The song of the beast was a rumor Chamiet hunted since he last woke.
He stood in his disheveled yet well-fitted suit, wondering when Riera would arrive. His skin, reflective, dark, gradually lost the golden gleam from the sun. He sat down at the roots of the Sunshuttle, a towering landmark of vines that glinted in the gold tint of the afternoon sun, but turned into a dry grey at night. It took center stage, but stood at the edge of the plateau that housed the new Uhuru Park, which had the best view of Nairobi.
A breeze rolled down the cliff over the buses, which looked like ants recklessly doing their best to evade traffic. He was thankful he wasn’t close enough to hear the polyphonic horns or the sometimes-enjoyable loud music; he needed this silence, broken only by the wind, or a faraway laugh by one or another family on their way out. He shuddered; not from cold, but from a disquiet that nibbled at the soul and reminded that this is too perfect for something not to happen next. It would still feel too perfect if a war was going on down that cliff.
He held on to a worn piece of paper, with the creases somehow still white. He knew the song by heart, but the paper somehow always found its way back to his hands. It gave him a solid reassurance that he was making the right decision. That was all the comfort he could get until Riera arrived, but he feared the elements would wear the paper down before that. He wished he could erode with it—but frayed as his soul felt, crumbling was a luxury his body would never be afforded. He placed the paper in his pocket instead.
Chamiet grew antsy. He wondered what was keeping Riera; knowing him, he was probably insisting on things. Like those multiple times in which he tried, and failed to use cashless transactions on matatus. Which were not only unethical but also more often than not, resisted by the makangas. He should know better than that, Chamiet thought, pointedly ignoring the fact that he was placing all his hopes on something he did not even know was possible. Or the fact even things as simple as holding hands were made possible through Riera’s insistence. Chamiet guessed that that was why he fell in love with him. There wasn’t a demand or expectation to any of what Riera did; he just did things. Whether they worked, or didn’t, life went on. And Chamiet would always be there.
Except when he wasn’t.
Chamiet grimaced at the thought. The last time he fell asleep, he stayed so for many years.The first time, he slept for two days, but it got worse every time—and he could tell by the sunken eyes of his husband, the wilted feel of their apartment with dim lights, and the smell of dereliction how long it had been. He was thankful for being awake, yet the persistent fear of the next sleep―A light touch on Chamiet’s back melted into a tight hug that had him lean into his husband’s warm, undemanding embrace
“I want to lie and say you know how the traffic is, but I honestly just overslept… Sorry,” Riera said, turning Chamiet to face him and handing over a twisted glass flask that shimmered in an almost black dark red.. “Here’s the blood, I drained the chicken at sunrise as you asked… Don’t ask me to do either of those again, please―drain a chicken or wake up before the sun,” he pleaded dramatically.
“I got you something else though,” Riera interrupted. “Watch.”
He took out his mobile port and from it, a plant started to grow and die. The leaves like coriander stretched and sighed into their crenulated forms, the fuzzy stem had an almost wet spider silk look to it. Budding into a deep red that seemed to bloom forever, the excess petals of the chrysanthemum drifted down the Nairobi skyline, slowly aging the flower. It lasted for a minute before the last of it withered into flakes. Riera broke the silence with his most shit-eating grin, “A flower for a flower.”
“Wow…” For a moment, Chamiet was at a loss for words, both at the needless ephemeral expense and the corny follow-up. He shook his head slowly, “I can’t believe I’m supposed to make you cry now.”
“Listen, this would have been much easier if you had just let me bring the onions.”
“It won’t work. The tear needs to be genuine. Thankfully they were not picky about the blood,” Chamiet shuddered.
“Are you sure about this?”
“No…” Chamiet sighed.
“You don’t have to do it—we could just leave.”
Chamiet’s heart twisted like a threadbare piece of cloth. He could feel the air escaping through the growing rips in the fabric as it contracted. He looked for the voice, and sighed again, almost a whimper, “We can’t. Not like that. I’m… in pain and I don’t even have the words to tell you how much so. Yet, even right now, and any other time really; it’s hard to figure out how I could be happier than I am when I look at you. Or just with you on my mind—and you’re always in my mind. I can’t think of anything that isn’t shaped by you—”
“You don’t need to say that,” Riera said. “I know. It’s been centuries of you putting up with my shit. Like; remember when I decided to go into synth-pop?”
Chamiet couldn’t hold back a slight cringe as the memory of the synthesized mix of the now classical song, Pekejeng, took hold of him. He shook it off internally, still feeling that somewhere, that ‘song’ would be registered as a sin…
Edited by: Nezzeraj
Theodore Bechlivanis Alexeij
Samuel Ryu Mohamed Osman Raul Bimenyimana Carnivorous Pumpkin Jay Finn
To read this and more work by Baishampayan Seal order a copy of the drr issue of Ritual here.
Owen Uachave is a writer-poet most often found in Nairobi. In his poetry and fiction, he is interested in loneliness and the myriad forms in which it manifests. You can find his work at patreon.com/owenuachave