Saturday 31 May 2014


By Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga

He sat next to me. His pencil twirled between his fingers or rolled on his desk. Sometimes his hands would hold it up to his face so that the eyes hiding under his furrowed brows would absently watch it, the mind behind them working variables and numbers into a list of solutions that finally smeared off the lead.

This I was all too aware of, painfully so. It’s always painful when the knowledge that your voice cannot fire a constant stream of colour haunts the brain. My own pencil nearly never left the paper, eyes mostly darting between my laptop screen, my graph book – and of course him.

If only silence hadn’t bound me.

My fist clenched.

Is that all you’re made of? I wondered. Are you this bland, uninteresting person whom despite having been given the gift of speech cannot use it to make friends with a boy that you so desperately want to impress?

Like a gong, the bell rang, signalling my last chance, and a thought sparked to life, its match inches from igniting my tongue.

“Hey, Levan, are you coming to English today?”

“No, I don’t think so…”

The words fizzled out with the match. Beaten to the punch, I stared at the receding duo, envying the girl whose golden voice could blaze for hours where mine could not. Knee-deep water fixed my legs in place, rising until I stared through a sheet of shifting glass that distorted the view of the flames.

How unnatural, the idea of talking through this thick liquid, yet how can I reach civilisation otherwise? I wondered. My muscles loosened in waking defeat. No one can hold their breath long enough to be here. Few even dare venturing in unless my mouth moves to ease their discomfort. How tiring the idea of swimming to the surface to spit quick fire conversation starters that spittle out as I struggle to stay afloat.

My shoulders shook.

How unnatural…

My muscles tensed to keep them still.

Why does it come so unnaturally to me?

My head screamed as I bit down on my trembling lips.

I don’t want to be the fish in her bowl, ignored by passer-by. I don’t want to mouth words that no one seems to hear, so why – why this silence?

A torrent of tears swirled about my head, hands raised in beating fists to my temples, a tantrum forming a whirlpool around my body.


Bubbles gurgled out from my open mouth. Reaching the surface, they popped all at once so that someone turned around at the sound.

“Are you okay?”

I nodded, lips firmly sealed on the next onslaught of bubbles, and darted back into my fishbowl castle. Naturally, the passer-by lost interest.

What power is there in silence?

The thought shook the bowl, a fissure cracking where it would one day erupt. The passers-by continued to ignore my presence, untroubled by the lone fish-girl in her sphere of impenetrable water. Reaching out, all my hand could do was touch the glass.

Friday 23 May 2014

Oh, Father Tom!

By Diana Gitau

She woke up with a start. It was too hot for 6:00 am and her alarm clock hadn’t even gone off yet. For the past three years, it always went off at exactly 6:00am letting her know that it was time for her morning prayers. Nimo never missed her prayers!

The sun rays were shinning through the curtains, already too bright. She was late for work! There wasn’t even enough time to say a quick prayer. She got out of bed and checked the time on her alarm clock. 11:59pm!

 Well that couldn’t be right. Nimo ran to the living room and checked the wall clock, 11:59pm. It seemed that all the clocks had stopped at the same time. Weird but could be that the batteries were dead.

She got dressed and rushed through the door without taking her breakfast. Outside, streets were completely deserted. The only car that Nimo saw seemed oddly parked. It still had the driver’s door open and engine running like the drive had left hurriedly.  Once again, she cursed herself for having overslept. It was stupid staying up so late watching re-runs of Dexter. It was wrong to watch shows about serial killers but this one had gotten her hooked. The devil was definitely behind her new addiction. Nevertheless, Nimo had decided to watch the show and repent later. She was still cursing her late night activities when she suddenly tripped over a pram. Next to it was a dog leash. However, there was no dog in sight.

At the bus stop, she realized that she had missed the morning bus. That would mean waiting for hours until the midday bus. She looked down at the strangely deserted road hoping to hitchhike. It was not something that she usually did but she didn’t have any other options. She wondered why there was no traffic at all. She had missed last night’s news. Probably there were new traffic laws and drivers were staying off the road to avoid arrest.

