06 February 2011

Chiukyulew by Abdul Adan

I have been told about the layers of the earth; the lithosphere, the upper mantle, the lower mantle and so on. As far as I knew, there was heat down there, unimaginably excessive heat, and masses of rocks with no spaces between them; the lower most part of which is molten lava. At no time had I thought that among those tight masses of rocks, would be a space, without opening, spherical, surrounded on all sides by rocks. It’s a space too small for scientists to notice and large enough to be an underground kingdom, stretching the entire length and breadth of Mombasa, and several miles under the ocean bed into the deep seas. It’s too deep down for our wells and drilling projects to get to and too high for the molten lava. I am not certain how far it is from the lava but it has to be far enough or else the walls of this space would have to be phenomenally protective. Even more phenomenal is how I had came to know about this space and its inhabitants thereof. It all happened on the evening of December 26th 2004. I remember every detail of the adventure we had with Hassan of Zubeida or HassanZuu as we call him and his religious cousin.

It was HassanZuu's cousin who suggested we go fishing in their boat that evening. He owned a fairly large motor boat, an expensive particularly nice one, the kind that people buy from Dubai these days. I remember my other friend Othis was sick that whole day and couldn’t join us. HassanZuu and his cousin prepared the boat and we started off. There was a strong wind blowing and the waves were rough, such that the boat swayed from side to side. All in all, we were into the deep seas in a half hour.

I didn't expect much out of the evening I must confess. I am generally not a big fan of fishing but I had to help HassanZuu's cousin with his fishing line any time he caught something. The first thing we caught was an eel; the second was a severed shark fin. The sun was slowly setting, and I stood at the back of the boat to watch it set beautifully behind the city. The wind ceased and the waves stabilised. A strange, menacing quietness came in its place. Nothing seemed to move. I unpacked our supper and began eating a plate of white rice and beef. Afterwards, I lit a cigarette and exhaled into the air, while HassanZuu's cousin began to perform the evening prayers.

I had just finished eating when there was a sudden shake of the boat. I held fast on to the handrails. There was a loud strange noise, and I looked up and saw the water separate at one point and two massive waves rose slowly into the air before joining up and coming back together with a gigantic crash. We were all thrown airborne along with the boat, and came down hard, first the boat, then us. An enormous wave sped towards us from the east and we clung onto the rails and prayed. I wished most earnestly at that moment that I had earlier prayed along with HassanZuu’s cousin. I felt as unfortunate as Noah’s son in the Koran. But again, if I recall accurately, it was at that moment of despair that I caught sight of a small figure in the water, his hands outstretched, making a strange owl-like noise. We were submerged along with the boat, but it rose upwards and we were on the surface again, by no effort of ours. We had clutched tightly and simply moved along with it. I called to my colleagues. HassanZuu’s cousin responded, he was holding onto the boat and just like myself, was gasping for air. HassanZuu was nowhere to be seen.

We called aloud together but still heard no response. We became very worried. HassanZuu’s cousin sank to his knees and prayed, and his prayers were answered because right then, HassanZuu climbed into the boat from the rear end. I ran to help him up onto the boat. By this time, his cousin had changed his supplications into a series of thanks to Allah. HassanZuu bent to vomit and kept choking, only raising his head to murmur “demon” over and over again. This was when I heard a soft thud sound behind me and HassanZuu who was looking the other way alerted me, “here he is, Khalid!” before leaping towards the “demon” that he saw. I turned round quickly and restrained HassanZuu, and then I took a good look at the fellow who has just joined us on the boat. It was the little fellow I had seen in the water earlier. Turns out he had had a little fight with HassanZuu in the water. I restrained HassanZuu with one arm and moved closer to the little fellow, observing each of his features in detail.

Lord! That was the strangest thing I had ever seen.

