The little things beyond tomorrow aren’t the glittering white hairs on Fabeyi’s head that he had given up dyeing. They aren’t the wrinkles overlapping his transparent facial marks that weren’t there yesterday. Neither is it the GK-570 airplane that he had used to travel all the way from Republic of Biafra to London in thirty minutes. They are those little particles that travel in air from place to place, ear to ear, nose to nose.
Fabeyi had longed for this day. He’d rearranged his broken smile once again to befit the merry, berry and cherry of yet another family reunion. This was the second after the first compelled reunion they had when his wife, Sofy, died. And might probably be the last they would ever have. Two days ago, he had drafted a video mail to the inboxes of his three sons, summoning them to converge here in London. Toyin, his first son of almost forty years, who later changed his name to Phierel, came from Bricktown in Oklahoma where he works as a spaceship engineer for an Agrospace company. He had practiced his smile since the minute he received the mail from their father. Phierel is now a father of two; he surely knows the sugary taste of parent-child relationship. Folarin, who had switched to Chris, flew from Budapest. Choosing Chris was the best choice he had ever made. He had thought that when things get drastic, Jesus, his namesake would come to his rescue. And lastly Basi, the youngest of about twenty-five, who wasn’t required to change his name because their mother felt his name sounded sweet on white tongues, came from Cityplace in Dallas. Basi spent most of his time listening to pop music and converting plastics into shoes and goods containers.
It was the heart of a naked winter. A season that was said to be endowed with an untimely coldness in recent centuries. But 2100 was a different year entirely. No one needed to cover their body and feet with long woolen sweaters or socks. No one needed to keep a spare shovel or chisel and hammer in their backyards in other to strip-off the ice that stuck their doors. Even snowflakes were now things of wonder, captured with cameras when spotted. Things that were only seen on wall-mark televisions. Moreover, the trees that were planted in London and other places during the global afforestation campaign were still young, weak, barren, yet green, full and hopeful. No one could predict that they would ever have brittle fingers of ice hanging on their branches. Not anymore.
In due time, Fabeyi landed in the compound in his GK-570. A selfcopter airplane sized two meters long and one meter in width, with the carrying capacity for two. A technology designed from the skeletal blueprint of Jinn’s travelling speed; weighing about 200 pounds on earth and 20 pounds in air. Fabeyi set-off the seatbelt holding his waist, unpinned the belt holding his legs and dropped down. For a while, he fixed his eyeballs to the buildings in the house. A building carved out of temporarily-fixed glistering marbles and ceramics, with a glass framing top. An apartment that was once sat in downtown Washington D.C before it was later shipped and planted here in London, when the then American President ordered that no black skinned living thing should reside in Washington. That was in 2050, when there was a lot of pressure in Africa about citizens attempting to secede from their mother nations. When hands and bellies lost their ties. When the little things began to evolve.
The song of the crickets suddenly resonated in Fabeyi’s ears as the selfcopter went quiet. He sniffed deeply – after a long time – the awesome London flowery air till he made a humming sound that made him feel as if he had a running nose. The fragrance reminded him of the unending first night pleasure he had with his wife. He pulled out a half-palm sized rectangular device from his pocket and sent the plane parking with the press of a red transparent button. Phierel and Basi walked up to him. Basi stuck a five second deep kiss on his father's forehead like lovers on a first date. Phierel hugged him and grabbed him in the armpit as they walked into the flat, trying to support his weak legs until they could have him seated in the armchair.
‘Hey man, your face has finally turned into that of my beloved goddess. Surely a replica.’ Fabeyi said, directing his looks into Phierel’s face.
Phierel noticed how his father spoke, how he raised his shoulders and widened his lips slowly as he teased him, and giggled. Fabeyi could no longer shout as he would have done the previous decade and the other decades before. He could no longer mobilize young people to march through the street of Washington D.C, preaching the gospel of Martin Luther King and bearing at heart the words of Nelson Mandela. The same words he had said before he was jailed.
