Short Stories

Wasafiri – The Traverlers

 

I never really do sleep at night, Nakiebra thought to herself. I don’t get it, I feel tired, and want to go to sleep, but can’t.

It was already 2:57 in the morning, and Nakiebra had spent the night tossing and turning. She knew that her mama and siblings would be waking up soon for their hiking trip down the mountain. Maybe she was excited; but she felt it was a little more than just excitement. She was rather anxious, but couldn’t figure out why.

Nakiebra raised herself from the hotel bed, and walked, in the dark, to the window to the left of the bed’s headboard. The view from her window was dark and dull, with a small courtyard that sat in the center of the hotel’s squared opening. Across from Nakiebra’s window were other rooms, all with their lights off. She couldn’t even get a good look at the night sky since, her room was on the first floor, and the rest of the hotel towered above her. She didn’t have a view of anything other than the rooms across the way.

Nakiebra was getting frustrated with her inability to sleep, and not having anything worth looking at, when she noticed a light flick on in the room directly across from hers. She became interested. Her face pressed against the cool window screen to watch closely, at who was up with her, and what they’d be doing.

He was an athletic built man, with dark chocolate skin. He wore his shirt off, showing his muscular build, with a pair of lose fitting gray flannel pants. He didn’t seem like he had been sleeping though he wore what might have been pajamas. He had tossed something onto the hotel desk, when he approached the window and looked out across the courtyard, catching Nakiebra’s gaze. It was like he’d known she’d been there watching, since his gaze went immediately to hers, and he lacked any shock about seeing her there. The courtyard opening was so enclosed that, when he opened his window, he didn’t have to raise his voice to ask,

NLR Writes Man in window

“Were you just watching me?”

Nakiebra was shocked that he was able to see her, since her lights were out, but she didn’t take into account that the lights from his room, now reflected off her window. “Yeah, so you caught me,” Nakiebra said through the window screen jokingly, while blushing.

They both laughed a bit, then stopped. There was silence between them for a bit, but the shirtless man had not stopped looking at Nakiebra once. The young man’s piercing look made Nakiebra have to adjust her footing, she was blushing and didn’t know how to take his gaze.

“Well I was just up; couldn’t sleep for whatever reason. What about you? And who are you by the way?” she spoke quickly, and in a hurry only as a way to break the silence.

The young man responded, staring deep into what seemed like Nakiebra’s soul, “I am you.”

Wasafiri NLR Writes Mystery man

Nakiebra was shook, and didn’t know how to respond. Especially given the fact that this young man and his piercing gaze never moved from her eyes. His eyes were dark, almost too dark, almost completely black. She would have taken this lightly had he given a hint to it being a joke, but instead, he stood straight-faced, while staring. Nakiebra felt the rush of chills throughout her body, and jumped as her hotel bedroom door opened.

It was her mama and two brothers, twelve year old Sizwe and eight year old Uri. They came to get their clothes from their bags, which was in Nakiebra’s room closet.

“I see you’re up early. Couldn’t sleep either huh?” Nakiebra’s mama, Aniweta asked.

Instead of answering right away, Nakiebra turned to look out the window, but had noticed that the young man had disappeared. That his window was now closed, and his lights were off. She found it strange that he had done this so quickly, and without making a sound, or being noticed by her mama and her ndugu. Or maybe you made him up in your head out of boredom, she thought to herself as she finally answered.

“No. I just woke up though. I guess we’re leaving out earlier then?” She said this looking at the clock and realizing that it was now 4:33 in the morning.

Damn time flew! I know I wasn’t talking to mystery-man for that long! So  where did time go?

“Might as well; we’ll wanna leave before it gets too busy out there. Your sister Chinue is still sleeping, so we’ll have to wake her soon.” Aniweta answered.

“I’m up!” yelled Chinue from her and the boys’ room down the hall of their three bedroom suite. Nakiebra was lucky to have gotten her room to herself.

“Hey Nakie, look at me!” Uri yelled as he showed off a face full of soap. Though Uri was Nakiebra’s youngest brother, they shared a rather close bond. She giggled at his silliness,

“You’re–”

“Simama right now!” Aniweta yelled before Nakiebra could say anything, telling Uri to stop. “Vaa nguo so we can eat and leave.”

Uri and Sizwe quickly grabbed their clothes and got dressed at their mother’s orders.

 

What She Saw Next…

It was still dark outside when they left from their hotel to the top of the mountain. It was a nice cool morning, with a bright full moon, and stars galore filled the sky. Nakiebra felt at peace as she took the night sky in. She was so distracted by the night time beauty, that she hadn’t noticed that more and more people were also filling the top of the mountain. Her thoughts went back to the guy across the courtyard from her. Where did he come from, and where had he gone so quickly? Why was he so intense, and what about him gave me the chills?…

There wasn’t anything special going on, other than Mt. Mlima being the tallest mountain in Zamani Nchi, so flocks of people were always there at any given time of year. Nakiebra and her family made the trip ever so often, to get away from the city. They enjoyed being together in nature, but had underestimated the crowd of people who would be there this year.

