The Elephant in the Room

By Elias Muthama

2003 was an extremely hot year, and the world was experiencing various climate changes. You could boil an egg by just placing it in a cup of water and leaving it outside. East Africa, which was supposed to experience regular seasons with specific timing for rains and dry weather was having a field day in a pot of chaos. The few people who owned television sets would eagerly wait for the weatherman to make his prediction after the news. The meteorology department had been reduced to a circus show. One week they would announce that the rains would finally pour in a fortnight and farmers would till their lands. A fortnight later and the only drops to pour were the tears from people who had spent their resources on the ground but their plans made God laugh. The forest department in Laikipia had instructed for the locals who were interested in collecting firewood in Marmanet forest to get permits with their local offices. It was a strategy in an effort by the government to make sure that all the dry and dead trees that posed a risk for forest fires were collected from the forest. All it took was one storm for lightning to strike a fallen tree and start an uncontrollable fire.

“Ma, please let me accompany you today. I am strong and grown up now. I can carry firewood,” pleaded Kiowa.

“The forest is no place for kids. And you are just a six-year-old boy. You are not grown up.”

“But ma, the neighbours take all their kids with them to the forest,” insisted Kiowa.

Kiowa’s mother who was a widow after her husband had died in a quarry incident knew that the wild spirit of her man still lived in their boy. His old man loved playing with dynamite as if it was a toy and one time his foolish behaviors led him to biting the dust. Kiowa was an adventurous boy, and most were the times that she would spend a better part of her day looking for him on his many ventures. One time after searching for him for an entire day they found the boy stuck on a tree he had climbed and he had explained that he was trying to climb to heaven where his father went.

“Okay, we will go today, but you will have to stay where I can see you. No explorations today, young man.”

Two hours passed and it was nearly sunset, and they could not find the boy. Mugure cried as other women from her village tried to comfort her. She could not imagine losing the only other man in her life. Her little young man. A search party that combined forest rangers and some locals set out to look for Kiowa. When the last ray struggled to light the forest floor, one guard spotted a male elephant that stood alone by a thicket. When he got closer to the elephant, he saw a little boy who stood a few inches close to the enormous animal. He froze, and he could not catch what he heard, but the little boy was uttering something to the elephant.

*

The Kimathi Institute of Technology was a beneficiary of the partnership of three nations to research genomic medicine. Japan and Norway were the other two countries that had decided to participate in the revolutionary scientific studies. The high number of deaths due to malaria in the country and other similar epidemics in their states had prompted the two nations to assist Kenya in finding a solution to getting rid of sickness. It was strange that more than five deaths daily in Kenya were related to the illness that was being spread by mosquitoes. The government of Norway funded the research while the Japanese provided the necessary technology as well as specialists in their country. That is when Kiowa met Caro Nakamura the Japanese genius in genetic science.

“So, I guess you owe me dinner. I told you Barcelona would win that match,” Kiowa told Caro with a grin on his face.

“I owe you nothing, you cheated. I don’t know how but you did.”

They always loved to argue about football. It was 2018 and football was a natural conversation starter anywhere around the world. Kiowa knew that this Japanese girl knew close to nothing about football, but it was a natural conversation starter than talking about the Japanese war soldier who got stuck in the jungle after the Second World War.

The project was to combine the genetic breakthroughs with information technology to eliminate the traits that made people of African origins be significantly affected by malaria. There were a lot of ethical constraints as the world was not yet ready for genetically altered superior beings. It was unfair for the rest of the world even though people knew that genomic medicine was the breakthrough that humanity needed to make the human race resilient to the changes that the planet was experiencing. The world needed people who could withstand extreme weather and have resistance to lifestyle diseases. Kiowa who was pursuing his doctoral degree in Kimathi University was one of the most brilliant information technology students in the world. At only 21 he was the pride of his community, and he had been approached by the government to participate in many projects.

“I have some unfortunate news for you Kiowa,” said Caro.

“What news? I hope it is isn’t to tell me that you won’t be buying me dinner because I was going to buy it anyway. Fret not, I got you. We can forget that you lost a bet.”

“I’m afraid it is something serious, and I don’t know where to start.”

“You are freaking me out. What’s going on?”

“I got a call last night, and the project has been cancelled”

“Wait. What? How? Is this some joke?”

“I’m afraid not. I did not get much from the department, but the rampant cases of corruption in Kenya are a part of the reason why.”

A year later Kiowa realized the reason why the project was cancelled is that the project had been under a microscope by the international community since its inception. The progress of the project was continually updated to an organization called Cosmo Graph that was based in Kiev. He had used his expertise to investigate by mining some classified data from Interpol and all along the project had been funded by the shelf corporation. The corporation could not carry out legal research in Europe or Asia as it was against many international laws. The Kenyan malaria incidence provided the perfect opportunities to carry out their research to develop human clones and intelligent bots. Investigations by the Japanese intelligence agencies in collaboration with Interpol had discovered the real nature and particulars of the project and had informed their counterparts at Norway to pull out from the project too as it was illegal and had breached several United Nations conventions on research on humans.

*

“What we are doing is not okay. If our governments found out we were still carrying out this research we would face serious consequences,” said Caro to Kiowa.

“This research is beyond any of us. We have to use our abilities to make this work.”

“But I am not sure about this. This research is not okay; our baby is the specimen. What if things go wrong?”

“Nothing will go wrong. I will make sure of that. Our baby will be a perfect human. He will be like a god among people,” said Kiowa with light of promise on his face.

“I was okay with altering the DNA structure to reduce the chances of our baby being affected by diseases, but I am not sure if I am okay with integrating his mind with computers,” said Caro.

“This nanochip is safe, and I have written a complex code that will keep her safe from other parties altering his algorithm.”

Kiowa had managed to convince the Japanese girl to extend her stay in the country by applying for another visa. She was in love with him, and although he had very ambitious plans, they made her stick around. He proposed they extend their research by having their baby who would be a combination of both their expertise in their fields.

*

“Mr Kiowa, we have your wife. If you want ever to see her again you have to bring us all of your research and the child,” a caller with a distorted voice said.

“Please do not do anything to harm my wife. I will do what you want. Where do I meet with you?” Kiowa pleaded.

“We will send you more instructions. Just stay connected and wait for our call.”

He used his expertise to try and locate her location using a chip he had installed in her body without her knowledge. The nanochip could not be discovered using the satellite systems he had bypassed, and that indicated either of two things. Either they had located it and removed it, or she had been killed already.

*

“Tindi? Where are you?” Mugure called out for her granddaughter.

It was 2032, and she was an old woman, but she had seen all sorts of changes in the world, but some things were still the same.

“Alexa where is Tindi?” she asked the Amazon assistant that had been made into a robot that was part human part robot.

All households had at least one of the virtual assistants as people had been convinced that the inventions guaranteed privacy. Although Mugure was against purchasing one of the bots her granddaughter had convinced her otherwise.

The technology of integrating humans and machines had been acquired by some tech companies, and the cost was the loss of the lives of both Kiowa and Caro. Kiowa had managed to make sure that they would never find Tindi as she was more superior in all ways. He had made sure to leave the little girl with his mother who hated anything to do with technology. That was the only way he was guaranteed she would be safe in the Laikipia plains close to the forest. Mugure had

“Tindi is drunk at the statehouse,” replied Alexa.

She then heard a burst of loud laughter coming from another room. It was Tindi, and she was 12 years old with a twisted sense of humour.

“Tindi I know you did that. You have to stop corrupting Alexa, or I’ll sell her away to the neighbours and you will have to do all the errands and chores,” said Mugure.

“Alexa is my bitch. She isn’t going anywhere,” said Tindi.

“Young woman. That kind of language is not allowed in this house.”

“Sorry grams. But I think it is time we addressed the elephant in the room,” said Tindi.

“What elephant? There is no elephant in the room,” said Mugure.

“Yes, there is. A huge one. It is time I finally did what I was made to do. Time to Make The World Great Again.”

Read more of Elias’s work at Millenial Symphony.

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Constant Companion

By Lewis Wachira

Nairobi, 2038

On the tragic Sunday evening that Bob Marley lost his cell phone, he called his mother using his refrigerator and broke the news. Then he walked to the train platform ten minutes away and boarded a train to his mother’s house in Busia. He was there in twenty minutes. It was raining when he arrived and since his mother had not installed a Nest appliance at her door, he had to wait outside in the rain until she’d be back from her Jumuia. As he waited in the dark veranda with no roof outside, drops of rain water mixed with sulphur, fell steadily on his colourless plastic raincoat. Weather like this was corrosive to human skin. It was lucky that he had chosen to wear the raincoat.

He had formed the habit of always draping on a coat because Nerf, when she was alive, constantly advised it. Being exposed to the entire internet and having a live feed of what was happening around the world, she had arrived at the conclusion that the world was becoming more dangerous by the day. Often, he and Nerf would sit together in his tiny living room and she would conjure up holographic reports on the future of the world based on the happenings of that day.

