Archive for the ‘Speculative Fiction’ Category

The clock struck 3.00AM and Casper sighed like a man intending to commit suicide. He felt hopeless studying alone at this hour, a lone lonely man stuck in a pit of shit, a pit of frothing shit accumulated over the previous endless shitty centuries of shitting humanity. He was stooped over his notes like a wicked child hovering over helpless ants with a piece of burning plastic in his hand. His notes looked like disorganized ants skittering bewilderedly to and fro, back and forth, over the pages. It was awful.

He yawned, making a low hollow howling sound and scaring himself in the process so that he groaned aloud. The silence in the Architecture and Design Building was palpable, bordering on ominous. Even the extremely rowdy Architecture and Design students who usually played vulgar hip-hop music aloud at this odd hour had left. A cold breeze seeped through a broken windowpane and stung Casper’s back like a bullet, but he did not wince, for it was the breeze that really kept him awake. Apart from his sheer determination to study through tonight, he also needed the sharp, biting edge of the breeze to frighten sleep off his eyes. Determination stoked by the fear of failing in an examination rather than the desire to meet a solidly set objective could crumble down rapidly to shit like an evil cookie baked by the Vice Chancellor himself, especially in a long, sad, frightful night as this.

The Vice Chancellor was a witch. In the moonlight of quiet vacant nights, he swam stark naked with crocodiles and rode happily on their scaly backs and allowed them to also ride on his fat, meaty back, but they did not eat him. In the dead deadly dark of the night, like tonight, he stuck a rugged bundle of ostrich feathers in his asshole and flew over the university buildings like a bat-spirit, spying on Casper, cursing him, spellbinding him with malevolent charms in order to make him flunk his course.

Not that Casper was that afraid of exams; since his first year in the campus, however, he’d learnt that it was as easy to fail in an examination as it was to tell a lie, whether you were bright or dull, a dux or a dunce, whether you wished to shoot the VC or just hang on to his ass like the crocs and the feathers. There were things that made studying in university so hard, distractions against which one had to fight so badly if one was to achieve anything at all: girls, music, movies, parties, friends, freedom, drugs, etc. Casper thought that it was in university where one actually discovered one’s potential to parry away temptations. He had, however, long since realized that he was rendered weak and disabled when it came to rejecting offers, and that was why he was lucubrating tonight; usually he ignored his work until exams began to make their abominable sinister hooting and honking sounds in the near distance. But there was a little comforting voice at the back of his mind telling him that he wasn’t the only one overpowered by the savage temptations life in university offered with depraved generosity; gazillions of students were worse than him out there, although not all of them were studying Electrical & Electronics Engineering in a department that specialized in murdering dreams and turning students into academic robots, where Engineering was studied in theory, a department ruined by the horrible witch VC who danced with the crocs in the moonlight and stuck ostrich feathers in his ass.

If you studied Electrical & Electronics Engineering it the University of Nairobi, you’d wish to shoot the VC dead in the head, right between his wicked witching eyes! CLICK-CLICK BOOM-KAPOW! Unidentified witch dead on the highway, the newspapers would report.

While he was waiting for admission to the university, Casper had heard incredibly wild and sweet stories about campus life. When he joined first year, he had lived the life described in those stories. The result was that he had flunked nearly half the units in his course, and that was when he began to hate and curse exams for turning an irresistibly enjoyable life into a mean, bitter, poisonous beast. He had yet been in school for nineteen years, and had only one more to acquire his first degree, yet he still did not understand why there ever had to be exams anywhere on earth. They were always so, so brutally inhuman, the real killjoys in life, especially in the UoN, which was the pit of frothing shit in which he was diabolically stuck, where lecturers showed up in class in the last month of the semester, hurried you through the course and then announced they would set exams. The question of moment was: how could you be examined and graded in a course you were never taught? It made you want to shoot the VC, blast his witch head off his croc-screwing body. That witch boasted an ISO 9001:2008 certification while classes rotted wretchedly under his malicious witch-watch and academic levels plunged irreparably into the hellish lightless abyss of mournful illiteracy. The equipment and devices applied for the study of Electrical & Electronics Engineering in the University of Nairobi were left there by the British colonialists in 1963. Unattended, unrepaired, decrepit, they were now deader than any dead thing, which brought to Casper’s mind another momentous question: how much had Electrical & Electronics Engineering changed between 1963 and 2008?

(Interlude)

SHOOT THE WITCH BURN THE WITCH
(A play by Casper Gasper the Ostrich Man)

ACT 1: SCENE I

(The University of Nairobi graduation square looms ominously before the audience. The witch has been captured by soldiers and is being dragged on the ground like a log. He is to be executed by a firing squad. Multitudes of students are chanting “Shoot the witch! Burn the witch! Shoot the witch! Burn the witch! Shoot him dead in the head! Burn him till confirmed dead!”)

Major General Casper (to his second-in-command): Are the troops ready?

Brigadier Fatty (saluting): Yes, sir! Troops ready, sir!

Major General Casper: Fall in! Fall in!

(Soldiers fall in)

Major General Casper (issuing a stern command): Aim! Fire!

(Gunfire erupts suddenly as soldiers begin to shoot: TOOP-TOOP-TOOP! BOOM-KAPOW! BOOM-KAPOW! BOOM-KAPOW! Firing continues until the witch’s head hangs limp as a boiled noodle.)

Major General Casper: Cease fire!

(Soldiers stop firing.)

Major General Casper (looking at the witch): Is he dead?

Brigadier Fatty: Yes, sir! I think so, sir!

Major General Casper: Confirm, Brigadier!

Brigadier Fatty: Yes, sir! (Moves forwards, views the witch’s limp body, and then looks back at his superior.) His eyes are still open, sir!

Major General Casper: Fuck it! Fire again! Fire until he burns!

(KABOOM-POW! KABOOM-POW! Firing goes on ceaselessly for hours until . . .)

Somebody dragged a chair carelessly in the adjacent room and routed Casper out of his deep thoughts. He jolted, sat upright. So I am not the only student in the building, he thought. The other ones most likely to forgo sleep were medics, although they were no better than the engineers; they were fucked up worse because they killed patients at Kenyatta National Hospital and safely and contentedly got away with it. The next room shut with a bang and footsteps pitapatted randomly toward the room in which Casper was brooding. It turned out to be a night watchman.

