Crows reloaded. The end.

Previously on Crows reloaded: Pete is a white journalist born in Africa. Mary-Sue is a black journalist born in Babylon, Amerika. Pete is telling – us? – the story of why he left Africa, and his encounter with a young Pokot girl, named Malaika.

“So, mzungu (white man), will you marry me?” Malaika says.

“No child. In ten or twenty years, maybe,” I say.

“In ten years? I will be dead, or very old.” Malaika says. She laughs, goes on: “Do you know why I am called Malaika?”

“Hapana, no.” I say. Though I do know.

“Because I’m an angel! Look:”

She starts dancing a courting dance of the tribes in the great lakes, resembling the dance of the crested crane. Arms extended, the right arm up, the left arm down and turns and turns, soon all the children start turning and turning until they get dizzy and drop on the floor laughing. Malaika asks:

“Do you know the song, mzungu?”

“Which song?” I ask. Though again, I know the answer to my question.

“The song Malaika.”

“I know it, yes,” I say, “who doesn’t?”

“Sing it, then, mzungu, if you know it!” Malaika dares me.

So I oblige, with all the children circling us with brilliant black eyes and mischievous smiles, and I sing this old Kenya top of the charts in the sixties. Myriam Makeba gave a beautiful version then:

“Malaika, nakupenda Malaika,

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika

(Angel, I love you angel)…

Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio

(And I, your young lover, what can I do?)

Nashindwa na mali sina, we,

(Was I not defeated by the lack of fortune)

Ningekuoa Malaika.”

“Hah!” Malaika says, “I got you, mzungu!” She smiles a smile of victory. The other children hold their breath. “You said: Ningekuoa Malaika, I will marry you Angel! So you will marry me!” And she drops on the red earth floor, bursting her ribs with laughter, her arms crossed over her stomach, proudly displaying her new Mickey Mouse watch. The other watoto just roll and roll on the ground. I smile. Damn kids. Watoto wabaya sana.

Forward.

*

 Whoa, Don’t look back to see.
Thought I heard a rumblin’
Callin’ to my name,
Two hundred million guns are loaded
Satan cries, “Take aim!”
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,

– Foggerty, “Running through the jungle”

The rebel Turkana chief is very pissed. He threatens us. Na piga kufa! I’ll kill you. I remember it started badly. When we approached his camp, my stupid guide, interpreter , whatever, addressed the Turkana guards in the wrong dialect. Rendille! F’r God‘s sake! Rendille! The Turkana’s century-old enemies. The guards shot a long string of machine-gun bullets. AK-47, I guess. Fortunately, the bullets went flying over our heads. The interpreter was so scared he couldn’t remember the proper greetings in Turkana. I tried my luck in Swahili. Fire stopped.

We are then left to wait out in the sun for hours before being introduced to the big Chief who sits in the shade, just to demonstrate who the Boss is. His troops are kids really, boys of ten to twelve. Probably not even circumcised yet. Wonder where the real so-called warriors are. The makeshift kid-soldiers wear a mixture of haphazard military rags and traditional dress. Army fatigue jacket with bare feet and a white feather clayed to the head. A Kalashnikov AK-47 machine gun in one hand, a traditional panga, a machete, or a spear in the other hand. One is never too careful. Better keep both hands busy. The Turkana chief is nervous. Shouting loud in Turkana. I’m sure the old bugger speaks Swahili, but he pretends not to. He shouts at the interpreter, the one who made the initial approach. I wonder whether something’s lost in translation? The interpreter cringes. Whispers to me: “He thought we were bringing guns”. I consider kicking the interpreter. This is bad. Mbaya sana. Very bad… The rebel chief stops screaming. Looks at me. Then at the interpreter. The interpreter looks at me too. I’m the mzungu, right? Let  the white man fix that shit. It takes me what feels like hours, to explain to the Chief that we bring him more than ‘two hundred million guns’, we bring him fame. Planet wide exposure! He knows CNN. Doesn’t like Fox News, good point for him. Asks me if I’m with CNN. I say no, but I got contacts. A bunch of real guerilla soldiers arrive, mean-looking older guys, covered in red dust, laughing, high on something. They have crazy eyes, showing lots of white. What have they done? What do soldiers do? The chief cleans us of all our money. Cash only. Doesn’t take American Express. All for the cause he says. Lets us go. He laughs with his soldiers.

