go. Three weeks ago, I came back to my room and found her in bed with another guy. I know, I know, you wonder why I am telling you this. I am twenty-one years old. I was ready to leave everything behind, pack up my shit and start my life with this woman. We argued about it a bunch of times. I kept insisting to her that I had lived. I had seen all there was to see of the world. Every time we ended at an impasse. I couldn’t convince her any more than she could me. I think I see it now. She still loves me, that much is sure. She did what she had to and here I am, and there she is. I am not tying myself down at twenty-one. I am not planning the rest of my life right now. There is no point to it. After days of locking myself in and skulking like a spoilt child I see it. I know nothing of the world, despite my arrogance. So no. Thanks but no thanks.”

I think I was infinitely more shocked by that than I was. She said nothing for a moment.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

Needless to say it all went downhill from there. Maybe I should have quoted Childish Gambino instead.

James showed up after she had left, tall glass of orange juice in one hand.

“Guest?”

“Left.”

“Huh,” he replied with a noncommittal shrug.

“Oh by the way. Things are about to go crazy around here.”

“Oh really?”

Amazing how he does that while keeping a straight face.

“I suppose a raise is in order?”

“Obviously,” he said, still standing there.

“Juice?”

“Not for you,” he replied before taking a sip. He then turned and walked back the way he came. Hard to find good help.

 

 

Earth: The Oldest Computer (The Last Night) was playing when I made my entrance. I had considered going with The Jetset Life is Gonna Kill You but decided against it. Would have been a bit too on the nose and I was reasonably sure nobody would get it. Then again, nobody got The Last Night but that’s for another day. My house was full of people I didn’t know and didn’t care about drinking my booze and listening to my music. There was weed in certain rooms and shisha in others. No cigarettes though, one had to draw the line at some point. My cousin found me, zoning in on me like satnav.

“What’s up, man? Heard about you and Lavenda. Brutal, man. Brutal”

Aah, the lady had been making moves. I shrugged it off.

“Who leaked it?”

I didn’t have to ask him twice. Mike can be quite clever when it suits him.

“It was trending on some blog, wakajuaness. Heard of him?”

I shook my head.

“Local guy. Met him once or twice. Not bad for a Chelsea fan. Writes on just about everything, politics mostly though. Some photos from the hike found their way to him, so he published, effectively making a connection between Max and you.”

I thought it over.

“Where did you get all this people from anyway? And on short notice?”

“Got money, bought friends like am TBS.”

He didn’t get it either. Oh how I despair at the state of the world.

I saw him on the dance floor, W and X conveniently creating a life sized sandwich of him. I moved. They really do let anybody in, don’t they? Oh well, there goes the neighbourhood.

“Max, ladies.”

“Charles. Nice house, man.”

I shrugged it off. Heard it all before.

“You played me.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about man.”

He had to shout over the music, as did I.

I moved closer. Must have been something in my eyes.

“So what? Man’s gotta do what man’s gotta do. No hard feelings, right?”

Somebody had asked the music to be stopped. It didn’t occur to me then but that seemed strange. I didn’t realise until I spoke.

“Ladies,” I offered them my hand and they skipped over to my side. Then I turned my back on him. The cut direct I think it was called.

I didn’t see it but from what I was told they all turned their backs on him, one after the other as he screamed at them. After a while I am told he left and the music resumed. My cousin was on me as I walked away.

“Damn, Michael Corleone, that was cold.”

I think I smiled. I don’t remember.

The Boy

“Do you believe in destiny?” she asked.

We were seated, away from the buildings yet not secluded enough to be truly away. There was even more green, creeping all around us like uninvited guests. The bench was iron cast, painted green to hide the ugliness beneath. She was close by yet further away still. I was stuck in a moment fuelled by contradictions and oxymorons.

“I don’t know,” I replied, as honest as I thought I could get.

“People talk about memories and moments as if they are all interwoven, like everything makes sense, everything matters. Ask anyone about their earliest memory and they will lie, try to come up with a profound answer. Ask anybody about a dream they remember and they will tell you shit they think relates to something or the other that happened or will happen to them. My earliest memory was of my sister waking me up screaming after she found out I had shit the bed. Literally. I was three at the time, I think.”

She smiles as she says this and I see traces of a beautiful woman. At least what I thought a beautiful woman should look like. I was still in the ideas forming stage at the time.