“ID yako?” the man asked adamantly in distasteful Kiswahili. He wanted to see Casper’s student identity card.

Casper regarded him coldly and obstinately. The watchman probably thought that he was not a student and had no accommodation in the campus, which was why anybody would choose to mug up in a lifeless deserted building at half past three in the morning.

“What is the worst you can do if I do not have it with me?” Casper asked.

“ID,” the watchman said slowly with contempt. He sounded as if he was talking to a very thick learner. He had obviously decided that Casper was not a student. Don’t I look like a student to this dumb shit? Casper wondered. The university watchmen had problems with their self-esteem. They felt that students despised them, which wasn’t entirely the case. When they had a chance to victimize an unfortunate one, they did it with utter desperation and vile enthusiasm. If they caught a non-student person in the campus premises, especially in the prohibited places like classes and ladies’ halls, they made a field day of torturing him until he became irremediably mad. Deciding instantly to play it rude, Casper said he had no ID.

“Basi toka nje!” the watchman ordered authoritatively. Then get out!

“I won’t!” Casper snapped.

“Nimesema utoke!” I’ve said leave! The watchman started walking confidently towards Casper.

Casper stood up abruptly, so abruptly the man was startled to a halt. He seemed uncertain now. Casper was taller than him. In fact, Casper was taller than most other people. Six feet seven, a broad chest, a small waist, long arms, long legs, a long neck, and a disproportionately small head (a classmate and a friend with whom he often shared a bottle of beer and a roll of weed had once pointed it out to him that he was built like an ostrich), Casper overhung his victims by both stature and attitude; he carried himself with condescending confidence and had a delicately bloated dignity. Pride was in his heart, arrogance aloft in his soul.

“Listen, you piece of shit in a pit of shit! This is not your house, okay?” he spat with venomous disdain. “I am a student here, okay? I have exams next week and that’s why I’m languishing in this pit of shit horror instead of relishing the comfort of my room, okay? I study a very difficult course and I am stressed right now, okay? And you’re here to stress me further, okay? Listen, you can never do the course that I do, not even if Jesus Christ himself adds you a brand new sparkling brain, okay? So you just drive your despicable watch-manning illiterate butt away from me and go on and fuck yourself sour and sore, okay? And don’t you fucking bother me again, okay? Or else, I will cut off your head and shit down your gaping throat! You are an idiotic stupid horrible barrel of frothing shit, okay? You understand, okay?”

Later, after Casper’s inexplicable death, the watchman remembered him vividly and described his voice as high-pitched, grating, and hysterical, like the sound of a hacksaw grinding whiningly against steel.

“Kweeee-kweeee-kweeee-kweeeeee . . .” the watchman had gone on to demonstrate.

Irritated, rendered inferior, defenceless and speechless as well, the watchman clicked his tongue and left. At the door, he turned once and told Casper that he was going to lock the door from outside and report him to the other security guards. They would frogmarch him to the Student Welfare Authority Security Office for discipline.

“Yeah, go the fuck right ahead, okay?” Casper said. “Lock the door and insert your dick in the keyhole, okay? Lock and fuck the keyhole!”

“Okay? Okay? You are very stupid, okay?” the watchman mimicked with a violent sneer and scurried away.

“Fuck you!” Casper cried hysterically after him. “Fuck the keyhole! Fuck the VC! Fuck the VC! Fuck the VC!”

But the watchman did not lock the door; neither did he summon his fellow security guards.

***

Around a quarter to four, Casper dozed off, the biting breeze notwithstanding. He was woken up by a movement so swift he did not comprehend it at all. Somebody must have entered the room and then left too quickly. All a long there had been a big black rucksack at the far corner of the class. It had sat there since six the previous evening when Casper first came in. He had presumed it belonged to one of those mean selfish faggoty-maggoty students who usually left their books behind on their favourite reading tables long before they arrived at the rooms so that nobody else occupied those particular tables. Now the rucksack was gone. Whoever had come in while Casper dozed off had taken it. But how fast! Casper was sure he hadn’t dozed long enough to enable even the most surreptitious thief in the institution to intrude upon him. His first reaction was to confirm if his property was intact. The University of Nairobi bred such slick remorseless diabolical thieves that it was as if it offered a singular excellent course in stealing. It had better thieves than academic professors and doctors. They were so uncouth and heartless and obscenely bold that they stole your wet underwear from the bathroom while you soaped your face with your eyes closed. An institution for thieves, and you wondered why the Vice Chancellor made love to crocodiles in the vulgar moonlight and stuck ostrich feathers in his ass!

Casper thought he should rush outside and catch whoever had sneaked in on him, but decided it could have been the owner of the rucksack himself or someone else of no consequence to him. He went on with his studies. Sometime into four, he dozed off again, and became alert when a pencil rolled on the table where the rucksack had been. It was a HB pencil, with black and red longitudinal stripes along it, brand new, sharpened once for the first time. It had not been on that table a few minutes before. Casper contemplated it and could not understand where it could possibly have come from. He was thinking only of Miva, his girlfriend, when he picked it up. Miva liked to calculate her rough work in pencils. He would tell her that he had bought this one for her, especially for her. She would be pleased and she would promise him things, sweet things that lived only in women. To test its sharpness and efficiency, he used it to sketch electrical circuit diagrams in his book. What transpired between the circuit sketches and the writings that he saw afterwards among his rough notes, he did not know and could not explain. While holding the pencil, he must have drifted into sleep or lost his consciousness completely, because he could swear with his neck in a noose that he did not write the following words:

RETURNMERET URNME RETUR NME RETURN MEEENOOOOWWW

Return me? Return who? Return what? What is this? Casper asked. This was wrong. He must be exhausted, his memory growing vague, fatigued. He decided to end his studies, go to his room, and catch an hour’s worth of precious sleep.

He met Miva in class at eight and gave her the pencil. She was genuinely pleased in a huge way, and she kissed him in a huge way. She promised to go to his room after classes, where only special, delectable delicious things could be expected to happen, and he had gruellingly slow hours of delightful anticipation the rest of the day.