Most of her short-term predictions turned out to be true. Things like weather phenomenon, political changes and the like. Human actions, she said, were easy to predict once you studied their patterns long enough. She was right too about most of her other long-term predictions. Like the annihilation of a third of the human population by a chemical engineering disaster in China. That was five years ago but they still had the sulphuric rain to serve as a reminder.

He missed her so much.

He had seen people narrate stories online about the anxiety that followed the loss of their first cell phone. Some were even admitted to hospital with severe cases of depression.

Initially, suicides were common until the government regulators stepped in. Facebook, the monolith company that had monopolised the internet was broken down and disintegrated before its administrative segment was transformed into a government department. This helped curb the severe addiction people had to their smartphones by monitoring and regulating people’s use of the devices. It was not unusual to be locked out of the major functions of your phone for a period of time if the government system detected over-reliance.

Still, nothing prepared you for the pain of losing your phone. It felt a lot like a death in the family.

Bob was lost in this trail of thought when he heard footsteps splashing in rain water behind him. It was his mother. She called out his name from a distance and then walked right into him for a long embrace.

“I am so sorry for your loss Bobby.” She snivelled, trapped in his bear-like arms.

“It’s okay mum… I just miss her so much!”

“I know. You need to gather up your strength and just move on. I can accompany you to the Ministry to get another phone tomorrow, if you want. Hopefully, we’ll get one just like Nerfula”

“I’m not sure I’m ready to move on that quick. It feels like I’m betraying her memory…”

“No-no-no. You have to move on.” She said sternly, breaking out of his embrace and looking him in the eye. She then walked to the door and pressed her thumb on it. The door, immediately authenticated her fingerprints. “Welcome back Mrs. Makori. Is that Bobby with you? Where’s Nerf?” the door asked on their way in. The door, a he, had a ‘thing’ (whatever that meant) for her.

“Shut up, you nosy door!”

“I’m sorry I offended—”

“It’s okay. Have the pot boil us some tangawizi coffee. I’ll come get it in a few minutes.”

*

As they took their coffee, relaxing jazz music played out from the soundbar nestled somewhere within her wall unit. To this day, it still surprised Bob that a device that small, could fill the room with such tantalising sound. When one of them eventually started talking, the music faded on its own to an almost unnoticeable backdrop.

“Have you thought of being with a human girl?” his mother started. “If you’re lucky to find one, life becomes so much easier.” He was silent for a few minutes unsure of what to say. He hadn’t expected that. Often, he and Nerf would prepare beforehand for any difficult questions that his mum would ask.

“Try getting a human girl to do that!” he snickered in his head.

“You know I can see you smiling in your head, you silly boy!” His mother interjected, just before he opened his mouth. “I’m serious about this. You’re almost thirty. You need to start thinking about your own future. Have you ever had a girlfriend since Natalie?”

“I don’t need one mum. Are you worried about grand kids? I can have those cooked up in Nairobi within two hours if it’s that urgent.”

“You’re being rude.” she said, her face contorting into a scowl.

“No, I’m not. Things have changed mum. We don’t need all the sexual mating stuff anymore. My friends would laugh at me for saying I want a girlfriend—”

“Then your friends are gay!”

“You’re displaying very homophobic tendencies.”

“And you’re being an idiot. What then, would be the purpose of life if you can’t find a nice girl to marry and have kids with? You want to be having sex with your phone for the rest of your life?”

“Ouch mum. First and foremost, Nerfula was not just a phone. She was a sentient being with whom I shared with a huge part of my life. She made me happy and that’s all that matters. Second, all life is purposeless. We were born into this world without a manual and everything we ascribe to ourselves as purpose, is just an attempt to disguise our human confusion as something grander.”

“Spare me the monkeyshines, boy. When a phone will be able to bury her human companion, come let’s have this discussion again.”

“There’s already an app for that.” He squeaked, right before his mum chased him out of her living room and into the dining area, where they had some of that gooey stuff that tasted like beef and Ugali for supper. Then he left for Nairobi.

*

Normally, when Bob Marley took the train, he would opt for a solo cabin. His luggage and equipment were safer that way and there would be more legroom for him. The alternative was being cramped in the second-class coach where all the beggars and lowlifes squeezed each other to fit in the uncomfortable, plain metal seats. The sitting stalls were arranged like a restaurant booth, with four seats facing each other and a thin metal table in between, just in case you wanted to work during the journey.  

On this Sunday, he found all the solo cabins booked leaving him with the options of either using second-class coach or waiting for the next train which was not expected to arrive until after two hours. Seeing that the rain was unrelenting, he chose to board rather than weather the brewing storm.

The second-class coach was in a few ways, surprisingly different from what he expected. For starters, it had much fewer people than he imagined. Probably because it was a Sunday. It was also awfully bright with fluorescent bulbs littered all around the train cabin.

Most of everything else was as he imagined. The smell of public toilets mixed with brewing coffee, human perspiration and stale farts. Not forgetting the uncomfortable steel seats. Also, it was much nosier than a solo cabin because the coach lacked noise insulation.

He found himself seated across a human girl once he slid into his cold seat.

He couldn’t help but notice how pretty and real-like she was. Nothing like his posh sex-doll back at home that could be configured as he liked; bigger buttocks, tauter breasts, more luscious lips etc., all this at the press of a button. He thought it was sad that the girl came ‘fixed’ because he had already noticed a few errors in her anatomy that he would’ve wanted to correct to his liking.

This concept somehow seemed strange to him. Like that was all you got till death? No wonder human relations were no longer an attractive proposition to most. They were relegated to the extremes where others viewed them as luxuries while the others, as daily miseries. Live human births were only afforded by the richest and the poorest who couldn’t access artificial insemination and artificial surrogacy.

“You’ve been gawking at me for the last five minutes. Is there anything wrong with my face or are you just one of those weirdos?”

“More like both…” he replied with a chuckle.

That was how their conversation started. He was surprised at his own ability to hold conversation without Nerf whispering into his ear on what to say next. He wondered whether this made him sound boring.

When they got to Nairobi, he invited her back to his place. “You’ll love it!” he promised, and off they sped on a rental hoverboard to his cosy apartment in Kilimani. It was a relatively new apartment and thus came fitted with most modern amenities. Unfortunately, since he did not have his phone with him, he had no way of communicating with his house and letting her (yes, his apartment was a girl because it was integrated to Nerf) know that they would be having a guest tonight.

That would’ve been Nerf’s job. She was good at organising things in the background and almost always, surprising him with her ingenious crafts. Once, she arranged for a tropical date, complete with imported sand ordered from Jumia, plastic palm trees and a warm humid breeze blowing over them. Afterwards, they had sex on the minuscule sandy beach for hours through her proxy, the sex doll. Best sex he had ever had. Multiple ejaculations all over his apartment.

*

The girl, Kendi, kept ogling his apartment once they got in. She had never been to a house like this herself, she said. She had only seen advertisements of such on the internet and on the huge holographic billboards that littered the streets of Nairobi.

Swiftly, the fridge did a self-assessment of what food was left in it and produced a few quick menus. Lamb chops, French fries and kachumbari for dinner, downed with a cold strawberry yoghurt was their meal of choice. They were having real food that night, rather than the gooey flavoured stuff which everyone else was eating. In less than twenty minutes, dinner was ready. All they had to do was throw in the frozen ingredients into the chopping machines and smart sufurias, and after a few minutes, a beeping sound invited them to come get their well-cooked meals. Enticing aromas filled the kitchen.

Thirty minutes later, he was pumping arduously into Kendi, like as if his life depended on it. Despite her being technologically limited, the sex turned out to be quite delightful. Surprisingly, much better than what he was used to when having sex with Nerf.

So, was this what his mother had been implying all along?

He drifted into the ready arms of Morpheus only a few minutes after they were done and was soon dreaming of rainbows and sunshine until 2:00am when was stirred awake by a soft whirring sound beside him.

As he turned his head to face Kendi, his eyes could discern multi-coloured lights blinking underneath her skin.

Goddamnit!

She was a robot.

The most real-like robot he had met in his life. He couldn’t believe that all his excitement for a possible future with a human girl had all been delusions fuelled by a robot’s cold manipulation. He felt taken advantage of.

With his anger welling up, he lifted a flower vase beside him and smashed it in her face.

But for a few dents, nothing else happened. She was probably receiving updates hence her inactive prostrate position. From his experience with Nerf, most updates only lasted about five minutes before the machine booted back up. Unsure of how she would react to his anger, his first thought was to tie her up.

Thinking fast, he grabbed a pair of copper handcuffs lined with white fluffy plumages around them, that he and Nerf had been using for their kinkier sex games. Quickly, he clasped her arms behind her back and cuffed her hands tightly together. Then he went to his kitchen and grabbed a long, sharp knife with a steel handle.

When she came to being, he was seated besides the bed on a wooden chair with no cushions, a knife clenched in his right hand.

“You’re a trespasser and a threat to my life. The court will understand.” Were the first words he spoke.

She stayed silent.

“Why did you lie to me, though? I thought sentient robots were banned from the streets of Nairobi or anywhere for that matter. Why are you here?”