At the top of the mountain stood a wide cliff that overlooked a valley of tall trees. There was a dirt path road that ran parallel to the cliff side of the mountain, and on the other side of the road, stood the hard boulders of the mountain.  Nakiebra was standing on the path closest to the boulders, taking in the sky. It was still dark out, but there was a slither of the morning sun coming through. She looked at the magnificent moon in its fullness, and–

Nakiebra gasped deeply in shock– There, next to the full moon, was another, celestial, moon-looking body. She looked around to see if anyone else had noticed, but they hadn’t.

“Look! Up in the sky! There’s two mwezi!” Nakiebra yelled out. Suddenly large groups of people were approaching the mountainside cliff and taking photos of the two moons.

Wasafiri NLR Writes Two Mwezi

Ooo, I’ve never seen that before…

Where did that come from?…

Do you think it’s a hologram?…

Quickly, take a photo of me with both the moons in the back!…

The crowd murmured and increasingly became louder with excitement. No one seemed to be as in shock or as concerned as Nakiebra felt she was.

But as Nakiebra looked on, she saw other worldly planets that had seemed to emerge from out of nowhere, but became increasingly visible as the sun illuminated the early morning sky more. They were larger-than life-sized bodies; opaque shapes cascading in the early morning sky.

Wasafiri NLR Writes

They were shades of orange and blues, greens and yellows, their colors swirling into whisked designs. Their presence was ominous. Now, everyone on the cliff was beginning to take notice to these planets and celestial bodies. At this point, everyone who was on the mountainside, was now standing near the cliff, getting the best photos they could of the shapes in the sky, murmuring amongst themselves in awe and wonder, but seemingly thrilled by these mysteries. Nakiebra stood back, taking in the larger scenery and what she saw next, frightened her. She looked to see where her family was…

 

Nyuso za Fedha

Aniweta, along with Nakiebra’s siblings-Uri, Sizwe, and Chinue- were amongst the crowd of people near the cliff. They were taking pictures when they heard Nakiebra yell out about the two mwezi. They saw them, and too began to take photos along with the masses of people who rushed the cliff. They, along with everyone else who were watching the moons, were so entranced, that they hadn’t paid much attention to the large planetary bodies that were now visible in the sky. Nor did they see the spacecrafts hovering silently above the cliff.

Nakiebra seemed to have saw them first. They were charcoal-silver colored space crafts in the shape of triangular disks. They hovered just above the cliff where the masses of people were standing and taking their pictures. No one but Nakiebra, seemed to be paying attention to them, and no one other than her, saw the silver-faced men dressed in black, drop from their under carriages either. Their faces shown like the silver from the roll of aluminum foil, but when they landed onto the soil, they transformed, blending in with the crowd of people; appearing unrecognizable from the other humans.

wasafiri silver faced

Nakiebra called for her family, who were on their way to where she stood anyway.

“When I was over there, some random man told me that a “Jose” was looking for me. I told him I didn’t know a “Jose,” and walked away,” Nakiebra’s sister, Chinue, said mimicking the attitude that she had given to the strange person. Nakiebra feared that Chinue had been approached by one of the silver-faced men.

“We have to go, a kuume sasa!” Nakiebra said as she began to walk along the path atop the mountain, down it’s slope.

“Why?” Sizwe asked.

“No time to explain, we just have to hurry!”

But as they walked along the path, the large crowd of people that were on the cliff, were now walking alongside Nakiebra and her family. Everyone seemed giddy, yet calm, almost in a trance-like state of non-awareness of what was going on. At the same time, Nakiebra was watching as those people who were not dazed and in a trance, walked and calmly took the belongings of the others within the group. She knew these were the disguised silver-faced men, and they were herding the group of people in one direction. Where are they herding us, and why is no one asking about their confiscated belongings?

At some point during the arrival of the planets and the space crafts, Nakiebra had sat her camera down on a boulder near where she was standing. She looked around now to see if it remained there. One of the men disguised as a short hefty woman wearing a long skirt and tattered tank top, had already taken the rest of her and her family’s belongings; she’d hoped that they hadn’t noticed her camera sitting on the rock. To her amazement, they hadn’t, so she crept and let the masses of people walk past her as she slid to the camera and stuffed it into her jacket pocket.

After catching up with her family, she noticed two things: one being, her mama, and kaka na dada, were all entranced; and that Uri was missing.

“Where’s Uri?”

“Isn’t that him?” Chinue asked as she pointed to a small figure up ahead wearing a hoody.

“Uri!” Nakiebra called.

No answer.

“Uriii!”

No response.

“Why isn’t he answering?” Aniweta asked, as she walked along with the rest of the group of people.

Nakiebra walked ahead and grabbed the figure by the shoulder, turning him around. The hood on their jacket was pulled over their head, so she wasn’t able to get a good look from behind. She grabbed the shoulder and turned the small-bodied figure, but the face that greeted hers, was a ghoulishly grey-colored, little boy who was not Uri.