Half an hour later, she saw an old car approaching slowly, almost painfully down the road. She hailed it down, nervous but anxious to get to the office. Slowing down, Nimo spotted the driver. He looked shifty. Balding, tooth pick hanging from the side of his mouth which was partially open revealing toothless gaps. The man rewarded her with a wide toothless grin that made her skin crawl.

“Need a lift, pretty lady?”

Everything in her told her to stay away from the toothless man but she thought of how furious her boss would be because of her lateness. She worked as a church Secretary but unlike other priests, Father Tom wasn’t a nice boss. He was strict when it came to the Bible teachings. He was always speaking of the fire and brimstone that would come down on all sinners. He always wagged his meaty fingers at her and screamed every time she got late or had a typing error in her reports. With the thought of an angry Father Tom, Nimo got into the car.

“You smell nice….like a baby…” he greeted her chuckling heartedly. 

 Again, the warning bells went off and Nimo regretted getting into the car.

“What’s a fancy lady like you doing hitchhiking, don’t you have a boyfriend?”

“Okay, let me out of the car.”She tried to sound calm but her voice betrayed her.

“Calm down, no-one is after you….trust me; you are definitely not my type…” he paused briefly shifting on his seat.

“I like them younger, un-corrupted, you know the school uniform wearing kind… you are too old.”

A pedophile!

Nimo wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or follow her instincts and get out of the car. It was still too far to walk to the church. She looked out of the window and said a prayer asking God to watch over her. 

She had been raised well, had always been a staunch Christian, a good daughter and a friend to many. Nimo had worked at the church for the past 6 years and everyone liked her. She was a role model to many young women. 

She briefly wondered what people would think of her if they saw her in the car with the toothless pedophile. Light and darkness never mix. That had always been her motto all her life and she had always kept away from sinners. However, there she was, with the filthy man who was now whistling to a strange tune as he tapped his fingers on the steering wheel.

The road was completely deserted with no cars or pedestrians all the way. Near the church, Nimo saw a parked car. It was on the side of the road, doors opened, definitely looked as if the driver and passengers had left in a hurry. This was the second car that looked hurriedly abandoned.  It was odd but she couldn’t think much about it. Her mind was on getting to work and facing Father Tom.

“Thank you, this is my stop.”

“Okay, tomorrow same time… it’s a date!” He said sniggering. 

Nimo hurriedly walked from the car ignoring the sound of laughter behind her. At the gate, there were also three other cars all left the same way with the doors open. One of the cars still had its engine running.

“Hi Nimo, really good to see you.” It was the old security guard.

Nimo wasn’t very fond of him and had always wondered why the church never fired him. He was a creepy old man, the kind that stared too long even after you walk past them. There were also rumors about him and the women he spent his evenings with. You know the kind of women who earned a living by offering all sorts of companionship to men who could pay for it.

Nimo quickly walked to her office knowing fully well that he was watching her. He would probably be leering at her behind while thinking all kinds of ungodly thoughts. He was a disgusting man.

“Its about time you got here!” Father Tom greeted her. However, he didn’t seem as upset as she had expected.

“Please come into my office,” he muttered as he started walking without waiting for her response.

“Where did everyone go?”

“What do you mean, Father?”

“Haven’t you noticed…. People left…”

“I thought it was odd that there were no people on the streets when I was coming…” 

“I woke up in the middle of the night only to realize that um… my friend…you know the young boy that I have been mentoring…” He interrupted her watching for her reaction.

Nimo didn’t want to tell him that there were rumors about his mentorship of young boys. Actually, most people didn’t believe that he was mentoring anyone.

“Yes… I know bout him.”

“Well I was mentoring him late last night so I asked him to stay the night at my place…”

Oh, Father Tom!

“Well I woke up in the middle of the night and he wasn’t there.”

Nimo looked at him wondering what to say. Should she ask about the boys spending nights at his place or their alleged disappearance in the middle of the night?

