My phone rang. It was Uzor, my best man. His smooth, almost chiselled face jumped out of the blue screen and loomed before me in a matrix of pixels. We talked a while about coming events and he told me he would be coming over to my place later in the evening.
“Okay, see you then.” I said and hung up. The pixels vanished, fading into thin air. I drank my tea in one gulp, slightly burning the roof of my mouth, and ran into the bathtub for a hot shower. Out, I dressed in street clothes; cashmere slacks, an Arsenal jersey with the number 9 and the name of the Worlds Best Footballer of the Year, Oghene Oteri, crested on it. I shoved my feet into my favourite black sneakers, donned a black leather jacket over my get-up and I was ready to go.
With the dawning of mobile offices, I had no worries about work. I slipped my office into my pocket, grabbed my car keys and headed out, taking the stairs two at a time. I got into my car, turned the ignition, and released the rotor pads, which in turn forced out a cloud of steam to propel the rotor blades, thereby buoying the vehicle at the same time. I experienced a heady feeling as I was lifted off the cobbled floor. Gliding out of my column, I depressed the electronic gizmo on my dashboard which automatically lifted the huge black gates that secured my home from the violence that had permeated the delinquent minds of the age. I glided through the open gates, past two prowling ladies with weird hairdo’s, clad in leather pants that clung hungrily to their skins, and watched from my rear mirrors as my gate clamped shut like the jaws of a mighty shark. With a little clang and a jolt, I joined the moving stream of vehicles at an open terminal and depressed the red accelerator button, which sat on the middle of the wheel. Where I was headed, I had no Idea. I just wanted to keep moving, perhaps to chirp off some tension, lose my apprehension and approach the forthcoming ceremony with peace.
I glided through Odumodu, past several gleaming high-rises onto the frenzied main market By-Road. As usual, the Chinese littered the stalls beneath, trading their cheap devices to un-entrepreneurial blacks. Extra-large neon signs hung on metal derricks, advertising some miracle drug for the HIV virus. The face of some new Mayoral candidate protruded from one too many corners of market road, disconcerting the long sighted driver, who rarely paid heed to the colourful frames.
The Central Government had long been broken and the provinces held total power, hence the corruptible rush for the seat of power in Aniocha, capital of the Delta province, likewise in most provinces too, hence the many pudgy and overfed faces that winked from the glowing frames of the lighted signs. A handful of end-time messages scrolled lazily through the roof of some church or the other. From market road, I headed for the American quarters, where I chanced upon a speed chase. A green-white-green police van with wailing sirens tore past me, chasing a hooded rider on a Duwa Maxwell Octa (The latest supersonic, Nitro-powered four-legged bike; a pride of the century). I carefully eased out of the way for the rest of the howling chase team, slightly kissing the bluish-green lining of the By-Road.
Up ahead, I glimpsed a couple of street kids, whom I quickly guessed from their queasy looks, were selling coke to two Caucasian males who stood timidly with both hands in their pockets. I sped past until finally I saw myself gliding up Nikisi road, past Nkwelle Ezunaka and deeper into the slums of Onitsha town. Down on the macadam were several ladies like the ones I had seen earlier, making a living from prowling the streets for randy males. I was barely aware, when my car floated to a stop beside the familiar huge red gate. I pulled into an auxiliary garage and depressing my rotor pads, came to rest beside a hot pink Subaru that looked exactly like Adama’s. I quickly dispelled the idea; there was no way on earth my fiancée could have come here.
So this was what I was scared I would miss as a married man. I took a deep breath and rapped on the gate.
“Who is there?” Came the metallic clip of the robot sentry cum gateman.
“It’s me Emeka,” I announced.
After what I guessed must have been several whines, electronic checks and verifications, I heard the rustle of metal against metal and a second later, the gate flew open.
The robot, an android, was a small thing, maybe five feet at best. It had large bulbous eyes that gleamed like an aliens. A small opening, which closed mechanically characterised its lips. In place of a nose was a Pinocchio-like button that glowed a bright red. The colour varied for different androids depending on their functions. Red was for sentries. It wore a black suit with glittering brass buttons, almost the same get-up one would expect the concierge of a five star restaurant to have on, plus a glittering black cap like a policeman’s. Its polished black shoes also gleamed. A metallic hand hidden in white gloves moved smartly to the side of his cap in salute.
