Kibera, Naitropolis – Jan 4, 2199
“We are standing live outside the building presumed to be where Jake Ongari the son of Sataricom CEO andbillionaire tech mogul James Ongari, has now been held hostage for the last 4 hours by a group of well armed and determined criminals calling themselves the Squatters.
There have been no new developments since the incident was first reported last night, but stay tuned to KCN for the latest updates and analysis with our residents experts as this story unfolds.
I’m Michelle Njeri reporting live from the slums of Kibera!”
Inside the grey washed out dilapidated structure, one of several unfinished ghosts buildings that dot the largest slum in Africa. In a dank dimly lit room that’s littered with fragments of furniture and odd bits and ends picked up over time. I sit back in a brown beaten down leather arm chair and grin, sweet and savage. It worked. Who would have thought this could actually work? Not me. Oh, I pretended that it would but honestly the whole plan started out as just another way to vent out frustration. The expectation had always been to make a point, not to actually get away with it. But to succeed…and in such a big way. Safe to say no one is more surprised than me.
Glancing back at the room where we hold the heir to all corporate Kenya, that same feral grin fights its way back onto my face. It is a strange look on me. I can tell by all the uncomfortable shuffles and whispers I get from the others around me. Laura just looks blankly at the screen, pretending not to notice the anxiety in the room. I can see the tightness in her back though, the tension in her fingers as she gives the desk she sits on a death grip that drains the blood from her nails. But what do I care? Honestly, we just pulled off the biggest heist in Kenyan history using three teenagers, one prepubescent kid, a modified shopping trolley, two bits of wire and some blue tack! I feel we deserve a little self indulgence.
The news caster’s back on with her resident expert. They’re done pretending to know where we are and branding us with names they made up. Now, they’re discussing the flaws in Kenya’s urban security and the rampant crime and corruption that allow it to fester. I laugh out loud causing little Ron to jump. It’s honestly shocking how naive the media is, or pretends to be. I tune it out, I know well how deep the rot goes. Been living and breathing it every day of my life.
Turning back to my motley crew of social misfits, I can’t help but feel a warm glow of pride for the crazy bastards. Like me they’ve grown up on the streets, in the factories, with the gangs.
Like me, they too feel the oppressive hand of the dirty regime every day they wake up fearful and hungry, paralyzed with dread by the thought of the waves of crime that regularly sweep through the slums like so much rain water sluicing through open sewers. Fetid. Septic. They know what it’s like to be forgotten, that’s what really made the slums what they are. Nobody cared. Nobody has cared for centuries now.
Near the turn of the century, roughly the year 2095, the Kenyan government had been fully superseded in all of its authority by the shadowy group of corporate institutions that would become known as The Trident. They cared least of all.
Sauntering over to where ka-Ron was picking himself up off the ground, I helped him brush himself off. Ronald Nyiro at 11 is the youngest member of our group. We used him mostly for surveillance and running errands. I had found him sitting outside a rundown shack in the rain two years back waiting for his mother to finish with a client. I told him I knew a place he could get out of the rain and get a bite to eat. He’s been following me ever since.
“Hey Ronny,” Looking down at his dirty brown face and seeing only complete trust and acceptance there, it makes me feel a little uncomfortable knowing what I’m about to do. “Go start bringing the stuff down, we need to set up.”
I glance across at Bonny and Solo, the final members of our crew. “You guys go help Ron bring it down, I don’t want him breaking my transponder with his neck!”
Bonny immediately puts down his cards down and goes for the stairs to help ka-Ron, Solo on the other hand isn’t as quick to respond as his little brother. But that’s no surprise, with a name like Solo.
“Nishow tena vile kubeba huyu barbie itatusadia, ju sioni.’”
His voice drips with sarcasm as he lifts himself from a cross-legged position to standing all in one fluid motion. Up close he towers over rest of us, his face is all sharp angles and cruel lines, completely different from Bonny who has much softer features and a kinder expression. The do-brothers, as they are known on the streets, joined me after I beat them in a card hustle they had been using for years on the outer streets of Naitropolis to cheat dumb college kids who had more money than sense. It was really a simple sleight of hand plus a blindside turn, I’d been doing those sorts of shuffles since I could count. Unfortunately for them I’d exposed their game in front of an audience of former marks and angry bystanders.