In the evening, though, she returned the pencil to him.

“What the hell is this thing?” she asked in panic.

“It is a pencil,” Casper replied politely, although his first thought was to tell her that it was a dick, any dick, even the VC’s dick, particularly the VC’s dick.

The VC’s dick must be covered with scales to fuck crocs, he thought hilariously and nearly burst out with terrible laughter. He was checked by Miva’s pained face.

“I bought it especially for you,” he told her, and then considered her puffed face if she would stop grimacing at him and be pleased. Jesus, how he wanted to fuck her!

“It doesn’t write,” she stated.

“What does that even mean?” he asked.

“It doesn’t write,” she repeated.

“I really don’t know what you’re talking about, baby,” he said and lovingly brushed her hair. “Of all the crazy, weird, uncanny, impossible, improbable, supernatural things that can happen in this pit of shit world (like the VC sticking ostrich feathers in his ass and flying like a bat-spirit over the campus, he thought but did not say), a pencil cannot not-write. A pencil writes. That’s what it does. As a matter of fact, I used it before I gave it to you. I tested it.”

His hand had slid stealthily to her neck, from where her breasts were next. He could feel his penis rising steadily like the morning sun.

“See what it did to me!” she exclaimed and raised her skirt. There was a deep wound on her thigh.

“Holy-crapping-Lordy-Jesus-save-us-all!” he cried and jumped back like a missile.

She had stopped bleeding but the wound was frightening. Gaping, red, unhealthy, fat, it shook Casper badly, who usually shuddered almost superstitiously at the sight of blood, to the core. In a quick flash, it crossed his mind that he could not say for sure where the pencil had come from.

“How did that happen?” he asked, pointing at the yawning wound (it yawns like the VC’s ass packed with ostrich feathers, he thought crazily but did not say), pretending to be calm while inside he was near hysterics. He stepped back close to her.

“I was writing a report and this pencil couldn’t draw. So I put it on my reading table and fetched another. When I was done, I started to get off the chair, but I fell instead. I fell on this pencil.”

“How did you fall on it? You said you put it on your reading table. It was on your table, was it not?”

“I don’t know how it got to the floor,” she said uncertainly. “It was on the table all right. I know it was because I put it there myself and I could see it. But when I fell, it was on the floor and pointing upwards. Believe me, it was pointing upwards. And when I fell, I felt like something was pulling me down forcefully to the floor. I was being pulled downwards.”

“I’m sorry,” Casper said, too confused to think of anything else. After some silent seconds, he added, “I’ll take you to Sick Bay,” which was the student dispensary and where you could easily be overdosed to death or treated for gonorrhoea when you had malaria. One of Caspar’s classmates had been treated for brucellosis for three good months while he had been slowly wasting away and dying of tuberculosis, spreading it around the campus in the meantime. Yet the university trained doctors and nurses and pharmacists and the rest of their ilk.

The Vice Chancellor knew this and it pleased him immensely.

“Keep it. After all, it doesn’t write,” Miva said, giving back the evil pencil.

Evil pencil, Casper thought. Holy shit! He took it. “It’s alright. I’ll get you another.”

“I saw some words in my book, but I didn’t write them. RETURN ME RETURN ME RETURN ME NOW . . . Only they were almost misspelt, with bad spacing and all. I didn’t write those things, but they were all over my page. I don’t even understand what they’re about!”

Casper remembered the words he had seen all over his rough page, and was chilled.

“Do you recall them?” Miva asked, studying his reaction, and wincing from the pain in her fat thigh.

“No,” Casper lied; “just thought it’s weird.”

“They were written in a HB-pencil. That much I could tell. The one I had before you gave me this one is a 2B. But this one doesn’t write, so who wrote those words?”

“Let’s take care of your leg first. We’ll sort out the rest when we come back.”

“I’m scared.”

“Of what?” asked he with a boldness he did not feel at all. “Of a pencil?” mocked he. “But that is truly absurd, my dear. Don’t be scared. It is only a pencil. Perhaps one of your friends did write those things.”

“I was alone in the room and I had the book all along.”

“You’ll remember. No need to panic.”

Casper remembered and was shaken. He could feel a repulsive mixture of confusion and panic churning within him. Whose pencil was it, and where had it come from? Had it been in the rucksack? But it couldn’t possibly have dropped when the unseen intruder grabbed the rucksack. It had not been there shortly after the intruder was gone. It had not been there. It must have come from somewhere else. Otherwise how long would it take a pencil dropped on a slanting reading table to start rolling across it? It surely would do so immediately. This one had started rolling after some time.

When the stupefied faggoty-maggoty quacks and charlatans at Sick Bay had finished dressing Miva’s wound with hell-knew-what medication and prescribing to her a couple of painkillers, which, for all Casper cared, could easily have been ARVs for treating HIV/AIDS, he escorted Miva to her room in Hall 13, all the while bitterly regretting his forgone opportunity to screw her. He swore sorely at the pencil.

When he got back to his room, he took the pencil and examined it the way he would examine a faulty electrical circuit, with keenness and astounding scrutiny. But it was nothing more than a Staedtler Tradition Graphite HB pencil, made in Germany. Was it evil? Could it be harbouring evil powers? “An evil pencil?” scoffed Casper loudly. “Oh yeah, and next time there will be an evil sharpener or Biro or book or whatever! What a shitload of frothing crap!” There was that US writer who crapped up horrible shitloads of garbage about evil pissed off cars that killed people by their own free will. What was his name? King Kong? Miva had one of his books about an evil car named Christine or Christina or Christ n Tine or Tiny Christ. Aha, fuck him! Casper did not give a mosquito’s balls about him. A malevolent pencil would appeal to his morbidity and diabolism, though.

Casper was an engineer, and not just any engineer but an electrical engineer, which meant that he was categorically in the category of the most intelligent of engineers in the whole world who dealt with physical sciences. Engineers were sane. They made the world go around. They were the backbone of human civilization. So what was this shit about a pencil that hurt people and wrote on its own? He would be damned to admit it. He fetched a clean foolscap and made sketches on it with the pencil. It worked. “Now what was that bitch saying about the pencil not writing?” he asked wonderingly, not minding for a second the reference to his girlfriend as a bitch. “Ah! Women! They all have degrees and Masters and PhD’s in making complaints about anything and everything, even pencils! Which writing instrument is more reliable than a pencil in this pit of frothing shit universe? A pencil cannot just stop writing and can be used anywhere regardless of variations in pressure, temperature, or some other shit.” The pencil was fine, as far as Casper could tell.

