PLANET NAIROBI (When the sun goes down)
They were on the verge of losing this battle… it was only a matter of time, and he knew that. Through the window, he saw them advance, with a fierce swiftness that would have put anyone opposed to them at unease. Trembling uncontrollably, he reached for his weapon and held it firmly, ready to martyr himself for his family’s honour and legacy if need be. For they were not, and never would be known as a family of cowards, they were royalty… and he would rather go down fighting than cowering, that was the bottom line. But he knew that his sword, as well forged as it was, would be no match for Rath and his five hundred man strong battalion. So, biting his lower lip he waited for the pounding footsteps to reach the top of the stairs where he stood, the one solitary guardian to the throne. Martyrdom was his destiny.
“Let he that stands between Rath and the throne fall like the city walls!” Rath’s dominant voice bellowed as it got closer, too close for comfort.
He braced himself.
Suddenly, the doors burst open. And Nur… Prince Nur, finally got to come face to face with the scourge that had terrorised the lands of the sea for so long. A man of whom he had heard about from stories as a child growing up. A man that had haunted his dreams for as long as he could remember. Nur realised that he had always been afraid of Rath, long before this moment, how was he supposed to fight this man when he was clearly at a disadvantage? For it was common knowledge that to go into battle afraid, was to go into battle prepared to lose.
Rath was a gigantic figure, and exuded the air of one who was accustomed to crushing his opponents and hadn’t experienced defeat in a while… if not ever. This man stood at almost eight feet tall, with rock hard muscles that seemed to pile on top of more muscle, threatening to tear through his dark skin. His long locks of unkempt hair fell over a face that could only be described as menacing. He had a permanent scowl that was complimented by his black, soulless eyes. And as they stared each other down, Nur couldn’t ignore the presence of sheer evil he saw in those eyes, a shiver of dread ran down his spine. He raised his blade.
“A child?” Rath barked, “A petulant child? Is that what this Kingdom’s defences have come down to? An infant?” He waved a dismissive hand at Nur.
“A prince!” Nur responded defiantly, raising his blade even higher and more confidently. This man may have been the epitome of terror, but Nur would be damned if he was going to be talked down to in this manner, this was his palace.
“A prince huh? Prince Nur I presume? Your father was a brave man, I respected him. Even if I met his acquaintance only for a couple of minutes, before I slaughtered him. But I do respect a king that fights alongside his men, as opposed to other cowards I’ve had the pleasure of killing that had barricaded themselves in their chambers and let others fight their battles for them. King Thur was a rare breed… but a dead one all the same.” He laughed remorselessly as he said this. “And soon you will get to join your warrior father foolish one.”
Nur lost all sense of fear. Infuriated, his nostrils flared as he swung the blade with all the ferocity he could muster, slicing deep into Rath’s right forearm. Time slowed to syrup as he saw his adversary’s blood stain the sword, but realising that it wasn’t a fatal strike, he turned around swiftly, switching his stance just in time to see Rath’s massive blade come down on his head. Then there was a deathly silence.
The afterlife was nothing like he had pictured. It smelt of… he couldn’t quite place that peculiar smell. It wasn’t pleasant, but neither was it unpleasant, just unfamiliar. Then he turned around and saw her. He deduced that she was probably the source of the smell. He noticed that smoke came out of her nostrils and mouth every few seconds after lifting a sticklike object to her lips. Nur mused at how wrong the high priest in their kingdom had been when he spoke about the place in the sun… the afterlife. It wasn’t anything like he had described.
But wait a minute! He realised that the sun was still above him, in the sky. He could see it. He could feel it on his skin. So WHERE WAS HE? He felt dizzy, unable to comprehend. Only a minute ago he was in the royal palace, facing certain death. And now he was… he didn’t know where he was, or even what he was. Was he dead? Transcended? Was this just his soul? If so, then how come he still had his senses? All these questions raced through his mind at the same time. He turned toward the lady, who seemed unaware of his presence. She was tall and very light skinned compared to him and her hair was tied in ponytail at the back of her head. He couldn’t make sense of her attire though, she seemed to wear a lot of clothing, garment over garment that covered her arms and legs. She was also extremely beautiful and had a slim womanly body most warriors would kill for, he noted, and felt himself flush. He tried to see what she was squinting so intently at and concluded that she was just staring into space as she drew, he realised now, on the tiny stick and blew out more smoke. That was when he noticed how high up they were, this palace stood almost five times as high as theirs. It was overwhelming to say the least. He got up and walked over to her, deciding to leave his blade behind so as not to come off as a threat.
“Greetings?” He said politely. She jumped as if she had just seen a ghost, dropping the stick she was holding. He had clearly startled her, so he took a step back lifting his hands in the air to signify that he meant her no harm. She breathed rapidly and began to speak just as rapidly in a foreign tongue. Nur couldn’t understand what she was saying, but the hostility in her tone and her demeanour was hard to miss. He took another step back, ready to defend himself from an attack if need be. He had heard tales of an island with warrior women who could match, and beat, even the strongest male adversary in combat. He decided to tread cautiously.
Nasim Naikuni was beyond peeved. Who was this dimwit? He had scared her half to death and almost made her fall off the roof, not to mention burn her favourite grey, three thousand shilling trouser suite when she dropped the cigarette. And what annoyed her even more was that he didn’t seem to register how pissed off she was. He just stood there with a blank expression on his face, like a schoolboy waiting for his mistake to be explained to him. Nasim couldn’t stand slow people, they got under her skin. She was yelling at the top of her lungs, which was taxing to say the least, seeing as she had been smoking just seconds ago.
“Are you slow?” She shouted, tapping at her temple repeatedly. “What makes you think you can sneak up on me like that you fool? You almost killed me. Do you realise that?” Then she stopped and studied him, out of breath. She noticed that he seemed unable to understand English and so she switched to Swahili, “Nini mbaya na wewe?” What’s wrong with you? Still there was no response.
She gave him a once over. He dressed strangely. His large, golden brown pants that fluttered in the wind seemed to have been made from an expensive material, though it was like no material she’d laid eyes on before. It bordered somewhere between silk and suede. His shirt was also made of a similar material, but leather brown in colour, matching his leather boots that were laced and reached just under the knee. He stood an inch or two shorter than she did, but she guessed that was probably because she was in heels. He had long hair that seemed to fall halfway down his back in one long braid. He looked almost exotic as he tried to communicate, but she couldn’t place the language or his ethnicity, for his skin-tone was chocolate brown but his hair looked almost like an Asian’s, dark and straight. He spoke in a tongue she had never heard before. There was also something really classy about this boy, whom she guessed to be around eighteen years of age or so. It was like looking at a darker, more pampered version of Sinbad the sailor.
Nasim relaxed a little and decided to give the fellow a chance to introduce himself, in whatever way he intended to do so. He seemed to pick up on this and started explaining something to her, making a couple of gestures, and at some point she thought she saw him mimic a fight, and then point to the sky. Nasim still didn’t know what he was talking about, but felt a semblance of communication begin to take form. He directed her attention to another part of the roof, probably where he had approached her from. And she saw the blade! With catlike agility she swung her purse at him, the blow caught him square on the jaw with a thud! The bottle of perfume she religiously carried around in it serving a different purpose on this day. He hadn’t seen it coming and so had no chance of stopping it. He staggered backwards as she made a run for it toward the staircase but felt a hand grab her ankle causing her to tumble onto the hot cement floor. At that moment her heart sank, for she knew that she was done for.
Nur was perplexed, he didn’t know what he’d done to deserve the assault. The lady had seemed to be calming down, but all of a sudden she had lunged at him with a weapon he had first assumed to be a bag. Though, she didn’t strike with the strength that a warrior would have, and also had made an attempt to flee. This told him two things. One, she wasn’t accustomed to combat… and two, she had attacked more out of fear than strife. Which meant that she posed no immediate threat to him. Also, she was the only person he had met so far and his only hope of figuring out where he was. He couldn’t afford to lose her, not just yet, so he decided to try something he was ashamed he hadn’t thought of sooner. Nur spoke into her head.
‘I mean you no harm.’ He said, and waited. No response. He tried again, concentrating harder this time. ‘Can you hear me? I mean you no harm’
‘LET ME GOOO!’ Her thoughts screamed.
He could understand her, they had made a connection. Progress…
One year later. Nasim…
“Good afternoon people? You’re hangin’ out with me Nasim Naikuni on your favourite show Voices, where you can throw any question you have regarding life… and living it, at me and the voices in my head will answer them for you… yeah, you heard right, the voices in my head. I’ll be takin’ your calls for the next hour. Let’s begin shall we?” Nasim spoke into the microphone just before a voice-over added…
“Nasim Naikuni, the only radio presenter that’s literally gone bonkers!” And then was followed by some rock music. ‘So what?… I’m still a rock star… ’ Pink’s lyrics belted out as Nasim removed her headphones to take a breather before she talked to her first caller. A breather… and also to have a bit of a chat with the voice in her head. She walked out of the studio into a corridor where she was out of sight, and concentrated, her eyes crinkling from the effort.
