Celebrating East African Writing!

It’s a Unicorn! (Closing on Flash Fiction and Vignettes)

So to close on the Flash Fiction/Vignette discussion, I thought I’d share a Flash Short from one of my favourite Kenyan writers. Mwangi Ichungwa. This Flash Short is a mini science fiction piece, set in Nairobi and based on the following lines.
What is that?

It’s a unicorn.

Never seen one up close before.


Get away, get away.

I’m sorry.

The idea is to use them as they are, in the same order they appear here, as dialogue for a story. ONLY these lines, nothing else. Whatever the story is, they have to appear as they do here.

When you are done, you will find the stories entered into the New Once-a-Month Storymoja Writing Contest at the bottom. The Contest this month was titled – Vignette. Please vote on the stories. The Story of the Week’s writer will get that KES 1,000 airtime. And if you vote I might feel tempted to make a draw and pull out a name, if it’s yours, I will be obligated to send you some airtime, too.

Severance by Mwangi Ichungwa

The man was under observation from the moment he got out of the HoverCruiser outside the seedy little hotel on Kirinyaga Street. Here, the sunlight did not quite reach the ground, condemning the whole place to a state of diurnal semi-twilight. He looked up towards the sky and all he saw were the shadows of Nairobi Consolidate’s CBD.

The atmoscrapers soared five thousand feet into the air, blocking and absorbing most of Sol’s radiance for their own energy and that of the fifteen million or so who lived and worked in the city. Everything down here was unhealthy, even the stray cat (or whatever it was, one was never too sure these days) that crept across the street behind him looked pale, albino like.

There were few people in the street; most of them too doped up on oopi-3 to even notice him, despite his fine suit and the large leather satchel he carried. Oopi-3 was the new strain of the original oopi that was brought here by the Regethe, those reptilian ingrates. This new drug turned human eyes a wicked shade of blue, a marked difference from the original green tinge brought about by the milder one. It also fried the brain into a veritable zombie state after about a month of use.

After his summary reflection on the state of the neighbourhood, he waddled his hefty way into the hotel, walked past the deserted reception and headed straight for the bank of house telephones. A few moments later he was waiting at the lift lobby, swaying on his feet, the large satchel cuffed to his wrist by a thin carbon filament chain swinging like a large pendulum.

The lift dinged its arrival and the man got in. There was a service robot in there, the automated concierge. The robot’s bodywork was dusty and its joints creaked as it stood there, not even acknowledging the man’s presence. Every so often, a circuit would sizzle from within the carbon fibre body of the machine and it would jerk a little.

The lift clanked its way up the floors, stopping after every two and shuddering as if it dreaded the ascent. Presently it got to the fourth floor. The doors slid their sticky way open and the man stepped out into the dark corridor.

The carpeting was rank and of unintelligible colouring, the lighting a flickering mess of incandescent and holographic luminosity that confused more than clarified one’s vision. It was eerie. There was no one to be seen.

The man pulled a scrap of paper from his jacket pocket and consulted it in the confounding light. He nodded to himself and proceeded down the hallway to where he thought the room would be. His footsteps echoed in the space and he stopped for a moment to see if he was being followed.

Muffled and indistinct sounds came from the rooms he was passing; a rickety squeak here, a dull thump there. He tried not to think about it too much as he finally got to Room 1542. He paused at the door for a while, collecting his thoughts. After a moment he raised his free hand to knock.

His hand did not get there. There was a swishy sound behind him and as he turned to look something hard cracked against the base of his skull and everything went dark. He crumpled untidily to the floor. The last thing he remembered was that the carpet smelled like orange juice.

The fat man came to. He was lying supine on what must have been a bed; he was in a hotel room after all. There was a squeaky sound coming from somewhere above him and a searing pain on his right wrist. The forearm also felt strangely numb. He opened his eyes slowly and his vision starred.

