I did not remember getting to the woods no matter how I racked my brain to think, which, what it managed to do, was pump adrenalin into my body. I darted my eyes in all directions looking for some landmark to tell me where I was or show me the way home. I did not even know whether it was Karura or Lang’ata forest in Nairobi. I figured that being in the woods was a nightmare I was waking up to, but I was not a member of the Night Runners Association of Kenya. Bodies were everywhere. Human bodies tied to trees, nailed to X crosses, stakes driven through their hearts, sprawled spread-eagle on the forest floor at odd angles. People painfully resting in peace.
When I commanded my limbs to move, they disobeyed my orders. I felt like a commander on the battlefield whose soldiers had refused to take his orders. I then decided to do whatever I wanted my limbs to do myself. I couldn’t. I was bound, hands and legs. Plan A failed. Plan B was to scream my lungs off, but when I opened my mouth, I felt as though I had swallowed coir. What came out was a wheezing sound of my lungs expanding and contrasting.
I tried to lift my head. I had forgotten how to do such basic human body things. I was in the Seventh Circle of hell. Or what else could explain the violence? The stench was overpowering. I finished taking stock, and I lay back down, limp, lost in shock, horror, and fear. Was it someone’s idea of an April fool’s day prank? Are my friends trying to spook me on my birthday? Halloween night?
But there were no answers to my questions. How could there be if those who were supposed to answer them were pitifully dead and roasting in the hell of the assassins, the tyrants, and the war-mongers? I could also see foul birdlike creatures with human faces making their nests.
Perhaps I entered into a catatonic state, or I just died before the cool night breeze resuscitated me. I could hear whispers of people around me, imaginary footsteps in the eerie darkness when I came to. Perhaps I was in a tomb, and fellow ghosts were trying to have a conversation with me to kill time, but I did not understand their ghost-speak.
However, my eyes managed to slit open to a vast panoply of stars and luminous darkness and a familiar stench. The eyes wandered in the dark and explored the night sky. I prayed to the stars to illuminate the way for somebody to the woods to find me just in case they were searching for me and were stuck somewhere in the night and wanted to give up. I felt lost and small, my mind and body shrinking and alone on a globe forever spinning like nothing was going on; the stars moving according to the physical laws of nature, their dim brilliance only in my mind, a mind that was a concoction of fear, horror, and confusion.
The wind began to blow. Clouds were on the move. Some were dark, blowing themselves up like foam. They intermingled with ominous greyish whirlwinds of heavy clouds, not enough to make rain. It seemed as though it was going to rain. It got darker and darker. Then, the clouds formed a larger monster cloud across the night sky, swallowing other clouds up. It looked like a dragon. I watched the dragon in the sky eat up everything on its way. There seemed to be no answer for my prayers anywhere: no one was looking for me. Maybe they had given up on the search and decided I was a statistic of those who went missing every other day, or I had eloped with a lover? Was I in a ‘Missing Persons’ report at Muthaiga police station?
I heard a twig break, and the imaginary footsteps materialise, taking the form of light ghosts. I knew then that I was going to be thrown into the furnace of hot brimstone and prepared to gnash my teeth for eternity, but I felt hands on my shoulder, and my heart exploded.
“I don’t even know why I give these stupid interviews as though repeating what I always tell you will undo what happened to me….”
“Jenny, it’s therapeutic. It helps in healing….” Doctor Oloo coughs and swallows the phlegm. “You are the only survivor of the ritual killings that have been going on in Nairobi. You have no one else to talk to; that’s why I’m here….”
I swallow hard. I don’t need to be told how to deal with the trauma. If anything reliving it makes it worse. Why can’t they just let me be? Fighting my ghosts is what I should do. What commander goes to war and allows his soldiers to fight alone? I’m alive; that’s what matters.
“Jeez, you people suck,” I snort before getting up to go.