‘Hey, are you there?’
‘Uh huh.’ The prince replied.
‘Okay, we’re on in roughly three minutes. Make me look good babes’
‘Don’t I always?’
‘True dat. What are you doing?’
‘It’s one in the afternoon… ’
‘This is not my planet, therefore I’m not obliged to follow its rules. I can have a one o’clock breakfast if I want to.’
‘Brunch, what your having would be brunch. Breakfast… aaand lunch?’
‘You see? You get all high and mighty on me about this and you even have a name for it? If it is so wrong to have breakfast at this time, then why would your people give the meal a name? I’m just saying.’ Nur said mockingly.
‘I give up’ She replied with a sigh.
She walked back into the studio.
“Caller… you’re on air. Shoot.” Nasim said softly, leaning into the microphone.
“Hey Nasim, lovely job you’re doing by the way.”
“Why thank you dear, but I don’t deserve all the credit you know?”
“Yeah I know… you and the voices in your head… ha-ha! Anyway my name is George, and I’m kinda’ in a predicament at the moment. You see, I have a wife and a family… two kids, but I kinda’ got into this relationship outta’… obligation as opposed to real love…”
“Yes. I met my wife five years ago in uni’ and we dated. But looking back, I only got into the relationship because I felt I’d led her on and she loved me soo much, I just couldn’t disappoint her. So I got stuck in a phony relationship, at least on my part. Next thing I know, we are pregnant and… It’s been we ever since.”
“So you want to what? Get out of your marriage?”
“I want to be with the person I truly love…”
“Hooo… ho! Scoreboard! Now we have lift off. And how long have you known this person that you truly love George?” She said this with a tinge of amusement in her voice.
“Six years… and we’ve been going out for the past two.” He sounded ashamed.
‘He sounds ashamed.’ She heard Nur say observationally.
‘No kidding.’ She retorted.
(In the past year or so, Nasim and Nur had come to an understanding somewhat. After she had struck him with her purse and the little scuffle they’d had on the rooftop, and after convincing herself that she wasn’t going crazy… or that the cigarette she had been smoking wasn’t laced with marijuana or some other hallucinogen, she finally gave in and listened to the voice speaking to her in her thoughts.
‘Please, just give me a chance to explain. I need your help lady!’ He sounded desperate.
She felt sorry for him, but still suspected she could be going nuts.
He continued. ‘I don’t know where I am. My father is dead and I don’t know where I am or how I arrived here, and you’re the only one that can help me right now…’
Nasim, touched now, replied. “How am I supposed to do that? And how are you doing this telepathy thing? Are you really doing this?” She shook her head violently, like a wet dog trying to dry itself, “I’m very confused right now.”
He looked even more confused. ‘Talk to me in my head, I think it is the only way we can communicate with each other.’
She didn’t know how to.
‘It’s simple, concentrate.’ He said reassuringly.
She tried. Still nothing.
‘I could hear you a moment ago, I don’t understand. Let’s try this slowly, repeat after me… Nur.’ He told her.
She heard him, and was thinking what?
He repeated, ‘Nur.’
She tried thinking the word he’d asked her to repeat as hard as she could but he didn’t seem to be getting anything. She decided that the cigarette must have been laced with something. Here she was, on the roof top of her work building trying to master telepathy, with a stranger who just happened to own a sword. This had to be a dream, a nightmare.
‘I must be high.’
‘Yes! Yes! You’re high!’ She heard the excited reply.
‘You did it!’ Nur said happily, ‘you figured it out. And yes, I was also meaning to ask you about how high we are.’
She had done it. Nasim could hear him and answer back, she felt oddly proud of this accomplishment. Then she asked puzzled. ‘High? You get high?’
‘I am high.’ Came the naive reply.
‘Why are we so high up? The palaces on our island are half the size of yours, are you that many in your palace that you need to build it so tall?’
Then she understood. And laughed… ‘Who are you? And how did you get here?’
‘My name is Nur… Prince Nur… how I got here? That’s what I’m trying to find out.’ He was being honest.
And thus begun an adventurous relationship between the two. Nasim took him to her apartment that day, passing curious and disapproving looks all the way. The most difficult part being trying to explain to her boss why she was coming from the roof in the company of someone who dressed like a gigolo, as he put it. She made up something. And he gave her one of those I’ll accept your story just because… looks. Nasim found that hilarious. But she was glad she had asked Nur to leave the sword behind to be recovered later. That would have been a tad difficult to explain. They got to her apartment block and were met by more disapproving looks from a group of nosey old women, the type that love to mind everyone else’s business but their own, as they walked to the lift. And when they got into apartment F6 on the second floor, she introduced Nur to what would be his new home for the next one year. Though neither of them knew that at the time.
Nur had turned out to be a fast learner and in a matter of months, had mastered the English and Swahili languages, to a point where he could even incorporate slang. He explained to her how his planet was a serene place made up of many small islands, each governed by its own king. The people there were quite spiritually aware and in touch with themselves and their surroundings which she decided probably explained his demonstrated extraordinary ability to adapt.
And now here they were, co-hosting a radio show. Well technically, it was still exclusively her show, but since she’d met Nur it had undergone a few changes. Within a few weeks of knowing him Nasim had realised that the prince had a simple yet profound way of looking at life as he offered her advice from time to time after some of those hard days at work, or just in general. And then an idea had sparked in her head, this might be the edge that her show –which hadn’t been getting very impressive ratings at the time- needed! And she went to work right away brainstorming on how she could make it work. Before it hit her that the answer was staring her right in the face. The telepathy thing they had going! That would be it, she would make it seem as mysterious as she could. But how?… She would go clinically insane!)
“So what do I do about this Nasim?” The caller was asking.
‘First of all, he should accept that he was wrong in committing to the relationship and stop justifying his mistake to himself. Then he should just go for the person he really wants to be with, after explaining the situation to his family and facing the consequences that are sure to follow of course. Lastly, he should do his best to make sure that his family does not suffer, financially or otherwise, as a result of his naivety.’ Nur said in a matter of fact manner like policeman calling in a crime on his radio.
Nasim could tell that he couldn’t wait to get it over with so he could go back to his brunch, probably a couple of slices of cold pizza from the night before. She repeated the advice on air, not word for word, but she got the message across.
“That was blunt! But fair enough, I guess the ball is in my court huh? Very well. Thanks Nasim… You have a good day.” The caller hung up.
“Oookay George… blessed day to you too. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you.” She giggled, to lighten the grim situation she knew her caller was facing. Then spoke rapidly as she always did on air. “You’re still with me Nasim Naikuni on 98.4 Capital Fm. Call me up on oh-seven-two-zero-nine-eight-four-nine-eight-four or oh-seven-three-four-nine-eight-four-nine-eight-four and let me know what’s on your mind so I can let you know what’s on mine.” The next song cued in.
After the show, as she walked off the premises exuding an air of pride and accomplishment, Nasim couldn’t help but muse over what a blessing Nur had been to her show over the past few months. She wondered what she would do when he went away. For she knew he was working tirelessly day in day out trying to figure out a way to get home, unfortunately in the past year he had made very little progress. Nasim had taught him how to use the internet and he spent hours on end each day searching code words that could be helpful, sometimes with comic results. She laughed to herself as she remembered a day she had walked in just as he had clicked on one of those Adult Friend Finder ads, and the shocked and embarrassed expression he had on as it slowly dawned on him that the website had nothing to do with locating old friends. She had to admit, she quite enjoyed having him around though. And anyway he wasn’t that hard on the eyes either. She bit her lower lip, and then realising where her mind was going with this, she stopped herself. For she had promised herself that nothing romantic would happen between the two of them. She was just helping out a friend, who also happened to be helping her out a great deal. Her show had never gotten higher ratings than it was getting at the moment. The idea was gold, it had taken off and refused to land. People couldn’t get enough of Voices. They called in, emailed, texted… in just a matter of weeks after it started, Nasim had become twice the celebrity she had been before. Of course the hitch was that they all thought it was her that was answering the questions and the whole voices in her head thing was just a gimmick for the show, and she didn’t dare tell anyone the truth lest they take her to be actually crazy. And anyway, what would she say? ‘Uuuh guys, you know all the advice I give on my show everyday?… Well, there’s this alien living in my apartment and we communicate telepathically… aaand he’s the one that actually gives the advice, I just voice it.’ Yeah, they would totally buy that. She thought sarcastically.