He blinked a few times and as his vision cleared he could make out the source of the squeak. A ceiling fan slowly turned above him, its orbit skewed so that it wiggled about its axis like it was dancing. It looked like it might fall at any moment. There was a gag in his mouth and from the taste and texture he deduced that it was a sock. He tried to move but soon realised that he was strapped down quite firmly; arms, legs and forehead.

There was someone in the room.

He tried to turn his head but the strap across his brow held firm. Regret flooded in. This is what you get, he thought, for soliciting prostitution through the low rent holo-sites. But he needed this lay, until now. This was bad. His wrist was really, really hurting.

The satchel! Where was it?

He could hear voices, a plaintive male one and an abrasive female one. They sounded young and scared and there was a particular urgency to their tones. They were debating on what to do with him. The female voice, which had some authority in it, suggested they open the satchel first and deal with its bearer later.

The fat man panicked and began thrashing on the bed, straining to break his bindings. If they opened the satchel his life as he knew it was over. What was in that

case was, well, crucial to rather malicious interests. If he could only reach the panic device attached to the button on the left cuff of his suit coat. The fingers on his left hand began to wiggle.

He couldn’t feel his right hand and it dawned on him, with infinite horror, that to access the satchel these people must have severed his right hand at the wrist as there was no way to cut the carbon filament chain. He heard the clasp on the satchel click. It was open. His fingers became frantic.

“What is it?” the man’s voice asked. He was young, the fat man thought. Pity. There was a beat before the woman replied. The fat man could hear the awe in her voice.

“It’s a…unicorn,” she said.

“Never seen one close up before,” said the young man.

The panic button was barely within reach. The fat man’s third finger was barely brushing it.

Just a little more and this would all be over rather quickly.

“Beautiful,” breathed the woman. The button depressed with a slight click and the fat man could have sighed with relief if the sock wasn’t choking him.

The flimsy door burst open with such force that it ripped clean off its hinges and flew across the room. A small, silver cylinder, the size of a soda can clanked into the room and twisted open, hissing out a genetically coded gas that knocked the fat man unconscious. This took all of one and half seconds. Then the PDU squad burst in firing at anything and anyone left standing.

The young man yelled his surprise and shock as he was lifted into the air by the plasma bullets and slammed against the far wall, his lower chest cavity and belly wide open, cauterized and bubbling from the incendiary projectiles.

The woman was hit high in the chest, leaving her right arm dangling by shreds of charred flesh. She flung herself over her brother’s body as the squad leader advanced, his weapon at the ready, to finish her off.

“Get away,” she said, weakly trying to wave off the man with her left arm as she cowered over her dying sibling.

“Get away.” She was gasping and a thin, bloodstained trickle of drool hung from her lower lip like liquid mercury. Beneath her, the young man coughed up a glob of blood and died in a profound spasm. A tear dropped from her eye onto his ashen face.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. The squad leader pressed the muzzle of his machine pistol to her forehead and blew her head off. Outside, sirens wailed as the clean up crew arrived.

©Mwangi Ichungwa. Visit Avalon Perpetual.


And now to this week’s reading/contest entries. Please Remember to vote.

The Maiden Fall: The sun reverberates over her half-dead form. Shifting her weight, she feels the numb pain, multiplied over and over by the sheer number of bruised tissues. She makes a half-hearted attempt to identify the source …

Moment With Magic: I danced there in the shadowy sidelines wishing I could twirl around like a little girl in my sundress as I watched her thump her drum. A red and black lesso zigzagged around the enormous oblong piece of …

Lorot and the K.C.S.E. Nightmares: Chemistry was always a nightmare. Somebody introduced mole concept, molarity and titration and after sipping generous amounts of acids and breaking dozens of burettes. I look at how far…

Yellow Hair: He is only a ghost now; written on the body, my spine, the river of my back, the scent of his head on a pillow, between sheets, a bedspread, his warm mouth on my skin lost in high speed, not following or thinking or …

Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study.  Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.  ~Henry L. Doherty

Have a great week!



This entry was posted on November 8, 2010 by in Writer's Blog.
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