He walks around, in short quick steps. The Chinese lady, Mrs. Chang and her class of eager students watch him intently.
“This invention begins with the story of a small boy, Muhjaj, the black boy of Libyan Plains discovered in 1958 in the Acacus Mountains of central Sahara.”
When he talks about anything, big screens flicker to life instantaneously, showing an African Village. The Libyan child is huddled in an embryonic pose. Its three dimensioned image rotates for a full examination.
The Chinese students marvel and whisper amongst themselves.
“Our little boy here was 5600 years old at the time of discovery. He is 7000 years old now. What is special about him is that………he was…..he was there many years before the mummification of the first Egyptian Pharaohs. It’s much more than recreation or preservation of the human body….. This was the very conception of “re-incarnation.” You will have read some considerable village literature….anyone who doesn’t…take an hour,” he said, and pointed a few meters ahead. A large village appeared between him and the students. The screens all around the walls of the hall flickered to life. Smoke from the village fires pervaded the rooms, along with the smell of cows and the laughter of children. He moved around them, winked at the teacher and asked her to follow him out.
Standing before him outside, the teacher was trying hard to fit the chubby man with the promises he’d made to her on saving her brother’s life.
It was like he never owned any of these. He spoke with bravado and an unashamed negligence on the might of this discovery. In her mind the young Chinese lady had the image of a custodian of a bounty who never appreciated the worth of what he guarded. He kept bobbing between worlds with the ease of a sperm. Masturbation, potential president, aborted foetus, trapped in a condom tip down the drain of a septic tank or in a cold freezer in a large laboratory waiting to be born as a child of the future. Empty spaces, changing seconds and fickle circumstances dictated its end. He merged time and space without realizing.
“This is Ajok Bok Lam… Sudanese – soldier
Dinka community- Nile home
-30 at the time of death.”
He paused before the static men. She followed him briskly, stopping at various spots across the vastness of the upward world. The Standing cities of the 22nd Century.
“This is Malik Abdul- Libyan- footballer of repute,
top scorer- the first African world cup win- Rwanda 2092
28 at the time of death.
“And this here is the renown and respected Christabel Awino-Kenyan
World class designer
32 at the time of death.”
And from one Afri-lean he moved to the other, stopping briefly to explain. The Chinese lady, faking enthusiasm, towed herself along.
“This is Kheir Bashir- Somali- scientist – inventor of the bones to egg plant-
Fed Haiti, India and China
43 at the time of death.
“This is Fellix Kipturess Sachangwan …Kenyan….
World record holder… marathon Uganda – 3001.
36 at the time of Death.
“Miss Chang. Afri-lean is the African story.”
“This is ……our,” he said, paused and stared at a handsome Afri-lean; a boy set two tiers above in a glass room. She stared at the perfect ease and relaxation in the world within which the young body stared. The chubby guide looked at her and, with the arrogance of a performed and reductive bravado, said, “this is perhaps the furthest we have gone in restoring life….our pride in capturing reality….a flitting instance of all that is virtuous in man….it’s like we stopped time and paused life! This is the closest we have come to immortality.” He did not come any close at describing the essence of what they had managed to create.
Miss Chang had taken time to stare each Afri-lean in the face. Their eyes spoke languages. It captured the immortality of their emotions. Those eyes were dead and unblinking but deep in their stare were fragments of life that held on like shreds of an interesting past. There was love in one, pain in another, a secret smile lying behind another; sudden shock in the ashen look of one, there was despair in the glazed hollowness of another, that sudden dawning of a lost reality. But with the young boy set in glass she felt each of her sensory perceptions rekindled to life.
She stood enchanted by the beauty before her. A young face, smiling yet a frown seemed to creep into the handsome visage. There was laughter in the glow of that skin. Those eyes were lovingly warm, yet a certain kind of coldness seemed to have crept in and permanently taken residence. It was like the look of a newly found love. She felt so many things surge inside her. Her skin tinged to the memory of a past orgasm. Her heart surged to a past sorrow and thumped with the memory of a past pride. Her legs felt drained of strength. She was struggling to breathe.
“Are you okay,” he whispered.
“I….er….I….” she stammered and held onto the hover bike rails. The shiny bars were cold and slippery. Her palms were all sweaty.
The story of her life seemed to find a language for unraveling itself. There was an ageless wisdom in those eyes that brought her frail brother to mind, the sole reason for her pain of crossing all the new oceans and seas to visit the Kenyon power spot in olden day Africa. There was something about the young Afri-lean that plagued her, something like a permanent mirth that inspired an innocent hilarity or was it an awe struck moment of pure amazement? She could not place a finger on what it actually was.
Now, though, she remembers her brother. A frail and jovial bundle of goodness. She imagines him standing over the balcony to breath in the freshness of dawn before the smog of the industrial ghosts engulfs the air. She sees him sitting and waiting for certain death.
Mr. Chubby brings her to life.
“Miss Chang are you okay?”
“I’m fine…I’m okay!”