A voice called out from behind her as she neared her Nissan X-trail, she could hear the sound of heels against the ground as someone tried to catch up to her. She turned around to see her best friend Jennifer half walk half run towards her across the parking lot with all the concentration of someone walking a tight rope as she struggled not to trip over in her heels. Nasim giggled as she watched this potential comedy sketch unfold. She never understood why Jennifer insisted on wearing high heels everyday when they clearly made her suffer every day.
‘I don’t know how you do it.” Jennifer panted as she got to her.
“What?” Nasim asked knowing full well what her friend was talking about.
“Walk in those abominations.” Jennifer replied pointing at Nasim’s black heels, not very much unlike her own.
“It’s a trade secret sista.” Nasim joked as they hugged.
Nasim and Jennifer went way back. They had met in high school. She drifted back to that first day she had walked into the school.
(Nasim had dreaded joining the boarding school from the moment her mother had suggested the idea. And on that depressing, chilly morning smack dab in the middle of Trans Nzoia district she was beginning her first day as a mono, that was what students just joining the first form in secondary school were referred to as. It stood for Monkey of No Origin, a derogatory term to say the least. And as she walked across the school grounds, kicking through the dew stained grass, came the dreaded words she feared but knew she was bound to hear sooner or later.
She turned around to see an older girl, walking at her, literally, it was like watching a one person stampede. Nasim froze, she didn’t know how to react so she just stood there. The girl got to her and stared her down, which was unnerving, seeing as she already stood several inches above Nasim and was a bit on the heavy side. This girl could have been described as beautiful, Nasim observed, had it not been for her unkempt hair, the mean expression on her face and the fact that her school uniform was almost as unkempt as her hair. Her white shirt was half tucked into a blue skirt with its tail hanging out. They wore standard navy blue sweaters as part of their uniform, but what this girl had on had once been navy blue, for it had faded to become a whole new shade. She tugged at her tie, which was slung carelessly around her neck, with both hands and said in a low condescending voice.
“Mono, how are you?”
“I… I… I’m okay.” Nasim said, her eyes darting from side to side.
“Okay? You don’t sound okay, you sound scared.”
“I’m… not scared. I’m fine.” Came the weak reply.
“Where are you from form one?”
“Ha! You’re a Barbie aren’t you?” Then she added, almost to herself, “I found me a Barbie…”
Nasim felt the bile rise up her throat at the utterance of that term… Barbie. It meant the equivalent of spoiled, posh, pampered. She had never been pampered. Her mother had sentenced her to four years in a girl’s boarding school for Pete’s sake! But she bit her lip and let the insult slide.
“Am I sensing some attitude mono? What? You think you’re better than me? Think I should favour you? Let me tell you something stupid girl, you might have been a queen where you came from, but in here… I’m the queen bee, and you’re just a worker bee okay?”
“Why don’t you buzz off then?” Someone called out from behind the bully, making her spin around angrily, and making Nasim strain her neck to see who this was that was dumb enough to provoke Medusa. A light skinned pretty girl with shoulder length braids, around Medusa’s age, maybe a year younger, walked toward them, eyeing the bully defiantly. She had the strut of a tomboy but the body of a model and though she wasn’t big, Nasim noticed that her arms were slightly defined and muscular, and didn’t see any hint of a belly beneath her white tank top. She had on blue basketball shorts and white sneakers. Nasim guessed she was an athlete.
“Why don’t you take your daddy issues somewhere else Chloe?” This new entrant to the confrontation was saying.
“Go to hell Jenny! Mind your own business and don’t gimme’ crap.” The bully replied.
“It becomes my business when you start tormenting my cousin idiot.” Jennifer said nonchalantly, walking past Medusa, grabbing Nasim’s arm and leading her away without even a second glance at the bully. “Forget that idiot. That’s Chloe, she’s third form… third formers’ like to pick on people coz they feel it’s their privilege… seeing as they’ll be seniors next year. I’m Jennifer by the way, form two. You’re my form one now.” She added as they walked away. And Nasim wanted to be her.
“Thanks for that.” She told Jennifer.)
And that friendship blossomed into something authentic. They were always there for each other and maintained contact even after Jennifer finished high school a year before Nasim, for they both lived in Nairobi. Later on Jennifer helped Nasim land an Internship where she worked, Capital Radio, and they’ve been workmates to date, five years later. They learned that Medusa, who had never messed with Nasim again after the incident, danced at a local strip club in downtown Nairobi. Karma.
“S’up babes?” Jennifer was saying, “My bro’ has my ride so I guess I’m rolling with you today. Unless you have somewhere to be in a hurry?”
“Of course not, for you I’d call off any appointment…” Nasim pretended to be reconsidering it, “not!” They both laughed.
“Is that hottie still at your apartment?’ Jennifer asked, a nasty smile playing on her lips as they entered the car.
Back at the apartment Nur was still no closer to finding anything helpful than he had been that morning. For a year he’d been working on it, and was beginning to lose all hope in ever finding a way to get back to his home planet. He loved Nasim for providing him with accommodation and all the resources he needed for his research. But he had to come to terms with the reality that he might have to reside on Earth permanently. He had already learned to adapt to the lifestyle and culture of this Kenyan city, and now that he thought about it, it wasn’t so bad. At first he’d been under the impression that Nairobi was a planet, which had provided Nasim with enough amusement to last a week. Eventually, after laughing for almost ten minutes, she wiped the tears off her face, pulled out her laptop computer and explained to him what the Earth was exactly and how it worked.
In the past few months Nur had also been up and about in the city and had encountered a variety of characters. Some funny, others curious, and then there were the ones that were just plain hostile. He remembered once Nasim had referred to the city as Nairoberry, he’d asked why and she explained that it was a term people had come up with when Nairobi was rife with insecurity, ‘these are better times’ she had added. But Nur had been watching the news, and every night there always seemed to be a story involving a robbery, a killing or other unpleasant incidents that had happened somewhere in the city. If these were better times, he wondered what it had been like before. Humans were weird. They had no sense of honour and every decision they made was dictated by money or lack thereof. But then again, his planet wasn’t so different, what with characters like Rath running around.
Rath, he thought of his father’s killer and the anger returned. He wondered how his people were coping under the rule of such a mad man and realised that he couldn’t afford to give up, he had to find a way to get home. For his people.
“Honey… I’m home!” Nasim announced her arrival, interrupting his thoughts.
“I thought he was fair game… you calling each other honey now?”
He knew the other voice to be Jennifer’s. He liked Jennifer, she was no nonsense, selfless and fun to be around. He left the computer on stand by and spun around on the swivel chair he was using to see the two ladies stagger into the living room, they were intoxicated and giggled their way to one end of the room slumping on the couch at the same time, still in a fit of laughter. Nur said nothing.
“Heeey, what’s up stranger?” Jennifer managed some form of greeting, sinking deeper into the cream coloured couch.
“Hey.” Nur acknowledged with a smile.
“Whaa… whaa’chu up to?” Nasim asked.
“Uuuh… the usual, working on my assignments.” Nur lied. That was what he was meant to say, for as far as Jennifer knew, he was a friend of Nasim’s from abroad who had come to Nairobi to experience Kenya and attended classes at one of the many universities in the area. He knew for a fact that Nasim hated lying to her best friend but they had both agreed that it was better if they kept the secret between the two of them.
Jennifer was dancing to no music when Nasim walked over to where Nur was and placed a half drank bottle of vodka on the table before him and said “Drink!”
Nur politely declined, he had never taken alcohol, mainly because there was no such thing where he came from, and he couldn’t help but notice that people’s behaviour tended to change when under the influence. Nasim reached for a glass across the table, filled it halfway and held it out to him.
She repeated “Drink!”
“Nas, you know I don’t drink… thanks but I’d rather not.” He explained, noticing that Jennifer was now coming toward the table.
“Aaaw… c’mon, how will you know what you’re missing if you haven’t tried it?” Jennifer chipped in. There was something suggestive about the way she said this.
“Nur, my show is going places. And it all started after you… came, which makes you… my friend, my muse. You can’t blame a girl for trying to make her muse happy now can you? Just one tot and I promise I’ll stop pestering you.” Nasim was slurring a little and had on a naughty smile. She was still holding the glass out to him.
What is it with all the suggestive behaviour in the room today? He thought to himself. Then he yielded and took the glass.
