“Prey” by Zak Waweru

Prey

The matron shifts in her chair to gaze at the stream of students leaving the dining hall. It has been seven years since she joined the school and the girls look up to her as a mother figure. Her cowl is the most recognizable outfit in the institution. The plain grey attire exhibits simplicity and is respected as a symbol of readiness to work. A silver rosary tucked in the hood speaks to her presence as the authority on spiritual matters. That, and her earnest, bright face, mark her as the most liked personality at Saint Benedict Girls School. In the absence of a priest she oversees the spiritual needs of the whole community. Although the school does admit students from other religions and Christian denominations, its Catholic policies are absolute.

The school is a centre of academic excellence. It is revered for its strict enclosure. The gentle silence surrounding it provides a suitable environment for both spiritual and academic exercise. Here, study is uninterrupted.

The school is located in what the students say is the middle of nowhere. It is in the heartland of the rising savannah which stretches past the horizon. It is accessible from the nearest town, forty kilometers away, by a dusty road which snakes across the plains. To the north it is bordered by a forest and to the west by hilly escarpments.

To the south, the Tsavo River carves its way, dragging spectral legends with it. Further upstream a wooden bridge is the only reminder that human encroachment had made it this far. Now decaying from the effects of weather, the bridge served its purpose when the slave caravans bound for Zanzibar made their way across the plains.

A story is told that when a caravan made it this far, the captives realized that they were never again going to be free men and resolved to die in their own land rather than suffer in captivity. The long file of chained men stalled and refused to move even when they were threatened with shooting after no amount of whipping budged them. They huddled together and dared their captors to kill them. The captors opened fire. The remaining captives dragged the corpses over the bridge and plunged into the river with them. The captors fired at them, the murky waters fast turning crimson. The gurgling of the river and mournful wailing of the captives drowned out the gunshots. Crocodiles made their way downstream.

It is often said that the souls of these young men never left the land. Their ghostly forms are said to be seen roaming the vast plains as they seek out their captors. People who are stranded in these parts say that they have heard disembodied voices or laughter or mumbling or footsteps.

The matron is well aware of the legend and such tales are of interest to her. As a young girl, she lived with her family in a house built on an old graveyard. At five years of age, she grew accustomed to sighting ethereal wanderings of women and children, images that remained with her until the day she turned eighteen and was sent to convent. She was yet to encounter the ghosts of Tsavo.

 

The bell rings to signal the end of the day’s activities and the students prepare to leave for the dormitories. Some congregate in one of the halls for a religious proceeding. The matron sits at her desk and listens to confessions and requests without so much as a twitch. After they pour out their hearts, she shifts in her chair and offers wise counsel, that all will be fulfilled, sorted out, pardoned, forgiven; His will come to pass.

Her cases are diverse:

Teacher: Please pray for me, my child is sick and my husband is leaving me.

Teacher: My students are rebellious; guess they are doing drugs.

Student: My parents hate me that’s why they brought me to this Godforsaken place.

Teacher: My colleague is going to get the promotion I think I was overlooked.

Student: I get bullied too much; the senior girls want to possess me.

Student: I see apparitions, ghosts lurking in the dark ready to pounce on me.

She fulfills her obligation, selflessly sacrificing her own soul, interceding on behalf of those who carry too much for themselves to bear. At times, she wishes she could self-flagellate and atone for the sinful ways of man that brought pain and misery. She reassures the confessors that all had been set free at Calvary, that all one has to do is reach out and touch the hallowed robes, and the bleeding from their hearts would cease, they would come down from the tree of Addiction, the Master would dine in their lives, and they would be set free from all that haunted them.

Walking around the institution at night is calming. All is still for mankind. Pieces of off-key sounds: the chirping cricket, the rustle in the bushes, the cuckoo’s call deep in the trees; the roaring waterfall, a consonant cutting through the entire void.

The matron walks to the end of the dormitory, and pauses, taking short breaths just outside the door which is inches open. The moonlight pours through the windows, bathing the occupants of the last cubicle. She reaches out with her hand and pushes the door a little wider, then moves to the area where light from the window doesn’t reach. She thinks about the sleepers as wind gusts outside, a window opens, and more light streams in. They lie snoring. There are two double-decker beds set against the walls, with a French window separating them at the wall opposite the door. The students’ metal boxes are stacked against the wall below the window.

The moon casts its path beyond the zenith; hours past midnight. Her body is calm and sensitive to her surroundings. The movement of air is heavy, misty, and it leaves her palms moist. Her eyes remained fixed with premonition.

Outside, the air swirls and bustles at the crevices. An intake of air is a snarl and, on an upper deck, night air rasps through the nose. A darkness descends in the room, holds the watcher, and stills or quickens the movements of the resting. An occupant tied up in sleep jerks and kicks in the sheets. A body turns, another sighs, and yet another is motionless. Somebody talks in her sleep. Somebody snorts. Somebody remains still.

The matron blinks and, now accustomed to the darkness, looks beyond the window to the moon now concealed behind clouds: a glow suspended in the vicinity where a ghostly heaviness lurks. Farther off, a bird circles where the moon is clearing the cloud.

The bushes outside rustle and a dog barks. The waterfall intensifies. The matron wants to move but is compelled to stay still. A jackal howls as it scurries through the field of maize. Deep in the trees a wild dog growls as it hunts, on a trail, alert for unfamiliar scents.

A body moans and is propelled out of inertia; other bodies struggle in their sleep. The matron’s eyes are wide open, her mind bound by a spell of surging shadows creeping in the humid air. Her body motionless, her limbs stiffen. Her blood chills and her fingers grow numb as shadows congregate and transfix the sleeping bodies. The bodies kick, their hands break free, and strike at the barely visible. The beds creak as their occupants tussle with shadows, and are uncovered as sheets float off. The shadows bind them fast.

The matron struggles with all her might to break free of the spell and succeeds in doing so as the beds rock dangerously. She is jolted back to consciousness, exhales, and her breath is visible. She struggles and her hand finds its way inside her hood. She retrieves her rosary and clutches at the crucifix with both of her hands. She tries to open her mouth; she summons great courage to keep herself from stammering,

Holy Mary Mother of God.

Almost convulsing, the matron braves the phenomena before her. Forces of darkness compelled by evil and floating in wild air bind humans and make wicked assaults upon them. Believed to syphon life from humans to keep themselves alive, the spirits prey on the living, paralyzing and seducing. The ordeal does not take long but the matron has to fight it even if with a recital.

Exorcisms te, omnis immundus spiritus
omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio
infernalis adversarii, omnis legio,
omnis congregatio et secta diabolica.

The occupants, now exposed in their night gowns, shake their heads vigorously and wriggle their limbs, tightening their legs to defy the force which wants them apart. But only for a moment. The shadows pin them against the beds, cajoling them, tormenting their semi-consciousness, and then forcing their way in.

Ergo draco maledicte
et omnis legio diabolica
adjuramus te.

The sleepers fight the parting of their legs, the gap between them widening, until they suddenly become rigid. The gowns tear as bodies are caressed roughly. Their breasts form firm molds. The shadows suck at their necks, digging with dark fangs. The sleepers sigh and gasp for breath as the rocking gathers, descending lower in the body.

Cessa decipere humanas creaturas,
eisque aeternae Perditionis venenum propinare.

The struggle on the beds stops. The victims lie unmoving, breathing deeply, their hearts beating in shaken unison. The matron leaves, shuddering terribly, dragging her feet, her body soaked in sweat.


Zak Waweru (@thewriter_x) is a twenty six year old student of life from Nairobi. He prefers to write thoughts and mould together sense and story. He writes to keep his mind whole.