This man was about three feet tall. From my observation, he weighed less than half the weight of a dwarf of the same height. He had no hair at all on a vertically long head which was sharply tapered towards the top, such that it resembled a very steep hill with a long sharp edge. His nose was pointed downwards and very long too, vertically of course. His eyes were attached on both sides of the lean head. If you cut off his head, you could probably have used either side of it as a plate and it would gladly serve the purpose. His mouth resembled that of a fish. He wore no clothes, and his ears were also sharp and pointed upwards along the height of his head.

The guy was unlike anyone I have ever seen before. Everything about him was sharp and pointed, even his shoulders. He slid on the deck, from side to side, much like a fish when newly taken captive and then rested at one corner of the boat. As he was of a tiny stature and made peaceful gestures, we sat back without causing him any danger. He tried to speak but it was unintelligible. HassanZuu stood up to scare him into talking more clearly. The little man cowered in fright and suddenly leaped in the air, landing on HassanZuu's head paralysing him in an instant. By God! I have never witnessed such a spectacle. We thought we were going to lose HassanZuu. I genuinely anticipated worse things; something like a further breakdown of our colleague into alien food.

At this point, HassanZuu stood straight, like a soldier in a parade. The little fellow was attached tightly to his head, like a well trained baby high up on his father's shoulders. HassanZuu turned completely pale. I believe the alien had a stinger, exactly at the spot where one would expect a penis. This sting, as I assumed it was, he inserted somewhere behind HassanZuu's head. It's was at the sting point that the fellow clung tightest against HassanZuu's body.

The little man adjusted himself as if to penetrate deeper. This continued for two or three minutes during which neither I nor HassanZuu's cousin made a move. We were just too frightened. Then we heard what seemed like a groan from HassanZuu. Before long, he said some distorted words as though he were possessed and then finally gave a speech thus:

"My name is Chiukyulew and I am from the kingdom of Tukulu. I apologise about possessing your friend. It's my only option. I promise I will let him go as soon as I am done with him. I had thought I was dead and you were angels, until your colleague tried to kill me. At least I know angels don't kill people a second time in their afterlife. So my assumption is that by some mistake I am still alive. It seems to me I am on the feared surface of the top most earth layer. I have heard about you guys. One of our explorers discovered you several decades ago.

Allow me to explain to you about the Kingdom of Tukulu. You might have heard before that there are seven layers of the earth, just like there are seven heavens. We are on the second layer of the earth, the one right below you guys. Our world is not as big as yours up here. The lack of adequate sunlight has caused us enormous restrictions. We use to receive it through only two holes coming through to us from your side. With the advancement of our technology, now we have a lot more sunlight than we had but it's still far from satisfying our needs.

The main difference between our realm and yours is the gravity. Our gravity is very weak, about ten times weaker than yours. As a matter of fact, our gravity is more of upwards than downwards. We are protected from the upward pull of your earth by a special anti-gravity mineral found only on our layer known as Fofoyu. A thick layer of Fofoyu was built above our heads by our forefathers so that we don't fly off towards your earth and smash our heads. As you can see, my head is spiky and so are my shoulders. This is a result of your gravity, pulling us upwards for so long. We had an industrial revolution half a century ago and we built hundreds of factories in just decades. Consequently, our protective layer was eroded and we were exposed gradually to the harmful gravitational pull of your layer. Since everything is pulled upwards, we don't worry about objects falling from your level. Only once in a while, your bones which are the only element up here capable of disobeying the upward force, fall on us and kill our children. It happens when there's an earthquake at your level. Our heads are really soft as you can see. We are not at all gifted in physical strength. However, unlike you guys, we have no problem seeing in the dark.

We breathe in carbon dioxide, not oxygen like you guys. We don't like taking in anything that doesn't have carbon in it. It's part or our culture to keep pushing our limits of endurance. Those who take in the most concentrated of everything are praised for implementing the strength through endurance act recommended by our late king Pyunsufu. It was intended to make us stronger and attain the coveted physical stature of your kind. Please don't be surprised by our names. We are allowed to have as many syllables in a name as possible as long as the frequent vowel is the easy U. That way it's easy for everyone to articulate. Consider the shape of my mouth and imagine how hard it would be to pronounce other vowels. The vowel of A for example would have torn my mouth at the edges if I were not talking through this medium of your friend.

