I moved slowly toward the mirror I had earlier recoiled from. It had revealed to me something I hadn’t been ready to see; I figured there’d be more answers within that glassy reflective surface. The sound of bustle and laughter in the room receded to the background as my mind edged forward, reaching as one with my body for the answers I hoped the mirror would have.
I stopped before the mirror, and I stared at myself. The strangeness of the man staring back at me caused a slight flinch inside me, but I remained standing there, critically taking in the structure and features reflected back at me.
My shoulders were broader than I remembered, even though I still had the same build. My eyes were narrower, but the colour was not the coffee-brown I remembered. Instead they were a kind of teal in colour. I touched my nose; it seemed the same, a little broad but not flat. It was odd, how the face looked like mine and yet, it wasn’t mine. My facial marks were gone. My lips had lost their familiar fullness. Even if some advanced surgery had been performed on me, I still had to know recognize something that was undeniably me in my face. I moved closer to the mirror and angled my face this way and that.
This is not me!
A chill frissoned it way up my spine. I did not know what emotion it was made up of – perhaps fear, and a certain amazement at all this strange newness.
I gave a start when I saw that my ear lobes were pierced. I was instantly fascinated – strange, because I knew the Eli me would never let any piercings, tattoos or any form of mutilation near his body. I pulled at my left ear and realized that the pinna felt really soft to the touch, compared to the tough and rigid skin that bedeviled my growing-up years.
Eli’s growing-up years… That was Eli.
You are Sam now.
That chill was crawling over my skin now, lifting goose bumps in its wake. And now, I could identify the fascination I felt. The intrigue that felt like a reassurance, that I should endeavour to get comfortable with this me.
“Time to go, buggie!” Dan’s exuberant voice cut into my engrossment. He came over to take my hand in his, and we joined the rest of the party out of the room.
Beyond the room was the hospital hallway. I was instantly immersed in diverse people and refined technology. There were people of different ethnicities moving this way and that, carrying on with conversations in languages, some of which I could understand, some of which I couldn’t. It was mesmerizing, watching this diverse crowd tiding this way and that. There was a recognizable pattern here; it was easy to pick who the hospital staff was from the patients and visitors.
The floors we trod on glittered with our reflections, and the directional signs that hung from the ceilings and markings etched on the walls that identified which rooms were behind the closed doors were all a three-dimensional novelty. It was technology like I’d only ever imagined was possible in Hollywood films.
Where were we? Who were this people? I began to wonder if perhaps all this was a lie, if perhaps I was an unknowing cast member of a movie shoot in America. That was a safer thought, than the one that niggled at the edge of my mind: that all this was a lie – these people, the Sam me… All some sort of well scripted lie. Perhaps these people posing as my family were some sort of mad scientists, and they were right now taking me to some other facility to complete whatever test they’d started here. Yes! This might just be a test, some assessment on social adaptiveness. My mind was instantly besieged with a slide-show of images from movies I’d seen which bore resemblances to my predicament.
Oh my God, am I living a real life version of the Maze Runner?
I started to get nervous as we took a turn and came to stand before a glassy, transparent door. An automated voice requested for the floor we were going to. Suss replied. The doors glided smoothly open and we stepped inside. I didn’t fail to notice how we hadn’t pressed any button to alert the elevator to our presence before the voice spoke up. It was almost like it had seen us arrive before it.
Lord, give me strength! Jesu gbam ike!
I gave a mental start when the Igbo words flitted through my mind. Clearly, Eli’s consciousness was very present in Sam’s body.
In what felt like seconds, we had descended a hundred and twenty floors. I wouldn’t have known we were descending if the lit buttons indicating each floor we were gliding past hadn’t been an indicator; the descent was so smooth, there wasn’t even a tremor in the glassy cage.
What is this place?!
I wanted to scream the words. But I feared I’d only end up looking more crazed than I felt. We were walking down another ultra-modern hallway. I looked askance at Joko, who was moving closest to me. A smile tremored on her lips when she caught my stare. She was so beautiful. The smile was small, a mere lift of her lips, and yet, the sight of it caused a shift of something in my chest. I smiled back. Hers broadened. It was clear she liked me. I wondered if we had history – if she and Sam had history.
This is crazy!
“What did you say?” she said softly to me.
“I asked where we are,” I said.
Ahead of us, our party was stopping as Suss and Dan addressed a uniformed man stationed on the other side of a glass counter from us.
“We are in the hospital.”
I know that! I thought with a spark of mild irritation. “No… What I meant was… Where” – I added a delicate stress on the word – “are we?” When the befuddlement remained on her face, I added, “What city are we in?”
“Ah.” Her face brightened with understanding. “We’re in Lagos.”
Shut the front door! This is Lagos?! We’re in Naija?! I shot a quick look around, unable to reconcile my current environment with the one I was familiar with, even if this was sixty years later.
“It’s your turn,” Joko said, gesturing forward.
I moved toward the glass counter to see that the surface was a soft-touch 3D console. I placed my finger on a thumb-sized loop. Upon my touch, a bright green light arced over my entire body, causing a screen at one end of the console to spark to life. On it were printed my image and data. My eyes began skimming over the screen as I tried to read what was displayed there. I tried to read as fast as I could, skipping whatever looked like gibberish to me. I saw my name, age, eye colour, tongue print and carotene type all displayed before me. Apparently I was twenty years old.