“Transaction” by Wanjeri Gakuru

Transaction.

You’ve just turned nineteen
and are sitting in a tiny hotel room
fiercely reciting to yourself that from this day forth
the things that get trapped between your teeth and your thighs
will be nobody else’s business but your own. To make this stick, you shout
over and over in your head and especially loud as you blow out the solitary,
fast-burning matchstick atop a ten-shilling cupcake in one forceful fried-chicken exhale.

Air stops rushing out of the small, sickle-shaped space between your pursed lips but you decide to hold them in place a few seconds longer. After all, this is it. There is a shirtless guy next to you in bed. And it is on his outstretched left palm that the unexpected gift marking the nineteenth anniversary of your birth stands: a tiny cake you could clear in three bites. No matter, the overhead bulb is casting a flattering glow on his smooth dark torso and firm legs that sprout out of a faded pair of green shorts. The slight bulge of his pecks reminds you of the chicken breast you’d saved for later.

“Happy mbazday.”

You wince, wishing he hadn’t spoken, hadn’t broken the illusion that is the two of you actually in a cramped hotel room above a very noisy bar. But you decide to turn the scowl into an awkward smile and softly pat the young man’s beautiful head as one would a dog that had brought its master a dead rat happily clutched in its teeth.

It may be small but the room is clean. Frayed and partially drawn curtains reveal a cloudless sky and a full moon. The thumping music from the bar downstairs rises to meet your power-radiant face. You square your shoulders, place the uneaten cake on the bed-stand, and push the man gently back on the bed.

You kick off your sandals then put your hands under your yellow dress. You wiggle floral panties down your plump thighs and beneath one foot then the next. Motioning the man to make space on the tiny bed, you set your back down heavily, feeling your flesh spread out and away from your core, colonizing the narrow space between the mattress’ edge and the man’s side.

“Vaa hii.” Put this on.

One of three square silver packets is now freed from your dress’ pocket. A smell like Aunty Veronica’s ancient basket of plastic fruits sat too long in the sun tickles your nose. You try not to stare as he peels off his shorts but your eyes grow wide and eyebrows creep higher and higher as you sneak a first proper look at what lies between a grown man’s legs. Your stomach’s gurgling sounds become drumrolls that egg on the man’s fingers as they pinch and roll the yellow prophylactic device over an appendage with the girth and presence of a well-watered carrot.

A cock crows.

Or a guitar? You push your knees up against your pillowy belly, the front of your nightdress hiked up mid-thigh. Your squashed bottom having made contact with the bed’s flimsy blanket, you take a deep breath and gradually increase the distance between your fleshy thighs. Fighting the urge to pull down your dress and flee, you fix your eyes on the water-damaged ceiling and ask the man to proceed quickly to deflower you, as discussed.

Your torso wobbles as he supports himself into a kneeling position by your side. His massive form soon darkens the V-shaped frame of your quivering thighs. You become thankful for the now switched-off lights because the man can become a stand in for Mr. Whomever. Behind the drawn veil of your eyes you’re all sass and beauty and flat stomach and perky breasts.  

You jump a little as warm hands gently lower your legs—sharp hills plateau into two trembling rods. You wonder what to do with your hands. Should you reach up? Down? Lay them impotently by your sides? After a few minutes you question what is taking so long. Ah, there he goes. Breathe. You try to relax. But wait, what’s that? A hot, sharp pain starts to slice through you.

“Aah, acha!” Stop! 

You can smell the thin film of sweat on the man’s forehead as he hovers above you. Mr. Whomever is Mr. Stumped. His sinewy arms are planted on either side of your vast torso. You imagine that his eyes are darting between the space your chubby face must occupy and the dark tussling organs below. You feel the man relax his arms, turn, and rest on his back.

“Nipe ingine.” Give me another.

Your dress is crumpled halfway up your back. You feel wet and sticky in the usual, and sadly, wrong places. Should the two of you have kissed at least? Was that part of the deal? You can’t remember. The gist of the proposal when you picked up the guy downstairs was two thousand bob for a painless poke in your nethers, one of them anyway.

“Tunawesa acha.” We could stop.

The man’s whispers mingle with the velvety darkness, the soft swish of a kale-flavoured plea. Your earlier worries about his amateur skills are confirmed. Chickening out already? You begin to assess the situation. You could stop…or you could get on top; crush his body under your weight, trap him within your spindly web of stretchmarks and take what you carefully saved up in order to pay for.

Instead, the disinterested flicker in the man’s face makes you angry.

“You men are so stupid! This myth of the ideal African woman is bullshit. All you really want is smooth curves and symmetry. Anything other than that is disgusting. Every time a woman walks out of her house, her body is hacked into parts. There are breast-men, leg-men, butt-men but where are the men who like big girls?”

The air feels leaden. Your chest is rapidly heaving. You’ve even held balled fists against the bed’s blanket.

“Kama hutaki, tunawesa acha.”  If you don’t want…

But you don’t want him to stop, do you? Not when there’s a chance to finally rid your body of its shame, of this rite of passage that hadn’t yet come to pass, that didn’t seem likely to. Because, when was the last time you were touched properly by anyone? Handshakes don’t count and it has been years since your high school hockey teammates threw you brief neck hugs and butt pats.

Extended periods of touch had only been by the gloved hands of doctors and the clinical pedicures of nurses when you were fourteen, when your mother ordered a series of tests to find the cause of your continued weight gain. Cold rubber hands, white and acrid, and small blankets of lifeless second skins that groped at you.

Besides, no one ever touched you there. Not even you. You knew how sex worked, of course, but your natural vessel by which to participate in the act was still a mystery. The one brave night you held a small mirror to it, you quickly withdrew from the sight of your hairy slit. Therefore, as much as you were embarrassed that after some concentrated shoving, nothing had happened besides a burst condom and searing pain, you would proceed.

Or would you?

You get out of bed and switch on the light. You smooth down your dress and sit on the bed’s edge. Your eyes sweep slowly across the room and take in the cheap blue paint on the walls, the old wall clock, and a wooden door from behind which you can catch the unpromising whiff of an unflushed toilet. Your eyes finally rest on the man. He looks uncomfortable, eyes fixed on palms cupped at the top of his crossed legs.

You remember avoiding meeting his gaze from the start. You were afraid to see the look dancing in there. Would it be disgust? Revulsion at having to deal with the blob of rolling flesh that he watched labour up an endless series of staircases? Or worse, would you have caught indifference in there? Did he see you as just another piece of meat which paid to be devoured?

“Polē.”

He gives you a look of surprise. You’re equally surprised. You find yourself beginning to speak. The words come in fits and starts. Under a solitary bulb and in the view of a lonely moon, you wrestle with your tongue. Finally you tell him about your childhood and about your father who ranted about your ballooning school fees as your mother railed on and on about the corresponding increase in your girth. You tell him, the room, the world, how people on the streets barely looked you in the eye but planted daggers of disapproval into your back. You tell him how you’re constantly walking under a cloud of unhappiness until you sit before a plate of food. You tell him how food doesn’t judge or disappoint you, how it’s always present when you need it. You talk until the words that first poured out as thick lumpy porridge take on the sleekness of flowing water. You talk until you don’t even notice that these waters have receded from your mouth and were now flowing down your face.

You stand up, embarrassed, and decide to brave the toilet in the hope of finding a running tap. Once there, you blow your nose and splash cold water on your face.  You take a long look at the chubby girl in the spotty mirror. You smooth down her dress again and smile at her. You step back into the room. Look at that? The man is now fully dressed and is delicately holding the cupcake in the hollow of his cupped palms. He brushes aside the two thousand bob notes in your hand.

