Previously on TWO LIVES AND A SOUL
Disbelief eclipsed my features as I stared into the mirror. The man in the mirror stared back at me with a twin expression of incredulity. For a fleeting moment, I thought of him as someone else standing on the other side of a glass wall, looking back at me and startled by the appearance of someone he thought was his reflection. I blinked. He blinked at the same time. No, this wasn’t a glass wall. It was a mirror, and this stranger was me. I was not just in strange clothes; I was in a strange skin as well. Fear began to surge through me, fear at what was clearly unknown to me.
Someone moved beside me, and I just then became aware of Suss standing next to me. She was observing my reaction, staring at me, my reflection with some apprehension.
What was she afraid of? The fear began to creep faster through my veins, chilling as it moved, lifting horripilations that grew underneath my clothes, spread rapidly up my neck like a skin infection. I felt my throat tighten, and there suddenly seemed not to be enough air in the room. My breathing rattled through my nose and my hands windmilled as I struggled for air.
“Quick! Get some water!” I heard Suss bark. She had grabbed my back with one hand, and with the other, was rubbing my chest in an attempt to dial down my anxiety attack.
Moments later, she was pushing a glass of water into my hand. I grabbed the glass and gulped greedily. My taste buds reacted to the flavoured taste of the water. The drinking water is flavoured? This is weird!
I coughed hard as I withdrew the glass from my mouth. Suss patted me gently on the back. “Easy now, my darling,” she soothed. “Easy…”
She guided me to a chair and pushed me gently to sit. She sat down on a chair in front of me and stared searchingly at my face. The other people in the room positioned themselves around me in a semi circle, giving me enough space to breathe. I wasn’t claustrophobic, but it did a lot of good that they weren’t all over me. They just watched until my breathing normalized.
Suss’ smile returned, and it was like a cue for everyone to get relaxed again. Everyone but me. I was still tense with perplexity and a small amount of suspicion. What is happening? Where am I? What is going on? The questions tumbled through my mind, not for the first time since I woke up.
The mirror was by my far right now, but it still stayed within my peripheral vision. As much as I tried not to look at it again, the smooth glassy surface seemed to pull at me like some life-sized magnet. I turned my head slowly and found myself looking at the man who was now seated and couldn’t believe he was looking at me.
I had so many questions. Clearly, I was someone else to these people, the way I was to myself. And the sooner we all got to understand that I wasn’t who they thought I was, the better. Or would it? Have you ever had that feeling that you know you were dreaming, but there was hardly anything you could do about it?
“Please, Sam,” Suss’ voice cut into my chaotic contemplation as she took my hand in hers, “take it easy on yourself. The doctor says it’s okay to take a day at a time.” There was a softness in her eyes, and she appeared to be beseeching me.
“What happened to me?” I asked, not sure if that was the first question I would have preferred to ask. My voice was hoarse, like the Harmattan wind had blown through my vocal chords.
I began to sense the other occupants of the room slowly began to converge as if Suss was about to tell a monumental tale. I felt the intensity of their collective stares on me. And this did nothing to relief my tension. I tried to preempt whatever Suss was going to say with questions that’d yield meaningful answers. Had someone died? Was it me?
We thought we lost you, someone had said earlier.
Great to have you back.
“You have been in this room for three months…in a coma,” Suss began. She seemed very careful with her words, as though she feared if she hit me too hard with them, I’d suddenly slump back into a coma.
A coma! How did I get into a coma? And for three whole months?
But I couldn’t have been in a coma! This has to be a dream! And my name is Eli! Surely they know that!
“I was in a coma?” I said, not giving voice to the riot of thoughts crowding my mind. “For three months,” I reiterated.
“Yes,” Suss said. “The doctor made us understand that this might happen, and –”
“That what might happen?” I interrupted.
Suss took in a small inhalation, before answering. “The amnesia you are experiencing is as a result of concussion you suffered when you had the accident.”
My focus narrowed on Suss to a pin-point of light threatening to get squashed by a surrounding of blackness. And then, just as soon, my vision widened again. I was arranging the permutations in my head, and was slowly arriving at a conclusion. Ok, this is it. I had an accident that led to a hemorrhage, and was in coma for a long time. Three months, they said. And today, I’m awake and realizing that I’m suffering amnesia. So far, it didn’t make sense yet. I involuntarily lifted a hand to my head, mentally willing for some sort of pain to validate this incredible story. There was none.
