A Range Rover flew past him like a whizz-bang and he had to swerve dangerously in panic. He called the driver a fucking bean soup.
“I hope you choke to death!” he cried in the cruellest, most vehement voice he could muster. “I hope you choke to death!”
His voice vibrated shrilly like the stridulation of a cricket.
After the vexatious Range Rover had vanished into the estate, and Ochise’s heart was once again calm, he pondered over whether he had cursed correctly or had blundered like a man drunk on bean soup. What if it was interpreted that he loved bean soup so much that he daydreamed about it? Ah, fuck it! But that wasn’t what he had meant—no, ma’am, sir, it wasn’t!—and any misinterpretations could be shoved up the shit duct!
“Shove it up the shit duct!” he squealed, and then grinned like death.
As a matter of fact, he hated bean soup, loathed it. When he was in high school, it had been a speciality. Can you believe that? Those M-fuckers had made that shit a speciality! Boil the beans for teachers and save the red, thin, watery diarrhoea for students. They poured a mugful of it on your vegetables as if it were ketchup. But it tasted like poison, and it could make you shit your intestines out in shreds. Or fart something flammable.
One student had eaten it and caught fire. During a power blackout, while making his bed in candlelight, he had accidentally farted in the direction of the flame, which had at once expanded like a demonic thing and engulfed him in a ravenous, unforgiving blaze, melting his fat farting ass like plastic and climbing up his rectum and into his intestines, boiling them like water. Thirsty tongues of blue flame had come out of his mouth and nose, licking them, frying his tongue, lips, and cheeks like beef. Witnesses had spoken of sizzling sounds issuing from his ears and eyes. Ironically, his death had been ruled suicide by the school, and Ochise had laughed himself almost to death, comparing the poor boy with those weird monks of Tibet who protested against the government by setting themselves on fire. Somebody should tell them the job was much easier with a mug of bean soup and a half-burnt stick of candle. All they needed was drink the soup, light the candle, and point their assholes in the right direction. Then PEEEEW! BOOM! Suicide, ha, ha!
But that was neither here nor there today. That was past. What was here and now was that fucking bean-soup neighbour driving at over a hundred kilometres per hour on an estate driveway. Somebody should teach her a lifelong lesson.
Ochise parked the Nissan Sunny in his designated space. It groaned and shook like a debilitated old man dying of asthma or T.B., such a hunk of junk for a thirty-year old Mr. Handsome Right.
“Molly, I think today is your lucky day, baby. You have met the famed Mr. Handsome Right. And he is going to make all things handsome and right. He is a righteous man.”
That was what he had told her when they first met. And she had laughed musically, her voice a titillating frequency, mellifluous, pure. He had drowned in it.
Later, when the drowning hadn’t killed him, he had questioned how it could have been that he’d fallen in love with a voice. What happened to falling in love with the person? Where did it go? Had it ever even been there in the first place? Maybe no! It hadn’t. As far back as Ochise could recall, it had always been the eyes, the face, the hair, the voice, the boobs, the ass, the legs, etc—never the person!—which was truly strange because none of those parts meant shit without the person. A human being chopped into pieces for everyone to pick their favourite parts! Who could love, even barely like, detached eyeballs floating around the house like a genie, or a headless face that resembled a mask with live chattery teeth, or boobs that dangled on their own like magic fruits, or ass—just ass—bare, disconnected ass? Ah, fuck the world for all the bullshit! Fuck the world!
But he had loved Molly. She had been a sweet soul.
“Molly, I love you wholly,” he’d been used to saying, making her laugh in that pristine, melodic way of hers.
On the second floor landing, Ochise found a little girl, five or six years old, playing with a brown cat. He recognized her as the bean-soup neighbour’s daughter, and he thought that he might just have his revenge for the contempt showed him on the driveway. Her mother drove a brand new Range Rover Vogue while his was a retiring, asthmatic not-so-sunny Nissan Sunny, the ride in which was more like a piggyback on a sick old man than anything else. Some days when he felt generous, he wanted to carry it home instead of having it carry him.