“Happy mbazday.”

He quickly exits the room and you stand there cake in hand, a huge grin on your face wondering where the hell you threw your undies.


Wanjeri Gakuru (@mawazo_mengi) is a print journalist, creative writer and a 2012-2014 StoryMoja Fellow. She writes Some Semblance of Literature at http://www.wanjeri.com

“Fused Glass” by Kate Hampton

Fused glass

Salvation lying                chest to chest                hip to hip
a girl with flaxen hair        he longs                      to smooth and twist
a boy whose curls              she longs                     to roll and twist
World melts away               boy and girl                  turn to lovers
melt                                                         into each other
like glass become art                                        under hot flame
jagged edges smooth                                          new colours made

Kate Hampton (@katechampton) is an editor at Kwani Trust and Jalada, and a writer of fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in The East African, The Chimurenga Chronic, ESC 5, Kwani? 07, Kwani? 08, Bakwa 6 and Jalada.

“Inbox (1)” by Dorothy Kigen

Inbox (1)

Beloved,

I wish I could bring you here now. I wish you were in this room, with me, in the cool darkness of dawn. I wish I could bring you close, closer, into my mind so that you could feel what I feel. For if you were in the room, you would only see the dark shape of him, and my face eerily lit by the alien glow of the phone’s screen. And that would not be enough; you would still have no idea how fast and how far my thoughts have travelled.

When he took me—took me, took me; why do we say that, I wonder, when I am the one receiving? Shouldn’t I be taking him? Taking him in, taking him all—when he took me that first time I cried, and was glad my face was pressed into the pillow so that he would not see my tears. Because how was I to explain what they meant? He is not you, beloved; we have not shared millions of coffees dissecting my feelings for him, deciding what I want from him.

It would have been nice if it were more romantic, but I gave up any Disney-scored hopes long ago, at least as far as he was concerned. I whittled them down, disappointment after disappointment, until he was a wild-card, until he was my if-only, my just-in-case, my no-matter-what-else-is-going-on. Shaven, unshaven, single, unsingle—I didn’t care anymore. If he was even remotely into it, I was going to go for it.

You already know this. You were there when I gave up on fate, on hoping to run into him. I prowled all the networks—he annoyingly has no presence online but his friends do. One mutual friend was all it took for me to hit “accept” in those days. Another exception. It never worked, of course, all that trawling through tweets and facebook memes. In the end, it was only preparation for yesterday, when after a day of chatting he nonchalantly asked me if I was out. I casually shrugged, casually maybe’d, but there was nothing casual about how I hunted him down. I told you I was leaving and you said: Go, it’s fine, you have to, and I’ll always be here, you go. I took a cab, got a ride from a second-line acquaintance, asked a stranger where he was until where he was was where I was.

Imagine: I took myself there, I did not wait for him, because I accepted, beloved, accepted that he might not come for me, and when I left that tower, beloved, I never intended to go back. He may not be the one but, my God, I am done pining in isolation.

We have always been on slightly different wavelengths, he and I, but this was a big-amplitude signal, powerful enough for the most oblivious receiver. I kept pushing, kept creating situations to which to agree. He said he could drop me home—Really? I live near Ruiru, you know, it’s pretty far. I left out—But since they finished the highway, it’s like fifteen minutes now!  

And then I baulked. After all that!

I got into his All Blacks jersey, then into his bed, and breathed the sounds of FIFA 14 drifting in from the next room. He called out to me, quietly, like he knew I was waiting, and I sat up, considered pulling my jeans on again, told my thighs to be brave, and finally walked into the liquid, crystalline glow of his flat-screen.

And I was terrified, despite everything, beloved. I had all our conversations and the sworn emptiness of the tower in me, but I was so scared. He tucked me in next to him, under his arm, with the shuka I remember from so many Sevens tournaments over both of us, but the slow strong beating of his heart did not calm me; I just kept thinking of biology, and how athletes’ hearts beat slow because of more efficient oxygenation or something, and how I hated PE because it was the only class in which I was consistently last, and how the coolness of my skin which he loved (poor lost love) was really just because of cellulite.

But, beloved—when his tongue touched my ear, beloved. The relief that crashed over me was so strong, so strong that my whimper was only half satisfaction. It was glorious, and so ridiculous. Just my ear, which must taste horrible; ears are full of crevices for dirt to get into; ear wax, too—bitterest of all body products, right up there with bile. And just a tongue—you read factoids about how the human mouth is filthy, more bacteria than a toilet seat, but those bacteria must have been on ecstasy last night, or something amazing, because when the relief and the grin on my face faded back into the visible spectrum I twisted around and met his lips, and his bacteria and my bacteria met, and it was fireworks on the beach on New Year’s Eve. He tasted of Guinness, and I never thought I’d care for it, but the next time we’re out, beloved, I’m ordering one just to inhale it because he tasted of Guinness and bacteria high on life.

I climbed him like a tree, clambered into his lap, and it was I who pulled off our shirts—his shirts—so that we could be skin-to-skin, at forever-last, beloved. He got me a bottle of water from his fridge when I asked for it, and when he walked back in with the glow of the television on his skin I nearly lost my breath again because my God, beloved, he was so beautiful I wanted to ask him if I could take a picture for the Whatsapp group. Tall and strong and perfect, as if back when we were dreamily writing lists in high school someone was actually listening. He picked me up without difficulty and, clinging to his shoulders, my legs tight around his (tapering, smooth, hard) waist, I was terrified of being less than desirable, even as he lowered me onto his bed, still rumpled from my waiting.

And it was mad, beloved. Words like good and hot and amazing lose meaning here, when I sincerely thought my mind would break from sheer intensity. Separate from and above everything else was the sheer pleasure of watching him. The contrast of our skins—the border where his chocolate met my caramel—was an unexpected gift, and to lay back and watch his tongue trace circles around my nipples was more than I ever thought I could have. I had wanted to object when he switched on his bedroom lights but, watching the muscles of his shoulders work beneath his skin, I thanked a benevolent God that I hadn’t.

There was so much to feel, when he was divinely heavy and breathing my name into my ear, and fucking growling, beloved, growling, with his hands in my hair as I did like we read—breathe in and out, through your nose, don’t think about puking, lots of saliva—and he kissed me after I swallowed, kissed me hard.

I was relieved that he was cut because I wasn’t sure what I would have done with the foreskin I expected. The length of him tasted of salty skin, and when my tongue ran over and lingered on the opening at his very tip I could feel the immense strength of him subdued to me; that epicentre of saltiness was like a trigger for him. He liked having his balls sucked, first one, then the other, with my hand still wrapped around his shaft, and the other lightly trailing along the muscles of his thigh. I have always had an odd fondness for balls and, cupping his, I found I could lightly graze his taint with a fingernail and it was amazing, almost amusing, to see him—who has always been in charge and alpha—at my mercy and conceding defeat because of a fingernail on a taint. By such small things, beloved, is the world destroyed. When I took him in my mouth once more, I swear I could hear desperation in his voice, he was almost begging, and I looked up at him, and God save me that look on his face will warm me when I am old and beyond caring. I almost gagged when he exploded in my mouth but a few deep breaths and the deep desire to finish as planned and I was fine.

He drew me up and kissed me then laughingly swore revenge which he got, beloved. Even though I was on top, my hands gripping the muscles of his torso, he still managed to take control, pulling me down so that I was bent almost double and held nearly immobile by his hands on my ass. But such is the magic of chemistry. I don’t know how he found it, but he did: that magic rhythm, that sweet spot that isn’t sweetness as much as a buildup of pressure and when he suddenly slipped a finger up my asshole I was too far gone to do anything but let my eyes fly open in shock. And he merely grinned cheekily at my stunned cries, and reached up to bite my lower lip, to suck on it, and tug on it, while I was temporarily freed of this world.

