Every night for the past two weeks, it has been the same dream. Just as I reach for her hands, I wake up. His image and message would come up in the middle of my dream just as I held Kemi’s hands.
What does the old man want ? I thought to myself, and why can’t I seem to reach beyond her hands? Is there more to this recurring dream or am I forever stuck with the vodka cup, unable to drink? I blinked to stop the dream recorder and picked it up. I gently tapped on the message options, wondering to myself, why I had not bought a quality version of these dream recorders.
The more expensive ones had an isolation mode, that allowed all incoming messages to wait and not intrude and prevented ads from rocking you to sleep. It gave more flexibility on what I choose to put me to sleep. I cursed under my breath swearing that I would buy the “Beng and Price” dream catch versions, these Google central connected ones were so annoying and intrusive. Three times last week I drifted off into the world of Nescafe’s intravenous coffee, it seems there had been a massive campaign within the past three months on Google central.
Granddad wanted to see me; he was fond of my visits. I wasn’t so enthusiastic about the visits they were an essential chore. I often questioned his sanity when he took us both on nostalgia high and bragged about his feats and achievements in life. Our conversations would drag on for a million trips to Pluto leaving me exhausted, but I would politely nod although my thoughts would be with “Desecration”.
“Desecration” was an augmented reality shoot ’em up that had half the city running around with plastic toy guns and augmented reality contact lenses, zapping each other. There had been a lot of casualties in the game and in real life. Teenagers, so into the game had wandered into on- coming trains and there were people who had killed in self-defence not realizing it was a toy pointed at them. The government was contemplating banning the game, but were facing pressure from influence peddlers in the gaming industry that cited statistics based on usage by enhanced people. It was possible to buy enhanced eyes, which worked with enhanced body parts. I considered this cheating, but it was an argument that favours everyone getting enhancements.
Granddad must be in the mood to torture someone after plugging himself into the nineties again. I pitied him; ever since grandma died all he had for company were the Swedish 900 blondes. He once requested one that was customized to look and act like grand-mum, but he kept forgetting it was just an android. He would stare at it with the sagging wrinkles on his forehead and the droopy eyes asking again and again, like dementia had taken hold.
“Why did you leave, why did you leave me for the past 10 years?”,
After minutes of repeating himself, he would devolve into a creature with bloodshot eyes and a face as rumpled as the sheets on his unmade bed. He would often sob like a toddler that had lost his toy, asking her not to leave him again. Eventually he wore out the emotional module of the machine. I mulled over putting in more of the memories that will allow the responses that would enable him to continue in his fantasies, so that I would not get as many calls from him as I did these days. But I hated how the robot was really like grand-mum to him. It deluded him into believing grand-mum was not dead any more.
I got up and took off the dream recorder then replayed the night’s dream on the wall screens just to preview. The dream was as the previous in terms of texture and it was all the same, except I saw dad in it and that really scared me.
What’s the time? Oh! it is 8:30 am. I contemplated taking lessons on the Roman Empire now or later. The knowledge was required to submit a short story to Professor Jaiye at the University of Lagos. I was taking a degree in Fiction writing part time. I wanted to be just like granddad in that regard.
To take the lessons I would have to plug into Google Classical central and it usually takes about thirty minutes. I decided on now because memory stability often took a while.
Granddad preferred old fashioned ways for most things. Although I could relate to his reasons, I did not have time. How could I validate my knowledge with the University in the minimal time given, if I chose to read? These days no body reads, it takes so much time and our tests were about being creative and not remembering. Google Central could teach many things, but it cannot teach you how to think creatively. I could load as much information that I require and ways to use them, but as a writer I still need to fill the pages. Granddad told me about the days when software engineers were rock stars because of the ability to write code. I cannot understand how a human being cannot write instructions to modify machine behaviour. There are still a lot of illiterate old world people, that cannot code they mostly get blue collar Jobs. The money was not great but they got good health access. A dubious incentive considering that they were monitored and the cooperation they worked for needed them using only their facilities.