“What is your earliest memory?” she asked. She seemed honestly curious, and it felt like I had her complete attention. Like the world all around us could crumble and she wouldn’t notice.

“My earliest memory is of being born. Waking up to a screaming world and curious eyes surrounded by disposed things and forgotten toys.” It was the most I had said in one go and yet somehow, I didn’t feel like stopping. I held back. Control is important. I didn’t know where I knew that from but somehow, I did.

“People always assume that what we say is the most important thing, the best way to convey what we really think. But words lie. People lie all the time. How we say something is a lot more important than what we say. The subconscious mind leaks through the how, completely bypassing the what. You feel abandoned,” she told me.

“I am told that is how I am supposed to feel, the natural reaction to my circumstances.”

“Still learning, I take it,” she replied with a smile.

“To be alive is to learn.”

She said nothing for a moment, breaking eye contact as she considers this.

“I can help you remember,” she said, “remember before.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“The one thing wrong with humanity, I have discovered is that there are humans involved. We are born and inducted into the same cycle of paranoia and beliefs our parents grew up with ensuring the same cycle of destruction persists. I don’t want to be a product of a failed system. I want to be one of the few people who can honestly claim to have been born free.”

Record broken twice in one seating. What do you know.

“But without the past how can you figure out where to go to next?”

I smiled while I looked at her.

“Isn’t that the best part?”

“Carl Jung believed that we all inherit our ancestors’ traits and intuitions. If that guy is to be believed memory or no, every action you take will be tainted by what the ones that came before you believed, would have believed given similar circumstances.”

“Could be, could be not,” I replied with a shrug. She seemed to accept this.

“My sister believes that we are all defined by moments. One big moment splits your life into before and after, sets the course for what one ends up being. In all honesty, I think that’s bullshit. Real life works nothing like that. There are moments, some big, some not. That part is true. What happens after is what defines us. I believe you have just found yours. Your first big moment.”

“Being born doesn’t count?” I asked her.

“You had the chance, to invalidate that, just now. You refused it. I think a moment, a true defining moment, should be inviolable.”

I nodded my acquiescence.

“You are not a child, are you?” she asked.

“I am,” I replied, “for all intents and purposes. I was, after all, I was born just last month.”

She smiled at that.

“How old do you think I am?”

“Is that important?”

“Seems like something one should know, doesn’t it? I already have a name, a date of birth. Shouldn’t I have an age too?”

She considered this for yet another moment.

“Physically I would put you at eleven, maybe twelve. Cognitively? You are beyond me, even, I think.”

“Twelve. I want to go with twelve. It has a nice ring to it.”

A nun walked by, pausing momentarily to pass on her greetings.

“So, what happens now?” I asked her

“Now, now you prepare to go to school.”

“Oh joy.”

HIGH FUNCTIONING DEPRESSION

By Jacquie Mwaura

So yesterday life decided to hand me another one of its harsh reality slaps. I just realized I’d been suffering with functional depression for the past 10 months. 10 months. Yaani a baby was conceived, carried to full term and came into the world while I was struggling to get by. I was updating a very close friend of mine about a recent conversation I had with a mutual friend.

The irony of all this is that in as much as I’m in the mental health field, I still have stigma attached to seeking professional mental health services.

In this state of high functioning depression, your life seems to be going pretty well. After all they’re people suffering from a lot worse. You may have a supportive network but there’s a little voice that tells you they just wouldn’t understand. Your family may not really know what’s going on deep within. How do you see your loved ones internal struggles yet they are “ok”?

I would intentionally socially withdraw from family events since the question of “What are you up to now?” would always come up. How do you start answering a question you don’t have an answer to? You’re expected to know these things, right? Unfortunately, applicable life skills don’t rank high within the school syllabus.

This week I felt like it all just needed to come out. A balloon filled with air will eventually burst if the air keeps coming. To prevent this, either stop letting the air in, poke a hole and risk the balloon bursting, or squeeze some air out through its only opening. I opted for letting some air out.

Am I by the wave of a magic wand healed? Definitely not. So, what changed? I had a deep no holds back conversation with a close friend. (Haha probably I scared him 😆) I felt it needed to be done. To put it out there. Surprisingly enough it worked. This human mind though. I felt lighter. Like a huge sigh of relief.

Are there times where I felt I hinted I needed help? Of course. But I recoiled when I felt I wasn’t being heard. When I just thought, “You won’t quite understand.” I can’t blame them. How do you begin to comprehend that someone functional would be suffering inside?