The picture of the Pencil

But it was nothing more than a Staedtler Tradition Graphite HB Pencil.

He was still making sketches of complex circuitry when the pencil stopped working altogether. He scratched the paper with it harder and harder but it stubbornly made no more marks on it. And everything he had drawn suddenly disappeared, erased by invisible hands. This was plainly unbelievable. Devoted to make some sense out of this uncanny phenomenon, he decided to break the graphite and re-sharpen it. He tried three times, pressing it down on the tabletop and the bedstead, scratching it hard on the floor and the wall, and finally trying with his teeth, all to no avail. His teeth started to hurt. It was like biting steel. The graphite refused to break. It dug a hole on the wood of the table and the bedstead and left a groove on the floor and the wall. Resolute for once in his campus life, Casper told himself he had to get this one thing done right. Having no sharpeners in the room, he fetched a pocket knife and settled down to business. Holding the pencil in his left hand with its tip protruding between his thumb and forefinger and most of its length folded in his palm, he made a powerful stroke with the knife . . .

But the pencil moved back on its own just in time and he cut off his thumb like a roll of sausage, slashing it off diagonally at the first joint all the way through to the front where it dangled perilously, like a wounded bat, on a thin strand of pale skin. For the first few seconds, Casper was too stunned to feel the pain; hell, he did not even comprehend what had just happened. He stood still in his confining two-by-three metres room, the knife in his right hand, the pencil in his left, and the ugly wound in his thumb. He seemed to have lost his mind; he seemed mechanical as he looked at the knife, then at the pencil, and then at the wound. He dropped the knife, switched the pencil to his right hand, gripped it firmly, and spread his left hand, fingers apart. He did not know it when he raised the pencil and stabbed forcefully his wounded hand, the pencil piercing through the palm to the back and remaining stuck across it. Blood sprayed liberally from the severed thumb.

And now Casper screamed. His thoughts returned at once and he saw what he had done. He made a shrill sharp abrupt metallic squeal, like the sound of a bat. He was bleeding uncontrollably. His thumb was damaged and the artery in it was squirting forth blood disgustingly, frighteningly, in pulsating jets. And there was an ugly hole through his hand. The pencil had made him stab himself. Terrified, enraged and in pain, he yanked out the pencil and carelessly dumped it away. He rushed for tissue from his closet and tremblingly unrolled a handful. As he moved around the room struggling to stanch the blood, he did not see that the pencil had moved from where it had fallen and was now pointing upwards on his path. He stepped on it and it penetrated full length into his right foot.

It did not snap as would have been the normal case in view of the fact that Casper’s sole was hard like carapace and his weight was stupendous. More out of terror than out of pain, Casper opened his mouth widely and yelled like a retarded child. He slumped down on the bed and continued to cry. His roommate absent, there was no one to assist him immediately. He tried to pull the pencil out of his foot but the pain was too unbearable. It had lodged deep into his nerves, and even if he survived this maddening torment, he would limp for the rest of his life.

While he cried and moaned, helpless and tortured, the pencil came out of his foot by itself. It came out fast as if pulled out by something. It was certainly pulled out. There was something else in the room with Casper, something that he could not see, and it was controlling the pencil. This realization drove Casper mad and he got off the bed abruptly and limped towards the door. But he lost balance and fell like a bag, hitting his head on the bedstead and landing on his back hard enough to shake the room. He scrambled up, staggering, befuddled, his vision bleary, his head throbbing. He saw the pencil. It was coated with a profusion of blood. He grabbed it and cursed it and threw it into the trashcan. Let it stay there until he could return it to where he’d found it. Yes, return it. He had to return it. The words that had been scrawled on his rough page and in Miva’s book suddenly made sense to him. The pencil was alive, haunted or bewitched or just fucked up. It was probably a voodoo pencil. The dark forces that roamed the universe every night had trapped him with it. And they were here to torture him to death unless he hastened to return it to them.

Maybe it belonged to the VC! Yes, that made much sense! The pencil belonged to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi. The witching son of a bitch must have been flying over the campus with his ostrich feathers stuck in his ass when he heard Casper cursing him aloud after the watchman. He must have then sneaked in on a dozing Casper and trapped him in the room with the voodoo pencil. It was the VC, no doubt. Nobody else could have pulled off this much diabolism but that corrupt shit-kicking ghoul who painted walls beautifully and grew costly lawns and flowers around the university while lecturers were severely underpaid and academic levels decayed like corpses and classes were thoroughly empty of knowledge. It was him.

This knowledge gave Casper some hope. He now knew his adversary. It was scarier and more agonizing to deal with an unknown, unseen thing intent on demolishing you, but the fear and the agony became much reduced when the enemy was known and visible. He could call people and inform them of what was happening to him. If he died, at least they would know the truth. And they might be inspired enough to pursue justice. Stepping firmly on a rug with his left leg and grimacing tearfully, he returned to the bed and collapsed down on it. He reached for his cell phone from the reading table and called Miva. He called her three times but she did not answer . . .

. . . because by then she was herself dying horribly: the VC’s whacky-quacky relatives at Sick Bay had given her drugs which suppress colorectal cancer, and not painkillers. In addition, the nurse who’d handled her, after cleaning the wound with hydrogen peroxide, had ended up contaminating it anew with a used cotton wool. Miva’s pain and agony had thus accelerated astronomically. Then the evil, perverted, bewitched pencil had poisoned her with its darkness and paralyzed her entire body. She was now lying mortally on her back, straight as a corpse, her body devoured with a blazing, living, wormy pain. She could not speak or cry, for her throat was stiff. Only her eyes could move in their agonized sockets, rolling, swimming, rotating uselessly this way and that. She was dying and she knew it. What had Casper done to her? she wondered woefully.