He was not what I expected, not the fantasy I created, but his own self, and it thrilled me to be in this give and take with him, that my sounds triggered his, that his smile reflected mine, that when it’s tomorrow, when it maybe turns out that this was the last time, that it was true, that this will always have happened.

He is stirring now, so I must tap lighter, or stop, soon. His breathing next to me is unexpectedly gentle and soothing, and in the early morning light seeping through his curtains I can see teeth marks denting his shoulder and the beautiful suppleness of his neck and chest, and I can feel the beginnings of a deeply satisfying ache in me, beloved. His fingers are heavy with the smell of me, now, and if I were to kiss him again, just a taste—

—yes, I linger in his mouth as well.

I shall see you later, beloved. We shall giggle, but I know nothing I say will tell you everything, which is why I wish you were here, behind my eyes, within me. Because this was so much; I fear you’ll never really know, and what is left of mine that isn’t yours? But I shall do my best.

Java?


Dorothy Kigen (@nukta_) has always enjoyed the power of words and only recently begun experimenting with writing for a public. She blogs intermittently at nuktamrefu.wordpress.com and hopes to complete an anthology of stories based on the Nairobi night.

“Kudinyana*” by Linda Musita

After eating all the ndare, lugus, and matomoko they could for a day, they usually sat on the trees, bored, passing soft smelly air hoping it did not turn into black, yellow, and white diarrhea. Very ripe fruits were sweet and evil, and diarrhea was not good for what was coming next.

Pete’s idea: “Twende tukadinyane.”

The boys went behind Mr. Orina’s house first. They took off their shorts and trousers and waited for the girls.

“Today I am picking Betty,” Pete called.

“You always pick her,” Wallace said.

“Yeah, because she is mine and when we grow up I will marry her and touch her breasts anytime I feel like it. How cool is that? Have you seen how they are growing? One big, the other bigger. They look like how balloons with warm water feel. I bet by the time we are married they will be huge enough for me to squeeze until they burst mahira. I even gave her my big brown teddy bear. So she knows I have booked her.”

“Is that why your mum beat you up on Sunday?”

“The teddy bear?”

“Yes?”

“Yeah, I told her I took it out to play and it got lost. She was so annoyed.”

“You scream like a girl when you are beaten. We heard you all the way at our house. ‘Yiiii mami naomba msamaha. Yiiiiii. Yiiiii. Yiiiii sitarudia. Uuuuu mami mimi ni mjinga.’”

“Like how your mother screams when your father gives her kei in her mkundu mnuko. Kuma ya mamako na makende zimestunya.”

“What do you know about my mother when yours kamatanas with Popsy. That dog always barks loud and long when she goes out to give it food. Do you want me to show you how she puts Popsy on its back, parts its back legs, sits on its penis, holds its front legs and starts bouncing up and down? ”

“Eh, ni cha hicho sasa?”

“We are even, now. Say something else and I will be the dog your mother chases every night.”

Pete smacked Wallace’s head.

“Now we are even. Stupid.”

“You guys are weird,” Banju said.

“Anyway, I will pick Ndundus today,” Wallace said.

“Ndundus is so fat,” Pete said.

“Piggy, piggy, can’t you see, sometimes your farts just hypnotise me. And I just love your fatty ways nenenenenenenen-ne-ne-ne-ne-ne,” Banju couldn’t help himself.

“Piggy is your mother,” Wallace said.

“You guy you need to stop with my mother or we will cut friendship.” Banju held out his little finger and waited. No one wanted to stop being friends.

Now that Pete and Wallace had chosen, Banju had to pick between Schola and Pinky. Or maybe take both, one after the other…

“Or together? But how would that work?”

“What?” Pete said.

“You have chosen Betty. Wallace has chosen Ndundus. I have to choose between Schola and my sister. I was wondering if I can dinya both of them at the same time.”

“You are greedy, aren’t you? I don’t think that is possible. You only have one kanyamo. How are you going to put it in two girls at the same time?”

“Good question.”

“Ah you guys, I am starting to think we will get caught by Orina. What is taking the girls so long?” Wallace said.

Nothing.

Betty, Ndundus, Schola and Pinky appeared with their dresses wrapped around their waists, their panties tucked in their collars. Heaven forfend that the panties got lost and they went home without them.

They spread their pullovers on the ground, lay down on their backs, and waited.

Betty prayed so hard that Pete would not pick her again. He smelled of dust all the time and chewed on his sweater’s sleeve while he dinyad her. The sound of his teeth gnawing on his sweater really irritated her ears and teeth. Creaky doors had nothing on his racket.

Plus his penis was too short for a twelve year old. It was as small as her kid brother’s. When she washed Kim in the evening and got to his private parts, all she saw was Pete dangling his short rubber stick before kneeling and forcing  it into her lady-hole. Kim was just three years old. Pete on the other hand…sometimes his penis did not even enter her properly or at all. It rubbed on the upper part of her genitals. Other times, he rubbed the wrong place so hard and bruised things after which she could barely urinate without crying. Fujo nyingi na hata hajui kutombana. Betty was not sure about Pete. He did not seem to know how people dinyana even though it was always his idea.

Why was Pete’s penis too short for a boy his age? Because Banju had a bigger one and he was also twelve. But he always picked last, because Pete was the main guy. He decided on everything including how long they would all have sex.

Betty liked Banju so much. She did not like how Pete made things impossible. So she just lay there as he chewed on his sweater and made her vagina feel like graphite on paper being erased by a rubber band.

Kerew, kerew, kerew

Pfuuuut

Kerew kerew kerew

Pfuuuut

Kerew kerew kerew

Pfuuuut

She was eleven but she knew that she should be feeling something nice. She just knew it. But there was nothing. Just rubbing and very cold air. There was so much space between his penis and the walls of her vagina.  Betty always thought that it should fit like the big new lollipops did in her mouth and not like a straw in a bottle.

Pete should never have picked her in the first place. But one day, she would carry him up a tree and stick his stupid rubber dong into a beehive. Maybe it would swell and finally be useful to her.

Next to them, Banju was makudinyana with Schola, and Pinky was watching.

Schola was just nine. Betty knew that she did not deserve Banju—lying there looking at the sky like she had never seen it before. That one should just be kicked out of the play gang. She was still a baby. No breasts. No menstruation. No sexiness. Nothing. Yet she got the best guy.

Banju was very brown. His buttocks moved super fast. Betty liked to look at the ripples go down his thighs to his knees, which scrubbed the ground so vigorously he lost some skin. He was so into this sex thing that he even made short hooting sounds while doing it. Like he was enjoying Schola’s hole, dipping his kinyamo into Schola like Betty’s dad dipped his fat forefinger into bones to pull out juicy marrow.

“Shut up you owl! Someone will hear you,” Pete had told Banju so many times since their orgies started. Banju had learned to block him out of his experience.

“You shut up and finish,” Betty always wanted to tell Pete.

Banju finished with Schola and asked Pinky if she wanted to lie down.

“No. But can I touch it?”

“What?”

“Can I touch it?”

“My kanyamo?”

“Yes.”

“Why would you want to do that? It is for mdinyano not being touched. Silly girl.”

“Just let me touch it a bit.”

“No.”

“Why are you like that? I am just touching!”

“No. You either let me dinya you or forget it. This thing is not for touching.”

“If you don’t let me touch it, I will tell mummy and daddy.”

“Tell them what?”

“That you did bad manners with Schola.”

“Okay, okay…touch it then.”

Pinky squatted and looked at her brother’s kanyamo.

