Lockdown : the Aftermath (cont)

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Photo by Sara Silva on Unsplash

I was mistaken in thinking that panic would ensue Milimo’s words.

Nope. I was greeted with overwhelming silence. Once again, we were a few misguided kids, trying to find our place in the world.

I sank into a chair and buries my head in my hands. I pressed my fingers to my eyelids, savouring the coolness of my fingertips on my overheated face. I exhaled, trying to wrap my head around the problem we had been presented with. Who could possibly have hacked us?

“Do we have any further information?” I asked croakily.

“The system the hacker is using is far beyond anything I’ve ever seen,” Milimo whispered, stuck between being scared and awestruck. “Their hacking methods are ridiculous. They set up several firewalls. I can’t even get their location.”

“But we can guess.” Silas said gravely, crossing the room. He stood in the middle of the room, flexing his muscles menacingly. “The only unusual activity we’ve seen was in the north of Lusaka. It’s pretty obvious that’s where they are.”

“We should go after them,” Stephanie piped up.

“We should do nothing of the sort,” I said, standing up. I walked right up to Silas and stared up at him, refusing to be intimidated by his huge stature.

“I already killed the whole country. I won’t let you guys die too.” I breathed out

“Oh, for fucks’ sake, we aren’t even living!” Stephanie yelled at me, her hair whipping around her face. “Those that hang out with the dead are dead! Do you really think hiding from shadows is being alive Chabota?”

“Steph, you were on my side.” I growled lowly.

“There are no sides!” She screamed angrily. “There’s life and death and us. But there are no sides”

 

I returned to my seat, feeling defeated. I needed the team to see reason, but the truth was I didn’t know what I was reasoning with them to do. As it stood, we were all sitting chickens, waiting on the sky to fall.

 

 

15.3879oS, 28.3297oE, Engineering Annex. STATUS: CONDEMNED

In the aftermath, I got used to the draft in the annex. Not because the windows were poorly boarded up with flimsy sheets of cardboard but because I never felt Stephanie next to me anymore when I woke up. We were miles apart. I often woke up groggy and wistful. Sometimes, Bupe would cross my mind, but I would shake those thoughts vehemently out my head. The past was behind us. This particular morning was colder than usual for a day in the middle of summer. I pulled myself from behind the boxes and woke up to what looked like a meeting.

“we’re glad you’re finally awake.” Stephanie said scathingly. I flipped my finger at her and pulled a chair into their jumbled circle.

“we’ve decided to investigate the activity in Lusaka North.”

 

 

15.4140° S, 28.2853° E, STATUS: INHABITABLE

Even before we shut down The Network, this old shopping mall gave me the creeps. It had been refurbished into office space for government spies, that masqueraded as people equally sinister. Interestingly enough, the black market flourished right next to the supposed law makers.

“I remember buying my first gun here,’ Silas said reminiscently. He chuckled as he added, “I also bought my first gun license.”

Milimo scoffed as he pulled out a tablet from his back pack. “They’ve completely secured the network. I can’t even monitor their activity.”

“did you try to look at the national electricity grid?” I asked non-commitally.

“of course, I did,” he scoffed.

“no need to be rude, brother.” I mumbled, throwing the peace sign at him.

“brother?” he asked incredulously. “Chabota, you’ve barely spoken to anyone since we shut this shit down!”

“you guys are acting like its all my fault. We were in it together!” I growled at him, taking a step closer to him. I flexed my knuckles, unconvincingly, feeling braver than I really was.

Milimo flung his arms apart and screamed, “look at you shifting the blame! I’ve been hacking into fucking infinity while you mope around the streets, picking up junk that reminds you of your dead girlfriend. I see you storing that stuff, in your locker dude.”

“it’s not like that.” I said, turning away angrily.

He laughed mirthlessly, “oh yeah, tell that to Stephanie.” Milimo turned away from me disgustedly. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Stephanie wipe her face as she stepped past us. I exhaled and fumbled blindly for a blunt.

