LOCKDOWN Chapter 3

atharva-lele-103389 Photo by Atharva Lele on Unsplash

15.3879oS, 28.3297oE, DEPARTMENT OF COMPUTER SCIENCE. STATUS: RESTRICTED

19:05

The lights flickered on overhead and illuminated Computer Lab 3. I reminisced about the lectures I attended, sitting next to Stephanie and playing Zerg Rush when we got bored. Stephanie slumped into a chair and groaned, the day’s events were taking their toll on her. Silas too took a seat and kneaded his head with his knuckles, deep in thought. Milimo however, stayed true to character and set up four computers, deftly accessing the deep web. Each monitor showed the position citizens in real time. Government officials were marked with a red x, cops with a blue dot and civilians were black dots. All the government officials were in their respective homes, all the cops were moving about on the screen, clearly doing their patrols. Silas gave us each a chance to rest. Milimo wrapped himself up in a blanket he had produced from somewhere, Silas fell asleep in his chair. I took out a joint and lit it up, allowing the aroma to engulf me. Stephanie sat on my lap and rested her head on my shoulder. The last time I saw Stephanie was the day before the cops got her. As much as I loved Bupe, Stephanie was a challenge for me. She made my mind work in ways I didn’t know were possible. We didn’t need a label; she was my ride or die. Feeling her small fingers grab the joint from me made me laugh. She took a drag and passed it back, then kissed my neck gently.

“This is far from normal, but it will have to do in terms of intimacy.” She laughed, burrowing her face in my nape. I kissed the top of her head and wrapped my arms around her. Normal and intimate were two things that meant nothing.

02:15

Milimo woke us up abruptly. Stephanie was still curled up on my lap, snuggling close to my body, breathing slowly in and out. Silas was pacing up and down, his brow burrowed in thought. Milimo pulled a chair up and sat in front of us. He put his hands together and exhaled slowly.

“Lady and gentlemen. On the off chance that you actually want to hear me talk; it’s about to go down. I know…I know guys. The world we live in is incredibly messed up. We’re under the rule of people who don’t give a flying rat’s ass about us. It’s a fact. But we’re going to change that. We have so little influence yet so much. Henceforth this city will not be the same.” His voice was heavy with emotion and hoarse from being tired.

“This is crazy.” Stephanie murmured. “What if there’s someone we want to save?”

“I’ll give you the algorithm in a moment, just back code them into the system.” Milimo said.

“There’s no one I’d save.” Silas sighed. Milimo looked over at him and they shared a look, all they had was each other.

“I wanna save Bupe.” I said. Stephanie clicked her tongue in irritation and stood up. She walked to the far end of the room and sat at one of the monitors Milimo had set up.

“I want her to see what this world is really like, not the world she believes we live in.” I continued, staring doggedly at Stephanie.

“Dude. What she sees is what she needs to see.” Stephanie said sulkily. “The world she belongs to, injustice doesn’t exist. People die and their bodies are recycled after. Violating people’s bodies is research. She benefits from the system. The system was made for her.”

“Stephanie, she needs to know!” I said raising my voice. I stood up to. My relationship with Stephanie had always been case in point sexual. We didn’t talk, we didn’t need to. But suddenly, it seemed like the whole world was thrown off balance.

“Dude, shut up.” Silas groaned. “I’ve got bad news.”

“Chabota.” He continued, looking directly at me. “Bupe’s dot is off screen.”

“What does that mean?” I said, feeling a knot grow in my chest.

“Most likely explanation is that she was disconnected.” Silas said gravely.

“Fuck.” I groaned, sinking back into my seat. “Fuck.”

Stephanie sniffed from the other side of the room, still sulking. Milimo patted my back and sighed.

“Let’s do it.” I said resolutely.

I tried to ignore the fact that I was blinded by tears as I back coded. I tried to tell myself the greater good was more important than love. I tried to tell myself I loved her. I also tried to tell myself that cheating with Stephanie meant nothing at all. But I failed. I didn’t mean to fall for Bupe, but when I woke in the hospital, seeing her smile at me, dimpled and with twinkling eyes, I knew everything in my life had changed. She was a medical intern and I was computer scientist, who routinely tested government software. She whispered in my ear that it would be the last time I’d see anyone, they were simply running brief tests on me and then I’d cross to the other side. I had no idea what that meant until I blacked out. When I woke up again, the next person I saw was Stephanie. She was frowning at me. “Damn nigga. You just had to die, didn’t you?” she said. I listened awestruck as I met Milimo and Silas. Collectively, we called ourselves The Rats. I learnt about the illegal network they had set up and their plans. I wanted to be a part of it.

We coded in silence, hearing only the random chirping of crickets in the distance of the approaching morning. Suddenly the lights flickered and Milimo screamed in triumph.

“We did it!” he yelled, jumping up. “We have shut down the domain!”

The silence that followed was thunderous. It was the type of silence that settles after you know you’ve won a battle that you didn’t have the strength to fight. The type of silence that is comfortable in triumph, and thrives in victory. The kind of silence that needed no explanation, just savour. And so, we sat there, in the old Computer laboratory, passing around a joint and feeling oddly exhausted but thrilled. Presently, Silas said, “let’s go outside.”