On March 3rd 2017, I made this journal entry:

STUCK IN THE MUD

“Feeling low. Things are definitely not going as planned. Certainly, questioning my life’s decisions. All because of hypostress. Having nothing to do. I should not define myself by having a steady source of income but everyone else seems to. I really have to avoid certain situations. You don’t want to meet up with people who’ll ask you the one question you dread. Hence, social withdrawal. I understand why people do it now. The worst part is you can’t even tell those closest to you. Friends and family alike. You feel like a failure in their own eyes. You start questioning everything. Was working so hard in school even worth it? Why do everything (they told you to do) right only to get out and feel betrayed by the system? Starting the 11th month now. It’s crazy to even believe it. It gets really bad to the extent you don’t enjoy the things you used to. Start projects and leave them halfway. Where’s the drive for anything? You see a failure in yourself. A failure to the little girl you were. You have let her down. Her dreams down. She was unstoppable. What changed?  How do we move on from here? (Hopefully this won’t be the never-ending cycle it’s been so far?) A part of me still hopes. Still dreams of a better future. Things should look up, right? It can’t all be doom and gloom, right? Would life really be that cruel? Wipe the tears away. Things will get better. I hope. 😔😔😔”

I knew I needed to talk to a shrink earlier on in the journey but I had no clue of where to go. So many of us may be at that point. Also, despite knowing all that shrinks should do, I still felt like they too wouldn’t understand.

So did I just get started with my internal baggage as soon as we started talking? Nope. It took him boldly asking “What’s up with your life?” As I said before, I hinted. Probably a little stronger now. Sometimes you just need to confront the person head on. With nowhere to hide. Perhaps this would have prevented some number of suicides.

I went on to share my insecurities in a world where everyone seems to have their shit together. Where “seeing” how your former classmate is doing is just a page away. Social media gives such an unrealistic perception of one’s life. Despite knowing this, when something is shown to you repeatedly, you start accepting it.

Unfortunately, the response may not be the same for everyone. You may be told, “Just snap out of it.” “You seem fine. Are you sure you’re not just having a bad day?” “Just pray about it. Mungu halali (God doesn’t sleep)” I know they mean well. What we must learn is that sometimes no response is a satisfactory response. Sometimes we just want to be heard. That’s enough. I just need to know you’re listening.

I’m hoping that sharing this at least speaks to one person. Makes them reach out despite knowing the risk. Helps friends not just talk about stuff on the surface but go deeper. Makes someone reach out to an otherwise “normal” looking individual. Repeatedly if need be. Better safe than sorry.

I’d also recommend watching 13 Reasons Why. The acting is terrible. Read the book if you can. However, the message behind it speaks volumes. She didn’t kill herself because of one particular reason. It was a culmination of multiple “minor” events.

I hope that as a society we shall truly embrace empathy. Seeing other’s issues as they see them themselves. This applies to everyone whether male or female. Let’s have these conversations and save lives.

 

Additional information on High Functioning Depression:

https://www.google.com/amp/www.rd.com/health/conditions/high-functioning-depression/amp/

The Man and The Slug

“Once, before, there was a man. He considered himself something of a scientist. One day he was seated in his garden, taking in all that he owned, content in his solitude when he notices an intruder slinking by. He claims it is out of scientific curiosity, advancement, whatever, but he reasons that the slug is composed mostly of water. To prove himself right he sprinkles a healthy dose of salt all over the it,” he finishes as he looks up.

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“What question was that again?” The man who had gotten within inches of killing the leader of the free world asked.

“What is your name?” The interrogator asked once more.

“What is in a name, et cetera et cetera. Besides, don’t you have my papers with you? People still say papers, right?”

“They identify you as North Korean,” she replied.

“Well there you go.”

“You don’t look Korean, not even in the slightest.”

“I am adopted.”

She sighed in reply.

“Why did you do it?”

“Does it matter?”

“I should hope so. Otherwise what is the point?”

“Chaos. Nihilism. Insanity. It could be anything.”

“Is it?”

He smiled.

“You got me there. Clever. No, all I want is to watch the world burn.”

“So, chaos?”

He shook his head in reply.

“Don’t be ridiculous. If I wanted chaos, then I would have actually finished the job and vanished.”

“You just said you wanted to watch the world burn, ergo chaos.”

