The Doomsday Cult
By Evans Kinyua (Kenya)
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Twenty five years I have lived here. That is a quarter century, by the
abacus. I know nothing about those electronic calculators the new comers
talk about. Sure I have seen them used in offices in our institution.
But in my time outside they did not exist. They are detestable. Abaci
are much more real. The calculators perform cyber math and virtual
They have condemned us as mad. But I know better. It is just another
play in a plot within a plot. The mad ones are out there. Only not just
mad. Demented. Twisted. They preen and wear suits, granted, but their
minds are infected, roiling with a million wriggling worms. I know who’s
That’s why I thank God for these walls. Fifteen feet of vertical
concrete, topped with shards of broken glass and an electric wire for a
belt. To keep out the doomsday cult. Out there lays the great loony bin.
I keep telling my friends that we need to add another layer to the wall.
Build it higher. They can scale fifteen feet. Or use ropes and ladders.
Then cut the wire when there is a power black out and invade us. They
are crafty, those madmen. And mad women.
I escaped twenty five years ago, and I have never regretted. In here we
have enough food, water, security and order. We are also issued with
clothes; nice blue apparel not unlike what the Chinese and other far
eastern peasants like to wear. Everything in here is scheduled like
clockwork. Scheduled and predictable. Out there is anarchy and death.
I feel them getting closer, hemming us in. The cars on Thika road have
increased a hundred fold, rushing them to and from their evil missions.
They hoot and scream, screech and curse. It’s getting louder, and we are
worried. The smell of insanity is thick and cloying. You can almost
taste it in the air.
“We should think of an escape plan,” Moses Mwangi keeps warning us. I
like Moses. He knows what’s coming and is not afraid to say so. An
engineer who recently escaped from outside, he tells us that the madness
is getting worse out there.” Any time now they are going to attain
critical mass.” Moses says.
The television and radio in block 6 reveal everything we need to know.
We see them foam and froth at the mouth, spittle flying in every
direction, ranting atop every mound, hill and mountain. Like little
towers of Babel scattered all around the country. They hyperventilate at
interment ceremonies meant for solemn introspection and moaning the dear
departed without shame and remorse. They love to take advantage of any
little gathering, its purpose unimportant, to hypnotize the people into
“We must build bunkers,” Moses advices, the urgency evident in his
troubled face.” It will not be long before they break in here, swarming
all over us and infecting us with their ailments. The majority are
manically depressed. Lots of others are paranoid-schizoid.”
“The vital signs are all there to see. They speak in tongues, in
languages impossible to comprehend. The doomsday cult says one thing and
does the opposite. They are evolving a completely new language. Mainly it
comprises of oxymoron and platitudes. Repeated often enough the people
“Take for instance, their cult prayer.’ Oh God of all creation, Bless
our land and nation’. When it was composed many years ago, the
prayer meant well. Long ago before the sickness afflicted the land. In
the following sentence the old people used to pray for justice. The cult
still does, but they slaughter and maim in wanton glee. Thy have held the
whole country hostage, and justice is bought and sold at the cult
shrine.” Moses says as the rest of us ogle at this colorful but
accurate description of the cult.
“It is true,” Joshua Ndetei concurs. “I am told that people are simply
disappearing without trace. The priests of the shrine are said to be
“If you challenge the activities of the cult, or you unsubscribe from
membership and threaten to disclose their intimate secrets, they get
very angry. They mete out injustice, contrary to the cult prayer, which
asks for ‘justice to be our shield and defender.’ That is how the
Our supervisors, the ones who wear white coats, are the only ones
allowed outside the walls. I know they don’t like going out, but I hear
their families are imprisoned outside and they have to go and visit
them. But they always come back. I wouldn’t relish being outside
It is from one of the supervisors, Moses says, that he found out that
last year, thousands of people were killed as then high priests of the
cult sang ‘may we dwell in unity, peace and liberty’. They told the
people that the prayer was meant only for the cult members, and those
who were not of the cult had to be removed from existence for peace and
liberty to prevail. The people believed them. The cult priests had cast
spells on them. Apparently our supervisor claims to be a doctor, a
psychiatrist, can you imagine, and he says that he treated many of the
victims for post traumatic stress.
