image credit: Mutua Matheka
image credit: Mutua Matheka

The clouds are dark and ominous and the weather is unforgivingly cold. My fingers are frozen and my legs feel like two blocks of ice. I drag myself out of bed and rub my hands together in an attempt to generate heat, in vain. I always get the worst rooms when I come out for an assignment in town; you would think the sordid and grim nature of my work would make them fear me and allocate more money to my department but it doesn’t.

I get into the broken shower and bathe with intermittent gushes of extremely cold and scalding hot water. I put on a black blazer, khaki chinos and a red tie then look in the mirror—and I like what I see. I don’t know why I bother grooming when my clients can’t even see me.

I glance at my small table and see her folder, I have been profiling her for weeks now, I would have taken her life sooner but the time has not yet been right. She’s a good woman. She has three young daughters and a grocery business that has been suffering ever since a tumor lodged itself in her skull like a thief in the night.

Assignments are usually bitter sweet. Taking someone who is loved or who loves away from the only world they know is always hard. Of course I do it like a pro now but it’s not any much easier than when I was a beginner. You get to console yourself with words like, “The lord giveth and the lord taketh.” But the words don’t make the job any less difficult.

I take another look at her family: one small tot in lower school and two grown up girls over the age of twenty five, both of whom have a kid who no one knows the father. I have seen them wake up in the morning: shower and stick their faces in the mirror to doll up before wearing something tiny—sitting themselves in front of the TV and spending the whole day fingering the remote. I have seen their sickly mom employ a help to cater to her needs when she has two adults in the house who won’t raise a finger unless it’s to change channels from Telemundo to Nairobi Diaries.

I close her folder and grit my teeth, this won’t be easy I think to myself as I pick up my tool of trade. A neat small and sharp dirk—nothing holds an edge like it does. I pick it up carefully, hold it by its hilt and admire it for a second before putting it in its scabbard: It takes life quickly without leaving a mess, maybe today is the day, I think to myself as I get out of my ramshackle hotel room.

I get to the family’s rented house, the same house whose rent hasn’t been paid for three months now but the landlord is turning a blind eye because he knows nobody asks for illness. I find the two girls with their legs atop the table and their two tots screaming; almost puncturing their lungs. The help is nowhere to be found and so I think to go and look for their sickly mother in the hospital where I find her being fed by a network of drips looking frail and melted.

She was a strong bulking woman ones. She could carry a sack full of maize as if it was a paper bag of feathers but you wouldn’t tell by looking at the fleshless body lying on the hospital bed now. They burned the cancerous tumor that was on her jaw with chemotherapy and they thought it had wilted off but it only moved up her eyes and now it has blinded her vision and her words have gotten slurred and mashed. She can’t recognize nor hear the people around her; she only sees blurred images and hears echoes in the distance. I tighten the grip around the hilt of my dirk.

I hang in the air like a bad stench, they’ve arranged chairs outside their rented house and people are coming in to pay their respects. I sit there and watch her daughters wail, scream and fling themselves on the ground in a fit like wild banshees. “She didn’t deserve to go.” They yowl, their voices raw as a wound.

I sit there and wonder what their mom deserved. Did she deserve to take care of impertinent grownups? Grownups who could have tended to her and helped with her business but instead chose to live a pretend glamour life, frolicking with boys and bringing kids home for her to raise while they lived out inflated lifestyles and bought exotic, filigree dresses that seduced men better? I feel sad for them they will have to learn the hard way but sometimes that’s the only way we can learn.

I get to my ramshackle hotel room and remove my raincoat. It is raining heavily; I like it when it rains like this, it always feels as if the rain is washing away all my impurities. I pull what seems like curtains to the side and stare outside the window. Raindrops are hitting the ground hard and fast as if the asphalt has wronged them and there are thunderstorms that are coming and going in quick flashes. I look at my already packed travel bag on my bed and wonder what my next assignment will be, I hope it won’t be a child. Those ones hurt the most.

The idea: This story is narrated from the point of view of death, I hope that came out in its telling. Death even though feared by many makes for an interesting character—I’m thinking of doing a story series in which death is the protagonist—tell me what you think?

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