The dark clouds and rain from the sea came down heavily during the night. The wind lifted the curtains a few times.
A few papers were blown off their pile and landed on the varnished floorboards.
A series of lightning flashes and thunder razed overhead for some time and then moved across the sprawling city suburbs.
The receding white flashes outlined structures and tree growth against the dark hills. The suburban lights were like fireflies in the storm.
Fireflies of the night
You cluster and suspend
yourselves under dark shade
Looking for warmth
in this cold July
Fireflies in the sky
You sparkle and suspend
yourselves above dark space
Looking for wisdom
in this cold night
Fireflies in the hills
You wave and suspend
yourself across dark shapes
Looking for comfort
In this cold city
The storm went away an hour after midnight. Wilhelm knew. He had checked the time. It was five past one.
The verandah was uninviting with the cool damp air as he stepped out. The remnants of the storm was now over the dark hills. His eyes and ears fixed on the far off flashes and rumblings.
He had his own storm that was raging inside of him. A storm that made him feel cold and paralysed with despair.
He came home around seven-thirty in the evening. He gave his signature honks as he approached the yard gate. Three quick honks on the steering wheel.
A routine to let the house know that he’s at the gate. Due to the reported increase in car-jacking around the city, he’d taken extra-precautions to minimise the risk and avoid being a victim himself.
As the electronic gate took its time to open, he scanned his immediate surroundings. All the car windows were electronically locked down. He glanced at the rear view mirrors and the overhead one. No sign of movements.
‘Bastard! This electronic gate needs an upgrade’, he thought, driving up the paved drive and parked under the high set house. A well-furnished suburban family house and a spacious yard. Enough space to have some shade trees and a hauswin.
The house rested on concrete post slabs. It has a master bedroom, two single unit bedrooms, toilet and shower with a standard bath-tub, a kitchen and dining table, a spacious living room with a personalised study area and entertainment section.
The house, the car, the luxury, the office, the social life, the important people - all perks and privileges of being a senior government employee.
The evening took its toll on him. The ensuing rain storm didn’t help either. For dinner, despite the scrumptious meal of coconut creamed rice, taro, aibika, bean and carrot with a steaming cup of soup, his appetite became sour. He ate a little and covered up the rest.
“I’ll put this in the oven for now,” he rose from the dining table, “will munch on it later in the night.” He lightly touched his wife on the shoulder and proceeded over to the kitchen.
“Okay then.” she muttered. “A good deal of time preparing this. I don’t want food going to waste.” She rose from her chair and moved over to him. He poured himself a glass of processed orange juice and turned facing her.
“You’ve been acting … a little off,” she looked at him enquiringly as he took in a mouthful from the glass cup. Billie, Is something wrong? Do you want to talk about it?” She touched his arm with the empty glass cup
“Nah! It’s just work. I’m just exhausted…”
“But you seem restless since you arrived this evening.” She cut in, her tone imploring. There was a slight pause and she noticed a tiny movement, a twitch from his left upper eye lid. He avoided her eyes but could see concern all over her face.
“Look,” he turned and put the cup into the kitchen sink, “there’s been a lot happening at work lately.” He clasped her shoulders and squeezed lightly. “I’ll brief you and the kids as soon as I’m ready to.”
“Okay then,” she gave a brief smile as he walked to his study, “and remember, no plate in the oven. You have to do what you have to do with that plate. I’ll get the dishes done in the morning. I’m tired. I’m off to bed now.”
He couldn't sleep. His mind was absorbed with what was yet to come. He pretended to do work in his study but spent the night staring at his computer monitor.
He left early for work before his wife aroused for the day, leaving behind a note on the kitchen table.
Got an important
at the office.
Love You Always
He left quietly as the morning sky cleared up.
The office was suffocating – even with the air conditioning, he felt hot. He glanced at his watch. The time 9:39 am. A few minutes more and a new chapter would begin for him. A new chapter to an old book.
He wanted to open the windows for some fresh air but couldn’t. It’s impossible on a high-rise office building with glass panes –the type you don’t open several metres up.