Silas grabbed the blunt from my fingers and tossed it away. “I need you to be alert in this, we’re going in with guns. Also keep your goddamn emotions in check, you sound ridiculous.”

He stepped forward and motioned for us all to huddle.

“I can’t tell you guys I know much about what’s going on there, but I do know that its gonna be dangerous.” He said gravely. “Y’all got your weapons?”

Everyone nodded their assent. I was reminded that I needed to collect my own gun from the trunk of the car we had ‘acquired’ to get here. It was a very run-down Toyota Corolla. As I pulled the boot open and selected the smallest pistol I could find, I was reminded that freedom comes at a price.

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Dear You

 

Dear you.
Guess what?
The box you crafted
Out of the projection
Of your inadequacy
Does not fit my proportions.

I am too tall
For your puny mind
To fathom.
I am a sky scraper and you
You are an anthill,
Crushed to dust,
By people’s feet as they
Sweep over your insignificance,
You rebuild on shame and insecurity
And yet you expect me to shrink?

How funny.
Because you see, I am a mountain,
I rise high and above.
I am an unascendable fortress
Firm in the roots of the earth,
Three dimensional
The reflection of a Creator
Who took extra care on me.
But you. You are a grass plain.
Flat and uninspiring,
The trampled upon,
Suffering the underfoot of giants
As the walk past,
You are my door mat.

I am volcano,
Fierce and proud,
When I wake,
The whole earth tremors at my presence.
But you are just a kettle of boiling water,
The fire lit stove,
Easily put out.

You think that you can fit me
Inside your pocket,
But I am far above and beyond
Who you believe I am.
I do not fit in your palm,
I do not fit in your life,
And I most certainly do no
Fit in your mind.

The Distance, The Tears and The Lack Of Resolve

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

When we fight
It feels like there is a weight
Sitting on my chest,
Restricting my movements
Making me go slower
And slower
And slower.

When we fight
It feels like someone is gripping
My heart,
And squeezing it tight,
Making it beat fainter
And fainter
And fainter

It feels like someone stole my breath
And is constricting my air way, and it’s
Painful
So painful
Oh so very painful.

It feels like someone took our spark and snuffed it under his shoe.

It feels like you are your own person.
And I don’t belong to you.

Lockdown : The Aftermath

Status report : All previous sectors have been dissolved and reaffirmed into Lusaka city. National Archives (lat. long. Undefined.) Yielded poor results as to names of suburbs and residential areas. Missing records, either burnt or discarded.
Livestock have been rounded up and stray and cats have been impounded Diseased or wound animals were killed.
Remains of the people have been permanently locked in cold storage. Accessible only by computer short code.

Unusual activity in Lusaka North. Investigations under way.

Status report May 17; 20:49: Transformer power has been shut down in all areas. Computer network is compromised. Currently running on solar energy.

Status report; May 31, 21:03: Lights flared up in Lusaka North. Investigations underway.

Status report, June 2: Influx of strays in the streets. Ethernet network crashed.

15.3879° S, 28.3297° E: Former Engineering Annex.

The past month had made me get used to silence. The streets were dead quiet, save for the wind rustling through avenues of trees.
We also sat in silence. We tried but the atmosphere was quiet heavy around us yet for all that, we stayed together, appreciating that there is strength in numbers. Besides, it got lonely sometimes, walking through the neo-apocalyptic streets. Despite there being no immediate danger, we always found ourselves at the base by nine pm latest. I’d often find Milimo hunched a laptop, coding aimlessly, or if not playing mindless games. Silas found some old dumbbells and took to working out often. His spare moments were spent pumping weights. Stephanie and I drifted apart. She spent most of her time writing in a journal or crying. She had lost her sparkle. And I felt like awraith. Walking through the empty streets, hiding from people who aren’t there. I took an inventory of basically everything I came across. The buildings, the plants, the street furniture. I felt it kept me sane.
As per the usual I was back at the base before nine. The atmosphere in the base was heavy. Stephanie was crying again and Silas was pacing the room frantically. Milimo of course was typing furiously at his laptop, barely looking up as his fingers flew over the key board. Before I could speak, Stephanie flung herself into my arms, wailing.
“What’s going on?” I asked, fearing the worst.
“Chabota…” Milimo said from across the room. We’ve been hacked.”

Lonely

 

The Dream Collector: A Dance With Ghosts

 

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My head was as heavy as the bag I toted on my back, as I rowed upstream into the dazzling golden sunset.
The past hour still seemed surreal to me. It was almost unreal, when the shaman and the Oracle passed a blessing over my head and handed me a very small bag, that could fit in the palm my hand. They gave me the instructions clearly; go to every hut, pick up the dream catchers and say the simple blessings “may the good come true and the evil turn to dust.”
No dream catcher should be left untouched
Emptying the dream catchers was nothing short of frightening. Dreams manifested in front of my eyes, monsters baring their teeth, ready to rip me apart. I also witnessed broken hearts,Dreams dashed on hopeless conditions or parents’ careless words. I saw the good and bad of our lives, as reflected through the thoughts of the my people. We were all yearning for something, we just don’t know what. We all needed something more and didn’t realise the cry of our hearts. How do you begin to say you want more, when you don’t know what more is.
I wasn’t disappointed to find hot tears streaming down my face, as I rowed into the amber light of the sunset.

Rowing upstream wasn’t easy. My arms grew weary against the strong current of the river, as I pushed myself forward, weighed down by the hopes of so many people. I watched the sun make its steady descent into the horizon, casting first an amber glow, then a ruby red and finally the settling in of indigo, as shadows spread across the land. I had been instructed to row, until the moon was high in the sky, providing a different type of light. Despite the pain in my arms and the growing discomfort in my chest, I continued to push, allowing the black night to envelope me.

Before long, the moon rose, casting a silver touch to the night. I looked ahead of me, and all I saw was the clear water. Despite the pain in my arms and the growing discomfort in my chest, I continued to push, allowing the black night to envelope me.

Before long, the moon rose. Casting a silver touch to the night. I looked ahead of me, and all I saw was the water, looking like black glass, shattered only by the periodic splash of my oars.
The air around me was silent and heavy. There was no sound of any animals and yet I felt like I was being watched. The more I rowed, the more tires I became. My arms were heavy, and my breathing came in short gasps.
I knew this feeling very well; my illness had come back to haunt me.
With all the effort I could muster, I steered the canoe to the closest bank, struggling against the current. Maybe it was luck on my side or I was stronger than I knew but after a long time, I felt the crunch of river rocks on the bottom of the boat.
I was covered in a sheen of sweat and I had begun to cough feebly. I dragged myself out the boat and settled in the mud.
This was the end. No heroic ending. No lesson to be learnt. Just an ill fated vessel for the plans of the Oracle. I pulled the bag of dreams close to me. I mayn’t have died a hero, but at least I could be a dream. Floating in the air and settling in people’s heads as a distant memory; someone that they used to know.

Enfin – the Mercury Tapes

cuddles

photo via Pinterest.

Please don’t make me say I’m in love
Don’t pin me down
And make me look
Into your eyes
Because in them
I find a vast and lush
Garden.

I can stop,
Let the atmosphere surround me
Fill me up
From the inside out
And purge myself of
Guilt and hurt.

I can reclaim my innocence
And offer it to you
Continuously.

I can take off my shoes
And allow you to see me,
I can hide behind a glass
And be a nobody.

I need this sanctuary,
Watered and cultivated
By the fibre of our beings

I find myself

Stripping off my clothes,
And laying bare and free
I put on freedom instead,
And let it encompass my body

I turn away from the rage
Of this broken world

And step into the tranquility
Of our personal shell.
Just you and I
Our bodies
Our auras
Intertwined and intermingling,
Creating a storm
In the middle of my being
And erupting in
Rosy pleasure.