Twenty minutes later he was liberated from everything that had been troubling his mind. He was in a state of bliss, why? He wasn’t sure he knew why. He looked down at the glass in his hand, now drained of its contents, and felt oddly light headed. So this is the effect of alcohol, he thought to himself and smiled. He eyes felt lazy, and his tongue wouldn’t annunciate words the way his mind wanted it to. He was experiencing a feeling that was exciting and scary at the same time, for he knew that he wasn’t functioning at full capacity. What if Rath happened to walk in at that particular moment and attempt to slay him in his incompetent state? He smiled at this thought, for some reason, Rath didn’t seem so scary at that moment. Nur felt quite sure that if Rath happened to walk in right then, he would drop him easily with a blow from his sword. Speaking of his sword, where was it? He turned around, trying to remember where Nasim had put it, but then let it go… thinking required too much effort. Where was he? Rath… yes, if Rath walked in right there he would drop him with a blow from… he would slay him with a spoon! He wasn’t that scary. Yes, that’s what he would use against the epitome of evil… a spoon! Nur thought sarcastically. This amused him even more.
“What’s so funny?” Somebody was saying.
He looked up to see Jennifer standing before him with a puzzled expression on her face, her eyes twinkled… he liked how her eyes twinkled.
“What’s so funny Nur? Do tell…” She insisted.
That was when he realised that he was grinning from ear to ear. He quickly straightened, or attempted to, and replied, “Nothing, I just drifted away for a minute.” He hoped he didn’t sound as drunk as he felt, but knew he did.
“Oh… okay.” Jennifer said resignedly, she seemed disappointed by the answer, “you don’t talk much about yourself do you Nur?” She added.
“Just enough.” Was his reply. He fidgeted, sensing where this conversation was headed.
She seemed to notice he was uncomfortable and turned to Nasim, who was stretched out on the couch, “Let’s go dancing for a bit Nas… all three of us…” then turning to face Nur again she asked, “you do dance, don’t you?”
Nur wasn’t sure what the right answer to that question would be, so he managed a vague shrug. It could have meant anything, yes or no. Nasim shot up as if she’d been stabbed with an adrenaline shot to the heart. “Jen… that sounds like a plan! Tonight, we’re all in jeans… and no heels.”
A shadowy figure watched from the darkness as three people staggered across the parking lot to their car. The shadow had maintained the silence and patience of an assassin. He had been there two hours ago, watching and waiting. He had seen the two females’ noisy arrival, had listened to all the commotion coming from the second floor window. This profession demanded a certain form of discipline, and the ability to strike at the right time was key. The shadow had been doing this for a while now, and rookie mistakes were a thing of the past… a very distant past. He thought of himself as an entity, felt pride in his ability to decide when a person’s life would end. That was power. The car’s rear lights came on as it backed up and turned, pausing for a minute as the guard opened the gate, then driving off. The shadow moved noiselessly, taking care to stay in the darkness, and effortlessly jumped over the wall. Unseen by the security guards that were engrossed in conversation only a few feet away. In this profession, stealth was also key.
Nasim drove quite well for someone that was intoxicated, Nur noted as they eased into a parking spot in Westlands, the clubbing centre of Nairobi. A parking boy ran toward them and started guiding her into the parking spot, a minute too late. Nur had been warned that parking boys were not to be trusted, but looking at this frail young man, he felt more compassionate than threatened. He nudged at Nasim’s ribs with his elbow as she stepped out of the vehicle.
“What’s up?” She asked.
Nur indicated the young man with his open palm held out and Nasim reached into her purse and handed the parking boy a crisp two hundred shilling note.
“Aah… thanks madam… nitakuchungia gari vizuri usjali.” The young man, smiling gratefully, promised to watch the car diligently.
They walked into a building and proceeded to climb two flights of stairs before arriving at the club entrance to be greeted by blaring music and flashing lights. All over the place there were women and men talking, shouting and screaming… seemingly at the same time. The night club was packed and navigating one’s way through the crowd to an empty table was almost an impossible fete. They managed to find one though and Nur was glad to sit down, still feeling a bit woozy. He studied his surroundings, the table to their left was occupied by a group of provocatively dressed, hyperactive young ladies who sang along to the music, even though he could tell by watching their lips that they didn’t know most of the words. He found this entertaining. By now everything was entertaining. Jennifer jumped up and signalled a waiter, who was already overwhelmed by how much in demand he was on this night. There was a hint of irritation in his expression, but he hid it well. Nur was grinning again.
Then Nasim’s eyes lit up as she got off her chair and manoeuvred her way to the dance floor, shouting “That’s ma’ sooong!” with her friend closely behind her swaying her hips from side to side with a seductiveness that would put a belly dancer to shame. So, this was what a Wednesday night in Nairobi looked like, Nur observed.
Ten minutes later, as the waiter placed the drinks on the table, He felt queasy. At first he thought he was just reacting to the alcohol, but the unease persisted. He had the weird sensation that he was being watched, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t shake it off. He looked around for anything suspicious or out of the ordinary. Nothing. Maybe paranoia was another side effect of drinking. He sat back and relaxed.
The Shadow sat by a dimly lit bar in the back of the club. Watching… waiting. He liked his position. It was convenient, he had a good view of his assignment and company without compromising himself. The Shadow took pride in his meticulousness with such detail. Smiling to himself, he thought, ‘this is too easy’. When the right moment came, this little rabbit would be snapped out of its hole before it could say ‘carrot!’ A girl that sat across from him at the bar gave The Shadow a flirtatious smile that could have said anything and everything all at once… if he had been interested. He wasn’t. She’d probably mistaken his sinister smile for an invitation directed her way. He thought about taking advantage of this situation for a second, and decided against it. No distractions.
The threesome decided to leave the club at around a quarter past midnight, spent and exhausted, but still tingling with excitement. Nur had actually had a good time. He’d danced quite a bit and under Jennifer’s instruction, picked up a few moves. It helped that he was a quick learner. But like all good things the night had to come to an end, and now here they were walking toward the car, the two ladies growing louder than ever. He found himself wondering if Nasim would be able to drive just as well on their way back as she had when they were coming. Behind them a suspicious figure was closing in swiftly, taking care not to be noticed too soon. He stayed in the shadows until he got close enough to strike, pulled out his blade and then pounced on the nearest of the three.
The first kick connected to the jaw, surprising him and dropping him hard. But no sooner had he fallen than he was up again, this time attacking with the ferocity of a provoked cobra. He lunged and met with a knee effectively driven into his abdomen followed in quick succession by a heavy right punch square on the nose, breaking it. The assailant fell and Jennifer regained her defensive stance ready for his next attack, keeping an eye on the double edged hunting knife he’d been brandishing that had dropped a few feet away. But he stayed down, clutching his nose in agony. A wise decision.
“Black belt, Tae Kwando.” She said when she saw Nur’s confused look.
It had all happened so fast, Nasim and Nur hadn’t known what was going on until the guy was on the ground. Then in a burst of energy, the man shot up and sprinted, cat-like, across the street toward a dingy alley on the other side, but this time Nur was hot on his heels. If he was a cat then Nur was a panther, for the latter moved with exceptional agility, leaping over distances of epic proportions and landing effortlessly, all this was done with super human speed. A panther after its prey. By the time their attacker had reached the mouth of the alley, Nur had landed right in front of him and caught him with a sharp elbow to the recently broken nose. The man screamed as he stumbled to the ground and writhed in pain for a couple of seconds, Nur allowed him the time.
Then the prince lifted him by the collar and in a voice hinting at controlled anger, he asked, “Who are you?”
The injured man seemed to regain his composure somewhat but still trembled. “I… I… was told you had a lot of money on you.” The words spilled out of him. He was a rough looking individual of average height with the build of someone who spent more than enough time in the gym. A small but visible scar ran across his chin against his dark complexion, probably received from a fist fight. He had the look and demeanour of a street thug, but Nur manhandled him with surprising ease.
“You were told? By who?” Nur was furious, but just as curious. By now Nasim and Jennifer had reached them and a crowd of onlookers was gathering around the commotion.
“I did not… I… I didn’t see his face.” The thug was saying, and then attempted to shield his face as a club bouncer broke through the crowd and landed a heavy kick on his head, leather boots breaking his skin and causing some blood to spurt on Nur’s light blue tee shirt.
“Stupid thieves! They are the ones that give Westlands a bad name.” The bouncer spat distastefully. Nur pushed him back and dragged the thug, who was only too willing, deeper into the alley to protect him from the agitated crowd that was already baying for his blood. He could hear Nasim and Jennifer explaining to them that the situation was under control and that there was no need to resort to mob justice. He sensed futility in their efforts though, and when he glimpsed back he saw Nasim frantically dialling her cell phone. Probably calling the police, it was the thug’s only chance against this crowd and he knew it, Nur could tell by the way his eyes kept darting from the crowd and back to him, as if begging not to be left to the mercy of the wolves. Then suddenly, he tried to wriggle free of Nur’s grip, prompting the latter to smack his head violently against the ground. More blood stained the pavement.
