The Guardian Demon

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Take me to your Leaders

Several people clad in expensive suits sit along a conference table, laughing and talking loudly, the governor loudest of all. He sits next to Anil Gujarati, the most prominent businessman in the city. Everyone else there is as important as he is, from government officials he sees on the daily to very reclusive tycoons whose names he has heard from various sources but had never had the chance to see in person in his ten-year tenure. One might think that they have gathered there to plan on how to fix the city’s growing problems but alas those have never been important enough to affect men as distinguished as them.

He had not been invited to this meeting. He had overheard one of the government officials talk about it on the phone and followed him there and since they didn’t seem to mind that he was there it meant that even they didn’t know who would be invited. He had only been to one of these meetings before. It was about a year ago when he had been invited by the man or is it the King himself to strike the deal he assumed everyone in the room had taken, or maybe even more people had taken since there might have been others like him who aren’t invited to these meetings. There had only been two people then, the King and the official he had eavesdropped on and it had been a five-minute affair. The King never even sat down, he had walked in and bellowed the large sum and asked if they had a deal. The sum was quite something, triple his government salary, he saw no reason to object, as far as he could see the King was paying him to do his job for him. The King left after they had shaken hands, he didn’t even sign a contract or anything and the first payment had come in immediately making him wonder how they had gotten his bank details, but after the official had explained what was expected of him, he understood just what he had sold. He hadn’t relegated his job to someone else, he had abdicated all his power. Not officially, but from that point on the King could do whatever he saw fit, not that he wasn’t doing it before but now he would notify the governor if their interests clashed so he could move out the way. He was also put under the protection of the King but he didn’t see that as much since he could achieve the same thing with a bunch of armed guards or so he thought. Money is great but it’s worthless when it doesn’t give you power, and power was what he had come to reclaim.

“So, do you know who he is underneath that mask?” He asks Anil.

“Stop asking questions that will get you killed,” he says and then leans in and whispers, “this room might be bugged, tread carefully.”

He almost doesn’t believe what he is hearing. The richest man in the city cowering to a criminal. But he’s not sure if he is the richest man, the King does wear a golden mask.

“Come on, you can’t be that afraid of him. People like us are the ones who give him power, without us, he is nothing,” he says loudly enough that others in the room hear but they pretend not to. Cowards, he thinks.

Anil starts chuckling, “Actually- “

A door opens behind them and golden rays of light shine through it. The whole room falls silent.

The man with the lion’s head walks in and goes to the head of the table.

“Thank you for coming on short notice,” he says as he sits down not even taking note of who is missing or who is crashing.

“It’s not like we had anything else to do,” Julius says, grabbing the bull by its horns.

“What do you mean by that?” The King’s voice rumbles.

“It means, we are no longer consulted in any decisions made anymore, for example, why did you burn down the market?”

“I had my reasons,” he says coldly as if even that answer was a benevolent gift to someone who deserves less.

“You had your reasons? I am the governor. You could have at least notified me.”

Julius notices the tension in the room. The other men avoid looking at him or the King, whatever he is doing, he is alone.

“Notified you? So that you’d do what? I hope you remember what I pay you for.”

“Had they paid their fees?” Anil steps in trying to de-escalate the situation.

“They had, but they had started to become stubborn, all in the name of that Guardian Demon,” the King says introducing the subject he had wanted to address.

“But it put out the fire,” Anil says.

“And as the result of your mistake we lost all that revenue,” Julius blurts, spoiling Anil’s efforts.

The King faces Julius. He reels and sits upright as if pushed by his glance.

“Has your stipend been delayed or reduced?”

He tries to answer but his tongue forgets how to speak.

“Then what are you complaining about?”

Julius struggles against the instincts that try to convince him to shut up until he is finally able to say…

“You tried to do something and you failed, that looks like a mistake to me.”

The King looks at him for several seconds and then averts his gaze elsewhere.

“I set a trap and it caught my prey. The fire wasn’t an attempt at killing it, it was a test. A test to see the limits and nature of its power.”

“What did you find?” One of the reclusive tycoons asks.

“Its greatest strength is its peculiar ability to know where people are without even seeing them. We were looking right at each other, but before either of us could make a move it jolted to go save a child. With all the ash and dust in the way, how did it even find her in the first place and later escape just when the other people were about to get to its location? Taking into account the noise that was in the air due to the screaming and collapsing structures, there is no human way it could have known where she was. We have to assume that we can’t surprise it, regardless of how it actually perceives people’s presence.”

