A NIGHT RUNNER AMIDST US?

This is a story that happened some few years back, when I was in class
seven about five years ago, and I know you will find it really
interesting.
I attended a boarding school that happens to be located deep in the
heart of Western Province. It is in one of those far off places where
one will have to take several vehicles and a bodaboda to get to the
school from the nearest town, Bungoma. As you travel to the school,
you will notice that in that area, police still use stones as
roadblocks. Yes, that is how remote the area is. The school was
bordered by dense sugarcane plantations on all sides. Such an
environment can really get spooky especially at night, and it
sometimes did.
Talks about imaginary night runners who ruled the place at night were
often told among the pupils, but none of us had actually seen a night
runner on the act. Most of us who had come from urban towns dismissed
such stories as pure myths. Attempts by students from that area to
convince us that such nocturnal human beings actually existed usually
proved futile. Little did we know that our opinion about ghosts, night
runners and wizards was about to change very soon.
One night, at around three in the morning when everyone was sleeping
like a baby, the irritating happened. A loud, harsh, grating sound was
heard coming from the iron roof that provided us shelter. It was
evident that someone had thrown a bucketful or so of gravel on the
iron sheets. Since our dormitory did not have a ceiling, the sound was
loud enough to jerk all of us from sleep. If you doubt that a
bucketful of gravel thrown on iron roofing can be that annoying, then
try it at home and wait for the good spanking that your dad will give
you afterwards.
We all cursed the person who was responsible for that, and our house
prefect, Sikuku, swore vehemently that whoever was responsible for the
act would face the music the following day. To strengthen his threat,
he took a roll call to find out if there was any student absent from
the house at that time. Surprisingly, all of us were in the house
apart from my bedmate, Walter, who had gone home on a sick leave a
week ago.
That morning, most of us found it difficult to concentrate in class
because we were heavy with sleep as a result of the 3am incident. So
come evening, we were all looking forward to experiencing a peaceful
night without any interruptions. In fact, peace for the night was what
Sikuku prayed for during the evening prayers.
What a rude shock it was for us when the same happened just as the
clock struck midnight! The pandemonium that followed in the house as
guys tried to catch the guy who had done the injustice was deafening!
We looked for the culprit everywhere, to no avail. We finally gave up
the hunt and slowly, one by one, we all went back to slumber land.
What is worse than being rudely woken up at midnight by the sound of
gravel coming to contact with your roof? Being woken up again at 3am
by the same sound from your roof! That is exactly what happened. Of
course you don’t expect any of us to be excited by such a galling
incident, but to say that Sikuku was furious would be an
understatement. The guy was literally breathing fire.
 “Whoever you are, I will make sure you regret the day you were
admitted to this school!” He shouted the following day during the
house assembly. “Utakiona cha mtema kuni!” He went on with the
ranting.
Trying to scare the person behind the incident with threats proved
absolutely futile as the same happened the following night too. This
was very infuriating especially to the candidates who needed a
goodnight’s sleep so as to revise efficiently for their KCPE. It was
when the incident occurred one more time that rumour started spreading
that Omulosi, a night runner that was said to be living nearby, was
visiting the school at night. At that point, none of us doubted that
night runners really existed, and only the bravest among us would get
out of bed when the incident occurred the following day.
  Finally, Sikuku had had enough of this madness. He decided to report
the matter to Mr. Mukhebi, our house master. However, Mr. Mukhebi
could hear none of our theories that a night runner was visiting the
school at night, and he insisted that the person responsible for the
act had to be one of the pupils. He asked Sikuku to put together a
team of boys that would be keeping vigil at turns so as to catch the
felon pants down.
For the next few days, we were able to enjoy our sleep as the gravel
incident did not happen for about a week. No sooner had we started
dispelling our fear for night runners than history began to repeat
itself. It seemed that the crook responsible for this was as stubborn
as a mule, and trying to stop him was akin to drawing blood from a
stone. Sikuku again reported the matter to Mr. Mukhebi, who promised
to get to the root of the issue and bring the culprit, night runner or
student, to book.
 One night, at around 10pm when most of the students were sound
asleep, I heard a noise coming from Walter’s bed. This stirred me from
sleep, and though it was dark, I could tell that someone was trying to
get onto Walter’s bed, which was next to mine. I was alarmed since my
friend Walter was yet to report back from his sick leave. So I walked
to Walter’s bed and shook the person, only to realize that it was Mr.
Mukhebi! I was flabbergasted! What was Mr. Mukhebi doing in Walter’s
bed? “Ssssh! Keep quiet!” He whispered. “Am here to find out who has
been throwing those stones on the roof. Now, quietly go back to sleep
and don’t tell anyone that I am here”
I meekly obeyed the teacher, but I was too excited to go to sleep. So,
I decided that I will keep vigil together with Mr. Mukhebi, so I can
witness the grand netting of ‘night runner’.
The ticking seconds gave way to minutes, and the minutes finally gave
birth to hours. Not a soul stirred. I nearly fell asleep, but I
decided to stay awake a little bit longer. Finally, patience paid at
exactly 3am. A short stocky person came into the dorm from the
ablution, and I watched as he made his way to a box where he removed a
can. The guy stealthily made his way to the window next to Walter’s
bed, and he opened it without making as much a sound as a creak.
Sneakily, he steeped on the base of the window and holding on to the
clutch; he heaved his stout body up until he was standing on the base
of the window with both feet. I watched with baited breath as he
prepared to empty the contents of his can onto the roof.
Poor him! No sooner had he stretched his hand than Mr. Mukhebi sprung
from Walter’s bed and pounced on him like a lion attacking a gazelle.
After a short scuffle, the stout person finally threw in the towel and
stopped resisting. The scuffle had awoken a few boys who slept nearby,
and we were all staring at the fracas from our beds. Like a bolt from
the blue, someone switched on the light and we were all astonished at
what we saw. In fact, I had to pinch myself just to make sure that I
wasn’t dreaming. There at the window, held captive in Mr. Mukhebi’s
hands, was Sikuku, our house prefect!!

jowaljones

Jowal Jones is a columnist and correspondent with Kenya's leading newspaper, Daily Nation. He also dabbles in fiction works at times, hoping to be the next Stephen King. Sometimes he takes time out from writing to perfect his deer-dancing and goat-screaming skills.