Grave Matter

Grave Matter

 

By Patrick Ngugi

Hackson Mukora didn’t think it funny although a crooked grin spread across his face as if he was enjoying the macabre joke that was sending his fellow inmates to stitches.

“Is it true that you actually ate men’s testicles and women’s nipples?” asked the short one with bulging forehead and eyes, who everyone called Big Eyes.

Mukora only smiled further and looked away as the rest of the cellmates stared at him, eager to hear his story.

The fat louse on the wall was struggling to crawl up the wall, which seemed an uphill task. It seemed to have overfed itself with the blood of the inmates at Central Nairobi jail. Hackson took off his akala slipper and swatted it, smearing the blood from the insect on the wall.

‘Motherfucker’, he said under his breath as he stared underneath the slipper. A symmetrical dark patch, similar to the one now on the wall appeared on the slipper, and many others spread around the dark wall, where he and his fellow inmates had swatted the louses and bedbugs. The pattern of the smudged insects on the wall was a perfect wall paper.

“Hey Acky… don’t pretend that you have not heard. Is it true that you ate guys’ livers, pricks and butts?” Big Eyes asked.

“Leave me alone Big Eyes… I am tired. You can think what you want to think… Hackson said and turned over as if to study the blood stained wall.

It seemed a long time ago… he thought as he remembered the events that literally led him to seek refuge in this jail. Serving life imprisonment for murdering his wife.

He smiled wryly. Yes… he would rather be in here, serving life, than out there… being haunted and scared to death by his wife’s ghost and other departed spirits.

He closed his eyes and tried to doze away the evening heat that seemed to seep through the cell door and stagnate thickly inside the dingy dungeon.

Yes, it seemed as if it was a long time ago and yet these events that seemed to have faded into the mists of time had only happened a few months ago after he accidentally murdered Mercy – his wife. May the Lord have mercy on her soul.

Hackson and Mercy – a nurse at Jomo National Hospital had been a happy couple until she discovered Hackson’s queer, demonic and sickly behavior.

Hackson had been employed at the same hospital as a morgue attendant and she had all of a sudden noticed that her husband was in possession of a lot of cash and she couldn’t understand how, since he never had a private business nor had he been given a raise at work.

When she tried to find out from him, she was only met with a stern “mind-your-own-business” look.

She never bothered again until word started spreading at work that some morgue attendants were selling body parts from corpses they were supposed to be taking care of before burial. National TV stations even carried investigative feature about this and witch-hunt started at the hospital. Some nurses even started avoiding Mercy and giving her a funny look.

Could it be possible that her husband was one of the people involved in this racket? She could not bear it anymore – with the suspicion and suspense all mingled in one heap, Mercy confronted her husband who flatly denied any knowledge or involvement in body parts sale business, adding that jealousy and vendetta at workplace was at play. People were against his good performance at work.

“And where are you getting all this extra money which you refuse to tell me about.  This could make people suspect that you are involved in these things,” Mercy had asked.

“Shut up woman! If clients pay me good commission for caring for their dead, well, am I to refuse?” he asked.

She didn’t have an answer for that, but she still wondered how come he had never gotten the so called commissions previously and only until recently. And the commissions were so good that that he was able to flood the house with fancy electronics and very recently a new car.

She decided to pray and hope for the best.

That week there was a reshuffle at the morgue with staff being moved around, some being sacked and others being arrested and charged with dismembering bodies and selling body parts – mainly heart, liver, kidneys, sexual organs and breasts.

Hackson was lucky as he was spared prosecution but he was transferred from the morgue to the County Government’s Cemetery, as a senior cemetery supervisor. Things at home cooled somewhat and though Hackson wasn’t excited working at the cemetery – the transfer and the fact that he was not arrested convinced Mercy that it was truly a case of jealousy, vendetta and intrigues at work that had seen her husband be moved from the morgue to the cemetery.

But soon, strange things started happening after Hackson had been at his new job for less than two months. He started coming home late, sometimes drunk, and when sober he would behave very strangely.

He would be panicky, or very protective of his briefcase – or whatever package he brought home. Mercy started getting worried.

What type of business was her husband involved in? How come whenever wanted her to touch his briefcase even to help him take it to the car, or bedroom?

Sometimes he would come with an expensive watch, or a necklace which he would give her as a surprise gift, but would not want to discuss how much he bought the items for or where.

One Saturday morning while he slept late, Mercy decided to borrow the car to go and buy cooking gas at the local petrol station. As she put the cylinder in the boot, he saw a strange carton which she hadn’t seen before.