“Give me that cat!” he barked at the girl and grabbed the animal from her hands. Being a family cat, it did not fight and instead snuggled up to him. He put it down and kicked its butt so hard it flew over the railing and landed in front of an oncoming Volkswagen which went on to squish it on the pavement. It cried once and Ochise could swear he heard its bones crack like sticks.
“Holy Lordy!” exclaimed he in wonder. “How unlucky dat fat cat!” he chuckled. To the girl, he said, “Squishy-squashy-squiggly-squeegee! Holalalulaah! Must’ve been a jinxed day for your kitty-catty, no?”
But the girl began to cry.
“Shut up or I will eat your tongue!” he barked, and she quieted for a second, gazed at him with scared uncertain eyes, but started crying again. She let out a shrieking scream.
“Ayee!” exclaimed he in surprise but quickened to add: “If I see your tongue one more time I will bite it and eat it like chocolate! Chocolate! You get that?”
He bent down to her level and bared his teeth, running his tongue over them like a sinister carnivore. He licked them, clicked them, ground them, as if chomping down on bones, and swallowed hungrily. He grunted, snapped.
The girl took off like a bird, screaming her lungs sick, and Ochise laughed all the way to his house.
“Little Marybeth Bay, where is thy Aunt May? Tell her the bogeyman cometh thy way!” he sang and laughed harder, louder.
The house smelled of Molly. And that was the second worst thing about being in it. The first worst thing was that Molly was dead. She had been dead for two months. Yet it felt like yesterday. It was driving him mad.
Her head had shattered like a coconut.
Ochise hurled himself onto the bed and wept afresh. The bed smelled of Molly; she was all over the bed: her warmth, her love, her lovemaking, her breath, her sweat, her tears, and even her sounds. He was haunted by these, hounded even.
“Ah, love is hard!” thought he.
He got down and changed into her clothes, complete with panties and a bra. That way his mourning was complete. He remembered everything about her. He relived them.
He sank his head on her pillow, where her hair had been, that black mass of love, soft lustrous, mossy, not to mention its lemony—oniony—orangey—chocolaty—garlicky–flowery rapturous fragrance. So good it was a waste of words to attempt to describe it.
He had dried for her that hair, straightened it, plaited it, and when they made love, he’d ruined it.
“You ruined my hair,” she’d complained once while working to put it back in order.
“It looks like Calypso’s–you know, the bug-goddess and Davy Jones’ girlfriend from Pirates of the Caribbean,” he’d said, and she’d charged him and pinned him on the bed, and straddled him, and pretended to bite him but kissed him instead, and they had ended up making love a second time.
Afterwards, they’d both laughed and kissed and touched some more, and he’d ad-libbed a silly rhyme for her that went like: “Mellow Molly likes it wholly in her holy hole!” and she’d laughed harder and called him stupid.
He was still submerged in memories and filled with everlasting bitterness when there came about a series of knocks from the living room. It came slowly and distantly like a revelation and he wondered how long it had been going on. Before he could get down from the bed the knocks had become violent bangs.
“This is a private property!” he yelled as he dashed to answer. He flung the door open, and there before him, defying his imagination, defying everything, was the bean-soup woman.
“Holy Lordy! Look at this beastie!” he cried in shock and withdrew back into the house.
She was staring at him wide-mouthed and popeyed, as speechless as the dead.
He was about to swear at her for interrupting his daily private session only for her to end up freezing at his door like a misplaced ugly mannequin when he remembered that he was wearing Molly’s transparent nightgown complete with panties and a bra.
“Ah, fuck it!” he swore to himself. “What do you want?” he asked her, making his voice flinty and intolerable.
He had never been this close to her. In this estate, neighbours did their best to hide from one another. You knew they were there because their expensive cars drove in and out of the compound, and on occasional weekends you met them with their kids and maids on the stairs headed for church. They were cold, suspicious; they were scared of you. There were some foolish ones, though, that peeped at you through their windows when you walked from the parking lot to your house. Curtains opened and closed with the skilled secrecy and speed of witches.