Of course I helped them get away from the mob that would have lynched and castrated them right there on the street, I guess they stuck around because I was the only one to ever figure out how they did their card hustle.Bonny had accepted my authority without question, he had seemed even a little bit relieved. Solo on the other hand was used to being the big cock in a small chicken farm. I didn’t have time for his machismo bullshit just now and decided to put him in his place.
“I’m sorry Sol, did you have another bout at Sally’s to go to?” I ask all innocence and fluttering eyelids.
Laura turns away from the TV and arches an eye toward Sol, he blushes furiously and stomps after his brother.
“What was that about?” Laura asks, seemingly bored with everything and already turning back to the TV.
“Oh, nothing. Just motivating the troops.”
Often I feel that it behoves a great leader to carry a certain air of mystery and intrigue about them. Laura just scoffs at me as though she read my thoughts and can’t even be bothered to fully laugh at my clumsy attempts at leadership.
“The stuffs about to run out soon, he’ll be awake in the next 20 mins”
She throws out this tidbit like a comment on the weather. Always so cool. It’s part of the reason she’s my second in command. I’ve known Laura longer than anyone else on the crew. She had been with me when my mother was still alive. We had learned how to navigate the streets together, living on the outskirts of Naitropolis in anupright made of scrap metal, plastic sheeting and wire from the dump sites. My mother had taken her in when we were scavenging for parts to make our home, just another unwanted babe left in the trash.
Mother had taught us everything she knew when she could. We had survived the streets of Kibera together, the three of us. Now she is the only part of that old life that still lives on.
But, though I trust Laura with my life, even she doesn’t know the full extent of my plans.
Her reminder of the drugged heir in the next room returns me to my task. I walk over to a hole in the far wall of the room that looks like it was punched in by rowdy teens having a slum party. It used to be a fad among the rich of Naitropolis a couple years ago to throw risqué rave parties in abandoned buildings in the slums. It had gone on until some governor’s kid got knifed and thrown in the river, his genitals in his mouth and a laminated sign stapled to his chest reading ‘feed us now or eat a dick’.
I always found that elegant in its simplicity.
Reaching into the hole, I gingerly pull out a fat old worn binding folder with lots of papers sticking out of it at all angles. This is my bible, my guidebook, my redemption. All the information I had managed to gather on the government over the last 10 years, as well as all my information on The Trident and where they got their power, is all compiled in this file.
According to the articles and blacklisted websites I’d managed to access and research, the shift in power from capitalist democracy to capitalist industrial monarchies had come in gradual steps spanning a century of policy reforms, bills and laws tailor-made to suit politicians who were in bed with the corporations. This turned out to be more literal than anyone could have expected.
By 2100, the laws giving industrialists exceptions had piled up to the point that there was nothing to exempt them from. They had carte blanche. They determined their own business practices and all forms of redress for those injured encumbered bedraggled masses that toiled for their profits had been abolished. In essence, it was a form bureaucratic slavery. Generation upon generation born into their parent’s debt and dying with only greater debt as their own children’s inheritance.
In my search, I’d found out enough about my own nation’s torrid history for the seeds of a plan to begin germinating in my devious mind. However, I realize that delving into the past is not going to provide any relief to the problems we face now. The answers I seek can only be found within the current apparatus, in the belly of the beast as it were. Which brings us to today in the year 2199 and the world works something like this.
Those who are born into Mwangaza Mkuu (the great light) live in Naitropolis, the country’s capital. Residents of Naitropolis enjoy abundant light, heat, food, drink, entertainment, safety and just about anything else their pampered existence can conceive. Or so we’re told, I’ve never really been in to see for myself.
As it usually goes with people sitting on that kind of wealth, they started thinking about how best to protect it. And so they introduced the GSS, the Government Security Services or as we call them on the streets, the GoonSquadS. They are the lynchpin in the link between the state and private enterprise. They were formed somewhere In the early 2000’s after decades of terror threats from Al Shabab militants against the country.Kenya lived in a state of war with terrorist extremists who had entrenched themselves in neighbouring Somalia and would perform heinous acts of random violence on the population in the name of misguided dogma and zealotry.
For once, the government realized their own inadequacy. It was decided that they did not have the tactical nuance or technological aptitude to wage war on a relentless enemy that was hiding faceless among their own citizenry. But, as usual, they created an even bigger problem with their solution. They asked the heads of the biggest private security firms in the country to come together and solve their problems for them, to make Kenya safe again. The security companies were more than happy to oblige, for a price.