She got curious and examined it. It was about one foot high and two feet wide, and was held together by a brown cello tape.

Curiosity got better of her. She would slit the tape open and tape it back after she had seen the contents. She went to the glove apartment and picked a pair of scissors.

Back in the bedroom upstairs, Hackson stirred awake, sat up at the edge of his bed, stretched and stood up to go to the loo, dressed only in his under pants. As he passed the window he looked outside and saw his wife cutting the tape that held together the special cargo in the car’s boot.

He suddenly forgot that he had the urge to use the toilet and quickly took his robe to cover his almost naked body and quickly ran downstairs.

Mercy finished cutting the tape and opened the carton. Inside were two polythene bags. She took one and opened it. She could not believe what she saw. The bag contained a half decomposed human heart and liver. Her heart was now thumping against her chest and her hands were equally shaking.

“What are you doing Mercy?” Hackson’s voice shocked her. She almost screamed as she first chocked at the same time felt nauseated. She felt like she would vomit.

“I said… what are you doing here?” repeated Hackson, his eyes with a murderous look and arms trembling with rage.

“Hackson… what are these? Tell me, Hackson… what are these? So it was true all this time?” Mercy managed to whimper as tears rolled down her cheeks.

She surged forward screaming at him. He had to shut her up or the neighbours would get curious. Mercy started hitting him as she screamed.

In order to shut her up, Hackson threw her down and losing balance, her head hit the curbstone. As she writhed in pain he sat on her and held her throat with her hands and tightened the grip in a mad rage, in order to force her to shut up. He didn’t know then that he was actually killing his wife.

She stopped struggling and lay still. He stood up and shut the boot of the car and left Mercy lying there. He would handle her later. Thank God the kids had gone visiting their grandmother.

He went to the loo to finish his business and took a shower. As he dressed up after the shower he realized that he hadn’t heard the sounds of his wife in the house. Had she regained consciousness and fled? He wondered. He walked downstairs to check on her.

“Mercy!” he called. Silence met him. “Hi darling… where are you?” he shouted. Still no answer.

He was surprised to find Mercy still lying on the same spot he had left her and in the same position. This time however, she had foam in her mouth and her eyes were open, staring at him. His heart missed a beat then started to race. He was in panic.

He jumped over her and knelt beside the lifeless body. “Mercy! Darling! Please don’t die on me,” he said, half crying.

There was no response. He held her hand for pulse. Nothing. He placed her ear on her breast to listen to the heartbeat. Gosh. He was in panic.

Half carrying her and half dragging her, he took her body back to the house and placed it on the sofa. He stood there glaring at the body, his mouth going dry, his mind blank, his hands and legs shaking. He went upstairs and got a sheet and covered the body.

Then he went to the drinks cabinet and got himself double tot of whisky and took it neat. He had to think, and think hard.

An hour later after thinking hard enough, he decided that he had no alternative but dispose of the body. No – he would not surrender to police and say it was an accident. They would not believe him and they would want to find out what they were arguing about.

Yes, he would get rid of the body and say that Mercy had left for shags to collect the children. Then he would report her missing and that would be the end of the story. So how would he get rid of the body? That would not simple.

At the cemetery there was a freshly dug grave which currently had no occupant, since the previous one had been exhumed by Hackson to sell the expensive clothes and jewelry. Then the corpse was sold to his special clients who used other body parts in their profession.

That empty grave would be perfect to hide Mercy’s body as no one would suspect it could be there. And since he worked at the cemetery, he could go there at any time even after it had been closed for business. After getting this solution, Hackson locked the house, took the car and went to deliver the fleshy cargo in the boot, coming back later in the evening with good cash and more orders for heart, liver and tits.

At about 8am he took his wife’s corpse to the bathroom and placed it in the tub. Then, without flinching, he chopped off both breasts, tore the abdomen apart and removed the heart and the liver, placed them in a black paper bag and put the bag in the bathroom cupboard.

Then he went to the car and came back with a body bag and struggled to pack Mercy’s body into the body bag. He then dragged the bag outside and put it in the car’s boot, locked it and went back to the bathroom and cleaned the tub and the floor thoroughly.

He then went back to the living room to take more whisky and watch the 9 o’clock news. No amount of whisky made him drunk… It just steeled his nerves.

At 11 pm he locked the house, got into the car and drove to the cemetery. It was pitch dark when he arrived. He could hear the chirping of the crickets, the croaks of the frogs and the twinkling stars seemed to witness in horror the macabre deeds he was about to commit.

