I’m a sick man. My liver hurts. Maybe it’s my kidneys. I’m not really sure. I’ll be dead soon. We’re all dying here. The whole city is dying.
We are stardust. We are stardust. We are star … dust.
I miss my garden. I need to get back to my garden. This is no longer the city I used to love. The stench of death is all around us. It hangs in the air like diseased molecules. Mass graves are being dug in the outskirts of the city, the radio said.
Every night, I stand on my balcony and watch my curfewed city, its lights shimmering very faintly, but still, they shimmer in the distance. I stare mindlessly at desolate streets of my neighborhood. Even the dogs have abandoned us.
Three hundred and twenty-three days.
That’s how long we’ve been in lockdown. I have to hide from the drones. They fly very close to the buildings. I hide behind the plants to get a better look. I’m afraid of their large unblinking lights that spy on us. Sometimes they speak to us. Go back inside, they say. Their robotic voices sound … demonic.
On the radio, they said all the roads to the city are closed. No one is allowed to leave or enter and that we’ll be running out of water and food soon. At 7pm every night, police men with helmets made of glass roam the streets. They beat up anyone they find on the street. Even people on their balconies are not safe from their weapons. Just last night, they shot a teenage girl who was standing on her family’s balcony. They said the girl was filming them on her cellphone.
That’s illegal, they said.
I think my neighbours are dead. I peer into their windows but all I can see is darkness. They used to throw the most amazing parties in their apartment, which I used to watch from my balcony. Music and laughter wafting from their apartment. They seemed happy. They were happy. I haven’t seen them for weeks now.
I dream about them some nights. In one of the dreams they stand on their balcony, naked. They sing some kind of lullaby about being stardust. How did the song go? In another dream, they decide to escape together by jumping off their eighth floor balcony, hand in hand. My eyes follow them. I watch their bodies hit the ground and disintegrate right before my eyes.
People in my building are starting to leave the bodies of their loved ones on the street for the state to bury. It all started a week ago. A body wrapped in white sheet was left on the side walk, in the sun. An hour later, I watched four men in red hazmat suits come and take it in a body bag. Since then, more and more bodies have been lovely placed on the street like…like an offering: two, sometimes three a day. One of them had a single, wilting rose on top of it.
I haven’t taken my pills in four weeks. I get dizzy when I don’t take my pills. I’m a sick man. My liver hurts. Or maybe it’s my kidneys. I’m not sure. I’m dizzy. Sometimes I make myself dizzy because I love seeing the lights of the city like this. Like stars shimmering in some distant galaxy far, far away from this diseased city.
We are stardust … We are stardust … We are …
Hassan Ghedi Santur, a writer and journalist, was born in Somalia and immigrated to Canada when he was 14 just before the outbreak of civil war in his country. He worked as a radio producer for CBC, was contributing editor for Warscapes magazine and managing editor for Bright magazine. His recent novel Youth of God (Mawenzi House, 2019) tells the story of a sensitive and conflicted Somali-Canadian teenager. Santur currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya.
Hassan Ghedi Santur's flash fiction "Stardust" was originally published on Warscapes Magazine as part of their ongoing Corona Notebooks Project.