‘Maybe that was because she kissed me on the eye while I was young.’ Phierel replied. ‘Perhaps my daughter Tilly looks more like her than I do. The eyes, the nose, even how she walks.’ He added.
‘Oh! You kissed her on the eye too, I guess, right?’ asked Fabeyi, throwing in a grin.
‘Ok…Ok…Agreed. What do I offer you Dad? I mean, what do you care for?’
‘Uhhm! All the things that I had cared for seems to have disappointed me, I must confess. But you see that hot dark water, it’s always there. So, my boy, get me some tea please.’
Phierel walked in towards the door adjacent to the dining as the other two continue to exchange stories and jokes with their father. There was a lot of hugging and teasing and laughing for minutes before they all later settled down, perhaps for the business. Fabeyi had emptied his cup of steaming tea in two minutes. Pretty fast. He sat on a knoll armchair. Basi settled on a two-seater chair while Chris sat next to him. And Phierel on a separate chair. All, fixing half of their attentions to the television program and holding back the other half to ponder about the reason they were summoned so urgently. They were certain that he didn’t invite them all just to narrate to them his usual story about how his own father used to be a paper and pen activist; sitting quietly in his parlor, sipping coffee or hot chocolate and pointing out some ill political policies to Nigerian leaders. That was when it was Nigeria before it later turned into a cupcake. When the Biafrans invaded the south, took half of the cake and called it Biafra Republic and the Boko Haram terrorist organization invaded the north, snatched the other half share and called it DarelJihad.
‘We are not Biafrans.’ Fabeyi quickly mentioned in a way that showed he was trying to avoid stammering. His face was expressionless, placid as a baked bread.
‘I beg your pardon Dad.’ Basi spewed the words out as he stood up. The other two turned swiftly at him. Facing him with amazed ears and eyes and noses. All put together.
‘Sit your ass down bro!’ Chris commanded Basi.
‘And what does that mean Dad?’ Phierel questioned.
‘Yes! I am not a Biafran. And your Mama too was never a Jihadian.’ Fabeyi put forward again.
Chris was skeptical about their father’s claims. He was confused for the second time, and couldn’t say anything. He wanted to ask the usual type of question that his brothers would have asked. But he thought of being little bit diplomatic in his question. A question that he thought might seduce Fabeyi’s mind. At least for once.
‘Then tell us…? Why do our lips sing the ‘Land of the rising sun’ anthem and our pockets hold a yellow passport and our hearts bear red, black and blue colored flag.’ Chris questioned objectively.
Fabeyi lessens the tension with a deep-throated cough. ‘Relax boys. That isn’t the business that brought us here. We are not here to sing anthems and paint flags and……’
‘Then why are we here Daddy?’ Basi suddenly put, without waiting for him to pause. For minutes, he had been eager to hear a break point that would allow him to throw his words for the second time.
‘We are here because I wanted to see you after a long time and tell you about the little things beyond tomorrow.’
They weren’t sure that they quite understood the second part of his answer. But they knew what it means to be in a conversation with a lawyer, nationalist and activist like their father. They knew it means nodding your head in agreement to whatever he said whether you understood what it means or not. From where he was sitting, Phierel stretched his left hand and picked up the glass of drink he had kept on the table beside. He sipped the content twice, felt the coldness in his head and rested his back on the chair. Chris excused them and walked towards the kitchen and Basi stared at the television.
The anchor of the program was a young Caribbean lady in her mid-thirties who looked younger than her age. Basi noticed the tight vest she was wearing that popped out her curves, displaying the designs of her dark colored bra and the external side of the cotton which made, Basi think that her chest looked really good. He stared at her in his usual lustful way. The way he usually stared at those girls partying in his bar. He felt his hairs rising like pieces of germinating seeds. He began to massage his private part, the way Michael Jackson often tugs his crotch and massages his undies while performing the moonwalk. It took him minutes of massaging when he realized that he was quenching his lustful thirst with an ordinary look of a lady. That was what addiction did. Besides, he had a wardrobe-full of toys. All he could do was to place on his body a vibrator and feel the shit in the center of his skull and probably, pay its price later.
