Saturday, October 21, 2017
Home Blog Page 10

Omenana Issue X

0

Click on the image above to read flip book version of Omenana and here to download pdf version.

In this Issue:

Editorial 

Hope – Seun Odukoya

Yes I can Dance – Ifeoluwa Nihinlola

Debug – Rafeeat Aliyu

I should have loved you – Niyi Ademoroti

The golden child – Abdul Saataar

August – Biram Mboob

A.P – Imobong Emah

The Broken Nose – Mame Diene

The Cylinder – Nneoma Ike-Njoku

Love and Prejudice – Amatesiro Dore

Back to the Future: Visions of African Influence

0

Studies have shown that people are extraordinarily bad at predicting the future. What we often do is project the present and re-arrange the furniture a little – a flying car here, a spaceship there. However, the future is often both wilder and more mundane than we imagine.

Yesterday fans of the iconic movie Back To The Future II celebrated the day when Marty McFly and Doc travelled into the future. On the comedy talk show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, the original actors reprised their roles as clueless time travellers – except they arrive in the future as it is today, not as it was imagined in the 1985 film. They observe that even with all the technology at our disposal (“supercomputers in your hand”), we are doing no more than watching cat videos and taking selfies.

“The future kinda sucks,” they conclude.

But without wild conceptions of the future drawn up by speculative fiction in the past we wouldn’t have many of the innovations we take for granted today. Jules Verne dreamed up space travel and submarines, Aldous Huxley imagined genetic engineering and William Gibson’s drew the first conceptual ideas of the internet. Even when depicting dystopias, such as George Orwell’s idea of an all-powerful surveillance state in 1984, these works of fiction inspired scientists and activists in the real world to try and improve what they saw around them. And it worked.

We Africans need our own visions of the future. More than imagining cool devices and technologies we need to dream up solutions for our present-day problems such as inequality and environmental devastation that will inspire the scientists, politicians and leaders of tomorrow. We desperately need visions, both better and worse, that centre our experiences and concerns. A future that doesn’t treat us as side characters, extras or backdrops.

And so, in partnership with the Goethe institut, we would like to present you with 10 flash stories that imagine the futures of our urban landscapes as we see them. They are accompanied by art that bring these tales to vivid life. Displayed at the African Future_Lagos exhibition in Lagos, these works are funny, searing, frightening and hopeful, each one reveals in less than a 1,000 words a vivid slice of the nightmares and dreams that move us.

Humans may not be very good at predicting the future, but no matter what we do, we as thinkers, writers and artists always influence it.

Chinelo Onwualu

23 October, 2015

Hope

0
Art By Shade

By Seun  Odukoya

The man stopped to take in his surroundings.

He had been crawling, walking and running through the undergrowth for most of the afternoon and early evening. Now, his destination was minutes away – and he had run out of brush.

The next few minutes would be the most dangerous.

Crouching under the overhang of what was left of the Third Mainland Bridge, as it used to be called, he peered at the lone highway. The lights from the checkpoint winked and shimmered and he shuddered as he imagined the police standing there with their charge rods and body armor on the lookout for anyone who didn’t belong in New Lagos.

Outlanders. Like him.

The Mainland had become an abandoned wasteland as government after government insisted on relocating everything worth anything to New Lagos, formerly known as Victoria Island. Anyone who could afford it had bought property on the Island and moved – while the not-so-lucky ones had been left behind.

And when the sickness hit, there was no defense.

The man looked back the way he came. Mile after mile of forest, of sand and dust unrolled before his eyes. He hunkered down behind a small shrub and wrapped his scarf tighter across his nose and mouth before opening the dirty brown satchel that hung from his shoulder and pulling a wrapped parcel from it.

He squinted towards the highway, trying to pierce the rapidly-descending curtain of darkness. There was no movement – the police remained as they were, lights throwing red and blue patterns for miles around.

Good, the man nodded.

And then, crawling forward, he chose a spot hidden from casual eyes and unwrapped the parcel. The object inside was flat, sleek and shiny – it’s appearance in total contrast to the man holding it. He turned it over, looking over it carefully for any scratches and dents. Finding nothing, he turned it on.