The uniformed man behind the console was studying the screen too. He finished and turned a cultured smile to me. “Have a good day, Mr. Samuel George-Akinfe,” he said.
I nodded my acknowledgement to an identity I didn’t recognize. Samuel George-Akinfe?! Hmm.
Before I could process that, I found myself getting whisked through the barrier separating the hospital corridor from the hallway that led to the exit beyond. Everything moved too fast here, and the people apparently didn’t think there was time enough to look around. Before I could conclude or make sense of any thought, my mind was bombarded with more than a neutron voltage of other thoughts, all struggling to register first on my virgin brain. I stared up to the ceiling as I expelled a small breath of frustration. The clear blue sky stared back at me through a concave transparent ceiling. A minute ago, the roof over us was a musk green, patterned, enameled ceiling. Now it seemed to have peeled back to give a natural ambience. Either this is magic, or this is heaven. Or both.
But then I realized I was probably still dreaming.
As soon as we were out of the building, we started across a columned portico. I spied a pedestal mounted close to one of the columns, and my eyes flashed over the words inscribed on the giant onyx marble: Pope Matthew Kukah Memorial.
I knew that name. It was more than familiar. I did a quick mental search, and promptly located the memory I was looking for. Reverend Father Matthew Kukah – a Catholic Bishop in Sokoto. So he’d gone on to be a cardinal, and then the pope?! A pope from Nigeria – a black pope from Africa? Would that have made him the first? I made a mental note to Google that information out.
Soon we were at the sidewalk and a car was pulling up before us. It was a Toyota Siena. We piled in. the interior was roomy and plush, like a very small hotel room without the bed. By my armrest was a screen that indicated that I could adjust the temperature of the car or position of my seat if I wanted to. I thought about what model the car would be; perhaps a 75 – no, not a 1975, it had to be a 2075. Goosebumps grew in seconds over my exposed skin. How was I going to cope with the barrage of new information I would be getting as Sam?
There was only one place to start.
I turned to Dan and said, “May I use your phone, please?”
They’d all been conversing before I interrupted. The chatter died down at once and Dan looked from me to Suss. I thought that was odd. It almost seemed like he needed her permission to do what I’d asked.
“I’m sure Suss can make an excuse for you, right?” he said, still looking at her.
“Yeah, Suss said no phones today,” Clay said to me, when he saw the bewildered expression on my face. “Except for something very important.”
“Who do you want to call?” Suss asked me, her countenance serene and very much in control.
I opened my mouth to instantly respond, then closed it when I realized I didn’t have an answer. I thought about the question for a bit. Who could I even possibly call? This was sixty years into the future. If I ever lived this long, I would be, what, eighty-seven years old? Most of the people I knew would most likely have passed on by now.
“No, no one,” I finally answered. “I just wanted to check up the model of this car on Google.”
The incomprehension on Suss’s face was duplicated on the faces of the others.
“What’s Google?” Cinda asked.
Oh my God, I wanted to groan. Google didn’t exist 2075 too? I wanted to drop my hands in my head and ride the wave of distress that threatened to overwhelm me. Was the rest of my life going to be like this now, a series of missteps caused by a past and a present that seemed to have no correlation?
“If you wanted to know about the car,” Joko said, “you could just ask Peter. He can speak for himself. Can’t you, Peter?” She turned her head toward the front of the car.
The partition separating us from the driver’s section slid down and a male voice answered, “That’s correct, Joko.”
I turned my head to get a look at Peter, and was startled when I saw no one. There was just a hi-tech dashboard, the front seats and a map-like depiction etched on the windshield. There was no driver!
I whirled around to stare in astonishment at the other occupants of the car. Who the heck is Peter? And how come… My thoughts trailed off, when what was clearly an automated voice spoke again.
“What would you like to know, Joko?”
“Well, Sam wants to know about you,” she answered.
“Sam, I am a Subrid Land Bus created in August Second, 2070, as a 71 model. I run on hydride water, oxy-laser or solar charges. I am currently carrying six passengers, with a collective weight of approximately 351 kg. I love moving at a speed of 200 kilometers per hour, but as instructed by Dan, I must do only a hundred. I hope he changes his mind soon. At this pace we will get to our destination in approximately fifteen minutes.”
Before he was done talking, I was kneeling on my seat to get a better look at the front section, staring in amazement as Peter’s voice was graphically represented on the windshield. When he was done, I dropped back on my seat, feeling a trembly sigh escape my mouth.
Colour me impressed!
“Also,” Peter was clearly not done, “when I am super charged and licensed for air travel, I could go as the crow flies and get to the Bay in 5 minutes, 20 seconds.”
I nodded, feeling mind-boggled.
“Would that suffice, Sam? Or would you like me elaborate on the engine capacities?” Peter was ever so courteous.
“That will be fine,” I answered.
“Ms. Joko?” Peter asked.
“Yes, Peter, thank you. That will be enough,” Joko replied.
“It was my pleasure.”
This had to end in either one of these two, I thought to myself. I’d wake up from this dream or I’d run mad.
Or perhaps I’d just drop into another coma and wake up back in the year and period I knew and loved.
Written by Ojay Aito, tweets @1ojay