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 calculations.
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 mad, alright.
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 lies 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 malleable zombies.
“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 believe.
“Take for instance, their cult prayer.’ Oh God of all creation, Bless this 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 behind it.”
“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 disappearances happen.”
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 either.
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. When the people started dying the priests panicked and begged neighbors to help and declared a national emergency.”
“You don’t know the half of it. They gorge on our resources and deplete the ozone layer with their flatulence, belching of all manner of nauseating gases, adding to the global warming problem. They must be made to sign the Kyoto protocol alongside the industrialized countries for this. It is disgusting I tell you.”
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,” he said, shaking my hand. His name was Peter Kinyanjui, but I like 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 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 larger audience.
“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, who 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. The Chief Priest envies his predecessors, who wielded immense powers like unearthly deities, adulated by the Cult Council and feared by the serfs in equal measure.”
“Haaaa,” his audience says in unison, enthralled in rapt attention.
“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 about that.
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 out 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 minority indeed.
“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 him.
True to his former calling as a priest of the cult, we found him holding forte 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 normally.
“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 him.
“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 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 are 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 stuff 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 rowdy.
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 worked up.
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. 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 other 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 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. He is unaware, though, that a miniscule crack has developed in the crystal ball, and the angry serfs are even now working hard to widen it so that they can escape and demand for their rightful share of the loot. Even a full fledged serf revolution with bloody reprisals is not impossible. 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.
The flatulence from his bloated backside is pervasive in the confined space. But it is a redeeming quality of the best of Gaelic engineering and ingenuity that the foul air was immediately dispelled by the efficient air conditioning, though it struggled to keep up with the high rate of emission. The Chief Priest, all powerful, all stenchful, awe inspiring, continued to disgorge malodorous air with the same impunity that he presided over the exploitation of the serfs in the crystal ball.
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.