He breathed in and sighed heavily. He felt dejected and tired. He looked at his hands. They were shaking. He looked at his palms. They were drained of blood. He turned his hands around. His palms felt sweaty. It was then that he heard the knock on the door.
“Come in Diva!” He managed to call out.
The door knob turned and Diva entered. She had been his secretary for the last three years. She was young, voluptuous and sexy. The curves and bumps were there and quite ample in all the right places.
Diva knew that too and flaunted herself in the office. Despite all these; her sensual appeal, his position, their close proximity at work, there wasn’t the slightest shades of intimacy between them.
She confidently strode up to his desk and placed a folder in front of him.
“Your draft itinerary for the week, sir,” she began, her lips lusciously red, “Umn, I’ve only included the events and dates that we discussed last Friday.”
“Thank you, Diva.” He reached for the folder and scanned the content. “Okay, I’ll go through this again and let you know of any changes.” He closed the folder and looked at her.
“There might be one or two, depending ... ” He feigned an uncomfortable smile because somehow the room temperature suddenly felt different. He could feel a bead of sweat forming and running down his back.
“Is that all, sir.” Diva spoke up noticing a slight change in his composure. “Sir, are you alright? …
“I’m fine,” he said quickly.
“Do you need a glass of water or something, sir?” Her tone expressed concern.
“No, I’m good, thank you Diva,” he responded, “I’ll call for you after I look through the itinerary.”
“Okay then, sir.” And she left, gently closing the door behind her.
He picked up the folder, looked through and sighed; closing the folder and placing it back on his desk.
He toyed with the ring on his finger. The ring on his finger looked fake. He shook his head and sighed again. He felt alone.
Random thoughts flooded his head. He felt as if he was going on a merry-go-round. The what ifs and routes his life could have taken were like dark clouds hanging over him.
“Errhh!” He held his hands to his head and rocked back and forth a little.
What would happen to his family now? His reputation would be tarnished beyond repair.
He thought of his loving wife of more than thirty years.
He thought of his children; his own flesh and blood.
His beautiful daughter, an accounting major at university, was the school captain and dux of her graduating class at a top Catholic girls’ secondary school in the city.
She radiated an aura of healthy confidence and success. He knew she would achieve bigger things in life – I’ll be just like you papa. With my own office, my own house, my own car. You and mama will visit me when you grow old.
His beloved son worked as an agronomist in Lae. He had been top of his class at the Agriculture College. He and his wife travelled over to the province to attend his graduation. To celebrate his son’s achievement, they had a few drinks at the local country club.
It was the first and only time he had drank with his son – Dad, you are my role model. I couldn’t come this far without you. He could hear his son’s words in his head
How would his children come to terms and accept that their father had betrayed them and their trust in him. How would they come to terms with my betrayal of their trust?
I am only human
I fall sometimes
I pick up pieces
I am only human
I laugh tears of hurt
I cry tears of joy
I am only human
I make mistakes
I make up life
I am only human
I will trudge on
I will live on
How would his children come to terms and accept that their father had betrayed them and their trust in him.
He shifted in his chair. His hands worked his tie to allow himself air. It was a silk tie bought for him by his daughter for his birthday. The tie felt rough like the needles of a sea urchin and he managed to pull the damned thing apart.
He breathed in again. There was a rather swift and short relief as he breathed in but short lived. The crazy thoughts came again and with it every time rapid increase in his pulse.
He felt sick and nauseated. His hands were clammy. He felt stuck in a time capsule. He wanted to go back and erase the things that led to the anguish and living hell he was now in.
He felt a trail of sweat finding its way down his back. Despite the air-conditioning and spacious interior of his office, he felt hot.
He knew his wife will be furious for lying to her. He won't blame her. He had led a double life. She would lose everything that she had built her life on. She would never forgive him for ruining her life and the children's.
He tried to picture her being strong as she was his rock. A thought came to him to call her and tell her all about it. He cursed himself for not confiding in his wife last night. He saw her alone, her hair white, and he was not there beside her.
He reached up and quickly wiped away a hot tear that had rolled down his cheek from the very thoughts of his darling wife. He wanted to breakdown and beg the Almighty for mercy and plead for a miracle to happen, anything to escape his plight but he didn’t.
