Death by Burning

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Nundu devoured a thief. Nundu died a thief. Adventurous, horrifying and peculiar stories have been told from the word ‘’Nundu.’’ Some of them scientific – putting the name to the face of a bird in the ostrich family with semi plume feathers; others terrifying and wizardry, like in the blog; hp-lexicon.org on creature/cat section describing Nundu as a gigantic magical leopard native to East Africa and considered the most dangerous beast in existence. The writer insinuates that Nundu’s breath carries disease and death and he can swallow a group of people in one gulp. So intriguing or is it? If he really exists, I believe it would take hundreds of wizards working together to overcome him. And when the magic happens, I’d love to be there. To witness spell cast on this occult; to see Nundu defend his realm with a gnaw at the front council; to see him jolt and grab and hog at the wizard’s apprentice hanging the kid wizard loose by his leg lets, his jiggered toes pegged to Nundu’s vampire teeth and his down facing skull cracked through by the mystical animal’s erect and bristling mane hair. Depictions of the animal on Google pictures is of a huge, unique and hungry giant cat with a ballooned thorny throat – the weirdest showing him stand on two firm dinosaur limbs and angrily ooze two thin arms with ghoulish claws. If fright and ugliness are words to go by, then I say it, not in fear that he might devour me in my sleep or worse, “Nundu is a scary and ugly animal”. Left to the necromancy community of the 1600’s, the wizard who stole a young Nundu from East Africa and took with to London would have been warned of a deadly animal at maturity and he would have lived (not devoured whole by the grown glutton).

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Well, enough of the underworld story and the active wizard imagination of the blogger. Did you know that Nundu is a Kenyan surname? It’s been passed from a generation to the other making it maintain its relevance in the present day. I mean, the name is easy to come by. I once walked to school with a guy called Nundu. Unlike the beastly cat, he was a slim boy with long rhea legs. He wore a thin blue black face and his young protruding bones left a shallow hollow between his jaw line and the cheek. His tiny earlobes sprout away from his head with gloom as was his height from his feet with haste. Much as he was stained exuding filthy words carelessly, he maintained a grim and taciturn look in most instances (such that he was easily mistaken for a honorable coward). And that calm wordless look, the relaxed juvenile face, the forced pretentious smile that spread his pale lips wide into a grin, is the first appearance I remember of his face, but certainly not the last. He aged and added weight and shed skin and thinned again and started the process over and again till last he was a shrunk little body coiled with burnt tyre wires and grey ash; his skull cracked by stone hits and his thick apish jaws statured wide agape, and it lay smoky and hazardous on the dark ring road tarmac. A probable sign that he screamed his ancestors names while taking his sentence; death by burning.

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I didn’t know where Nundu stayed and I did not bother to enquire, not because I was being mean, but because I saw an underworld devil incarnate grow in him from childhood. While we walked in the company of our peers, played with our mates and toyed at our distinct social levels; Nundu kept company of boys 5 grades ahead of him, he became famous in school (the class two boy who kept company of Ochola the oldest pupil and the likes), went to discos with him and other troublemakers, smoked weed with them and soon started skiving school with the crew. His character outgrew his age. I would best describe him as crab grass growing fast and tall among chickweed, bindweed in dandelion aborigine. In a flash period his height hastened, he developed a voice of foghorn and his rogue character worsened – ever pushing for fights at will and crushing his challengers grizzly.

If you got lucky, you hit him once or twice or thrice but the end result remained Nundu winning the fight by hook or crook, Elkins or fist, throttle or a hit-in-the-face-by-a-Kenya-Cane-long-neck-bottle. Like in his fight with Oscar – still fresh and memorable. Oscar a young cunning and abusive natterer with a rugged appearance not ragged. Stern in his stance whether right or wrong –always wore a smug smile and just as lazy as the chameleon on walk. While Nundu openly showed his rebellious character and goony ability, Oscar hid his long dirty claws underneath his short trimmed fingernails. He was my classmate and he had two brothers and a sister all schooling with us. His father was a tall scruffy man not because he was unkempt but for his job. He was a mechanic. His garage stood a mile away from school. More often than not, he came to school on an oily overall or dust coat. And it became normal just like my father’s identity by khaki shorts.

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When referring to my father you said, the cycling man on shorts, you meant Oscar’s Dad you’d say, the ungrounded man in overall cloth, you referred to Huntington’s aunt, you said the curvaceous and braless aunty. Yes, we had that eye of detail.

