July 2018

Aisha put away the letter and looked at her phone to see that it was 10:00 am. Almost time to leave. She folded a light jacket over her arm, picked up her back-pack and stepped out of her room. She walked down the corridor towards the front of the house. She stopped suddenly. The living room door was slightly ajar and she looked inside. Baba was there, still in dressing gown and woolly hat.

He sat at the edge of the sofa, much too close to the fireplace. He had covered his clothes, the chair, and the floor around him in bread crumbs from his breakfast and he was watching yet another unfolding drama on tv.

“I’m leaving now, Baba.” Aisha said. Her father did not take his eyes off the screen. He half-raised an arm in acknowledgement or perhaps he was asking her to be silent, she was not sure which, and he did not say a word. She shut the living room door quietly and walked out into the warm sunny morning. Ten minutes later she was taking her seat aboard the super high-speed Mshale train bound for Nairobi.

“Hamjambo mabibi na mabwana. Tunawakiribisha kwa hili gari la moshi la mshale kutoka Addis Ababa hadi Nairobi…” The purser made the announcement as the train pulled out of the station and Aisha had listened to the detailed safety information taking careful note of the location of the emergency exits. Now that they were underway she was able to relax and think of the journey ahead. They were travelling on a uniquely Kenyan train, the modern SGR, modelled on the famous Japanese Shinkansen bullet train. The Mshale travelled across the country at a staggering 300kmh cutting the journey time from Aisha’s rural county to a comfortable three hours.

Aisha fished out the the letter from the film company and read it once again. She had read it more than a dozen times since the morning Baba had brought it home from the post office and each time it had made her feel even more excited.

Dear Aisha,

Following our recent interview we wish to confirm that the company is delighted to appoint you as Director for our upcoming made for TV film, The River Between.

We would be grateful for your attendance at the confirmation meeting at three-thirty pm on Monday 23rd July 2018 where other members of the production team will be introduced. I look forward to seeing you there.

Joanna K
City Cinema Productions

Aisha still could not believe her luck. This was definitely the happiest moment of her life. She had not spoken about her work in cinema to anyone at home after Baba called her a lazy drop-out when she announced that she had quit the pharmacology course at university, nearly two years ago.

The thing was Aisha’s father had a very clear road-map of the careers that all his children would follow: Shimon, the first born was a certified accountant and lately a director at the Inland Revenue Authority. The eldest girl, Adele had studied dentistry and was now a senior orthodontist at the Raila National Hospital. Baba had once said that Aisha was a confused individual, just like their late mother. Baba had also said that television and film work was for hippies, drug users and homosexuals even as he continued to enjoy watching Kenyan and Nollywood drama night after night. Aisha noted, without much surprise, how her father watched and enjoyed films that she had worked on as a junior script writer or assistant director. He obviously didn’t read the credits. The silent train picked up speed and she nodded off to sleep with a smile on her face.

The Mshale train continued to make steady progress devouring the vast distances between the counties. The driver, Captain Jackson Ishani was making his last trip of the day. Apart from his beloved city of Addis, this was the part of the journey that he loved the most. It was a clear run to Nairobi, covering some of the most beautiful landscape in East Africa. They had just raced past the foothills of Mt Kenya, whose majestic peaks were shrouded in heavy cloud. Captain Ishani would spend the night in Nairobi and travel back home to Addis as a passenger the following morning.

Now the Captain slowed the train on the approach to a level crossing in a small town, nestled under the mountain. The barriers went up and traffic on both sides of the line queued as cars stopped to let the train go past. At the front of the queue on the north side were two identical motor cycles. The riders were both dressed in black leathers and their black helmets had their visors down.

When the train gathered speed again, Aisha woke up briefly. Looking out of her window she saw a pair of motorcyclists speeding off into the distance. Once again the train slowed down as it entered a densely populated part of this county. Aisha noticed that there were several rail stations within close proximity of each other and the train had to stop at each of them.

A half hour went by and they were coming to the end of the densely populated section of the county. The train picked up speed again and was soon cruising at over 250kmh. Aisha was fast asleep and because the train driver was looking at a herd of elephant in the landscape to his right, he did not catch a glimpse of the gleaming chrome from the two motorcycles of earlier. They sped off to the left arriving at the Makutano bridge more than ten minutes before the train.

Makutano bridge is the highest railway bridge in the country carrying the railway line for a mile between the banks of the swirling Magabi river 100 metres below. Ten minutes was ample time for the motorcycle men in black to set up their explosives charges and detonators all along the bridge. They then unfurled a long black banner with Arabic script and lashed it to the side of the bridge so that the train pasengers would see it as they went past. The cowardly terrorists then retreated to a safe distance to lie in wait for the Nairobi bound high speed Mshale train.

This post is dedicated
to the brave men and women
of the Kenya Defence Forces
who put their lives on the line every day
in the service of their country.
We will never forget you
and your amazing and selfless courage.