From his office window, he could see the fast approaching police vehicles. He felt as if an additional twenty years had suddenly been added to his now miserable existence. He counted four and closed his eyes but he could see the blue siren flashing and hear the blaring.
He was answerable for his action. His double life had caught up with him.
“Young man, I want you to take up the position,” his boss’ voice was firm and direct. “Besides, there’s no one in our division who’s matured, intelligent or skilled enough for this position.”
His boss’ eyes were on him. Observing him as they both took a swig of their beer. The ale was cool and reassuring.
“I don’t know boss,” he lowered his beer and shifted in his seat, “I only joined the division six months ago. There might be other, more capable candidates within...”
“You were highly recommended,” his boss cut in, “Our divisional performance appraisals put you above the rest. Like I said, you are highly recommended.” He then looked over to the bar.
“I’ll pick up some more beer for us while you mull over this, okay.” He rose and proceeded on to the bar and spent a few minutes flirting with the lady bartender.
When his boss returned to their table, he accepted the promotion. He had been promoted to a supervisorial role. A young government man in a dynamic and expanding government department in Port Moresby.
Just a year-plus out of university with an accounting degree and he’s already up for promotion.
“Young man, with your work attitude and sets of skills, I won’t be surprised if you become a department secretary in a few years’ time.” His boss went on, dragging on his cigarette and letting out a stream of spent nicotine through his nostrils.
Each took a sip from their beer and contemplated what the future holds now with these turn of events.
This is it! This’ll be a welcoming news for her. We’ll be able to afford a good family house somewhere in the suburbs. He thought of his new wife who was heavy with their first child.
“Young man … young man!” His boss’ firm voice distracted his thoughts.
“There’s something I’d like to share with you.” He took another drag from his cigarette, stubbed it out in the ash tray and then downed his beer.
The alcohol began to set in. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his right hand and took another cigarette out from the pack lying on the table.
“Young man, you’ll be promoted soon enough,” he continued, dangling the cigarette in his fingers, “be wary of the trappings of power and position … money, alcohol, women …
Most men errantly fall from these, destroying themselves and their organisations. Remember what I just told you, son … remember them.”
He felt numbness in his arms and a throbbing headache. Why could he not feel his hands? He suddenly felt a surge of heat flowing through his body and a shortness of breath. Small needle-like stabs of pain in his chest jolted him.
“Oh! Lord God! Argh!” he grimaced through clenched teeth.
He reclined on his chair and clasped the arm rest tightly while gasping for air.
The audit team were meticulous in their work. Their report and the police fraud investigators had recommended criminal proceedings because of a clear intention to defraud the state and divert public monies for personal use.
There was without doubt that Mr Wilhelm Baga had intentionally misappropriated and put into personal use K150 000 of development funds earmarked for rural health infrastructure projects.
The funds were managed by the Department of Infrastructure and Rural Development where Mr. Wilhelm Baga was the manager.
The stabbing pain was too much for him and he collapsed onto the carpeted floor. His bladder emptied as well. His nose picked up the stale carpe deodorizer. The stabbing pain came in quick succession and slowly strangled him.
He couldn’t breathe. He was losing consciousness. An unfamiliar darkness was threatening to envelope him.
He wanted to pick himself up but slumped again onto the carpet. He felt his own piss wet his trousers. Any other day, he would’ve felt childish and immature. But there was no time to think or feel.
The pain was all over him now. Argh! Aiya! God Papa! He grimaced more in pain and closed his eyes. The last memory reels of his wife and children flashed past before him and then ceased.
From way up on the foliage green
Dislodge now from its lofty plane
To freefall to its rest below
To make way, its dear life now ebbed
As it recline on its dirt bed
Free now from all worldly restraint
For darkness takes away all fret
Mr Wilhelm Baga, beloved husband and father, lay in a contorted foetal position on the carpeted office floor; alone, motionless and lifeless.
This is a work of fiction. The events, characters and dialogues are all figments of the writer's imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or people is purely coincidental