Tibijuka and Kyalo
“You have to agree with me on this one Kyalo, African men are not any stronger than either Asian men or Caucasian men! This is all the proof we need!” she says, gesturing emphatically at the elaborate tables and calculations projected on the wall with a gloved hand.
She beams her face, lighting up with her easy smile. “They are all dying like fleas, all the sample holding houses where the Stay’s water supply was spiked are reporting the same mortality rates!” She pauses then says, “Once again, I have proved that our ancestors were unintelligent foolish theories with no bases!
Kyalo mutters, “What did you expect from a world run by men?”
A second passes before Tibijuka quips, “They must have come up with all this claptrap in an attempt to forever hold us underfoot.”
“Yeah, like that would ever happen,” Kyalo says as she takes off lab coat and tosses it in the dispenser close to the lab exit.
“I’ll see you tonight love, try and not spend half of it here,” Kyalo says as she leaves the room.
She is a ball of nerves. She paces up and down her spacious office while deep in thought. The sound of her steps are muffled by the plush white carpet that she, just recently, had installed to match the walls and ceiling that had been painted white years before, the same year she had been promoted to Ward General. She stops by one of the large five floor to ceiling glass windows that dotes her office. From the 75th floor of Tilili towers, her office gives her an unobstructed view of Konza City’s Angelou Park, The Keepers Monuments (consisting of 4 hulking statues of women guards standing as tribute to the Keepers) and the sprawling mansions owned by the powerful women of HOS. The view that almost always takes her breath away, even near 10 years after occupying her office, is, today, lost to her. Her gaze goes past the monuments, past the impressive mansions to the thousands of holding houses, where almost all males born in her Ward are kept after they turned 14.
All this while her thoughts are in turmoil.
They know! How did they find out! The Mistress is going to have my head for this.
She turns her back on the view. The crafted bangles on her left wrist make a clinking sound as she moves. She runs her left hand from her forehead through her thick, kinky hair, which is now almost all grey. She is usually careful not to touch her hair, but she is too overwrought to care.
I haven’t done anything wrong! I…I…I just wanted to know which holding house they kept him…if he was alive! Mistress wouldn’t get rid of me. No, she won’t! Not for… for something so small after all the years I have worked for her, No. She wouldn’t. Without my control, the Horn of Africa Ward would be in shambles! Men who have passed the separation age would be running around everywhere! Utter chaos!
Kora walks back to her desk and slowly sits down. Making a more conscious effort to calm herself, she mentally starts to count from ten to one, while taking deep breaths in between each number.
She is probably watching me. I will not give Mistress any other reason to doubt my allegiance and that of the HOF ward.
Kora is terrified of how vicious the Mistress acts towards Generals proven to be male sympathizers. Six years before the Mistress had dealt ruthlessly with ward leaders she believed were male sympathizers. Two ward captains, both former leaders in the North African region, where the society before the shift had been strongly patriarchal. Their society had been the last to be fully converted and, almost a hundred years later, they still didn’t have all their men in holding houses. To add on, the women they selected to be Keepers were not the biggest and strongest of the stalk as should have been. The two Ward leaders were found to be corrupt and Kora had secretly been glad when Mistress sentenced both of them to death by acid bath.
Acid bath… but I will die knowing that he is alive…living in a holding house, in my own ward.
The thought made her smile.
That is exactly the spirit that made her make me a General.
Her smile widens, she is finally calm.
From his position on the floor, it was impossible to see who was lying lifeless on the wide wooden stretcher the Keepers carried on their shoulders. Had they been less gargantuan, maybe the odds would have been better. Still, 098011 strained until the corpse carrying amazons were out of his vision.
The alarm was put off 30 seconds later, a sign that they could go about their evening rituals within the confines of their circles. 098011 stayed on the ground. His brows furrowed in concentration. He couldn’t get the image of the Stay’s carefully enshrouded corpse off his mind.
What did he do to deserve death? Who is going to be next? Why do they make us and throw us all in here? Why are the women more important than us? Why do they insist on covering the dead yet every man in here knows what they are carrying?
He then glanced at the sheets lying on his bed.
When they kill me, they will cover me up in these sheets, just like they do with other Stays.
He sighed, his heart heavy with sadness mingled with resignation.
He remembered the day, years back when he along with other males reached the separation age. The Mistress and her administration had claimed that it was their destiny, and just like their fathers and uncles before them, they were to help support the Empire with their hands. They threw about words like obligation and responsibility. He liked the idea of being a glorified hero, so he joined. Months after, he along with the rest of the men his age were permanently moved into a holding house in the Nile Delta. All men who resisted were killed; collateral damage, indeed.
His thoughts shifted to his twin sister, Kora.
We came from the same womb yet she is an angel and I am the devil.
27 years had passed since the last day they let him use it. “Nkem,” he whispered to himself. 098011 whispered his name to himself every day, lest he forget.
Rebecca Onyango is a 21 year old Kenyan student at Mount Holyoke College. She is an Economics and Politics major with an overactive imagination.