Next, Casper called Fatty, the friend who had once told him that he was built like an ostrich. Fatty was obese and perpetually mean-tempered and cantankerous. He had once insulted Casper—over a crate of cheap beer and a roll of second-hand weed, of course—that Miva walked like a pregnant duck. Casper had told him that he was fat like ten people, to which he had reacted by calling Casper a preposterous moron and then went on to adlib a song titled Casper Gasper the Ostrich Man. Casper had then called him a quagga. “What’s a quagga?” he’d asked thickly. “An extinct zebra,” Casper had said, uncertain, yet pretending to be confident. And Fatty, annoyed, had chased Casper upstairs with an empty bottle of beer in his right hand and a thick glowing roll of weed in his left. After five steps he had sat down panting, his overworked heart almost exploding.

Fatty was always drinking or munching something. Like all of Casper’s classmates, he did not know any practical engineering; he thus found consolation in some form of obscure poetry called Haiku about which Casper did not give a cockroach’s ass. Fatty plumed himself on being the only student in the university who knew Haiku, as if it mattered. He had once written one to describe Casper and it had read like this:

Tall ugly shithead
grinning like a fed doggy
over cheap shit food

Casper had retaliated by writing one to describe him:

He a buttsteak
Like a steak of butt
He an asshole
Like a hole of ass
Fat ass

“That’s not a haiku!” Fatty had cried.

“Fuck haiku!” Casper had said.

“And fuck you, Casper! Fuck you! Fuck you till Jesus returns to burn your ass!”

Casper had informed him that he had the lead IQ in a mob. “What does that mean?” he’d asked thickly. “It means that if you join any mob, everybody there will end up with an IQ the size of yours, it being the dumbest in the world,” Casper had explained patiently, and Fatty had sworn that in the future he’d rather die than spare an atom of piss to save Casper if Casper was burning to death.

As he sat on the bed, swathed in insufferable pain and bleeding generously, Casper thought that Fatty should have been the last to call, in light of the fact that he was clumsy and hateful, a humpty-dumpty clodhopper with a bad attitude. But Casper had no other friends in the university; the institution teemed with abused students who also abused themselves while foolishly defining the abuse as life—“that’s life,” they’d say—yet so contemptible that death-row inmates seemed like transcendent angels.

If two Kenyans are picked randomly from across the country with the only difference between them being that one is a high school graduate with an outstanding A and the other is a hard-knocked criminal tough as nails and grim as death; if it further happens that the student is enrolled to study electrical engineering in the University of Nairobi while the criminal is sent to jail, then at the end of five years the two will have equal IQ with the difference being that one of them has papers claiming that he has a degree which he really doesn’t have.

To Casper’s utmost horror, the pencil jumped out of the trashcan and flew towards his face. He cried aloud and wet himself like a baby.

Fatty, despite his worrisomely colossal weight, despite having sworn to rather die than spare an atom of piss to save Casper if Casper was burning to death, responded to the call and arrived at his friend’s room thirty minutes later. It took him that long to climb the stairs from first floor to third floor. He moved like an exceedingly fat worm, seeming to roll onwards rather than walk, his enormous body undulating as if he were an alien maggot, like that monstrosity that sucked out someone’s brain in Starship Troopers. He pushed open Casper’s door. He was starting to sing Casper Gasper the Ostrich Man when he took one look into the room and choked dangerously on the Strawberry yoghurt he had been slurping down his oily throat. He jerked backwards, wobbled, doubled over to cough out the yoghurt but his heart exploded forthwith and he spew forth a copious supply of dark-red blood.

But not before his strangely poetic mind formed a Haiku to describe his dead friend:

Face frozen plastic,
eyes open, dry, unseeing
in eternal still.

The pencil was fixed deeply into Casper’s forehead. His bed was awash with blood. He was dead, with his eyes open, his mouth twisted, gaping.

There was another mysterious death in a different room one floor above Casper’s. A student had been strangled by a black rucksack. It was the thief who had stolen the bag and ruined Casper’s dear life.

In the Architecture and Design Building, the following notice hung askew on the notice board:

IF YOU TOOK A BLACK BAG FROM ONE OF THE CLASSES OR IF YOU TOOK ANY THING THAT WAS IN IT, RETURN IT INSTANTLY OR YOU WILL DIE!

Picture of the warning

Hanging on ADD building notice board.

The pencil had been in the rucksack!

The End.

There was a new girl at the office. She was extremely pretty. She was the only woman in the company, although she thought there were other women. She saw them.

One Friday morning, on the second month of her employment, a strange man named Caleb Ruoth came to the office and terrorized her. He said,

“I need to see Mr. Gorgon!” in a tone of peremptory command.

He, however, had no appointment, and Margaret, the new girl, duly informed him of it, at which point he gave in to a sudden fit of frenzied rage and hysteria and hammered the desk mightily with one surpassingly huge, mighty fist.

“I need to see Mr. Gorgon!” he repeated, and lurched closer to the secretary, his face twice hers, eyes blacker than the blackness of death itself. She could feel the furious breath jetting from his flared nostrils upon her face; it smelled of raw fish and dry grass and it was hot as if there was a ruptured volcano inside him.

She jerked away from him and at the same time emitted a sharp, bewildered cry. She made to reach for the phone but he knocked it off the desk before she could touch it, his gigantic arm making a dangerous sweep towards her, missing her by a hair’s breadth; it reversed immediately and clamped her hand, which had not moved an inch, like jaws. In an instant, he had pitched forwards, lifted her from beyond the desk like a piece of paper, tossed her up into the air, let go of her for a second or two, clutched her again by her shoulder, and yanked her towards him as if he purposed to wrench off her arm. She bumped him and bounced back. He was as solid as a wall. His lips touching her left ear, his face grim, he said,

“Now perhaps you will listen. I need to see Mr. Gorgon.”

His voice was too deep for an ordinary human, his chest seemingly hollow. His breath was like fire and it scorched her earlobe, which at once began to peel, melt, and shrink like a dying leaf.

It was then that she screamed: a shrill, terrified, thoughtless, deranged, blood-curdling scream that brought me out of my office in a split second.

“Margaret!” I shouted, as if in panic. “What is the matter?”

The man released her. She ran to me. She flung her arms around me, I hugged her, and she began to sob, heaving and convulsing in great terror and temper.

