Tajiriman

By Elias Muthama

 

Not all superheroes wear capes. And Tajiri was one of those, you know the ones who probably have no idea who Clark Kent is. But Tajiri wore an old cowboy hat. Two things that were not apparent about this young man were the hat and the name Tajiri. His neighbours in Plot 13 had no idea what his real name was or why people called him by that moniker. The poor bastard just had a bed in his single room apartment. That notorious squeaky bed that thirsted for proper oiling and perhaps better bolts and nuts. That was apparent to the neighbours. The late night escapades had given him away.

“Mama, what’s that noise?”

“You ask a lot of questions Pendo. Have you done your homework?”

“The teacher did not give us any homework today.”

“Then finish your food and go to bed before I open a can of whoopass on you.”

Pendo’s mother clearly knew our superhero was not busy saving Gotham from the diabolical plans of villains such as the Joker. Tajiri was busy destroying the bed in his Bat Cave and probably the insides of some random woman. Pendo would probably not understand these things even if she had explained it to her. She was just an eight year old girl swimming in the ocean of sweet ignorance. Plot 13 had thin walls and this was the least of the worrying shenanigans they were yet to experience.

Just a fortnight ago, MrTumbo had stirred the pot of drama at the plot. He was a retired Headmaster of a girl’s secondary school. He had spent his years lusting on women and every night at the bar. His wife who had stuck with him through the years of his tomfoolery and bad decisions always mocked him on how he was a collosal failure for having spent their retirement benefits on alcohol and hookers.

“Look at you! What kind of a man are you? Your peers own plots and hardware shops and all you do is sit in the house all day and expect me to do everything. I should leave you, you good for nothing pig.”

“Don’t talk to me that way woman. I am still the man of this house!”

“You are a fat pig! You wasted all of our money on school girls and you won’t stop drinking cheap alcohol!”

“I still have money. Be nice to me or I will get myself a schoolgirl and spend my money with her.”

The school board had passed a message earlier to MrTumbo telling him they would be awarding him with a golden handshake cheque for his many years of service to the privately owned secondary school. He had not left his old ways and had decided to withhold that information from his dear wife.

 

“Wanja, a round for everyone on me.”

The patrons clapped and screamed at the generosity that MrTumbo was displaying at the Usiku Sana bar. They had no idea where had gotten the money but they did not care as long as the watering hole was not running dry that night.

MrTumbo had his pockets full and he was feeling like Midas, everything he was touching was to turn into gold that night. He smacked Wanja’s buttocks.

“You have no respect old man”

“Don’t call me old man, I am King Midas and whatever I touch turns into gold. You should count yourself very lucky.”

Wanja who was very infuriated at the arrogance and disrespect of the intoxicated misogynistic former Headmaster just shrugged and walked away to serve other tables. She knew better than to start a confrontation with this man who had the upperhand because he was spending the most in the bar and the other patrons in there were literally worshipping him.

“Where did you get this cow?”

“You are supposed to thank me woman, not ask a lot of questions.”

“And what are we supposed to do with a cow. We live in a rental house and there is no grass or even a place to keep it.”

“You always see the problem in everything. You have been complaining that I am a good for nothing man but now that I have bought you a cow you are still being an ungrateful bitter woman.”

Apparently, after King Midas had had too much to drink at the bar an opportunistic patron had managed to con him into buying an old sickly cow. That’s what he had taken back home to his woman.

 

“Tajiri, please help me with my homework. I don’t understand these mathematical questions.”

“I would love to help you right now Pendo but I can’t. I have to go somewhere.”

Mr Super-Rich-Guy had other plans. Plans to get into panties of some lass she had spotted a week ago. He was not going to let a little girl ruin his grand plans with some stupid homework. School was a useless thing to him and he had spent his time regretting all the money his parents had wasted on him in school.

“MrTumbo! MrTumbo!”

“Who is it?”

“Don’t ask me ‘Who is it’”

“Tajiri, is that you? What do you want?”

“Your stupid cow has chewed my shirt. You have to pay me.”

Tajiri had gone earlier to the clothing line only to find MrTumbo’s cow with the shirt he was supposed to wear for his skirt hunting escapade. But not even that would stop him. He was relentless and not even the fires of hades would stop him from releasing the frustration locked up in his loins. He had to pick another shirt but not it was not his first choice. Or at least the one that would have won him some points with the ladies.

On his way to see Rukia, Tajiri passed by a farm with a variety of flowers. Word had been she was not an easy to please lass. You either had to have a shitload of money or some sort of superpower for her to even look at you twice. Tajiri well knew ironically he was no rich man despite his moniker meaning a rich person in Swahili. So he knew a bunch of flowers would have done the trick. He quickly snuck in the garden of flowers and started with the red roses. Tajiri did not know this was also where the owner of that farm had his beehives. The sneaky little bastards with wings had done a number on the face of the intruder who had no courtesy to even knock and exchange a few pleasantries with them. Tajiri fled with a swollen face and screaming to his ancestors to rescue him from the wrath of the bees who were not going easy on him.