Forward.

*

Over on the mountain
Thunder magic spoke,
Let the people know my wisdom,
Fill the land with smoke.
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
– Foggerty, “Running through the jungle”

I’m walking through the tall elephant grass. Walking through the bush, walking through the jungle. Bloody Land-Rover broke down an hour ago, on the way back to Malaika’s village. The village is down that slope in a small valley. The driver is the first to spot the crows circling. Like a cloud of black flies in the distance, flying over the village. I run through the grass, I run through the bush, I run through the jungle. No human sound. The only noise I hear are two hundred million crows. I get to the village. Some of the huts are burning. There are bodies everywhere. Men, children, women, covered by crows, eating out the eyes, the soft parts of the dead. I shout: ‘Malaika! Malaika!’ I run from one body to the other, kicking the crows away. The fucking crows don’t even bother to move. At the center of the village there are more bodies, piled up. A small body is on the side, all but covered by a black cloud of crows. A small arm extends from under the pack of birds. A small black arm with a Mickey Mouse watch.

*

 “Pete! Pete! Wake up. Are you ok?’

I gasp for air. Mary-Sue is holding me by the shoulders.

“Han! I was…”

“You were screaming in your sleep.” Mary-Sue said. “You were shouting: Noooooooooo!”

“It’s that dream again, the bloody nightmare.” I say. I close my eyes, fall back on the pillows. “The crows…” I’m panting. Mary-Sue is concerned. She asks:        “You were also screaming something like MALIKA”.

“Malaika,” I say. I shake my head, trying to shake the dream, the nightmare, as if that would rub out the memory. I end up telling Mary-Sue just about everything, telling her what I could never write about, the Pokot, Malaika, the Turkana rebels, the massacre, the bloody crows. Why I’d gone to Lamu to try and clean my head. How can you clean your head of… that? All those years, and I still can’t manage to clean my stupid head. Her face gets greyer and greyer as I tell, though I try to keep the details to a minimum. She says, with a sad smile:

“So, that why you resigned, Number 6?”

I laugh a fake laugh, tell her: “Now you know, Number 2. Sorry, I mean, Number one. But I thought you didn’t know about the Prisoner?”

She smiles: “I borrowed it from my mother the other day. She did have the complete collection. Watched the first episode one morning when you were at the Paper, before going myself. I wanted to surprise you. But anyway, now I understand a bit more.”

“Yeah. After that, I just couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t write about that. Horror. Black on black horror. Forget about the white colonial powers. Black on black terror is muuuch worse. I just… couldn’t write about it in The Herald. So, after Lamu, I resigned and went to the UK. Then came here. Just be the happy weather man, Pete. Far from crows and horror.”

“Malaika, the little girl,” Mary-Sue says, “I know it’s a stupid question, but, do you think it was quick. I mean, for her?” She flutters, “I’m sorry, it’s a stupid question, forget it.”

“No, it’s Okay. I think it was quick, yes.” I can’t tell Mary-Sue more. If I do, if she gets any greyer, paler, she’ll turn white! Malaika was raped by so many… animals, one of her legs was dislocated at the hip. Then, they finished her. With an AK-47 machine gun. Lots of exit wounds. No visible entry wound. There was only one option as to where they’d fired the gun. Mary-Sue’s eyes are wide. She asks:

“And what did you do? Couldn’t you alert the authorities?”

I chuckle. “No, my friend. Not the way it works. Not much authority in those parts. We also had better leave fast in case the rebels came back.”

“What did you do with the bodies?” Mary-Sue asked.

“There was only the four of us. The stupid interpreter, the driver, a Kikuyu. Solid guy. And the photographer. A Luo. Good guy, too. Didn’t get along too well with the Kikuyu, old tribal feuds. But under control. Good photographer, too. Once he recovered from the shock, he started taking tons of pictures. But…”

“But, what did you do, Pete? Mary-Sue asked.

