BETWEEN THE RED SEA & THE GULF OF ADEN By K.G. Nderitu
At 24,000 feet, the great expanse of water he had always known as a child looked little more than a toddlers’ wading pool, or a puddle in a brown field that just happened to be exceptionally blue. Regardless, something was terribly wrong. He turned to look up… or was it down? Orientation was still making its slow, gradual return to his head, or at least what he assumed to be his head, for if he knew where
He came to the conclusion that he was at a very high altitude because from where he was, he could see Africa coming into being on the horizon and Asia fading into existence behind a dark light; he also knew he was at a high altitude because he was cold. Not the sort of cold that you turn your collar up at and wrap your scarf around your neck, no. This was a balls on, block-of-ice-that-sank-the-Titanic sort of cold, and he was completely naked!
Who am I?
How did I get here?
Where should I go now?
These are the thoughts that are running havoc in his mind, playing over and over in a slow, evening tide on the coast of Mauritius kinda way; lulling all his other thoughts to sleep and dulling his senses until he can no longer even feel the cold. He is now purely consumed by these three thoughts, and bearing that in mind, his orientation corrects itself and he rises and looks up about him.
All is white.
No; correction. Most is white. For below him still lies the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the expanse of water that divides the southernmost tip of the Arab nations with the highest north-eastern peak of the African continent.
If he is to look up, above all this whiteness that is surrounding him, he will see shades of blue holding the whiteness together; and were he to look slightly above that, he would see the source of this all-illuminating white that is surrounding him. But that would hurt too much, so he settles for looking at the middle ground, which is all this whiteness, and to glimpse from time to time below him at the two lands, but never to look up.
The first steps across this whiteness are moments of dread. He has a vague idea what this whiteness could be, but to accept that reality would also mean accepting that what he was doing could not possibly be done, and if what he is doing can not possibly be done, how could he be doing it?
For there he was, walking on clouds at 24,000 feet but not falling down. Yet, just like in the cartoons where as soon as they realized that what they are walking on is no longer land, they plummet to the ground. So no, he is not walking on clouds. His reality is a simple one; he is a man. He is a man high above it all and he is going for a walk into the whiteness that surrounds him. There was to be no science in his reality. At least not for the moment.
With these thoughts assailed, and with every step he takes and keeps his life giving him more confidence, he turns his mind to the real issues, the first of the big three questions.
Who am I?
A list of possible candidates jump up to attention as soon as he voices this question out loud, within the confines of his own brain.
The first one is that he is some sort of god. To test this theory out he tries to create a world, giving himself a time frame of only seven days, for if he can create a world in seven days or less than that would put him on even par with some very big names indeed, and who knows, maybe they can even all go and see a movie together. But, try as he may he cannot create a world. He quite simply just has not got the tools for world-making; you need stuff like mountains and Adams and Eves and burning bushes to make worlds! All he has are his hands and feet. His two eyes and two ears. His head. His heart.
So, a god he is not. Next he thinks, maybe I am an angel, surely that must be it! That explains everything. It explains how I got here and how I can stay here without falling. So he reaches behind him to feel for his wings, his long feathered sheets of silver that were allowing him to stand at such dizzying heights but alas, there was nothing there but human flesh and bones.
At this point he grows frustrated and annoyed at religion and decides that henceforth, theology would no longer play a part in who he was, in just the same way that science would not.
He glimpses down below him and sees other men. Men firing bullets over invisible lines. Those lines used to be visible when he was down there with them, but from this great distance the only thing that divided Africa and Asia is so small that he could erase all traces of it by placing his forefinger in front of his eye at the point where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden. But in truth, the men firing the bullets are not firing across the sea at each other. Oh no, they both had their backs to the sea and were firing inland at themselves.
He contemplates this scene for a while, letting the whiteness envelop him and form a part of his very being. He stays in this state for a while; it is pure and silent, and it allows him to think clearly. Since he is so high up, he cannot hear the sounds of the bullets, so they do not break his meditation. Yet somehow he can still see them, which is also good because it gives his meditation focus. And then finally he knows.
Who am I?
I am the dream of what Africa and Asia could be but cannot become, because the dream is too high and the reality too low and science and religion have tried to bridge the gap between the two realities and failed.
How did I get here?
I have always been here but could never be seen for fear of being blinded by the greatness that surrounds me. The greatness of the people. The greatness of the land.
Where should I go now?
Across the divide to unite with my brothers, and to realize myself.
I was on a plane, on my way back home after going through mind opening experiences in India. A mental and physical transformation that had shaken me to my core. Feeling contemplative as I gazed down at the clouds beneath me, I looked out the window and the whole of this story played out before me and in my head. It was a strange thought to have and it wanted out as quickly as it could. So, as soon as I had showered and changed when I got home, I spewed it out in a note on Facebook, sharing my strange idea with my friends and family. And now I share a version of it again.
I have a degree in film production, and spend a fair amount of time writing scripts. I occasionally dip outside of script writing for a short story and plan to keep writing fiction in a semi professional form for as long as it keeps being fun.