After that day the legend of Tajiri the poor boy had spread like an urban legend. He was a villain in your usual story but to those who had heard about him he was Superhero of sorts. His superpower was being a bad example. And the parents especially loved him because he was the perfect metaphor to tell to their mischievous children to get them in line. He was the story told to kids to warn them about what happens when you don’t abstain from sex. You get a hideous face. Deadpool hideous.

 

 

Avem

By Tim Maina

Krik! Krik! Krik!

Avem and a dozen other mothers called out to their chicks. Her two chicks have been missing for four nights now. Their chicks have not been found just yet.

By maternal guild, they hovered in the air; with nowhere to perch, occasionally looking down for that familiar plume and life. Only a gang of scavenging Sciurus lumbered around on the ground, mocking their call-outs with squeaks so horrible they hurt their ears. This called for punishment.

KRIK! No answer. KRIK! Nothing was said.

It was one of the saddest days of their lives. Trees get cut down in Mearowi daily, making food scarce for all. Trees have been disappearing for a longtime now, turning the land bare but not their brood. KRIK! Vir has been setting forests and grasslands on fire, pushing away other realities and life forms. But who cuts down the sacred Baobab that houses Avem’s clan? KRIK! The last of its kind on Mearowi. Who is this prick? KRIK! They cried out to Mearowi gods, made peace to the setting sun and the attendant moon throughout the night. KRIK!

Avem was upset, partly, on her own account that she lost her chicks; and upset on their account that they had a mother who could not protect them from getting crushed under the weight of the falling mighty Baobab, and from the lumberjacks.

She was also sad that her whole clan was sad, truthfully they still are.

She cannot sing again atop her house. The gigantic Baobab that straddled half the Mearowi land has been felled by Vir, crazy homines! Her favourite boughs where she plucks her feathers and sentimentally entangles with her new suitors during the high moon seasons have been made boat oars and doorknobs. The trunk where she hides her beaky brood now floats Vir on the waters of Mearowi. The lesser boughs and leaves that house many a wingy, crawly and slithery visitor from distant lands had all been stolen.

Only the oozing gummy stumps and roots strong and buried remind them of their once safe haven.

Avem conducted her clan through a dirge for the generation of fallen trees and family. Their rage burning to their stomachs, a taunting member of Sciurius gang was taloned and devoured; they soused their grieving beaks into tree stump tears and flew away.

*

Besides staring into the sea abyss, what else did Roughskin the randy pufferfish say to Toadie when he realised violent oncoming sea undercurrents?

He cried.

He cried out because the currents would flatten their sand nest on the ocean floor.

And Toadie?

Unsurprisingly, she too cried at the thought of rebuilding a new nest and at the sight of both of them crying.

Avem, do fish ever cry?

How the shoal should I know?

*

Far and below, Avem and her fellow riders spotted a flotilla of merchant vessels carrying away timber from Mearowi – dancing in the violent waves. The sea and Mearowi gods had heard them and were stirring up the sea.

High sea waters slapped at rocks, licked and crumbled foundations of houses on Mearowi Island. Flooded and drove homines off the streets. Cete, Balaena and other big sea mammals leapt into the air and back into water rocking the boats. Avir and his team squalled, reefing their sails. To save life and limb, they tossed away some of their possessions into the ocean.

The revenge was on.

KRIK! The band rained volleys of fire at the escaping boats. Dragon fire! The fire consumed half the boats, sinking, as the stormy sea swallowed them. The angry birds in their hundreds rioted and attacked the merchants.

They relished in gorging out their eyes and incinerating the boat parts. When a dragon gets a whiff of your blood, be very worried. Seventeen sailors were left blind, bleeding and half burnt. So they stumbled and fell off the deck into the deep of the ocean. Would you deny a dying man a drink of water?

Krik! Krik! Krik! Till the sea cleared.

The squadron knew it did not have much time left; it had given off too much. Wearied to the bone in a disappearing melancholy, it rose high up in the sky paying homage to Solis krik, krik, krik until the kriking killed it. Each dragon bird burst into a ball of fire and rained down flaming into the sea; burnt to cinders.

Avem when you find our chicks, tell them we perished in good cause.

When the land regenerates; does everything always have to come back to krik, krik, krik?