Painting this once blank canvas
Floral hues
patterns of rainbows
And motifs of flowers.

My world has reduced
To this place
And we’ll explore
Every inch of it
Touch corners of our souls
That we didn’t know could exist
Breath air into lungs
That were before now
Dead.
Caress and awaken
A carnal desire,
A deeper knowledge
A fuller taste
A better understanding of ourselves.
Of you and me
And us,
Dancing together
On these clay floors
Being separate
And yet being one

I allow myself to rest,
Deep in your garden.
My sanctuary

The Dream Collector: Beyond The Night

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For the first time in my life, I woke up without feeling any pain. To my surprise, I could even stand up. And I walked into the outer room of the hut. The sunlight streamed through the windows, flooding the small house with warmth. Unsurprisingly, The Oracle was already at home. My mother sat coldly on the other side of the room, and interestingly enough, my father was around. He looked at me, with eyes filled with a plethora of emotion. Half pride, half a deep sadness.
“My son,” he said, coming forward. He held in his arms, and for a moment I was the little boy that used to play on the banks of the river, before everything changed.
The moment passed briefly, and I was back to being the perpetually sick young man. I sighed audibly. The Oracle stood up and signaled for me to follow me. I grasped my father’s hands and looked him solemnly in the eye.
He opened his mouth to say something, but stopped halfway, leaving the moment thick with suspense and unsaid words.
I followed the Oracle, who walked really fast for someone of his age. He swooped through the village, striking the ground with his staff to shoo young children out the way. Most of the older kids would scurry away fearfully, trying to avoid the wrath of the oldest man in the village. Before long, we had reached the end of the village. There were two large huts and one incredibly tiny one. The Shaman stood in front of the small hut, his long robes billowing gently in the wind.
“Welcome son,” he said brightly. The Oracle scoffed and disappeared into one of the larger huts.
“There’s a cleansing ritual you need to go through.” The Shaman explained, gesturing towards the small hut. “The Last Day of The Year falls in two days, so it’s imperative that this is done.”
“What happens if I don’t?” I asked curiously.
“The weight of your own dreams will be too heavy for you to bear, how will you carry the hopes and fears of others?”
I thought back to all the nightmares I had before, fearing that each of the monsters in my head would manifest physically.

Out of nowhere, the Oracle loomed behind me and pushed me violently into the tiny dark hut. I tumbled headlong into the confined space and took a few minutes to sort out my bearings.
When I’d finally distinguished up from down, I sat. The first thing I thought of was home. It made me sad to realize that the only thing I knew about home was my bed by the little window, watching the villagers go past, living lives in which they were fully independent. The next thing I thought of was my father. I was somewhat amazed to find that we were the same height. My legs didn’t work the way they should have, but they reached the length they were supposed to. Perhaps they would become even longer. I couldn’t tell. I remembered the calloused grip of my father’s hands. Hands that never taught me anything, but to cover my mouth when I cough and to clap my gratitude for small kindnesses. My father nurtured my mind though. He helped me stretch my imagination far beyond my legs that didn’t work and out of the small window. My imagination stretched further than the river and far beyond the mountains. I often dreamt of a country, where of course I was fully well, that I roamed and called my own. I wasn’t a fisher man however, I was a farmer. Or maybe even a scribe or a student of law. I could anything.

As time drew on, I became accustomed to the dark. The time seemed to stretch forever, and I was beginning to wonder of the Last Day of The Year had come at all.

After a very long time, a sliver of light shine through a small gap in the darkness. I squinted at it, as I watched it grow larger before it was momentarily blocked by a small figure. I felt a wizened hand grab mine in the half dark and I realized it was the Oracle.

