The poisoned chalice

“Dad, what will we do now?” Alicia was crying again. I turn my head slowly while doing my best to avoid the hazel balls of moisture locked directly at my face. The battle was lost, hell who can resist those eyes, just like her mother’s.

I peer through her tear stricken face with great difficulty manouvering beyond the pain. Yes, parents can do that. There it is, the last embers of a dying flame. The flame of hope. I’m forced to reassess the situation. I must be strong. At least for her.

The floodgates have opened up to a steady stream of tears. Sh*t, I must do something now! I go in for an embrace. I know that it didn’t help, but atleast it muffles her cries.

The hospital is deserted. The few nurses who are here are too physically drained to move. I close my eyes for a moment, taking in the rythmic beep of the respirator.

*************

The image above is an example of typical factory from Pinterest specifically Divisare account

I remember clearly how it all started. The joyous arrival of the factory. Finally, the higher-ups had heard our pleas. There was excitement everywhere making it the talk of the town. The youth congregated in various centers happily discussing about the new jobs at their doorstep. With it was the promise of infrastructure and eventually development for the community. Truly, the future was bright.

Things were going smoothly. “Securing” a job there had been easy enough. Lovely Mercy quit her job further up town to work alongside me. The working conditions weren’t optimum but the sweet sweet paycheck certainly more than made up for it.

It was not long before we noticed the shortcuts used. Disregard of waste dumping protocols was too obvious even to us, the laymen. The huge pipes emptying large amounts of the frighteningly thick substance to shallow pits became nothing to write home about. I know we could have spoken up sooner, but so few were willing. Speak up then what? The factory closes, with it our lively hood. No way, nobody was ready to invite the pangs of poverty back to the community.

*************

That fateful morning started out as a typical day, rather boringly. A mass of dark jealous clouds deciding to block the magnificent rays from shining upon the land, with it depriving us of the energy we so desired. This resulted in moody people all around. I sat in my office, determined not to let a throbbing headache interfere with my work. Come to think of it, over the past few months, headaches had become a common feature among the employees. It got so bad that the management set up an indoor pharmacy.

The signs were there ready to be seen yet we were too busy pledging ignorance. Lunch time came, with it the chance to head to the pharmacy, some pain killers would certainly do the trick. The last thing I remembered was the cling of the lift opening, all things became fuzzy and I noticed the ground rushing to meet my receptive head.

************

We instantly knew the diagnosis was bad when the surgeon sat down leaning her chair against my bed with an apologetic look. “I have to be completely honest, John, we have noticed it very late, and it’s in the part of the brain which is too risky to remove.”
By the time Mercy and Alicia arrived at the hospital, all the worry was gone. Their soft sobs revealed that they knew the prognosis.
“How long?” Lovely mercy managed to scuffle through the sobs. “Several weeks, months at best.”


First came the intense fatigue coupled by the throbbing headaches. Then the weight loss, the massive weight loss. When I started forgetting simple things, I knew that something must be done. I needed to secretly get out of the house, back to the hospital. Before I loose control of my body, before I stop being myself.

I’m now lying down on the bed, alone in the spacious room located in the hospital’s private wing. I’m not at all bored. Never ending footsteps can be heard from the hallway. This together with my ever present thoughts keep me company. I hope I did the right thing.

The unlikely encounter

I find it incredibly funny that a thin sheet of cloth can be the sole object separating one from their fears. This was the case for young Maria. The thing with fear is you usually know that it’s coming but never know when it will set in.

It was a huge auditorium. Through the intense shade of the velvet purple coloured curtains she could make out the massive amount of people that had made it to the event. For a brief moment she was lost in thought, trying to imagine the weight of expectation weighed upon her and her team. Looking down, she could tell that she was trembling. The dusty backstage wall clock signified that they would be on in about 5 minutes.

A quick eye survey of the room revealed all the members were ready. The members looked majestic in their long white deras (swahili gowns) complemented by golden woolen scarfs graciously hugging the necks of the performers. Truly, nothing was left to chance in upholding the mighty name of Mama Ngina Girls High School, the creme of the Coast region.
“And now, the moment you have all been waiting for, presenting the Swahili folk song utawezana…” The speakers beamed on. One thing was clear, they were up next.

The curtains parted to reveal a massive audience. Suddenly everyone was silent. Countless eyes filled with expectation looked to the stage in anticipation. That was when it struck.
Maria felt aldraneline flood her system, carrying with it the taste of bitter almond on her tongue. Gasoline was poured on the spark of fear in her stomach. Her shoulders involuntarily formed the shape of a shrug emulating her fear, which she so desperately wanted to hide. Time seemed to stand still. She could tell all the eyes were on her with calm eyes becoming stares. That was when she saw him.

There was something different about him, she remembers seeing a sense of empathy in his eyes drawing her into a magnetic clutch. Suddenly she felt drops of calmness with no apparent origin drip into the fiery pit of fear in her stomach. Was it a smile she just saw? The performance did not matter as much anymore. The slow drops quickly became a gushing flow restoring her sense of calmness which she needed for the opening verse.

I’m tempted to say that they sang like Angels but since I’ve never heard them let me just say that even Celine Dion would have been impressed. The audience joined in with the clueless 21st century kids furiously pressing on their gadgets demanding of Google the song’s lyrics. Things typically went wild with harmony during the chorus with echoing of “maisha matamu , lakini mafupi, ooh mama Idi, Akhera yangoja” dominating the auditorium.

The curtains finally closed to a standing ovation. Well, suffice to say the crowd was already standing even before the song ended. For Maria, that was all background noise. Her mind was fixed on an entirely different agenda. She had eye- traced her special source of confidence with the hope of meeting him afterwards. Not even bothering to remove her attire, she burst through the small backstage door.


Suddenly she could feel her feet leave the ground, her face rushing straight for the floor. She could anticipate a hot streak of pain with her subconscious mind seizing control of her arms in order to protect her head. Already resigned to fate she was astonished when she felt a firm grip, clenching her waist and defying gravity to keep her on her feet. Volts of confusion surged through her mind.

“Hey, why the rush?”
She looked behind only to get lost in the familiar large brown, magnetic set of eyes. The rest is history.

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