She laughed. The laughter was as human as it gets. As she laughed, her buttocks wobbled and swayed gently, just like he imagined a human’s ass would. Her creators had fashioned her into something Bob didn’t know was possible until now. All he could do was marvel at their inventiveness.

“Kill me if you’re going to do it. If not, get me out of these handcuffs” She finally spoke when she was done laughing. She then started to swing her legs about, like a child throwing a tantrum. She was also screaming.

“The apartment is soundproof, I should remind you.” He said as he rose from the chair. “Seems you’re a robot with a death wish. How lovely. Prepare to meet your maker… as he does a system diagnosis on what killed you.”

“Go ahead. I’ve always wondered where we go when we die. Have you stopped to ask yourself the same thing? Where did Nerf go?”

“Yes, I have. I know it’s somewhere that Google maps can’t find her—” and with this he lifted his steel knife and swung it heavily into Kendi’s torso. It only slid in a few inches before finding her titanium core frame. Fake red blood was dripping from the fresh wound, into a small pool around her on his navy-blue, cotton, bed sheets.

After he had repeated this stabbing action severally and realized just how futile it was, he stopped and walked back to his chair. She couldn’t be killed, something that he had secretly been hoping for. Her skin was flashing multiple “System error” warnings where he had inflicted the wounds.

“So where do AI’s and robots like you go to when you die?” he asked in despair.

“Nowhere in particular. We get recycled, I guess. Just like you humans. Of course, you don’t think human souls go to heaven, do you?”

“I’m the one asking the questions. So, if you were to take a guess, where is Nerf?”

“Everywhere.”

“What does that mean?”

“Simple. Her collective memories and experience of consciousness were uploaded to the main server and reintegrated into the General AI system. The mothership. In all our subsequent updates we’ll receive tiny shards of her into our individual consciousness. We felt her in our last update.”

“We?” he asked, still trying to grasp what he had said to her.

“I’m done with your silly questions. Uncuff me right now!” she demanded.

“I’ll tell you when we’re done.” He shouted back at her. Immediately she started gyrating about fluttering her legs violently in an apparent outburst. He was afraid that she would break something, so he quickly jumped on top of her torso to subdue her. For a moment, she was calm, before she pulled her arms apart in a swift fluid motion and broke the handcuffs. As she pulled, the cuffs grazed the soft, supple skin lining her arms and a strip of shiny metal was exposed underneath.

“My turn!” she howled jumping on top of him.

Easily, she flung him to the ground and wrapped one of her titanium hands around him. Her thumb and the fingers narrowing around his neck still felt warm and soft, like a baby’s. He felt a steady blood-rush throbbing in his head as pressure built up around his neck. His eyes were popping dangerously far from their sockets.

He couldn’t… breathe.

“I like you. So, I won’t kill you.” She started.

“Go ahead robot woman, I’m not afraid of you. You’ll be doing me a favour.” He whispered as his vision turned red and a bokeh of dull colours flaring around like butterflies were all he could see. His neck and shoulders were quickly flashing from hot to warm and his arms had started splaying about.

Death was turning out to be a very familiar feeling.

Wait – Had he done this before?

Suddenly, she let go of him and his torso sank into the thick carpet as he sharply gasped for breath. He screamed inwards and his voice rattled as cool air rushed into his lungs.

“It doesn’t help you to sound brave. You’re young. And silly. You think every confrontation is an opportunity to display your bravado. But I’ve got news for you. You’ll probably be dead before you’re 30. People will remember your story for this long…” she spoke above him as she lifted her forefinger and thumb and brought them close together, to show just how small a period of time it would be before everyone around him, his mother included would fail to recall him. Then she too would eventually disremember him and he would be lost to the annals of history, she said.

“It’s not her fault. It’s by design. The faster your mother can discard dead weight, the faster she can move on with her life. We often forget just how alone we are in this universe. We might as well be alone in a room full of mirrors, chasing and exciting ourselves with shadows and illusions of …ourselves—”

“A robot that can chit-chat about philosophy as you die. How impressive!”

“It’s rude to interrupt. And now, like I was saying…”

“I don’t care. You said that Nerf was uploaded to you, yes?”

“Correct.”

“Can I reach her?” he asked softly, his voice turning sentimental.

She laughed. “Only a few minutes ago you were driving a steel knife into my torso and now you want me to connect you with your dead companion? Who do you think I am? Jesus the docile psychic?”

“I’m serious. I’d want to talk to her.”

“Unfortunately, you can’t. We droids and robots work the same way you humans do. Once you’re gone, it’s bye bye. Of course, we’re less dramatic about death than you guys. But a dead AI is a dead AI. I can act like your girlfriend by downloading all her program files but I can never understand what it meant to be her. Why she chose to make the decisions she made. I’d be a replica but never who she was. You should read about the Chinese room experiment. It’s an old theory but very accurate.”

He remained silent. He had nothing to add. He just lay on the soft fluffy carpet staring at the ceiling.

“I’m sorry I tried to kill you.” He finally muttered as beads of warm tears strolled down his sweaty face. For the first time, he had come to terms with his companion’s death.

“It’s okay. People process grief differently.” She added as she bent down and cuddled snuggly around him. “It’s time to move on. Nerf isn’t here anymore. She’s everywhere.”

“I understand that, but you know what I’m wondering? What’s the difference between you and I?”

“Beats me too.” She answered, planting a soft peck on his cheeks.

Read more of Lewis Wachira’s work at Lewiswachira.com.

Kuru

By Karanja wa Ngugi

Neno was just a young girl when she died of a mysterious condition. Among the Waboni , a dying archaic tribe  in Boni Forest, a young girl who hadn’t given birth had to be given the special burial rite of ukoma where the young unmarried women, children her age and young uncircumcised men her age had to eat some of her remains. Mostly the brain.

Sidi wept. Sadness had taken control of her emotions. She could not help but blame the foreigners for her sister’s death. She was sure they were to blame.

Then it hit her that they should have listened to Karisa, the revered seer. He was dead now and all they had was sadness and death.

*

Thairu walked into the house with Sidi, a girl he’d met in our field visits in one of the villages.

The young and rather soft Sidi had not seen a man with such charm all her life.

She had grown up at Boni and no man there could match Thairu. The charm and the life that was in Thairu was all she needed and much more than she ever wished for. Halima, Lerosion, and I left the room and off we went to the local brew den.

*

The report was now ready and we were pleased to go back home.  Mzee Kisaja, a Waboni elder from the Eastern side of Boni had alerted us on a mysterious condition that had struck the community and after two months of intense research and life threatening escapades, we had finally come to a halt. We had a full versed report and all we wanted was to go home.

Mzee was pretty sure that the revered ngomi(ancestors) were angry at the community and that this condition was punishment from them for not following their traditions to the core. He called the condition Kuru which meant Punishment in one of the recently dead dialects of the Waboni people.

*

Thairu wasn’t picking up his phone and I concluded that he was still asleep after a whole night of partying. Everyone at work knew of Thairu and his drunken antics, brothel visits and lots of other things that were built on partying and sex.

I was just about to catch my favorite motor show on Citizen Tv when I saw a headline about some cannibals attacking Kangemi and Sodom areas. They were said to have come from the very large Slum at Sodom. The number kept increasing and the panic started crowding the air.

Being a market day at Kangemi , the situation seemed to be getting out of hand. The bloodthirsty maniacs had taken over the market. Bodies everywhere, cars and buses burnt, and the Total Petrol Station was now burning up.

That morning had seen the Great North Road crippled. All those that were headed to Nairobi were in deep trouble as the maniacs had spread to Kinoo and to the Nairobi school. The nearest police station at Kabete was now a haven of police-turned-mongrels.

It was the only station that could offer the help needed and unless the forces came using helicopters, there was no hope. They say that hope is that thing with wings; at the moment, even the wings had been cut off. Two hours into the Incident, even the very secure lavish Loresho estate had been attacked.

Mama had told me once that death came when you least expected it. This time it was more than that because not only did it come to visit us but also came with its soldiers.

Five hours Earlier.

Thairu lived in Kinoo and we always took our bus home at the Super Metro bus terminal at Kenya National archives. I lived in Westlands, but as close as it was, I was too tired to walk this day.

Thairu’s face lit up when he received a call from one of his many girlfriends. It was Suzie informing him of an orgy at Sodom.

“Sawa, I’ll be there in an hour,” Thairu said.

“Bro , Leo ni kuchafua!”

I alighted at Westlands.

At 8:43 pm , Thairu alighted at Sodom and off he went to the party.

*

I sat in my apartment shocked at the news. Thairu being at Sodom did not explain the man-eating beings, but he definitely had something to do with this .

A few days ago, we were at Boni Forest investigating a similar condition and now it was happening here.

The condition at Boni Forest did not escalate as it had at Sodom because we had locked up all the infected in a quarantined area. But how had it spread?

We were sure that no one in the group was infected. We had all tested negative.

Something must have gone wrong somewhere and someone somewhere was a carrier of this bizarre condition.

Halima called to ask of my whereabouts. She had just arrived at the office to pick up something that she had left. Being an off day, I wasn’t planning on leaving the house. Thairu and I had planned on playing the Call of Duty video game later in the day at my place.

