Celebrating East African Writing!
The reverberated scream struck him almost as the bang split the cold Nairobi air. Mukwhasi ducked in the pavement without noticing the nail fragment pegged in his shin. Everybody ran a helter-skelter. More screams mixed with smell of raw human blood levitated all over.
A few minutes earlier, Mukwhasi had left his shanty in Kawangware bound to reach Bungoma for the Easter holiday. He was carrying with him a mattress, a stove, two sufurias and a hand radio which made his walk a complete drag. The late evening traffic gridlock forced him to alight at Kenyatta Hospital.He was purchasing a pair of radio batteries on a vendors shop along Haile Selassie Avenue when the home-made bomb went off.
The home-made bomb’s wood and nails were all over the scene. Crowds were flooding the sceneas victims wailed for help.Then Mukwhasi saw the piece of nail lodged deep on his leg, He tried to pull but a monstrous pain hit him to the spine. It was common knowledge that anybody found with a slight injury was the first suspect, detained for days as the police intelligence were turning every “stone and pebble” to put the perpetrators to book. He crawled a few meters away, beneath the legs of eager onlookers and pulling his luggage along.
He bit his left thumb and closed his eyes way to divert the pain from his leg. He gripped the piece of iron and murmured a short prayer to Omwami and with one mighty wrench he pulled the nail, barely managing to suppress a shriek. Blood oozed in a jet. He pulled off one sock and tied the wound.He then spend off, at least safe from the anti-terrorist police who would arrest him as the lead suspect; his crime, a minor injury in the bomb site.
Amidst pain Mukwhasi was at Machakos country bus and for the first time in his 15-year history of going to Bungoma, he boarded the bus without bargaining. He only delayed at the door as a bored guard waved along his trousers a fake metal detector.
The bus hooted as the conductors hang and swung recklessly on the open door. A preacher read few verses before collecting offerings. The tired tires hit the tough Waiyaki Way as they shoved behind the noisy city squalls. The leg was sore and throbbing. The sock was already soaked in blood and past Uthiru he added the other sock for reinforcement.
At Nakuru the passengers alighted for short calls. Pulling his swollen leg along he managed to move a few steps; relievedhe resumed his seat. Two men with heavy jackets also boarded and one occupied the seat beside him.
Somehow he slept.
The thug bellowed just beside him. Mukwhasi woke up. The hijacker waswielding a flash light and a machete.At the back seat his colleague ordered all to lie down. Mukwhasi was resistant but unexpected blow send him reeling in disarray to the floor. The ruffian at the back who seemed the commander-in-thuggery ordered a hand-over of all valuables.
The bus conductor murmured somethingwhich angered the mugger. In a flash the mugger pushed a pistol into his mouth; a pull of the trigger scattered the skull. Blood and brains sprinkled. As if that was a catalyst of cooperation nobodyprotested again.
A full hour of ransacking amidst random slaps left Mukwhasi both distressedand ‘bankrupt’.The thugs left behind despondentpassengers, Mukwhasi swallowed a pile of bitterness. His people always said, “Problems are like menstrual cramps, unavoidable but they don’t last forever.”
They consoled each other and agreed to continue with their ill-omened journey. For Mukwhasi; a loss would have been an understatement. He was harboring a concoction of pain, torment, revulsion and diffidence; cursing the day he was born.
He alighted at Shamaghoko shopping center at dusk. This was the village he was born at. He remembered with a rare amusement how he used to chase lizards naked over the rocks in his childhood. He was dragging his swollen leg behind and through the darkness he could still see the beauty of the maize thriving amidst the recent locust invasion.
His wife and kids were asleep as he pushed his shaky door in. The wife was expectingtheir fifth born in few weeks. She was the first to wake up.He was carefulshe doesn’t notice he was limping. The reeking smell of clotted blood was however clearly decipherable. He quickly concluded the ceremonial greetings to sleep and wish away the pain.
Cries of help echoed in his far memories. The whole night had been full of them and he imagined the ghosts of misfortune were reminding him of his turn tails in a dream. The reality struck him when a blow knocked the shackling door off its lame hinges. An axe-wielding bully stood on the door, wearing a mask.His colleague was scanning the whole room with a flash light. The lastborn girl dived under her mother’s skirt. Mukwhasi asked them, strongly but politely what their mission was.
As if that was the signal they were waiting for, the guy in front swayed the hefty axe on Mukwhasis’s direction. A split-second dive saved his neck. As the kids scampered for safety through the windows the attacker surged forth with a skanky grimace. Mukwhasi remembered the initiation cliché; “In case you face unavoidable death, make sure you live for an extra minute.” For a moment he forgot the lamed leg. He dived for the neck of the assailant. In an unfortunate turn of events, the next man pulled a machete out of the sheath.Another angel of life stood between and the machete missed him. He landed on the floor with hands on the neck of the target.
Looking behind the dreadful truth hit him. The machete missed him only to land on his pregnant wife’s belly.Websconda was his dear wife…The machete seemed entrenched in the belly. The machete wielder had fled after his heinous cut. His accomplice seemed overwhelmed by Mukwhasi’s struggle. Mukwhasi left him gasping for breath as he rushed to his wounded wife. He didn’t need to be a medic to observe that she couldn’t live. She was lying in a swamp of blood with inconsistent breathing patterns. With eyes rolled up she was barely saying ‘my baby’ with clear difficulties.
He tied up the fainting assailant before he recovered.The real killer had fled but this one was not any lesser evil.
The murder case was launched in Bungoma magistrate’s court. It was a bitter trial, depicting widowed man with orphaned kids on one hand and a serial killer on the other.The final day of trial saw the court packed to the door. The assailant had pleaded innocent throughout. Standing in the dock that morning he showed no signs of remorse. The silence became denser when the judge rose to read the verdict.
As the judge neared declaring the verdict all heads were leaned forward. The silence deafened.
“There is no enough evidence to attach the accused of murder. I have therefore reduced the charge to manslaughter and hereby sentence the defendant to three years in prison. The term can be extenuatedif he shows signs of reform.”
With a strong hammering of the gavel, the judge bellowed, “Case dismissed.” A wide smile spread on the murderer’s foul face. Mukwhasi scratched the aching scar on his shin.
© Wambua Mbuvi 2013
The word is “Terror”. The little girl wearing orange attire seems to be receiving unpopular instructions from the bigger lady in blue. The sight of the woman standing arms akimbo seems to me that of an overseer who is keen to ensure the instructions the little girl receives are effected; however impossible. At the far left a man looking like a bouncer is seen at the scene, maybe to ensure that nobody unauthorized accesses the room and whatever is carried out remains a secret. The word also rung in my mind since it was at the time when ‘Western Terror gangs’ were causing tension in Bungoma County.