“The cook, Maria…also gone! Martin, the gardener …gone!”

Suddenly, Nimo thought back at the oddly parked cars that she had seen along the way. What did it all mean, could it be that….. No, that wasn’t possible!

“ Nimo, we have been left behind!” Father Tom voiced her thoughts almost at the brink of tears.

“ No, the righteous would never be left behind” 

It didn’t make sense. She had served in the church for six years and had faithfully attended church since childhood. She was a good Christian and didn’t even associate with people of darkness.

If people had been taken in the middle of the night, they must have been the sinners. Maybe the righteous were left behind to inherit the earth. The Jehova Witnesses were right! The righteous would inherit the world, they had always said!

“Nimo… Nimo…” 

The sound of Father Tom’s voice brought her back to her new reality. If the righteous were left behind, then why was he still around? Didn’t she just get a ride from a pedophile, and then there was the leering security guard. 

“I always thought you were a good Christian, of course I am a priest so I am righteous so why are we still here?”

Oh, Father Tom!

Wednesday 7 May 2014


by Lyra Reyes

"Tell me, Alexi. Do you think underdogs can be heroes?"

Alexi wondered where this was going but ignored the question. He sat on a chair, his back ramrod straight, and his arms at his sides. Across the table, Eric slouched on his seat, looking at him.

When he remained quiet, Eric shrugged and started whistling the song Heroes again.

Since they met five years ago, Alexi noticed that Eric had what can only be called an obsession with the soundtrack of the movie The Replacements. Every time Alexi saw him, he was always whistling a song from the movie. He never asked about it.

But today he will.

Today, Alexi will finally do what he should have done years ago. But first, he needs to know a couple of things.

"Why The Replacements?"

Eric stopped mid-whistle. "What?"

"Why The Replacements?" Alexi repeated. "You always whistle songs from that movie. I've always wondered why."

Eric smiled, "It goes back to my previous question." He leaned back in his seat. "Do you think underdogs can be heroes?"

Alexi nodded.

Eric laughed. "Yeah, I thought you would. Thing is, I don't."

Alexi frowned. "You don't, but you like The Replacements even though it's a movie about the triumph of underdogs?"

"Triumph? What's triumphant about it? That they won? Yes, they did, but after? They just left. No one got signed to the pros, no one got famous, no one's life changed. Just as it should." Eric tapped his fingers on the table. "It's just unnatural for them to be heroes. They are underdogs for a reason. They're not smart enough or strong enough or fast enough. If they were, they wouldn't be underdogs."

"There are those considered underdogs who excel over time," Alexi said.

Eric laughed. "No, there aren't. Those are just talented people who have yet to discover their strengths. The real underdogs are those with no notable talents and no contribution to society. Losers. And losers would always be losers. They're the ones left behind, the casualties of evolution. When they disappear, men become better, more superior."

That gave Alexi the opening he was looking for. "So, you consider what you did...natural selection?"

"Let's call it external support." Eric grinned. "Mother Nature's taking much too long."

Alexi looked at Eric. With stylishly messy hair framing his handsome face, Eric clearly isn't an underdog in the looks department. His deep set brown eyes gave the impression of sleepiness, but Alexi knew that behind the sleepy eyes is a smart and calculating brain. The strong jaw line, prominent cheekbones, and aristocratic nose can almost be called pretty if not for the thin scar on his left cheek running from chin up until just under the eye.

Alexi decided the scar made him look distinguished and the calculating brain made him scary. And he'd always wondered: "How did you get that scar?"

Eric ran a finger down his cheek. "Seven years ago in Budapest. Chick almost got away. Got hold of my knife and would have slashed my neck if I hadn't broken her arm." He smiled at the memory. "That was actually fun. And the scar usually becomes a talking point for the next one."

"How did you choose the next one?" Alexi asked.

"Underdogs." Eric grinned. "I always chose the underdogs. The desolate, the sick, the ugly, the unintelligent. The people that nature never intended to be in this world."