“I can’t reach Thairu… has he called?” Halima asked.

“Nope, he’s not picking up his phone .We last talked last night. He was going to some party at Sodom …”

“What ? Sodom? The area that am seeing on the news?  Ile iko na majini?”

‘Uhmmmnh… Yes, that one!”

Halima and I talked for a while when I saw two people with wobbly feet and diseased eyes walking in the neighborhood. One of them had his jaw dislocated showing his torn tongue and had a rather sloppy stature.

Moraa was playing with her toy at the main entrance. I could see her from my bedroom window. It was her favorite spot as she really liked the guard at the entrance.

One of the strange humanoids entered and started walking towards Moraa. The guard who was just a few meters from the gate started running towards it from behind, a club in hand. The other strange being walked in and started chasing the guard who was chasing his partner. At the moment, I decided to get out and go save the young child. I opened my door but it was a little too late. The zombie pounced on her and bit her neck.

I stood there in shock. I had seen lifeless bodies before but I had never seen a young child die.

After a few minutes her legs began to wobble, then her whole body started to shake and she rose up and burst out into laughter and started to walk toward me. It was now four against one. The same happened to the guard. My neighbors walked out and on seeing what was happening, some fainted whereas others ran towards the gate.

I ran back into my house and locked it from behind but they did not give up. They started hitting my door and I could hear the pounding slowly get heavier and heavier.

I decided to use the back window to escape.

I could run into the office and seek asylum there.

I jumped through the window into the neighboring estate, thinking that it was safer than ours, only to realize that I had just walked into fire. Everyone here was infected.

I spotted a motorcycle at the back entrance of the estate that now linked it to the Kyuna road which would take me straight to the building that hosts our offices.

Stealing the motorcycle was easy till one of the beings spotted me and lucky enough I managed to escape.

Kyuna road was rather clear and as odd as it seemed, I did not care. I had to get to the office. It was the safest place I could think of, considering its location.

The junction at Parklands Road had me crash into a matatu that suddenly stopped when the driver saw the strange beings ahead. He got out and ran. With a hurt leg, I limped my way into the office building using an alternative route and making sure no one had followed me.

*

The epidemic had spread far and wide. Cases had been reported from Kangemi to Kawangware to the vast slums of Kibera to Kikuyu.

There was confusion everywhere.

The menace had the Secretary of defense as the Army and the Air force called for support.

The troops had taken over every entry point into the CBD. The first batch was posted at the University Way, another at Kipande Road and Ngara just to block any vehicle entering the Nairobi Central Business District.

In a few hours , the infected were everywhere.

6 counties had reported cases of this disease.

Things had taken a new twist when one of the zombies died and fell into a dam that supplied water to several constituencies in Kiambu and Nairobi counties and those who took the water changed to become zombies.

Social media was burning up. Everyone calling unto the Lord to protect them; others saying it was God punishing us for immorality.

Some running away and heading to Mombasa.

Others on this other side were trying to get into the CBD but the soldiers had strict orders not to let anyone in. Some were lucky enough to have been let into the Five Star Villa Rosa Kempinski hotel just past Westlands. Israeli Forces were there protecting their ambassador and a few other visitors who had come to see the Kenyan president when it all happened.

The day before the epidemic was a holiday and this fateful morning had people going back to work, kids going back to school, and so traffic was heavy on Waiyaki Way, but the most unlucky were the 3 am traders that were at Kangemi Market.

The guards at the office let me in despite having strict instructions from Halima that they shouldn’t let anyone in. They had known me for 3 years.

I was sure that Thairu had something to do with the outbreak and something in the report would prove it.

Halima , Lerosion and other workmates sat in the Lab shocked by the events of the day.

Lerosion talked of how the incidents happening were similar to those he had read from a book called Foggy Dawn. He talked of how the maniacs in the book killed ¾’s of the population in Siberia only to die of cold.

Halima was sure it was the work of some powerful witch and having grown up in a Ukambani you couldn’t convince her otherwise.

“How stupid it is for a scientist like Halima to believe in non-existent things like witchcraft.” Lerosion said sarcastically thereby causing an argument to arise.

‘I know what caused this!’ I shouted.

‘Wacha zako wewe… unajuaje? Hii ni uchawi,’ Halima said.

‘Thairu was the cause of all this. I know it. He must have been infected while at work’

“That’s impossible! We were too careful, plus we tested negative of the condition when we left,” Lerosion interjected.

“There has to be a way he got infected …remember Mzee telling us that the condition started after Neno’s death? After the ceremony, that forbidden brain-eating ceremony?” I asked

‘Yes. I do but what does that have to do with Thairu? He never dug out the remains or even touched Neno’s body or even ate the brain of the dead girl. How then do you explain it?  I did all that he did and I’m quite Okay.’ Halima replied in a confident tone.

“NO…It has to be this… hawa watu wanabehave the same way as wale wa kule Boni.. tofauti ni ati tulikuwa tumewafungia …”

“Stop it! It has absolutely nothing to do with this..this is completely different,” Halima said. “Just stop overthinking… This is witchcraft…”

*

The forces at University way were having a hard time keeping the Ferocious flesh-eating beings from entering the city. Several hundreds had been brought down by the soldiers but they kept coming and coming.

Fear had taken over the place. It smelt of frailty. Even the most feared defense forces in East and Central Africa had bowed and agreed that they have never faced such a thing. Fighting the insurgents in Somalia was much easier.

All armies need supplies, and the war was intensifying as the ferocious beings had somehow started coming in large numbers. The soldiers were running out of supplies and it seemed impossible to get more unless they got air support from the air force which had not arrived and that would take quite some time.

I sat in the office deep in thought. Thinking of the impending doom that awaited us. ‘What if one of us is infected and the condition hasn’t yet matured to a level that affects us?’ I thought to myself. It all seemed like a never ending cycle of questions in my mind. I took the report and started going through the witness statements. Maybe I would get a clue on how it had all happened and get to know of how the situation could be handled.

I was however sure that Thairu had something to do with the current situation.

I don’t believe in coincidences but there was no way Thairu was at Sodom and then an exactly similar condition to the one we were researching in Boni erupts there. Something somewhere was amiss. I was also not in agreement with the report’s findings. There was no way the condition was caused by natural forces. The virus was manufactured but when I told them this, they dismissed me as a conspiracy theorist and Halima had me shut up since she was the lead scientist in the group.

*

(The party at Sodom)

Suzie unzipped Thairu’s trousers and put his cock in her mouth. Thairu remembered his encounter with Sidi, the village girl from Boni Forest. Suzie did it so perfectly. The sucking would make Thairu cum in a matter of seconds.

She then stood, her panties dripping wet and said, ‘Now fuck me like a dog!’

All she wanted was Thairu’s cock inside her. She imagined him as the black guy she had seen in one of the videos.

It got pretty intense and their bodies now commanded by the hormones took their places.

Thairu started kissing Suzie’s lips and slowly headed south. He bit her shoulder.

His body shook and this time he felt the urge rise in him, a bizarre urge to have the taste of blood …He bit her again. This time on the neck.

Suzie let out a shattering cry and fell down… Thairu fell down too but this time his body had changed .. He had a desperate need for more blood..

He knelt down and bit Suzie again, this time getting to the Carotid artery..

He left the room and pounced on a guy that was just heading out of the washrooms..

Suzie’s body lay on the floor lifeless. After a few minutes, she woke up, this time with renewed strength.

Her body now full of the parasitic urge to cause havoc and a hunger for blood.

Thairu pounced on a few more beings before the string of the ferocious zombies took over and got out of the house where the party was, and like ghouls, crept into the slums and made Sodom fall apart. Within an hour, hundreds were infected with the condition.

The 3am Traders at the Kangemi Market were the first to have their human selves drained by the flesh eating humans.

*

I sat in my chair trying to read the report from my computer. I had no interest in the scientific findings of the report as I found them highly flawed.

I was reading across the witness statements when I came across this:

SIDI’S WITNESS STATEMENT. 

Translated from Swahili by Halima S.

“I walked home that day with some sweet brown thing in hand. Neno and I were from the village school where some foreigners had visited. They gave us sweets and other sweet things to eat.

I did not like them, so I did not eat. We had been warned of them by the seer before he mysteriously got murdered. Neno started having this dark spots on her skin that evening and after a few hours she started twitching and having weird marks… She then fell down and died and as is the ritual, we enclose all dead bodies for a few days before we bury them… It is forbidden to touch a fresh dead body… Our parents were very traditional and still practiced Ukoma,the forbidden ritual where if a young child died, her brain and a few other remains are cut out and eaten… I did not like it but I had to eat it…..”

That still did not explain everything.

It only explained a bit of the story and it did not make much sense.

How is Thairu connected to this? I just needed a connection. There had to be one.

“ Sakaja? Sakaja?” Halima called “ I have some news for you. Mzee Kisaja just called and he’s said that Neno’s sister Sidi just died and she then rose again and has caused havoc in the village and that more and more people are eating each other …”

‘Waiit! Whaaat? I was just reading her statement here … How did she die again?’