These days learning no longer mattered and professions that did not require the application of knowledge or skilful body movement were irrelevant. The athletes, dancers, writers and anyone that could create impossible things were bankable. These were desired, but unattainable profession, because Google Central could not teach creativity. The concept of reading had become out-dated and was a path taken by the old world masochist.
I once downloaded a dance module into my cerebral, it felt like being in some sort of transient state. It was like those nights laying on the couch between sleep and awareness where visions would flash so fast, I could hardly tell if they were dreams or memories and wake up not remembering anything. In this case, it was a lot more pleasant feeding my mind with knowledge; I always opened my eyes to more awareness. There were some folks addicted to the process, they were not interested in the learning but the pleasure of their minds being flashed. It was referred to as “eko afẹsodi”.
After the dance download, I felt I could do anything, I waved in the air for my music player and started waltzing with an invincible girl to Carl Maria von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance. It felt awkward and at the songs peak, I felt a rush and found my self over the room. It was fun but I felt clumsy, often I missed the tempo. For the nine minutes the piece played, I was the dog with no sense of rhythm. I could dance but not to human songs.
The story was the same with writing, the gained downloads did not necessary mean an awesome writer and that is why algorithms could not create good stories which forced Google to employ a lot of storytellers. It was a visual enactment of our stories that were used to create most of the teaching modules that we feed our brains.
I was always given constraints in terms of what the elements I was to share and the rest was left to my creativity. The machines could not come up with new concepts, nor ways to enact that made the ideas stick. Loading a person with words without enactments was the cheapest form, but it made learning unpleasant. I enjoyed my job because it was a break from lemming hood.
An hour later I got out to join the Lagos green metro line travelling from Epe to Marina. I needed to change trains to the yellow line at Marina or Victoria Island going to the ocean front of the Eko Atlantic City, where granddad lived.
I tapped my blue rubber wristband against the gate sensor which opened up the barrier to the metro area, stepped into the escalator and wondered how people could have possibly got around without these trains ever. I preferred them to the cars because I needed to remember that I was in the land of the living, since I lived alone.
Down on the dirty subway tracks with oddly tiled green and white walls covered with written graffiti “The Iwin will inherit the earth”, a group of body enhanced people where performing. The performers were called “The OYAs”. They were performing the instrumentals of a song, I remembered from my child hood called “Eye adaba”. Granddad had the record of the original by an artist called ASA from the old days. He showed me a picture of her once, she wore a primitive looking bold framed analogue pair of glasses to help those with eye defects. I did not really like them because they were not inconspicuous. Granddad still had one of those things, but he never wore them out .No one had those anymore; they must have been really uncomfortable. “Iwin” was the name given to machine enhanced people by locals. They were discriminated against and they also discriminated against.
To be a writer it is never enough to just see. There is an urgent compulsion to feel and taste each and every single thing, before I put my thought to words. It would be almost a sly injustice, to think of, or even imagine, experiencing things through another’s eyes. A literary sin, of the literal kind.
The train rides I took often provided that, I often struggled coming up with what my characters would look like and the easiest solution was take the train to densely populated areas like New Mushin. Whenever I saw a really interesting person, I would record with my augmented reality lens.
At last my train arrived just as the song ended with the fading Cello into the noise of the busy track. As I got on the train right in front of me was a Caucasian girl speaking Yoruba with an East Asian looking girl without a vocal interpreter. The Caucasian girl had her blond hair interwoven with black hair and had mid cheekbones. She had deep dimples that came up often as they chuckled and laughed in between their conversation. She had on a clean white shirt and a black skirt suit, but thick dark makeup. The Asian whose mandarin accent could not be hidden had red dyed hair with a dark base and had a mango chin with a small face. The Asian’s skin looked like custard compared to her friend. Both of them had the same outfit. The Asian looked a lot more voluptuous than most Asians tend to be. I wondered if she had made any enhancements.
