There Was Time

by Mwangi Ichung’wa

The clock is loud in the small room. It sounds like a stopwatch – tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik – an infernal countdown to who knows what. The people who were to come here are late. The people waiting to meet them are getting anxious. They are a man and a woman, both tall and thin. The woman is lighting her third cigarette in ten minutes as she tells the man, her hands waving about, that this may not have been the best idea. Tendrils of grey cigarette smoke, wispy things, float about.

Tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik

There is a knock on the door. The man and woman who are not a couple exchange a glance. The cigarette hangs loose from the left corner of her mouth. The smoke curls straight up into the ceiling. The people they were to meet are here. The man heads for the door. The woman can hear her heartbeat over the clock. The sounds are not in time with each other. One beats too fast, she cannot tell which. She crushes the cigarette in a wooden ashtray.

Tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik

The silence is heavy as the parties mull over a slight change in plan. There are now six people in the room. Three of them are smoking and no one has thought of opening a window. There has been a problem. One of the things the four new people in the room were to bring wasn’t available. The man and the woman cannot leave this place without it. The four people cannot leave without what the man and the woman have brought themselves. They also have guns.

Tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik

The clock is loud in the small room; counting down the time it takes for breath to escape the crumpled bodies on the dusty carpet. Butts smoulder in the wooden ashtray, the upward spiraling tendrils growing less dense as fire slowly dies. There is a low sound, like a cough, as the last soul exits its host. Outside the light changes as the sun sets, lighting the room a fiery orange. Stark shadows of what was are drawn across the surfaces and in the stillness, disrespectful and insolent, the clock goes tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik.


Mwangi Ichung’wa is a Kenyan writer of “transgressive” fiction. Currently writing for an ad agency to pay the bills.

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