“See that is where you are wrong. I want it all to end. Everything, or mostly everything to die. It would have been better, less messy if I played a more active role myself but I like it better this way. A little bit more entertaining.”

“How is that? If you don’t mind telling me.”

“Because you caught me?”

“Sure,” she replied.

“There was this guy I knew who had this great idea for a novel. Great plot. Basically, it was about the end of the world. It starts with you guys attacking one country out of arrogance, and another retaliating because they have had enough, setting off an entire chain reaction. Dominoes falling and all that.”

“Sounds interesting. How does the book end?”

“He never wrote it.”

“Why is that?”

“He kept putting it off, claimed he didn’t have the time until he actually ran out of time.”

“How did he die?”

He smiled once more.

“Oh, you think I am doing this because I lost someone? Don’t be ridiculous. Besides, this was over fifty years ago.”

“So why are you trying to end the world then?” she asked, glossing over his claim of old age.

“Last night a man walked into his house a lot earlier than he had planned to. He goes straight to the kitchen to find some food. Finding none, he starts the process of preparation before heading upstairs to his bedroom to change into something more comfortable. What he finds instead is his wife, in bed with another man, going at it like it is the end of the world.”

“So, your wife cheated on you?”

“The man takes this all in, the grunting, the moaning, the screams as they were discovered with cold detachment. He changes into something a lot more comfortable, turns and leaves the room. As he is watching the pasta boil he gets an idea, a spark. He leaves it all behind and heads into his study where he spends the rest of the night finishing up his work, running calculations and simulations over and over again until he is certain he has gotten it right.”

“Gotten what right?”

“A way to safely synthesise a matter-antimatter reaction. An unlimited energy source, if you may. So, this morning he reports back to work, papers in hand, inclusive of proofs and asks to see his boss and his bosses as well. These sorts of things tend to take a while to organise. As it stands, he is still in his lab awaiting summons. As of end of day today he would have met just about every general they can throw at him. In a month’s time a working prototype will be ready, give it a year and we will have FTL capable shuttles launching into outer space.”

“Really?”

“You don’t believe me. In maybe two minutes time the message is finally going to get to the Chairman of the Joint chiefs of staff and he is going to leave the observation room. Now usually when something like this happens I tend to sabotage experiments meant to recreate but not this time. Because what is going to happen now is in a year’s time this technology will be used to try to end the war. Really want to see that blow up in your collective faces.”

She said nothing for a moment.

“You are insane.”

“Please, give me a little more credit.”

“You expect me to believe that you can somehow see into the future?”

“Of course, not. I don’t expect anything of you. I merely was answering a question posited to me.”

She sighed in reply, before pausing to check her watch for the umpteenth time.

“So, what do you do for a living?”

“History professor.”

“You like your job.”

“A lot more than I did my previous one, I can tell you that.”

“What did you do before?”

“Oh, I was a hitman.”

Again. Silence.

“So, you have killed people before.”

“I wasn’t terrible at my job, if that is what you are asking.”

“Tell me about the first time.”

“He has been called away, hasn’t he?”

“Am sorry?”

“Chairman of the Joint chiefs of staff.”

She paused a beat before responding.

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

He smiled a little before replying.

“It was considered a rite of passage of sorts, something to help them see the kind of man they are leaving behind. They picked someone whose death wouldn’t leave that big an aftershock in the continuum, positive or otherwise. It was this kid, fifteen years old, a man by society’s standards back in the day, a complete waste of space if you ask me. Hardest thing I have ever had to do.”

“Why is that?”

“He is not coming, you know.”

“Who?”

“Your partner. He is not coming.”

“What makes you think I am expecting him?”

“You keep checking your watch. You are angry at him, rightly so but he is not coming.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Why do you think I picked North Korea?”

“If your narrative is anything to go by, nuclear war heads. You are under the impression we are going to retaliate by nuking them.”

“Oh, that is a done deal, okay? After all, it is you morons who elected a loose cannon into the White House. No, that is not it. It is because of you, you see.”

“Uh huh.”

“In about thirty minutes time a beat cop is going to find your partner in a dumpster somewhere, stabbed to death. First impulse will be to rule it out a robbery gone wrong, that is before they run his prints and find out he is a cop. So, in an hour’s time, maybe, your phone is going to ring, and you will know.”

“What did you do?”

“Me? Nothing. I have the mother of all alibis. I was trying to assassinate the President of the United States.”

“This is not funny.”