“When I came out of shock, I saw him. Taking pictures. I didn’t break his jaw, just walked to him, took his camera, dropped it to the ground and crushed it. Don’t know why. Maybe I just thought these poor people deserved better than someone shooting them, again! With a camera this time.”

“And then, Bwana boy?”

“And then, just the four of us, we couldn’t burry all of them. There were at least 150 dead. I sent the kikuyu driver back to the Land-Rover, to get a jerry can of petrol. We carried all the dead to the centre of the village. Lined them up gently on a pile of dry wood we gathered around the village. I left Malaika the Mickey Mouse watch. You know I don’t use a watch anymore. I use my cel. We piled another bit of deadwood, palms, whatever we could find, on top of everybody. The driver came back from the car with the jerry can, we doused them with petrol. Struck a match. Waited until all were ashes. Takes a long time to turn a body into ashes. I’ll never forget the smell. Notice I always decline invitations to barbecues in the summer?”

Mary-Sue nods. If her eyes get any wider, they’ll explode. I need to stop this, but she asks:

“Another stupid question, Pete. This marriage thing with Malaika, you tell about… was it serious?” She frowns a bit. I chuckle. Comes out more croak than chuckle.

“That is the way I found out one of the many differences between a white and a black African. She was ‘kumi na moja’, eleven years old. To the white African that I was, she was just a lovely mtoto, a lovely child. Full of sparks and laughter. To the little black African girl that she was, kumi na moja meant she was ready to start looking for a good husband.”

Text © BMO and Equinoxio

Turkana girl © Heidi Lange.

Running through the jungle lyrics (c) John Fogerty & Credence clearwater revival

This a work of fiction. And fiction only. Though such massacres happen daily on many parts of our sad world. In Africa: Tchad, Nigeria, Mali, South Sudan for instance. Or even in Asia, where the Rohingiya are being kicked out of Burma, by the hundreds of thousands. This story is dedicated to all those fallen to the hands of cowards who so easily kill women and children.

 

16 thoughts on “Crows reloaded. The end.

    • I’m sorry my friend. (Wry smile)
      As you know writers are serial killers. I’ve “dispatched” more people in my stories than I care to think about.
      But then as you also know, stories come to us. Not the other way round.
      And they have their own way. And their own endings. I’ve tried a few times to change a tragic ending in a story.
      Just doesn’t work.
      Yet, to finish on a different note, this is what happened in one universe. In another, parallel universe, Pete and Mary-Sue have adopted Malaika and she is currently playing with Schrödinger’s cat.

      • Yes. If only. I have mentioned once that almost all the countries I’ve lived in, later were torn by warfare and violence: Cambodia, (Pakistan), Guinea, Ethipoia, Cyprus, Lebanon… to name a few. And it goes beyond my understanding that it should happen there. Only human stupidity and short-sightedness. But yes, maybe there are parallel universes where peace has been achieved. Let’s stay with that thought. 🙂

  1. Many times truth has a bitter taste. Malaika is now a real angel, same as too many children out there in real life.

    Stories are born from the memories of past and present (and even from glimpses of the future: the premonitions), the invisible Energy that surrounds everything, and indeed they come to us as they want to, not as we would want them.

    Parallel universes may only exist in our imagination. Either way, I hope the universe you mentioned to Janet above would see Malaika playing with that cat outside the box. And maybe – just maybe – our little furry friend will never get inside. 😉

  2. It is exactly why I hope you publish that book of yours, Brian. People outside Africa know so little about the real situation. Celebrities are making donations without proper knowledge and their money is used to buy weapons and to fuel the wars like this one.

    • Terima kasih for your thoughts. We are safe, friends and family. Though acquaintances of our eldest daughter have lost a child in the fallen school which is quite close to here. Tragic indeed. In fiction and “real” life. We are all in shock. Daughter #1 is a doctor, she tried to go to one wrecked building to help, but couldn’t make it: too many voluntaries. You guys take care of yourselves. Brian

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