Alexi's right hand grasped a handle under his chair. "And who are you to say what nature intended?"

"Like I said, Alexi, I am only the external support. History shows that nature weeds out the weak. But now, there are just too many people and too little plagues to handle them." Eric smiled winningly. "So, I helped out."

"And you enjoyed it?"

"Oh, very much." Eric caught the look on Alexi's face. "That bothers you?"

"Yes, it does."

"If you decide to do something, you might as well enjoy it. It's not any different from you deciding to and enjoying drawing caricatures."

Alexi's grip tightened. "Of course, it is! I draw people and you, you..."

"Kill them." Eric said. "I kill them, Alexi, because that's how it should be. Letting them live will only slow the rest of us down."

He saw Alexi's right hand reaching down and his own, quick and strong, flashed out and grabbed it.

"My, my. What are we planning, Alexi." Eric murmured, studying him over the blade of the knife he snatched from Alexi's hand.

"You're evil. You have to be stopped."

"And you decided that you're the one to do that." Eric laughed. His rich, rolling laughter filled the room. "Kill me, huh? Have you forgotten that we're the same?"

Alexi, sitting very still, carefully reached down and felt the handle of the other knife attached under the table. "We're not the same."

"Of course, we are." Eric twirled the knife between his fingers. "What I've done, you've done. You think I'm evil because of the things I've done? You've done them too."

"I didn't know about them. I only knew about you five years ago."

"Yes, but you know what they say about ignorance and the law." Eric leaned forward, gripping the knife. "If what I did was evil, then you’re evil too."

Alexi felt cold. Really cold. "No. It was all you. I’m not evil." He carefully detached the knife from under the table, closing his fist around the cold metal handle.

Eric laughed again, his hard eyes glinting. “Is that what you tell yourself so you could sleep at night? We are the same, Alexi. The only difference is that you don’t want to admit it. You hid behind your ignorance because you didn’t want to see. You’re a coward. A loser. A true underdog. What makes you think you can stop me?”

They stared at each other for a moment. Then, Alexi lunged, aiming his knife at Eric’s chest just as Eric did the same. One of the knives hit its mark while the other clattered to the floor.

"Leave me alone, Eric. You're just in my head. You're not real."

Eric grinned mischievously. "Have you ever thought that maybe you're the one who is not real?"


"So, how are you feeling today, Alexi?"

Alexi smiled, "I'm okay, doctor. I haven't lost time and I haven't seen Eric since after..." his smile faltered. "After the incident."

"There's no need for guilt, Alexi. You know you had to do that. Eric is the part of you that yearns to do evil. By killing him, you kill that part of you."

"It doesn't mean I would no longer be evil."

"No, it doesn’t." Dr. Harper said. "But you're no more evil than the average human being."

"But I'm still stuck here."

"Only until we're sure you'll do fine. Now that Eric's gone, I'm sure it won't take long for them to see that it was not you, that the part of you that did those things is already destroyed."

Alexi smiled. "Thank you, doctor. I'll always be grateful for what you did the past five years. And what you're doing now."

"We still have some ways to go, Alexi. And I must commend you for handling this better than anyone ever has. You made this as fast and easy as these things could ever be."

Dr. Harper stood up. "Now, go and rest." He nodded at the two guards standing outside the clear glass door. "I'll see you in two days."

Alexi stood up and shook Dr. Harper's hand. He stepped out to walk down the hallway between the two guards.

"Oh hey, is that David Bowie's 'Heroes?'" one of the guards asked.

Alexi stopped mid-whistle. “Yes, it is. A cover version was used in my favorite movie. The Replacements. Have you watched it?"

"Yeah, it was nice."

Alexi grinned mischievously. "Tell me, officers. Do you think underdogs can be heroes?"


