(Continued from Not Man Enough III)
Maxwell turns in the narrow bed and sighs deeply. The CS promised that he would be comfortable in prison, but can prison ever be comfortable? True, he has been given his own cell, which apparently has a toilet, but that is it. The food he was served last night was semi-cooked ugali with beans that may or may not have been stale. The food was served at 5.30 PM, and the guards brought Maxwell’s plateful to the cell so that he would not have to line up with other prisoners. But immediately he saw the food, his appetite disappeared. He had taken pilau with beef stew for lunch the previous day, which he had downed with a freshly made avocado smoothie. How was his stomach expected to climb down from that to the horrible prison food?
But it is now 2.30 AM, and Maxwell is wondering whether he should have forced the food down his throat. Pangs of hunger are attacking him in waves, and are making his cold situation worse. He has not eaten anything since yesterday lunch. Cops at Central Police gave him thin tea and three slices of bread this morning before he was taken to court, but can that count as a meal? Lunch time found him at the court cells, and he did not eat anything.
The bed he is sleeping on is very narrow, narrower than the metallic school beds he slept on for four years back in the day. He was not given any bedding other than a thin blanket and a mattress that is even thinner. Two nights ago he slept on a king size bed, which has a thick mattress that hardly feels his weight. Besides his soft bedsheets, he also had a thick, velvet duvet which ensures that he sleeps in absolute comfort and warmth when he is in his house. Maxwell cannot remember the last time he got a mosquito bite; but tonight they are feasting on his blood like hungry mongrels.
He sighs and turns again.
The worst part of this is that it will be his way of life from now onwards. It is not like those camps he attended as a youth. During his high school days, and also during his early campus days before he became SONU chairman, Maxwell used to attend a lot of Christian youth camps organized by his church. Sometimes they would be hosted in schools, but more often than not he and other campers would spread out thin mattresses on the floors of church halls. The cold was biting, but you always knew that the suffering would end in a week’s time. Besides, didn’t they say that suffering for the Lord is greater joy?
But this is real, it is permanent. He is going nowhere in a week, month or even year. This is his home now, so he had better get used to it. He tries to draw positives from it, but it is difficult to think positively when you are feeling cold inside and out. It is true Paul the Apostle was persecuted and jailed for the larger part of his life. But Paul’s imprisonment doesn’t make his (Maxwell’s) own conditions any better. Besides, Paul’s persecutors eventually killed him, so there was no earthly victory in the end, despite that early triumph where the jail doors opened for him and Silas. Man still died in prison. And Maxwell suspects that that is his fate as well.
He wonders how differently his life would have panned out if he had remained in the law firm. He would never have met Mwiti, so he would not be here in this lousy cell. He would by now be a partner in a law firm, minting millions in legal fees.
After getting admitted to the bar, Maxwell worked in the law firm that sponsored him through KSL for three years, rising within that period to become a senior associate. It was rumored that the partners of the firm were keeping a keen eye on him, and that he was poised to become the youngest partner in the firm. His star was rising, and it was not surprising. There has never been any doubt that Maxwell is bright. The ease with which he went through school, especially campus where he was juggling academics with leadership positions, speaks volumes. But the law firm hired only the very best, and so brains were not in short supply. What set Maxwell apart from the others is the passion, dedication and drive with which he carries out his duties. He was easily the best associate at the firm, even though he was at the time dealing with a messy divorce and learning the ropes of single fatherhood.
But he did not make it to partnership in the law firm. Shortly after he was promoted to senior associate, an NGO that deals with human rights activism came calling. The salary they were offering was lower than what he was getting at the law firm, but this is where his heart beat was. They knew it, and he knew it. He resigned from the law firm and joined the NGO as a legal officer. The Executive Director of the NGO was a man called Franklin Mwiti. Maxwell worked with Mwiti for three years before the latter quit the NGO to join politics. Maxwell managed to impress Mwiti enough for the latter to make him one of the three Program Directors in the NGO. Shortly thereafter Mwiti resigned to join politics, and managed to become a Senator.