Like you guys, we have families, love, jealousy, desires, etc. There are also criminals in our kingdom and a very effective justice system. Unlike you guys, we don’t have prisons. We are extremely volatile people who are mentally and physically weak. Many of our people commit suicide over the most trivial things. All we have to do to kill ourselves is to drill a hole above our heads and fly through with the help of the gravity. Executions are done the same way. We don't have cemeteries, once a person flies off straight through the Fofoyu, he never comes back. So setting up prisons will mean losing dozens to suicide every day. As a result, we only prosecute very serious crimes. Once an individual is found guilty, he is sentenced to death and executed right there in the courtroom so that he won't have the pleasure of doing it himself. I was sentenced to death this morning when I was found selling contraband goods. The particular commodity that saw to my death sentence was your water. I am a smuggler of all sorts of stuff from the Top Earth. To be found with Top Earth water is a very serious crime because of its hydrogen content. And there are agents among you who work with us. They help us smuggle these things through occult means. Sometimes we meet them and even shake hands with them. But it all happens through special supernatural means perfectly controlled on both ends by skilled artists. One of your skilled men would connect with one of ours and it's through such means that we receive your goods. Otherwise, the only one of us to ever make it here physically was an explorer who was never seen by you guys because he wore an invisibility suit; and wrote a bestseller as soon as he got back.

Anyway, I should be dead right now. The Fofoyu directly above my head was opened in the courtroom this morning. I don't know how I found myself with you people. There's something in your atmosphere making me nauseous. Or it may be my upward journey through the water. Oh dear me, I feel faint..."

The little fellow released HassanZuu and gently slipped to the ground, limp and lifeless as a dead snake. HassanZuu stood still for a few seconds and fell forward beside his captor. We waited in horror as they both lay lifeless for minutes, but to our fortune, HassanZuu revived. The little fellow didn’t and we were convinced he was dead. In order not to attract unnecessary attention, we carried the little fellow, each of us holding a limb and tossed him back into the ocean whence he had come from.

“Let’s clean our hands of his stickiness, Khalid,” said HassanZuu’s cousin to me. We washed our hands in soap and sat on the deck, both of us panting, scared and full of disbelief. HassanZuu’s cousin brought out his prayer rug, took ablution and begun to pray. I joined him this time.

That evening as we sailed back, we were astounded to find the waves had flooded the houses by the beach, including that of HassanZuu’s cousin. I volunteered to accommodate them both. We stayed up late watching news, seeking the answers to our adventure, in case another member of Chiukyulew’s race had been seen elsewhere. No one mentioned him or his likes thereof, except that a Tsunami had killed thousands of people and several homes in the Far East.

“Wonders of the Almighty,” observed HassanZuu’s cousin, shaking his head at the TV screen.

“He is got me thinking,” I said.

“About what?” asked HassanZuu, visibly irritated.

“The mysteries of names and languages,” I said, “as a matter of fact, if I could open up further avenues of interaction between our two worlds, I would have done it. There’s so much we could learn from the likes of poor Chiuk....yuk...Chiu...Chiukyulew.”

“I just wonder how he made it here,” said HassanZuu. There was a large blister on the back of his head just above the hairline, which he scratched from time to time. He appeared weak and overwhelmed.

“Well, his execution must have coincided with the Tsunami, such that instead of smashing his head against our earth or his sky, he got sucked right through due to the pressure,” I explained later, as I applied coconut oil on HassanZuu’s blister which had grown into the size of a fist.

Chiukyulew was written by Abdul Adan.

Copyright © Abdul Adan 2011.

Abdul Adan is a Somali writer. His work has appeard in African-Writing, Kwani?, StoryTime, Jungle Jim, and Arab World Books. He lives in the US and is working on a collection of stories.


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