Back in Shing Zhou, she would be sitting with her frail brother, looking down at the smog covering the city below. They would stand there for an hour, every day watching as the day brings out life. They would play as children, and laugh and feel alive. In that instance there was innocence to life. All that she ever could be was captured in his laughter. Warm short bursts that sought bits of itself in her and with her giggles she became one with him. That image became the metaphor of something genial and far in her. He was just a life in passing. It pained her every day the thought of his three months claim on this life.
Mr. Chubby is holding her hands and staring ahead, like one looking into the future. His mind is thinking of a frothy sauna with the state merger boys in the “grave city” as they love to call those underground havens, popular with the Kenyon power spot. Suddenly he looks at her and says, “The essence of our being is almost always captured in freak moments of accidental happenings. Flitting moments that illuminate the very core of one’s being. It’s such a blessing that instance…..and it’s such a curse that moment…..we become prisoners to an eternal quest and work to reproduce such lights of life’s darknesses…..”
The truth of that statement was a perfect summary of her turmoil.
She signs and he nudges the hover bike and glides away like a ghoulish apparition that floats through life.
They hovered around, moving from one hall of activities to another. The chubby man talking and never slowing down…he rambled on about all things and everything. He is deliberately skirting the very purpose of her visit, her request. She waits patiently for him to finish his rambles. Mr. Chubby is her only hope to preserve her brother for eternity. Six months ago, she had accidently entered the wrong room at the Global Science Exhibition in Chile, and found Mr. Chubby talking to a few disinterested and lost Asians. She had joined them and feigned interest. That was before her brother was pronounced the slowly dying. In many nights of dreamless slumber and sleepless hours she had explored and exhausted all existing possibilities in trying to restore part of his lost life. She was resigned to whatever fate that wrought sorrow when she remembered Mr. Chubby’s presentation in a cold room in Chile. Consular and diplomatic strings were pulled in unseen ways and a few days ago, on a cold September morning she found herself exchanging flights to the Kenyon Power Spot, in what used to be Eastern Africa. The African continental “horn” was now broken away and floating like a moving island. It was bound for some greater world alliance, ocean currents allowing.
Mr. Chubby stops in, by far, the largest and busiest hall and lets her marvel at the Afri-lean regeneration.
An army of dead black bodies were moving all over the place, in a choreographed uniformity. They stood on conveyor belts moving slowly, their dead eyes fixed to the back of the preceding head, their outstretched hands resting on the shoulders of the Afri-lean in the front. Naked and static like the unresponsive and ancient Mannequins of the 21st century. Conveyor belts were moving all around leading the many armies into kilns and glass chambers like beer bottles in a bottling plant, each kiln for a particular function; Naming, stamping, shaving, injecting, perfecting, sorting and grading. The human mannequins slowly disappeared into the different function kilns and walked out of the 15th Kiln leisurely like naked men walking out of their bathrooms into a new morning. They walked and stopped at an Assembly point, heavy lights shining down on them.
On the lab floor, other hands in robotic lab regalia, wires jutting from the arms and the skeletal muscles, fashioned out of large crustacean covers for extra strength, lifts specific Afri-leans off the conveyor belts, subjecting them to a detailed scrutiny, poking their hard bodies with curious intensities. Right at that moment, the nearest lab hand lifted one large body off the conveyor belt, pointed at a large opening on its backside and tossed it with great ease into the vaporizer at the corner of the hall. An old looking assortment of heavy machinery with a bold caption running across its face: PERMANENT DEATH. THE TRUE RIPPER swallowed the Afri-lean and with one resounding chug reopened again, waiting to be fed.
Their hover bikes glided away, into what Mr. Chubby called Preservation Area 11. He tossed her a large mask and said “you will need that.” Inside the large room were large swimming pools. Even with the gas mask still on, there was a smell that hung low in the large room. The musky smell of decaying human flesh, death and lab chemicals nauseatingly sieved through the large gas masks. In the middle of the wide room occupied by a septic tank that looked like an Olympic size pool, in bluish chloroform liquid human bodies kept bobbing from below the surfaces like men working out, their actions were slow but repeated ad infinitum with the vacuous liquid bubbling and simmering like boiling lava. In another tank other bodies leaned on the sides supported by steel chair-like compartments. The lifeless bodies of men stared in eternal blankness.
He looked at them and out of a dry mirth shouted, “Gentlemen of the past…..you taking a good long rest uh? Waiting to be reborn as mute laborers?”
They zoomed out through the blinding light over the roof. Outside, in a nicely kept park with very large and ageless trees he slowed down and brought the hover bike into the greenery of the front field. He jumped off it, with savage agility. He walked up to a Lion and stroked its mane. He delved again into one of his explanatory lapses.
“Man…man….the ultimate predator has over the past century increasingly grown faster in thought and physical mobility….with progression of time animals are ever decreasingly slowing down….the antelopes now ran 10 times slower than it could 3 centuries ago. Simbalitto, our Lab lion cant snap faster than I can remove my hands from its mouth….things like these were beyond imagination a few hundred years ago…..”