“I need to see you,” the man said.

“I need to see you,” he repeated.

“You will,” I told him sternly.

I took Margaret to my office, put her down gently on a sofa, and gave her a glass of ice to press on her injured ear. I returned to face Caleb Ruoth.

He was colossal, stalwart as well, a beast of a man, his neck a pillar of steel, supporting the immense superstructure of his round, massive head. He towered at slightly beyond seven feet, his skin unusually dark, eyes darker, yet so piercingly keen that when he focused them on you they looked like two pitiless pits, endless, lightless, empty, hellish, soulless, and you wondered what he saw in you, for he seemed to see something of which you yourself were not aware. He weighed at least three hundred pounds.

Enraged, for the evil he’d done to my secretary, I allowed him no chance to explain his business. I grabbed him by the ankle of his right leg, and, with one arm, whirled him round and round the room like a rock on a sling, and then freed him forcefully towards the nearest window. He exploded through it like a demon, glass shattering, scattering, screaming, and, a few seconds later, there was an implacable, unforgiving thud nine floors below.

Shouts and shrieks and ululations followed forthwith. People saw a man plummeting uncontrollably from the ninth floor window and hitting the ground with a powerful, death-dealing crash. However, when they ran to the scene of impact to witness, to their maddening confusion and shock, there was no corpse but an old tyre of an old truck . . . only that and nothing more.

***

Meanwhile, back in the office, I took care of Margaret’s wounded ear. It had shrunk and shrivelled to a third of its normal size. It had also blackened to the colour of soot. She was touching it and sobbing bitterly. Tracks of tears stained her fair countenance, which was now distorted and perverse.

“Who was he?” she asked concerning her attacker.

“Caleb Ruoth,” I said.

“Does he owe us money?”

“I have never seen him before.”

“Did he want money?”

“I don’t know.”

“I wonder how he passed by the guards and the reception downstairs,” Margaret said, sniffling and drying her eyes and nose with a fold of serviettes.

“They will have to explain,” I replied, but I knew it would be fruitless.

“Will my ear grow back?” she asked, fingering the damaged organ and wincing with horror to find it so disproportionately withered.

“You must go to the hospital,” I answered. “Arrangements have already been made for you to leave immediately,” added I, and she looked up at me anxiously, wondering who could possibly have made the arrangements when nobody in the company had yet heard of her situation but the two of us. She started to ask something but I interrupted her with, “Would you like me to call somebody to escort you?” to which she answered, “No, I’ll just go, but thanks, boss.”

She left soon afterwards. She did not ask why nobody else on the ninth floor seemed to have heard her scream, why no one had come out to investigate the commotion when the window shattered.

The hospital, owned by the company, was on the second floor. I was already there when Margaret entered.

“Good morning, Margaret,” I greeted, beaming cheerfully, when I saw her.

“I’m afraid it’s not so good for me, Dr. Reed,” she replied gloomily.

  “I can see that,” I said, observing her carefully. “No one looks for me when everything is well for them.”

“Indeed,” she said, and managed a wan smile.

“How may I help you today?”

In response, she removed the bandages with which I had dressed the wound, and I jumped back, as if scared, upon seeing her shrivelled, blackened ear. It was continuing to shrink; it was much smaller than it had been upstairs. Soon she would have nothing there but a hole, a cavity into her skull.

“What is that?” I inquired, feigning shock. “What happened to your ear, Margaret?”

“A man came upstairs . . .”

“What man? Which man?”

She quickly briefed me respecting the events upstairs.

“His breath did this?” I wondered. “What sort of a man was he?”

“He was enormous. His breath was like steam and smelled of raw fish and dry grass.”

“Raw fish and dry grass, huh?” I said and stifled an urge to laugh aloud. “What does a mixture of raw fish and dry grass smell like?”

“I don’t know,” she said, uncertain. “It’s what came to my mind first when he spoke on my face.”

“A curious happening indeed,” remarked I. “I hope Demogorgon dealt with that devil accordingly. Let’s see how we can fix your ear before it disappears completely.”

I re-dressed the wound and administered some medication to her, which, but for a few painkillers, consisted mainly of placebos. Afterwards, I advised her to return home and take a deep sleep.

“Will my ear grow back, Dr. Reed?” asked she, sounding pained and vulnerable.

“It should by tomorrow morning,” I reassured confidently. “If it hasn’t, then I should schedule a surgery straightaway to replace it.”

“Okay. Thanks, Doctor,” she said gratefully.

I watched her depart thereafter, a fair-skinned petite woman of twenty-three, graceful, sweet, defenceless, an efficiently beautiful human child. I knew what would happen to her. It was inevitable, irreversible.

***

At the reception on the ground floor, she stopped to inquire respecting Caleb Ruoth.

“Roni, did you permit an enormous evil-looking man to come to the ninth floor to see Mr. Gorgon?” she asked the male receptionist.

“No, madam,” I said deferentially. “I didn’t see anybody fitting that description.”

“Hanna? Did you?” she frowned at the woman sitting with Roni.

“What was his name?” Hanna asked.

“Caleb Ruoth.”

I pretended to search for his name in the desktop in front of me.

“Nobody by that name has reported to this building so far, madam,” I told her shortly.

“Well, he did,” she emphasized. “He must have quietly slipped by when you relaxed your duty. He was a very evil man and he hurt me. Mr. Gorgon must talk to you about him.”

Her tone was almost threatening. I held my breath until she was gone.

She called her boyfriend when she arrived at her apartment on Riverside. She told him what had happened at the office, adding that Dr. Reed had said she would have plastic surgery if her ear did not heal by morning. He expressed his incredulity at the news, and then condoled with her and promised to see her as soon as he left work.

“I’ll just be at home waiting for you,” she said. “I miss you, Jim, and I love you.”

“I love you too, sweets,” I responded smoothly. “See you when I come.”

“See you, baby!”

In truth, her boyfriend was dead. He had been dead for six weeks. She did not know it yet. I had killed him myself a week after she began to work for me. I had fed him to my horse. It was me on the phone with her that Friday morning when she was lying down on her bed waiting to fall into a deep sleep as I had advised her at the hospital. Not that the sleep would be any beneficial at all.