“That thing is a demon, it can probably see everything,” says another businessman at the table who seems quite interested in the topic.

“Right? I don’t know why you even bother, just admit you have met your match,” Julius spews.

“That thing is human,” the King says ignoring his comment.

“Human?” The superstitious businessman wonders.

“I had a conversation with it.”.

“Oh, really? What did you talk about?”

The King makes a sound that they can’t really make out, but if thunder could laugh that’s what it would sound like.

“We just exchanged pleasantries,” he then says.

“About its strengths, what about its invisibility and wind and those other abilities,” someone else asks.

“Yes, those are also quite troublesome but that’s where it’s weakness comes in.”

“Which is?” the tycoon asks.

“It is alone.”

“How much of a weakness could that be. It seems to be doing fine on its own,” Julius blurts. Anil nudges him with his elbow. Julius gives him a condescending look.

“Gods have angels, the Devil has its demons, I have an army of criminals but this thing is alone. It took a second to put out a raging fire but a couple of minutes to save one little girl? If we were to plan an attack on this thing our biggest advantage would be our numbers. It can fight, yes, but kidole kimoja hakivunji chawa (Swahili proverb, one finger cannot kill a flea).”

“Is that why you called us here?” another impossibly rich man who had been silent the whole time asks.

“Yes, I need some things: cars, guns, ammo that sort of thing.”

“Whatever it is you are planning, are you sure it will work?” Another silent observer pipes up. ‘This must be the inner circle’, Julius thinks, ‘they are the ones who know who the King is. I’ll just approach them after the meeting and see what I can dig up from them.’

“It has attacked my people several times yet here we are, unscathed and still very much in control. For us, nothing has changed. Under all that spooky stuff that thing is just one person. We only need one bullet to hit its head, one panga to hit some vital organ, one person to see his real face and we win. I don’t know about you but those are odds I’m willing to bet on.”

The King looks across the table to the fat man at the end who is in police uniform.

“Have you heard that Mr Head of police?”

“Right away sir, just tell me when.”

Julius had seen him more times than he could remember. Who could’ve known that the head of the police of the entire country was on a gang leader’s payroll? He had been very lively before but two years ago he had suddenly gone docile. To see this once brave man who met abuse of office accusations with an arrogant smile grovel at the feet of a criminal was disgusting. Something had to be done about this ‘King’.

“Why don’t you take off that thing, it must get stuffy under there, the weather is so humid today. Or don’t you trust those of us who are here with your identity?” Julius says, directly addressing the King thus removing any chance of him ignoring.

The King looks at Julius for a while and then decides to answer his question.

“My identity isn’t the issue, privilege is. If you knew who I was under this mask and you met me in the street you would salute me, you would offer me a ride to get out of the scorching sun, you would assign some bodyguards to make sure no harm comes to me. Over time what happens, I never walk in the shoes of the commoners so I don’t understand their struggles, they speak to me with measured tongues so they never speak their minds, they see me as some destined leader, a fantastical being, regarding me as infallible, so I never grow. I become selfish, egoistic and entitled. I become just like you, Mr Governor. This mask gives me power but none of the privileges that come with it, thus the person underneath never forgets his mission. This mask doesn’t protect me.”

He points at a window.

“It protects them.”

Julius looks around to see if anyone else bought what he just said but none of them even look in his direction.

“Then I guess this meeting is over,” one of the recluses says.

“It is, just make sure you supply what I need and I take care of our demon infestation.”

They start walking out. Julius gets up to follow them. He hasn’t done much but at least he has shown these cowards that the King can be stood up to, so now if they cooperate, they really could have a chance at regaining control of the city.

“Mr Julius, a moment.”

God’s voice couldn’t call his name more ominously on judgement day. He stops and faces the King. The others walk past him avoiding his eyes. Anil glances at him piteously for a moment before rushing past. Cowards, he thinks again.

“Put your hand on the table,” the King says, orders is more accurate.

Julius scoffs. He expected a speech about mutual respect or to be given a chance to explain why he was acting the way he was, not more unexplained orders.

“No,” his stomach flips when he says it.

The King produces a gun from underneath the table. Julius realizes that it was probably there the whole time. He looks to the side at the open door.

“You’re not fast enough,” the King says, “besides… “the two guards standing outside the door reach for its handles and close it.

“What are you going to do? Kill me? I am a public figure; people aren’t going to just forget me you know. I-”

BANG!

Julius sees the smoking gun aimed at him but he doesn’t feel anything. Was that a warning shot? Heh. The King is all air, he can’t even shoo- A sharp jolt of pain shoots up his right leg like a bolt of lightning, his leg then becomes weak and collapses underneath him taking him down with it. He touches his thigh and brings his hand to his face. Blood.