Unlike my parents and other parents I knew, Oscar’s dad was very concerned about his kid’s affairs. He came to all school events and once in a while popped in unexpectedly to discuss his kid’s academic progress. Now that’s not a parent you can skive school on! He’ll definitely be on the loop and when he found fault, hell broke loose.

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In a spontaneous visit he found his eldest son Kelly among the kids who knelt in front of the headmaster’s office waiting for punishments for varying misconducts. Sweat dripped through their dark sorry faces and on the faces of the few light skinned girls at fault, tiny sweat balls formed. They had been here longer. The tall man stormed into the office and stayed for one, two or three minutes.

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During these school days kneeling on the steamy soil hands raised to the sky was the best punishment one had and when evening came, we left with blistered knees and it was normal to some of us and unfair to all of us. I kept thinking, what a selfish way to punish? Infringing pain and leaving a scar? – Sometimes I wondered if our teacher’s kids took our portion in the academies they went to. Worst was when we knelt on that sun scorched earth then later got a dose of lashes. Primary school punishment isn’t the best experience you wish you went through. The scary part is when Mr. Kodo’s bamboo stick landed on your peachy pottito; covered on light green custom school short or orange dress, or brown shorts or green or checked maternity like dresses and you yelped shrilly and swore never again to do wrong but weeks, days, years or months later you found yourselves kneeling – kneeling on the child of the lesser god’s spot. Then you grow up. Then you ponder on what would have become of you if the rod had been spared. You remember how the wallops were painful on boys and more on the ones whose families couldn’t afford another layer of protection – the underwear. Worse, you remember the girls, age withheld, how they wailed and our schools remained our juvenile correctional facilities.

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Mr. Tall came out furious with the famous bamboo stick gripped to his left hand. He stammered and when words locked in his throat, his face veins broadened, the widest cutting right above his left eye running up his big forehead and resting underneath his Afro hair. He grabbed his son by the shirt dropping him hard on the cemented two step stair floor and when Kelly felt his father’s fist drop on his fragile ribs he brawl the headmaster’s name. The defiant Mr. Tall did not stop though, he stepped firm on Kelly’s little fingers as he lashed him over and again. It took the interference of idling teachers and on duty alike for Kelly’s verdict to be raised from death by canning to one last chance to do right (complete math assignments). And the head teacher frowned embarrassed by Mr. Tall’s actions. He’d disgraced his 14 year old son and put him to misery but for what, – a 9th degree crime? Failing to finish math assignment on time? Jesus!!! From class one to eight and subordinates aboard, 1500 people peered through the classroom and office windows to witness this manhandling episode and Oscar standing vulnerable by my side couldn’t hold the pool of tears that had since filled his eyes and he broke into a hysterical cry.

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A kid is a kid but a kid with manly instinct is more of a fierce wolf snarling and curling his upper lips to display his incisors with valor when angered – that was Oscar, a teen wolf. Though his father did not approve of him getting involved in fights and any wind on such encounter would get him killed, Oscar took his chances. He would not allow anyone step on his foot and get away because he feared his beastly father! On our way home when Nundu called him an imp – the scorching sun burning quickly to lodge it’s ultraviolet rays into our melamine skin, he reacted, like a hungry lion that felt his tail snatched, squeezed and twisted.

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He pounced on Nundu throwing him to the ground ripping and tearing through his clothes. It was an unexpected strike and when Nundu felt young Oscar’s body wince and lift above him, his beastly instincts invoked directing his hands to Oscar’s throat and he pressed hard and groaned and grinned and grimaced but Oscar still on top of him had the advantage and he continued to rip, blow and claw to the last ounce of his strength. Nundu feeling outwit tried to roll over and when he couldn’t, he pressed the nerd’s throat harder with both his hands throttling him till his chest heaved and writhed for less air. Oscar’s neck veins hardened, his eyes widened, his jaws loosened, he stopped fighting, his tongue protruded long dark and swollen and his tiny corpse dropped on Nundu’s flat body like a pakapower doll that just run out of battery. For a moment silence set in then we snarl in a circle surrounding the scene – angry by passers closing in ready to tear Nundu’s skin for dog meat but he continued to lie on the ground rid of strength and consciousness till noise induced him and he realized a possibility of killing the rascal, he panicked and tried to roll the heavy unbalanced body to run. Just then, Oscar’s senses evoked and he woke.  It was epic seeing him grab a stone fit to his little palm and hit Nundu’s jaws breaking his tooth and weakening the rest.  We cheered on, confusing our frenzy for the continuing fight and the resurrection.