When Molly died, none of them had bothered to condole with him. Only the watchmen had offered a few words of consolation. In the old Africa, entire villages would have come to mourn with him and offer comfort. But this was not Africa anymore; this was Europe. You had to live in a civilized world in order to feel empty and abandoned, all alone in a threatening place. It made you want to strangle those Hollywood filmmakers who portrayed Africa in their movies as a deserted desert, a barbaric wilderness, or an overpopulated pandemonium. They made European civilization appear so vain, yet its rewards were plenty, including alienation from all life, detachment from self and from everything else. You just wanted to shoot somebody, kick something, thrash and crash.
“You killed my cat!” the woman accused. She had recovered enough to speak. She was as dark as something that should be poisonous. She was huge, a giant, and she walked like a load. Her arms were as firm and thick as his own legs; and her ass was a solid and compact construction block. It could be used to balance a crane.
“Do I look like a car to you?” he asked her.
“Why did you kill my cat?”
“Are you naturally stupid or do you just need somebody on whom to discharge your filth? If so, you’ve picked on the wrong person. You are standing at my door and if you get hurt, it will be a case of self-defence. Go to the police!”
“Mr. Morocco said you threw the cat down in front of his car and he crashed it before he could stop!”
“Mr. Morocco? Aha! Holy motherfucker! Isn’t Morocco a country in West Africa? A man named so must be a consummate moron. Moronic Morocco, ha, ha!”
“And you beat my daughter!” she accused. “You hurt little Lily!”
“Your daughter is mad,” he said. “How can you raise a mad girl? And has it occurred to you that I could have kicked your daughter and not the cat? Have you thought about that, huh? That I had enough good sense in me to kick the cat and spare your daughter, especially after what you did to me on the driveway, because you have a Range Rover and I have an antiquated Nissan Sunny? Why are you so thoughtlessly ungrateful?”
She was fuming. She was literally swelling with rage. Puffing like a puff adder.
“You make haste to haul your Brobdingnagian ass over here because your cat is dead?” he went on. “Did you see its brain? What did you think when you saw its brain? What do you know about loss? When your girlfriend’s head explodes like a coconut shell and you see her brain splattered on the road, and you shriek and howl and jump about like a lunatic, and at the same time you are struck by a strange wonder that the ugly mess of blood and brain tissues and intestines and smashed liver at your feet is what had made her beautiful and lovely and wonderful and the best in the world! And you become confused and bewildered and you want to throw up and run away from it all, yet you choose to stay and mourn at the unfairness of everything. That it never mattered that you loved her; that to God or Nature or Satan, or to fellow humans even, it never made a fucking difference that you so loved her you’d have offered to die in her place! That you don’t matter! You don’t matter! Your love, your heart, your mind: all that you have, all that you do, does not matter. It doesn’t matter whether you do good or bad, whether you love or hate. Everything can be taken away in a blink, without warning, without so much as a psychic premonition, and you remain blighted and inconsolable for the rest of your life. Questioning things, questioning life, questioning the fucking gods and their righteous diabolism! What do you know about that, you fat barrel of shit?”
He was crying again.
“You beat my daughter,” the woman said stolidly.
“Jeez! Why are you so obtuse?” he shrieked at her. “Fucking bean soup! Fucking dirty water! Fucking universe! I hope you choke to death next time you swallow! You make me want to punch something. You make me want to punch something so badly . . .”
And he punched her thick face. It was like punching a chunk of wet steak.
That was the sound it made. It was an impotent sound.
The cat came back.
But it was glowing, a flaming reddish brown coat, and the fire was coming from within it, as if it had swallowed a 200-watt bulb. Its eyes, which had been blue, were now bluer and fiercer, spotlights in the dark. It seemed phantasmagorical, as if it could not exist in real life.
“You are dead!” Ochise shouted at it, starting. He was in the bedroom but what he was doing there was somewhat vague. The cat was in the doorway.
“You bet,” the cat said, and Ochise jumped with the celerity of a trap.
“You can’t talk!” screeched he.
“What difference does it make?” the animal said.
