“Jestocost, Djinn” by Maria A. Bukachi

Jestocost, Djinn


I pluckèd Leutha’s flower,
And I rose up from the vale;
But the terrible thunders tore
My virgin mantle in twain.
_William Blake (Visions of the Daughters of Albion)

In November of 3031, the Kenya Colony of New East Africa was wiped off the face of the earth. Eurasia and Imperial America sent multiple teams to investigate the disappearance of 200 million people. Few came back alive. On February 16th, 3059, a young woman was found deep in the Kilimanjaro Mountain. She was clutching at a half-burned photograph, a lamp, a skull, and a voice-recorder.

These are the voice logs of Iris Mfalme, daughter of late author Julia Mfalme and her husband, war-hero and Commander of the Kenyan Free Forces, Sage Mfalme.

11.38 pm, 4th November, 3031.

I… I thought of Mum all day today. Last night I saw her in my dreams. Well…it could have been her. I don’t remember Mum much. And Dad…well…he, like, never talks about her. I asked him about her today. He grunted and pointed at the only photo we have of her. Mum was so beautiful. Perhaps when I grow up, I’ll be like her: elegant and glamorous. But that’ll never happen.

(sobs)

Sorry Diary. I’ve known this for months but it’s still hard, you know? Anyway, back to Mum. She was playing with me in her dreams and Dad was somewhere in the room singing. I think they were trying to get me to sleep. Cute.

(laughs)

(sobs)

Sorry Diary.

(Voice log end)

07.23 am, 5th November, 3031.

(loud wailing)

He…(deep breath) he…he left. Dad left. He promised me he wouldn’t leave until after my birthday.

(sobs)

Something…he said…he said it was something about the South Africans breaching Kilimanjaro’s defences.

(more wailing)

(inaudible voice in the background)

I DON’T CARE. I DON’T WANT BREAKFAST. HE LEFT. HE LEFT. HE LEFT. HE LEFT ME ALONE.

(screams)

(Voice log end)

02.02pm, 6th November, 3031.

(coughs)

Afternoon Diary.

(more coughs)

Sorry about yesterday. I…well…I didn’t take things too well.

(laughs)

But now I know I’m all alone. No Mum. No Dad. No one. But, well…I have you. Don’t I, Diary?

(pause)

They say that no one gets special treatment from the djinn. But I can, can’t I?

(4 minutes of silence)

(Voice log end)

10:00am, 7th November, 3031.

Mornin’ Diary. Good news. Word is that we’ve pushed the South Africans back. The Kenya Colony is safe once more. At least, until the next attack.

(pause)

Maybe Dad will be back before my birthday. Jonah says that the teleporters don’t work anymore. Dad can always fly, right?

(Voice log end)

09:11pm, 8th November, 3031.

Sorry Diary. It’s late and…well…this will have to be short. We’ve had a black-out all day. Jonah and I spent the day under candle-light. When I was a child, I imagined that it would be fun to live inside a mountain. It’s not. I haven’t been outside in months. Anyway, Jonah said…he, well…he insisted that we re-read the prophecies.

(pause)

Nothing has changed. Nothing will ever change. The djinn will always want one of us. They will always choose. They will always get what they want.

(sobs)

(Voice log end)

05:47am, 9th November, 3031.

I can’t sleep. I just can’t. Jonah says he’s going to leave the Kenya Colony. He just didn’t say if it would be before or after my birthday. He didn’t even ask me if I would come with him.

(wails)

I love him. I know I’m too young to know love. But I love him.

(pause)

(male voice in the background)

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing?”

“What’s that?”

“No…hey, don’t take that?”

(crackle)

“Do you want to know something?”

“What?”

“Have you heard of the Aristophanic half?”

“What?”

“Aristophanes, he was this really sagacious philosopher.”

“What?”

“Can you stop saying what?”

“Why?”

(pause)

(laughter)

(inaudible whispers)

“Anyway, Aristophanes suggested that the human form was not always as it is today. Originally, humans were spherical, with four arms, four legs, and two faces on either side of a single head.”

“That’s disgusting…”

“Shush…don’t interrupt. Such was our hubris that we dared to challenge the gods themselves. Zeus, in his wisdom, split us into two, each half becoming a distinct entity. Since then it seems that men and women have been running around in a panic, searching for their lost counterparts in a desire to be whole again. Terribly romantic, don’t you think?”

“Maybe. But what does it mean?”

“Don’t be silly! You’re my half.”

(Voice log end)

07:11am, 10th November, 3031.

Morning Diary! Another good day! I had a wonderful night with Jonah. Let’s hope this is the first of many. Hmmm…sometimes I don’t know what to think of him. Like yesterday, he spent the whole day rambling. Going on and on and on about Aristotle, Aristophanes, Sopho-something. You know, those Greek guys from thousands of –

(male voice)

“Guess who’s back?”

(scream)

DAD!

(sobs)

(Voice log cuts off)

(inaudible whisper)

Dad’s back. Yay! We’ve left Kilimanjaro and we’re back in the Kisumu crater. Sorry for the hushed tone, Diary. Dad is going to be interviewed by the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and I’m going to listen in.

(Voice log cuts off)

(female voice)

“Out of all the KFF founders you’re notoriously difficult to pin down for interviews. Do you have any particular aversion to the press?”

“With over 70 million people to look after, I don’t have that kind of luxury.”

“Of course. I’d imagine you’re quite busy.”

