Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Donald Njoaguani

Mama was dead, but it always felt as though she was right there, all the time, watching me, scolding me, and only I could see her.

I never had a direct picture of her but I could sense her presence all around me, especially when I was about to get into trouble. Mama was a disciplinarian, the most famous disciplinarian in town, mothers brought their wayward children to mama to get disciplined. Mama would swiftly draw open her wardrobe where she kept the numerous sticks of canes and she would analyse the situation to determine the size and length of the cane that would be appropriate for the wayward child and she would act accordingly. The children of Obomkpa feared mama, I could hear whispers of “prinspa is coming” each time mama passed and the whispers were immediately followed by a silence so grave that a pin, if dropped could be heard from miles away.

I’ve seen mama in a flash-memory, some sort of a flashback, every day since I took the cure. These memories come to me in a vague flash and most times, I don’t remember doing the things I have a flash-memory about. This time, I saw my younger self in an old house kitchen, helping myself to a piece of meat. I felt satisfied as the warm steam from the soup that contained the meat rose up and covered my vision and I hadn’t even put the meat in my mouth when the steam cleared and I saw mama, standing right beside the pot and smiling. I lost my balance and I saw myself falling off the small stool I used to aid me in reaching the pot on the cooker and just before I hit the floor, I was brought back to the present.

“When are we leaving for the mall?” Nwaaku asked me as she landed on my bed jolting me out of my trance. Nwaaku wore her red short gown on her transparent shoes. I loved her transparent shoes, I’ve always wanted to get a pair since forever but papa wouldn’t let me. Her melanin popped from her laps to her feet, reminding me of how much of a black beauty Nwaaku was.

“Relax Nwaaku, this is 2049 not 2019, we can get there in two seconds,” I rolled my eyes at her.

“Were you having a flash-memory again?” She asked as she sat up. Nwaaku and I have been friends since the diagnosis and treatment of my Kaposi’s Sarcoma.

“A thought merely crossed my mind Nwaaku, it’s nothing to be afraid of.” I lied as I got up from my bed, straightened my black short gown, looked in the mirror, adjusted my identifier and smiled at myself for no reason. “Ugh! Hurry Efu!” Nwaaku screamed into my pillow.

“I’m ready, I’m ready,” I said amidst a soft laughter. She grabbed my right hand while I pulled her up from the bed. She smiled, looked me in the eyes and in a snap, we were at the mall.

My name is Efuru and I am a mutant. I have cancerous cells that have been mutated. I was reborn in 2032, originally born in 2019 with the human immune virus popularly known as HIV. I got the virus from mama just before Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a contagious cancerous virus became widely spread in Nigeria, causing the death of individuals with HIV, including my mother. I lost my life in 2032 just when the cure was created.

I was among the first set of individuals that the cure was tested on, it cured me quite alright, but with each person it cured, it created a mutant, like me. Mutants wear around an identifier on their neck, a neckpiece with the inscription ‘mutant’ on it. Without the identifier, I cannot be caught using my abilities in public.

Our mission at the mall was simple and short, or so I thought. We were preparing for the turnover anniversary; the anniversary that reminds Nigeria of the great turnover, the acceptance of the cure that turns patients into mutants. It was a huge celebration for families who have survivors, like me.

Since the turnover, Nigeria has become less complicated and more peaceful. We finally realized that in division, we can never progress, so all religious and tribal problems had become a thing of the past. The only enemy was Kaposi’s Sarcoma which was spreading wide and fast even after the cure had been invented. The only discrimination left in existence was the one that separated mutants from non-mutants.

“Let’s get these sweet new clothes in time so you can teleport us back home. I have to watch the live stream of the Kano State comet tonight.” Nwaaku said as soon as we got to the mall, “Not like you can’t teleport me to the United Northern States of Nigeria to see the rocks fall from space directly, but somehow, I have to ensure you are here to celebrate the Turnover tomorrow.” She sarcastically added.