“it actually kind of is, if you look at it from my end.”

She was on her feet faster than he could react, his face slammed into the table. His response instead is laughter she sits down.

“And we are back to that. You people are sadly lacking in your creativity.”

“This is not a game.”

“Actually, it is. You just don’t know it yet. Unfortunately for you, human nature is going to be the downfall of you all.”

She leans back, resigned.

“He was selling secrets, you know. Started with the Chinese before the North Koreans came into the picture. More money and all that shit.”

“That’s bullshit.”

“Nothing earth shattering, mind you, but he still had access to some pretty interesting stuff.”

“You are full of it, you know that, right?”

“Just last year. You were being shipped to yet another military installation just like this one, cloak and dagger stuff. There was a break in protocol, well at least according to you, and instead of a military escort all the way you were asked to travel half the way on your own. There was a rendezvous point in Portland, I believe, but you got there a lot earlier than anticipated. You booked a hotel room because he likes taking advantage of room service, his words, not yours, and you just wanted to relax before the circus started. You left the room a little over half an hour after him, went outside for a walk. You saw him talking to an attractive woman, Asian, I believe but you didn’t approach them out of fear he was stepping out on his wife again. You really should have approached them, Mellie.”

Silence.

“Who are you?”

“Does it matter?”

“What do you want?”

“I told you.”

“To destroy the world.”

“Ultimately, yeah. But that is not what I told you I wanted, did I?”

“It’s a game. You want to play a game.”

“Bingo.”

“And if I refuse?”

“Doesn’t matter. I am of the opinion the game is rigged. Either way it goes, I get what I want.”

“Then what do you want from me?”

“In every movie I have seen where a superior intelligence tries to destroy the world, humanity somehow manages to survive. There are those cases where you all band together and fight the common enemy together though I don’t see that happening in this day and age. There are also cases where one of the bad guys is somehow convinced of just how great and worthy of saving humanity is and he somehow turns against his people to fight for you. That’s bollocks. I have lived amongst you people for over two thousand years and I can comfortably say nobody in his right frame of mind would consider you worthy. Seeing as I am a sporting guy, however, I am willing to give you all the opportunity to prove me wrong. In twenty-three minutes’ time three things will happen simultaneously. The President will get released from the hospital with a clean bill of health and the first thing he hears will be Korean assassin. Your phone will ring and the news that your partner is dead will reach you. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will conclude his meeting with just about everybody who is anybody in NASA meaning he wouldn’t have heard anything we have discussed here today. You can choose to get to the President through the CJCS or you can do it yourself. I doubt there will be much of a difference either way.”

“And if he opts not to listen?”

“Oh, I know he won’t listen. That isn’t in doubt. Killing him won’t do you much good either because just about everybody in his immediate circle is just as crazy and paranoid as he is. Must be a great time to be American, isn’t it?”

“Why are you doing this, any of this?”

“Me? Am just doing my job.”

“And what job is that?”

“You people have this idea that you are the best this universe can ever hope to offer. Every encounter with alien life ends with you on the winning side. I was sent here by a federation, if you can call them that. My job is simple, always has been. Observe, intervene where necessary and judge. I am supposed to determine if you are worthy to join us. If not, I am supposed to make sure you can’t be in a position to discover we exist.”

“What does that have to do with ending human life as we know it?”

“You are taking this a lot calmer than I expected.”

“You are either insane or you are actually telling the truth. Nothing I can do either way.”

“Aah, a nihilist.”

“More like a fatalist.”

“It is a test of sorts, something to make sure my actions aren’t tainted by bias.”

She ran a hand through her hair, blew out in frustration.

“So, you are an alien. Like E.T.”

“If E.T. had the power to destroy reality as you know it, yeah.”

“Why now?”

“POTUS.”

“No other reason?”

“You know the other one.”

She buried her face in the cupped palms of her hands before letting out a long drawn out sigh.

“I can’t convince you otherwise?”

“I have lived through wars waged in the name of a god who changes to suit your whims, lived through justifications of cruelty, through crises of faith, through both wars. I was in Hiroshima when the A-bomb fell. I have seen the cruelty humanity is capable of. I have seen you people fuck up the ozone, contribute to global warming while refusing to take responsibility for your actions or even admit it is happening. Jesus, I was there when you morons voted in Donald freaking Trump. You people are the worst. Believe that, if nothing else.”