The GSS has a hierarchy and right at the very top are the Dawn Breakers. I myself have never actually seen one with my own eyes. But from the little I could gleam poring over old newspapers from before the information became classified, they are an elite group of super soldiers who have been medically and magically enhanced to be virtually indestructible. They are supposedly stronger, faster and smarter than your average soldier. Some say they can see in the dark and taste sounds. Who knows? No one who’s met them has ever lived to tell about it.
Despite the countless myths and rumours about what exactly a deeb (DB) is capable off, there are two things that they all agree on. One, you never want to fuck with a dawn breaker and two, deeb’s use magic.
Ron and the do-brothers come back down from the attic carrying the bags and boxes that house the makeshift generators and equipment needed for the change. Putting down my file I move to help clear away space at the back of the room, sweeping away broken chair legs and plastic soda bottles.
When that’s done I take a bit of chalk from my shirt pocket and outline a circle on the ground.
I draw squares at various intervals around the circle, sketching lines sticking out of the squares with labels like, micro-capacitor-link-generator. I had set it up once already with Bonny in anticipation for this day. He was good with electronics, not as good as me obviously, but good enough to set this up. Brushing the dust from my knees, I get up.
“Jump to it boys,” Laura says, “his royal majestyness should be getting up any time now, we don’t want to be late now do we.”
Ron beams up at me giggling a little, like its all one big game. Bonny starts unpacking the boxes and setting upthe equipment. Sol looks at me, or rather looms at me. He wants to say something but I arch an eyebrow at him and he starts helping his brother unpack. I return to my folder.
I memorized it years ago, but something about reading it soothes me or gives me purpose. I need to understand magic, to understand how it came to be before I do what I must do. I know it started around the time that the government officially ceded control to The Trident.
The Trident is composed of three entities, first there’s Sataricom, the research and communications conglomerate that was formed when all the tech companies and research institutes joined under the Safaricom banner. Then there is the GSS, which I think the less said about them the better. Finally we have Protogen, short for the Prototype Generation. A scientific pharmaceutical and agricultural commune, I think is the best way to describe it.
Protogen’s company model was unique in that in the beginning it was not really a company at all, it was a technological African Mecca of sorts. A place for all the scientific minds of Africa to meet and research for cures to all the diseases that had plagued the continent for so long. Malaria, AIDS, Ebola and every other virus and mutation that had crippled a people so strong for so long that we finally decided enough was enough. Every country in Africa contributed to building its campus, and every country on the continent sent their best minds, doctors and scientist to help find cures.
When they did find a cure, it wasn’t what they thought it would be. It completely cleared HIV/AIDS from infected blood samples. It seemed at the very least to be a way of stopping new infections from occurring. However, whenever someone was injected with the cure they would go into seizures, not a very promising start you would think. But there was more. As they were going through fits, doctors noted that electrical equipment around patients injected with batch AZ1-22I of the cure, would often go haywire and sometimes even explode.
There is a sparking sound and a gruff yelp in the background, I look up to see Ron in giggles on the floor andSolo sucking on his thumb violently, Bonny is making placating sounds at his big brother but Laura is looking at me. She gives me that familiar curious look of hers with those big brown almond eyes, long lashes waving hello. If she wasn’t like a sister and comrade to me I’d have to admit, Laura is beautiful. She has grown beautiful and I have had the privilege to watch it happen. I hope she will be able to forgive me one day.
Turning back to the file I scan down the paper in my hands. It is a leaked email and I’d be dead if anyone knew I even had it. It is from the head of Protogen’s research division to the CEO of Sataricoms arms and weapons technology development department. The date reads, April 2150 and it details how one Dr Aziz, a chief medical doctor at Protogen, started doing human experiments on the sly using AZ1-22I and a hybrid metal alloy developed by Sataricom called rin-tin. They uncovered something which they didn’t understand but knew was life changing.
That had been almost fifty years ago. In that time, The Trident had managed to perfect its chemical alloy of truth or whatever, and made super soldiers and machines that ran perfectly in any weather or depth or height. People capable of telekinesis and teleportation, cars that could fly you halfway around the world without going above twenty feet in the air. Special alloy studded boots that let their wearers fly.