There are thousands, if not millions of mutants roaming what is now known as the Joint Geopolitical Zones of Nigeria. Nwaaku used to be Igbo, just like me; of course we now hail from the United Eastern States of Nigeria.

Every unique mutant has a unique ability, I have the ability to teleport to anywhere in the world as far as I can picture it, but my abilities came with a catch.

I keep having these memories in a flash and I keep seeing myself and mama, doing things I never recalled doing. The most recent flash-memory I had was the one Nwaaku interrupted me from, I don’t recall creating such a memory but somehow, they seem to be in my head. At first, I could have sworn that they were not my memories but upon telling my father, he made it clear that they were vague memories that came back to me because of the cure I took. My mutated cells were discovering ways to remind me of my life before the cure. The more I remembered, the less effective the cure became, or so my father made me think.

I loved being a mutant, I liked my abilities, I just didn’t know how to stop my brain from having more of these flashbacks. If the cure became less effective, I could lose my abilities and end up with my Kaposi’s Sarcoma returning in full force.

“We’ve been trying out different gowns now Aku, don’t you think these ones are enough already? It’s getting late you know?” I whined to Nwaaku. Truthfully, I didn’t care how long we spent at the mall; I just didn’t want to be late to dinner. Dinner was the one time I had to connect with Papa.

Papa worked with the new joint government, under the preserved traditional health sector and we only had dinner together once a week, coincidentally, that one time happened to be today.

“Fine, let’s go already, don’t be such a crybaby,” She teased.

We walked all the way to the counter at the entrance of the mall and I stretched my wrist to pay for the things we bought. The chip in my wrist was scanned for verification while the prices of our items were calculated. The attendant seemed to be happy and kept giving Aku and I weird glances with grins that spread from her right ear to her left ear. “That will be five thousand, six hundred Jairas,” she said as she grinned yet again. “Okay,” I said, with emphasis on the ‘kay’. She ran the debit scanner over my wrist and the money was deducted from my bank account.

“Just in time,” Aku said as I smiled at the attendant who didn’t hesitate to reciprocate the gesture. I grabbed Aku’s hand and in a flash, we were back in my bedroom at home. Nwaaku pulled off her shoes and prepared for the ceremony, she was so adorable when her passion was visible. Nwaaku was a big bag filled with passion for different things, I understood her perfectly. It was as though we were destined to grow together. “Uhm, Aku,” I voiced out, “It’s dinner night,” I said as she sighed and nodded. I didn’t want Aku to feel bad but she really had to go, papa didn’t really approve of her. No matter how long we’ve been friends for, papa never really liked me associating with her. So she went, sadly but fulfilled and excited to see the comet in her small calabash. Nwaaku had gotten one of the famous Edo calabashes for her last birthday. The calabash had been modernized for public usage; they now sold it to anyone who could understand the magic of the Edo people. Nwaaku was not a witch, but she was quickly learning the ways of the Edo tribe, she saw it as a means of self-defense as she did not possess mutant abilities like me.

“Oh and I think you should really see Anyawu concerning your little flash-memories, I have a feeling they mean more than you think,” She said as she stepped out.

She was right though, it was time to start looking for answers to the many questions in my head.

Anyawu was one of the keepers of the old ways, actually he was the last keeper alive. The keepers of the old ways never evolved, they were still in contact with the ancient gods and spirits of the old Nigerian tradition. The tradition we all practiced before the turnover. If anyone could figure out what was going on with me, it would be Anyawu.

“Efuru!” I heard papa call from the sitting room. Papa is the major reason I’m still alive today. His vast knowledge about the evolution of health made my Kaposi’s Sarcoma easily detectable and treatable.

“Papa welcome,” I said as I teleported to the kitchen where my father was standing, opening and closing pots.

Daalu Efu,” He replied as he handed me his briefcase.