“GOOD EVENI – “ the automated voice response started to say before the man’s scrambling finger pushed the mute button. He hurriedly crawled back to the edge of the bridge to look around.

Nothing moved.

Breathing heavily, he returned and whispered harshly to the device: “Show aerial view of the New Lagos Highway.”

Within seconds, a 3D hologram of his request rose from the screen. A small blinking blue dot showed where he was, and he looked carefully at the location of the security, taking extra notice of the 30-foot electrified wall.

“Show lower level.”

Art By Shade
Art By Shade

Decades before, around 2005 or so, Victoria Island had existed under the constant threat of floods. An intricate anti-flood waterworks had been built miles under the island for emergency flushing, but after the system failed, the government had simply filled in the surrounding water, pushing the ocean back towards the mainland.

The waterworks system was still there, intact, but he wasn’t sure if it was guarded or not. The original blueprints had been destroyed in one of the series of floods – along with plenty other things – and none of the builders were alive.

The man nodded and inhaled deeply. And then, with a slightly trembling voice he said, “Call Ayoka.”

The 3D image dissolved as his nine year old daughter’s face appeared on the screen – at least what she had looked like before the sickness had gotten to her. The same sickness had killed 30 million people within the first week of infection – sweeping the landscape like a vengeful angel – and then moved on, leaving behind dying strains that were uninfectious but deadly to their hosts.

Like his daughter.

“Where are you, papa?”

The man wiped his eyes of tears and smiled. “I’m at work, baby girl. But I’ll be home soon. How are you feeling?”

The little girl smiled bravely. “I’m just weak – but Aunty Salome said you are bringing something to make me feel better.”

“Yes, I am. So wait for me, okay?”

“Okay, pa – “

The loud humming of a moving vehicle drowned out her voice and quickly he powered down the tablet. The hum was coming from his left – from the highway, and it was heading towards the checkpoint.

Without hesitation he broke cover and ran towards the wall, keeping the checkpoint to his right as he moved. There was an abandoned swamp far enough from the wall to be ignored, but close enough to get someone who knew where he was going to the first of the access hatches.

That was his target.

Suddenly, the wall lights came on.

He was well out of their range, but the unexpectedness of it put a stumble in his stride – and he hit the ground hard. His loud “OOF!” and the clatter of stuff in his satchel alerted a policeman.

“Who goes there?” came the challenge.

The man crawled quickly until he was curled up against the highway wall. Looking up, he hoped he hadn’t been spotted. His heart was thumping, he was sweating –

And then, another light came on. This time, from the highway.

The man swallowed and held his breath as the narrow beam of light came closer. He started to scramble backwards, trying to part concrete with his bare hands –

And then his scratching hand sank into something and came up wet.

He had found the swamp.

***

“Nurse Ella, how is our patient?” the doctor asked the nurse as they made their way past the supply room.

Once they passed, a figure wearing a white lab coat quickly crossed the hallway and entered the room. The figure moved quickly along the shelves, stopping in front of one that held an endless row of vials of glowing blue liquid.

The cure for the sickness.

The man took one of the vials and smiled.

His daughter would live.

August

0

By Biram Mboob

Addo was woken up by the rumbling of machines. He looked outside his window. There were digging machines in the park. Screeching giants that must have arrived during the night. He returned to bed and fell asleep. He continued his strange dream. A dream of falling into a red rupture in the old earth. Falling and falling; his body consumed a million times to ash, then to neutrinos, then quarks and charms. Such dreams. He was growing old.

He ate breakfast in his room. There was a Community Chop on the top floor of the Enkang but he never ate there. Addo was 93 years old. This made him the oldest person that anyone in the building would have ever seen. They looked at him strangely. They walked around him as if they might break him. When he spoke to them they replied as one might to a small child.

He dressed himself for work. It was the first of August, but he still wore a long coat. The city had installed a Yún acclimatiser more than fifty years ago. And for more than fifty years Addo had been bitterly cold. That was one practical reason why all his peers had gone to the Islands. He put on his gloves and left his room.