As for the weapons, I hear that some deebs carry light sabers! LIGHT SABERS!! All powered by some mysterious drug induced trance and the company that produces the drug isn’t even really sure of what it’s doing. My theory is that the AZ1-22I drug, activates a part of the brain that can see something, I’m not sure what but whatever that light Dr Aziz speaks of in the email is it. Either way, when it’s combined with the rin-tin alloy it somehow gives the wearer power over other mechanical objects and apparently even space and time as well.
When the research was done, the science didn’t add up, but that didn’t let the P.R people and marketers of the three biggest conglomerates on the continent deter them. They called it as they saw it, it was magic and Kenya was the only place you could get it. Never has there been an easier sell in human history. All I wanted was to get my share.
I stand up and put my binder back in its cubby hole. All talking and sounds in the room stop as I take three strides and am standing before the door that holds Jake Ongari, the one day king of all of broken Kenya. I put my hand on the door knob.
“What are we doing here Kay, what’s going on?”
It’s Laura and she’s using that voice. The voice that shows she’s genuinely anxious. The same voice I had heard calling me out of a ditch I was hidden in while running away from the kind of people that would take advantage of an eight year old who had just become an orphan. I look back at her, stare down every member of my gang and tell them the half truth I’d prepared beforehand. It’s the most I can offer, I hope it’s enough.
“We’re turning him into one of us”
Turning my back to them I open the door and walk in.
It was a dumb bet. So meaningless in its banality that I can’t actually believe it’s going to cost me my life. Three nights ago, Joshua, Kip, Wamzi and I were club hopping in westlands. We had just come from doing unspeakable things at Skylust, (naked lubed midget tossing in zero gravity) and my head was starting to pleasantly tilt the world around in a see-saw motion as we careened down the brightly lit club district.
Mwewe was lurking somewhere in the shadowy rooftops with the other bodyguards. I had the shocking image of Mwewe and the other Dawn’s taking off their reflective overmasks and beneath them was a pair of statuesque doll faces, with large stitched lines for eyes and eyelashes, blood red puffs of cotton for tender lips. I tell Wamzi my thoughts and we burst into hoots and cackles causing the people around us to stare and point. They usually stare and point, at least now they have a reason.
Joshua has wandered away from our party and is tailing behind a group of girls walking ahead of us. They are dressed in different coloured rin-tin alloy stitched micro miniskirts and matching tops that hug their round hips and ample breasts like a troop of power-puff Beyoncés. A heavy coloured mist swirls and shifts through and around their curves in nimbus clouds as they walk, a dry ice laser show hovering over their privates.
Joshua pulls up in front of the girls and they stop to look him up and down. Kip, Wamzi and I also stop for front row seats to the show. Joshua is speaking animatedly at the three party goers gesturing with his arms and hips, thumping on his large chest. Kip does an expert imitation of Joshua and I almost piss all over my new Cavalli albino white rhino patented leather loafers.
He must hear us because he casually flips us the finger as he keeps trying to persuade the girls to…what? Come out with us? Have a foursome in the nearby alley? I honestly can never tell with Josh. I’m still trying to hold my sides in when I see blossom barbie Beyonce’s wristcom glow, her whole body lights up for the briefest instant as her right hand comes up palm first pointing straight at Josh. He vanishes, I blink, and Josh is falling out of nothing on the opposite side of the road into a puddle of old rainwater and vomit from some other merryrevellers.
I give up and fall on the road rolling around struggling to breathe. She must have had her wristcom set to anti-douche mode before the night started to get the jump on Josh like that.
The clouds that were floating around blossom’s rin-tin micro mini have dissipated significantly and appear now as no more than a persistent smoke ring which is determined to orbit her impressive figure. Her scandalized friends rush to cover her with their own fuller clouds but she brushes them aside like troublesome geese. She gives me a naughty little wink and struts off down the street swinging her hips and running her hands through her lush hair. Bubbles and Buttercup titter delightfully in her wake. If Mrs Carter were alive today I think she would have applauded that young lady, far too much woman for Josh to handle.
He is picking himself out of the muck just as the silverine street sweepers pass by. Hurling curses at the departed trio, his self cleaning suit has already taken off all the dirt that hadn’t really even soaked into it.
“You guys are fucking retarded.” Josh moans as he reaches us,
“I was this close before you-”
“Close to what man!?” I had to cut him short, “Being teleported to her bed or the middle of the ocean?”
We laugh uproariously, Joshua’s eyes crinkle in the corners and he puts a nasty sneer on his face.