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The two boys stood bloody and thirsty breathing heavily with fist folds, the tall guy’s mouth exuding dark red blood and the shorter one’s earlier elbowed lower lip open with deep cut vulnerable to disease. Still, they faced the other eye to eye ready to go for another round. An elderly man set in and separated them for heaven’s sake and we walked home both of them irritated and cursing but Oscar with another burden, an explaining to do to Mr. Tall when he got home.

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Time passed and Nundu didn’t come around. Other pupils rumored that he felt embarrassed by young Oscar breaking his jaw and a stranger saving him from the eye of lightning. Others logically reasoned that he stayed away for lack of school fee for the new term. Evidently, he came from a poor family. You could tell by the vile little shorts he dressed in and the patches and holes in his uniform. Dare you mention seeing his peachy dark and dusty ass through the holes and you got a fight. It was that easy, a real fierce fight. On the other hand, Oscar continued to come to school which meant, he was as right as the mail (Not dead by his father’s fist) but you could almost notice a change in him. That fight sparked confidence in him and it felt like he just found out the biggest secret in the animal kingdom – the colors of the chameleon are not used for beauty but survival. And the iota of grace earlier seen in him turned to stiffness; his cheeky smiles traversed to rude talks, bully character and an exaggerated negative personality (we were in class six). Or the legend was true after all, Nundu’s breath carries disease and death and young Oscar lent too close to his face and got infected. Symptoms showed. He was a young version of Nundu or too far ambitious than the main character and in our sympathy his sneak thief character thrived.

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If the owner of the calabash calls it worthless, then the others will join to pack it in rubbish. Oh ancient Africans, where did you get your undying wisdom from – I could use a boost to mine! The manhandling ordeal by Mr. Tall changed the kids. My analogy is, they felt threatened by male figures, a reflection of their father. I could almost hear Oscar’s heart stop beating when male teachers came to class. He coiled at his corner desk and kept his cool till the lessons ended. It felt like he was a small chicken locked in a room with a hungry fox and when they taught, his eardrums vibrated with a laughing hyena sound sending shivers down his spine and he lost concentration. Even young as I was, I could already judge that the recurrent beatings had got into his brains and he felt every male figure a threat, especially the ones who put on his father’s attitude and beat him for the simplest common mistake easily rectifiable by talk.

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Kelly soon sat for his primary school exams and went to join his father at the garage. A few months later, Oscar dropped out of school. I did not see much of him thereafter and in the few instances that luck rode with my glance, he was in the company of well known touts cum bodybuilding idlers. He looked an emaciated and less hydrated short kid but with muscles by his side, who’d dare touch him? He’d found a way to immortality as the cruel thievery crew became his life, his gang, his guard and god.

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Word had it that thieves of the time used these kids as their spanner boys. They went far into villages and slums that knew little of them and the kids paused as lost worried and wandering alone in the dark village nights – where stars guided to homesteads and the coming of the moon celebrated for more bright light. Oscar was a thief’s apprentice and his Master’s name was lord. Yes lord. Isn’t that blasphemy? That’s what you must be thinking but No it isn’t, I know of an English Premier League player called Jesus Navas – and there is that other one in Mexico City. What does he do? You’re my geniuses, you’ll find out. He didn’t have any other name nor tattoos that I know of and his height was at 6’0” or 1 or two or 3 inches higher. He had large biceps and triceps and his chest too boxed large forming hard nippley breasts. His stiff shoulders grew a confluence of rope muscles streaming up and down his bumpy body, fading misty to his jaws, navel and ankle.  He was a beast – the legend heavyweight wrestlers half the bodybuilder he was. He kept his crew together working out and laying down theft strategies and they hit rich households and robbed of property at night, sometimes gang rapping wives and girls leaving them maimed and deconstructed and stupid fools like the young Oscar boasted around with this filth and threatened to rape your mother and father and sisters and dogs and chicken if you dared them. But a thief has 40 day, 39 to steal or rob and rape and slit the resisting persons’ throats and enjoy the stolen property in pubs, brothels, caves and those squalid hiding places they call homes then the last day to be torn apart and lynched and left to the vultures to feast on their remains.