Thursday 1 May 2014

A Very Quiet Guest

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014
     My first introduction to Mr Frederick Hibernia Wilder was entirely compassed with mystery. He was not apparently as he appeared, but was in fact from a kingdom misrepresented by his lurid aspect. In fact, this luridness led me to assume that he was a figment of my historically schizophrenic imagination.
     It was shortly after the promising spring of this year, 2012, in the great land of Aus, city of splendid Sydney, a vibrant capitol that noteworthy scientists are averring has its twin in a parallel Universe, one morning having chosen to head up to the nearby supermarket for the milk for the morning wake-up coffee instead of emergency black, I noticed upon a bunched towel outside my downstairs’ neighbour's place, wetted with recent rain, a very large, viridescent maple leaf. I stopped and had a good look but the object was still probably an overgrown maple leaf, but like I said I just wasn’t sure. Had we maple trees at my block of flats Mr Wilder may have been more seriously harmed, or worse.
     I promised myself not to further investigate this obvious psychosis, somehow giving it credence thereby. I headed up to the nearby supermarket and bought the milk, studiously avoiding this area of madness upon returning home. I forgot about it over the ecstasies of my awakening coffee.
     Having now showered and lightly breakfasted I prepared the only tea for the day. Thus, soon relaxing upon my balcony with my Irish Breakfast, sipping and vaguely wondering, I noticed my downstairs neighbour, Darden, stalking his wet towel. He stopped in front of it, investigating what could only be a large, green maple leaf.
     ‘Hey, Victor!’ exclaimed Darden whilst turning to look up at me. He had obviously heard me coming out for the morning’s tea.
     ‘Hey, Darden!’
     ‘Have you seen this frog on my towel?’
     ‘I thought it was a maple leaf, a very large maple leaf.’
     ‘Nah, it's definitely a frog. Just resting on my towel.’
      ‘Good thing it rained last night. The wet towel will keep Mr Wilder almost narcotically pleased,’ I said.
     ‘Mr Wilder?’
     ‘I've just now discovered his name: Frederick Hibernia Wilder.’
     ‘How do you know it’s not Mrs Wilder?’
     ‘Ms Wilder, Darden.’
     ‘Yeah, Ms Wilder.’
     ‘His impressive size. Usually it’s the males of a species that have the more imposing physique.’
     ‘Hibernia means cold, doesn't it?’
     ‘It's the Roman for Ireland, and Frederick is as green as all Ireland. From what I've seen of him. Are you sure it's not a leaf?’
     ‘Nah, it's definitely a frog.’
     ‘I'll come down and have a look.’ We don't get much excitement in these flats. Thankfully, I suppose.
     I joined Darden in front of his sodden towel, just in front of his folded banana chair, folded into the shape of a digital ‘2’ but with the bar missing at the top. It was definitely a large frog.
     ‘What do you think he's doing here?’ asked Darden. It was a very good question.
     ‘No idea. He's definitely out of his element, displaced, so that must be from some type of illness.’
     ‘Yeah, the poor lad's ill.’
     ‘Or he could have beached himself, hoping to slowly and quietly pass away.’
     ‘That's still an illness.’ Mr Wilder had perhaps come to us for help. ‘Yeah, may as well make him comfortable.’ We both stared quietly at Mr Wilder for about a further half minute. ‘Yeah, Freddie'll be fine.’
     Darden began making our new guest safe and cosy, covering him with the wet towel to keep him moist, and prepared a bowl of water for him. My contribution would be to check on him every morning. Which I did, heartily, most of the time during his stay with us.