“What did he say? Huh! What?” Nur was shaking the spit out of him.
“He comes to… to me and says that he knows someone in the club holding a hundred thousand shillings and asks if I’m interested in an easy score… and tells me where to meet him so we can split the money after.”
“WHERE?” Nur could feel the crowd inching closer.
“Behind the post office next to the Kenchic.” The thug finally said just as two uniformed officers appeared from the crowd.
Fifteen minutes had gone by since Nur had arrived at the post office building, he looked around and noticed a secluded area that would be the most convenient meeting point for anyone who wasn’t interested in being seen. And judging from what he’d learned from the thug, this guy was all about keeping a low profile. He still couldn’t make heads or tails of the whole situation though, why would someone say that they had a hundred thousand shillings? And assuming that the person honestly believed they had that amount of money on them, why would he share that information with a common thief? Why not come after it himself and benefit more? Something didn’t add up. Nur glanced across the street to the taxi that was parked a considerable distance away, deceptively facing the opposite direction. He knew that in it were four people, Nasim, Jennifer and two policemen, watching everyone that walked past or toward the post office.
Even from across the street he could sense their uncertainty. He knew they doubted whether anyone would show up but were too polite to tell him that this was a waste of time. But he also knew that this man, whoever he was, was around. Probably even watching them at that very moment. His gut told him that there was more to this incident than any of them probably suspected. His gut told him that Rath had something to do with this. The question was how?
Someone dashed across the road from behind the building. Nur had been so engrossed in his own thoughts that he had almost missed it, but now he could clearly see someone moving in quick strides disappearing behind a fence. He gave chase, the taxi doors swung open and the four joined him in his pursuit. The figure jumped over a fence as gracefully as a leopard would climb a tree. Making almost no sound at all. Whoever this guy was, he knew what he was doing, and Nur intended to find out just that. Hot on his heels, he leaped over the metal fence and literally hit the ground running, he could hear the others not far behind him. He maintained pace with the runner drawing in the cold air in sharp breaths. Their footsteps hit the tarmac in rhythm until the other guy stumbled as he knocked over a rubbish bin that had been carelessly left in the middle of the alley they were sprinting through. He regained his balance though, almost stepping on a rodent that scurried across, and resumed his getaway. The other four were beginning to fall behind, Nur could hear their pants further and further away. This guy wasn’t planning to get caught, and he didn’t seem to be running out of breath any time soon. He was proving to be quite a challenge, the panther kept on after his prey nonetheless. He saw the figure turn left into an adjoining alley and he bounded forward so as not to lose him.
Then all of a sudden they were out on the open street again, the change in lighting throwing Nur off for a split second, and by the time his vision had adjusted the runner was nowhere to be seen. He stood there searching among the passers by. Nothing… no one. Just a stream of random vehicles and people walking from one nightclub to another. How could he have disappeared so fast? It was impossible. No human could outrun him, and he’d had a good enough look to deduce that the runner wasn’t Rath. He was too small to have been Rath. Which begged the question, who was he? That was when he felt something heavy bludgeon the back of his skull, knocking him out.
When he next opened his eyes he was tied up in the back of a moving van. He couldn’t see the driver but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it was the same fellow they had been chasing. He was alone in the back with only his abductor’s voice to keep him company as he hummed some indistinct tune from the front. Nur tried to wriggle free but his efforts resulted only in futility. He had no choice but to wait and see where their destination would be. So he lay there on the floor of the van and closed his eyes, listening out intently for anything that could give him a clue as to where they were. He realised that he was doing this out of desperation though for he didn’t even know the city that well, but he wasn’t going to give in without a fight. Then they stopped. And something ran towards the van… on four legs. Now he heard scratching noises from the outside of the vehicle, as if whatever it was that had ran up was trying to get in. The driver’s door opened and banged shut and a few seconds later Nur was looking at his abductor’s face as he opened the back doors… and at his dog’s menacing fangs. He realised he didn’t care much for dogs at this moment.
His abductor was well dressed, in a black turtle neck sweater, sleek black pants…. in fact, Nur noticed that he was fully clad in black. He had the features of one Nasim would call an Arab, long, sharp, clean shaven face, light skinned and wavy black hair. The slender but physically fit man violently pulled him out of the van and dragged him across a dusty compound toward a poorly lit shack that was no bigger than a standard garage. Nur looked around and couldn’t see any sign of neighbours or kiosks, the area was deserted. It was just him and his assailant… and that stupid dog that was now sniffing him up and down as loose stones scraped against his legs through his jeans. The other man said nothing until they got into the shack, where he dumped him on the ground and stood over him, smiling as if he was pleased with himself for accomplishing the task.
“You certainly are fast, I’ll give you that.” He said in an unnervingly calm voice.
“Who are you?” Nur spat.
“I am many things my friend, but today I am a courier service… “
“A courier service?”
“Yes, and can you guess what the package is? You seem bright enough.”
He sounded so cocky Nur wanted to punch him on his chatty mouth and hopefully make him bite his tongue off.
“Me?” Nur played along. Maybe he could get some information out of this guy.
“Yes… you. You are the package my friend but…”
“We’re not friends.” Nur cut him off.
“…okay, whatever you say. But would you please answer one question for me?” He walked across to a window in the rundown wooden shack and stared outside. The Doberman kept his eyes trained on Nur.
“Only if you extend me the same courtesy.” He tried to wriggle free of the rope that held his hands together behind his back. It was still firm.
“Don’t bother. I tie a good knot.” The courier service said, reading his thoughts. “Okay, I usually don’t make deals with my assignments, but this time curiosity has gotten the better of me. I will trade, you get to ask me two questions and I get to ask you one. How’s that?”
“You see? I’m not such a bad guy, I’m just a professional.” He looked at Nur and sneered.
“Who are you delivering me to?”
“Honestly, I don’t know yet. Got a call with instructions from one of my contact guys, the money was wired to me and later I was given your picture. I just did what I do best, get the job done.” He shrugged and looked out the window again.
“Why did you send the street thug after my friends and I?”
He walked back to Nur and crouched, looking him dead in the eyes.
“I told you, I’m a professional…” he sounded insulted, “…haven’t you been paying attention? I get the job done, I don’t make mistakes. That amateur was a test, whoever wants you said you might be difficult to capture… now personally I don’t mind a challenge. On the contrary I quite enjoy one, but you do know that in every contest the loser is usually the party that goes in unprepared right? I like to know what I’m up against… hence the stooge. And I must say, you and your girlfriend handled him pretty impressively. ” He mock applauded as he said this. “But that gave me all I needed to know to set the trap. Surely you don’t think it was a coincidence that I appeared from behind the very building you were watching like a hawk? Or that the others were just far enough behind you to allow me time to knock you out and throw you into my van? When I saw that you were faster than your friends I improvised on my plan. I am very good at not being seen, I am The Shadow in the night. You saw me because I let you see me, okay?” With this he stood up walked to the window, peering out again.
“Why do you keep staring outside? Is your friend running late?” Nur teased.
“Ah ah now, play by the rules young one. You only get two questions remember?” He wagged his index finger at Nur, asserting his control over the situation. “Now it’s my turn. Back there, when you were chasing down my little street thug and later when you thought you were pursuing me… you moved unlike anyone I’ve seen before. If I were superstitious I would say you move like a vampire,” He chuckled, “against my better judgement I’d say it was almost super human… is that some form of martial art? Where can I learn that?” There was genuine curiosity in his voice.
“I’m an alien.” Nur said flatly.
The Shadow laughed out loud at this.
“Boy, don’t insult my intelligence. We had a deal, I gave you two honest answers, now you owe me one.”
“You said yourself what I did seemed almost super human right? Well, that is because I’m not human.”
This time The Shadow didn’t laugh, silence hung in the air for a whole minute before he said “Well, I’ve seen a lot of things in my line of work but…”
He was interrupted by car headlights that shone through the window. Someone had driven into the compound. His client.
The Shadow was all business again. He went to Nur and checked that his hands and feet were still firmly bound and then walked outside to meet the client, with his dog closely behind him.
A second later the door opened again and Jennifer snuck into the room with a finger to her lips gesturing for him to not to make sound. He couldn’t believe it as she loosened the ropes that bound his hands and feet.
“Jenny, how…?” He began to whisper but she interrupted.
“Sshhh… Nas told me everything. I saw the way you ran… I saw… and I had questions.” She helped him up.
Bang! Bang! The sound of gunfire filled the air and they fell to the ground.
‘He’s coming back. Get out of there!’ Nasim communicated to him in alarm. Just then the door swung open and Jennifer kicked it shut again. They both jumped up and held it in place.