I remember the day I asked papa why I was named Efuru. He explained how the old traditions had different gods and how the greatest was the one who lived in heaven but had a mortal enemy who lived deep under the ground, in some place where they referred to as hell. Before I was born, papa and mama had tried to conceive for years without success so they went to seek the face of the god in heaven for help and when their prayers were answered, they named me ‘Efuru’, meaning ‘Daughter of heaven’, in appreciation to the great god in heaven.

Dinner was amazing, I told papa how I was going to celebrate the Turnover anniversary with a couple of friends and perhaps go to see Anyawu before the day ends. He didn’t see why seeing Anyawu was necessary but he didn’t stop me.

Papa also told me how various new cases of KS have come up in the health sector and how the most reliable solution so far has been traditional medicine; the old traditions.

I enjoyed talking with papa, apart from being very expressive, papa really was an interesting man to talk with.

My birth was what kept confusing me, almost all my flash-memories were about a younger me, things a younger me had done, things I had no memory of until I’d have a flash about them. This kept me wondering what else could have happened while I was young that I don’t have any memory of. More importantly, it kept me wondering if those memories were actually mine to start with.

The Turnover Anniversary day finally came. I got up with the sun and I was ready for anything but a celebration. I felt lightheaded and even after my morning clean up, I didn’t quite feel like myself. I wore one of the gowns Nwaaku and I had purchased the previous day; it was maroon, knee-length and a bit tight around the hips. The gown matched my light skinned body and fit my body size. I was a perfect description of thick, not too slim, not too fat, just thick, with the right curves in the right places. The gown made me feel pretty so I felt bad that I had decided not to party with my friends as I had initially planned, but something in me told me to really be at Anyawu’s house that morning. I couldn’t teleport there because I couldn’t picture it as I’ve never been there or never seen any image of his house before so I ordered one of Uber’s self-driven cabs and in no time, I was on my way to Anyawu’s house.

Anyawu’s house was creepy, to say the least. He had little or no technology around and I noticed I couldn’t use my ability to teleport once I was inside his house.

I saw white skulls hanging from various positions, a red cloth covered the inner walls and drawings were made with white chalk or something that looked like powder on the red clothing. Anyawu himself was creepy. He wore a red cloth, wrapped around his waist with white ropes tied round his wrists. He had a circle drawn around his right eye with white powder, and had really scanty grey hairs on his head.

Anyawu spoke very little English and a lot of Igbo language and thankfully I knew Igbo before Nigeria turned over.

“I know why you are here my daughter, sit and close your eyes, let the gods bring it all to you.”

I was confused and scared, not because a man I just met referred to me as his daughter, but because even before I spoke, he made it clear that he knew my reason for coming, nevertheless, I closed my eyes still. When I opened them, I was in the body of a younger me.

I recognized the room I was standing in, it was our old house, the one we lived in before the turnover. It felt like a dream.

I saw papa standing over a still body, a female body, breathing hard as though he just ran a hundred meter sprint race. I walked closer to the scene and took a look at the body on the floor. A tear formed in my eyes and as much as I tried to hold it back, it dropped. The body belonged to mama.

The next thing I saw was my Kaposi’s Sarcoma treatment. I heard papa telling the doctor to administer the cure in such a way that some of my memories would be lost. He seemed to be in a squabble because the doctor refused to “put the child at risk,” as he said to Papa. Suddenly, it all became clear to me. The truth I so yearned for was finally here and to say it tore me apart was to play down my feelings at that point. I was devastated.

My head spun and my blood ran through my veins with a force so great that my adrenaline level became extremely high. Papa killed mama and wiped my memories so I won’t remember. I was the daughter of a murderer, not the daughter of heaven as my name implied. As I stepped out of Anyawu’s cottage, I felt my mutation return and I teleported to Nwaaku’s room.

Everything he ever did for me felt like nothing as the tune that played in my head was that of justice, at least that was what I told myself. Deep down, I knew it was vengeance I really wanted.

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