He drove the car into the graveyard and stopped at the empty grave. He got out of the car, looked around. Eerie silence greeted him. He dimmed the car’s flashlights and took a flashlight. He opened the boot and pulled out and dropped the body bag with a muffled thud. He grunted as he dragged the body to the grave. Once there, he left for the shed about a few metres away, opened it and came out with a shovel.

Fifteen minutes later he had covered the grave, and returned the shovel.

He was back to his house by 1 am, took more whisky and forced himself to sleep. All is well, he told himself as the whisky gave him total blackout.

**

The next morning he woke up at about 10 am. It was Sunday and as usual his wife would be preparing his breakfast then leave for church as he lazed about the house. He could hear her singing and humming as she went around the house. He could also smell the aroma of frying eggs. Suddenly he was hungry, and wanted breakfast immediately.

“Mercy! Mercy!” he called. But she wouldn’t answer. Instead, she continued humming and singing as the eggs sizzled on and the aroma became unbearable sweet.

“Bitch!” he cursed as he got out of the bed. “I have to go to the kitchen and get it from there,” he said.

“Mercy!” he shouted as he walked there. She kept on singing but would not answer. This agitated him.

But he was surprised – actually shocked – when he got to the kitchen. There was nobody. The gas cooker was also cold with nothing on it.

“What?” he wondered aloud. “Am I going crazy? I thought she was here… “Mercy!” Silence.

He couldn’t understand what was happening. Then he heard the car door bang. He walked to the kitchen window. Yes, there she was, opening the boot of the car. Gosh, what was she up to? I have to stop her, he thought. He walked outside still in his underpants to where the car was parked.

There was no Mercy – and the boot of the car wasn’t open. He looked around desperately. He was getting insane. But where is she?

Then he realized that he was half naked and quickly ran back to the house, his fat pot belly jumping up and down. Whatever was happening, he would figure it out. He decided to take a shower, dress up and then things could be clear.

He took his robe and went to the bathroom. At the cupboard he saw a black polythene paper bag. What is this, he asked curiously. He took the bag and opened it. Gosh – these are not supposed to be here… They were supposed to be in the car; not in the house.

Gosh, why are they here? And whose are they?

Then flashbacks started invading his mind. He remembered how he hit his wife. How she died and how he dismembered her body parts, and how he buried her the previous night.

“No – no – no! It can’t be true… “he said shaking his head. “But I saw her this morning in the kitchen and… and… no!”

He ran to the kitchen… there was nobody. Everything was quiet.

“God! I killed Mercy!” he said as it dawned on him again. He walked to the whisky cabinet and poured himself more.

Then when his nerves cooled off, he drank more, and got another blackout. He woke up at 5 pm, to find his wife seated next to him. She looked angry and at the same time ghostly. When he blinked she was gone.

No- he had to make sure he wasn’t going nuts. He got out of the house and rushed to the car. Got in and drove off as a bat out of hell, towards the cemetery. It was late Sunday afternoon so the cemetery was empty of visitors.

He drove to the shed and got the shovel and started digging. He had to make sure Mercy’s body was still buried in that grave. He had to convince himself that she was dead and wasn’t hallucinating. He dug and dug and dug until… with sweat drenching his body and the night falling fast, he realized that the body wasn’t there. It had been stolen!

Then he saw them as he got out of the grave. Mercy and Moffat Kihere. The original owner of the grave before Hackson had used it to bury his wife.

“No… you are ghosts… go away… you are not real,” Hackson told them.

“Ho hohoho… yes we are ghosts… Won’t you leave us in peace even after death? Why do you exhume us?” Moffat asked in a hollow sorrowful voice.

“How could you do this even to me… your wife?” Mercy asked.

“But you are dead… get off me,” Hackson said as the two ghosts walked towards him.

“We are the living dead. You must pay for your sins. We have to get you…” they said in unison as the kept on walking – no hovering towards him.

He screamed, the ran to the car and drove off. But as he did, he saw them comfortably sitting in the back seats. He did not know how this happened but he found himself driving into the Central Police Station and running to the OB desk screaming and demanding protection.

The policemen at the counter could not see the ghosts he was talking about and wondered why he begged to be locked up while screaming about the ghosts who were after him.

Later on, he confessed to killing his wife and chopping off her body parts as he had done with other dead people and the morgue and the cemetery.

When the magistrate sentenced him to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife he felt relieved and happy that he would be at a safer place inside the prison walls.

It was while serving his jail that word got around that he had been selling body parts at the mortuary and graveyard, that his inmates started asking funny questions about having eaten those body parts. He didn’t think it funny although a crooked grin spread across his face as if he was enjoying the macabre joke that was sending his fellow inmates to stitches.

The End

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