‘Nas, where are you?’ Nur asked.
‘I’m outside in the bushes, he’s just fired at the policemen, I think they’re… dead. And it looks like he’s about to shoot at the door, GET OUT NUR!’
Nur pushed Jennifer to the floor again and threw himself away from the door just as two bullets shattered through the wood spraying splinters everywhere. They were trapped. The Shadow kicked through the door in a rage and pointed a colt pistol at Jennifer. Despite his obvious frustration he still seemed very collected when he turned and flashed Nur a smile.
“Your girlfriend is quite the persistent one, isn’t she?” He said.
“I’m not his…” Jennifer started to protest, then seemed to realise how pointless it was and let the sentence fade away.
“Get up!” He gestured with his gun at Jennifer, “Join your boyfriend in the corner stupid girl.”
She complied and went over to the other side of the shack and sat on the floor beside Nur.
“It will be okay Jen, I’ll get us out of here.” He whispered, reaching over and squeezing her hand, to which she reciprocated and nodded.
“Ha-ha… no you won’t. Don’t kid yourself son, the rules of this game have just changed. I have decided that I don’t have to deliver you alive anymore.” And with this he raised the gun, deliberately pointing it at Nur’s forehead and tauntingly began to apply pressure on the trigger. He smiled and looked Nur dead in the eye and Nur saw a semblance of the same evil he’d seen in Rath’s eyes. This man had killed before and had a casual air about it.
Then out of nowhere the window pane shattered and Nur felt something warm splatter all over him, blood. Jennifer screamed. That’s when he saw the shocked expression on The Shadow’s face, it was the expression of a dying man who had no idea what had hit him. The six inch blade that stuck out of his throat had penetrated from the back of his neck, and they could hear him gurgle and choke on his own blood as he dropped to the ground. The blade had been thrown from outside, only one person could be capable of such accuracy.
“Jen, we have to go NOW!” He picked up a trembling Jennifer and forced her to her feet. They needed to get out of there fast for he knew what was coming was ten times worse than The Shadow. He heard the dog bark frantically outside, then whimper, then squeal… and then the Doberman went quiet. They shot out of the cabin and ran, not in any particular direction, they just ran. Nur looked back and saw the silhouette of a giant wielding a gleaming sword against the headlights of the police car. He didn’t give chase, he just stood there tauntingly. And then Nur heard him as they got away.
‘Only I get the pleasure of killing you, son of Thur.’
The three of them ran all the way to the main road, not stopping once. The girls had said there was a building site close by where they could hide. They found it and met a lanky night guard, whom according to Nasim had helped them locate him. They went into the unfinished building and sat down to rest and recollect their thoughts. For a log time they remained quiet in the dark room. Each of them catching their breath, resigned to their own thoughts. Then Nur broke the silence.
“How come you didn’t just ask me where I was Nas?” He asked.
“I tried over and over again but for some reason I just couldn’t reach you.” Nas replied and drew from her cigarette.
Jennifer just watched them in silence.
“Oh yeah, I was unconscious for a while… I’m not quite sure how long” He said.
“And when you woke up, how come you didn’t contact me? I was worried sick” Nasim asked.
He leaned back against the wall pondering the question and finally said “I don’t know, I was just in a state of confusion I guess. One minute I wake up in a van, the next I’m being dragged all over the place and then I’m having quite a civilised conversation with my kidnapper…”
“Civilised conversation?” Jennifer asked, confused. “With the same person I saw take pleasure in telling you that he was going to kill you?”
“Weird guy huh?” He said.
“Weird dead guy.” Jennifer observed with a slight shiver.
“How did you find me anyway?” He turned to Nasim.
“Well… we thought fast and used the only tool we could think of at the time. The radio. We went to the station and announced the emergency on air asking anyone who saw a van matching the description of the one that you were in to give us a call and we would reward them in cash. Ten minutes later the guard outside there… Joseph, called in, lucky for you he’s a religious listener of Capital.”
“How much?” He asked.
“What?” Nas asked back, unsure of what he was talking about.
“How much am I worth?”
The two ladies exchanged a sheepish look.
“Aaaw, come on… that’s not relevant right now, we got to you didn’t we?” Jennifer said mid-laughter
“Very well, and I love you for that, but how much?” He pressed on.
“Petty much?” Nas teased.
“Five thousand.” Jennifer finally said.
“What? Dollars? Pounds? Yen?” He asked.
“Shillings.” Nas replied.
“You must be kidding me… shillings? You spend more than that on handbags.” He said to Nasim.
“No I do not.” Nasim protested, “Quit getting touched, we found you didn’t we?” She took another drag of her Embassy and let the smoke dance around in front her face as she exhaled lazily.
Jennifer broke out in laughter. “I can’t believe Nur is getting so touched.”
“I would’ve at least put up ten for either one of you…” He said and the two ladies died of laughter. Then changing the subject, he said “Wait a minute! Jen, I had no idea you could fight like that…”
“Well Nur, I had no idea you were from another planet… touché.” Jennifer stared him down as she said this, and then looked at Nasim.
“Jen… I told you, I’m sorry about that, we couldn’t…” Nasim started to say before Nur interrupted.
“Blame me Jen,” He said “Nas was only trying to protect my secret… and if it’s any consolation, hiding it from you ate her up inside.”
“Okay okay… I get it, let’s move on. I’m not as petty as Nur over here.” Jennifer yielded.
“Ouch!” Nasim winced mockingly.
The night guard walked in with his flashlight illuminating the dark room. “Miss Nasim the police have arrived, I’ve seen them on the road turning in, you will be safe now.”
“Thank you Joseph.” Nasim replied gratefully and they all stood up and dusted off their clothes before heading out.
“I owe you my life Joseph. Thank you.” Nur said shaking Joseph’s hand.
“Don’t mention it my friend.” Joseph said.
“Give me your number and I will double your reward tomorrow.” Nur insisted.
“Petty much?” Nasim said under her breath as she walked passed them.
The police were friendly enough as they politely took them through the paces. They took each of their statements and didn’t even bat an eyelid at the mention of an eight foot assailant. They probably thought the three were exaggerating the facts due to the shock that they had experienced. The ride to the city was awkward as a chatty officer tried to make conversation, only to be acknowledged by a few grunts in reply, the strain of their adventure finally catching up with their bodies. But Nur was more deep in thought than he was tired. He knew that Rath wasn’t going to stop hunting him down, and could be lurking at every corner. He had a choice to make, either keep running or face his father’s killer. And he knew that deep down the choice had already been made for him. It was in his blood to stand his ground and defend what he believed in, his people, both on his plant and on Earth. Because now the threat had extended to his new friends, and he couldn’t allow anything to happen to them. The decision had been made.
“I saw him Nur. That was Rath, wasn’t it? The one that murdered your father?” Nasim whispered.
“What are we going to do?” She continued.
“I am going to do whatever I have to.” He stated.
“What do you mean by that? You can’t go after him alone, you’ll need help.” Jennifer cut in.
“Can we talk about this at home? Please.” He said under his breath, looking out the window, a clear indication that he was done with the conversation.
“… and so that’s why we need more people like you in the police force…” the cop droned on from the passenger seat, even his colleague seemed to purposely ignore him as he drove.
When they got to the apartment, where Jennifer had also decided to spend the night, the conversation ignited again.
“Yeah, so what are we going to do about this Rath guy?” Nasim asked, locking the door.
“I say we leave it to the police.” Jennifer said.
“Jen, I don’t think the police will be out looking for a seven foot something guy that can throw knives through closed windows with pin point accuracy… I’m quite sure they disregarded our story the moment they penned it down. They will investigate, but from a whole other angle, which will lead them in a totally different direction.” Nasim told her friend.
Nur slumped on the couch and gathered his thoughts. One thing was for sure, these two could not be a part of his retaliatory plan. One he hadn’t come up with yet.
“I can’t allow you guys to be involved in this.” He said.
“We already are Nur, if you hadn’t noticed.” Nasim retorted.
“She’s right, either way… he knows we are affiliated to you, so it’s better that we stick together. At least that way we stand a better chance of defeating this guy…” Jennifer added. “…or getting away from him.”
“A rolling stone gathers no moss.” Nur said almost to himself.
“What?” Jennifer asked.
“Publilius Syrus. Read it somewhere sometime back, basically we can’t keep running… I can’t keep running. Or I will never know what it takes to protect those that I care about.” Nur explained.
“Well, we should figure out a plan then.” Nasim sounded distant.
Jennifer poured herself a glass of vodka and offered the bottle to Nur. He declined. She sat next to him and held his hand.