She nodded and pretended to enjoy the snippets of commonplace knowledge that Mr. Chubby was volunteering like a new discovery.
“……like did you know that a threat to civilization 2,000 years ago were men with hard phalluses walking around from every direction chasing each other….?” He laughed in bouts of mirthless guffaws.
He continued laughing. Then he hopped back onto the hover bike and continued, “Baffling from our past are worries from certain human quarters of a threat of globally epidemic proportions……the white toothed African growing daft with his IQ diminishing at astonishing pace invading the western world snapping his teeth like clippers clearing food reserves by reproducing like breeding machines…..hehe…people of the Medantinq period..”
“How were those notions of diminishing IQ’s overcome?” she asked, more out to tickle Mr. Chubby’s fancy than a genuine concern.
“Good..good…gooood question!” he began as if pondering on how to answer her, with a more dramatic appeal.
“But why…..! They made Book candies and manufactured them in dozens and dozens of imaginable volumes and sold them to the Five power spots in Africa.”
“Book candies you say?”
“Book candies!! Hehehe Book Candies… the Power Spots distributed them to its people who ate the candies and stayed dazed for a few hours as the words infused itself into their systems….”
She stopped her hover and stared at him unbelievably. He sensed her confusion.
“The African landscape has a rich history of outside interventions Miss Chang….”
“That is becoming apparent!” she said and nudged her bike forward.
“The Book Candy…..a patented work, mark you, came in many brands. Across the power spots people were dazzled and churned verse after verse of useless knowledge. Medantiq times were funny times Mrs. Chang…. What good is the entire volume of Kamasutra and 15,000 other pornographic book candies in improving an entire civilizations diminishing IQ?”
Tossing her head back Miss Chang sank into a bottomless laughter that rocked her being.
“But how did. ….how did Africa survive the Book Candy intervention?” she managed to ask in between the bouts of laughter.
“Actually the saviors stopped the project….the Euro-apocalyptic imaginations were terrified with a pornographically knowledgeable army of African men with overdeveloped phallic muscles…..invading their dreams and banging them awake!! Disturbing dreams, more severe than daft and IQ less zombie invasions from Africa……this forced them to disassociate themselves with further efforts at rescuing the African peoples’ dismal IQ!”
“But Medantiq times were characterized by technological innovations, I presume?”
“Yes… yes… it was a most interesting phase ….the information age….our ancestors lived at a time of great narcissistic self-adoration, their information technology was geared more towards their bodily beauty….their technology served them right, but not for long!”
Mr. Chubby presently stopped and as if beckoned by the grandeur of the vast structure sprawling behind them and beyond the small park he rubbed his hands in quick gestures and with a wide sweep of his hands, like a temple servant of old times, said, “Proud to have taken time to take you through …” He paused and pointed with the palm of his hands at the entrance beyond the gigantic and static trees, to the flickering Neo Lights, the very artistically visible words KENYON CENTRE FOR HUMAN REINCARNATION jumped to sight and disappeared, reappearing again with a stealth on the conscious.
She looked but never paid attention. Her mind was thinking of how she could bring her brother here without the authorities noticing. Will he be reborn? Or would he have some serious defects to warrant a true death….vaporization?
She was still in her reverie when he said.
“Now to the fields.”
He pressed a few buttons on the Nigerian Hover bikes, it whizzed with a new energy, swerved upwards and with astonishing stability shot through the formless open space, like travelling through time. It slowed down and slowly the world below and around started taking form. Sprawled across a vast barrenness of sand were men moving in sequenced motions of toil, but with a certain ease that gave them mechanic precision.
“These are all products from The KENYON CENTER FOR HUMAN REGENERATION.”
The Afri-lean, all uniformed and in protective gear against the scorching sun and dusty sands worked. They were two hundred meters above the surface in the classy new Nigerian Hover Bikes watching 600 Afri-leans working in a desert- digging trenches, in slow action. Grouped in bunches of 100’s they were crouched in shoveling, others tugging at loads. It was an ordered process, from above it would look like an ant’s empire.
Mr. Chubby pressed a few buttons on the hover dashboard, adjusted his mike and began speaking in his stentorian electro-enhanced voice.
“Eyes right!” he shouted and paused.
Six hundred heads turned in a choreographed instance.
“Pedals up….out and down!!” he said watching over the V2030 prototype Afri-lean.
Six hundred pairs of hands rose at the same instance, stretched to the side and went down in a beautiful sequence.
“Right kick….left kick….”
Six hundred left feet were slowly lifted and paused at a kicking pose. The sequence was repeated with the right foot.
Twelve hundred feet obeyed.
Dalle Abraham is a Kenyan Writer. He was part of the 2014 Kwani? Writers workshop and Caine Prize Writers Workshop 2015. He has been published stories on the StoryMoja website, Chimurenga. He is the co-founder and the editor of a monthly newsletter in Marsabit.