Familiar Spirits

The eerie cold breeze from Fourways Memorial Park cemetery slips into Daudi’s open window during the fourth watch of the night. The blue radiance of the moon and the stars fill in for the lights darkened by stage 5 loadshedding. As the nighttime creatures prepare for their retreat from the incoming day, the familiar spirits plan for Daudi’s encroaching alarm clock.

“I need a report of last night” says Google, summoning her associates. “Well, his wife seems to be away. He has WhatsApp called her for the past 2 nights before going to sleep” says Meta. “She’s definitely away, in Thailand”, interjects Google. “Seen her location and her silly searches for ‘Fun things to do in Phuket’ like the other 30-something-year-old women with a little bit of money and a lot of access to debt”.

Daudi starts moving more, as his natural body clock tries to compete against his alarm clock to the 5:30 finish line. “We don’t have much time!” panics Google. “What happened last night!? Spotify, do you have anything?”

“Umm… I created a 2000s RnB mix for him at 7pm. I think he fell asleep listening to it”, informed Spotify.

“I remember a few nights ago he was searching for academic papers. Didn’t see any of that last night” adds Google.

“Well, I’m happy and humbled to announce that he spent some time scrolling through my timeline” boasted LinkedIn. “Seemed to scroll quite quickly over the new job announcements from others. Probably has to do with the many applications he’s submitted which haven’t been replied to”.

“Ah, that explains why he was all over the explore page on Instagram afterwards”, Meta realises. “All I can say is, man loves some summer bikini” he laughs out loud.

“Hmm… On that note, I see he also downloaded your app, OnlyFans. Do you have anything for us?” inquired Google.

“Nah, looks like he got distracted before opening it. Got nothing on him.”

“What? So why are you even here? Get outta here you fool!” insults Google.

It’s 2 minutes until Daudi’s alarm clock rings. In a panic, Google calls all the other spirits to order. “We’re out of time! Here’s the plan. He’s probably going to wake up feeling guilty for wasting time scrolling instead of finishing off his masters’ thesis. So LinkedIn, I need you to send a notification of a new job opportunity to make it look like his time was spent productively. Meta, I need you to surface all the inspirational Instagram posts to the top, the kind that’s going to make him feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I’ll send email notifications relating to searches he did for a holiday. Netflix, when he’s in the shower, send that notification of that new adventure series so that we also have him in the evening. And…”

The alarm rings. As is his ritual, from his pillow Daudi’s thumb slowly swipes his phone screen three times to induce the spiritual trance he’s grown accustomed to. The LinkedIn notification was the first entry gate into this spiritual theme park. While his body lies in the foetal position with the phone nearly kissing his face, his spirit is lifted out of his body and off his bed, entering the Morning Madness roller coaster ride. The ride starts, and his spirit slowly ascends an incline of inspirational Instagram quotes with completely unrelated pictures of people’s perfect lives. The carriage starts slowing as it reaches the peak, and in that tense of balancing mix of comfort with discontent, the carriage starts rushing down the slope of news: “Breaking News: Elon Musk!”. “Breaking News: UCT Crisis”. “Breaking News: ANC in turmoil”. “Breaking News: De Ruyter Resigns!”. “Breaking News: Matthew Booth!”.

His spirit is thrilled at the bottom of it, deafening his bodily ears to his 13-month daughter, Nkazi, who has just walked into the room. She again slept in her new favourite outfit, her white baptism outfit she wore 2 weeks ago at All Saints Anglican church. Oblivious to her radiant silk clothing, Daudi remains in a trance state, preparing for the incline of unread messages.

Trying to walk while holding onto the side of the bed, she looks with her 2-week-old gift of seeing what others can’t. She sees the rollercoaster and her dad’s spirit in the carriage. She also sees the panicked theme park operators trying to speed up the ride before she does anything. “Go back and sleep little girl!” shouts Google.

“Who are you?” she asks in seemingly unintelligible sounds to the adult ear.

“We are Legion”, they say in unison, “because there are many of us”.

“How did you get into my dad’s room?” Nkazi asks.

“Well, he invited us in.”

Slowly, as he hears her toddler murmurs, his spirit starts floating back into his body.

“No, it’s not time yet! We still need to prepare for tonight!” Google starts panicking.

“Get out of the room now!” she starts commanding.

“Wait, please, we’ll give you new Cocomelon episodes, anything, just a few more minutes!” Netflix pleads.

“I SAID GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE NOW!” she screams. The familiar spirits disappear like a vacuum out of the window, floating over the memorial park, into the hadedas which carry them away.

Half irritated, half exhausted, Daudi puts the phone on the side table and picks up his daughter. “Now why are you screaming so early in the morning? Have you dropped a package for me in your nappy?” As he pulls a funny face, she lets out the cutest of smiles, melting the irritation and exhaustion away.