“You remember promising me that you would get me out of that shack? You did, so I do believe that you have what it takes to protect those that you care about. And you need to believe that too. We are in this together Nur, remember I can put up a good fight too.”
He was still uncomfortable with the idea but saw that they were not going to budge, so he let the subject rest for a minute.
Nasim lit another cigarette.
“You need to lay off those.” Jennifer said, concerned.
“Tomorrow.” Nas replied and took a drag. Which she almost choked on as a loud bang came from outside the door. The three turned in shock.
Nur bolted to the door and stopped, listening intently for anything on the other side. He heard nothing so he slowly unlocked it and peered outside. There was no one in the hallway, carefully he stepped out and walked a few paces. He stood there for a minute, looking for anything suspicious but saw nothing so he turned to head back inside. Then he saw the six inch blade lodged in their front door and froze. Rath had been there.
Nur spun around and raced down the hallway to the stairs, taking them four at a time. He jumped over the railing and bounded down another flight of steps. He wouldn’t let Rath get away this time. The decision had been made.
When he got to the parking lot three security guards lay dead before him, bleeding profusely. This was his fault! He felt a tinge of pain. It was he that was responsible for these deaths. Frantically, he searched the surrounding area. Looking this way and that. Then he saw something move, clearly stealth wasn’t Rath’s strong point. Nur leaped in that direction and landed on the roof of a car, denting it. His eyes scanned the place. Where was Rath?
‘You’re looking for a fight I see? Good boy… you remind me of someone I once stuck my sword into.’ He heard Rath say in his head.
‘I will find you… and I will repay the favour in full Rath. Face me you coward.’
‘I like your spirit young one, but you are not ready. Don’t worry… you will know when you are.’
‘I have never been MORE READY!’ His temper was rising, a volcano about to erupt. He spun around restlessly. Hoping to see where the coward was hiding.
‘I take that back. I will know when you are ready. You still sound like a scared little boy.’
Rath was mocking him, and he didn’t like it. He clenched his fist and banged the roof of the car, denting it further. A neighbour’s lights came on and the curtain was pulled slightly open, just enough to take a peek. The rancid smell of blood was in the air and Nur remembered the dead guards. It wouldn’t look good if he was found there with three dead bodies. So thinking fast, he leaped over the wall and disappeared into the darkness outside the compound landing on a thicket not as gracefully as he would have liked to, thorns prickled him all over. He stayed there for a moment and listened. The night was cold, still and silent. Even the crickets seemed to emphasize how silent it was.
‘I am here Rath… why don’t you come and get this scared little boy?’ He said menacingly. Nur was getting tired of the games.
Then the humongous figure showed himself. Looking even larger than usual to a crouched Nur, who abruptly shot up straight to face him.
“Young one, do you really think you are ready to face me?” Rath said in an icy tone.
“I am here, am I not?”
“That you are… that you are…” Rath took a few steps toward Nur, who did the same, closing the distance between them. “… and what do you suppose you will do huh? Kill me? I am a soldier… I have fought warriors ten times your size and as you can clearly see, I still stand. I say to you Nur, turn on your heels and live to fight another day.” His sword reflected the moonlight.
“I run from no one.”
Rath laughed at this. “Funny, and who was it I saw flee earlier today huh? Your twin?” He let out another hollow laugh. “You couldn’t get away from me fast enough Nur. Admit what we both know son of Thur, you are no soldier. Even your mother told me so when she begged me to spare your life.”
Nur lunged, throwing himself at Rath with his fist drawn back and then releasing it in an attempt to catch Rath on the face. But the latter simply ducked and avoided the assault with ease. Nur landed on his shoulder, hitting the ground hard. He was up again in a hurry and this time he came at Rath with a rugby tackle, making contact at the abdomen and succeeding in moving him a few steps backward, but causing no significant injury. He was flung onto the ground again, face first, and then received a kick to his belly knocking the wind out of him.
“This is pitiful. You could have at least brought your sword.” Rath taunted, stepping toward Nur, who was now choking as he tried to swallow air and cough out blood at the same time.
“I… I haven’t even begun to fight.” Nur said, getting to his feet.
“Maybe I should just end this now… and save myself some time.” Rath raised his sword, ready to take a swing. “Aaaaaaargh!” He yelled in pain and spun around hitting someone that was behind him. The person was thrown a few feet away, it looked like one of the girls. Rath winced as he pulled the six inch knife out of his back.
Then something landed next to Nur, his sword, and he looked up to see Nasim shouting.
“Pick it up… pick it up and fight!”
He grabbed the weapon and swung at Rath, the blow caught him across the chest slicing through his vest, blood mapping out the line where the blade had passed. Rath let out another cry of agony and jumped back. They faced off.
In a burst of energy, they ran toward each other belting out war cries. When they met, steel against steel broke the serenity of the night. The swords clanged and sparks flew, an eruption of violence that caused the two ladies to watch in a mixture of fear and awe. Nur was in the zone, meeting every blow from Rath’s blade with his own and attacking just as ferociously. They went at it with all their might. Nur kicked Rath in the gut as the latter lifted his weapon for another assault and knocked the wind out of him, then dropped low with a spinning kick to the back of the knees, tripping him over. The big man hit the ground hard, on his back. He couldn’t hide his agony.
“DIE!” Nur lunged with his sword at the fallen man only for Rath to move out of the way, the sword stabbed dirt and Nur narrowly avoided losing his head for he also moved just in time for his attacker’s blade to swish passed, grazing his neck. He felt blood flow down his tee shirt but could care less, he wanted one thing and one thing only. To get rid of this fool for good, and he could do it. He still had a lot of fight left in him.
Rath began to laugh. “Ah, I see you can handle yourself quite a well. Your mother underestimated you… and I must admit, so did I.”
“You do not speak of my mother like you know her.” Nur said through gritted teeth.
“Oh, but I do know her. She is my queen now. Do you forget that the kingdom is mine? And whatever is in it?”
“My mother would never give in to…”
“You speak with so much conviction, yet you haven’t been there for how long now? You left her to die… you left her to the mercy of the dreadful Rath! And fled like the coward you are to this place… you are a disgrace!” He spat.
‘What is he telling you Nur? Whatever he is saying, don’t let him get to you!’ Nasim told Nur.
He had almost forgotten that Nasim and Jennifer were still there. He knew they couldn’t understand the tongue that he and Rath were speaking, Nasim must have seen the pained expression on his face.
‘He says my mother thinks I’m a coward… that I deserted her.’ He replied.
‘He’s just trying to get to you. He’s trying to psyche you out, don’t you see it? You are no coward, you’re one of the bravest people I know. And you know that.’
Rath slowly turned and with a thoughtful expression, stared at Nasim, then at Nur, and back at Nasim. He sneered. “You taught your dog a few tricks I see, Young Nur.”
Nur swallowed, he had heard them converse. But how? He had only locked on to Nasim’s mind, how could Rath have intercepted…? And then deep down he knew the answer to that question. He’d heard about those that could master the ability above and beyond its usual limitations, and if anyone could do that it would be Rath. This wasn’t good, now Rath had taken an interest in Nasim. Nur swung his blade as he leaped toward Rath, but was too late. In a split second the latter had bounded and had a razor sharp sword pressed to Nasim’s throat. She had been lifted clean off her feet and there was a bit of blood oozing from her neck. He wanted to make a point.
Nur put his sword on the ground submissively. “This has nothing to do with her Rath, where is your honour?”
Rath let out his evil laugh. “My honour?… My honour? I don’t know. I must have left it somewhere back there with my ethics.” He applied more pressure on her throat.
“What will this accomplish you coward? The great Rath, murderer of women… really? Is that the legacy you want to leave behind?”
“Legacies are for dreamers… I’m not trying to be remembered after I die, I’m okay with being feared while I live.” His eyes grew darker.
“If you hurt her…”
“You will what? What will you do? I told you Nur, you are too naive to play a warrior’s game. On the battlefield no rules apply, honour is for cowards. If you’re going to fight, you have to get your priorities right. Now as a demonstration to how ruthless I can be, I will take the life of another person you care about.” But before he could do anything a rock smacked him in the eye with a cracking sound prompting him loosen his grip on Nasim who scratched and kicked her way free and scampered to safety. Jennifer stood defiantly a few feet away. Nur charged at Rath but the latter had already regained his composure and caught him with an elbow to the neck. He fell and choked, gagging for air. Rath stepped on his chest, looking down at him with a scowl.
“Like I said young Nur, you are not ready yet. But I will not kill you just yet, I like you…”
“Let him go!” Nasim screamed in the distance.
Rath looked in her direction and his scowl turned into a menacing smile. He faced Nur again and added, “… I will however keep coming after the people around you. Just so that you do not get too comfortable and forget that I may be around every corner Prince of Peace, until you are ready. I promise you that.”