Chris walked in, holding a plate of fried potato and a glass of fresh fruit juice. Chris thought that they weren’t noticing him because their attention seems to travels with the documentary. However, Fabeyi could see him from the left side of his eyes, like an artist viewing an oil painting of another during an art exhibition.
‘See! See how humanity murdered the earth. They have killed their mother!’ Fabeyi exclaimed furiously as he continue to watch the program. The last time he was as angry as this, was the day he was served lunch with heavens’ food. That is what they call the food stuff harvested on the moon. Two years after the icebergs in the seas were reported to have melted due to warmth, and the percentage of water body on the total earth has shifted from 71% to 90%. Farmers have migrated to Agrospace productions where crops like tubers, vegetables and some grains were now harvested on the moon. A good graphical representation would mean; an increase in global population multiplied by a drastic decrease of earth space equaled to limited space. Then, it’s not just about space for cultivation but more importantly, about space for human’s breathing. Because of that, Fabeyi had desisted from eating the crops harvested ‘upstairs’. He believed them to have certain effects on human’s wellbeing. He believed them to be the causes of diseases like anegrai and its kind that inflate man’s organs and kills in three days.
Chris flipped the channel to a documentary titled '30 years of Lagos Exile: Biafra Republic Eat Flames’. It captured the body of water that they said, in the last sixty years was a state in Nigeria called Lagos; but now a part of Biafra Republic today. The documentary unveiled how the then Lagos and Port Harcourt were now water bodies. There was an interview of an old man of about eighty who was said to have lived in Lagos in the past.
“From this place where we are, to almost fifteen kilometers by the left, is called Banana Island then. It’s a prestigious area for some of the greatest Business tycoons and politicians and celebrities in this country.”
The old man said. Phierel stared at the television and mentioned in a moderate tune; ‘Hello, Wallmark, can you reduce your volume to thirty percent please?’
‘Yes, the volume reduces in 10 seconds. Thank You!’ The device replied in that usual programmed voice.
‘You are not saying anything Dad…I mean, this is your country here, man.’ Phierel mentioned. One could notice pity, running down from his eyes all the way to his lips and quiet yearning, popping through his nostrils.
‘I supposed that’s the best for us my dear.’ Fabeyi replied; issuing a smile that veiled anguish. ‘You see, when my country was Nigeria, Lagos was for all. Endowed with wealth under its bridges. But after the death of Nigeria, everything collapsed. You can see how Lagos now floods in water like children’s paper-boats.’ He added.
It all started with swiping mobile phones’ screens, to punching of brothers faces and finally to secession. The young people ignited the fire amongst Nigerians through the then Twitter and Facebook. They said that the country wasn’t ready for development in any way. Claiming it practiced not a democratic system, but a system that calls north for the northerners and south for the southerners. As a result, each fragment demanded its freedom. In order to lessen the pool of blood spilled daily and because of the long-term pressure in the country, the President decided to step down and hand over the country to them to share as they pleased. Then, Fabeyi was still a student in Fehm University here in United Kingdom and his wife Sofy was residing in Nigeria. It was at the peak of the tension that Fabeyi flew back and took his wife along.
After the course, the southerners had expected Fabeyi to return back to them because his mother’s placenta was buried in the south where she gave birth to him. They thought him as surely one of them. Similarly, the northerners too hoped he would join them because he prostrated towards Mecca five times a day, the way they did. But according to Fabeyi, he said he would rather answer a call from amongst Nigerians, rather than answering from a set of people that invaded the south, and compelled all to eat beneath their feet or be amongst the other set that invaded the north and force everyone by the sharp end of a blade to submit to their doctrine, yet end up eating themselves raw.’
But lastly, he returned and settled in Biafra alone.