     Mr Wilder turned out to be a very quiet guest. I checked on him almost every day but he tended to stay within the middle of his wet, scrunched towel. There wasn’t much else I could do except to keep him moist and his water bowl refreshed. I could have of course taken him along to a local vet but I suspected that Mr Wilder’s sudden appearance was in fact a suicide attempt.
     That Frederick was attempting suicide I am absolutely sure of. When first I gave him a gentle stroke he was not dry or unnaturally parched but still reasonably moist, he had neither skin abrasions nor a skin condition indicating that he was suffering from something a vet could inject him with in order to ease his ailment. Mr Wilder was simply very much an unhappy frog. At least that is my considered opinion.
     Frederick stayed this way, morose and inactive, for about a week. He then decided to come out from his wet towel. I checked on him as usual and he was gracefully perched atop the wet pile sucking on the towel. He had his eyes closed and seemed very content.
     Two days then after Freddie had moved back to the top of his wetted towel he had moved onto the grass of his ‘flat.’ Darden had by this time draped a white towel in front of his new home, shading the exposed base of his digital ‘2’ domicile. When I checked on him on this day he was asleep blissfully upon the cool grass (or had his eyes shut from the world’s trauma) and his skin still remained without blemish, still a vibrant green. I gave him a friendly stroke and his skin was indeed still healthy and moist. I left him alone then and headed off to the pub.
     Mr Wilder now spent the next three days on the grass of his flat apparently content to simply rest there. I checked on him every morning and was beginning to think that we had a new mascot at our flats. He still declined to croak and I never once saw him feeding or the remains of any repasts that he may have indulged in. Mr Wilder may well have stumbled on to the good life and I am sure that he knew that Darden and I, if not the other neighbours, would look after him for life. His food could be brought to him, he had a fine home, and there were none, apparently, of his natural predators around. I also thought it would be terrific if we had an utterly wild animal coming to us instead of accepting Nature’s utter uncertainty. Alas, the good Wilder was not to be with us much longer.
     Coming home one night after Freddie’s third day of recuperating on the grass, very drunk, I almost stepped on the good sir. He was plonked in the middle of the footpath leading up to my place.
      ‘G’day, Freddie!’ I exclaimed. He responded with a little croaking, the very first time that I had heard him talk. The croak sounded throaty and rich. As I was then drunk as a lord, I just headed up to my flat and went straight to bed, vaguely thinking that Mr Frederick Hibernia Wilder had resolved an important crisis in his life.
     Accordingly, expecting his flat to be abandoned, I checked on him as usual on the following morning. Darden was away for the day but the good Mr Wilder remained. He looked in no mood to leave this newfound Paradise. The morning’s duty being done I returned to my flat and thought best how to occupy my copious free time.
     Waking up late the next day I partook of my wake-up coffee and a shower. I was then ready to inspect Freddie’s further progress.
     Frederick was gone. I carefully inspected the wet towel but he was not there. He was nowhere near his flat and there was absolutely no evidence of his being there. Whilst inspecting his cosy domicile Darden came out onto his own veranda.
     ‘Darden, have you seen Mr Wilder?’
     ‘He’s gone, Vic. Checked on him when I got up and he was nowhere in sight. Yeah, I reckon Freddie’s gone on to bigger and better things. Told you he’d be fine.’
     ‘How do you know that some dog or bird, some predator, didn’t get him?’
     ‘There’s neither blood nor any other sign of devilry.’
     ‘He could have been taken in one foul swoop.’
     ‘Nah, his flat is too well covered.’
     So, the unexpected had happened!  Mr Frederick Hibernia Wilder had recovered from his obvious woes and had returned to the wilds to again try to make his mark. Good luck, Freddie! Mr Wilder did not return that day or evening and I myself had a very pleasant day. That night in bed I was listening to the background croakings of my units, the sundry night noises, hoping to hear from him, not so much for a ‘thank you’ but as appreciation that love still abides. I could not distinguish his voice from amongst the other frogs and the other night callings and so went peacefully to sleep.


     If you've been enjoying Denis' stories on this blog you may also enjoy his debut novel, This Mirror in Me. It tells the story of Tonia Esqurit Ailbe, a mathematics professor, and her unusual manner of making her home a social hub, her life's fundamental aim: sitting at her dressing table mirror and imagining socialising with friends and family. It seems the only way, for one reason or another, that she can achieve her deepest aim. It is available on Kindle at for US $4.01, and via Smashwords, whom cover most of the other ereaders, at for US $3.99. If you don't have a Kindle or other ereader you can download one for free onto your smartphone or tablet.