“ At least girls don’t only go with me for money! You couldn’t get a girl on your own merit for all the money in the world.”
There was silence then. It had been too much. Joshua had been drinking excessively of late but I hadn’t really minded because it had never infringed on my honor before. In Naitropolis’ incredibly stratified social hierarchy, Joshua was high enough up the tree to say something like that to me and get away with it. His father was the current CFO of Protogen after all. He even hooked us up with all the P.L.E we could ever need. I couldn’t let it stand.
“You sure about that?” I preened, standing tall and raising my carriage to match Josh’s naturally more buff stance.
I’m Jake On-fucking-gari, heir to all the wealth and influence of the most advanced nation on the continent, probably on the planet. Even without the title or the fame I was a king among men.
And now here I am.
Naked, cold, tied up on the floor in a dark room and gagged with something that smells like a urine soaked pig’s bladder stuffed down my throat. What had happened? The last thing I remember was sneaking away from Mwewe to come to the slums to accept Josh’s challenge. We had gone to a bar and then … my mind draws a blank.
My wristcom is gone, as is my pack of Protomix Link Enabler. I can’t touch the source. I can’t see the light. I hear sounds on the other side of the door, laughter and crackling, footsteps, maybe a TV. They can’t have known who I was, or else they would never have even thought of doing such a thing. They must know that right now people are looking for me. The entire G.S.S police force will be breaking down doors in every slum shanty in Naitropolis. I start to panic, my breath is coming in fast shallow bursts, the taste of someone’s crusty fluids and waste now coat my tongue and I begin to choke on my own saliva, dry heaving, retching in fear.
The door slams open, I am blinded by light. After being in darkness for so long I close my eyes against the glare and hear bodies moving into the room.
“Bring the chair and strap him down.”
The voice is coming from directly in front of me, I squint up to see a medium sized silhouette looking down at me.
“I don’t want his royal Ongariness squirming when we start.’”
They know who I am! The shock of this rings through my body. They know who I am, yet still they dare to treat me like some vagabond. Two hulking figures come in front of the silhouetted boy who spoke. I have adjusted enough to the darkness in the room by now to make out the tall wiry boy with the nasty sneering face and the shorter plumper boy who won’t meet my eyes. The shorter of the two carries the chair.
The tall mean looking one goes to grab my bound limbs and I flail and whip my arms about in an arching motion, hoping to catch him with a blow to the head then bolt through the open door while they’re still all wondering what happened. I strike clean air as the lanky youth easily dodges away from my clumsy throw. He then expertly steps into my reach and lands a heavy left fist right in my solar plexus. I am not prepared for him to move so fast or so violently and I haven’t even tensed. Not that it would have made a difference seeing as how I have never been punched by anyone in my life before. I feel my testicles rise into my pelvis and my stomach rolls into itself. The air in my lungs dances with the stars before my eyes. Spit and bile dribble down my mouth and soak into the filthy rag as I cough and convulse in pain on the ground.
“Yo Sol, those nights at Sally’s really are paying off huh!” The same voice as before.
I feel rough hands pick me up unkindly and untie my bonds before sitting me down on a stiff metal chair. The bonds are back on before I can even fully comprehend they were gone, only this time I’m strapped tight to the seat.
“Put him in the middle of the circle and get it running, we don’t have much time. I need to speak to Laura’”
I am lifted from the ground by the two boys on either side of me and we move into a big empty rundown living room if I were to hazard a guess. They take me to the back of the room and sit me in the middle of a circle of junk. My guts burn and my breathing feels strained, I try to speak to the boys around me, to reason with them, plead with them, beg, threaten. But the gag is in my mouth and the only sounds that come out are muffled whimpering snorts.
After a small eternity I hear a door open and two sets of footsteps heading my way.
I look up and get my first proper look at my would be captor. My first thought is that he is incredibly plain, a dark thin brown face on a dark thin brown body. His clothes or rather, rags are a hybrid nylon pink and yellow jacket pitted with holes over a stained and baggy USAID shirt that is dragging to his knees. His trousers are army camouflage sown and re-sown so many times they are a patchwork of nations at war. The boots however are clean and black and sturdy looking as a set of steel doors. The overall impression is very old-school post-colonial rebel in its vibe. Stark naked tied to a chair, it feels oddly meaningless mocking him for his lack of fashion.
The dawns should be here by now. Father’s satellite tracking systems must have already found me. What is taking them so long.