“You are a fucking cat!”
“He said you killed her.”
“He said you killed her.”
“What are you talking about? Who said I killed who?”
“You killed Molly. He said you pushed her in front of that speeding Range Rover. Yet now you mourn hopelessly and fuck with other people’s lives as if you are the victim and deserve to be avenged.”
Ochise opened his mouth and let out a vociferous curse.
“I don’t know what you think you are,” he said menacingly, approaching the animal. “I don’t know if you are dead or alive, talking or not, I don’t know who sent you, but you cannot accuse me of such heinousness, you bastard! I will kill you again!” he screamed, grabbed a shoe and hurled it at the cat.
The cat dodged smoothly and took off. He picked up another shoe and charged it.
“I will kill you again!” yelled he. “I will kill you!”
Instead of coming out through the main door, the bedroom spat him forth into strange woods. He was still running. Tall trees stood around him, majestic and solemn. Dead leaves crunched beneath him. And overhead, canopies like clouds were as abundant as pain.
“What the fuck?” he swore and stopped. “What the fuck is this?”
The path ran infinitely in both directions. A straight narrow stretch of lonely gloom, as frightening as it was inexplicably there.
“What the hell?” he screamed again, and this time he shut up and recoiled. He realized that only his voice was perceptible. The forest was still; it was dead still. No echoes, no wind, no movement; the trees, though august and rich, stood as motionless as posts.
He could not feel his breath leaving his nose or even the heaving of his chest. Was he breathing? He pinched his nostrils with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. He held it that way for eternity. But nothing! He wasn’t breathing. Why? How could he talk if he wasn’t breathing?
He fanned his face with his hand, hoping to stir a current of air. None. There was no air here.
In Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, the robot conclusively sniffs a substance after one of the scientists has earlier remarked that it cannot breathe. It was a defect in the movie, but Ochise now grasped a handful of dead leaves and soil from the forest floor and sniffed them. But no! He could not breathe. His lungs were as still as everything else around him. Was he dead? He couldn’t be dead. Dreaming perhaps. All this must be a dream. Else, dead cats would never return to speak to humans. And your bedroom could not just expel into a foreign forest.
He saw the cat ahead of him, and for lack of anything else to do besides worrying and bowing to the flabbergasting horror of the moment, he decided to continue chasing. He flung the shoe at it, which it again dodged with graceful alacrity and sped on.
He did not know for how long he ran. It seemed to be forever. And the cat never tired. He never caught up with it. However, as unexpectedly as it had appeared, the forest vanished. It just vanished. It was neither behind him nor ahead of him. He stopped to wonder at this, gaping about in anxious suspense and horror, and he discovered that he was in a cemetery.
Before him was a grave with a statue of the Angel of Death reclined in a retiring, pensive sprawl over it, the famous scythe firmly gripped in its right hand, the curved blade extending on the ground in front of it.
The cat ran and stood by the statue. It said, “I have brought him,” and the statue lifted up its stony head and stared at Ochise with clear human-like eyes.
The scythe moved.
Ochise ran back the way he had come or the way he thought he had come. He ran for one million kilometres in different and winding directions but ended up at the same spot where the grim reaper awaited him with the hideous scythe.
“What are you?” he panted, unable to run anymore. He was shaking so badly he would have collapsed if he had but taken one more step.
“Me?” the grim reaper said, as if taken aback by the question. It stood up and towered over Ochise by at least three feet. Ochise was five-ten. Standing, the thing seemed to be taller than when seated. It was as bald as a rock by the riverside, and its beard was like the fibrous roots of a greedy plant, only longer, thicker, nastier.
“I think the question should be about who I am,” it said. “If you say what, you make me inanimate, yet I am talking to you right now, kid.”
Its voice was a sexless jumble of frequencies; also too hoarse. Its body was human in form. But it had huge wings. It had no clothes on except the scanty piece with which it draped its loins. Ochise had a moment to wonder what kind of sex it had.
“You are a statue, and don’t call me kid,” Ochise barked. “I am thirty years old.”
“Aha! Human!” it sighed. “You still think time is important on this side of things?”