“Do you want me to follow you?” I asked the Oracle. The Oracle scoffed softly and I realized with embarrassment that he couldn’t talk. “I.. I’m sorry, I..I didn’t think.” I stammered hurriedly.
“As a matter of fact,” the Oracle said, ” I do want you to follow me. Just not right now.”

“wait,” I was awestruck. “You can talk?”
This time the Oracle laughed. It was a deep laugh.
“Of course I can, I just choose not to.” His voice was gravelly and his breath laboured. He spoke slowly as if each word was precious, and he had to weigh them all out.
“You’ve done well, my son.” He said. Even in the half dark, I could hear the earnestness in his voice
“All I did was sit the dark,” I chuckled.
“For two days, alone with all your thoughts. Many wouldn’t have lasted.”
“It’s the Last Day of the Year?” I felt my heart fall. A very small part of me had hoped it was all a joke but a stronger part of me knew it was as real as life itself.
“We must go now.” The Oracle said. The hut was plunged momentarily into darkness once more and then flooded with glorious sunshine.

I crawled out the hut and stepped out into the light. Judging by the weak rays of the sun, it was still early morning. The town was already decorated with bright streamers on the huts. The women set out all their lanterns and were polishing and shining them one last time, before they put their festive candles in. The young girls were all in the midst of cooking one thing or another, the air was thick with the aroma of baking cakes and frying chickens. The young men did not go fishing on this day, they instead mended their nets and roasted the fish they had caught the day before. But all these were just a backdrop. For me, the dream catchers stood out starkly. Fluttering unassumingly on the porches of homes, heavy and weighed down by the dreams and hopes of all the town.

The Shaman strode out to meet me. He wore a huge smile on his face, and clapped my back heartily. “Get ready, the festival will begin soon,” he smiled at me, before steering me in the direction of their bathroom. Two days in a hot hut can make you smell quite funky.

After cleaning myself up, the Shaman and Oracle led me to where the festivities were being held. before everyone cleared off into their houses to close off the year, the whole village came together in the village square. food was passed around, the young ladies danced and for the afternoon, the village was happy. Eyes passed over me unassumingly. It was the first festival I had attended in years. Most people did not even recognize me. Presently, the Shaman stood up. Silence settled unevenly over the crowd. Finally as the last baby was cooed gently to quietude, the Shaman begun to tell stories. He weaved worlds with his words, constructed dreams and restructured nightmares. He spoke into existence our history and it almost seemed as if the characters in his accounts were alive and walking amongst us. Then he went silent. A chilly wind rippled through the crowd, and a sombre silence, as dense and heavy as death.

“We must go now.” the Shaman said shakily. He cleared his throat and said in a stronger voice. ” Hang out your dream catchers, for we can not move forward with the weight of the past holding us back. We remember, but we do not dwell.”

Perhaps my eyes were playing tricks on me, but suddenly the sky seemed a bit darker. Mothers scooped their infants up and scolded the ones that lagged behind. Fathers held onto their daughters hands and guided the steps of their wives. In no time, the village square was empty once more. The winds picked up speed and the temperatures dropped.

The Oracle turned towards me and put his wizened hands on my shoulder. “Your hour has come.”

Too Quiet and Way Too Far Away – The Mercury Tapes

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I want love.
That explosions in your tummy
Love.
That burn your house down after we argue love
And make out in
Lonely parking lots.
I wanna light fires with you
Scream curses at the lightning
In the midst of the storm.
I want to unchain myself
Run free and tumble
Down hills.
I want explosions in my brain,
Sparks in my heart.
I want raw love

I’m just kidding.

I want the kind of love
Where I can hold your hand
And know that
My life is falling into place love
I want the kind of love where
I can trust you without fear
And lose my shell
Completely.

I want the love that
Takes a sledgehammer
And smashes down the concrete wall
I’d systematically
Put up around my heart
And around my brain

I want love where
You’re pulling me
Out of the rain
And helping me get dry.

But I am still standing in the rain.

Lighting flashes before my eyes
Illuminates
The sadness that I am.