‘Welcome,’ it clipped.
The android beamed me a knowing smile as I walked past it into the segregated compound. It bothered me that robots were allowed so much knowledge by the National Robot Rights Commission (NRRC), made me nervy when I read about the hostile robotic takeovers in Egypt, Sudan and the Gambia. I hoped it would never come to that in Nigeria. I walked to the white faced building on the left, past the patches of azalea that grew green and fresh on the cobbled path. Several other buildings littered the tenanted compound; they in turn were adorned by roses and witch hazel. I had my key, so unlocking the front door, I stepped into a richly furnished living room. I felt at home immediately like I always did when indecision found me here. I flopped into a gold-coloured armchair and watched as a passing wind rustled the flowered-brown curtains.
Ebere was in; I had seen her blue Mazda parked in her gaudy column. She had not heard me come in else she would have been all over me in welcome. Since it was a Saturday, my guess was she was still in bed, tending her dreams.
It had been quite a while since the last time I visited, having promised my conscience to stay true and faithful to Adama. But here I was again, so much for my empty promises. I felt guilt, but at the same time I felt the usual thrill. It coursed through me like ale did when I had a glass too many. There was no harm in having fun with my woman-friend one last time, was there?
Having justified my guilt, I stretched out my feet, closed my eyes and relaxed, scanning through the lascivious images that would soon be me in action. Suddenly, I sat up straight. I heard a sound, a distinctive moan emanating from Ebere’s bedroom. I knew that sound, and had thought it exclusive to me. I knew I wasn’t the only man in Ebere’s life, but still I felt a pang of jealousy knowing she was probably in the arms of another man.
I stood up to leave but had a sudden compulsion to at least see the face of the man who pleased her so. Without making a sound, I tiptoed to the bedroom door. Here, the sounds grew louder, awakening in me, anger I had no right to feel. It took me close to five minutes to completely turn the handle of the door. Of course I had done this so as not to rouse the couple within. Gently, I eased open the door, just an inch and peered in. The naked trio on the bed were too occupied with their sensual pleasures to have noticed the almost indiscernible crack in their haven.
I had always known Ebere to be a wild bird, but not as wild as what my eyes beheld. I cannot begin to repeat the obscene words that tumbled out of their mouths; neither can I begin to describe the puckish sounds that followed their dirty games or the dexterous android that was specially programmed to satisfy their orgies. I was about to turn and find my way out when my eyes spun three hundred and sixty degrees. The nubile form of my wife-to-be who had at that point, emerged from the bathroom, joined in the orgy, expertly pushing the lady who was the androids focus at the mo, to the side. And splaying wide her legs for the robot, she moaned loudly, squirming in ecstasy.
Ebere and the other lady, whom I guessed was Ifesinachi, Uzor’s wife, threw themselves on the ecstatic Adama and did things to her that hurt my eyes.
I was aghast.
I felt betrayed.
Only one person I knew could re-program an android.
And this sex machine must have been one of his masterpieces. I made a mental note to contact him. But on second thoughts, I wondered . . . contact him and tell him what? That his robot was screwing my wife?
As silent as I had approached, I retreated, finding my way out of the house with some difficulty as my vision was blurred with a gutting pain. I walked past the knowing android at the gate who gave me another knowing wink.
‘Have a great day mister,’ it clipped.
I felt like bashing in its metallic skull, but that would mean five years in a federal jail. I scratched my head instead and walked out to where my car was temporarily lodged. I paid the fee to the parking robot by the side.
‘Have a great day mister,’ it said with a grating beep that hurt my ears.
What a mistake . . .
The stories I had read about the twenty first century and the before, were much more comforting: a life without robots, without By-Roads, where the macadam had much more use, instead of the glorified trampling ground for mortal feet and destitute prowlers, which it had become. Where the center had total power and the provinces called States not only paid obeisance to a president but were dependent on him. Where marriage was revered, and sex its sacred tool. I wish I was born into that time.
I climbed into my car, released my rotor pads and gently gliding back onto the By-Road, sped off. As I went, a nagging question kept re-echoing in my mind and try as I may, I found no answer. I muttered the words as I sped towards Obiocha, “Where did I go wrong?”