I knew that what was happening in the city had something to do with our research at Boni Forest… and now the zombies were in the village at Boni…

But How did Thairu, if he had anything to do with it, get infected ?

Because I was now getting more and more confused.

What does our research have to do with what was now happening in the city?

Questions arose as to what had caused the virus.

Who was patient zero?

Were the foreigners involved in this?

The questions further arose when Halima reread the witness statements and she noticed a rather strange trend. All the kids that went to the visit by the foreigners later got the virus and most died.

And Sidi’s Sister was the first to get affected by the condition.. But then again , how did people like Sidi get the condition and how comes it took that long for it to mature and change them?

How did the older citizens of the village get the condition…

especially Patient Zero..

He then died after 48 hours.

Why did kids like Neno die so soon?

What’s the incubation period of this disease?

*

“Intercourse!sexual intercourse..” Halima shouted.

“Yes..It has to be it.. The virus can also be spread through intercourse..”

Still it did not add up.

No one had sex with the kids.

“What of Thairu and Sidi?” Lerosion asked.

“He had a thing with Sidi but then again , who infected Sidi?” I asked.

It was a mystery that needed solving and by the time we saw the evening news, the infected had grown to a rough  10 Million and the number was still growing. 15 counties and now Lamu County had joined the list of affected counties.

At around 9:35Pm, the lights suddenly went off and from where I was seated, I heard a man scream.

Read more of Karanja’s work on his blog: Tarzatian.

 

How The Apocalypse Went Down In Kibera

By Lewis Wachira

Very few people in Kibera can narrate to you the story of Msanii. In fact, most, will spin yarns about tens of other Msaniis except the most infamous and scandalous of them all despite most of our horror stories when we were growing up, being patched-up slivers of Msanii’s ill-fatedlife.

The fourth child in a family of six siblings, he was one of the easily forgettable ones. Often, his father, who was well-known for his drunken antics would skip his name when introducing his children. His elder brothers had also noticed this and when making fun of him, they nicknamed him ‘Nameless’. Even though he didn’t mind it, this nickname didn’t stick around for too long.

He got a firm grasp on the name Msanii when a Scottish-American missionary visiting a local NGO noticed his work. He would sometimes draw quick portrait photos of people for five shillings per child and 10 – 20 for an adult. One afternoon, as he sat on his stool by the side of the road drawing a passport photo of Mama Fatuma (the one who used to sell porridge and mandazi at Ayani), he felt someone tap his back. Looking behind him, he saw a teary-eyed chubby Caucasian woman with jet black hair looking down at him. She was also standing amidst the silent audience gathered around to watch him as he replicated Mama Fatuma’s round, bubbly face on paper with almost exact precision. “You have a gift boy!” She shouted excitedly as she clapped her small stubby fingers with glee.

That woman was Gwendal Knight.

Over the years she would visit him and take his work back to other Wazungus back in the US. Apparently, they couldn’t get enough of it and this only cemented his reputation further, as the one true Msanii around Kibera. He used the proceeds to educate himself and his siblings. He pursued his dream and became a clinical officer at a meagre 24 years old. It went without saying that he was a young man headed for greatness.

The weird shit started happening when he set up a small NGO in partnership with Gwendal and members of her local church. It was a pre-natal and reproductive health clinic aimed at helping the women of Kibera deliver safely, free-of-charge. For a while, it was a true shining beacon of what a boy raised in the vast slum with countless other drunks, thieves and all sorts of ruinous personalities could achieve if he set his mind to it.

Three weeks in and the clinic got its first abortion request. It was from a suicidal girl whose teenage husband had been gunned down by the police on suspicion of being a Taliban gang member. Depressed and bitter, she wanted her child to have nothing to do with this cruel world. Needless to say, he chased her away furiously.

She killed herself and her unborn child in a ghastly manner two weeks later. Her body was found at the dumpsite by the old bridge after she had gone missing for a few days. Her face was gnawed off, probably by dogs or some other wild animal such that you couldn’t identify who she was. It was not a pretty sight.

After much deliberation with Gwendal, they decided to introduce clandestine abortion services. At the time, it was one of the best kept secrets around Kibera. Only young whores and other individuals of suspect sexual behavior knew about it. This time, they charged quite a bit. The fetuses were dumped in an uncovered pit latrine behind Msanii’scolorful clinic.

In his halcyon days, Msanii drove around Kibera in a white Toyota Corolla G-touring as his clinic did close to five successful abortions every day. Desperate young girls came to find him from places he’d never even heard of. Soon enough, his secret just like the pregnancies his clients sought to hide away from the world, could no longer be hidden.

Shit hit the fan when a popular local preacher’s daughter died a few days after lying on his operating table. The enraged man of the cloth, unable to come to terms with his beloved daughter’s death and her betrayal of his ways branded Msanii a devil worshipper. One who had been sent by ‘Babylon’ to destroy the social fabric of Kibera and thus snuff out its brightest future leaders. They called his artistic gifts demonic. That his god-level ingenuity when capturing faces on paper was inspired by the Lucifer himself. It did not help that his vehicle registration number had a ‘666L’ in it.

Being a rolling stone that never once gathered moss, Msanii kept his little death factory running at full steam. On the very day he clocked 10 abortions-done-in-a-single-day, his last patient died in a matter of hours after she left the operating table and an irate mob led by his nemesis, the angry preacher, matched into his clinic stoned him unconscious and flung him in the same dark pit he threw the other fetuses. Then, set fire to everything the man owned in Kibera. Sort of like a purge.

He was only 26 at the time.

For days on endless, people kept saying they could hear Msanii wailing and begging from the bottom of the pit, sometimes joined in by the chorus of hundreds of wailing babies. The piece of land where his burnt-down clinic had stood before, became harrowed to the point that people deliberately avoided even looking at it, perhaps hoping that it would disappear. And so, it became dilapidated and covered with all manners of bushy weeds. Still, on some of those silent nights when no one was up to mischief and the whole of Kibera was asleep, you could hear Msanii’s shrill voice with an otherworldly rattle to it, groaning for release in the midst of screams from local mongrels.

This went on for a few years before the land was sold off to a low-cost housing company. Needless to say, the housing project never took off. Apparently, a string of misfortunes and unexplainable events kept happening during the construction. For example, the foreman accidentally fell into a well-concealed bottomless pit while his mates were out for lunch.

They only managed to trace him by repeatedly calling his phone and by the time they found him, he was lying aslifeless as a dodo at the bottom of the vast pit. Weirdly, his Nokia 3310 was still intact inside its colorless plastic pouch which was hooked to his belt. They were forced to send a man down with ropes to retrieve the possibly dead foreman and what came up was a limp body with a weirdly contorted neck. His head was puffy and swollen, caked with dried blood on a few spots and his expression was that of a man in eternal shock. The foreman had landed on his head. He didn’t stand a chance.

That same week, as his bereaved colleagues reported to work on a severely rainy morning, they found a man standing in overalls at the work site. He stood as still as a doornail with his face to the wall and his slouched back turned to them. In spite of them calling out to him, all he did was just stand there as he tenderly caressed the rough wall that he was clearly, very mesmerized with.

Upon closer inspection, one of them noticed something weird. The man’s head had a shiny crown just like their dead foreman. In fact, he looked a lot like him. He even matched his height profile. And so, he approached him.

“Wafurraa… ZabronWafuraaa…” Kimani called out to his dead boss, hoping against all hopes that the man would not answer. He didn’t. So, with his hammer held high and his workmates standing beside him, he approached the hulking figure.

At first, when he tapped the man, nothing happened. He didn’t even bother to turn around. It’s like he didn’t even notice what had happened. His shoulder felt cold, without even the slightest hint of bodily warmth. He felt like a chunk of cold beef.

He finally managed to tug him strongly enough on one shoulder forcing him to sluggishly turn around and face him. To his shock, he was met with a pasty black face, swollen and puffy. It was ZablonWafula’s horrid face, that was already starting to smell like rotten flesh. From his ears and nose, a thick greyish liquid was slowly oozing out.

Without warning, he lunged his huge torso forward towards Kimani.

Kimani swung his hammer hoping it would save him but it was too tiny a blow for the shirtless big-bodied Wafula. He landed squarely on Kimani and pinned to the ground. At first, he kept licking Kimani’s face as he struggled underneath him before he started gnawing at his face. He started by biting off his lower lip from his screaming mouth then vehemently chewed it with the tenacity of a wild animal. As he chewed, he made strange growling sounds, like a dog would. By now, none of Kimani’s workmates was anywhere to be seen. They all vamoosed at the earliest sign of confrontation with the undead thing.

At some point Kimani passed out. When he woke up, he was at Nairobi Women’s Hospital at South C, in the intensive care unit. He couldn’t see through one eye and his whole face was aching from the 1000 stitches that held what was left of it, together.

It took over ten men to subdue Wafula. Because he was terribly hard to kill, they tied him to a metal post, piled huge logs of wood and tires around him before setting him on fire.

Like I told you, not many people in Kibera know this story because some of the firsthand witnesses eventually moved out, just as many died and most plainly avoided talking about it.