“Haiya, do you want to look or touch?”

She took hold of it and started squeezing, bending, feeling for bones and flesh.

“Why is it even between your legs? Why is it not behind like a dog’s tail?”

“How would I know?” Banju said.

“Why do you use it for kudinyana when it is meant for susuing? So what happens when you want to susu and you are doing it with me or Schola? Do you susu in us?”

“I have never felt like urinating but If I ever did I guess I would just have to urinate in you. That is the sensible thing to do. I can’t remove my kanyamo, can I?”

“But then that will add more susu in us. And make us so pressed till we susu on ourselves.”

“Pinky, you are just six years old, you don’t know anything.”

“Do you know anything?”

“Of course I do, I am way older than you and you should listen to me.”

“Okay.”

Pinky started pulling at Banju’s penis, trying to smooth the creases.

“It looks like cold sausage, Banju. Yuck.”

“No it doesn’t.”

“Yes it does. Look how it looks. Look.”

Banju slapped her hand off and looked at his kanyamo. It did look like what his baby sister said it was.

“Well it looks like I will not dinya you today, you silly girl.”

“No it doesn’t; it looks like cold sausage. We can even show mummy when we go home and ask her what it looks like. I bet she will say it does not look like you will not dinya me. She will say it looks like cold sausage. Hey, can I peel the skin off?”

“Stupid! No! And if you tell mummy anything I will never bring you out to play,” Banju told his sister as he got up to put on his trousers.

He caught Betty looking at him.

“Pete, Betty is looking at me funny.”

Pete stopped his rubbing and looked at Betty. Her eyes were closed.

“Banju, you are such a liar. Stop spoiling my moment. If you have finished, take your baby sister home. Leave us alone.”

“The liar is you, idiot.”

Banju stood aside and watched Wallace lie still on top of Ndundus.

“Hey Wallace, what’s wrong with the two of you?”

“I am trying. She won’t open her legs.”

“Ndundus stop being selfish,” Banju said.

“He smells like poop and he refuses to get off me. He is so disgusting.”

“Wallace, did anything seep out while you were farting?” Banju started giggling.

“Yes, but what has that to do with anything? It’s not like my kanyamo is the one that let out some of that stuff. This girl is just stupid and fat.”

“I am not stupid. Get off me or I will scream till people come and find us,” Ndundus told Wallace.

“No. Panua miguu.”

“Sipanui.”

“Panua ama nitagugonga kichwa.”

“Sipanui.”

Wallace poked his fingers into her eyes.

Ndundus screamed so loudly that panties, shorts, and trousers went up legs that ran away very fast as Mr. Orina asked questions from his house.

“What is happening there? Who is screaming?”

“It is me, Ndundus.”

“What is wrong?”

“Wallace poked me in the eyes. I can’t see. I can’t see. It hurts. Woi mami, I can’t see.”

Mr. Orina opened his door and found a fat and ripe little girl, her dress wrapped around her waist, brown panties tucked in collar. She was rubbing her eyes and struggling to sit up.

How delightful!

Wonderful predicament.


Kiswahili (in English)

  • Kudinyana – What kids in the 90s called sex.

  • Ndare, lugus, and matomoko – Raspberries, Loquats and Custard Apples.

  • Mahira – pus.

  • Eh, ni cha hicho sasa – It’s like that now?

  • Kanyamo/kinyamo – penis.

  • Your father gives her kei in her mkundu mnuko. Kuma ya mamako na makende zimestunya – Your father fucks her in her smelly asshole. Your mother’s vagina and your father’s testicles are muscular.

  • Fujo nyingi na hata hajui kutombana – Too much exertion and he doesn’t even know how to fuck.

  • Panua miguu – Open your legs.

  • Sipanui – I am not opening my legs.

  • Ama nitakugonga kichwa – Or I will hit your head.


Linda Christabel Akhatenje Musita @ivorypunk is a writer, editor, and lawyer.

She works as a literary agent at Lelsleigh Inc in Nairobi and is an editor at The Star newspaper.

Linda began writing when she was fourteen years old and her first story was published in an anthology, African Children Speak, published by Thomas S Gale.

Her fiction has been published on the Storymoja publishers’ blog and the Daily Nation. Linda has also written some pieces on literature and art in Kenya, which have been published on the Daily Nation, The Star and Brainstorm Kenya.

She is an avid reader and her favourite authors are David Maillu, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, David Mitchell, Aravind Adiga and Michael Logan. She reckons the best book/novella she has read so far is “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” by Marquez.

Linda is currently working on her first novel, whose working title is “Papoose”.

She is a Storymoja Hay Festival 2012/13 fellow being mentored by 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing shortlisted author, Lily Mabura, and assistant mentor Michael Don. Linda and other fellows in the program are working on several short stories and ideas for novellas.

“Sex Ed for village boys” by Alexander Ikawah

Sex-ed for village boys

The most I had seen of sex by the time I joined secondary school was during an evening prep session back in primary eight when I dropped my eraser accidentally. I bent under my desk to find it and there, underneath the last desk on our row, Nancy Wendo was playing with my friend Mangwana’s penis, Caroline had her skirt pulled all the way back on one side, laying bare her big fat thigh, and Mangwana had his hand inside her white knickers. She was lying on the desk, sleeping, but upon closer observation, I saw that her eyebrows were knitted and her lips twitched too much for a person who was asleep. Nancy on the other hand was rubbing Mangwana’s erect penis languorously, her thumb grazing the very tip and flicking the foreskin up and down so that the pink base of the head flashed and disappeared like the bottom of a long turgid glowworm. A strange excitement built in the pit of my belly and my eyes met Mangwana’s straight yet it seemed he didn’t see me. He merely hung his head over the English book and stared out like a drunk man. I spent the rest of the term wanting to put my hand in a girl’s knickers: Judy’s, Sonia’s, Magero’s, Mercy’s, Nile’s, Nerea’s. I wanted their hands on my penis, rubbing up and down in the back of the class at prep time.

I understood the mechanics of sex well enough. The thing in Nancy’s tender fingers went into the place Mangwana was tickling then there was movement: the back and forth threshing action of the waist, called yundo, that the girls in the dudu dance troupe secretly practiced when Mr. Nyandiga wasn’t looking, to everyone’s great amusement. Yundo was sweet and sometimes painful. Mangwana called it līt tō mīt, although it was ultimately more mīt than līt because both parties apparently persisted until it culminated in lāyo, which also meant urination. For a time I was sure a boy’s urine was a dangerous thing that could impregnate any careless girl. No wonder boys and girls slept separately, some hapless bedwetter could accidentally impregnate his sisters and then…sacrilege.

A short while after I saw Mangwana and the girls, the deputy headteacher and most dreaded disciplinarian of the staff, Mr. Oyoo, found a pornographic magazine stuffed between the branches of the tree from which the school bell hung. The school was a Seventh-day Adventist school, and some things were bigger than mere punishment, so he cancelled all classes and called an impromptu assembly for all of us in primary six through eight. He begged and entreated and threatened and cajoled the culprits to step forward but none did, so we went back to class. In the evening, just before prep, I was delivering a batch of class assignments to the staffroom when he called me into his office and gave me the contraband magazine, holding it by his thumb and forefinger like a rat’s smelly carcass.

“There is a fire burning near the fence where the workmen were splitting wood,” he said. “Go and throw this satanic thing into the fire and come back and report to me.”