***

I spent the rest of the day running the company as usual, such as only I could, being everything, everyone, all at once.

At exactly eight o’clock, Global Financiers Limited shut down for the day. Only one man drove out of the building. Only one man ever drove into and out of the building at opening and at closing respectively. It was me, and I am no man.

I am a being, yet not human.

My name is Demogorgon. It is a single name, though some people split it into Demo Gordon—hence, Mr. Gorgon—which is wrong, although I do not mind it at all, for error is to humans what evil and mischief are to me—inevitable. I am ancient; I am undying; I was there before the earth became habitable and the first human conceived of. I do not know from where I originated, or from what material I am made, or for what function. I was startled awake by the very first beam of light that ever shone on this planet. When God said let there be light, I was suddenly deluged with alien, exquisite brilliance, and it was precisely then that I discovered myself, that I learned of my own existence, for I was painfully blinded, murderously confounded and propelled beyond the damned abysses of insanity by the immortal forbidding power of that glare, and I wept bitterly for the expelled darkness, void and formlessness to return and consume my soul until nothing was left of it but an indestructible substance of the dark. I am a substance of the dark. I am the dweller of the void and the formless. I am found within the abandoned soul of the soulless. I am the essence of that which is evil, even of Evil itself.

Satan cowers and mewls before me, for I bequeathed him the concept of rebellion. I am the paragon of his undiminished madness. When he begot Death by his daughter, Sin, I stood by as the godfather. I am the godfather of death.

I am many.

Who I am now, whose face veils my countenance and hairs grow on my devoted head, can be anybody. There is a plethora of choices from which to select my next facade, a cornucopia of souls to deceive, devour and render incurably demented.

In the beginning, to exact vengeance against the creator for ravaging my darkness with his fiery light, I swore to torment his creation forever and humiliate him ruthlessly by constantly thwarting his efforts to save them. Every good deed he attempted had to be corrupted to a bitter, worthless, horrifying end. For a start, I incited Lucifer against him, and once Satan and his diabolic army had triumphantly rebelled, they joined me and we immediately became accomplished in torturing and annihilating every living thing we could find. For centuries, I drew immense pleasure from this perversion; later, however, I became blasé; I became accustomed to destruction and death and no more rapture did I derive from them, especially after we had managed to turn every living thing against one another, to destroy and desolate without mercy. Humans themselves, our chief target, bore the hardest brunt of our vengeance, for they were, from the start, endowed with reason and knowledge, and deep inside them, there was ample room for improvement. They were, therefore, easier to transform than other creatures, and, in the end, they became irreparably degenerated. Their improvement had to be watched with unfailing critical caution; every chance for improvement had to be ruined, subverted, and perverted to the extent that they began to view ruin, subversion, and perversion as the fundamentals for improvement. Now they scarcely remember their origin; the earth is too harsh for them and they have nowhere else to run; all they have is one another, yet they are violently intolerant and wantonly hateful. Pain and death are their eternal bands, and although they awake each morning believing that they have, at least so far, been victorious over the two, the vanity is too poignant. A human life is like a circle of pain with death seated at a random point on the circumference. No matter which way a man runs, pain is with him and he is heading towards death, even when he thinks he is escaping it. Nevertheless, I relinquished some of the work to Satan. I no longer applied myself with excessive assiduity as I’d done before. The world had already become too much alive with unchanging evil, and I found no enthusiasm whatsoever in enduring to destroy creatures whose sole goal was now to destroy themselves and their own abode. Satan never tired, though; his delight in his own success is inexhaustible. His pride is an inextinguishable flame.

After millennia upon millennia of wandering to and fro and back and forth the earth, and feeling increasingly purposeless, desolated, and bitter, I sought something for my personal indulgence; I did start a company in accordance with human laws and trends. Global Financiers Limited, a company owned by one, run by one, yet it is in every state in the world. I am the chief executive officer and all the directors and all the employees, including the guards and the cleaners. When we have a board meeting, it is a meeting of one mind, and I just sit there alone and mull over my cause. I give loans to governments and private citizens at the lowest rates, even as I trade their souls with Lucifer, who still craves such things. The money is like a cursed thing that is never put to any helpful use. It causes corruption and consumption by mental illness. It diverts attention from the objectives for which it was acquired and utterly erases every trace of benevolent action from the mind. It vanishes as if scattered carelessly in the wind. People become insane soon after they come to me. Governments are viciously overthrown or become frenzied dictators hell-bent on slaughtering their own citizens to extinction. Yet, when all these things have come to pass, my debtors still owe me and must pay what they owe. They pay with their souls, since, myself, I get paid for those souls in return.

Once, not too long ago, a woman, who owed me, put her three-month old baby into the microwave while convinced beyond doubt that it was a bath. And a man forced his bull into a deep well so that it could drink all the water it wanted without bothering him every now and then.

The Devil continuously upsets the system, compelling every human towards a state of excruciating financial dependence, where they believe steadfastly that without money they are nothing, nobody, and severely worse than dead. They run to me, desperate and insecure, fearful and abased like the lowest of creatures that ever populated the earth, and I drive them mad and deprive them of their depraved useless souls, which I offer to Satan to continue his exemplary work. My reward is occupation. I get something to do.

Occasionally, though, I employ a human female. Having lived amongst humans for this long, I understand perfectly why, sometime back, angels from heaven descended to earth in order to mate with the daughters of men, for the women are exceedingly pretty beings, tender, ripe, needy, and crushing one underneath me is indeed an unqualified experience. I employ them in order to mate with them; otherwise they are worthless to my company. They never find out that I mate with them.

***

Having closed for the day, I took my horse, which everybody thought was a car, and rode away. It was its feeding time, and downtown Nairobi, at the excessively busy and confused Railways Bus Station, it transformed into a minibus with a capacity of fifteen passengers. Travellers gathered forthwith at the entrance, multitudes of them, and then rushed in impetuously, as soon as the door had opened, fighting for entrance, pushing and grabbing and shrieking, yet too impatient and ignorant to notice that they were walking straight and willingly into the inescapable belly of my horse. Too bad I could only accommodate fifteen.