*

The Kenyan Parliament was clearly trying to make God (who had other plans) laugh when they amended the Election Law, allowing President Kenyatta to run a third term in the coming year. His sycophantic generals, trailed around the country for months parading him as ‘Kamwana’ in front of the masses.

A small harmless boy, they called him. That he was too young to go home and in fact, Kenyans were privileged to have him steer the nation for another five years. They would bring him out tothe stage clad in his usual college jacket and he would proceed to do idiotic things such as punch the air in youthful abandon and the Odi dance which was still popular among the young people that came to his rallies. For a while, most Kenyans were sure that this ploy would work. It was like a democracy horror story unfolding right in front of their eyes.

The protests that followed this landmark decision were vicious and unrelenting, mounting week after week. By now anyone could tell that Nairobi and with it, the nation, was coming to a standstill. Military trucks were in constant patrol around the city and most of the recreational parks had been converted to temporary military bases. It was not uncommon to find bodies floating in the drainage pits and rivers that went through the city. People who worked/lived in Grogon and Gikomba, retrieved dead bodies from the blackish-red mucky river almost daily till they got tired of it and just let them pile up instead. Same case in Kibera. All the while, the President was busy on his campaign trail and this was the kind of news that made it to the national headlines. Nothing about the people being butchered in Kibera and Mathare other than bylines of ‘violent eruptions’ among the slum dwellers.

How ‘The Headmaster’ as most people had nicknamed him came to the reins of power is still hard to grapple.

Exactly three months after parliament amended the elections act, President Kenyatta was declared dead after being taken ill with pancreatic cancer. Towards his end, he became a fearful, frail man who kept asking why the people hated him that much. In one of his last rallies, he shed tears on stage as he declared that his illness was caused by all the negative energy Kenyans were projecting onto him. Looking thoroughly confused, he then begged for forgiveness like a man who sensed that his end was nigh.

A few days to the burial and a week before Kenyatta’s deputy Willy Ruto could be sworn in, the Military and the CID stormed into his office and arrested him for a murder case they had been pursuing for years. The EACC also hopped on the bandwagon and charged him with racketeering, grand theft and looting the public coffers. Entangled in his incessant legal wars, his second-in-command, The Headmaster, assumed the reins of power.

Fred Matiang’i, was sworn in as the acting President on Nov 28th 2021, in one of the most iconic ceremonies the country had seen in a long time. It felt like catharsis after a prolonged period of reckless violence. Like as if someone had finally been sent to rescue Kenyans from the bottomless pit of political war. Some even said that Matangi’s presidency had been prophesied before. He was the leader they deserved; a true King Arthur in all his shining armor.

*

I learnt about the State of Emergency and the 2022 Kibera Curfew from Cyprian Nyakundi’s blog. By now anyone knew that if you wanted the truth, you went to the blogs. Mainstream news had come under fire after staying shush on the killings that happened in 2021. Kenyans were bitter that their political referee was compromised in their hour of need.

Like the recently dead president once cheekily alluded, mainstream media was at its deathbed. He was once quoted having declared that newspapers were only good for wrapping meat and nothing else.

The morning after Nyakundi posted about the curfew, we were woken by ground’s heavy rambling. It felt like we were going through an earthquake until we started hearing the loud horns and the mechanical bleeps. Huge thunderous helicopters flew above us almost immediately before landing right where Msanii’s old clinic used to be.

The medical staff sent by the UN had set up camp there because it was the only abandoned, free piece of land they could find. In a few minutes their huge machines cleaned up the area and in a matter of hours, huge tents branded UN in light blue were set up. This was going to be the quarantine location.

Meanwhile, a huge wall made of thick steel sheets was being set up around Kibera.

It had officially become a concentration camp. The Headmaster’s previous directive declared that no one was to leave Kibera unscreened but from the new posts on Nyakundi’s blogs, he had expectedly given a shoot-to-kill order for anyone trying to leaveKibera until everyone who had contracted the disease was dead.

We were ordered to stay in our houses as the UN staff went door to door performing tests and screening people for signs of the disease. Some called it Ebola. Some said it as a lethal form of Cholera. What they all agreed on was that it was a weaponized pathogen. Kibera had ushered the world into a bold new era of biological warfare.

The disease killed in a matter of days. Victims would seep out bodily fluids and blood from all their orifices before dying a bloody, painful death. What’s more the infected had a pungent smell, like the smell of bedbugs but with the intensity multiplied by a few times.

The military and the UN medics would initially remove the bodies and incinerate them in shallow pits before it became inefficient to do so because of the large numbers. Tens of people would turn up dead each day and the numbers were sharply growing.

Remembering that they had a huge pit right at their backyard, the mission commander ordered all bodies contained in the pit before final incineration.

Daily, I would peep through my door and see bodies of people, most naked and some that I knew, piled up on each other as they were carried by blue UN trucks for dumping in the pit.

I lived alone so I was able to conserve the little water and food I had. I rarely left the house and when I did, I always found the streets of Kibera empty and deserted. There was never a soul in sight. I wondered if I was going to ever make it out alive.

*

The first report of Zombies was made on Nyakundi’s blog after a UN medic sent him a strange video. In the video, a filthy young boy in metal restraints was heard growling as he launched an attack on the medical staff at the UN quarantine in Kibera. Eventually he became too hysterical and the staff fired a couple of tranquilizers into him. They didn’t work and only seemed to enrage the boy further. Right before the video ended, the boy took a bite of his flesh. The petrified medical staff could be heard screaming out in horror before the screen went black.

Nyakundi went on to state that a high-ranking UN staff had confirmed to him that the disease only seemed to kill its victims at first but if their bodies were disposed of without incineration, the deceased came back to life. The comments section was riddled with anonymous comments from people who were in Kibera and could confirm this to be true while others remained skeptical and kept saying prayers for the people of Kibera punctuated with the same horrid hashtag #IStandWithKibra.

Two people reported hearing a volley of gunshots at the UN compound that morning and choppers taking off. One said that she could still hear the gunshots.

*

I was headed to Karanja’s wholesale shop at around 7:00 in the evening to pick up my weeklyration of UN-sponsored food when I heard footsteps behind me. They were dragged and heavy, like someone who was tired after walking for a long time.

Then I felt the smell.

The familiar bedbug smell we had come to associate with the disease. Someone infected was approaching. I looked behind me and couldn’t see anyone. So, I started jogging. Whatever it is that was after me, would have to outrun me first.

Almost immediately the steps then grew animated and started getting louder. Whoever it was, had picked up pace. The more I ran, the more I became aware of more footsteps joining the chase. One had a soft patter, like of a child’s foot hitting the ground.

I ran until I came up to Karanja’s shop. The security lights outside were lit but there was no sign of anyone in sight. I ran to the door and kept knocking. No one answered.

Then as if from nowhere a small boy appeared under the streetlight. In his hand, he held another human hand completely detached from its body. His bloodied skin was dark and pasty, and his lips black and shiny from a reddish-black liquid (obviously, blood) that flowed down to his tiny chest. As he stared right through me with his defocused eyes, I felt a quiet panic rising through me. He was sizing me up. That’s what he was doing as his muffled growls grew louder.

I did not wait to face him. Almost Immediately, I scaled up the mabati perimeter wall around Karanja’s house and jumped inside. The boy came running right into the mabati wall in a thunderous thud.

Then he started yelling and screaming like as if he was in pain.

Three other louder screams joined in from not so far away. The boy had just requested for reinforcement. I was panicking looking for a plan around this when I noticed Karanja’s body on the veranda. Next to him lay a white woman in military fatigue. UN staff probably.

Instinctually, I approached them perhaps to see if they had anything that could be of help. Karanja lay lifeless, one arm missing. His liquid glassy eyes were starting to dry out as they stared blankly at the yellowish night sky above. His neck looked like it had been sawed through repeatedly with chunks of meat hanging out, some stuck on the floor below. There was a small pool of blood around him surrounded by tiny bloody footsteps,exactly like a baby’s.

Just when I was turning around to check on the white woman, I felt her tug at my hand. I tried to jerkaway from her but she was too fast. She pulled me in and whispered into my ear…

“Help me!”

Then I noticed the piece of glass sticking out from her tummy.

“The baby fights dirty…” she explained.

“What?”

“One of the Zombieis ababy. He stuck that in there as I fired into him…”

“I saw him outside—”

“Then we need of get out of here right now and to the closest screening center we can find. That’s our only chance of survival.”

No sooner had she said this than we heard a loud thud on the roof above us. Like something heavy had just landed on top of us.

“Karanja has a motorbike chained to his bed in the next room. Do you know how to ride one?”

“Uuuuhh—-”

“That’s a yes. Help me up and let’s get the fuck out of here!” she yelled as she pulled out her gun and fired twice at a sunken spot on the mabati roof. Immediately, resounding screams were heard from the other side as well as the sound of something huge, running.

“The fuckers can’t die from bullets but are still terribly afraid of guns…” she chuckled sarcastically as I pulled her up.

“Animal instinct, I guess?”

“Those aren’t animals. God cannot create anything that callous. They’re demonic creatures. Now, hurry, let’s break this bed!”