“We are also capable of good, you have seen that also, haven’t you? Do those people deserve to die too?”

“There was a time, before, when I was a lot younger. I used to see the evil perpetuated by those in power, I used to see how those with little were mistreated and taken advantage of and it would make me angry. I tried. I tried my best, in the hopes that maybe I could help humanity change. Do you know what I realised? People weren’t angry. They were apathetic, at best, so they sit back and do nothing, hoping the world would somehow fix itself. The fact that the world was getting worse and its inhabitants didn’t seem to care, didn’t want to change anything about it made me even angrier. It pushed me to the point I was ready to pull the plug, wipe out the disease that is humanity off the face of the planet but I didn’t. it wasn’t time. Not yet. But it was then that I realised I couldn’t allow you people to join us. It was then that I realised just how unworthy you all are. You are all culpable, the good, the bad, the neutral. You are all guilty of the good you didn’t do.”

“If your people are so good then why send someone to commit genocide? Or does murder not register?”

“The necessity of evil. It has nothing to do with you people. It is all about us. It is the answer to the question just how far would you go to protect your people, your home, your family, your friends, from an invading force they have no hope of conquering, of surviving.”

“From what you tell me, your people can easily wipe us out in battle.”

“There was a time before, our society was just like yours. People in power were corrupt, the poor were taken advantage of. After a while, however, people got tired, got angry. So, we rose up, fought back. We fought not just against the system but against ourselves, our nature. We get urges like you people do, sure, but we rise above it. We are not controlled by our baser urges like you all are. It isn’t about the war, you see. It is about the taint. Humanity has a stench and we would rather not smell it.”

“You know we just lock you up, throw you in a hole you couldn’t possibly hope to dig yourself out of in a thousand year even.”

He laughed at that.

“I have lived hundreds of lives, as different people in different circumstances in an attempt to understand the human condition. I used to think I had known love, that I had loved and had been loved in return. A little over a decade ago I met someone. She was a student in the university I was teaching in. I hadn’t entered a committed relationship yet as this person so I chose to pursue her, purely out of academic interest, you see. It evolved into something else, however, something I could neither predict nor control. I didn’t have a problem with that, though. I was content, happy. Five years went by, we got married and settled down. The next logical step would have been to try to have children of our own though this was never discussed. Still, I came back home one evening and found her alone in our living room, curtains drawn, lights out. She had just found out she was pregnant, you see. Usually this is the part where you whoop in joy, celebrate and all that. I had never managed to sire a child before, you see. Children tend to live a noticeable imprint, making it difficult to uproot oneself before the neighbours notice you haven’t aged in over half a century. She told me, however, she had no interest in having the child. It would be selfish, you see, having a child in a world as cruel and unfeeling as ours. We keep messing everything up and leaving it for our kids to suffer the consequences of our actions. Having a child, she said, is the most selfish and unfeeling thing a human being can do. She wanted me to support her decision, you see, despite the fact that I could see it was killing her. So, I told her. I told her everything; who I am, what I am. The whole shebang. Just last night I tried to get her to talk me out of this, all of this, but she wouldn’t. She told me it would be selfish to let the world be just because we live in it. We have had our chance, she said, yet all we do is make it all worse. For our children, she said, we should let it all burn. Pay for our sins instead of transferring them to the future generation like we so often do. Now one thing you need to understand, my wife is a little like me. She isn’t immortal, not completely, just a little bit harder to kill than the average bear. Knowing this, however, she is okay with rolling the dice. Either she survives or she doesn’t, she doesn’t have a problem with that. My conviction isn’t in doubt here, you see. I do this knowing that I damn my son to an uncertain future, knowing there are friends and acquaintances I might never see again. You could try the jail thing though, see how it all goes. Now if you don’t mind….”

He got up, still shackled. She considered going for her gun for a moment but her phone started ringing.

“You really should pick that.”

 

Authors note

I had intended, upon completion, to enter this into a short story contest. I chickened out at the last second and here we are. I would like to develop it further into a full length novel, something i am sure will take me ages to complete, lazy bastard that i am but for now enjoy this, my first attempt at ending the world. 🙂

Serendipity

I once had an argument with my brother over the difference between happenstance and serendipity. I am of the opinion, on some level; they are one and the same thing. Desire exists, in some cases, on a subliminal, unconscious level. Following this logic, finding something you didn’t know you wanted on a conscious level shouldn’t really count as serendipity, now should it? My brother, being the philosopher that he is, laughed it off before threatening me with bodily harm if I didn’t agree with him. We drifted off point the moment destiny and fate entered the equation and our argument shifted from philosophy to theology (aren’t they the same thing?) with a dose of metaphysics. I am going off point.