The boy in boots pulls another chair into the circle and sits down opposite me. A shadow walks into the circle behind him and I almost choke in recognition. The girl from the bar, the one Joshua told me I couldn’t pick up! How…had he been in on it too?
I roll my eyes towards her and stare death at her forehead but she just looks at me like I’m some kind of ant. She whispers something to her ring leader, they both stare at me and I give my best defiant glare back. He nods at her and the siren pulls out a syringe of glowing blue liquid from behind her and jabs him in the neck, pushing down on the plunger. She steps out of the circle and its just me and the rebel thug.
“You’re probably wondering what’s going on right now, and if we are about to kill you. Rest assured Master Ongari, yours is to be a much kinder fate.”
He pulls out a tangle of wires and metal ends in a band like shape. It looks strangely familiar but I can’t figure why. Then he slips it over his right hand and it clicks.
‘Hmmmp phmmmm wrrrrapmm pmmph’
I scream at him, that was my bloody wristcom he’s shredded. Now it looks more like a magnet made from copper wire and a bar of metal. He has opened all its hinges and attached his own circuitry and additions. Obviously he hoped to somehow override the biometric personal security code linking every wristcom to their owner but it’s madness. He is going to try to touch the source, an untrained DIY slum rebel is going to try perform some sort of magic! On ME! The thought is dizzying, I know then with absolute certainty that we will both die. Rocking in my seat I try to break the bonds tying me to the chair, but I just tip myself over and get a bump on the head for my troubles.
The rebel gets out of his seat and comes to look down at me shaking his head in what can only be sarcastic sadness. Walking to the edge of the circle he connects his, I mean my, wristcom to a cable trailing on the ground near one of the boxes.
There is a whirring humming sound as all the casing and circuitry which I had mistaken for trash, sparks on and starts pulsing in a loop around us. The lights go round faster and faster, building a static charge in the air. I hear an alarm going off somewhere nearby and a female voice in the building din shouts over the whirling of machines.
“They’re here! Do it now Kay!”
Kay who is now radiating with a near blinding incandescent glow stands over my fallen form. He points his hand at me. I scream. A terrible cry of fear and pain and anguish and the world explodes in light and thunder.
Then I’m running, stumbling and tripping over debris and broken shards of slate. Someone is holding my hand tightly and dragging me through a maze of alleys and openings in the sides of buildings. My head is still ringing from the explosion and disorientation of the shock I just witnessed, but even in my muddled state I can tell that something is different. Almost wrong.
For a start I am not dead, which is a pleasant surprise; also I am no longer naked and bound to a chair as I was a moment earlier. On the negative side I am now considerably hungrier than I ever thought I could be. It’s a strange thought to have, I think, running in the dark with the bangs and shouts of men fading in the distance, some stranger dragging me to only source knows where.
I lift my free hand in front of me but it’s too dark to see anything. We continue running in the dark, the stranger and I, heading down alleyways and narrow passages between worn down tenements. My running mate stops and turns on a beacon ball, a tennis ball sized material that glows a stark blood red. Somehow I am not at all surprise to see the girl from the bar, I think I heard them call her Laura.
She finds a grate in one of the rooms we enter and slides it open one handed ushering me through with the point of her home made ballista gun. By now I’ve learned enough fear of my foes’ determination in their aim, whatever it is, to just obey. As I step down the ladder rungs my boots clang noisily in the hollow space. My boots, I wonder, I never had boots. I stare at my arms and chest in the dim red light as Laura climbs down after me. It’s the nylon pink and yellow jacket that the rebel wore, the stars and stripes USAID shirt. Why am I wearing them, when did they put them on me. Then a horrifying thought seizes me.
The light, the modified wristcom, could it have worked? Impossible, what was it that he had done to me anyway. I stop halfway down the rung quivering in fear and confusion.
She lashes out a boot from above and I nearly lose my grip, but keep moving. Deep down I know what they have done to me. I cannot understand how or why but I know.
We reach the bottom and she points me towards the left. I placidly go where she tells me still numb with shock at my realization. We reach the end of the path and there is a huge hole where a storm drainage gate used to be. The sewers in this part of the city have not been maintained in ages, the stench and smell of waste and death rise up from beyond the hole like a living thing.