My Father’s Watch

By Lewis Wachira
I have very few memories of my father and they’re not particularly interesting or worth dwelling on. He was a tall thin man with a thick moustache and long curly hair, who almost always smelled of cigarette smoke with a hint of menthol. A chain smoker for as long as I’d known him, he and my mother would often get into heated quarrels about him smoking in my presence. He would, on purpose, get my mother worked up after which they would argue and break things and if the argument got too heated, he would send me outside with his car keys to go wash his white Peugeot 504 – and some money to find something to do with the time.
I liked that he was a generous tipper. To him, money was never a problem. “There’s always more where that came from. Just remember, nothing goes for nothing.” he would often say as he slipped a coin or sometimes a fifty shilling note into my shirt pocket.
My mother told me he was a scientist working with the government and for this reason, we never got to see him much. I can even count the times we got to see him with one hand. On the day last day I saw him, he was particularly pensive and drawn to himself. He kept taking long swigs of whiskey out of a test tube that he had brought home from work. Our house was full of such; work objects that he had carried with him from the office. At first, I didn’t notice the tears strolling down his eyes until he sniffed.
“Dad, are you crying?” I asked him, now worried.
“Yes.”
When he noticed that I was looking at him, he dried his eyes up before he picked himself up and went outside for some fresh air. As he left, he stopped where I sat at the door and squatted looking at me.
“I shouldn’t have let her keep you. What kind of place is this that I brought you to? …Tell me you’ll accept the calling when you get it…” He begged, smiling but with new tears flowing again. His breath smelled of alcohol, something my mother hated about him and for this reason I was a bit uncomfortable as he tried to make physical contact. He mumbled a bit, kissed my forehead, put some money in my shirt pocket then left to get some fresh air.
*
That was the last I saw of him until last week.
It was funny how we met. I was seated on a wooden bench outside Kama’s shop, smoking a cigarette when a man joined me. Local neighbourhood boys normally meet there to discuss hot issues currently trending in the country but on this day, no one was in sight.
“You really should put that out,” he said. The entire time, I hadn’t paid much attention to him but his voice did sound familiar.
“What I choose to do with myself is my choice old man. But I’m leaving anyway…” I said rising up to leave. As I did, he reached out and grabbed my hand, Calling me by name
“Kim… we need to talk.” He said looking deep into my eyes.
Everything else about him had changed but for his eyes. For example, he had a full beard now. He was also much fatter with thin ageing lines formed around his eyes. I didn’t have time to say yes or no. He just grabbed me and pulled me aside.
“Take this. If anything weird happens while you have it on, start running. Don’t tell anyone you saw me. Say hi to your mother.” he said as he strapped his heavy metallic Casio watch around my wrist. A pat on the shoulder and he was gone.
*
Today something weird happened.
I had gone to buy detergent at the new supermarket next to Omolo’s Butchery when a young lady crossing the road got knocked down by a motorbike. It happened rather fast. She was talking on her phone when the bike appeared almost out of nowhere and knocked her to the ground.
As soon as she hit the ground, I found myself rushing towards her my face framed in shock.  The accident scene smelled of dust and burning rubber as the bodaboda guy had swerved, trying not to hit her. He also lay on the ground writhing in pain and bemoaning a broken leg. The girl, on the other hand, was rather quiet. too quiet, like she had sustained a fatal injury.
“Are you okay?” I asked trying to straighten her torso to lie in a more comfortable position.
She didn’t respond. Instead, the entire time, she was looking at me, her eyes fixated on my face and watch. Guided by the little first aid knowledge I had, I decided to check whether she had any broken bones or injuries but she didn’t appear to be in any pain.
“Are you in pain?” I finally asked when I realised I was getting no feedback from her. She wasn’t crying or screaming in pain like the bodaboda buy. She just stared at me with a deep fascination like there was something unusual about me. Feeling unsure of how to handle the situation, I rose up to check on him.
“What is the… time?” she asked from behind me, in a thin whisper.  It was a weird question coming from someone who had just escaped death by the whiskers. If this is what will make her better, then so be it. I told myself as I pulled out my smartphone and read the time.
“11:21” I said now turned to face her. She ignored me and instead pointed at my watch.
“It doesn’t work that well,” I said, stretching out my hand and moving closer to her so she could see.
“Read the time.” She whispered with some steeliness ingrained in her tone.
“Why?”
“Just read the time, please,”  she finally uttered, and as she did, she coughed out a bright red spurt of blood which landed on my pink t-shirt. Except for a few scars, for the most part, she was unscathed so I hadn’t assumed her life was in mortal threat.
“It’s wrong. It says 11:11” I said, kneeling down towards her.
*
It’s 11:12 now.
I’m outside my flat doing laundry and the detergent has just run out. Maybe I should head over to that new supermarket next to Omolo’s Butchery to buy some. I should also get a nail cutter while at it, I think to myself. I’m about to leave when my neighbour, Daisy stops me at the stairs. “Is that blood on your shirt?” she asks coming closer to inspect.
“Why are you so nosy?” I ask speeding past her. I learnt early to avoid Daisy’s questions like the plague if I didn’t want to be the topic of gossip in the neighbourhood.
“Are you really going to leave looking like that? On my way in, I met two well-dressed guys at the entrance looking for you. One of them was white. Since I was not sure whether they were cops, I thought I’d tell you first.”
That’s when it all hits me.

