It took more than the sound of the alarm built into the detachable chrome and fibreglass bed to wake Boyo up from a dream-filled sleep. Though the continuous beep of the alarm played a part, it was the strong, bittersweet, whiff of marijuana, seeping in through the hairline crack where his bulletproof fibreglass door failed to meet its thirty-year-old stainless steel metal frame. Like most things in his house, the door was bought second-hand from the Hausa traders that had made sales of second-hand items their preserve.
Lifting his head wearily from his synthetic feather pillows, he snapped his fingers twice to turn off the alarm, then tried to drift back to sleep.
The day was not a work one, for him at least, since he had put in the mandatory 48 hours workweek at the factory where he worked as a contract security guard. He was nudging again on Dream World’s door when the whiff of marijuana, stronger now, assailed his nostrils again. He coughed—a chest-racking cough, which usually pre-empted his asthma attack.
Sleep fled from him as he jumped out of bed and grabbed his inhaler, a sturdy transparent cone that glowed at his touch. He sucked on it for a few seconds then leaned back on the bed, waiting for the drug to take effect.
As soon as his chest stopped heaving, he pressed a small button on the bedside table and a compartment slide out. He rummaged inside and pulled out a small facemask, which he clamped on his face, covering his nose and mouth. He adjusted the mask to fit as snug as possible and walked to the door.
Anger blazed in his eyes and his hands shook as he paused for a while behind the door, pondering if he should confront the perpetrators of this assault.
Deciding it had gone on long enough; He keyed in his clearance code with skill of long practice—looking away from the flashing neon pad—and waited for the heavy door to slide away, before stepping into the corridor.
He paused just outside the door and stared at the knot of half-nude youths, who ignored him as they passed around a gigantic joint of marijuana wrapped in what glowed like Syntogrip—which allowed the semi-legal drug burn more evenly and much longer than the conventional fibre wrapper.
Spent smoke clouded the passage, thick enough to get anyone that inhaled it high as raffia bug drunk on fresh palm wine. Wanting to see the faces of the drugheads before he confronted them Boyo snapped his fingers and the bluish light strips along the walls crackled and blinked to life, causing the roughnecks to exclaim with irritation even as they tried to shield their eyes—Syntogrip for sure, Boyo thought.
Syntogrip was usually soaked in TyrolineX—an illegal synthetic drug, popularly called TX, that a government survey said was responsible for more deaths the year before than the B viruses—explained why dealers got as much as twenty years for first offence and death for a repeat offence. TX was also very expensive. A 10-milligram bottle sells for as high as twenty thousand African Union Nirand—enough money to buy a house in highbrow Ejigbo or an entire street in swampy of VGC. The going rate of TyrolineX ensured was draw enough for the multitude of criminal gangs that battled for control in the streets of Eko.
TyrolineX caused over sensitivity to light, making it painful for the user to function in direct light. The default recourse for users was dark glasses. Its use among the rich and famous had recently spawned a new high fashion statement, shaded smart glasses that filtered out the harsher spectrums, which the group before Boyo were now hastily pulling down from forehead perches.
The mumbled curses coming from the group drew Boyo from his mental flight. Three males and two females barely out of adolescence, all heavily tattooed and sporting another recent craze, eye-side luminous tribal marking, occupied the space before the elevator. Boyo looked straight at the bigger of the two girls, a very captivating young woman whose colourful tiger tattoos and pointy breasts did little to diminish.
The nudity was another fashion craze that Boyo found difficult to understand. True, the climate had brought a lot of innovation to fashion, but nudity remained a taboo to the older generation across much of Africa; however the younger generation insisted on their right to go bare and flaunt their natural or acquired endowments.
The painted breast craze was made popular by a young female musician from the kingdom of Gambia, who appeared often in body paint than she did in clothes. Now, every girl younger than 25 was eager to throw clothes to the dustbin of ancient history and show off bare breasts decorated with tattoos and luminous tribal markings.
It took all of Boyo’s self-restraint to keep his eyes from straying to the girl’s firm post-adolescent breasts, highlighted by a clever use of body paint that made them appear to swell at any slight movement. He instead focused on the eagle tattoo that seemed to pulsate with life on her forehead.
‘Tolani, I thought I have warned you severally about smoking gbana in the passage?’ he asked, trying to keep his voice in check and clear through the muffling effect of his mask.
She looked coolly at him—which was more than he hoped for; more often than not, she just ignored him—but said nothing. She took a long drag from the joint, just then passed to her, rolled the smoke in her mouth with seeming gratification and blew it towards him, managing somehow to do it in a way that suggested sensuality, of the dirty kind.
He could tell from the glassy sheen of her eyes that she was already too high to understand subtle cajoling, so he walked past her and her group, ignoring their giggles.
Cheeky tease, boyo thought.
His intention was to call the landlord’s attention to the nuisance that was his daughter and her disreputable friends. It was not that the burly local chieftain would have much to say in the matter, But Boyo wanted to air his grievance. However, their giggles got to him and he stopped short of ringing the buzzer over which his fingers hovered.
They stopped giggling when he turned away from the door and began walking towards them. Perhaps they retained enough reasoning in their drug induced high to read the anger in his eyes or perhaps it had more to do with Tolani, who had pushed herself to the front, nipples jabbing the air like arrow darts.
Boyo quickened his stride as he neared them. Tolani seemed to guess his intent for she screamed obscenities at him and began sprinting forward.
Her palm slammed on the cancel button less than a second after his palms had triggered the security alarm.
Everything happened in quick time after that.
Boyo gave Tolani credit for quick thinking. Aside from stopping for a moment to give him a killer’s gaze, with a speed Boyo was sure she derived from the TX, Tolani ushered her troop through the fire escape tube beside the elevator. She turned once more to glare at him, her eyes, dilated pupil and all, promising him repercussions, before sliding down the escape tube after them.
Annihilation is forthcoming in Lagos 2060, Nigeria’s first science fiction anthology, to be published by DADA Books later this year.