“To the edge!” Laura shouts at me, tears streaking down her face. She’s looking at me with a mixture of hate and profound sadness. I know she must see the face of her reckless leader, but she is here to kill me nonetheless and tie off any loose ends that might threaten their perfect little fraud. I tell myself there is no way they could pull this off, someone will surely tell. But they have already been able to do this much, who knowswhat they are capable of.
I walk to the edge of the wall and stare out at the city before me. In the far distance I can see a twinkling andspiralling tower that might be the Sataricom main headquarters. To my terror stricken gaze, the city lights shine and dance with malice like the eyes of hundreds upon hundreds of little monsters come to watch me meet my end. Come to devour me whole. I creep closer to the edge. Directly below me is black as tar with the sound of rushing water. I turn away from the city and face my executioner instead. I will not be shot in the back like some cur, I will face death head on.
“Turn back around,” she tells me, but I am beyond fear now. I look her dead in the eyes with her comrade’s face and say,
As ineloquent as it is, it clearly has an effect on her because she starts to lower her piece. She looks at me quizzically as if second guessing who I really am. I see a chink in her armour and aim straight for it. I must make her believe they failed, that I am her leader still. If he can dare to be me, I can dare to be him. I start to speak but she raises her hand, red ball glowing like a dying sun in her palm.
“When was the last time we came here?”
I look at her stumped, unable to answer as my elegant plan falls to tatters before I even have a chance to fake it. Of course they would have a way to verify who was who, they planned for everything. As I stay silent she begins to raise her gun again, I panic and spurt out an answer hoping to delay her for even a single moment as I figure out a way live.
“Last year on your birthday when we planned this”
It’s a pointless stab in the dark and we both know it. I can see it in her lovely eyes as she raises her ballista gun to eye level and aims it straight at my chest. Distantly I think to myself my voice doesn’t at all sound like my own.
“It’s where we came to toss his mother’s body after she died of starvation. She died trying to feed us. We were too young and weren’t strong enough to drag her body anywhere further, so we brought it here and rolled it off the edge.”
I stare into her beautiful haggard face and know that I can never understand her, can never say or do anything that would make her spare me after the life she has lived.
The fear returns stronger and deeper than ever, I feel death before me. I can fight or I can flee. Outside the hole is at least a forty foot drop to the rubbish strewn sewage river that runs through the slums. Time slows down till it feels like I am moving in syrup, I see Laura’s hand tense up and squeeze the trigger. At the same time I jump back trying to flee my death, the pellet spray from her ballista gun moves towards me unbelievably fast, yet also takes what feels like an eternity to hit. When they do, they hit me in two places as I fall, one in the shoulder and one in the gut. I feel a piercing burn as foreign bodies rip through my flesh.
Then I’m falling, falling, falling.
“This is Michelle Njeri from KNC coming to you live from Kibera slums and the scene where just moments ago, GSS special unit officers attempted and succeeded in a daring rescue operation to save the kidnapped heir to the Sataricom fortune, Jake Ongari, who had been reported missing some time in the late hours of last night.
Now, standing before me whole and unharmed after his harrowing ordeal in the ghettos of Naitropolis is none other than Jake himself. Jake, its good to have you back safe and sound. Can you tell us what happened to you in there?”
“Thank you Michelle, I’m glad to be back but honestly its hard to say what happened. They drugged me and locked me away in a dark room. By the time I regained consciousness the GSS squad was untying me from the seat I was strapped to.”
“Wow that is absolutely incredible Jake, just incredible. I can see the paramedics wish to get you to hospital, where we will be keeping our viewers updated with live reports on your health. But, before you go is there anything you would like to say to the people of Naitropolis?”
“Thank you for searching for me. I’m glad to be coming back home.”
“Well there you have it ladies and gentlemen, the citizens of Naitropolis may rest easy once more now that the prodigal son has returned.”
I grew up in an English boarding school somewhere in the Rift Valley. For the longest time I hated reading but I loved English! It was easy compared to math and science, and I understood it well. But reading for pleasure was not something I could imagine, until Harry Potter came out. That series of books did for me and millions like me the best favour I’d ever receive, it introduced me to fantasy and fiction that related to me. I’m forever gratefully for that.
Now I’m in my fourth year of a film production degree, and spend a fair amount of time writing scripts. I always had intentions of writing fiction outside of script writing but this short story marks my first real attempt. I’ve enjoyed the experience and plan to keep writing fiction in a semi professional form for as long as it keeps being fun.