The glass elevator zipped through the Enkang. It dipped down a few floors and then moved horizontally through each of the building’s sprawling onion layers, coming to a stop when it reached the foyer. This was Zebra Enkang. The foyer walls shimmered with moving murals of the leaping and galloping striped beasts. Real zebras had never moved that way, but he’d stopped worrying about such things a long time ago. What did it matter? None of these people would ever see one.

He went outside and walked to the nearest General Chop Machine. He selected the sequence of numbers that instructed a coffee. Then he stood facing the park, observing the screeching machines. An exceptionally tall boy in a yellow hardhat was flitting between the machines, checking screens and turning dials. Noisy. Noisy. How long would this last? He could always move, of course. All it involved was walking around the city until he found a building he liked with an empty room. But he liked it in Zebra Enkang.

As he sipped his coffee, he observed the young men and women streaming past him on the moving thoroughfare. They grew stranger to Addo with each passing decade. This was not surprising. In the Saharan Uniformity Homes they kept conditioning their children. They were changing them physically too, he suspected. Making them bigger. Removing the final genetic vestiges of tribe and making them uniform. To Addo, they were aliens. Their confident and total immersion in disciplines that he barely knew existed. Their instinctive ability to work the new ghost computers. The future and the miracles that they assumed. Their August bearing.

August

Addo liked to think that he was useful in his own right. He had worked as a translator at the Culture Ministry for the last 65 years. He selected approved historical works and translated them into Pan Swahili. There were not many people left who could speak as many languages as he could. Five dead Tribal languages and three banned Oppressor languages. He took great care with his translations. Even though he knew they were mostly just humouring him. When he died they would replace him with a ghost computer that would translate the approved library in an instant. The translations would be technically correct but Addo was sure that they would lose their meaning. But no-one would know and if they did, they would not care.

He crushed his coffee cup and dropped it on the sidewalk. Within a few moments, a spider seized it and bundled it down a service drain. Useful materials would be diverted to underground factories where they would be reconstituted for use by general machines. Needless things would continue their journey downwards into the old earth where they would be consumed a million times to ash, then to neutrinos, quarks and charms. As if they had never existed at all.

He crossed the footbridge over the moving thoroughfare and entered the park. As he walked, the boy in the hardhat hopped off a machine and approached him.

Even at first glance, the boy was unusual. He walked a little more boisterously than most. His face was dirty. His stained dashiki was tucked unevenly into his trousers.  The Uniformity Home had clearly failed this one.

“Are you master of these machines?”  Addo asked.

“Yes,” the boy replied. “For now.”

“How long are you digging?”

“I don’t know,” he said, smiling broadly. “It depends what I find.”

“It’s just the noise, you see.”

The boy’s smile melted away. He took off his hardhat and shrugged. “I only have a Joule budget for twenty-four hours. I’ve applied for an extension, but they probably won’t approve it. So it may not be too long.”

“Oh. Okay. Good,” Addo said. “So what exactly are you looking for?”

The boy perked up again. “Well, I look after the excavating probes. One of them found a burial site here.” He pointed his hardhat at the ground. “If I’m right then one of those fossils is Mitochondrial Eve. So I’m bringing her up.”

Addo was silent. The boy shifted about uncomfortably. He put his hardhat back on. “So, what I mean by Mitochondrial is…”

“I know what that means,” Addo interrupted. “It means that you have found our mother. Sleeping underneath the city.”

The boy considered this a moment. “Yes,” he said. “I suppose you could say that.”

Addo pointed a finger at one of the machines. “If you only have a day then maybe you could use another pair of hands? Help you along?”

The boy grinned. He wiped a dirty hand on his dashiki and thrust it outward. Addo took off his glove and shook it.

“Welcome aboard,” the boy in the hardhat said.

Debug

1

By Rafeeat Aliyu

“Mama Anuli, your eye is missing.” The child looked up at her.

In answer, Anuli held the child closer and was rewarded with quiet. She moved steadily towards the door, as quiet as her heavy feet would let her. Her vision was now impaired and the virus within her seemed to have affected her software, but Anuli was closer to her goal than she would have ever been if she had not sold her precious eye.

“Don’t worry about that, baby,” Anuli’s pre-programmed voice was as calm as the day she was activated.