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Oscar did not last a decade stealing and his crew did not last any longer to boast of another rape (most of them withered to AIDs) but Nundu did, that kid must have been a genius to almost clock two decades in the trade.

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December rains came heavy with thunder and lightning and sometimes hailstones and the fog and mist and dew at dawn delayed the opulent rise of the motif sun. We called such heavy mornings, the hour before dawn, the hour of thieves. And cock crows broke the sheer silence of the morning, and you heard the shivers of strong winds, the fading of storms, the whispers of dawn, the sneaky tip toe of thieves struggling to balance on walled fences, the bursting of buds, the breaking of locks and a sharp wail of a terrified female voice then again that freaking silence then the crunch of boots, a run, a topple and an angered voice from far,

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“Uyo uyo uyo… shika mwizi… uyo uyo… catch him… a thief”

Almost immediately, you heard one door fling open, then the other and another. The community was its own security and law enforcers and everyone ran to the direction of the boots, the thieves and they caught them, in most instances him, the smallest member of the crew and this day wasn’t Oscar’s. He tripped and fell, his machete detaching from his hand and he grumbled with fear, hiding in shrubs blanketed by mist and dew and darkness. His limbs froze as the villagers dashed past, and he held his breath and toast his heart – left or right, the side that beat less determine his fate. At the tail of the angry villagers, dogs swiftly followed bruising the sun flowers and brushing pollen off their bright scented faces and the dark clouds swung away opening up the skies for a heavy downpour as one of the dogs persistently barked tyrannically at a spot, Oscar’s hiding spot and the wagon switched direction running back wet and cold and chanting, “uyo uyo uyo… mwizi. Shika. Uyo” and they got to the spot and to their dismay, a machete. Young Oscar had crawled away leaving a trail of ragged shrub and grass path that they followed seeing his slander body fade away into the shanties but they kept pursuing, arrow at him and even chasing faster and aggressively till they nabbed him. His sentence decided and execution started. First a maul in the head by an overly aggressive physical villager, then a dig into the chest by a blunt war scythe, an hostile slam in the face by a bardiche and an unlawful and vigorous random beating by objects of different ages, stones, Morningstar, clubs, matches and more and more and more monotonous and rhythmical beatings till they couldn’t tell if he was male or female, young or old, handsome or ugly. And the downpour washed his blood to river Auji. The villagers had helped Mr. Tall shroud his worthless calabash into trash. And they spoke with pride and self accomplishment, the young lads future resurrection tucked to the coming of the Messiah, and he shall come as said in the book of John.

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And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt, Daniel 12:2. When it happens I hope to see the souls of your friends and relatives, great saintly women like my mum and Luke’s mum and all the martyrs raised from the dead. You heard me right, Luke’s Mum (Mary Awaka), may her loving soul rest in peace. It’s in her funeral that I saw Nundu again. Say like after how many years, 5? He was all grown.

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People meet in different places; schools, churches, pubs, work name it but regardless, if they are not for friendship, they’ll definitely not be. I would be lying if I said I met Luke in a better circumstance, like on a warm summer day to a swim in the lake for instance; and I did a freestyle stroke showcasing my skill to the local tourists, then a butterfly stroke, then a side stroke and a backstroke, elementary stroke… you name the strokes, name them – and I got to the middle of the lake and they stood at the shores (tourists) masculine/feminine, using binoculars to fetch my view and they were amazed at how I swam with confidence except I couldn’t cross over to the other side, Uganda and I couldn’t swim back at bay either, not by ugali energy alone. So I drowned and Luke a fisherman worried and jumped into the lake and swam deep under to save me and he pressed my stomach at the shores to release the gulped waters through my openings and my eyes widened from shock! Unconsciousness and he breathed to my mouth to bring me back to life and when I woke to his lips on mine. I was like WTF; did you just kiss me you fool? Look at your big mouth man, it sucks! That would be so gay; I would punch him in the face and break his nose for that. It would feel better if he just let me die!

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I would feel more elevated and at peace if it was a woman selling fresh fish by the lake who breathed through my mouth, young or old. But a man with denture holds on his loose teeth? No way! He looked like that cartoon I watch at Maya’s command on Jim jam, the mischievous monster girl, the ugly one, and scheduled everyday at noon. With dentures too or hers should be grills, it doesn’t matter, does it? Loose teeth are loose teeth no matter! You know the program though, don’t you? Worst scenario, those metal teeth holders fall on to my mouth and I choke. Hehe, Luke that would have been the day you died, no offense.