“Do you remember why the head of police had abuse of office charges against him?” he hears a voice disguised as thunder ask. He looks up and sees a brilliant gold lion’s head.

“Do you want me to repeat myself?”

His thoughts stumble over each other and he says quite calmly, “he had… one of his daughter’s boyfriends followed,” and then goes back to being confused about how that could be his blood.

“Is that really what happened?” The King asks and starts walking closer.

That’s what the media had reported.

“No, no, he… he had him tortured,” Julius says and starts breathing heavily. Reality has started to set in.

“And?”

He looks up again and sees the mask right next to his face. He looks through its glassy eyes and he can make out the dark iris of the eyes of the man inside.

“... castrated”

“Do you know what I did to him?”

Julius’ eyes flit over the golden mask and something in his mind clicks into place like the missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle.

“You see, I’m not a gangster. I’m not a guy who just kills people for stupid reasons such as someone is encroaching on my turf or someone disrespected me. You don’t get as far as I have serving only yourself.”

The King stands up from his squatting position and leans on the table behind him.

“Did you know the previous King? Of course, you did. Anyone who was anyone knew he was the King. You probably cosied up to him, were on his payroll as you are on mine. I’m not here for the power or the money, I am here to right your wrongs, I am here to right the wrongs of all those members of the board, powerful people who could have made this world a much better place but only used their power to enrich themselves, forgetting that they are also part of the community they neglect, that they put themselves above. I am here to right the wrongs of the people who made it possible for me to exist. I am society’s conscience. I am the priest of justice. I am your irresponsibility come back to haunt you.”

The King touches Julius’ head and angles it to look at him.

“So, tell me, Julius, apart from me what other skeletons do you have in your closet?”

Skeletons? He had more than just skeletons. He had ghosts, he had fresh corpses, he had malnutritioned children. Most of those were from neglect but that wouldn’t matter to this monster. He thought he was a powerful man pulling at the strings of a puppet world but he was just another criminal in the city whose noose was woven out of his own sins, as was everyone else on the board, and he finally understood due to the gravity of his own sins just how tight his noose had been this whole time.

“You will receive what’s coming for you but how soon depends on how much use I have for you.”

The King lets go of his face.

“Put your hand on the table.”

The man who had driven through campaigns in a range rover, the man who wore shoes worth twenty thousand shillings, the man who would never rise to his name without due titles being mentioned, drags himself on the ground, his Italian suit painting the floor with his own blood and places his right hand, palm down, on the table.

The King walks over and places the gun’s muzzle on top of it. Then he pulls the trigger.

Julius screams and rolls around on the floor clutching his hand. The king looks on waiting for the pig to finish its mudbath.

“You will call a press conference and say that the demon attacked you, you already have the wounds so it should be easy to make it convincing,” the King says and then knocks on the door.

“And unless you’re invited by my contacts, never come to these meetings ever again.”

The guards enter and drag the bleeding man away.


“In other news, the governor of Nairobi county was allegedly attacked by the Guardian Demon, he reported that the demon attacked him in his car as he was being driven home, his car was damaged extensively during the attack,” The demon barged my car from the side almost turning the car over, while we still in motion, then it entered through the window and punched me several times and then used those green things to stab me in the hand, I could show you the hole if you want…”

The radio in the dirt continues blaring the news report while its silver ornaments reflect the amber ambience of dusk. A man lies unconscious next to it face down with a green quill sticking out of his back. There are another two men a meter away, lying on top of each other, one his leg in an unnatural position, the other, his arm swollen at the elbow. The breadcrumbs of carnage end at the feet of a young man in a hoodie. The runes on his face, watch, necklace and scarf are ablaze. The man he stands over crawls backwards in fear.

He grabs the scared man by the shirt and lifts him to an upright position. He punches him in the gut and then punches him twice in the side of the head sending him to the floor with the second blow. When he is on the floor, his face bloody, he starts begging.

“I can take you to him!”

He usually doesn’t listen to the scared ramblings of these petty people but there’s one ‘him’ that he had been wanting to see for a while now.

“Who?”

“The King. The story on the radio, I know it’s a lie. He told us he did that just to mess with you.”

*Someone’s getting cocky.

“What about this, tell me where he is and will knock you out before I break both your arms.”

“14 Riverside drive, Grosvener building, along Mombasa road.”

A green glow traces a gorilla around the demon’s body.

Thud.

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