Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Peter Nena
I held my breath and stared at the wall. It stared back at me.
In a moment, it would crack and the Devil would come through. I was ready for him.
I waited, counting my heartbeat. Thump! Thump! Thump! . . .
The wall cracked.
My phone rang.
“What the fuck?” I cried in startled rage. In the same instant, I was flung against the ceiling and pinned there like an insect.
“What you’re doing here?” the Devil said, deadpan. He was pinning me with his index finger. He was a colossal thing, almost as broad as he was tall. He could weigh more than a tonne. Tough, rugged muscles shaped his immortal body. His skin was like the bark of an ancient tree; rough and hard and excessively wrinkled and stained with the corruption and profanity of eternal Hell. He was hot as if there was a volcano within him. There was a peculiar sizzling, crackling sound behind his eyes, as if they were cooking and might suddenly pop; reddish blue tongues of flame spewed out of his ears.
“None of your business,” I replied.
In response, he poked a hole through my heart to the ceiling.
“You forget that all your business is mine,” he said quietly. His voice was like that of a man whose throat is clogged with abundant oil.
“I want my soul,” I demanded.
“You owe me,” he replied coldly and released me. I landed hard on the floor. “Answer that phone and get back to work,” he added dismissively. Then he vanished into thin air.
I rose. To my dismay, the wall had returned to its original state. Cursing bitterly under my breath, I fetched the phone from my pocket. The caller was a certain man who had named himself Stig.
“What is it?” I asked.
“I need your help,” he said, sounding agonized.
It took me one second to travel from Karen to Kilimani. It never took me more than a second to travel to any place, thanks to the Devil, who’d showed me the gateways to all places under the sun.
Stig’s apartment was on Muringa Road, near the intersection with Elgeyo Marakwet. It was quiet. The November drizzle had granted a brief respite, allowing the sun to peer down shyly through foggy clouds. I found him sprawled helplessly in a flood of blood.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“My leg, man, it’s gone,” he whined weakly, raising his eyes with little hope
“I can see that,” I said. His right leg was sawed off just above the knee. I could see his thighbone, gleaming white against the spurting blood. The marrow was oozing out of it; creamy, mucous, bloody. It was disgusting.
I started working to stanch the wound.
“The bitch sawed it off,” he explained.
The bitch in question was his girlfriend, Sty.
“Why?” I inquired.
“We had a deal.”
“What kind of deal?”
“She cried that I beat on her too much. She wanted to leave me. But I besought her to stay and promised never to strike her again. But she wanted proof of my word. She said she’d still leave if there wasn’t proof, no matter how much I assured her. She made me desperate, man. I told her to cut off my right leg so that I’d never kick her with it again. She did. But then she took off!”
“What sort of a deal is that?” I remarked.
“She was supposed to keep my leg in the fridge,” Stig continued fervently. “That was part of the deal. But she took off with it. I want it back. I need my leg! That’s why I called you, Reed.”
“What’s in it for me?” I asked. Although Stig was my long-time acquaintance, I never worked free for anybody.
“There are many souls where she’s gone,” he said.
“Okay,” I agreed.
“And what happened to you, man? You’re all smoking like you’re smouldering inside. Is that a hole through your heart?”
“You called me at a wrong time,” I explained. “The Devil was coming through. I needed to dive past him before he could see me. But you distracted me.”
“But, Reed, you do go to Hell all the time and you still cannot find your soul!”
“That’s because he keeps it in a special chamber I cannot access unless I go through that wall in Karen. It is his private portal.”
“How many souls does he still require of you?”
“One, a special one,” I said.
“What do you mean ‘a special one’?” Stig asked.
“I don’t know. I’ll know it when I see it.”
“Well, go on and fetch my leg. Something special may come of it.”
I left as soon as I’d stanched the wound and acquired directions. I headed for a house in Karen, off Lang’ata Road.
No sooner had I entered than I was met with an implacable fusillade of gunfire. The room was filled with gunmen. Innumerable bullets lifted me off the floor and hurled me against a wall. My chest exploded; so did my stomach and back; my organs ruptured, shredded, spilling.
When they paused, thinking me dead, I disappeared. Then I heard Sty’s voice:
“I’ve been waiting for you, Reed,” she said shrilly. “I knew that despicable girlfriend-battering beast would unleash you after me. I got an army.”
Her voice was echoing all over the house. To locate her, I utilized a trick the Devil had taught me years back when he first captured my soul. It was how he could hear anyone anywhere at any time. I filtered out the echoes and focused on the source. I found her. She was in an upstairs hallway outside a bedroom. In a split second, I was in front of her. She shrieked in terror, gasped, lurched backwards, clutched her chest, and bent in anguish, her face contorted shapelessly.
“You got an army for me, Sty, huh? You’re delusional,” I sneered savagely at her.
Then I lifted her by the neck and slung her against the floor so hard and ruthlessly that she became stuck there forever, glued in the depression her body had created, the floor broken, her skull shattered, brain scattered.
I entered the bedroom. Upon ransacking, I found Stig’s leg behind the headboard. It was wrapped in a transparent plastic bag. Blood had completely drained out of it. I took it out, gripped it firmly by the ankle. Outside, I could hear the gunmen in the hallway. They had heard Sty’s terrified shriek.
I went out to meet them. They opened fire relentlessly. But I, too, had a weapon and I whacked them with it good and proper. I broke their skulls and necks and jaws and ribs and every other vulnerable bone in their bodies. By the time I was done, they were all dead, seventeen of them, and Stig’s leg was damaged beyond repair, torn and broken and twisted. I dumped it. I decided to replace it with one of the gunmen’s legs.
As I looked about for a suitable one, suddenly I heard the most unnatural sound under the circumstances issuing from one of the bedrooms, and I remembered Stig reassuring me that something special may come of this mission. A baby was crying. I followed the sound and located the room. The woman was hunched at a corner, the baby in her arms. She winced from my approach. I knew her. She was Sty’s sister and this was her house.
“What do you want?” she barked, tremulous, slinking further into the corner. She was appalled by my wounded body. My internal organs were visible. She could see through me.
“I want your baby,” I told her matter-of-factly.
“No—” she started to object but I broke her neck before she could finish.
I took the baby. She seemed five months old. I bound her on my back with a sheet. Then I knotted five other sheets together and used them to bind the bonus souls in the hallway. I dragged them to Hell. Stig’s leg could wait.
I arrived in Hell with resounding glory. Beelzebub, Moloch, and Mulciber met me at the gate with such thrilled joy as befitted the kingdom. Mammon brought me a steaming hot bottle of Coca Cola which I began drinking immediately.
“Can I have those?” Moloch said. He took the souls I’d brought and promptly started to stab them with something that resembled a pitchfork. They moaned sickeningly.
“Give me the child,” Beelzebub said. He was the second in command.
“Reed, I was instructed to create for you a chamber within the palace,” Mulciber said. He was the architect.
“I do not want a chamber, Mulciber. I want my soul,” I asserted.
“The Master said you will never have your soul,” Beelzebub explained. “You do a very good job for him. Besides, you love your job.”
“But that is utterly unfair!” I cried.
“If you want fair go to Heaven,” Moloch said.
I groaned bitterly, feeling cheated.
©Peter Nena 2013