“You’re listening to University of Zinyanga Radio and it’s just turning 3.30am. We’re bringing…”
Mamood’s hand rested on his phone and its radio-alarm faded out. He opened his eyes and spent a few seconds appreciating that he was alive, breathing and comfortable. He rolled out of his mattress and onto the floor and promptly pushed himself from the ground up to the length of his arms, supporting his legs with his toes. He took a deep breath and thought about his tasks.
Pick up a netbook from Ryu in town at 5am. Open the shop at 6. Head to the university at 9. Check back at the shop at 3pm, and…
Mamood exhaled while he plunged down, but without his chest or legs touching the ground, and pushed up again. He repeated 24 more push ups, then rested on his knees and prostrated. He could smell the cool cement of his floor.
He had no idea what would happen after 3pm today. Before he retired to sleep last night, he had received word from a high-level protocol based in Rysia. A new reporter was joining Morfeuse operations in north Zantinia. He had also been instructed to pick up a new netbook, and his connect was Ryu.
Mamood pushed himself up again and repeated another 25 push ups, quicker this time. Then he prostrated once more.
This meant that someone from Morfeuse was going to meet Mamood today. Where, he did not know for certain. It could be at the university where he worked as a part-time technician, or at the student barber shop he started 2 years ago, Young Cuts. Since Mamood also ran an undercover hub for Morfeuse in the Zinyanga region in north Zantinia, he knew the new reporter was being assigned to him. But not before a briefing in person from someone in the network. The problem was he had no idea who it was going to be and how they would meet him. He only suspected it might be at the university.
He got up and took two steps toward the only window in his room. He peered out into the university football field; it was peaceful and slightly foggy. He took several steps to the bathroom. When he got out of his bath and began sampling the day’s playlist from ZT Hip Hop, it was 4am.
It was 8:45am and Nikki Mbishi’s Kijusi was playing lightly in the background of the shop.
Mamood was restless. His hands were not able to keep up with his mind. He was occasionally catching himself on the verge of making a bad trim on his customer’s hair. He silently thanked God it was Dr. Borne, whose balding head had a semi-circle shaped hedge of hair outlining it. The trims were small, and the man was either meditating or in accurate sleep.
Adam, Mamood’s current student trainee, was cleaning up his barber stool a couple of meters away. Mamood eyed him with his peripherals while trying to clip the last few long hairs on Dr. Borne’s head, which bobbed gently up and down as the man breathed. Adam had been introduced to Morfeuse by Mamood just a few days ago after he had been supplying important news reports from his neighbourhood south of Zinyanga. Questions were running through Mamood’s mind.
Who was going to meet him? What would they ask for? Should he tell Adam?
Mamood felt prepared to meet Morfeuse. It had happened before and seldom had he screwed up. Today, he had collected the netbook from town earlier in the morning and had loaded it with Morfeuse software in Young Cuts’ back-office, where he ran a Bluetooth connection for sending and receiving data with Morfeuse’s datalog. He knew when Morfeuse was on to something. After years of being brought up by his father Rashid and observing his alter ego R1 grow in influence in the years before his death, Mamood had learned the intricacies of running a citizens news cartel…
Mamood’s thoughts were interrupted by a clang at the door. A middle aged man with black suit and a dark ragged beard who Mamood did not recognize walked in slowly, giving a short nod and smile at both Adam and Mamood. Mamood smiled back, and Adam motioned to his free barber seat.
“Good morning boss. I see this might be your first time at Young Cuts!” Adam said to the man warmly as he walked towards the barber seat. Adam was always courteous to new customers – more so than Mamood sometimes.
“Yes it is. I was just visiting a friend at the university and thought I would get a quick shave.”
“Sure, will that be a clean shave or a trim today sir?” Asked Adam. He was now reaching for a white sheet that he would drape the man with. The man had placed his phone on the counter by the mirror and was sitting back into the seat.
Mamood had listened carefully for the first few seconds – because he needed to make sure Adam kept his word on Morfeuse’s secrecy and also because he liked to understand new customers – but then was drawn to Dr. Borne, who had stirred out of his meditation-sleep and was blinking at Mamood through the mirror. Mamood quickly checked his phone to make sure the Bluetooth network had been turned off – he didn’t know whether Adam’s customer’s phone was picking up on any signals, so best to take them offline.
“How we doing, chap?” Grumbled Dr. Borne. “You know I have to teach a class at 9am,” as if blaming Mamood for taking his time.
“Just getting done now, sir. Get you out in 30 seconds.”
He cleaned up Dr. Borne’s head and face, applied some aftershave to the back of his neck, and pulled the white sheet off his body. Dr. Borne leaned towards the mirror and inspected his balding head.
“Nice cut there, Mamood.” Dr. Borne said in a low tone, while leaving a 1,000/= note on
the counter. Trims were only 600/= but Dr. Borne liked to tip Young Cuts. That always made Mamood think Dr. Borne was also Morfeuse.
“Thank you, Dr. Borne. See you next week eh?” Mamood offered a smile.
Dr. Borne chucked and shuffled towards the door. “If God wills my friends. Take care now!” And he left the shop. Cars were now running through the streets and students were trying to get to class. The bakery had a queue and the other stores were opening up. Inside the shop, the playlist had switched to Fid Q’s Ielewe Mitaa.
Mamood gathered his barber tools into his box on the counter, folded the white sheet and tossed it into the laundry basket at the back corner of the salon. He reached under the counter for his broom and began gathering the white hairs that had been cut of Dr. Borne’s head.
As he shovelled the hairs into a corner, he decided it wasn’t going to happen at Young Cuts. Morfeuse was likely to intercept him at the university. The studio where he picked up work orders for fixes across the university was near the IT department. He thought about everyone in the studio and who it would be. Nevertheless, he had to make sure Adam was cool with handling the shop until later in the afternoon, and he had to pack the netbook.
As he swept the last hairs, he realized he could not pack the netbook without going into the back-office at end of the salon. It was hidden behind a shelf-door that stocked dummy cosmetic products. He couldn’t open it in front of the customer because they didn’t know who he was.
It was 9:05am.
He motioned towards Adam who had proceeded to apply lather to the man’s neck.
“Will you be OK today until I get back?” Mamood asked Adam.
“Sure, you got everything?” Adam knew Mamood always took his backpack.
“Almost.” Mamood was telling Adam he needed to get into the back-office.
“Cool. Have fun!” Adam said excitedly, then to his customer: “Sir, I’m just going to recline your seat a little more so I can do this shave propa!”
As the customer’s field of vision was changed from the mirror to the ceiling, Mamood slipped into the back-office. He packed up the netbook, and swept into alley through Young Cut’s back door.
Just as he was closing it, Adam rushed into the back-office and yelled: “Wait! Mamood!”
Mamood froze and turned slowly to Adam, trying to listen to the words and not only watch his startled face which seemed to be moving in slow-motion.
“… he said he’s Morfeuse and he asked for you to come back. He’s made arrangements at the studio so you don’t need to go.”
What happens next? Stories invited!
Previous “Beyond the Global Eye” episodes: