Lagos, Circa 3096.
The streets of Victoria Island wore a sophisticated look. Old folks in every house lived with a gadget called Lagoonborg; other cities were still struggling to surmount the logistics involved in the acquisition and distribution of Lagoonborg. It was more of a robot than a gadget; a robot for the old. Lagos was rapidly becoming a technology-obsessed city with some scientists asking, “Can a car fly?” Dr. Sam was the radical scientist spearheading the research.
“Who said a car cannot fly?” He asked, his eyes glittering with intimidating confidence. He tapped a desk and continued. “The field of aerodynamics postulates that any object can fly as long as it has all or most features of a bird. The question we should be asking is not if a car can actually fly. The question should be, ‘how can we give a car the features of a bird, and ensuring it still looks like a car?’”
“Brilliant!” Odumegwu, his ardent follower screamed. Others were either nodding their heads or were thoughtful.
“We Lagosian scientists are on the threshold of a breakthrough. It is a brave new world, and I don’t know how many of us: physicists, chemists, physicians, biochemists and all men in the sciences who want to be in the thick of things.” He paused, and adjusted his magnificent spectacles. “What are we if we do not create or add meaningfully to the cosmos?”
“A bunch of self-acclaimed scientists!” they all roared. Dr. Sam had made a tangible point, and would still throw more light on it in subsequent meetings.
Only one scientist from the Lagos Association of Brave Scientists (LABS) asked to be left alone. According to him, he had not finished his cup of tea to mind another business. The angered scientists called him “Judas”, and told him he was no longer a member of the great LABS. Judas, the biochemist, lived in a self-contained apartment in a secluded part of the cosmopolitan. He lived without a wife.
When Cheta saw Brian a fortnight ago, she was in a tram and so could not have done anything. Today, in the hotness of summer, she saw him again and downed her shot. “Blue eyes! Blue eyes!!!” she screamed. Her bladder suddenly got full. She had never seen a black boy with blue eyes. She stood up from her seat in the lakeside brasserie, and tried to stop him.
“Do you mind if I buy you a drink?” she asked, unashamed.
“Why would I? But I don’t know you.”
“It doesn’t matter. “ Brian followed her to the brasserie.
“Please wait for me, I need to use the rest room.” Brian sat down like a robot and waited for her return. He admired the barmaid who looked like a man, and desired to say hello.
“Did I waste your time?” Cheta asked, holding the flounce of her skirt.
“No. Please can I get our drinks which happen to be on you?”
“Yes. Okay.” Cheta said, and then looked at him in a queer manner.
“What is your name?”
She shrugged and said: “Get me Coca-cola. What would you have?”
“Any bitter-tasting drink and grilled bass would do.” She released the money and Brian walked with a sluggish gait to the barmaid.
“Martian a be must you, Miss.” He said to the barmaid. “Right?”
“Mister, course of. Yet earthling an marsinized you have?
“Victim my be may earthling lady this.” He replied, signaling towards Cheta.
“Thing poor, ah!” the barmaid exclaimed. “Marsinization effective for bass and Boost Bitter your take, here.” Brain paid, and picked the drinks and his grilled bass.
“Long take I did?” he asked Cheta.
“Oh! Did I take long?” he had forgotten he was now talking to an earthling.
“No, no, no.” She replied and took her Coca-Cola. “Are you in a university?”
“No. I am a graduate of Electrical Engineering. I moved down here from Boomel, the newly independent Island.” He takes his seat.
“Oh, I see! The people there must be very cute.”
He gulped down his drink. “Well, the idea of beauty is subjective, at least to me.”
“They say most scientists are now based there; something that has to do with space discovery and exploration. Tell me about it.”
“Well, they are not far from the truth. Scientists say there is some water on Mars, and a blurb in the Science Daily once read: “Can bass be far behind?” Boomel is currently the world’s biggest exporter of bass, and scientists have made the island its base because they want to take the bass fish to Mars. In tonnes. That’s just the story.”
Cheta raised her eyebrow. “Why do they want to do that?”
“It’s simple.” Brian said, wiping his mouth. “They want to see if fishes can survive on Mars. And, of course, they intend to go with some water.”
“Wow! What a mission!” she exclaimed. “This sounds interesting. I wish I was into the Sciences.”
“Oh, science is an interesting field of study. You sure would have enjoyed it.”
She scratched her head” “Um, Brian do you mind coming to see my place?”
“Oh!” said Brain with a smile. “You are a different kind of girl; the kind that knows what she wants and is unafraid to ask for it.”
Cheta smiled: “Clever girls get whatever they want in this world.”
“I see. Let’s get going, clever babe.” He bit into the bony remains of his bass, and swallowed it with his Bitter Boost.
The streets were busy. Lagoonborgs could be seen in numbers helping old ladies and gentlemen to cross the streets. Few cars were parked beside street walls with warchalking, with their respective owners savouring the internet connection greatly. A signpost by a garden read: “No legs, no paws.” A stray dog stood in front of the signpost, as if it was reading it, then raised its hindleg and baptized the signpost with canine liquor. A garden robot detected an intruder and was approaching it before it disappeared into the streets. There was a screech! Two cars had collided, and passersby were stunned.
“Sir, are you okay?” his car beeped. “Send an SOS if you need an ambulance. Just press 5-5-7. Can you hear me? Are you alive? Press 5-5-7 now.” He ignored his car and stepped out. He – Judas the biochemist – stepped out into the arms of compassionate passersby.
“Are you all right?” a woman asked.
“Yes. I saw a strange creature in front…” he was interrupted by the fury of the other driver.
“Do you want to kill me? Do you have an eye defect? Are you insane? What reckless driving!” Some people are telling him to conserve his strength and wait for first aid. “What do you guys mean? This man nearly got me killed. Nearly-”
“Sir,” a man started, “Please sit on the floor. Say no more, your heart is thumping really fast. You need some rest.” He forces him to sit.
Judas, with his open palm directed towards the man sitting on the ground: “I am sorry, mister. I was trying to avoid a certain creature…?
“The dog that crossed?” the man asked.
“No. apart from the dog, I saw a strange creature. Of course, the dog had crossed a long time ago.”
The man, shaking his head: “Only you know what you saw!”
“Yes. I saw a mechanical creature. I saw an…an alien?”
The man laughed loudly before he said “An alien here in Lagos? Brother, you need help. Seriously.”
“I know what I saw. I have seen something like that within my house; I can’t be wrong.”
“Whatever you saw would not have replaced me if you had killed me,” the man said and wiped the glucose powder on his lips. He stood up, dusted himself and said, “Please, see your doctor.” There was something close to anger now boiling in Judas’ heart. He only managed to contain it as he watched the man enter his car.
When Cheta woke up, there were things like crabs – metallic crabs – crawling all over her body. She screamed, and fell off the bed unintentionally. Brian was not there. It was not night yet; just 5pm. She grabbed her top and ran towards the kitchen.
“Brian! Where are you, Brian!” she shouted. She was about shouting again when she suddenly swallowed her saliva. Brian was naked, and she could see that below his torso, his body was metallic. But what was he doing in the kitchen with something like a headphone attached to his ears? What was he doing in such an awkward posture? Many more questions were running through her mind before Brian spoke.
“Yes, Sir Koomzi! I will make her lead me to the cemetery. The more dead bodies we marsinize within a month, the more likely we are to raise enough Martian soldiers for Project PIE…”
Through the speaker of what looked like a laptop. “Yes, officer of the Harvest Troop, the more marsinized dead bodies, the greater the strength of the army. And by the way, that girl stirs something more than a metal in me; maybe Kreator has a plan for us. Bring her to me!”
“But Prime Minister, bringing her may be difficult just as her marsinization is proving difficult. She has a strong inner core, and bringing her along may ruin Project Proactiveness or Invade Earth.”
PIE – Proactiveness or Invade Earth – was a project the United Nations of Mars had commenced because of the fear that humans may want to invade Mars someday. This fear grew after a little Martian being, the Spying Barnacle, attached itself to a spacecraft and claimed afterwards that it heard the astronauts discussing the possibility of having human population on Mars. They, Martians, did not also like the idea of trying to decarbonize their planet –as humans claim the high percentage of carbondioxide on Mars causes global warming on earth – and so must protect their Red Planet. Most Martian creatures depended on carbondioxide. They just did not want humans claiming superiority over them in any way, and so must prepare for war, if need be. But their population can never be compared to that of Earth, and so they must increase theirs by stealing humans, dead or alive – by marsinization. Koomzi was the prime minister heading the mission for the marsinization of humans. Other countries on Mars had chosen him unanimously.
“That being true, you must step up your game. Unless you want me to send a new leader for the troop…”
“No, sir! I will handle it.”
“Okay then, there will be a break in the transmission now. I will speak with you in a fortnight.”
“Okay, Sir. Thank you, Sir Koomzi!”
The laptop-like gadget went blank.
Cheta collapsed into herself, over and over again. But she managed to run into the toilet, where she did the real thing. She fainted.
Judas – Dim Amadi – returned home after the accident, and quickly went to the bathroom to take his bath. In Lagos, power outage was almost a rare thing. Since 2997. Judas switched on the bathroom lights and started work on his body. He loved to spend time in doing some things – cooking, cloth-washing, hair-combing – and bathing was not far from the list. While he was still washing his body, it suddenly happened. Blackout! He screamed in shock, and groped in the dark for nothing in particular – maybe the switch. He found the switch, but could not find the light. He could not understand this – if it were an eclipse, perhaps he would have. In panic, he managed to run out of the bathroom and headed, hopefully, to the balcony. When he finally got there, he could see light in distant houses. He rested on the wall, and allowed his mind to see if it could put some things together as to why there was electricity blackout in his residential area.
When Brian returned to his room, Cheta was not there. He was a little bit perturbed, but had to rest his mind owing to the fact that he planted a monitoring-chip in the flesh at the back of her neck. And so when he waited for her return and did not see her, he left that night, duty-bound.
This process of marsinization involved the use of electricity. And as a rule, marsinization works with opposites – so a Martian with sex as female cannot marsinize a female human, vice versa. This process involved passing a certain current of electricity into the humans, and the amount of current was large for dead bodies. The Martians were votaries of Luigi Galvani, who carried out a frog experiment in 1780 – a pioneer of bioelectricity. The experiment involved passing electric current to the dead frog’s leg – and when this was done, the frog’s leg twitched. And the Galvani Tower, in memory of the human scientist, was the highest on Mars. At least, he was almost the only human they adored. To raise more soldiers for their army, Martians must marsinize dead human bodies, who would come to life with some mechanical accompaniment.
So, Brian left that night to do what he must do. He had found some dead bodies around an area, fresh dead bodies, and must marsininze them. And that was what led to the power outage at Judas’ residence.
Nonplussed, panic-stricken, Judas groped his way back inside. Managing to find a sense of direction, he walked into the bathroom and groped for his cellophone. Luckily, he found it. He was about calling the emergency number, when he heard the blaring of sirens. Neighbours, affected neighbours, had called. He could hear a man shouting through a megaphone, “Please do stay indoors. We have the situation under control! Please do stay indoors!” And so he took a deep breath.
The emergency team, comprising of the police, paramedics and electricians, surveyed the area. While they were inspecting the area’s general transformer, their lights revealed something that looked like a human doing a zombie dance. The beholders screamed. Strong men screamed and took to their heels. Some daredevil journalists stayed put and captured the scene. Just when someone suggested that the “dancing zombieman” be captured, he ran away with a tremendous speed.
The power issue was eventually fixed that night.
The next day, the news headlines came in myriads: “Beast found in Green Boroughs”, “Zombie Alert: A Living-dead Creature Spotted”, “3096: The Future of Aliens?”, etcetera.
Brian escaped that night leaving one of his marsinized beings behind. He had successfully marsinized ten dead bodies. He took the nine, immediately, to the project PIE Warehouse. He returned that night exhausted and so could not wait to throw himself into his bed. He woke up in the morning surprised to see Cheta by his bed. He had not checked for her location on his monitoring gadget.
“Where have you been, babe?” he quickly asked.
“Around,” she answered. She was aware of his return that night, but had decided to sleep in the balcony.
“I looked for you throughout yesterday. You went out to get something?”
“Yes, more like it. How was your night?” She was now staring at him below his torso, wondering how possible it was that she slept with him.”
“Beautiful. Only that I was worried sick about you.” As she said this, Cheta began to worry. She was worrying for the fact that she did not know what Brian was discussing with the alien she saw on the laptop-like thingy. They were conversing in a strange language. The Martians spoke the Martian language, but spoke English backwards when in the midst of humans. Something their brains did so easily. And they did this to mock the human language.
“Oh, you shouldn’t have. I am a big girl, and that means I can take care of myself. Or don’t you think so?”
“Oh, I do. Come here.” When Cheta sat beside him on the bed, he put his hand across her neck.
“Brain, how many languages can you speak?” she asked courageously.
“Well, I am a polyglot. I find it easy learning languages. Why did you ask?”
“Nothing actually. I was wondering how many languages aliens…I mean people from Boomel could speak.” The alien part had come out on its own terms, and she hated herself for that.
Uneasy and suspicious: “Well…well, we speak many languages.” He stood up from the bed and hesitated to move. Cheta, suspecting she knew he was not from Boomel Island, made for the door. He ran after her and grabbed her by the neck.
“Zanga zangan dun!” he shouted and threw Cheta into the bed, all the way from the door. She landed safely, but wriggled in pain. Brian’s eyes looked horrific.
“Please don’t hurt me, Brian. Who…what are you?”
“Khalahan! I am a Martian.”
“I am from Mars. Planet Mars!”
“What? Tell me you are kidding. This can’t possibly be happening. This can’t be real.”
“Unfortunately, it is. And part of my mission is to take you to Mars, to Sir Koomzi.” He was now approaching the bed.
“No! Don’t you dare come closer, or I will kill you.”
“Hahaha. Kolondo kolonza mbetuke! You, kill me?” He quickly grabbed her by the leg.
“Somebody save me! Somebody-”
“Shut up tanand! How did you find out that I am an alien, if I must use that word?”
“I…I overhead you speaking to someone through that electronic system.”
“Oh! And that explains your sudden disappearance, huh?”
“Yes! Please let me go home to my people. I will tell no one about this.”
“That’s not gonna happen!” He grabbed her, produced something from his pocket and placed it on her head. In no time, Cheta was enclosed in a thick balloon-like ball and she rolled round the room.
“Please, let me go,’’ she said through a hole Brian made on the ball. “What have I done to you?”
“Nothing, actually. But you humans are trying to invade our planet, and we don’t like that. Ukunbi! We must protect our colony.”
“We have no such plans, Brian.”
“Your scientists are thinking in that line. Maybe you don’t know about it’’.
“No, Brian. The opinions your people have of humans are obviously out-and-out misconceptions. We humans, apart from being rational, are considerate beings. We have no such intentions. And of course, most intellectuals are still not yet convinced that there is an existing population on Mars. I may just be among the few to know. Maybe, a lucky one.’’
“Well, you must travel with me to Mars.’’
“Please, Brian! Let me go.”
“I wish I could. As a second-class citizen of Mars, this is the only chance I have to prove myself worthy to study at Apex University of Mars.”
“Yes, something that has to do with my race or parentage.”
“So, there is segregation on Mars?”
“Yes, I think it is a universal thing. Isn’t it?”
“So it seems. But you must let me go. I can’t leave Earth. Please!”
“I am sorry, but I must marsinize you this night.”
“I must prepare you for the journey. Marsinization will help you adapt to the conditions on Mars.”
“Who’s Sir Koomzi?”
“He’s the prime minister of Zulok, and the commander-in-chief of the Harvest Troop. We are taking dead humans and living ones with a resilient core to Mars.” Cheta fainted inside the ball, and Brian went to release her.
Two weeks later, Cheta was ready to embark on a journey which might be a defining one for the human race. She had secretly informed the federal government about her journey, and the officials were were amazed by her courage. Scientists were excited and promised to monitor her through their satellites. Her parents gave little or no consent, but she was willing to carry on with the journey, the journey that could lead to an era of telecommunications between humans and Martians. She took plenty of food along for the period of time she would stay on Mars, trying to change the opinion of Martians.
While in the spacecraft, she managed to accept the fact that she shared the same space with dead people; the awakened dead.
“Are you ready?” Brian asked. Cheta smiled with a nod. A smile laden with uncertainty. Her chest heaved, and she took a deep breath as their spacecraft purred and left Earth with some gravitational resistance.
Image: Kevin Dooley (Flickr) remixed