The grey-colored boy’s eyes where sunken and was missing irises. His blank, pale face, unmovingly stared back at Nakiebra. She was sure that this was a disguised silver-faced man and shoved him out of her way. Now her heart pumped fast to the realization that, Uri is lost…

 

Uri is Lost

Everyone is in a trance. Uri is lost. Nakiebra is panicked on the inside, but calmly looks above the heads of the crowd; scaling the scenery for Uri. She doesn’t want to cause a scene since, anyone of these people could be a disguised silver-face.

Instead she creeps off to the side of the crowd, closest to the cliffside, getting a better view of what lie ahead: they were being herded towards a large dark grey-silver structure, whose main door stood at the mouth of the trail on the mountain. She looked back and saw that the group of people who were being herded, was dwindling down in numbers, and none of the remainder bodies looked like an eight-year-old’s. She looked ahead where the entrance of the structure stood crowded with people who were going in one–maybe two, at a time.

NLR Writes Wasafiri ship

Nakiebra walked swiftly to the crowd, and began calling for Uri. Everyone was distracted by the conversations that they were having, but Nakiebra couldn’t make out any defined words that were being said. She shoved through the crowd, grabbing onto people and asking had they seen a young boy who was alone. They just looked at her, without responding. This would be the case for each person she came to.

Nakiebra noticed that there was another, less used entrance that stood on the edge of the cliff. But since the crowd had been herded to these doors, she figured this is where Uri would have gone also. The crowd at this entrance was starting to get smaller, and her mama and kaka na dada were just going through. She decided to follow.

What she assumed to be a silver-faced man disguised, stood at the entrance, dressed in a movie theater usher’s outfit. He looked like a hormonal pubescent seventeen-year-old, but was motioning people into the large structure. No orders were verbally given, and he wasn’t hostile; just nonchalantly shooing people through–true to the form that he had been presented as.

Upon entry, on the floors of the structure, were yellow place markers on the ground in the shape of feet. Nakiebra could see that as a person placed their feet on a marker, the ground began to slowly slide, moving forward, like the moving conveyors at an airport. She didn’t want to wait for the line, so pushed pass the few people who were ahead of her. She stepped on the feet place markers, only to get the conveyor to move, but soon began to jog along the conveyor, being annoyed by its slow motion.

To her amazement, the conveyor began to incline up and around corners. A left turn first, then a right. It glided upwards in the format of an enclosed staircase of a large business building. The walls were a dark steel-gray metal of some type, that seemed to be both metal and concrete combined. People were standing still on their foot markers silently being effortlessly guided to, who knows where, without a care for where that place was. Nakiebra ran past these people now yelling Uri’s name.Where is he? What if a silver-faced man took him? What if he went through the other entrance? Did he even come in here? Why are these people so calm, and reactionless?

Nakiebra’s mind raced as fast as she did with thoughts of her little brother. Her vision became blurred with tears that began to run down her cheek. Through her teary-eyed sight though, she began to notice that the people around her, were all wearing the same dark navy blue jumpsuits. She wiped her tears to make out the faces of those around, since her blurred vision had given them all indistinguishable features. She was no longer running, since she was out of breath, having ran at an incline for what seemed like hours, before she was finally at the top. The top was simply a square, flat enclosure and on the opposite side where Nakiebra stood, was a ramp that sloped downward.

Standing at the top, Nakiebra could see that below was a mono-chromed cafeteria filled with people all wearing the same navy blue jumpsuit. She hadn’t noticed until now, but she too was wearing that same suit. Shit, my camera! She thought checking to see whether there were pockets. There weren’t any, and her hopes of at least documenting this place, these people–were lost.

“Uriiiiiiiiiii!” she yelled at the top of the slope. The cafeteria area had been relatively quiet before that moment, but after, there was complete silence. Everyone looked up to where Nakiebra was, and after a short moment, went back to doing as they were before.

Huh… these people make me sick! Why won’t they talk, acknowldge this current situation, something! Surely I can’t be the only one searching for a separated relative, or person. Better yet, I can’t be the only person to wonder where we are, and what’s going on either, can I?

wasafiri looking at moon

Nakiebra became angrier as she walked down the slope toward the cafeteria. She could make out where her mama and siblings sat. She was relieved to see that they were still together, but she couldn’t join them until she had cased the place her kaka, Uri. Just as she had stepped foot into the cafeteria, a low hum like that of a Monk in meditation, was reverberated throughout the area. Everyone stopped and listened. It was the starting of an engine, and the shift of the ship, jolted everyone from their places. They’ll became resettled into place again. Those in a trans like state, continued on as if nothing had just happened.

Oh no…. Where are we going? Where is Uri? I hope he–

“Nakiebra!”….

To be continued…

 

 

 

Glossary

All the words used in this story are from the Swahili language. The names of characters have African origins and meanings as well.

Nakiebra– a bright child

Aniweta– brought by a spirit

Chinue– God protects

Sizwe– nation; guided from within

Uri– my light

simama– stop

vaa nguo– go get dressed

mlima– mountain

zamani nchi– long ago land

mwezi– moon

nyuso za fedha– silver-faced

kuume sasa– right now

kaka na dada– siblings (brothers and sisters)

wasafiri– the travelers

 

**Special thanks to Manzel Bowman for the use of his artwork. Be sure to follow his social media account and support in any way possible!**

 

 

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