I heard their horrendous screams when my horse’s belly began to churn and constrict and grind them to pulp. They were shocked, terrified screams dead of hope and seemed to emanate from a hole with no end so that only their dying, unintelligible echoes were audible. By then I was coursing along Mombasa Highway, away from the public, where nobody would ever know. My horse was a different minibus everyday.

I went home for my own dinner of fish and hay. I had built a fish pond where there was a swimming pool when I bought the property. I leapt in and caught fifty giant ones with my bare hands. I put them inside a bucket of water and carried them carefully into the deep, dark, winding hole I’d dug on the floor of my house, and in which I lived; I sat down easily on a heap of hay and ate the fish one by one, swallowing wholly, so that I heard them dancing and jumping frantically in my stomach. I liked them to dance and twist as such in the cruel confinement of my stomach. Afterwards, I had my usual share of hay, of which I consumed about ten kilograms, washing it all down with gallons and gallons of water from the pond. I felt much better thereafter.

Then slowly and creepingly I crawled out of my hole.

The night reposed with serenity of still and perfect doom. The sky, laden with human toxins innumerable, brooded over the world potently and maliciously as if wishing to fall down and crush all to dust. Thunder rolled heavily and the ground shook; lightning peeped through the poisonous clouds and then glared down brutally while squiggling about indecipherable warnings of an oncoming inevitability across the bloated fabric of heaven. By the time the first drops started to fall, I had reached Margaret’s house.

“Jim!” she exclaimed when she saw me, calling me by her dead boyfriend’s name. She hugged me hard and kissed my lower lip, sucking, pulling at it as if she wanted it to fall off into her mouth. I withdrew and planted a gentle one on her lips. She was warm and sweet, and soft, and I wanted her. She said she had missed me; I told her I’d missed her as well, only worse, and kissed her fully in the mouth.

“Was it so bad?” I asked her as I examined the bandages on her ear.

“Dr. Reed said it’ll be okay,” she said.

“Does it hurt?” I inquired.

“It itches, it tickles, it sears—but that’s all.”

“How could a man hurt you with his breath?” I wondered.

“I don’t know. He just did.”

“Was he arrested?”

“Mr. Gorgon threw him out the window.”

“And then?”

“I don’t know. He died maybe. I don’t care.”

I studied her pretty face and wondered how she would react do if she suddenly knew that I myself had been Caleb Ruoth, who had assaulted her at the office, and if she saw my true face now, my leathery, rugged, hellish toothy face that was itself older than the earth.

I carried her to bed and mated with her. She was small and weightless beneath me, powerless and subdued, squirming and crying with pleasure from a place beyond hell, a true picture of a human in her designated state, thinking she was in control, believing so, when herself she was the subject of a relentless callous control.

The wound in her ear would never heal. In the morning her earlobe would be all gone, leaving only a hole into her skull, and afterwards the infection would spread rapidly to the left side of her face, and then to the rest of her head. It would go on until all the flesh was eaten from her head and her skull exposed, sparkling white, with her eyes dangling emptily in it. There was nothing she could do to stop it.

As I anticipated my orgasm, lightning tore ferociously at the pregnant sky and thunder rolled out like the Devil’s child.

The picture of Demogorgon

Then slowly and creepingly I crawled out of my hole

I died for three seconds and went straight to Hell. Upon my arrival, the Devil came and took me before that infamous immensity of molten fire, the limitless, unquenchable expanse of mucilaginous horror, which cracked and crackled to reveal its seething white-hot underbelly. The Devil asked me to choose whether to be cast into the squirming hostility immediately or to wait as I watched my fellow humans boil and broil and scream in eternal agony and implacable doom. He said that he often liked new arrivals to just stay and watch on their first day because, then, the horror and affliction of Hell was total and complete and immensely rewarding to him. He added that he was a fair being, for he still allowed us some choices, even when we were utterly in no practical situation to make any.

“I do not want to be here,” said I, whining and quivering in unspoken terror, to which his reply was “That’s not a decision you can make now,” by which he meant that it was too late for me. My life of choices was spent. He proceeded to add, “However, I can return you to earth, but you must choose, from the two ways which I shall offer you, how to spend your worthless time on the worthless pit that you so thoughtlessly love.”

I quickly agreed, thinking I would do anything to return to earth, and escape the hideous, unflinching terror of the inglorious molten sea.

“A short life of three seconds during which you shall be the most intelligent of your species, a genius of a singular kind,” continued he. “Your fame will be unsurpassable, your glory intense and unmatched; three seconds during which all your dreams and whims shall come true. Or a long life of a hundred years spent in savage servitude, of brutal labour and undying humiliation. My demons shall minister to you and shall be your supervisor, and they shall expose you to anguish so great and insupportable it will make what they did to Job of Uz a travesty.”

While I was still pondering over the disparity between three seconds of a minute and a century of years, and increasingly becoming appalled by the wicked irony of this offer, the Devil turned to face me . . . and lo! what a mocking smile on his unfeeling countenance, what a cunning gaze in his deep, bone-chilling eyes! Perceiving fully what fate awaited me, I broke down in desperate yells from the desolate pits of my accursed soul, yells so deranged and inconsolable they startled Hell itself. For an instant there, I thought the everlastingly burning and smouldering souls had forgotten their unequalled anguish and stopped their inhuman screams in order to listen to me.

Enraged that I had failed to take either of his choices, the Devil lifted me by my neck and hurled me, like a tiny rock, into the molten, white-hot vastitude of fire . . .

And I woke up in my bedroom, choking and screaming, red smoke hissing furiously out of all the pores of my skin and the orifices of my body. My hair was all burnt, my night-clothes melted and stuck on my skin, my throat parched as if on fire. My head felt as though it were splitting along several jagged lines, and my eyeballs throbbed endlessly, rife with agony and immortal pain. I was hotter than a cupola; the heat of my body alone set the blanket and sheets ablaze, and soon the entire bedroom was engulfed in unforgiving flames.

I bolted to the door coughing and crying for help, but stopped at once when I heard a man laughing just outside it, a baleful, deep-throated guffaw like the rumbling of the foundations of the earth. Ho, ho, ho . . .

The Devil laughing

lo! what a mocking smile on his unfeeling countenance, what a cunning gaze in his deep, bone-chilling eyes!