“What is this side of things?”
“The answer to that question is in who I am.”
“Who are you?”
“I am Death,” it said and paused to regard Ochise reflectively, maybe to witness the effect of the revelation on him.
Ochise saw now that its eyes were colourless, transparent pools of water, without irises, pinpoint pupils floating in them.
Ochise considered him (let it be him, thought he, because it would imply inanimateness, yet it could talk and walk and laugh, and God knew what else it could do. After all, the cat had referred to it as he.) Ochise considered him for some time and pointed out that he was indeed a statue of the Angel of Death.
“I have never heard of such an angel,” Grim said. “If you mean that the angel is mine, then it should satisfy you to learn that I am, and can be, in no possible possession of an angel. But if you mean that I am the angel, you are wrong by a universe.”
“Surely you were a statue when I first came here,” asserted Ochise.
“And where is here?” Death demanded. He scowled and the pools of water in his eyes darkened, the pupils burning dark red. “Do you want to keep calling me a statue or do you want to discuss more vital things pertaining to your presence on this side of things? The pettiness of man certainly is staggering!” he sighed.
“Okay, so you’re death! Are you going to kill me Mr. Death?” Ochise asked, but it was more of a jeer than a question.
“It is not my duty to kill,” Death said, matter-of-factly. His eyes cleared.
“How then can you be Death?”
“I’m not a killer. I am a soul collector. Dying is an energy conversion process. When you die, a change is effected in your energy signature. I just read the signature and collect the severed soul. With this,” he added and raised the scythe.
Ochise stepped back with a gasp. He imagined that horrible blade tearing into his soul, somewhere between his shoulder blades or through his abdomen.
“Am I dead?” asked he, his voice now quieter, trembling, heartbeat climbing, and a cold thing sitting in his stomach.
“Don’t you know?” Death said, leering.
“How can I know?”
“But you have spoken of Molly as if she knows that she’s dead! Isn’t it your culture as a human to honour the dead and speak of them with more love and respect than you do of the living?”
“Where is she?” Ochise asked quickly. “Where is Molly?”
The Grim Reaper picked up the cat and put it on his shoulder. He began walking in the direction from which Ochise had come, or thought he had come.
“Follow me, child,” Death said without looking back, “and I will show you a lifetime in a handful of dust.”
Ochise, without any choice in the matter, followed.
“Did you send that cat to accuse me of killing Molly?” he asked, hastening to catch up with Death.
“How did she die?” Grim asked.
“Don’t you know?” Ochise threw back after a short consideration.
“Aha!” Death laughed and looked at him. “I don’t see everyone. Besides, I’ve been very busy across the globe. My schedule is airtight.”
“Well, we were from the supermarket, Nakumatt Prestige, the one at the intersection of Ngong Road and Mugo Kabiru Road,” Ochise said. “Molly had bought some condoms we had never tried, and we were rushing home to make love. She kept saying that she was horny. ‘I’m so hot I could melt your dick right now,’ she said. And I was as excited as an ant with a grain of sugar. ‘What makes women hot?’ I joked, referring to the new-age commonplace fashion of branding women as hot. She said, ‘Hot means sexy,’ but I laughed and said, ‘No. I think they are called hot because they have the burning bush.’ And she laughed until she staggered about like a drunk, saying that I was out of my mind. I told her that I was going to pump her uterus with a prosthetic penis, and she said that if I did that, she’d stick a cob of maize up my rectum, the grains and all. And I began to laugh and hug her and kiss her cheek, and I told her how much I loved her then, how nothing else could be better in the whole world. But at the pavement, just as we were about to cross the road, Ngong Road, her left heel caught at a raised part, and she lurched forward. The Range Rover blasted her head.”
“Wow!” Death said with amazement. “That was quick! Nonetheless, I perceive that you had a hand in her demise.”
“How can you say that?”
“You distracted her.”
“You don’t seem to understand,” Ochise lamented. “It was a happy moment for both of us. We were going to make love. She was still laughing. I can still hear her. And I was holding her hand. The driver never stopped, was never caught.”