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And he’d say, “Buddy, thank God you came back. Your girlfriend over there was worried sick; she fainted at the thought of you dying.” Just so you know, there was no, lake, no swiming and no savior but the girl.

My girlfriend, how do I put this without feeling that she was cheating on me (which she wasn’t) and I spying on her (which I was) Men with insecurities, uh? I don’t know but through her, I met Luke whose mum grew to like me as a son. When I went to her house she’d say, “wuod Ochieng’ (Son of Ochieng’), get yourself comfortable, take some tea and bread. Eat my son; you must eat something before you leave.” And I became her other son; of course after Mike and Luke.

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When I heard of the heartbreaking news of her demise, I had to literally camp in the homestead and condole with my friend till the mother was laid to rest. It’s in one of those dark and sorrowful nights with Saint John’s Jumuia choir singing dirge songs in the background, my mother being part of the group which sang loud and swiftly like angels that I saw the drunken Nundu trotter in. His pants folded to his knees and on bare feet. He walked to the kitchen and took a knife, the sharpest of them all; you could see it reflect bright embers of say 120w of bulb light? My cousin Churchi (RIP brother) not Churchill was here, Victor the ugly one and his sister Yvonne were here – we called her Abakado – a funny but true story, a friend liked her and wanted to date, then she had just finished eating an avocado (you know how slum girls eat while walking, on the road) and part of it smeared at the corner of her mouth, guess what, the nonsensical guy just freaked out to say avocado, only he pronounced it as Abakado and the name stuck on Yvonne but I doubt she knew we still called her that. Haha… Home sweet home, #NyalendAtHeart. Oti Sasu was here, Onyale, Omosh Kibew, Onyi Maji Maji Ojara, Soul, Onyi (yo-yo RIP), Daddy, Adhiambo (Now Luke’s wife), Kababa, Ajos, and Akola Mlongo. I mean everyone was here everyone, Luke loved people and the love reflected on how we showed up to his mother’s funeral. Nundu excused himself through the congregation meetings and the other small groups gathered in patches with different plans, disappearing into the darkness to the old man’s grave, Luke’s grandfather.

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It was at that end that cattle and Ram and chicken and other edible animals were slaughtered and who was the master of odd jobs?  Nundu was, and he did it perfectly well and not to say, he did it for no pay but animal heads and limbs, “the sweetness of a cow’s meat is in the marrows.” he said. He’d become an even stranger man than I last saw him. More filthy

Though it is true that Nundu died at the brink of 2007 post election violence in the country, covering up his true cause of his death and others, for claims that he was a PEV victim would be wrong, else killing him the wrong way in the story. To make sure that I was credible with my source and wrote the truths of this story, I called Luke. He should know the exact occurrences.

Funny enough, he still has that sarcastic laugh t

#hat follows with a calm voice,

“You guy. It’s been long what have you been up to?’’

It’s a tricky question that needs a tricky answer or he’ll outwit me. So I laugh too and reply, “I’m ok bro.’’ Then ask where he’s and he says he’s in Kisii town.

“And your wife, where is she?’’ I enquire.

“She is in Kisumu.” He says, still calm

“You guy, I’m taking a flight, and tonight I will be paradise in your house.”

“Not if I get to your house first!” he says. It’s an old joke between us, nothing serious. It shouldn’t matter if you don’t get it. It doesn’t make you the child of a lesser god.

I explain the purpose of my call and he feels blessed that I’ll write a story that will cover a part of his life. I will immortalize him. That’s what scribes do, isn’t it? We print your stories to the face of the earth.

“I’m not sure what he stole but what’s certain is, he was burnt to ashes along ring road. Pand-pieri area I guess.” He says.

“Is there anyone who knows his story better, anyone who can give me enough info on this?” I push him further but it’s true he doesn’t have anything on this. Nothing apart from,

“Everyone was blind, the police were killing for no reasons or fewer reasons, people stayed in doors and we just walked to a roasted Nundu the next morning. Could have been his fellow goons, a deal gone bad, I don’t know.” Or maybe it’s not him after all, who knows he could be anywhere now. Hehe… He is Nundu after all

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If there is a story that you’d like to share, Contact me: abisaeomollo@gmail.com

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