My heart is still cold,
And ashes are scattered
In the fire place,

I want that love.

Across The Air – The Mercury Tapes

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Across the air.

I giggle and somehow, your hand is in mine.

And the tone is set.

I can’t dance; I have two left feet!

So, I look at you.

And you’re more than looking at me,

You’re looking through me.

I follow your steps,

I allow you to guide me,

I let you carry me through

And own this dance.

And yet we stop.

Because you want to know

When I will claim this dance

As my own,

But the truth is

I am wholly afraid of falling

It doesn’t overshadow

My love for you,

But they are two entities,

Side by side

Stealing from each other

And feeding each other.

And now you’ve let go.

I am standing awkwardly,

My hands intertwining patterns

With my fingers.

Don’t let them see me cry.

Floodgates hold back

An avalanche of everything.

Through the hazy mist,

I see you hold out your hand

You smile and say

Lets try.

 

The Mercury Tapes – Conceptualizing

spectrum

I am living on borrowed time

Hush, smoke your cigarette, grind it to dust and ash
and lets live here,
in the moment.
Life doesn’t begin, reminiscing on the death it has not experienced;
life doesn’t begin on a low.
so take your hat off, lay your aching back on the warm sand.

Now look at me.

There is a whole world out there
and there is everything going on between us.
I dont want to think about the future
because, it may never come.
Please don’t mention forever because I might have found it in your eyes.

I don’t know
whats going to happen
See, I am living on borrowed time.

Today will fade and next week will steal our time away.
Lay with me.
Press your body against mine.
be with me.
i know its impossible
but lets grab a hold of time

These Streets Ain’t Home No More

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Photo by Felix Plakolb on Unsplash

I leaned against the doorjamb, breathing heavily and clutching my ribs. My breathing was laboured and I fumbled for my inhaler, even though I didn’t need it. As the fear drained from my system it was suddenly replaced by anger, pure white hot anger. If I could not be comfortable here in my own street, where I had lived for the past ten years, then where on earth could I be comfortable?

“Hey ma! You wanna show me what them lips do?” he jeers, swinging drunkenly. I flip my hair and walk off, swinging my hips a little less. He grabs me and I struggle against him. It happens too slowly but too fast. People notice but no one helps. I am dehumanized, my dignity is eroded.

I laugh bitterly; I am another statistic.

Ode To My Lover: Him and Her

 

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Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

There’s something about the way
She pouts her lips defiantly
And leaves traces of her kiss
Lingering…
Or maybe it’s the flip of her hair,
As she insists she has no care
For my night time
Escapades,
She only cares for the days
When I belong to her,

But there’s something about the
Quietness
After a maelstrom
Of scarlet red anger
That fades to deep indigo sadness

It’s what we do behind the scenes
When the sheets are remade
And she momentarily puts away
Her pariah’s name
When she isn’t answering
Bottom ended calls at midnight hours

She puts on a personality
That runs deeper than the highest intimacy
She becomes a side to me
That’s better than I’ve ever known.

Maybe its in her innocence
As wet tears cling fiercely
To her eyelashes and she assures me…

Or is it the innocence I robbed?
For some fleeting passion…
A shared breath
A moment that bubbles between two lungs.

Or maybe that’s just fantasy

***
I know it’s unsustainable
I know I am not right,
But it’s more than just
The way he lays
His fingers on me
Or looks into my eyes…and smiles
See, I am enthralled by him
Wholly and Irrevocably.

Maybe it’s the way he talks
Maybe it’s the way he talks to me.

But after a hurricane
That’s coloured rainbows of emotions
I know.

I think it’s funny;
His boys told me I’m all but a
“Booty call”

The ladies call me a hoe
But I know.

I know it’s not right
And that should stop me
But as the rosary entangles in my lingerie
I shed a few tears
That paint my shame
Grey and Unspectacular
Misguided, Ill-advised.

I should know better but I don’t.

Maybe it’s just fantasy