“Do you believe in destiny?” she asked, and I laughed. Do I?

She looked like Sunday morning, my recollection of Sunday morning, that is, which was a lot better than I felt. She smiled at me and the sun seemed brighter.

“Catriona,” I said in reply.

“Caesar.”

“Breakfast?”

“No, not yet.”

“May I join you?”

“Sure. Why not?”

 

“Tell me a bit about yourself.”

“If I am remembering this correctly we already had this conversation and I did tell you more than just a bit.”
That smile again.

“You gave me the cliff note version of an entire novel. What I want is the first chapter in detail.”

I thought it over for a second before replying.

“It goes without saying- “

“A trade. I know.”

“Hobbies?”

“Surprise me,” she said, “garbage in garbage out, though.”

“I started coding when I was a kid, ten maybe eleven, I am not sure on the exact details. One of my brother’s friends taught me, in the beginning as a goof between friends. It caught on and years later here I am.”

“Really? That’s it? Come on.”

“Fine. Favourite movie, Pulp Fiction, favourite band AC/DC, favourite song Shoot to Thrill, obviously, and for the better part of the last three years I have been writing code for an operating system.”

“Sneaky. Tell me more.”

“What is there to say?”

“You are a difficult one, aren’t you?”

We had walked all around school, I noticed. I could see my room just ahead.

“I want to leave a mark on the world, something to be remembered by.”

“That is ambitious.”

“Don’t you?”

“I don’t want to be remembered. You remember something that was once forgotten. I want to be, immortal, always and forever. Not a memory a presence. Por siempre.”

“Garbage out.”

“Favourite movie, Pretty Woman, favourite band Nickelback, favourite song Bohemian Rhapsody, obviously and I am less than three months away from graduating and I recently came to the realisation I hate the career path I am on.”

“What do you want to do instead?”

“Advertising.”

“Instead of……?”

“Finance. Accounting. Banking. There is something cold about numbers, something unyielding and unflinching. I like people. I want to reach them, talk to them, entertain them.”

“And make a load of cash in the process.”

She smiles.

“Doesn’t hurt now, does it?”

“So, why won’t you?”

Her reply is interrupted by the sudden and wanted reappearance of Bry, the girl standing beside him.

“Half an hour, huh?”

I shrugged. No point in arguing.

“Do you believe in consequences?”

Celyn and Bry are on the queue. They are having a conversation, low and harsh. But that is none of my business. I turned back to face her. She is seated across from me, her elbows propped on the table, her face leaned into me.

“I have a theory, if I were about to do something that would fuck up my life monumentally a future version of me would step out of a time machine and stop me. Every time I am about to do something stupid I take a second to give him a chance to get here in time.”

She laughed at that, drawing more attention to us. I ducked instinctively, mostly because I wasn’t used to being the centre of attention.

“So, you do believe in consequence.”

I looked her in the eye before replying.

“Indubitably.”

It was one of those things, I suppose. You think you mean one thing when in reality it is something else. Freudian, I believe they call it. She felt it too. I am pretty sure she felt it.

“Assuming, of course, a future version of yourself doesn’t have the means or the technology to get back to you. How would you know?”

“That’s impossible. I don’t know if you have noticed but I am really really fucking brilliant.”

She laughed at that too. Any sane man would be insulted. In that moment, however, I don’t believe I was what one would consider sane.

“Come on.”

Sigh.

“I look at life the same way I look at a string of code. If I do this, then the consequences would be this and that. Else the consequences would be something or the other. I live in a perpetual state of awareness, knowing this for a fact and always ready to suffer the consequences of my actions.”

“So, you always know.”

“Nine out of ten times.”

She laughed at that, this time a lot louder than before. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat at the stares I was getting.

“Oh God. I am going to enjoy this. You didn’t see it coming, did you?”

“See what?” I asked. All I got for my effort was a look. Food arrived just as I was considering asking her what she was about. I had to move to accommodate Bry. I looked around as I waited for him to pass and I saw it. it felt like a sledgehammer to the gut. She saw my look of utter befuddlement as I sat down.

“There is a disturbance in the force,” I told her and she started laughing all over again.