These days enhanced women rocked, Kemi had made two facial enhancements because of my preference for Japanese women. It made her sexier. Just picture a curvy African lady with Asian facial features and thick lips. I often wondered how the doctors pulled off making her eyes look so beautiful. These days there were no ugly women, except those self-righteous feminist nags that felt there was nothing natural about humanity any more. Enhancement these days was not just about beauty, they were used in the area of ability. Depending on the application I considered it cheating, but not in Kemi’s case.
“We have arrived at Victoria Island”, announced the familiar automated notification. I contemplated going with the train to Marina before changing my stop so I could feed my eyes on girls, but decided to get off so I would not be late.
There will be many more booties to observe.
I winked at the girls, but they were too engrossed in their conversation to notice. I then found my way to the platform for the yellow line.
When the train arrived, I climbed into it to be greeted by cameras, cool air and some sort of air freshener coming out of the vents. It was like gasoline mixed with vanilla and some other odour that I could not quite recognize. There was no one on my coach except an elderly looking man wearing a “Shalwar kameez” with a “Ron Jeremy” moustache and his head covered with what looked like a Sikh turban. He was yelling loudly at his phone in what sounded like Punjabi mixed with Hausa and English. As soon as I saw him I went to the opposite end of the room to avoid the smell of asafoetida, a spice that sometimes gets on the clothes. He might have been the source of the odour.
I stared at the train screens with a news flash about a minor accident on the Dangote transport trains at Gabon. The trains travel a long stretch from Murtala International Airport in Lagos through, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo and Namibia to South Africa. There were plans to extend branches that would reach Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.
The yellow line was different, it had the most luxurious train coaches and was a lot neater than the other train lines. The other problem with this line was the cameras, which were not inconspicuous like in other train lines. There were so many security cameras, at least 3 per coach. I usually felt violated when riding on this one. There were rarely normal people on the train only rich pensioners and the suit types. Most people that lived and worked on Eko Atlantic had Robo-cars.
The Eko Atlantic where Granddad lived is the pearl of Lagos. According to Granddad, the original plan had 7 areas, but at some time two of the sectors were merged into one. Granddad lived at the ocean front. He lived in one of the ocean front luxury flats overlooking the encroached Atlantic.
Granddad had said many times all of Eko Atlantic was stolen from the sea and the sea always takes back its own, but yet he was party to the robbery. He lived very high up overlooking the waves from his apartment. The ocean front was mainly occupied by rich pensioners, expatriates and executives of large co operations that had head-quarters at the Eko Atlantic financial district.
“Down town Eko Atlantic” said the automated voice announcing our destination jolting me out my thoughts. I got off the train on to the platform and inserted my augmented reality contact lens. I liked to use the lens to navigate; although I had been here several times I still could not find my way around without the lens.
About 10 minutes later, I was at Granddad’s penthouse apartment ringing his bell .The common area leading to his front always smelt like burning plastic. The odour came from his apartment. It must have been the ancient gadgets he kept. A lot of the gadgets were just power guzzling pieces of junk, which were mono functional.
Today the corridor had a pleasant scent, it smelt like strawberry. After almost seven minutes waiting with no response, I began to bang the door still, no one answered. The other doors remained shut as no one else bothered to check on the ruckus I was creating.
I sat on the floor for a bit wondering if he had gone out, then tried the bell again. As I was about to leave, I tried the door and it as was not locked.
I stepped in shutting his brown thick mahogany door behind me. The apartment was silent, but it looked like Granddad. It was a mess as always, books all over the couch and unwashed dished on the dining table, pieces of electronics all over the place. I cleared up the dirty dishes and took them to the kitchen.
The garbage was full and the kitchen smelt like rotten oranges. It seemed like the cleaning lady had not been there in weeks. I left the kitchen towards Granddad’s bed room. I opened the door to his room calling after him and there he was motionless, on top of the broken Swedish 900 that looked like Grand-mum. I moved closer and I could see he was blue. I checked for a pulse and there was none.
It seemed he was dead.
Folajimi Adekoya, February 2013©