“I like the part where you wanted to pump her uterus with a prosthetic penis,” Death said and guffawed crazily, startling Ochise, who was immersed in memory. “Prosthetic penis,” Death repeated and continued with the cachinnation.
Ochise sighed. He hated Grim’s hollow, sexless, pitiless laughter. But there was nothing he could do about it.
“Life became meaningless after that,” he said. “Existence became unbearable. I wished to die.”
“But has life ever been meaningful?” Death asked, but the way he looked at Ochise with an oblique grin showed that the question was a tease. He knew the answer.
“What do you know about us?” Ochise shot back, resenting the tease. “What do you know about pain and loss?”
“Oh, I know plenty,” Death said. “The meaning you crave or wish for is unattainable. It is impossible. You think ideally. Humans perceive only straight lines. There is neither love nor freedom in a straight line.”
“There is love! There is freedom!”
“What freedom? The one for which you constantly wage war and decimate yourselves all year round only to return to the same condition after the war as before the war, huh? There is nothing like freedom. Not for your lot. And if there is no freedom, then there is no love.”
He paused and regarded Ochise thoughtfully, went on:
“How can there be freedom when the universe is governed mathematically? You are all trapped in a rigid energy system. Those who designed you, your gods, goddesses, they did so because they needed a source of self-sustaining infinite energy. Humans are the source. The earth is the engine that drives the universe.”
“What are you saying? It is a lie! How can you claim that we are like . . . batteries?” Ochise asked with hesitation, the concept imponderable to him.
“You are batteries,” Death affirmed. “Fuel cells. The sounds you make—the screams, the laughter, the wars, the machines—keep the universe in motion. The frequencies are far-reaching and are more powerful than any weapons your scientists can devise. You are practically perpetual motion machines. Anything you do is advantageous to the system, facilitates energy circulation. Whether you are happy or sad, living or dying, at war or at peace, sane or insane, your makers get along prolifically. Why do you think they told you that they can always hear you? They need you to keep talking, keep up the noise; they need sound. They gave you different languages and put you in different parts of the world so that they could get variable frequencies for maximum output. And in the beginning, when there were only a few of you, they built temples and made you sing and pray and scream in them. The temples were efficient energy conductors.”
“What do they need all that much energy for?”
“It keeps them alive. They get to be immortal and have all the fun.”
“What about when we are dead?”
“When you are dead?” Death asked and seemed to contemplate his reply. “When you are dead, I collect what is left of you, which is truly pure energy freed from the physical. It goes to sustain the sun.”
“What are you telling me?” Ochise asked after a short period of perplexed silence. “The sun is made up of dead people?”
“You can say that. Energy constantly undergoes conversion. When you are alive you create so much noise and general disturbance that entire new planets and galaxies are formed from them. And your makers are beside themselves with glee. When you are dead, you enrich the sun, which then inspires more life on earth, and the system is contained. On a larger scale, your interactions and behaviour are as essential to the structure and continuity of the universe as are those of electrons to the properties and functions of materials,” Death paused again, regarded Ochise, and then proceeded to say, “So then, tell me: what meaning do you see for your life?”
“It’s a horror story,” lamented Ochise, his heart sunk. “It is the worst horror story.”
“It is a win-win for the designers,” Death said. “They win.”
“What about you?” Ochise asked. “Are you affected?”
“I do my job. There is no cause for complaint.”
“What about dead animals?” Ochise asked, looking at the cat now balanced on Death’s wing.
“No energy is wasted. In the end all energy is accounted for. Every organism gives back what it owes.”
Ochise was speechless. He was trying to conclude on these revelations but they seemed disproportionately ugly. There was no way out of the system. It was a trap. It was jail. He had questioned once why getting out of earth alive was so difficult. First, you came via a one-way path; then there was gravity and the atmosphere to hold you down, but if you climbed higher it became intolerably cold and the level of oxygen progressively diminished to zero. If you could go beyond that, solar radiations and magnetic fields in the ionosphere and magnetosphere would fry your ass to cardboard. But if you had the means to continue further chances were that you would end up in an orbit and circulate forever, or find yourself drifting purposelessly in a limitless expanse of emptiness.
