When her mind reading powers finally manifested themselves at 6:00pm, rather than report to Mistress at Headquarters, Heri made a beeline for Ly’s house.
She’d been patient. Eating the food the other girls at Headquarters had whispered aided “the process”, staying close to electronic devices–-she’d smuggled in a pocket radio that she switched on, put on silent and slipped into the pockets she’d fashioned in the roof of all her school hats and uniforms—and most importantly, she’d secretly visited the old lady at Senior Aunty’s place—rundown and humourless one-storey buildings where old people were secreted away when they became a nuisance to Headquarters.
“Your arms are too skinny, “she’d said before lustfully snorting up the snuff Heri had brought her up one nostril then the next. “Kamwana (“Child” in the old tongue) when I was your age, I was married with (she held up three knobbly fingers in the air) children and one more about to be thrust into my womb. Back then men put children inside their women to pin them like thumb tacks inside their homes, rearing and cooking, rearing and cooking. When I was your age, I wanted to be a bank teller, a driver even,” she rambled on as a quiet Heri listened good-naturedly.
Her reward was close at hand.
“You know. Before this business of strange maize, ‘powers’ and the Headquarter, kamwana, I was ready to be a teacher. Did I ever tell you that? You see, teachers work with young minds, moulding them into Great minds. It was going to be a good job. I was always good with other people’s…I…I…Who are you?”
That was her moment. “Tell me The Date.” The seer’s eyes glazed over a little, she seemed slightly confused. The heroin-laced snuff was starting to work. She hated to do this but she had a small window of opportunity and had to press her advantage.
“Look at me. The Date. Tell me The Date,” said Heri, as she locked eyes with the woman, willing her to penetrate the woolly recesses of her mind to fasten upon the gift buried within. “Please, tell me,” Heri implored as she pressed her supple palm against the old woman’s.
“23. 5. 74.”
“Level?” Heri was pushing it. She could see the seer’s eyes start to clear, as if the mental cogs had already began to turn backwards towards decay.
Letting her hand drop out of Heri’s, she half-whispered “two” then slowly stood up and shuffled way.
Two years, three weeks, four days later.
She gently pushed down on the door buzzer with her right index finger and stood perfectly still as the body scan completed its intrusive ran over her body. She heard a slight click and the door swung open. Light flooded the doorway as Heri steeped soundlessly into the family house of Ly, her boyfriend.
Her confidence was slightly shaken as the huge hallway mirror at the end of the corridor reflected the image of a sea of well dressed, well-heeled bodies floated across the living room. Their gloves hands held drinks and canapés. Just-low-enough-to-converse-but-loud-enough-to-entertain jazz instrumental music floating towards her as she turned the corner.
“CONGRATULATIONS MR. “SEVEN TIMES” MURIMBI!”
The electronic banner fastened on the blank space of the wall above the Ulovision (a mounted metallic box with a red button on its flat glass screen that senior Government officials used to relay and store Headquarters data), flashed red, black, white and green in celebration of Finance and Security Master, Senator Murimbi’s latest victory. He’d just recaptured his Parliamentary seat. No surprise as he’d always run opposed since “the incident” six, two-year terms ago.
A forest of chattering sycophants and nervous, fearful folk milled around Mr. Murimbi, that short, slightly built dark-skinned man with pearly white teeth and an affinity for brewed drinks. Ly at her elbow, she muttered responses in his direction at the appropriate moments as she carefully stalked her prey. Curfew was 10:00pm, she had to work fast because even Headquarter men didn’t dare break the rules. After shaking off the wimpish Ly, Heri made her move.
She began to slowly work her way towards Mr.Murimbi. He was animatedly chatting with a male guest next to the dining table as Heri, pretending to admire the tasteless, post-strange maize furnishings, was suddenly tripped up by a mysterious knot in the carpet and grabbed the barely exposed right wrist of Mr. Murimbi for support.
His eyes lit up with surprise as he looked down at his son’s hazel-eyed girlfriend, they glazed over for a short moment before his heavily gloved bodyguards roughly pushed Heri away from him. Making a point to quickly let go of the tiny patch of skin, Heri giggled like a clumsy little schoolgirl and apologized as she rushed towards Ly, just like she’d practiced.
And on the fifth day
The Mistress walked into Heri’s room to find a yellowed old newspaper clipping from the pre-strange maize era and a Zulsk memory disk laid out on the bed. Moving by the window to read the contents clearly, phrases jumped at her.
“First family to show signs of super human powers” … “new strain of GMO maize,”…”accident”….“prominent politician and his family”…“suspected foul play”…“survived by grief-stricken wife and five-year old adopted niece.”
One hand on her trembling lips, she run back to her workstation with the disk in hand.
The Man with Pearly White Teeth
He was dreaming about them again. That image of the hysterical woman and the stoic child at his rival’s funeral always haunted him after an election period. But this time something was nibbling at his mind.
The red dot on the Ulovision blinked. He took off the leather glove on his left hand and summoned it to him. Pressing his hand over the screen, a hologram of a Headquarter agent in a green suit appeared before him.
“I see you’re still in a celebratory mood?” he asked as he casually motioned towards the banner.
“There’s an urgent message for you at the Finance and Security Department. Make haste to get here,” he added.
Turning towards the banner, “The servants forgot to take it down.” He irritably waved his hand at the banner and it crumbled to the floor.
“I’ll be there shortly.”
The hologram disappeared but the Ulovision continued to blink. As Mr. Murimbi stood up to pick up the jacket he’d lay on the back of a dining chair, he tripped over the banner. His stomach was instantly tied up in knots.
That face, those eyes, how could he not have seen it until now?
Somewhere in an Eastbound train
“Kamwana, you know I was ready to be a teacher. Did I ever tell you that?” said the old woman as Heri tucked her into the low-lying berth.
“Yes mother, you did,” Heri replied as she returned to her seat, closed her eyes and gently pressed down on the button that would send the final set of instructions to the Ulovision in Mr. Murimbi’s home.
© Wanjeri Gakuru