‘We all know that Nigeria was once Nigeria, one country, but later spilt just like Sudan and other African countries right? But what’s good about that?’ Basi questioned. He seemed to have taken interest in the story.
‘What’s good about what? Nothing is good there my boy. The only thing you see in my Biafra Republic today is the statue of Ojukwu who fought for ‘their’ independence, a flooded nation with no resting pillow and men that hunt their brother’s treasure.’
There was a brief silence after Fabeyi’s answer. Different thoughts soared. Phierel’s phone suddenly rang. He excused them and picked the call. He quickly cut the phone call short with an ‘I’m gonna call you back’ excuse. For a while, he raised his head, fixing his eyes towards heaven. From the inside, he clearly saw motions of the cloud through the transparent ceiling. How the moon often tapped the earth’s shoulder when it fell asleep. One could have clearly noticed the drops of rain, brightness of the old sunlight, and the voices of the angry winds, yet giving a firm barrier that wouldn’t allow them to transcend borders.
‘Being a Biafran, have you ever stayed in DarelJihad?’ Basi questioned. The other two turned and nodded in agreement as if it was a question that they have conspired against their father to ask. It seemed they had been arguing about it for a while. About where their parents exactly met. Not that kind of rational astrological arguments about whether the sun was there when man was born. It was just a simple argument about who knew them best.
‘DarelJihad have sealed their borders now. I heard the passport needed to go in is a turban, the dark black spot on the forehead that would testify you prostrate regularly, and some Riyadh. But yes, I have been there.’ Fabeyi replied as he smiles his cheeks out. ‘But that was when it was northern Nigeria.’
Fabeyi was very careful with his words. He had carefully curbed his stories about ordinary things from the point of view of an eyewitness. He knew it’s not the case about who was right and who wasn’t. It was a ‘why’ question. What happened?
‘The last time I was there was when we travelled to see her parents.’ He added. They needed not ask who he meant by ‘her’. Because they knew only their mother had the ownership of that term on his lips.
‘But today, DarelJihad is as bare as Sahara, only that black flag with Arabic writings and drawing of sword, and people with dried lips and flat bellies.’ Fabeyi replied. His eyeballs now clouded in rain.
‘Sometimes I wonder; perhaps there is no national tradition that knocks on any church’s or mosque’s door and tells the preacher what to teach the followers. As far as I am concerned, Nigeria gave that freedom to everyone.’
The silence swallowed some few minutes, one or two. Each of their voices were nowhere close. Not on earth. They had settled the curiosity and conflicts within. Basi became exhausted. He thought of an excuse that would grant him license to leave finally. The same excuse he had given to a police officer three days ago. Fabeyi lowered his head, facing the ground. He was imagining how it would open its mouth and eventually swallow things that the world has gotten rid of. Things that weren’t useful to her anymore, after it has sucked their energy like children’s tongue on a vanilla ice-cream. However, he was contented with his life. Most of his age mates have assured him that he had lived a life worth living. He allowed his tongue to travel around the sugary content of the tea that had slept on his lips. He coughed twice and raised his right hand to cover his mouth.
‘This is my second day with anegrai.’ Fabeyi stated.
Although they seemed bored with his historical stories, back on their feet again, they re-energized themselves. With new faces showing different expressions. Wonder. Dull. Amazement. Heartbroken. Pity.
‘You mean day two, Dad?’ Chris and Basi lashed out together like it was a choreographed pitch.
Two days with anegrai meant having less than twenty four hours to escape planet earth. Without saying anything again, the three stood up at once. They walked to Fabeyi as he too arose. His three sons encapsulated him in a hug that made it look like they were protecting his body from gunshots during war. He grinned for one last time; an honest grin that explored the stretches across his forehead.
‘We are all children of the gods. I have bowed to humanity for years, it is now time to bow to the sacred call.’
Author Sa'id Sa'ad is a Nigerian poet, essayist and short story writer. He spends his days in a radio studio as an OAP and spends his nights writing. In between, he sips tea, travel and receive tons of rejection letters.