34, 35, 36…the rounds were slowing down and with every swing his stiff head was turned to the large newspaper cutting precariously hanging on the mud wall. There were other smaller pieces but from his angle, Tamko could not see them. There was no need to read them; they had been his faithful companions every night in his nightmares. 37…38…he glimpsed at the screaming headline again and grimaced,
70 DIE AT SACHANGWAN FIRE ACCIDENT
He lifted his blue swollen tongue now as heavy as a bag of ballast. He has accidentally bitten it when the ordeal started. As if on cue he instinctively licked the rope just like he had painfully done over the last one hour of his agony. The room was now getting darker as the sun went down the other side of the roof as if hiding from his cursed fate. Another soft ligament snapped…or was it a bone that cracked? He didn’t know but the now familiar sharp pain scudded like a cloud down to his groin. A hot trickle gushed out from the soggy pair of trousers. He felt the steaming urine burning its way down his once muscular legs but he didn’t have enough time to think about it as another rotation was coming to a close and he was forced to stare at the glaring headline again. The pain had numbed almost all his nerves but the brave ones were now screaming hoarse with each searing spasm from his neck. On the floor below him, a pool of blood was slowly building like a muddle during a downpour. For the umpteenth time, Tamko tried to drive his glance away from the yellowed page but he couldn’t. It was another battle he was losing like he had done all his life.
The crowd was milling outside the town council social hall. Everyone had a bunch of papers tightly clutched to their chests. Their faces all betrayed frustration and pain while some still showed tinges of hope amid all the desperation. Small groups had formed as each recounted their misery to their fellow sufferers. It was as if the more they told their jeremiads, the more their loss would lessen,
“It was my pastor, that damn dog! His wife was doing so well and when they approached me…oh my God, I called mother immediately. I was so proud then thinking I was my family’s saviour…” a young woman was recounting her sad story as she heaved softly. Her grief was shared by her three companions.
“Njeri, don’t worry, God will never forsake us, am sure this meeting is an answer to our prayers,” another victim consoled as a glimmer of hope flashed over his face.
“No, Baba Jim, it is not that easy, my mum is now a vegetable, today morning she couldn’t even recognise me, her daughter! I was secretly happy now that I failed her that much, why should she tell my face?” Njeri was inconsolable. Her hands were now shaking and her threadbare sweater seemed to pull her towards the ground. Maybe it was the burden on her shoulders that made her seem shorter after every statement she made.
“You are lucky you have your mum, my husband died two weeks after we discovered all our savings and our land’s title deed were gone. I know everyone blames me, even the other families in the slum look at me with suspicion!” the third woman could not even lift her face to look at the others. From her graceful gait, it was obvious she had seen better times.
“God will intervene, He can’t allow so much pain to be caused on innocent souls, our Lord can’t,” it was Baba Jim again. Every now and then, their faces were turning towards the door of the hall, not in the anticipation of its opening but just to confirm the fast fading notice was still hanging there. By now, the words were etched into everyone’s mind like deep imprints on metal;
THE PUBLIC IS HEREBEY INVITED TO PRESENT COMPLAINTS TO THIS COMMITEE ON THE ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES OF PYRAMIND SCHEMES OR ANY OTHER SUCH ACTIVITIES…DOCUMENTATION WILL SERVE AS PROOF IN INCRIMINATING ANY SUSPECTS…
The notice gave all the gathered hope of at least getting something back after three years of suffering. They had waited for over three hours but compared to court injunctions, promissory notes, bouncing cheques, the pain of aching legs to them was child’s play. At last, there was a buzz among the group standing by the gate, a fleet of shiny cars all bearing the feared GK number plate crawled into the compound. The hitherto gloomy air lifted and a breeze of hope seemed to blow now as they all awaited redemption. It was one hour before the proceedings started. Tears flowed freely as broken hearts burst their banks amidst the turmoil of betrayal,
“It was all we had, now we are camping like refugees by the road side, we live on the mercy of passersby. The pastor now lives in Kileleshwa, but the police can’t touch him!” one woman wailed. It was the same sad story over and over again for all of victims. Some of the committee members already acquainted to these tales of sorrow all over the country were dozing off comfortably. It wasn’t in their mandate to console, theirs was to listen and advise the government on how such schemes could be prevented in future. The circus was getting monotonous with the aura of gloom pervading every corner of the badly lit social hall.
© chrispus kimaru (his work)