Something landed on her head and shattered to several pieces, but it barely affected Anuli’s grip on the child. Even the piece of cloth wrapped around her head remained undisturbed. Anuli spun to find Yinka glaring at her, her slight form shaking in fear. Grabbing her by the throat, Anuli slammed her into the wall.

“Did you contact the CSN?” The thought of the network latching onto her raised Anuli’s anxiety levels but her tone was calm, as always.

“Please spare my daughter…” Yinka began.

Anuli slammed her into the wall again, it was alien to her nurturing program but she had seen it in a movie once. She repeated the question, the child stayed snuggled in her other arm.

She watched as Yinka shut her eyes and struggled to swallow, her fear evident. There were tears streaming down her face as she shook her head. Her answer did not matter to Anuli, however; the robot had stopped trusting her.

“I only reported you after your last visit,” Yinka’s tone was conciliatory. “I promise.”

That was the reason the CSN had tried to reformat her system, and it confirmed her earlier suspicion. It was a testament to the kind of power people like Yinka had: they could abuse their children and still have the system on their side.

“I am begging you, Aunty Anuli,” Yinka appealed to her. “You know me, you spent months with me after I gave birth. We raised Awele together. I would never abuse my child.”

More lies. Anuli had heard them all before.

“Awele is exhibiting abnormal signs for her age; her behavioural patterns are irregular.” There was a smile stretching her face even though Anuli’s anxiety levels had reached a panic state. “The wounds I have noticed on her body…”

Gears shifted as Anuli inclined her head and studied the child with her good eye. Any other child would be crying seeing their mother in such distress, but Awele simply stared at the woman pinned to the wall with blank eyes.

Upon observing this, Anuli’s anxiety levels skyrocketed into the red zone. Her freshly-hacked system struggled to contain the spike, but Anuli’s hands tightened around Yinka’s soft neck and when she spoke her words were slurred.

Debug by Rafeeat Aliyu illustration

“You are not supposed to treat a child in that manner.” It sounded as though she was speaking from underwater.

“Please…” Yinka gasped, her eyelids fluttered open and shut revealing the whites of her eyes.

As part of the OmuGwo line, Anuli was crafted and programmed to help mothers cope with the birth of their children. She was equipped to cook centuries-old dishes, to bathe babies, to inoculate toddlers and register children on the CSN. The Anuli range of carers were especially composed and serene, they appeared as sweet middle-aged women whose only emotional reactions were smiles or a slight wrinkling of her brows to denote displeasure.

Hands crafted from synthetic bones and layered with silicon-based faux flesh were much better at handling scorching hot towels and pressing them against pliant stomachs rounded in memory of the weight they once carried. Those hands now held Anuli’s employer up against the unyielding wall until Yinka grew eerily still. When Anuli withdrew her hand, the woman crumbled to the floor.

“Mama Yinka…sleeping.” Awele’s tinny voice rang out.

“Yes baby, Mama Yinka is asleep.” Anuli affirmed. Her system would not compute any other explanation. It did not matter either way, Anuli had what she came for. She continued until she was outside the Ejiofor-Ogunlade home.

With the scorching sun warming the nano-receptors on her skin, Anuli felt her anxiety levels steadily drop. Undoubtedly the CSN would be after her, they must have sent her log to the retrieval unit once Anuli went offline. The virus now rooted in her system might be the end of her yet, but with Awele in her arms her levels of bliss and love took a leap. There would be no more manipulating her emotions remotely, no more cover-ups.

Soon the scars that dotted Awele’s tiny body would heal, and so would her spirit.

Yes I Can Dance

1

By IfeOluwa Nihinlola

I showed my friends a picture of Uchechi posing beside a dancing drag queen in red. You don get mouth, Wale said. Cyprian licked his lips, already mind-fapping to her carnival bikini-clad body. When we go meet her? Wale asked. I no know, I replied. Na Lekki Phase 4 she dey stay. He opened his mouth and looked at Cyprian, who said, I know say that job go make you fuck up; I no just know say na sharp-sharp the thing go happen.

The job he spoke of was my internship at the new archives department located in the old Museum Building on Awolowo Road. It was part of the reconciliation project that recruited Mainlanders to work on the Island, both to help the city recover its cultural roots, and to offer a way for bright Mainlanders to be integrated into life on the Island.

