By Abdul Sataar
The sun crested the sky-scraping towers on the east side of Accra, casting long shadows before Jamal as he roamed through the silver streets of Ghana’s capital. The Woman was ahead of him by many paces, her long flowing garment sweeping with each stiff stride she took. Unmanned BMW HT-16s roamed in the suspended orbits high above his head. Nuclear-powered bikes spewed white smoke that disappeared into the ground, their HighMen riders looking about with perpetual smiles.
As he went past a couple of young HighBoys playing keep-ups by the roadside, Jamal sensed a wave of hostile energy in the air. He didn’t turn early enough though and he collapsed under the weight of a pursuer he hadn’t noticed. His soft skin burnt from the chemicals that gave the street its glistening touch as he craned his neck to see the man who was pinning him down.
“Tickets, sir,” the voice said in a mocking singsong tone that Jamal recognised.
He showed the RogueMan a middle finger and was rewarded by the finger twisted till it touched the back of his hand. Bracing himself against the street, Jamal pushed upward and threw his attacker into the air. He ignited his shoes and flew after him, catching him in the throat before he could blow on the whistle that would have left him frozen. He followed up with a swivel and rammed his knee into his face, snapping his neck in the process. Then he let the Man float into the blue void that opened above him to be carried away for further repairs.
“I’ll…I’ll find you, HalfMan,” the RougeMan promised as the waves covered him and carried him into another dimension.
Jamal touched down to save his fuel, his mind replaying the man’s words with incredulity. For a while, he didn’t know whether to be sad or angry. He raised his right arm and flexed his fingers, feeling the last breath of life in the sweat that dripped from him. The virus had already converted half of his body into stainless metal, and his eye focused on the electricity-charged veins beneath the layers. Soon, he too would be complete in his devolution. HighMen, they called themselves, but as Jamal looked at his own reflection on his gilded arm, he knew better.
He folded his fingers and made a fist, a defiant fist that cracked in rhythm to his crashing jaws. A glow of amber fire formed around it, pulsing with the rage that burnt within him. You will not have me. You will not turn me!
The blaring call of a HighBird jarred him from his reverie and he returned to the object of his chase. The delay had caused him to fall behind but he still saw the figure ahead of him through his HighVision.
He only managed a few steps before the world froze to the hollering sirens of the HighPolice. HT16s filled the streets above with flashing lights as a black void settled over the whole of Accra with a vortex from another dimension. The wind was cold on his soft face. He tried to move, tried to take a step toward the Woman, but could not. He was trapped with the High and Low races of men and animals in this still dimension. His Heart of Steel was frantic in his breast, the coppery taste of fear and anger thick on his tongue. All he could do was watch with disbelieving eyes as dread settled into his belly.
He watched with pain as the HighOfficers surrounded the Woman with only one intention in their own little HighMinds. Her eyes darted from one danger to the other but he saw no panic in them. She raised her hands over her black hair and spoke hard words that sailed over Jamal’s head. It was an odd language, a chiming tone that was muffled by wafting smoke before her face.
A HighMan stretched a whip that latched onto the Woman’s robe. With a twist, her garment tore from her shoulders and fell in a heap about her feet.
Then she roared into the void, and it seemed the sky would fall.
Her coppery skin dissolved into a shapeless form, and Jamal felt a strange power surge through him. His body shook as the life was pulled from him, and he felt himself turn into what he had been trying to cure.
The first crash pulled his mind away from his pain, and he turned to see the HighPolice vehicle crumple into a ball of metal. Power seeped from each vehicle, every HighRace of man and beast, to feed the woman’s pulsing energy. The towering homes came down like sand castles in a previous world, their life-sustaining centres bursting into green flames that floated into the realm surrounding the Woman.
Beside her, an albino girl smiled as she rose on unseen wings, and Jamal realised that he had not understood a thing. He had known nothing, even in his time with Football Incorporated, even with all the HighKnowing he’d been fed with. She was the one, the saviour his band of HalfRaces had spent years tracking to undo this devolution. Her hair burnt in the sun like woven strands of gold-threads, spots sparkling in contrasting light points on her gilded face. She floated among the chaos of disappearing HighRaces, the power enshrouding her till she was a little gem in the midst of all the flying rubble.
Jamal smiled wryly as the pain crawled up his legs and turned him into the HighRace he had fought to destroy. He flexed his shoulder and heaved himself but the power gripped to him with its glue. Soon, he gave up and allowed himself to see the good in this; death would come soon and spare him this burden, spare him the pain of inhumanness, the shame of thoughtlessness, the unloving heart of a rational HighMind. And he grinned till he felt the passion no more.