And with that he was gone into the night.
Nasim and Jennifer ran up and helped Nur to his feet. He wished he hadn’t charged Rath, his throat was throbbing. He was overcome by fury at the thought of his adversary out there running around scot free. He had him and he let him go, and now the people around him had become targets. Who would he go for first? When would he attack? Nur’s mind was spinning, what had he done? He thought he was helping but in reality he had just done the opposite. Nasim, Jennifer and basically anyone that had been in contact with him was now in danger. And Rath wasn’t one to make empty threats, this he knew for a fact.
“Are you okay?” Jennifer asked concerned.
“Yeah, just a bit bruised.” He managed.
“You never spoke of your mother Nur… what happened to her?” Nasim asked.
Nur took a few clumsy steps before regaining his posture, still visibly in some pain.
“I never thought it necessary…” He paused thoughtfully, and then added “… I knew her fate was sealed the moment it was clear that Rath had taken over the palace.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Nasim inquired.
“Where I come from, it is law that the queen shall serve whoever it is that occupies the throne, whether or not it be her originally wedded husband.” He said in a defeated tone.
“So that would make her…” Jennifer trailed off, not wanting to utter the words.
“Yes.” Nur acknowledged through a clenched jaw. The reality of the situation made him want to puke. He knew his mother, she would never give in to Rath. But then again, the law of their land was always followed to a tee. If only to set an example for the people, she would have had no choice in the matter. At the moment he had more pressing issues to worry about though, like how to keep his friends alive. “Thank you Jen.” He added.
“For letting it go.”
“It’s cool.” She assured him.
Nas jogged away as if to get something she had forgotten and then returned and put her arm around him, and they walked back to the apartment building to face the commotion they were sure to find.
“You do realise we need to come up with a story like yesterday…?” She stated.
“Yeah, thieves… where is your sword?” Jennifer asked Nur.
“I got it stashed somewhere safe.” Nasim answered the question with a wink.
“Have you become my official sword handler?” Nur joked.
“You couldn’t afford me.”
They walked through the gate and lo and behold! Among the gathering of security people and curious residents, there was the same chatty cop viewing the crime scene. He perked up the moment he saw them.
“Aha! Here they are, my three friends, it seems trouble has a way of following you wherever you go huh? And amazingly you still manage to find a way out of it. Was it the same fellow that abducted you earlier? No wait, he’s dead. The same gang maybe? I mean…” He rapped on excitedly as Nur watched his lips in amazement. Where had this guy been earlier? He probably could have talked Rath to death. And death was looking very attractive at that moment.
Everything was dark. He strained his eyes to try and see something, anything, but to no avail and so he just kept walking in pitch black darkness. He was out in the open, that he knew for sure, for the scents of the island were unmistakable. The ocean, the trees and herbs. He felt a sense of freedom and nostalgia. He could feel he was home, but could see nothing. Had he gone blind? Was that it? For the darkness clung to him. He couldn’t get away from it, so he decided to embrace it.
‘Yes, you must embrace the darkness my prince.’ He heard a voice say.
‘The darkness, it is the only chance you have of defeating the evil one.’ The eerie voice explained.
‘Who is this?’
‘I am one of the few who believe that you will return and free your people… but you can not do that unless you play the evil one’s game.’
‘No! I refuse to embrace evil, there must be another way.’
‘You get me wrong my prince, I am not saying that you sell your soul, I am merely suggesting that you dance with the darkness just enough to learn how it moves… and then emerge…’ At this point a flame came on illuminating the speaker’s face ‘… enlightened.’ He finished.
Nur couldn’t utter a word, he was speechless. It was the high priest. There he stood, holding a torch and smiling, in his maroon coloured robe, looking more spiritually aware than ever.
‘Yes my prince, it is I. The one responsible for sending you away to save your life, so that you may return someday to save your people.’
‘But why did you not let me fight him and protect my people? My mother?’ He managed to ask.
‘You were not ready… you still are not ready.’
‘How? How did you do it? HOW DID YOU SEND ME AWAY FROM MY HOME OLD MAN?’ Nur’s temper flared.
‘Do not be angry my prince, my actions will make sense to you in due time.’
‘I have a variety of incantations and spells in my possession as you are well aware. A good priest has to have a spell or two stored away in case of sensitive situations such as…’ He drifted off.
‘And why did you not save my father… the king?’ He asked.
‘Alas! It was not meant to be.’
‘WHAT? WHAT DO YOU MEAN…?’
He awoke, covered in sweat. The sun’s rays had found their way into the room through spaces between the curtains. He had only been dreaming, but it had been such a vivid dream, Nur couldn’t shake off the feeling that there was more to it. The conversation had been so relevant, and he could remember every word of it. The priest was trying to tell him something, how to defeat the evil one. And the aromas he had smelled, he remembered reading somewhere that when human’s dreamt they couldn’t experience the sense of smell. In the time he had spent on this planet Nur had learned that they were very much like the humans, especially biologically, apart from one or two differences. And now that he thought about it, he had never had a dream where he had actually smelled something. This was a first. This was no ordinary dream.
Just then his nostrils treated him to another pleasant aroma. Coffee, someone was brewing.
He stepped into the living room to find the girls sitting at the dining table in a chirpy mood, each clutching a mug. They both turned and gave him a concerned look.
“Good morning?… And I’m fine ladies. I won’t keel over and die, so you can stop giving me that look.”
“Morning.” They replied in chorus. Then Jennifer added. “Sleep well?”
“Yeah.” He decided not to mention the dream. It was too soon. “You two seem very cheerful this morning?”
“Well, why shouldn’t we? We’re alive aren’t we? And this coffee tastes so damn good, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a mug of coffee as much as I’m enjoying this one.” Nasim said, holding the mug like a Grammy award.
“Glad to see you so perky Nur.” Jennifer’s comment was dripped with sarcasm.
Nur knew he looked like hell. Could they blame him? He didn’t even know how to tell them that they were probably marked for death by the dreaded Rath. He reached for the pot of coffee and poured himself a mug.
“That was one hell of a night wasn’t it?” He said conversationally.
“Yep! Honestly speaking. I’m still a little scared.” Nasim said looking him dead in the eye.
“We should be.” He agreed, crossed over to his swivel chair and sat down. Swinging this way and that, pondering how he would break the news.
“What is it Nur? Something’s troubling you, I can tell…” Nasim’s eyes squinted as if trying to see through him.
“Yeah Nur, you’ve been acting weird since yesterday. And you look like you spent the night in a cave with Mr. Chatterbox cop, so don’t lie to us, we know it has everything to do with yesterday’s events. Spill…” Jennifer pried.
“I’m not quite sure how to tell you guys this.” He confessed.
“Does it have anything to do with what Rath said to you before he fled?” Nasim asked, and added “Yes I was watching.”
“Oh, he did not flee…” Nur clarified.
“Yeah, I figured as much. He’s coming back isn’t he? Why won’t he just let you go? I’m worried about you Nur, I still think we should contact the police and try to make them believe us. Especially when one or more of us is marked for death.” Jennifer insisted.
“Try all of us.” Nur finally said.
“What?” Jennifer couldn’t mask the terror in her voice.
“Yes,” He turned to Nasim, “before he left, he said he would hunt down the people around me until he felt I was ready to face him. Something about me not getting too comfortable and forgetting he was around.”
“I kinda’ saw this coming.” Nasim sighed as she said this. “And by the people around you he meant…?”
“Everybody.” He confirmed.”Which means anyone that has come into contact with me is a potential target, especially you two.”
“Well, thank you for you subtlety Nur.” Jennifer said and walked out of the room.
“I’m sorry, just telling it as it is…. but really, I am sorry for all that I have brought on you guys. All you’ve done is help me, you don’t deserve this.” He said to Nasim, who crossed the room, kissed him on the forehead and embraced him.
“You don’t have to be sorry for anything, you’re like a brother to me now. Jennifer is just scared, but I know she will come around. We’re in this together. And if there’s one thing we don’t do is abandon family in their time of need. We’ll figure it out, and if need be we will fight. I was meaning to ask you to teach me some of those moves I saw you pull off.” She giggled.
Something swished passed them and lodged itself in the wooden wall unit beside them. A six inch blade!
“Did I hear Nasim say that I’m scared? I just went into the room to get a little souvenir I picked up from last night, it’s been used against Rath once and can always be used again. I just brought drama to a knife fight, let him come.” Jennifer said from the doorway, full of attitude.
“You know you’re paying for the damage to my furniture right?” Nasim said.
Nur watched his two friends and thought. Well, at least they could afford to laugh… for now.