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    Darkness fell fast. Clutching his rags against the cold, Meja walked back down the road the
    bus had come. The bus would not be travelling back to the city before morning, but that
    was not his problem. Without fare back, he had no choice but to start walking.
           It was a cloudless night. The sky was wide, and the stars were many. A light wind blew
    from the hills, a cold and dry wind, and there was no hiding from it. It was twelve miles of
    darkness back to the highway. From there he could head north into the unknown, or head
    south back to the slightly familiar; the city and all its trials.
           He had made a bad mistake thinking he could go home and pick up where he had left
    off. Now there was nothing to do but go as far away from home and from his past as he
    could.
           He walked through the night, and it was still dark when he reached the highway. He
    was tired and hungry, and sad and bitter. He found a hidden place in a ditch, lay down just
    out of reach of the freezing wind, and tried to sleep. It was not easy falling asleep. Down
    the road, where the road crossed a swampy river, the frogs were having a croaking party.
    Around him, the crickets chattered all night long.
           He woke up to the rumble of a heavy lorry heading to the city. It was still dark, and he
    was stiff from the cold. He dragged himself out of the ditch. His leg was stiff and, when he
    tried to stretch it, pain shot up through his entire body. He massaged it gently back to life,
    then did the same for the hand, slowly stretching the fingers one at a time until the cramps
    dissolved in a warm ache and he could use both limbs. Then he started walking.
           He had walked about a mile, when the next vehicle appeared, charging down the road
    at high speed. He braced himself, stepped out into the glare of the headlights and waved it
    down. The lorry sped past him, so fast he had to leap off the road to save his life. He
    walked for about an hour then sat down on the embankment to rest. Getting back to the
    city was not going to be easy. He was tempted to walk back home, to go face his shame
    and end the suffering. He thought a long time about it. Then he rose and continued
    walking, slowly at first but with greater determination with every succeeding step.
    He covered four miles more before again stopping to rest. The next three vehicles all did
    not stop. After resting for a while, he resumed walking. More lorries passed him, as the sun
    rose over the hills, and then came buses and cars. He let the buses go by, as he had no
    money for the ride, and he waved down the cars and the truck. He had almost given up,
    when a construction lorry stopped for him.
           “Where are you going?” the driver asked.
           “To the city.”
           “Thirty,” the driver held out his hand.
           “I have no money,” Meja said.
           “Then why do you stop me?”
           “I am going to look for a job.”
           The driver hesitated, looked him up and down.
           “How much do you have?”
           “Nothing.”
           The driver looked him up and down, shook his head.
           “I am not going all the way,” he said, “but I will take you as far as I go. Get in.”
           The front was full. Meja limped to the back of the truck. It was a high lorry. He hopped
    up, grabbed the top the top of the tailgate and started hauling himself upward using the
    good hand.
           “Ready?” the driver called out.
           Then the lorry lurched forward, dragging his lame foot on the ground. Meja cried out
    and let go of the tailgate. As he started to fall someone yelled, and a hand grabbed his
    arm from above, and hauled him on board.
           “Sit over here,” said the man who helped him aboard.
           They crawled under a tarpaulin to hide from the wind, and sat coughing and sneezing
    from the dust, as the lorry sped towards the city. They could not talk, even if they wanted
    to. The truck rattled and rocked and tossed them about under the tarpaulin as it swept
    round bends at high speed.
           After what seemed like an all day, the lorry jolted to a stop. They lingered under the
    tarpaulin. They heard the driver’s door open and shut. There was the sound of movement
    on gravel, then the driver banged on the side of the truck.
           “Step down,” he said. “You have arrived.”
           The lorry was inside a stone quarry, surrounded by mounds of rocks and gravel. The
    sides of the quarry were a hundred feet high and stretched for yards all round. The rock
    crusher was set against the rock face, on a structure made of wood and iron sheets. There
    were people all over the place, some ending their shift and others starting. Meja saw all
    that from the top of the lorry as he readied to jump down.
           “This is as far as we go,” his traveling companion called from the ground.
           Meja had been so awed by the place he had not seen the others disembark. He
    hopped down and stood next to the man who had saved him from a nasty fall.
           “The city is over that way,” the man said. “Come, I will show you a short.”
           It was still early; the sun was yet to reach inside the quarry and it was cold still. The
    man led him round the mounds of gravel, and along a path that went up the cliff and out of
    the quarry. They were panting when they came to the top. The city was visible in the
    distance, rising above mist and the smog. While they watched, the streetlights started
    going out one by one.
           “Follow this path,” said the man. “It will take you back to the main road to the city. You
    cannot get lost. Good luck with your search.”
           Meja hesitated. Now that he was back in the city, he did not know what to do, or where
    to begin looking of a job. The crippling fears that had assailed him the first time he came to
    the city were again upon him. The fear of the tall buildings, and of the heavy traffic, and of
    strangers and mobs in the streets.
           “Are you all right?” the man asked him.
           “Yes,” he said.
           “Go well then.”
           Meja made to start off, then stopped. He looked at the man, looked at the distant city,
    and hesitated.
           “Is there anything else I can do for you?” the man asked him.
           “No,” he said. “I am fine.”
           Summoning his last bit of courage, he started walking. He stopped after a few paces,
    thought for about it, and limped on. The man saw him walk slower and slower until he
    finally stopped. The man shook his head and walked back down in the quarry. Meja turned
    around, ready to admit to his fears and ask for help, but the man was gone.
           Gripped by panic, he ran back the way they had come. He rushed down the path at a
    dangerous pace. The man was halfway down the rock face, rushing to get back to his job.
    He heard gravel roll after him and span round startled. Then he saw who it was and waited.
           “I need a job,” Meja said to him.
           “Here?” the man asked. “In the quarry?”
           Then he saw the desperation on Meja’s face.
           “It is demanding work,” he said.
           “I can work hard,” Meja said.
           “Very hard work,” said the man.
           “I can do it,” said Meja.
           The man considered.
           “When I say hard, I mean very hard, impossibly challenging work.”
           “I can,” said Meja.
           The man saw the determination, shrugged, and started walking.
           Other workers were lining up at the site office to have their cards stamped. Big,
    boisterous men with muscular bodies. Meja and his newfound friend silently joined the line
    and waited. All around them, lorries came and left filling the air with dust and diesel smoke.
    The workers called out greetings, and foremen yelled at them to move faster. Then the
    crusher came to life with a thunderous roar that drowned all other sounds. The workers
    had to shout at one another.  >>> READ MORE
HM Books cover of Kill Me Quick by Meja Mwangi
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copyright 2008 by HM Entertainment Inc.
KILL ME QUICK

REVIEWS
Meja Mwangi's first novel,
Kill Me Quick
, was written
in 1973.
 This novel displays
Mwangi’s talent for writing
lively stories depicting rural
youth and societal problems
in Kenya. It narrates the
experiences of Meja and
Maina, two youths who have
come to the city with the
hope of bettering their lives,
confident that their high
school diplomas will lead to
success. However, they are
unable to compete for jobs
in the city and, ultimately,
they resort to petty theft
and crime, and being
exploited by employers.
Vivian Yenika-Agbaw, in her
article ‘Half Education Is
Madness!’: Mwangi’s
Teenage Characters Battle
Poverty in a Post colonial
African City,' states that the
novel shows the failure of
the educational curriculum in
post colonial Africa. She
writes that it is 'a typical
story of a dream deferred
because each pays the price
of daring to hope for a
better life' (15). Kill Me Quick
was also made into a stage
play.
Kill Me Quick
Book Code:   KMQ