Part of my job was to go through the Twitter archives of a few residents of the old city who our friends at AmaSoft had considered essential. Twitter was a mixed baggage: one dude had #HistoryClass every week like books had gone extinct, and another just posted bad puns that ran into millions of tweets. The jokes were, however, valuable in understanding the city. One time I found this: BROKE UP WITH MY BF WHO WENT TO RUSSIA. NOW A GUY SAYS I SHOULD VISIT HIM IN IKORODU. WHY WOULD I WANT ANOTHER LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP? Only if she knew…

Three months after we met, Uchechi invited me to an exhibition. It was about visions for rebuilding the Yaba ruins, where the mainland rebels had staged their final resistance. My Island visa was only valid for weekdays, but I said yes. I spent a quarter of my salary paying for a fake weekend pass, and another quarter on an air cab through the Epe Pass, because the officers at the Obalende Water Terminal were bastards who always nabbed people with fake IDs.

At the exhibition, she introduced me to her friends as a very smart person. They looked at my disintegrating boat shoes with wary eyes as they swirled white wine in antique flutes. One of the guys eventually cornered me and started a conversation about architecture. Your friend is really brilliant for someone who has schooled his whole life on the mainland, he later told Uchechi. As a sharp guy, I’d spent the whole week studying architecture in the archives just to prep myself for the exhibition.

They piled into their super cars, waved goodbye, and I started the walk to Obalende. For the first time since I’d met her, I realised Uchechi was really out of my league. That moment, I promised myself I would impress her on her birthday.

The steward who attended to me in a corner shop in Mandillas was an old androgynous model—no emotion chip. He stared at Uchechi’s picture, cocked his head to the left, and said: I have just the dress for you. I returned to Ghana High in an air cab to meet the lunchtime rush, and saw them as I stepped out. I mean, they didn’t have a reason to kiss since they were still going to enter his car together, but he stuck his tongue in her mouth and kept it there like he was announcing his ownership for all creatures in sight.

Yes I can dance

After work, I couldn’t return home to the guys because I wasn’t ready to be mocked in pidgin. As I stepped out of the office, enroute the shop in Mandillas, the TBS horses gave a metallic neigh as they raised their hoofs eight times to mark the time. I searched the eyes of the people on the road, hoping they could detect the pain in my eyes, the heartbreak in my gait.

You’re back, the steward said. Yes, I answered. Wrong size. That’s impossible, he said. Then he collected the dress from me and processed my refund. I stopped at a bar in the old CMS Church building, one of the surviving structures of the Old Island. The bar was filled with geriatrics sitting with droopy faces, and taking draughts of synthetic pammy. They were like relics, the only witnesses of the Eko Class War. I ordered the cheapest drink and drowned my misery. I woke up in the morning on the floor of the bathroom. My shirt reeking of eau de vomit.

My supervisor walked past my cubicle, paused, and said: You shouldn’t look sad on this job, li’l buddy. You know many Mainlanders would kill for this job, right? Don’t make me think you’re unhappy here.

I wanted do him a favour by head-butting him. That way, he would get a replacement for his buckteeth. I spent the rest of the day at the Instagram archives, tagging images of the four mainland bridges. One of them was taken at the start of the war as the Island force bombed the four bridges at once. The whole frame was black.

After work, I returned to the bar. You’re back, the bartender said. You should ease up on the Burukutu. The edges of her lips curved upwards in perfect symmetry. I smiled and wished I could pull out her power unit in spite. She was a more advanced model, the best of them. The bar emptied around 11pm, and I was alone with her.

The manager just updated me with Jazz. Do you want to listen? My mind said no, but my mouth said yes.

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone, a husky male voice sang, and the whole cathedral pulsed with life like it didn’t have the whole night. She stopped cleaning, placed empty mugs on the counter, clapped both hands above her head, and swayed like fish moving slow-mo in water. Can you dance? She asked. I wanted to say no, but only a dead Lagosian rejects a dance with human perfection. So, I said yes. Yes I can dance.

Love and Prejudice

1

By Amatesiro Dore

Eyimofe Emiko looked forward to being a mother-in-law to the bride of her only son but expectations were terminated when Femi asked a boy to his senior prom.