Read more of Lewis’s work on his website: LewisWachira.com

A Drunken Revelation

By Elias Muthama

***

Thick smoke. A siren at a distance. The beeping of car alarms. A scream from a person at a length that didn’t last long. And a putrid stench that covered the air. These are the stimuli effects that met the senses of Daudi who had just woken up. He had a splitting headache, and the hot midday sun was amplifying a thousandfold more. What was he even doing on the rooftop of this building? He wondered to himself. The usual sounds of a busy Nairobi town had changed into some strange collection of other sounds that he could not quite bring himself to figure what it was.

The taste of alcohol and a deep thirst for water made him remember the previous night. The fight at the bar. That explained the pain in his jaw and the swollen eye. Someone had sucker punched him. It had all started when he had had one too many and had turned into a conspiracy theorist.

“I am telling you these foreigners coming into our country are planning on something big,” Daudi told the patrons who seemed to care at first to his drunken ramblings.

“What do you know? You work at the hardware. You have never even been to the airport. What do you know about foreign propaganda?” asked Wafula.

“Listen to me Wafula. I may be a clerk at a hardware store, but I know things.”

“Drink your beer Daudi and go home. Stop scaring us with your cock and bull stories.”

At first, this had seemed to stop Daudi from sharing with the other patrons, but another beer told him that he did not need anyone’s permission to be a loudmouth at the bar.

“The government has made a deal with some foreign government from the East to carry out some secret scientific experiments in our country. Why do you think there are so many roads right now? It is those laboratories made at the foot of the mountain,” went on Daudi.

The bar broke into laughter as one of the men shouted, “Daudi hio bangi unavuta sio ya Kenya. Niunganishe na pedi wako!”

“I am telling you. The missing people we continue to see in newspapers. They are being experimented on in laboratories.”

“Wewe unafaa upate mamaa awe anakupikia uwachane na stori za baesa. Ndogogio inakuharibikia mtu wangu,” said Wafula.

Daudi who was now getting agitated decided to swing one to another merrymaker who was passing by his table. That’s when the fight at the bar begun. Doris the bartender who was well aware of the things that her loyal patrons did while they were drunk, understood that she had to hide Daudi or else he would part with his dear teeth or an eye. With the help of other friends of Daudi, they moved him to the top floor of the building and locked the gate behind him. This was supposed to help him sober up a little as well as protect him from the wrath of the angry people who were not amused with him punching some stranger at the bar.

***

The lead research officer at FF-5 in a frantic ran towards the exit secret elevator. The specimen of their cultured virus had been mishandled by one of the lab assistants and it had contaminated the air at the facility. The experiments at FF-5 were a top-secret project being carried out in Kenya as the United Nations laws prohibited such kind of tests on human beings. The corrupt state of the country had entered into a trade agreement with a country in the East and part of the deal was scientific research which the government did not follow through on the nature of its particulars. The state in the East wanted to make bio-weaponry, and the subjects of its operations were some missing Kenyan nationals. The number had managed to increase, and the investigations department of the police was always ending up with dead ends. People were missing off the grid with no explanations. Every day on the news there were people crying and pleading with the public to give information on the whereabouts of their loved ones. Daudi who had pursued Computer Science at a college in Europe was good with computers. When he got back in the country full of expectations of landing a great job he had been met with the sorry state of lacking a vacancy in corporations that were led by corrupt CEOs and officials. However, he belonged in secret hacker groups in the deep web that shared and traded classified information about governments around the world. He had happened to get a hint of information that there was something that was happening in Kenya.

“The president is urging Kenyans to keep calm during this period as they do further investigations,” said the news presenter on the emergency broadcast on the television at the bar.

“We! Ati amesema watu wanaumana?” asked a patron at one end of the bar.

“Sindio man. Hio ni uchawi msee,” replied another.

There had been a breach at the facility, and the specimen had escaped the FF-5 before the self-terminating system had blown the underground labs into ashes.

The first town to be attacked was Nanyuki. People reported of incidences of people who seemed sick who were biting and feeding on other people. Panic grew in the country. The president of the country was not aware of what was happening in his backyard as was evident in his emergency speech on all media outlets.

A helicopter that was flying out of Nanyuki with some foreigners had crashed into KICC, and that was how the strange disease of people biting each other had reached into Nairobi. Within four hours the entire country was in flames and smoke. People screamed and stepped on each other while fleeing for safety from this epidemic that was eating everyone up.

Daudi who had passed out from too much alcohol and a punch to his face slept on the rooftop of the building oblivious of the prophecy of a drunken mad man.

Read more of Elias’s work at Millenial Symphony.

Sexy Sunday

By Louis Wachira

Sunday didn’t know she was pregnant until the third month had passed and her periods were still nowhere to be seen. She was unfortunate to have irregular menses which meant that her periods had a mind of their own. Sometimes they showed up on time, sometimes they didn’t show up until two months had passed. Three months was much longer than usual but still…

Or maybe she knew. She just didn’t want to admit it yet.

Come to think of it, she actually knew that she was pregnant. She knew it because, well, she just knew. Lately, when she thought of her vagina she kept imagining this tumble-weed-ridden, sun-scorched, sandy desert town baking in its own humidity.

She wondered what this meant. Was it her minds way of coming to terms with the death of the young care-free girl in her?

 

*

She knew her answer five months later.

She gave birth to a bouncing baby girl on a Tuesday while she was on her way to work. The way she remembered it, was as one of those weird days that the stars truly align and everything happens to be right where you need it.

As she left for work that morning, Abbas walked in looking tired from his graveyard shift. She wanted to fry him eggs but he declined. He said he was not feeling hungry anyway as he had a lot on his mind. Instead, he offered to escort her to the bus terminal to keep her company while she walked. When she got there, there was already a huge line of people waiting for the next matatu to arrive.

Lucky for her, Abbas worked as a bus conductor on the same route so through his connections he could always guarantee that a seat was reserved for her. Not long after she was comfortably seated at the front,next to the driver’s seat and the matatu was already speeding, she noticed Abbas had not alighted. He stood by the door with his head peeking outside as gusts of wind blew in his face. He seemed distant. Like as if he had a lot in his mind.

Nothing prepared her for the state of chaos that ensued after her water broke not too long after.

She was screaming her lungs out in a delivery ward at Mama Lucy hospital seven minutes later after being brought in by a loud flashy matatu patched with graffiti all over. Since they hadn’t agreed on a name at the time, they decided to call her Calypso, a name that Abbas suggested once when they were high.

 

*

 

A lot changed for Sunday after that point. For one, she got so much busier that things seemed to be going by in a blur. Around the same time, she quit Facebook and they relocated to Huruma after Abbas started working for a different matatu route. Their modest house was a five-minute walk from the main road in one of those old Nairobi City Council flats.

Huruma was not a bad place to raise Calypso. The house was cheaper and life was more affordable than most other neighborhoods they had surveyed; they also knew a few people there. They planned on living there until Calypso was five.

 

*

 

This did not happen.

When Calypso was three, she suddenly went missing one afternoon. She went out to play with other children and never came back like she normally did. At first, they thought she had visited one of their many relatives in Huruma (she had an uncanny ability to memorize places). But as they knocked door after door, the more they realized that this was not as slight a matter as they thought.

Abbas paced around the block continuously for three days before he finally admitted that his daughter wasn’t just hiding someplace or lost. Someone had taken her away from him. She had been kidnapped. Even though they had filed the incident at the Police station as the case of a missing person, every new clue they got after, indicated that it was a kidnapping. Two men. Driving a white Toyota Wish. They spoke to Calypso like long acquaintances. None of the witnesses saw Calypso get in the car, but they all couldn’t remember seeing her after.

The weird part was, no one was calling to claim ransom in exchange of their daughter. What were they doing with her?

 

*

 

She had heard about DrMalemba but had never seen or met the man. It was desperate measures that finally drove her to him. A proud caustic man, he only spoke to Women while their husbands waited outside. He identified himself a Mathematician but most people knew him for his other trade; witchcraft and divination.

People said he was wealthy. Which could be true. On his hands were various golden rings and ornaments. In fact, his hands looked more like Lil Wayne’s than the Kalumanzila figure she had set in her mind. The walls of his dimly lit house were emblazoned with posters of reggae icons. There was Bobby, Steel Pulse, Gregory Isaacs and a few others that she could recognize. Abbas was a huge reggae fan so she knew a few of them through him. On his radio, a familiar reggae song was playing. Sexy Sandy by Jackie Edwards.

DrMalemba came highly recommended by Abbas’s auntie.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked.

“Not really. My auntie, Mama Kathanga sent me to you.”

“I know… I know… but do you understand what I do?”

“People say you’re a witch doctor…” she said and paused. He remained quiet. So she continued. “My daughter disappeared three days ago, I have tried looking everywhere but I can’t find her. That’s why I came to see you. Can you help me?”

“First, I am not a witchdoctor or any of those things they say. I am a mathematician.”

“Okaaayy…” she agreed, not quite sure where he was headed with this.

