By Mame Diene
He paddled his boat through the thousand fingers of the Broken Nose.
Hundreds of islands of steel and glass skeletons, sprinkled among clusters of huts around sickly baobabs, perched to the very edge of their islets basking in the never-ending glow of the Caliphate’s protective dome. There was no east, no north and no south, no sky in either direction but west, where the layers of high-altitude dust filtered the stars and moon through ochre-brown vortexes. Spidery overpasses still connected some of the broken buildings hundreds of meters over the canals. Glass windows scintillated in the distance, reflecting the dome against each other on thousand-foot collapsing minarets, green flakes peeling from the holy towers into the sky.
The Nose was runny with the Caliphate’s waste, it bubbled and burst like so many sneezes through its waterways. Swirls of bloody mucus poured into the ocean from a thousand nostrils. They’d called Dakar the Nose of Africa until, like every good wrestler, it got punched in the face too hard.
“Frost! Got that good Frost! Dafa Nekh! Dafa Nice!” Lamine pitched at the humid blindness of Lebu huts with low straw roofs brushing the water around him.
Funny what the future brings. For a few centuries it’s all skyscrapers and orbital season rings, but in the end it’s a hole the size of a pinhead in the magnetic field, the ground evaporating, and rowboats looking into the future’s lights and tasting its shit.
“Frost! Got that good Frost!”
“Wow kaï, fi!” a tumorous voice answered his calls.
There was a small fire inside a caved-out old building on an island ahead, and a stick figure waved him over, shadows behind him outlined against the dome. Lamine knew that trick. He wouldn’t step on that island.
He oared within safe distance and pushed a plank to the connecting bank. No one would swim the streams, especially at night with larger predators drawn to the dome, but fiends didn’t have much to lose. They were already melting inside from the radiation filtering in while the atmosphere was slowly sucked out, and shooting all that Frost. The gritty air was manageable when you could afford fresh water, if not…Frost. They would drown in the thick ooze for a blast of it.
The fiend lurched across the plank, his black skin patched with reddish blots from using. He tossed broken electronics on the boat. The circuitry alone was worth more than the little Frost Lamine had. He threw him a chemical inhaler; he caught it and drew a deep breath, exhaling a frosty cloud while the gas crystallized his insides until the next night.
Four wet fingers grabbed Lamine’s ankle and tugged.
“Kat sa ndeye!” he screamed falling back.
A little of the ooze made it into his nose. He didn’t even have any Frost left.
Lamine came to, coughing muck out of his lungs. He was lying on the sand dressed in nothing but a red, white and black loincloth next to a fire in the shadow of a white baobab. Splashed in red and black, like the spirit that haunted Dakar’s coast, in a circle of huts shadowed by an old shopping mall.
“Thinking of Leuk Daour, huh?” a raspy voiced asked him.
The faces of the seven men surrounding him glowed a vibrant red. Their lips and hair were gone. Their rough clothes falling equally over emaciated frames.
One of their voices sounded in his mind. It sounded female.
“We pulled you into the muck, little saïsaï.”
“Your loss.” Lamine answered. “I’m fresh out of Frost. Wallahi, if my lips fell off I would stop doing that shit too.”
Seven laughs rang in his mind to lipless grins.
“Haha! We know.” The voice went on. “That’s why we saved you. Frost kills most people but transforms others. You’re not an addict; you’re a pusher, that’s why we need you. We need a clean but mischievous soul to channel Leuk Daour.”
Lamine knew the stories, meeting Leuk was bad luck, but channeling him?
“Don’t worry. The Rab won’t hold you very long.” The voice said soothingly.
“Leuk Da…What the hell for?!”
Mirth glinted in their eyes and the voice answered him.
“We’re going under the dome.”
A young boy drummed under the tree. Lamine’s strange saviors each picked up the same song in turns, dancing around the fire like women in a trance, their torsos low, clapping and swinging their hands behind their backs with small steps.
With every new singer Lamine’s vision blurred. He knew himself, but he felt something else. Another’s strength. Another’s eyes.
He saw fishermen on a boat, looking at a slave ship disappearing into mist, teenagers by a boom box smoking reefer on a beach, lights tearing the sky towards the first moon base, he saw them all die, touched by the other who was also him, and his feet picked up the dance, his voice the song, and they swung their hands in claps, fading as the drum quickened. His eyes grew wider, the world thinner, and they vanished.
Fields of giant barley, wheat and maize spread ahead to the horizon under a blue sky, sprinkled with clouds of artificial condensation. Augmented humans buzzed around the plants like bees, diaphanous wings radiating artificial sunlight over growths twenty times their size.
Massive cubes sprinkled the plants, casting dark shadows over the jungle of produce, while spinning disks with spikes sliced through the fields, collecting cereal and heading back towards a wall of shining light.
Lamine’s enhanced eyes narrowed on the distance. Blue-green towers reflected the nature surrounding them, intersected by pods full of citizens in white robes. Zeppelins flew over the city, flipping verses and sounding the call to prayer, and bridges of white marble flowed into arteries between the buildings.
“Where are we?” Lamine asked, his companions looking peacefully ahead.
“Gao. Massina-Sokoto Caliphate.” One answered.
“And what do we now?”
One of them turned to him with a sly rictus.
“Now? Now we destroy the dome.”
And they began to clap.