Before their first child went to pick up his prom king, she overheard her husband giving him the talk.

“Delay having sex for now,” Mr Jaiyeoba said. “Find your passion and fall in love with it. You will only find the right man after finding yourself. But have fun tonight and ask yourself during temptations: what would Jesus do?” and Femi laughed out of the house.

Eyimofe couldn’t believe her ears. She believed her grandfather’s company had been unfairly bullied out of the Enugu aero-car industry after the 2066 Biafra Independence Referendum and she thought she had convinced her husband to discourage Femi from dating the Biafran boy, but clearly Mr Jaiyeoba thought otherwise.

However, she felt vindicated when Femi broke up with the boy for insisting on pre-marital sex.

“Don’t mind him,” Eyimofe consoled her son. “I’ll find you a proper Yoruba boy with good home training in this Abeokuta.”

Along came Dapo of royal repute. His mum was president of the Abeokuta Stock Exchange and his dad chaired the largest Nigerian Space Estate Agency in Southeast Kepler. After the traditional betrothal was announced, space tabloids began publishing stories about her future son-in-law: only his back remained a virgin, his front has visited every willing crevice in the Goldilocks Zone; during the last winter holidays, he punched his ex-boyfriend at a resort in Kepler 438b. She became uneasy when his family insisted on having a Blood Oath Service at Sango’s Shrine as part of the wedding ceremony. The engagement broke down irretrievably when Femi tongue-kissed his Scottish-Nigerian mechanic during a live broadcast of the Warri Inter-Galaxy Grand Prix.

Yet Eyimofe forbade Femi from marrying Jeremy. She preferred “the Biafran bastard to this bloody British immigrant without naira in his veins.”

“Who are his parents?”

“His dad was my professor at the WASAD and his mum is a Warri Local Government councillor.”

Eyimofe didn’t know where to start: how to explain that marriage was a union of physical and electric powers; a vehicle to allocate and perpetuate rights. That the strongest unions were forged out of family mergers to create a distinct entity which remains a unit in a conglomerate of blood and sex.

“When you say you love this boy, do you know what that means? Are you willing to share, concede and give up power to the son of a mere professor at the Warri School of Aerodynamics?”

“When you married daddy, he was just an engineer at your father’s company!”

“When I married your father, Asaimagor wasn’t the largest aero-car company in the country. All we had was a fine engine and nowhere to put it. We built Asaimagor together!”

Love and Prejudice by Amatesiro Dore

“When I met Jeremy, I wasn’t a Formula One champion. I was an insecure, self-hating pilot. Up in the air, dodging the clouds, through rain and thunder he’s the light in my speed.”

“I will never consent to this marriage. It’s my constitutional right and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Eyimofe played her last card.

That wasn’t true. Her son could take the matter to a magistrate court and argue that her refusal was based on ‘unreasonable grounds’.

“Our son will not do that to me, a well brought-up Nigerian man wouldn’t do that to his mother,” Eyimofe said to Jaiyeoba.

And she was right. A good Yoruba son would appeal to a greater power. And no one terrified Eyimofe more than her own mother-in-law.

“Assalam alaikum,” Alhaja announced her presence.

“Welcome, mama; how was your trip?”

“Great if I didn’t end up seeing your face.”

Eyimofe wondered what she feared the most about the diminutive, burka-shrouded woman: her nasty tongue or the fact that she was born with balls and without womb. Maybe it was because Alhaja gave birth to seven boys within seven years of marriage, and didn’t think anyone was good enough for any of them.

“I heard you have become an impediment to the happiness of my grandson.”

“I did it for Femi. He’ll thank me later.”

“That was what I thought when I didn’t want my Jaiyeoba to marry you. I did not want to have an Igbo daughter-in-law.”

“Mama, you know I’m not Igbo. My parents are Itsekiri from Warri!”

“Ha, weren’t you born and raised in Enugu? You’re omo ibo! A bona fide Biafran! But I permitted you to marry my precious son. Only for you to call Jeremy black!”

“Who said he’s Black? Have you seen him? He’s Snow White!”