In the last election, Mwiti was nominated by one of the leading presidential candidates to become his running mate. They won, but barely eight months into their term, the President suffered a heart attack and died. Mwiti thus became the new President. He reorganized his government after being sworn in, and one of the changes he made was to appoint Maxwell as a Principal Secretary.
Mwiti raised him from an ordinary civil society activist to a principal secretary. But that same man has taken everything from him and reduced him to this tiny bed, in a mosquito infested prison cell.
Maxwell sighs deeply. His father was right after all. He was never meant to amount to anything. He has never been a man.
When Dorothy gets up, she is disoriented. It takes a full minute for her to remember where she is. Not quite; where she was before her world went blank. She remembers walking out of the lift, and as she headed to her car, someone hit her and immediately darkness engulfed her. It is dark all around her, but as her eyes adjust, she is able to see through the darkness-semi darkness actually. The first thing she notices is that room she is in is reeking of alcohol. Then her mind registers the snores. At least two men are sleeping in the room, which she realises is a one room timber house. She has absolutely no idea where she could be.
She tries to rise, but pain shoots from her head to her neck and down to her spine. She relaxes a little and then slowly heaves herself into a sitting position. There is pain in her head, no doubt where she was hit, but she is otherwise okay. She slowly surveys the room. There are indeed two men in the room, and both of them are sound asleep. From the heavy smell of alcohol in the room it is obvious that they had been drinking before they fell asleep. If they are in a state of drunken sleep, then perhaps this is her chance to escape. Slowly, she rises to her feet. After a few minutes of pacing around in the room, she can feel her feet regaining their strength and the grogginess lifting. She walks to the door and realises that it is not locked. The door is being kept shut by a bended nail. How could the men have been so careless? Or did they think she would not regain her consciousness so soon?
Dorothy is about to step out when she realises that she might need a means of communication. She will also need shoes. She looks around the room and sees her handbag. Her phone must be in the bag, because that is where she had kept it. She takes it and spots her shoes, which she also takes and tiptoes out of the room. The door opens with a loud creek. Dorothy tenses, expecting the men to wake up. But they continue snoring loudly. She steps outside, and sees that there is full moonlight outside. That would explain why the room was not so dark. But the light is the only good news. It appears that the wooden cabin is in a clearing in the forest, which would explain why the men were so careless as to leave the door unlocked. There is nowhere for her to go.
But Dorothy is undeterred. She determines that dying at the hands of wild animals is better than dying at the hands of the monsters in the room. She puts on her shoes and follows a path that leads to the forest. It is such a tiny path that she wonders how she was brought here. It was certainly not with a vehicle. After walking for a few minutes, she realises that her shoes, the heels she had won to the office, will not do her any good in the forest, so she takes them off and walks barefoot. But there is another problem. She is not used to walking barefoot, so her feet instantly start paining from the pricking they get from sticks, thorns and whatever else is on the floor of a forest.
She has walked for quite a while-she can’t be sure about the time because she has realised that her phone has no charge-when she hears a deep roaring sound. The path has just led her to a dark patch of the forest, one of the many she has crossed tonight, where absolutely no moonlight is filtering through. The strategy she has developed in such places is to keep walking ahead and feel the path with her hands if need be, until she emerges into light again. The roar is followed by another. It has to be an animal and a large one at that; a lion perhaps? She is about to start walking again when rustling sound in the undergrowth next to the path stops her cold. What she sees nearly knocks her dead.
About fifty meters ahead of her, there are two pairs green eyes directed at her. There are not one but two animals staring at her. She freezes. She is in total darkness, deep in the forest, and therefore totally helpless. Dorothy suddenly wonders whether leaving captivity was a wise idea. At least her captors were human. The animal on the left growls, a deep guttural sound, and starts advancing towards her.
(This is the last free sub-chapter of this story. To find out what became of Maxwell and Dorothy, kindly follow the instructions below to purchase your copy of the novella)
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