The Nightmares of Tera

By Grace Nyaguthii

The gunshot sounds had now died down. Tera sat by the lifeless body of her sister, Makena, shock still keeping her from crying. It had all gone by so fast. People had started to protest, the police had arrived, and Makena had died. It was so simple. She was not sure what was happening or why. She just sat there, holding her sister’s hand. Mama Babu’s mabati door creaked open. She peeked outside, gauging the situation. “Wameenda?” She asked, caution laced in her voice. No answer came from Tera whose back was all mama Babu could see. “Tera kwani nini mbaya?”Still no answer. “Haiya!” she exclaimed now opening the door further to fit her large body. She walked out and went to tap on Tera’s shoulder but was stopped by the scene. She shrieked loudly, even before her mind got the chance to react. Every door now creaked open, some faster than others. Soon, people were all around Tera, comforting her, crying, screaming, cursing, hating. Her mother arrived moments later and she screamed louder than the sirens that had brought death to the slum they called home. Everything after that was a blur to Tera. The body was taken to a mortuary, people came for maombolezi, the funeral was held and life moved on. Weeks turned to months and tears dried. All the while, Tera said nothing, having retreated to her mind. Life moved on. Tera did not.

Mzee Ndiidi,was a known wizard. Tera needed a man of his status. A mganga who knew his craft. She had made the decision to seek his help two months after her sister had died. She had saved for two more and was now ready. She went to his house, expecting to find chicken legs hanging from the roof. There weren’t any. Tera did not care, she was prepared to risk losing her savings to Ndiidi if it meant hope that she could avenge her sister. She narrated her story, speaking now for the first time since her sister had died. He asked for two thousand shillings. She smiled, she had saved three, the extra she would use to shop for her mother. He chanted and danced and burned some wood all the while circling her. When it was over, Tera stood and waited for a spontaneous miracle that did not come. “Utangoja siku kathaa kabla uone mabadiliko. Lakini maadui utawaweza usijali.” She smiled, bowed and walked out. When she got home, she took a nap and dreamt for the first time. It was a nightmare. The nightmares became a regular for her every time she slept, but she preferred them to having to see her sister’s lifeless face.

Eight days later, Tera, was asleep on her bed. She was having another one of her nightmares that day. They had become a regular for her and she could now sleep through them. However, one particular dream nightmare had become recurrent. The nightmare of the crawling goo working its way up her leg, all the way to her face,and then suffocating her to near death. It had been recurrent ever since her visit to Mzee Ndiidi.She woke up startled and decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood. It was not safe. She knew this, but could not help that she needed the air. Besides, life had lost all meaning after the death of her sister. She opted for the red slippers, snuck out, taking care not to wake her mother, and took to the hill where she could often see the rich folks’ houses. Tera had walked for less than ten minutes before she was stopped on her tracks by two police men. She recognized one of them from the riots that had ended in the death of her sister. Hate began to simmer within her. The cops spoke smugly, questioning her and making sexual innuendos. He flames were fanned and her hatred now at the brim, was beginning to show on her face. “Unajua mimi sipendi wasichana hawajui ku-smile.” Cop number one said, addressing his colleague but looking at Tera. “Ata mimi Brayo, huyu dame ni kama hajui kukua thankful na sisi ndio tunalinda nchi” Cop number two chimed. Tera scoffed at that statement, unintentionally.

The first cop, offended by Tera’s scoff, reached to his baton and swung it at her. She bent over. He missed. The second cop came to his rescue with his baton and missed as well. “Sasa utaona aki!” swore the first cop, gritting at his teeth. Tera was scared, but her anger would not let her fear show. She whipped her braids back, exposing her eyes so she could see better. A baton flew to her face; she was not sure whose it was. She waited for the pain. It never came. She opened her eyes slowly, first the right then the left. The cops were clearly astonished and hesitated to swing a second blow. Tera’s hand, as if moving with their own instinct, reached out to the cops, each grabbing at the collar of one officer. She lifted them up, easily, surprising herself more than she did the cops. She then threw them to the ground. Black goo splashed out of her hands and onto the two officers, covering their faces. Within minutes, they had suffocated to death. Tera was not sure what had happened. It felt as if her body was moving on its own. She stood still, shocked, but only for a few seconds. The realization then hit her. She had gotten the power she had prayed for. She ran home, all the way plotting the events that would soon follow. The nation’s nightmare had just begun.