“Ha, I said it! You’re racist! You want to deny me some Scottish great-grand babies!”

“Mama, marriage is much more than having babies.”

“Ha, you want to teach me about marriage? Marriage is like my burka; a protective cover against weaknesses and wickedness. It’s not by compulsion but by choice. Let them get engaged and decide if they will protect each other from others and from themselves. That you disagree about something doesn’t mean you’re right about it. Have faith!”

And Eyimofe became a mother-in-law though she wasn’t certain about their union.

 

The End

Amatesiro Dore is a 2009 alumnus of the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop; former Managing Editor of Vanguard Spark, imprint of Vanguard Newspapers; and 2015 Fellow of the Ebedi International Writers Residency. He has been published in Kwani?, Farafina, YNaija, The ScoopNG, Vanguard Newspaper, The Brittle Paper, Bakwa Magazine, The Kalahari Review, The Ofi Press; and forthcoming in Chimurenga.

I Should Have Loved You

2

By Niyi Ademoroti 

I want to love you.

I am staring at you, all these tubes running in and out of your body like wires dangling off  a piece of electronic equipment, and I desperately want to love you. Why don’t you want to love me too?

It is two days ago and I’m looking at you looking at me. You’re several metres away, but even though I can’t see the way your nutmeg-coloured cheeks push your purple eyes upwards, I know you’re wearing that smile that makes me go weak at the knees.

You alight from your race car. You saunter my way, your boots raising red dust with every step. You look like a god walking amidst the clouds. An indescribable sound escapes me, but I hold myself; I can’t let anyone know.

loved ye

You’re in front of me now. You smile that toothy smile, and I want to kiss you. I swear by Esu, I want to kiss you. But I hold myself. You tell me this is for me. I tell you to fuck off, I’m only your mechanic and that is all I’ll ever be. Joking, you grab your chest and ask why I enjoy hurting you; I hiss and say no one is invested in your safety as much as I am. You say you’re not talking about your stupid car, and I ask why you would call it stupid. You laugh. By Esu, you laugh. Your breath smells like petrichor; I bury myself in it.

They call the Ife anti-gravity racers to the tracks. You wink, your eyelashes fluttering like butterfly wings. You run back to the tracks: one two, one two, your steps like a gazelle making away. If I had known then what I know now, I’d have screamed for you and held you close. But I let you go, shaking my head and smiling ever so slightly.

You’re in your race car now and you wave at me before you seal the doors. I sigh. The race is on, and the 20 of you take off. The first lap is over and you’re fourth place, but I know you’ll win.

It’s the fourth lap, and you’re second place. You reach the dangerous bend three where people have already yielded to. You’ve passed it three times before, and you pass it again. The racer close behind doesn’t. Her race car hits yours as it somersaults. I hear a screech as I snap my eyes shut, I can’t watch this. They tell me later that your car spun 43 times in the air before landing on the dusty steel racetrack. I pray to Esu that you are fine, but the sound of your crashing tells me that my hope is futile. I retch.

Now you’re on the hospital bed, you’ve lost one leg and both arms, so you’ve asked to be turned into a robot. You know robots don’t feel, yet you’ve made the decision. I ask you if I will ever find a guy like you again, and you smile that smile and say a good guy like me will always find someone else. My tears flow freely as I leave your hospital room. I pray to Esu to make you change your mind, but I know it is futile.

I should have let myself love you when we both had a chance.

 

The Broken Nose

0

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.”

***

The Broken Nose

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cylinder

1

By Nneoma Ike-Njoku 

Kedu? Welcome to the Inter-state Cylinder Service. We hope you enjoy the ride from Lagos to Onitsha. Enjoy your personalized playlist, specially crafted by our music experts for-

Deka pressed the mute button on her ear-buds and was grateful for the silence that followed.

As the glass Cylinder pulled away, green tree-houses waved her by, their solar roof panels blinking like tiny jewels in the early light. In one of those tree-houses, Okolie was sleeping. A few hours would awaken him to her absence, and the fact that it was over. Something heavy and sad was stuck at the back of her throat. She pushed it away.