I ran out of his office and across the parade ground holding that magazine and it was like one of those hairy caterpillars had crawled across my brain; I was itching to read that thing, itching bad. For most of the run to the little smoking bonfire I was visible from his office, and he was famous for always having an eye out that window looking for trouble. There was a place however, where the path went behind an old crumbling wall and as soon as I was out of sight, I paused and opened the magazine. The first picture was a cannon-hole that fired a burning blast which shattered into vulva-shaped pieces the ceiling of decency that my mother, the church, my school, and society had spent fourteen years erecting. I ripped off the page and resumed my run, threw the magazine in a wide arc for my audience of one and headed back. I had just passed the latrines when a thought struck me: if Mr. Oyoo patted my pockets he would feel the page, cold against my buttocks, stuffed into my underwear. I turned round and went to the boys’ latrine to pull out the page, intending to stuff it into a crack and retrieve it later. Again the picture startled me, and this time the excitement in the pit of my belly slowly spread lower. Staring at the picture, I undid the buttons on my shorts and pushed down my underwear. The woman was old, almost our home science teacher’s age and size. Was this what Madam Owino looked like down there? I was holding my throbbing initiate in my hand, tight, and when it came I was off balance, almost tripping over my shorts. The spasms gripped my calves so that I suddenly stood on tiptoe, flexed my thighs so that I leaned heavily on the wall to avoid falling and then I felt an unstoppable building up of fluid and thought, “Oh, this is the urination.” I squirted a fluid that was definitely not urine on the grimy wall of the latrine and went weak at the knees. I ran to class. Mr. Oyoo could come and find me there if he wanted. If I had gone to his office just then, I would have given the game away with the stupid smile on my face.


I was still a virgin in form two of secondary school. I hadn’t learned anything new since that one incident back in primary eight. I was going to Migori Secondary, the local day school. There was a teachers’ strike but we students kept coming to school to help each other with school work and to revise. Some young teaching practice students from university, who were not members of the national teachers’ unions, came to teach us. My class got a Ms. Gakuo whose harsh and unwelcoming demeanour was more than offset by her being callipygian.

Her math lessons were chaotic affairs: with every stroke of the chalk as she wrote on the blackboard, her derriere trembled while we nursed tented trousers and decidedly non-mathematical fantasies. Once Muteithia let his penis stick out through his fly and showed it to Raphael in the next row. Vita Richard became quite famous for holding his hands high in the air and shifting his desk up and down using nothing but his erection. When she would turn round, thinking he wanted to ask a question, he would say he was just stretching. Nobody would get up to do examples on the board, not even me though I knew all the answers, and she began to hate us even as we loved her more and more.

The absence of our regular teachers and the presence of village girls whose secondary schools had closed invited and enabled truancy with sexual intent.

Now you never went alone when you played truant to go for a tryst with a village girl. An irate father might split your head with a hoe and claim you were stealing, or just bury you quietly, and nobody would be the wiser. You went with someone—a wingman who would keep watch and, in case of trouble, give you a warning signal—and after you were done with your paramour, you convinced her to let him have one go. We called it combī—combination sex. That is how I lost my virginity proper.

My old friend Mangwana, now a fellow point guard on the basketball team, had convinced a girl from Ulanda Secondary to let him visit whenever her father was out. In our parlance, they were “pushing”. Usually he went with our teammate Oshani but after hearing several stories about Oshani usurping unsuspecting benefactors, he decided to play it safe. He called me behind the dining hall one day.

“Do you know Lorraine, the daughter of that policeman who lives behind BAT?”

I knew her, she had been a year behind us in primary school and that was not all.

“Her father walks everywhere with his gun, and they have a police dog,” I said.

“He was promoted. He has been in Kisii at his new posting for two weeks already.”

“And the dog? I don’t want to be outside with that beast.”

“Lorraine will lock it up after lunch, just watch out for her elder brother. He usually passes by on his way from the farm. If he doesn’t see Lorraine outside he comes to check. If you see him, you knock the window twice and hide.”

It seemed simple enough. Just one thing left to seal the deal.

“How long will you take?”

“Not long,” he replied.

“And after you’re done?” I pursued.

He turned his head away, “After I’m done you have ten minutes or I’m coming in with a stone. I swear, ten minutes only. You hear?”

I nodded. We walked nonchalantly to the toilets, chatting about nothing. Opere DC, the headmaster’s son, had cut a hole in the fence there and everybody knew about it but the teachers. We took off our school shirts and stuffed them in a polythene bag, put on a pair of t-shirts Mangwana had carried with him and we slipped out. Two hours later, I was sitting behind the small outhouse where Lorraine and her sisters slept, listening to the low rumble of Mangwana’s voice and Lorraine’s occasional chuckles. The shade of an acacia tree fell directly on me and, in the afternoon heat, I wanted to close my eyes and sleep but I kept my eyes on the dusty path leading to the gate.

They were more silent than I thought they ought to be; sex was meant to be accompanied by creaking beds and loud, pleasurable noises yet all I had heard after an hour of listening was a really loud grunt from Mangwana. The sun now struck me almost directly, heating up my left side through a gap in the foliage. I was just getting up when Mangwana appeared round the corner of the house.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Can you feel that sun?” I replied, a bit angry because he was being inconsiderate. But I kept it down: this was the part where he told me I could have sex with his girl.

“Ten minutes,” he said, looking me right in the eye. “Don’t close the latch and don’t let me hear her cry out.”

I brushed his shoulder as I passed. He smelled damp and musty, like something from a dirty kitchen. When I walked into the room, the same smell struck me almost like a slap. Lorraine was lying on the bed in a t-shirt, a sheet over her obviously naked lower body. I met her gaze and saw that she was not angry or displeased at the sight of me.

“Hurry, my brother will be passing soon.”

I closed the door behind me and drew the latch.

I cannot remember the moments between when I closed the door and when I got into the bed beside her, naked. I do remember, however, that she frowned when I lifted her t-shirt over her head. “Mangwana will be angry at you for that,” she warned.

“Will you tell him?” I asked as I eased a nipple into my mouth. She answered by pulling my head closer against her breast.

The first feel of a woman’s skin, all of it, against one’s own is a special thing. I held her around the back and pressed myself to her so hard that she cried out and held a hand over her mouth, but I didn’t care. I lowered my head and smelled between her legs like a dog, smelled deep until the sharpness caught in my throat and she closed her thighs bashfully, unsure. I moved her legs so she was splayed out like the woman on the magazine page, and I stared. Surprised at the sight of my own penis waving like a straining sea anemone in an ocean current, I moved close, my face right above hers, my lips enclosing her lower lip and tugging softly, then I pushed myself into her yawning centre and felt the warmth of her body enclose me, pull me deeper, consume me. I’m not sure if I remembered to thrust but she did, moving her hips up and down, one hand on my buttocks. I’m not sure if I shouted but she held her hand over my mouth and asked me to keep quiet.

Mangwana knocked on the window to warn me but I was too far gone to care. I’m not sure if I satisfied her, if she felt even a smidgen of the pleasure I felt, but I remember waves carrying me and smashing me on the rocks of her grinding hips, and the pressure building and building and building until I exploded, and exploded, and exploded, and when she felt me empty myself deep inside her, only then did she cry out. I’m not sure how we disentangled, when I dressed up, if Mangwana was angry when she opened the door, or if he spoke to me at all on the way back to school. All I remember is that after I was spent and finished she held me there, still inside her, wrapped her legs around my back and smiled at me. And I didn’t want to ever move.

Mangwana went back to taking Oshani along with him after that.


Moi University, first semester of my second year on a weekday afternoon and I’m in Sheila’s room, the curtains drawn tight. I’ve missed basketball practice again. Mangwana is on the basketball team here and we haven’t been able to talk properly since I arrived. I’ve been avoiding him at practice.