“You don’t know the half of it,” Ndetei interrupts.” After the killing,
the priests sold all the food, leaving the people with nothing to eat.
The people asked why, since the cult prayer promises plenty to be found
in the shrine. Being faithful followers of the cult, they expected to
have plenty to eat, instead of feeding on wild berries. But the priests
said that what was available was too little. The people later found out
that the priest in charge of silos had sold much of the food stocks to
his friends for resale at exorbitant prices to already impoverished people. When the people started dying the priests panicked and
begged neighbors to help and declared a national emergency.”
I had an appointment with the supervisor that morning, so I left Moses
regaling the audience with his tales. I found a queue of people waiting
to see him. They were new comers fleeing from outside. I waited
patiently, watching them loiter around with pointless purpose, the way
newcomers from outside always did. One of them was pretty violent, but
he was subdued by the supervisor’s assistants, the ones who wear green
uniform. I was perturbed by the violence, another indication of the
escalating madness outside. Recently we were witnessing more and more of
these violent ones running for shelter in our haven.
My turn to see the supervisor came and I went in. I liked the
supervisor. Although he pretended to be a doctor, he was a good chap and
chatting with him was pleasant.
“Dr Nelson Kioni, it’s good to see you. How are you?” he said, shaking
my hand. His name was Peter Kinyanjui, but like I said, he
pretended to be a doctor. His assistants believed him, for they referred
to him by that title. We were not fooled. Everyone knows I am the real
doctor. Perhaps the outside malady had infected him.
“I am okay,” I answer, sitting down on the hard wooden bench which was
screwed onto the floor, God knows why. “How about you?”
“I am good. How are you feeling today?”
“I just told you. Why do you repeat yourself?” Sometimes Kinyanjui
sounded like he suffered from Alzheimer’s. He has definitely caught
something from outside.
“Are you still having those visions?” he asks.
“What visions? It is not a vision. During our last conversation I
described to you the reality of what is going on. And it is getting
worse. Don’t you listen to the television and radio?”
“I do. It’s pretty bad.”
“Then you know that I am not hallucinating. In fact you should know
better. You are the one with the courage to venture outside. Is it true
that things are getting worse?”
“I was car jacked last night. At gun point. Bundled into the boot of my
car where I sweated it out for five hours,” Kinyanjui tells me.
“You see. Do you need any more evidence that the outside is
disintegrating? Why do you persist in going outside anyway?”
“My family is out there.”
“Bring them in here. It’s safer for them.”
It will be even safer after we build the bunkers but I couldn’t tell him
that. You cannot trust a man who fraternized with the enemy. He could
disclose our secret.
I felt sorry for Kinyanjui. If he couldn’t appreciate the danger, with
all the evidence, still insisting on mingling with the sick, he was
surely sick himself. He needed to see a psychiatrist. But all the
psychiatrists were out there, sick too. I am the only psychiatrist left.
I wanted to help him.
“Kinyanjui, I think you have an obsessive compulsive condition. That’s
why you keep courting danger and can’t make up your mind about staying
in here. The way you keep repeating yourself is also a sure symptom of
anxiety and depression. Here, give me that prescription pad.”
He hands me the prescription pad and I prescribe Zoloft and valium. I
sign it, tear off the page and pass it back to him.” You can purchase
those from any chemist.”
Kinyanjui thanks me and scribbles something in a file. “That’s all for
today,” he says. “I will see you next week.”
“Don’t forget to buy your medicine,” I remind him as I leave.” But don’t
join the cult, even if they entice you with money.”