“Aha! Oh, yeah, life has meaning!” He was tired, dizzy, and there tears in his eyes.
“Don’t cry,” Death said. “It is utterly pointless. There is something you must see.”
Suddenly, they were at the pinnacle of what appeared to be a very high mountain, and before them, like the sea, were thousands of human forms. They had rather smoky-cloudy-foggy aspects, nothing physical, and they were glowing so radiantly they appeared aflame. They were in motion, all at once, and upon studious scrutiny, it became clear that they were flowing in a complex never-ending self-regenerating Fibonacci circuit. The motion was uniform but so slow that there was an initial illusion that they were stationary.
“What is this?” Ochise wondered.
“It is what a layman would call a depot,” Death explained. “Someone else might call it a capacitor. It is a store of energy. Millions of humans die annually, hundreds, thousands a day. I put them here before eventual release into the sun’s core.”
“How long do they last here?”
“How long?” Death mimicked and his liquid eyes darkened. Ochise cringed. “I do not measure time.”
“Is Molly here?” Ochise inquired, but the forms were all alike. Apparitions, he thought, and was struck by a certain fatiguing poignant feeling that these people had lived, had fallen in love, made love, played, laughed, fought, learned, philosophized, and believed there was meaning to all of it. Yet here they were, merely forms of energy in circulation, floating spectres, as unaware as nothing else could be, everything lost for them, to them, gone. It was ugly.
“She is certainly here,” Death said. “But myself I cannot see her. Their energy signatures are the same. Even if I could see her, it would have made no difference. None of them can leave the circuit or alter its momentum without severe and profound disturbance in the system.”
“Why are we aware?” Ochise moaned. “If we are mere batteries, fuel cells, why are we aware?”
“Your awareness accelerates your activity, hence more emissions of energy. Humans single-handedly power the universe.”
Ochise sighed, groaned. “Am I dead right now?” He wished to know no more.
“No,” Death said, looking down at him. “The woman you punched, Mrs. Kombo, she overpowered you and threw you down from second floor. You became unconscious from severe head injuries. Your body is in the Nairobi Hospital now. The doctor thinks you won’t make it.”
“She threw me down? That woman threw me down?”
“Listen, kid. I am not usually interested in live humans. I deal with the dead. I noticed you because I like the cat. A curiosity I’m unaccustomed to came over me and impelled to me to investigate the cause of its transfer from the physical. I’ll keep it. I do keep pets, mostly cats, in another place. Dead cats, you can call them. I cannot keep you, though. If you choose to remain here, I will have to insert you into the circuit. You can, however, go back to earth and live freely. By freely I mean without the self-made constraints that plague your existence, the socio-politico-economic and religious bullshit. You can live without fear or regret, without bias, hate; with fervour, passion, exuberance, and even joy. Not that it will change the aftermath for you, which is fixed mathematically, but it sure beats eternal mourning for the dead, for Molly or anybody else, who do not even know that they are dead, do not even know that they once were human. It beats pretending to own the earth and getting unduly distressed over it when you do not even own yourself.”
“But how can I go back to earth with this knowledge?” Ochise moaned. “How can I live knowing this?”
“You wanted to know,” Death countered. “Nobody said knowing would be a solution. The more you contemplate life, earth, the universe, the more they are pointless. Unless you are the makers, then it is all profitable.”
“Where is hope for us?” Ochise begged.
“There is always tomorrow,” Death answered, “That is all the hope there is. However, knowledge awakens. So then, awake forthwith! You can choose to live positively, avoid the hurt. It is a painful existence. If you want pain you can drink it like water the rest of your life. But there is no pleasure in overabundance.”
At the Nairobi Hospital, Ochise came to. Something was beeping and a woman was screaming, “He’s back! He’s alive! He’s alive!” yet another one was giving orders, “Call Dr. Maina! Call the doctor! Now!”
There was something over his nose.
The ceiling sparkled resplendently white.