Sheila is on the bed, lying on her stomach with her legs slightly apart. I’m kneeling between them, a hand on each smooth, pampered calf. I bend her legs at the knees so that her feet come up on both sides of me as I rub along her shins. She arches her feet like a ballerina en pointe. I lean back and bring her feet together, sandwiching my penis with them. Her feet are moist and warm from the closed shoes I just took off, a small line indented along each by the edge of the leather. Slowly, I rub my penis along the sole of her left foot, the tip trailing a clear shimmering line of fluid. Her foot twitches, she giggles, rubs her toes against each other and feels them slide easily, lubricated.

I met her at the basketball court a few months back after two grueling hours of training drills, a romance novel in her hand. I walked up to her and she smiled, bemused, and let me drink from her water bottle.

I slide my fingers between her toes and rub them one by one. From this angle, each toe has a distinct shape: a triangle, a square, an almost perfect circle. When I hold them against each other though, they fit like a jigsaw puzzle. I put a finger to the tip of my penis and rub the fluid into the corns where shoes have rubbed her over the years. They feel soft and smooth. She moans, moving her other foot into my hand.

“What size are you?” I ask.

She turns, coquettish, “Measure me. What size are you?”

I lay the length of my penis along her foot and rub it to and fro, kneading the instep of her foot with my fingers.

“I didn’t know you had a thing for feet,” she murmurs.

I laugh, crawl over her legs and move up so my penis is between her shoulder blades.

“That’s a bit high,” she jokes.

I wriggle back good-humouredly, one knee at a time, letting my penis rub along the length of her spine. As before, it trails a line of shimmering moistness. She arches her back.

“Ohhh…it is so cold,” she purrs.

My penis disappears between the hills of her buttocks, drawing its moist line in the valley between. I come to a slow stop, put a hand on her shoulder, and ease my weight down onto her.

I had asked the other basketballers about her and got nothing but hostility. I was a junior after all, and not even good enough to get on the first team. I suspected she was going out with one of them and, if they wouldn’t tell me, I was going to find out for myself. So after I drank her water that day, I sank down on the steps near the court where she was sitting and asked her outright.

“How come you always come to watch? Is there someone you like on the team?”

She smiled, but didn’t look up from her book. We just sat there as the court cleared and evening fell and, when she stood up to go, I offered to carry her books for her. She let me.

I feel her tense, her sphincter tightening reflexively beneath the tip of my penis, the muscle of her shoulder knotting. Gently, I move my waist around and around—yundo. I lean forward to kiss her back, between her shoulder blades, tasting myself. I lick and flick my tongue from left to right until she gasps, all the while working my hips, left, right. My penis makes soft sticking noises. I have knocked the door enough so I stop and wait. Gentleness, patience, desire overwhelms instinct. She pushes back towards me so that, as soon as I move a little, I slip in, the head of my penis enveloped by a tight shifting warmth.

“Stop,” she whispers. “No, don’t pull out. Just leave it there. Let me move.”

Līt tō mīt.

She works her hips now around and around and sometimes up so I go deep and sometimes down so I almost pop out and she has her hand on her vagina; and louder and louder and louder she moans until she rocks against me hard and squeezes me tight and punches the pillow with her free hand and cries out. And then she subsides.

“Go and clean up,” she says weakly.

I remember the first time I kissed her, just inside the door of this very room after delivering her books as usual. I went in and she held my face away, her hand across my lips, and asked me, “What are you doing?”

“Kissing you,” I replied.

Looking into my eyes, she had seen that I was honest in my desire, so she had let me.

I dip her washcloth into a bucket of cold water and carefully rub my penis, then I rinse and clean it again and wash my hands. I’m tumescent almost to the point of pain. I turn to her and she hasn’t moved, except to touch herself some more, her fingers wet and silvery in the dim light.

“Come and get it.”

I climb up behind her and let my body kiss hers, all of my skin against all of hers. My penis finds her centre, following a constant wave of radiating heat, and I enter her hungrily, feeling her close around me, claiming me.

“Ahhh…it is so cold,” she gasps.

If it is cold to her it is blazing hot to me, and I push in and push in and push in until my muscles are spasming and seizing. I’m gripping the headboard which is shaking as she moans and thrashes, and my loins are turning inside out, through my penis and into her, then I’m empty and I collapse on her back, immobilized—lāyo. I breathe deeply. We lie there like that for what seems like a year, then she rolls me off and starts to arrange the place, naked.

“You have to leave, he’ll be coming here as soon as practice is done,” she says.

Mangwana. He’s the one she used to come to watch at the basketball court. I saw them together, kissing on the day of a big match just before he went in to take his place. We had already made love, her and me, and it had been, as it always was with her, transcendent.

I put on my clothes, help her make the bed, and open the windows to let out the smell of sex. Then I kiss her and, smiling because of the deja-vu, I leave: Mangwana is coming after me—combī.


Alexander Ikawah (@filmkenya) is a writer and film maker living and working in Nairobi, Kenya. He was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story prize in 2013. Though he mostly works on short stories, his intention is to write the next great African novel. When he is not writing or reading, he watches and talks about films with a small but growing community of young Kenyan film makers and script writers.

“The voice under all silences” by Moses Kilolo

The voice under all silences

Nyambura is walking towards the moment she has been planning for months. She feels light. She walks through a world coloured with hope. The bright smiles of strangers bring her a secret and tender joy. She knows that soon she will be there. With him. And so she smiles back.

When she arrives she finds the door shut. The windows are open and the curtains flap chaotically. The radio is on. Deep bass and the perpetually self-aggrandising voice of Rick Ross assault her ears. Nyambura thinks of music as a smooth and calming tapestry of sound, filling her soul with gentleness. She considers this music noise, nothing but superficial excitement. She often says that her soul is fit only for deep experience, and music must plumb its depths to meet that expectation. But she knows that her thoughts are self-righteous and romanticized by the terrible love poems she writes with him in mind. For a moment she is ashamed to identify with a verse, an endless drunken repetition in the rapper’s voice: she might let me fuck, she might let me fuck.  Most nights, alone in the dark, she imagines his face, with her fingers groping her breasts, finding their way slowly down between her legs to the feel of warm wetness.

She should be knocking the door. Not standing there, imagining…

Imagining that he is in there with another woman, that they’ve locked the door behind them, and are drowning out the sounds of reckless lovemaking with the noise of the radio. Her hand clenches into a fist but she hesitates to knock. She peeps through the keyhole but can see nothing. She pulls the living-room curtain from the open window aside and struggles to examine the house. The living room is a mess, books lie on the couch, on the floor, and a visible layer of dust covers the TV screen.

The bedroom door is closed, so Nyambura cannot see him or his other woman, but she imagines that he is raising his hand and touching her hair, her face, her thighs. 

She knocks the door. Hard.

There is no response. She knocks again, this time harder even as the music on the radio becomes a more disgusting local rap, a string of abuse. Maybe, she tells herself, maybe he is asleep. But how, in this awful noise?

Nyambura reaches into her handbag and searches beneath the umbrella, lipstick, the second pair of shoes, beneath the countless things she carries but rarely uses. She finds her Nokia Asha. She dials his number but on the second ring she hangs up the phone, suddenly afraid. She types out a message.

Open the damn doooor.

She reads the text after she has sent it. It’s misspelled. She quickly edits and re-sends.

In the second text the word “damn” is missing, the word “door” does not have four Os, at the beginning there is a “pliz”, and at the end there is a “dear”.

He does not reply immediately. She returns to the window and opens it farther, watches the bedroom door for any sign of movement. None. Her little, pedicured fingers type out another text. Just as she is about to send it her phone buzzes. She saves the draft and reads the incoming text.