When I get back to block 6 I find Moses still holding court to an even
“The splinter sect was unhappy with the chief priest, whom they accused
of stealing paraphernalia for their pagan, magical and psychic work. So
they engaged the services of a medium, which reconciled them and convinced
them to share their spell casting kits. Now they are sharing the
amulets, charms and voodoo potions to jointly hypnotize the people and
cast their spells,” Moses was saying.
“The chief priest was allowed to keep his seat of power, and a new post
of Prime priest was created. The two were to share available positions
among their staunchest followers, and the two opposing sides were
expected to ensure that neither monopolizes shrine resources and power.
But that was never to be. Instead it became a competition to see which
team acquires the most charms.”
“Haifa,” his audience says in unison, enthralled in rapt attention,
looking hypnotized themselves.
“It’s a jungle out there. Everybody is under hypnosis by the cult
priests. They are terrified of the sane ones like us. We could fight
back, but we don’t have money to buy weapons. They control all the
money. In any case we are too few. So we can only cower and hide.”
Our lunch is served and we eat quietly, each contemplating the difficult
circumstances. I am thinking that we should recruit more sane people and
mount a revolution. A non-violent revolution like that skinny Indian
chap with an unpronounceable name.
The chief priest is on television. He is in a foul mood, he says. He is
flanked by the chief cult enforcer and his wife. His message is to
reiterate that she is his only wife in this land of polygamists. The
people don’t care either way. All they want is food but he doesn’t talk
Suddenly I get a terrific idea. We are going to start the revolution by
declaring Mathari an independent and sovereign state. And apply to the
United Nations for recognition. I think that the moderators sent by
foreign shrines will back our revolution. They are tired of their shoes
being splattered with the vomit of the cult priests after gorging on too
much of our food. They are also tired of the priests begging for
money, which the priests immediately steal.
It is amazing, though, that the money that the cult priests steal is
deposited in foreign shrines, yet the foreign priests do not ask that it
be frozen. There is a catch somewhere that I have not yet understood.
Maybe the whole world is in on the plot. That would make us a very small
“We need advice,” I tell Moses. From someone who understands the
language of the priests. Maybe we can infiltrate them and sabotage them
from within. Let’s talk to Mutongoria’” I suggest.
Mutongoria was the prefect in block 10. He used to be a cult priest,
although a junior one. He once represented a cult diocese. But he
unsubscribed from the cult and was now one of us. We went in search of
True to his priesthood, we found him holding forth with the
people of block 10. He could talk for hours, just like the cult priests.
We had warned him that we don’t speak cultese here and now he speaks
“Mutongoria, you understand how the cult works. You know they are
holding the whole country hostage and spreading the sickness of
despondence. We are tired of doing nothing. We must fight back.” I tell
“How do you intend to achieve that?” he asks, pulling his
trouser up in an exaggerated gesture of importance, remnants
of his days as a cult priest.
“We will infiltrate them. Make them work against each other. Sabotage
there activities,” I offer.
“Easier said than done. They have all the money to bribe the agents that
you send. They will also kill them if they are caught.” He says.
“The risk is ours to take. God forbid that our spies are caught, but
even so, they would be martyrs and casualties of war. The Nyayo torture
chambers at Nyayo House, that ugly yellow-orange edifice on Kenyatta
Avenue in the city may be closed after that most odious of chief priests
with the rungu (royal knobkerrie) charm was deposed. But the new cult priests have other
methods. They have magic to disappear people without a trace.”
Still, I am sure we can get volunteers. People are at the end of their
endurance. They reason that they have little to lose. To
lose a worthless and pitiful life for the greater good is an honor. They
figure that it is better to die on one’s feet that live on one’s knees.
The cult is outnumbered. In addition to the chief priest and the prime
priest, I estimate that there are about twenty high priests, one hundred
junior priests and about five hundred interns. Those form the core of
the doomsday cult. These few cult leaders are supported by the
hypnotized ones, who comprise of the various enforcer and the
administrative forces. I am aware that there are many sane people within
the structures, and they could be convinced to join our revolution. It
is not a totally hopeless and suicidal venture.