“Miraculously, you are alive, and against many people’s wishes, we refused to take you off support.”
I stared blankly at her, wondering about the people who had wanted me taken off life support after a mere three months.
Her smile widened tentatively and her expression beamed with fresh relief as she said, “Oh Sam, I’m so glad you are back.” She leaned forward to pull me into an embrace.
“I’m glad that I’m alive too,” I said, not echoing her sentiment. I was happy I was living, just not sure how I felt about being back. “I suppose with time, I will remember everything again.” I fervently hoped I would.
“Don’t worry, buggie,” Danny interjected then in a jovial tone. “Between you and me, we going t’make all them mem’ries come rushing back!” I believe.” I hoped I was convincing enough.
I turned what I hoped was an encouraging smile to him. After seeing what I looked like in the mirror, he suddenly didn’t bear the striking resemblance to me that I thought he did. He looked more like the Eli me than the Sam me.
“I’m gon’ help’aw with everythan’ and anythin’ you want me to, buggie.” He began gesturing at the other people in the room. “For the records, this is Suss, aka our mother. I’m Daniel, som’ call me Danny, som’ call me Dan. And over there is Clay, Cinda, and Joko.”
Joko. The white woman’s dark, glittering eyes held my gaze for a brief impactful moment, before I looked away. I was inexplicably unnerved.
“Go easy on your big brother, Dan,” Suss admonished gently. “We don’t want to rush him.”
“Sure thang, Suss.” Dan realized that he might not be able to stick to Suss’ new nick name after all. “Mum, I mean.”
Easy laughter broke out in response.
“Who is hungry?!” Suss hollered. There was a chorused response of delight. “Sam…” Suss looked at me. “The whole family is waiting for you. Table is already set at home. Shall we?”
I wasn’t supposed to be famished, owing to the fact that I’d just woken up and that I hardly ever had breakfast, thanks to my Lagos metropolitan habits. But here I was in a much younger skin, two shades of melanin lighter, and with an empty stomach growling for some nourishment. I wasn’t ready for many things, but I sure was ready to munch, even if it was in my dream.
Dan put his arms over my shoulders. “You ready, buggie?”
What was this name he kept calling me, I wondered.
“Yes,” I said. Just as I replied, the plastic sensor strapped to my left arm beeped. I took a look at it and asked Dan how it worked. “What do the numbers mean?”
Dan glanced at it before saying, “It monitors your brain activity, BP, sugar level; and also gives you info on the weather and date.” As he said so, he pressed on a single tiny button by the side to show me how the device worked. “See, it’s just to help you monitor your vitals. And that’s the weather, and date right there” – he pointed – “when you press this button again.”
He turned away from me to answer somebody’s call. Left momentarily on my own, I pressed the button he’d depressed before. The weather in Fahrenheit glowed back at me. When I pressed it again, this time, the date glowed.
Wow, what a cool device –
Wait a minute!
Eyes widening, I looked at the date. The digits read: 09.06.75. My brow furrowed. That couldn’t be right. What did that even mean? I depressed the button again, and the digits came up again, right below the weather report. 09.06.75. What does this mean? Genuine confusion began to well up inside me. I looked up from the device. Everyone was parking up the stuff that needed to be moved. Dan and Joko were at the wardrobe, Suss was standing beside a nurse, signing something on a notepad. Discharge forms, I supposed. Clay and Cinda were rechecking things at the other side of the room.
I called out to Dan, and he bounced towards me. “’Sup, you excited to be going home?” He had such an energy about him. I was positive he would exhaust me in a short time.
“Um, yeah,” I said. “But erm…first, what’s today’s date?” I looked at him, waiting to hear him tell me it was 2015.
“August ninth?” he answered me like he meant to say: Anything the problem?
“Ehen?” I said, encouraging him to go on.
“August ninth, twenty-seventy-five,” he said, lifting his eyebrow in bewilderment at me.
I stood there, rooted to the spot like I’d just been frozen. 09.06.75! August ninth, twenty-seventy-five! No, this was impossible, I screamed inside my head. I could not be 2075.
But I was. Clearly, I was not only dreaming, but I was dreaming about me in the future. Sixty years in the future!
Written by Ojay Aito, tweets @1ojay