“My own work is very involving. There are many wheels to turn, and I’ve got a gaping hole that needs to be filled. There’s only so much time in each day. This interview is a lot of pressure.”

“Then why did you agree to it?”

“That’s the question, isn’t it?”

“At the moment, yes. Do you have an answer?”

“I suppose Kenya’s isolationist stance for the last eight-hundred or so years may have something to do with it. The colonies have become a cradle, and one can’t live in a cradle forever. I want Eurasia and Imperial America to see that some of us believe it’s time for us to rejoin the world. It’s time for us to leave our mountains, our mechanics, our malevolence. It’s time for us to expand the webs we’ve weaved.”

“You’re obviously at a cross-roads with the rest of the New East Africa leaders, especially those in the Kenya Colony. And if you were to leave, wouldn’t you be obliged to share secrets your people have kept hidden for almost a thousand years, secrets that have led to your prosperity?”

“Some of those secrets are far too terrible to share. It would be best if they were kept hidden, if not destroyed.”

“Can you expound on this?”

“No.”

“There are rumours that…”

“Rumours are simple to weave.”

“Who or what is Jestocost?”

“Cruelty. A terror and shame of the past. A past I cannot answer for, since I was not there. I can only answer for my present and for the future.”

“But you must have some idea of its meaning?”

“This war has shown us that there is very little meaning to be found in the dead. I want us to steer away from the meaningless.”

“Some find your methods of governance questionable.”

“I haven’t failed a single man, woman, child, plant or animal yet. Nor will I.”

“As a theoretical astrophysicist, your contributions to the study of everything from evolution to dark matter has provided some genuine insight into the secrets of the universe. Your ancestors cemented telomere research and thus expanded our lifespans. Your great-great-grand-father theorised the possibility of matter transfer and quantum teleportation. Your great-grand-father and grand-father made it real with the first devices of their era, devices that are now ubiquitous in our lives. How is it that someone with so much scientific stock is now one of the most feared soldiers in modern history?”

“Necessity.”

“Do you still meditate?”

“Of course. I have been expanding my experience and knowledge through meditation. Years ago, I found that there are webs everywhere. My entire life is a web. All our lives are a living tapestry that we weave, one delicate strand at a time. Today, we climb this strand. Tomorrow, we shimmy down another. Sometimes the strands intersect. We’re all working away on our own different webs. Often when they overlap, magical things happen. This war, vulgar as it is, is my way of preserving a tapestry that has been built over centuries of hard work, by people like those of my family you’ve mentioned. We fight people who seek to burn that tapestry.”

“But you represent the establishment. How then can you call yourselves forces of the free?”

“Because we represent knowledge, love, desire, rebirth, and futurism. These are the tools of the free. Our enemies, blinded by false light, seek to return us to barbarism.”

“What will_”

(disant explosion)

(screams)

(sirens)

(Voice log end)

11.24pm, 11th November, 3031.

(sobs)

I can’t sleep. We almost died yesterday. Dad and me and the reporter. We barely made it back into Kilimanjaro. The teleporters failed again, so we had to fly. Still, I’m glad that I finally got to see how big the Kisumu crater really is. I’m so scared. Not of dying. That is inevitable, as Jonah says.

(inaudible whisper)

I’m scared of being so close to the djinn.

(pause)

Jonah says it’s our fault. We started these problems when we awakened the djinn. When we accepted their knowledge. When we accepted their power. I asked Dad this morning but he said nothing. He always has something to say.

(female voice)

“Ms. Mfalme, do you have some time?”

“NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. LEAVE ME ALONE.”

(cough)

The reporter keeps trying to interview me. I keep saying no. She persists. I hate her.
(Voice log end)

03.04pm, 12th November, 3031.

(loud sniffing)

I went to see Jonah this morning. I’d baked him a small cake. He was packing. I asked him where he was going and he kicked me out and slammed the door in my face. There’s no time for cakes and games, he said. People are dying, he said. You’re going to die, he said.

(crying)

(Voice log end)

04.00am, 13th November, 3031.

(male voice)

What if reality, as perceived, was simply an extension of the self? Wouldn’t that colour the way each individual experiences the world? That might explain why some people seem to get along so effortlessly, while other’s do not. Although people do keep trying. Yet, despite such predisposition, maybe one person’s construction of the world could influence someone else’s. You would have to imagine that these constructions, whatever their origins, are not immutable. That would suggest it’s possible for someone to freely alter his own perception of reality in order to overlap with that of another.

(pause)

Wouldn’t that be nice?

(pause)

I…

(pause)

This love. It’s violent. It’s fragile. It’s tender. It’s desperate. It’s dead.

(sobs)

I’m sorry Iris. I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t do it.

(Voice log end)

11.14pm, 14th November, 3031.

(screams)

(14 minutes of silence)

Sorry Diary. Happy fourteenth birthday to me!

(laughs)

They can’t find Jonah. For a moment I was relieved. Then Dad said I can still be sacrificed without him. I will be sacrificed. The djinn will always want what they ask for. It’s for our own good.

(wails)

(long silence)

All I wanted was to be able to see mum again.

(140 minutes of humming)

Jestocost came to me. He came to me. He came into me. I spoke to him. We reached an agreement.

(emphatic, maniacal , laugher)

(Voice log end)


Maria Bukachi is twelve years old. Though born in London, and raised in Cambridge, for the last two years she has been attending Brookhouse School in Nairobi. Apart from writing, her hobbies include art, athletics, drums, riding, and stage-acting.