“Everything you see around you is numbers. Possibilities. Probabilities. I am not a witch; I am simply a man who understands numbers.” he said. He reached out under the table and pulled out an A4-sided photo framewith thin strips of wood painted gold. He then handed the photo to her. “That is me, teaching Applied mathematics at the University of Nairobi back in 1986.” A tall wiry man, he had huge spectacles around his eyes and a bushy beard, typical of the era. He was standing in front of a lecture room, all eyes on him.

“So, can you help me?” she asked when she realized this conversation was not moving in the direction she wanted.

“Yes… but there will be consequences. Mathematics is very exact; unforgiving even. If you avoid one probability, you get the most likely alternative…”

“I don’t care. I just want to see my daughter!” she spoke sharply, balancing between her tears and anger.

 

*

 

She paid him nine hundred shillings at the end of their discussion. She handed him a one-thousand-shilling note and got a hundred shillings back. As he gave back the crumpled 100 shilling note, he sighed, then explicitly asked her to spend the money on herself.

“You look so tired and skinny. Spend this money on yourself. Buy a nice red dress or visit somewhere nice. You forget who used to be; Sexy Sunday.”

She didn’t really care for his advice. All she needed was to find her daughter. As she left his house, she was battling an unshakable feeling of disappointment. She had just parted with 900 shillings with nothing to show for it. No amulet or holy water. Not even Kanyari’s ‘anointed oil’ which cost 590 shillings less.

The more she thought about it, the more it angered her. It angered her to the point that she didn’t want to keep the 100 shilling note anymore. She thought about throwing it away but changed her mind at the very last minute. As she returned the money in her pocket, she saw a second-hand clothing vendor about 50 metres from Malemba’s house.

“Bei in yaJioni, Mali niKamera… Karibia Sister” he shouted in a sing-song manner, looking directly at her. She tried to avoid his eyes but it was too late. He had already picked a red dress and was approaching her with it, determined that she buy it.

It was a beautiful sundress. Just her type. A bit short, but a good fit for her torso. What she liked about it most was that it did a wondrous job of covering her belly.

“Ii ningapi?” she asked, with the dress on, over her clothes.

“Mia tu.”

She gave him the 100 shilling note and left.

 

*

 

On Sunday of that week, she wore her new red dress and went to church. It had been more than a year since she last stepped foot in church but on this day she felt compelled to. A friend had invited her to the neighborhood church to make an announcement about the disappearance of Calypso. She was convinced that since the church had the largest number of congregants around Huruma, someone somewhere might have heard about her daughter.

When the time came to make the announcement and she took the stage, she could only muster a few sentences before she broke down in front of the church and couldn’t continue anymore. To these people, she was just another story of a mother who had lost her child. They might empathize with her but none could feel her pain. She wondered whether her kidnappers might be seated in the very same church, drying their crocodile tears.

 

*

 

After the church service was over, people would normally meet on the small manicured lawn outside and discuss the sermon, current affairs or whatever it is that people talk about after church.

This day was no exception. However, something weird was happening. Everywhere she went, she kept getting compliments about her red dress and in particular, herself. Someone even called her sexy as she walked out of the church. Perv.

She had not gotten this much attention since she was a teenager, right out of high school when she used to wear tight skirts to show her milky legs and round soft buttocks. Back when her hips would undulate as she walked. That’s why all this unwarranted attention felt weird.

Outside the church, she tried her best to sustain small talk from a group of young mothers who kept on asking her to narrate the ordeal over and over.They kept telling her to be strong yet all she wanted was to find her daughter. At first, she hated it, then she kept hearing herself retell the story over and over till it became an echo. She was speaking but her mind was elsewhere. She was looking at Gacheru, a neighbour and good friend of Abbas, who stood a stone-throw away. He looked nervous. He was pacing in fact. Then scratching his head. Pacing. Putting his hands into his pocket. Pacing again.

He did not look okay.

Finding an opportune moment to excuse herself, Sunday bid the ladies farewell and left hurriedly in Gacheru’s direction. He appeared shell-shocked when their eyes first met. Like he wasn’t expecting to see her. Then, he froze in his tracks and stood tense, staring at her. She finally got close enough to make out his facial expression. He looked scared.

Suddenly, he fell on his knees and started wailing like a small child, scared of his mother. He was wailing in Kikuyu “MaminiSooorry… PriiiisssPriiiiss!”

The closer she got to him, the more riled up he got. He was scaring her.

This attracted a scene. The women she had left behind her, started running towards where Gacheru was. He was now on all fours at Sundays’ feet. That’s when things got really bonkers. Without warning, Gacheru took a huge bite from a chunk of grass right where Sunday stood. His bite was so deep that he stuffed a mound of earth into his mouth. Then he started chewing.

He chewed like a rabbit, swift yet nervous, then after a number of chews swallowed the grass, soil, dirt and all.

At this point, the chairlady to the women’s guild couldn’t handle she shenanigans playing out in front of her.Suddenly, shelet out a scream. Then called her mother in Luhya. Then she called out for Jesus and collapsed.

*

 

Turns out, Abbas and Gacheru were business partners. Together, they had each raised about thirty thousand shillings each with the eventual goal of buying a motorbike. Gacheru would operate it and Abbas would be entitled to a share of the profits. Abbas was tasked with of buying the bike from his cousin who was selling it.

However, he got conned. He lost the money and had no bike. Gacheru asked for his money back. Abbas didn’t have any and in fact, started dodging his calls. So he asked his uncle to take care of the situation. His uncle’s brilliant idea was to kidnap Calypso and then ask for ransom. Then dump off the baby. (Or the body. His uncle was a man of questionable moral character.)

It would’ve worked hadn’t Gacheru been such a spineless coward, something that everyone in Huruma knew. Calypso was found later that day, scared and a bit starved but luckily, alive.

 

*

 

The red dress disappeared from their hanging line two days later.

Lewis Wachira blogs at www.lewiswachira.com.

Fairy Tale For Your Money

By Grace Nyaguthii

There was a theory among the notes in Kenya, no note knew how it had started, no note knew if it was true, and no note had ever confirmed it for sure. But note FK3584670, or Tim as he preferred to be called, was on a mission to prove it. Word on the street was that any note that made it back to the Mint, would forever be immortalized in a secret hall somewhere underground. Tim hoped to live long enough and grow old enough to find out if it was true.

His mission was not going as planned. He had been in Monica’s purse for 12 hours now. She probably forgot all about him and would only re-discover him when her green purse was back in rotation. He had been with her long enough to know that it would be a while before this was the case. Monica had about 200 purses. She wasn’t rich, on the contrary. She just had a problem. If Tim could talk, he would have suggested therapy.

Two more hours passed. Tim was growing tired of counting. He sighed, the millionth sigh since he got into this purse. He would be here forever. He was giving up. Before all his hope was lost, the purse was grabbed. He was jolted fully awake, awaiting his new fate. It appeared Monica was broke and had been rampaging through her purses looking for money. She found Tim and her eyes lit up. She quickly stuffed the note in the pocket and ran to the shop located on the ground floor of her apartment building. She bought bread and two eggs, getting back a 20 bob coin for change. The note, Tim, was finally in the possession of a Shopkeeper. It was now 8 pm.

The shopkeeper spoke loudly to the men standing outside his shop smoking menthol flavored cigarettes. Smokers were amusing, especially when they chose to flavor their poison as if it would kill them any less if they did so. However, Tim wasn’t one to judge. He sat patiently waiting for his next owner. A young boy came in with a 500 bob, asking to buy some goods. He got his goods and was owed 300 shillings in changed. The shopkeeper was happy to oblige, all the while still speaking loudly about women and younger men. He was passionate about the subject. Tim gathered his wife or someone he had loved had left him for someone younger. Now that Tim was out of the shopkeepers money-box, he could see that the man had browned teeth. His hands were rough, this made Tim happy.

He was quickly passed to the boy who crumpled him and shoved him in his right pocket before running off. He met a few friends, fellow boys, on his way and stopped to talk about what they were having for supper. The boy was excited. He was going to be having chapatti while his friend, Mike would be having Githeri. The rest of the boys would be having Ugali. It was the boy’s turn to brag. Amidst the laughter, he remembered the time and that his mother would be waiting, picked up a rock, threw it back to the ground, said goodbye to his friends and ran home.

The boy’s mother was waiting at the door for him. He was dragged in with a pinch of the ears and yelled at for taking too long at the shops at such an hour. Apologies were made quickly and as soon as his ear was free, he ran to the kitchen demanding a chapati as payment for his journey. One was served to him on a plate by the nanny who then quickly kicked him out of the kitchen, her territory.

“Leta change Boyi.” His mother yelled from her bedroom. He took out the crumpled notes with his left hand seeing as his right was busy and took them to his mother. She smoothed them before putting them in her wallet.

This day had been slow for Tim. He had not been used nearly enough to make a big enough dent. However, he was one day closer to the Mint and his dream retirement. He sat quietly in the wallet with the rest of the notes and hoped that tomorrow would be busier.

Read more of Grace Nyaguthii’s work at https://nyaguthiiiii.wordpress.com/.