I’m at Sams Shop, coming in a min.

Nyambura smiles at the text and straightens her short skirt. She bought it at Gikomba Market, washed and ironed it yesterday. Early this morning, she showered and wore the cologne he once said was “oh-so-beautiful.” In the eight months since they last saw each other, she has called him every two days. He has called once, when he wanted a favor. When she calls, he speaks to her on the phone late into the night, sometimes, and she imagines his hand inside his boxers, rubbing himself as she fondles her breasts. Often, he does not pick up the phone. She imagines him ignoring her call, texting that bitch who she knows has never loved him.

Now she hears his footsteps coming up the stairs. He appears from round the corner of the corridor and smiles at her. She walks towards him, hands outstretched, reaching to touch him, to feel his aura around her, to know that she is finally here, beside him.

“Hi Kamau,” she says, inhaling the smell of his shoulders.

“Welcome,” he says, patting her back. 

She holds on till he gently pushes her away.

She sees that in his left hand he is holding a paper bag in which he carries sukuma wiki and a half kilo of meat. In his right are the keys. He looks at both items and then back at her, an awkward smile on his face. She remembers the moment she first saw him—those were the days when she looked at him and saw a prince; he would say how beautiful her hair was, how pretty her dress was. 

She was just eleven the first time, an innocent child dreaming about the future and starting to notice a lovely difference in the boys. And here came this much older, much more mature teenage boy who picked her out of the crowd of girls at children’s camp. She walked with him as her friends watched, and she felt more special than anyone. At the end of the week he gave her a card. “Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has not opposite in fear”, signed off as E.E. Cummings. She read it as a declaration of his enduring dedication.

She kept that card for seven years, carrying it everywhere she went. Late into the night, in her all-girls secondary school, she read that little message over and over, and whenever there was a chance she would sneak to call him on the phone. Theirs were conversations about her schooling, about her dreams, and her struggle through the boring days away from everything she loved, away from him. He told her she must forget about him, told her little about himself, and for four years she called again and again and all he had to say was “work hard.” He told her he would be there waiting for her if she brought home the best results. So she got all As, and he was the first person to whom she forwarded the Examination Council message. Now, she thought, he would love her more. She had become his intellectual match.

In the eight months since joining medical school she has called him every other day but he has never invited her over. Now she has invited herself to see him, read his stories, and hear his voice say those things he used to tell her when she was that little girl.

She swallows hard. Has he even noticed the cleavage? The way her body has blossomed?

He says nothing as he opens the door and ushers her in.

“Siku mob sijuakuona,” he says, leaving her in the living room and walking into the kitchen.

“I’ve been ok,” she says. “Wewe umekuaje?”

There is a clatter of plates and sufurias. Maybe he has not heard her. She sits and thinks of the man she spoke to just yesterday on the phone, a man defined by memories of tender words and his sweet smile when he kissed her, a man who looked deep into her eyes and made her body tremble, her knees wobble. This man looks clumsy. He has long, uncombed hair. He moves around his house haphazardly.

When he returns to the living room he takes the computer and logs into his email.

“Damn,” he says. “I have to respond to this email now. There’s something I need to proofread and send to my editor.”

“Must be interesting.”

“You want to read it?” He looks up, and sees her smile.

She skims through, even skipping entire pages. His sentences are crude and his descriptions are too much. He piles words upon words as though building a brick house. Needing some sort of explanation, she tries to convince herself that this is an earlier work, or something he perhaps wrote while ill. Anything to show her that this is not his work. 

Kamau is in the kitchen cleaning, making noise with everything he touches. She wonders whether, knowing that he has written crap on those pages, he wants to distract her. The cacophony rises like an invisible battle, intensified by her disappointment. Her universe is in chaos. Everything is foul now.

She joins him in the kitchen, hoping for some singular word to restore his godlike image in her mind, to make him again that man for whom she would do anything.

“Can I help you?” she asks.

“Yes please,” he says and turns to walk away.

“I said ‘help’,” she says taking his hand, “not do it for you.”

“Could you please, please just be a good girl and make the damn lunch?”

“I am being good. I am helping you cook.”

“What’s such a big deal? You’re a girl and should do this shit without even being asked.”

“I am your visitor,” she says, raising her voice.

“So now you can’t cook for me?”

“For God’s sake, I am not your fucking wife!”

He walks out into the living room without saying anything. She is afraid he is ceasing to be all that he has always been to her. She needs to do something to hold on. She prepares his meal, paying special attention to detail so as to make it sweet. She has the feeling that now is the time and, after all, Mama did say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Perhaps it will make him talk, say some truths to her, help her understand.

He is watching Breaking Bad when she finishes making lunch. She sets the small table and welcomes him to his meal. There’s that smile again, and as he eats he says nothing. The only sound is that of his chewing which is so loud she feels like she could vomit. Still, she finds it amusing, something she could use to begin a conversation. Maybe some awkward story about how her mother used to cane her brother because he was such a noisy eater. But she worries for his ego. She wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings.

After they have eaten, saying very little to each other, he calls her to him. She thinks this will be the moment of intimacy, when he will open his heart and speak to her out of its depths. She stands and walks over to him. She sits on his lap and he circles an arm around her back.

Nyambura looks into his eyes, ignoring his breath which wafts a little bit of rottenness. She needs him to speak. To tell her that he loves her too. To tell her what he feels for her. When he touches her hair, she does not resist. His hand move to rest on her breast. He presses it again and again, as though exercising his fingers with a soft ball.

She forgets the story, tells herself it takes a while to arrive at one’s true voice, to write that masterpiece. Now is the moment for love perfected in weakness.

“Can I ask you a question?” she asks.

“Yeah,” he whispers, looking at her with eyes melting with desire.

“What do you want?”

“You really want to know?”

He lifts her up and carries her to the bedroom. He places her on the bed and begins pulling off her skirt. She sits up and holds his face with both hands.

“Look at me, Kamau, look at me.

“Let’s talk,” she says.

“Talk about what? I want you. What else do you want me to say?”

She does not take her eyes off his. “Tell me that you love and desire me as much as I do you.”

He goes to sit by the study table close to the window, and picks up a book.

“Make your decision,” he says after a while. “Say whether or not you want me.”

“But you know that I love you.”

“Then let me.”

For a long time he reads through his book while she sits on his bed. Nyambura leans her head on her knees, and remains motionless. When she finally looks up, her eyes are red. No tears flow, but there is a sudden and settled crimson in them. She goes to him, holds his head and places it on her breast.

“I want to surrender myself to you, my dear. But I need to know that you love me.”

“I don’t want to lie to you,” he says. 

For a long time they stay there in silence. He picks up his computer and says he needs to send the story back, so he will not see her out. Wondering whether he does not want to be seen with her, she watches as he attaches the story to his mail.

“But you have not worked on the edits,” she says.

“Didn’t you?”

She does not reply. He is what he is, she realizes, and this is his work. Maybe his best. Holding back her tears, she picks up her bag and heads towards the door.

When she gets home, she does not dial his number and she does not type a text which to send him. She thinks about him, how much she loves him, but she does not cry. She feels maybe she should. She thinks of his lips on hers, their incredible tenderness. She thinks of the way her body ached when his hand reached between her legs, his laboured breath over her as he attempted to tear off her skirt. She knows she will never again go that far. With him or anybody else. Her body will be her own. Her dreams will be her own. Her life will be her own.

She retires early.


Moses Kilolo (@moseskilolo) is the Managing Editor of Jalada, a pan-African writers’ collective. He lives and works in Nairobi, from where he also runs the affairs of the collective. His fiction and poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming in Kwani?, Story Moja and Poetry Portion, among others.