The doomsday cult goes a long way back. The black priests learnt the
trade from the whites, all the while lying to the people that they were
going to destroy the shrine and all the bric a brac associated with the
cult. Instead they took over and strengthened the potency of their
charms. Under the guise of saviors, the people never noticed that their
wealth and resources had been stolen until it was too late. They played
Robin Hood, only they did not redistribute the spoils to the people.
They kept the spoils for themselves.
The conversation in our little group gets more and more animated.
Moses’ voice has risen to dangerous decibels. Ndetei is raving about
the cult, spittle flying out of his mouth in copious quantities.
Everyone is talking at the same time. Mudibo disagrees with the whole
plan, arguing that it is better for us to remain comfortably ensconced
in our little safe haven. He has followers, and they are getting very
The assistants come running to break up the group, knowing that the
disagreement is about to degenerate into a full scale skirmish. It
happens often. They herd us into solitary rooms. Each room is bare,
except for a cot fastened firmly onto the floor. The walls are padded
with soft leather-like material to prevent us from
hurting ourselves. The topic of the doomsday cult gets people very
At my next appointment with Kinyanjui, he proudly tells me that I am now
cured, and that I can leave. He says that he has already signed my
discharge form. I tell him that I do not understand what he is
saying. Released and discharged from what? I live here, I remind him,
and I have no intention of going anywhere, least of all to the outside.
“You have to leave,” Kinyanjui says. “Our facilities are stretched and
we need to create room for others who require our help.”
“I am not leaving,” I reiterate.
“Come with me. Let me show you something,” Kinyanjui says, leading the
way out of his office towards the gate.
We arrive at the gate, and our security people open the gate for us
after Kinyanjui shows them the form that he is carrying. Traffic is
heavy on Thika Road just outside the gate. The noise is deafening, as
drivers hoot madly and touts call for passengers. Everyone looks sick
and self absorbed.
Suddenly the cult enforcers appear and harass the motorists to get out of the way. The warbles of their cars’ sirens are deafening and lights mounted on the roofs of the cars flash blindingly. They force the vehicles out of the road and into the ditches by the roadside. The sweet seller and the maize roaster are roughly bundled out of the way, even though they are not on the road. They are just trying to earn their meager living near the bus stop. I watch dumbfounded, wondering what it was all about. Shortly I get my answer. About thirty Mercedes Benz vehicles come from the direction of the city, traveling at break neck speed. The Chief Priest is on the way to somewhere, and the serfs have to get out of his way. He is sprawled on the comfortable leather seats, reveling in the air conditioned atmosphere, toying with his Ouija board and sipping a Pina Colada. The trusted crystal ball is next to him, in which thirty eight million little serfs writhe and coil, their faces contorted and sweaty with the effort of trying to get out. He is not worried about them. They are safely imprisoned inside the ball. He is much more worried about the Prime Priest, to whom he is conjoined in an unholy matrimony enforced by the medium last year. The Prime Priest is the only one with the ability to break out of the crystal ball. Then there are some cult priests bickering about sharing the spoils, as if they are not aware that the shrine is hallowed ground where you distribute spoils quietly in the dark, lest the multitudes get wind of it and cause unnecessary trouble.
On the other side of the road a man is being battered with stones. He is bloody and comatose. I think he is dead. It looks like mob injustice, from which I draw parallels with the cult injustice.
“See how nice it is to be free?” Kinyanjui says. “Come on, you are free. You can go.”
I glance at the sign near by the road, opposite the gate. It says Mathari Mental Hospital. I am confused by the arrow, which is pointing towards our safe haven. I think the sign writer made a mistake. I point out the mistake to Kinyanjui. The outside is worse than a mental asylum, I conclude. I tell him to take me back home.