In a few months, he would settle back to the life he’d had, before everything. Deciphering ancient nsibidi manuscripts at the university. Saturday afternoon parties where he served udara smoothies he made himself (and mixed with spoonfuls of kai-kai) in the downstairs kitchen.  The students that appeared in the house so unexpectedly that they had to be stalking him.

In a few months, everything would be back to normal. And he would be grateful she did it like this. Clean.

***

When Deka opened her eyes, she was underwater.

The Cylinder was taking the route through the Niger to avoid being held up by traffic on the bridge above. She pressed her palm against the glass and felt its automated warmth in response. At this rate, they would be in Onitsha sooner than she expected.

She stretched, almost hitting a bald woman in a too-large ankara dress standing in the aisle.

Ndo. Sorry,” Deka murmured, staring out at the water. A school of large, rainbow-colored fish was swimming towards her. The largest one stopped beside her, seemed to consider her a moment, and swam away.

Being on the Cylinder (the ‘Big Cyl’, if you lived in Lagos long enough) gave Deka a sensation like flying in a dream. The entire thing was made of glass so clear that when they travelled overland she could see ants, lizards, and even a mouse, once, scurrying about their business beneath her feet.

“Njideka, stop,” Okolie would say, laughing in that way that made her say he could swallow the world. “You walk like you’re scared of squashing the ants, but they aren’t really there.”

She knew they weren’t there, of course. It was just that the Cylinder was so large, then, and so new. There had been nothing like it in Onitsha. And nothing like the many other things that had made her dizzy as an Onitsha girl working in Lagos for the first time.

“It’s what I get for ignoring common sense and marrying a big city prof,” she had said once, teasing.

“You forgot the perks,” he had whispered, hand pressed against her thigh.

***

 “Orimiri.”

“What?” The woman was still standing there. Smiling a stupid smile in that dress.

“We call the river Orimiri.”

“Oh, OK,” Deka said, turning away again. She hoped the woman would get the message and leave her alone.

“Can I sit?” The woman asked and she was seated before a loud ‘NO’ could form on Deka’s lips. From the corner of her eye, Deka watched the woman settle in, bunching her dress between her knees like a blanket. She smelt like warm oranges.

“So, what did you do in Lagos?”

Deka would have said loved a job, a husband, a child. Lost everything. But instead she said:

“Nothing.”

And then she didn’t say nothing.

***

The Cylinder

Later, she would tell Okolie that it was the woman who brought her back to him.

She told the woman about meeting Okolie at someone’s thanksgiving in church and knowing, just knowing. About the days and months that flew by so quickly, she forgot to breathe. Waking up next to him in the tree-house one night, being so scared at her own happiness she couldn’t go back to sleep. Then: the joy of carrying some of him inside her, their little girl, and wanting to burst with the joy of it.

She had decided she would continue to work at her job with the rare book restoration center at the Ikeja Bindery until it got so she couldn’t. Okolie had been the one to take a leave from work, pushing aside months of research on an important project to prepare for the baby.

“I am going to be a father,” he had said. “Whatever ancient secrets our ancestors left behind can wait.” By the time they discovered anything was wrong, it was too late.

Drepanocytosis. Your baby died.

***

“The music is the worst,” the woman was saying. She held her pink ear-buds in front her in exaggerated disgust, like an exotic insect. Deka laughed.

She thought of asking the woman’s name but decided it would be awkward this late into the conversation.

“Some of the new stuff isn’t so bad…” she countered.

The woman threw her head back and laughed; a warm, thick sound.

Biko, electro-pop hasn’t been relevant since the 2010s. I’m sure their so-called ‘experts’ are just bad-quality radio randomizers.”

Deka laughed at that. The music was horrible. Imagine all that ‘specially crafted by experts’ rubbish for robot radios. Ha.

“Since the radio-robot music is so bad, what are my options as a faithful patron of the Big Cyl?”

“Honestly?” A pause. The woman was staring strangely at her now, bald head glowing with the soft blue-green of the river. She had stopped laughing.

“I think you should go back home. You wouldn’t be trying so hard to throw away something you’ve already lost.”

***

Later, curled up next to him in the tree-house, Deka would tell Okolie that it was a bald woman in an ill-fitting dress on the Cylinder that brought her back to him.

I didn’t lose you.

Pass Editions