15.3879oS, 28.3297oE, GREAT EAST ROAD. STATUS: PUBLIC ACCESS ROUTE.

06:00

The apocalypse my generation faced was not a biological weapon or zombies. It wasn’t political terrorism or greed. It was fear of the known world and a longing for freedom. The sunrise tinged the horizon with seashell pink and cast warm rays across the city, illuminating every crevice. The streets were empty. From the distance a lone dog howled, another returned his howl with three sharp barks. And what we saw was desolation. Everything was opposite of what he had expected, what we had needed. We saw bodies. Body after body after body. In the short time, we had been coding under the comfort of our selfish needs, we had willfully and deliberately killed each citizen of the city. I didn’t even want to think of the rest of the country. It wasn’t beautiful or breathtaking, it was dire and sickening. We hadn’t achieved anything but waste.

10:00.

15.3879oS, 28.3297oE GOMA LAKES. STATUS: NEUTRAL

The days passed by uneventfully. An interesting thing about sitting in a post-apocalyptic city is despite the stillness, there will always be wind. The wind caused ripples on the surface of the Goma Lakes and I watched the little waves form and ebb away. Maybe it was fear or loneliness, but the team somehow stuck together. We went to Bupe’s house, to see if we could find any clues. Stephanie chose to wait outside, in a car we had stolen. We found her hanging from her ceiling, her microchip just under her feet. She had killed herself. I cut her down and inserted the chip back into her neck. If nothing came of all this mess, I wanted her to be left in dignity.

“Chabota!” someone called me from a distance.

“Chabota! Come now!” she called coming nearer. Stephanie sounded irritated as she approached. “Chabota. I’ve been calling you.”

I wiped the tears from my face and turned to her. “Quit crying, this is what you wanted.” She said hollowly.

I glared at her, not moving an inch. She came and placed her hands on my head, and I closed my eyes at her touch, savouring the softness of her skin on my hair.

“This is what no one wanted, Chabota. We wanted freedom, not death.” She whispered. She sat down next to me and wrapped her arms around herself, rocking backwards and forwards slightly.

Maybe there is freedom in death, and we just don’t know it yet. Maybe freedom is a concept relative to different people. Maybe death is a price to pay for freedom. The truth is freedom is a concept that you only understand when it’s taken away from you. But somewhere between the flaring lights of cars chasing each other down a freeway or the quietness of dawn, when police officers dust off their boots and finish their shifts, there is a freedom that exists deep within the chests of each of us. We just need to use it wisely.

 

Sonnet by Lachlan Mackinnon

the jupiter collisions

image by FWallpapers.com, http://www.VETTON.ru

(poem taken from The Jupiter Collisions by Lachlan Mackinnon)

Suppose there was no great creating Word,

That time is infinite. Corollary?

The present moment gives infinity

An end, by coming after it. Absurd

 

Say the beginning of the world occurred

In time and call that moment T,

Everything needed for the world to be

Was, at the point T minus X. Absurd

 

Falling in love’s a paradox like this.

Either it happens like a thunderbolt,

So when it makes our lives make sense, it lies

 

Or we had long been hoping for the kiss

That changed us, and, aware how it would jolt

Our beings, we could suffer no surprise

A Doing Word

broken doll

They told me loving my body
Is a doing word.

They’d actively worship it
On the anti-throne of lust
Pull me apart and piece me back together for their own appreciation

They told me that I shouldn’t worry,
That those girl-like ridges
Above my ribs
Would blossom into the fullness
Of womanhood incarnate
In the curvature of
Somewhat recreational glands.

They told me not to freak out
My asset is one
That will be spinning heads because the sway in my hips is enough to slay.

They told me I will be enough;

If I listened to the sweet melodies,
That surfeiting
Eventually the appetite may so sicken and die

They told me loving my body is a verb.

That is done to me.
Over and over and over.

But they forgot to tell me,
That the verb must first be done by me.

Maria’s Fortress

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Winds howl,

Moons pass by, overshadowed by clouds

Of parting rains and shimmering rays

Of unseen lights.

On a hill stood a house.

A fortress from

Whence the rule presided.

The sun rose, the sun set

Mist stole over,

The glass frosted,

Stone cold, the ice claimed its grip.

The cold crept into

The threshold, seeped into

The essence of

The home. It was never the same.

But the sun rose again.

Cast golden rays of hope,

Thawed the ice,

Silenced the cries, dried the tears.

The house stood on the hill.

All could see it, feel it.

There it stood,

For generations come and gone.

 

Transition: The Beginning

An opinion is unique. Everybody has one. Some converge, others don’t. Some walk the same path but on a different journey. An opinion is, however, just that. An opinion. And that’s what people don’t get. It may follow you around, maybe even transform into a reputation. But it is seldom the truth. And that’s how simple it really is.

I sighed in frustration as I slammed the bonnet down. Soon after, a jet of steam escaped the confines of my car’s bonnet. I was usually a resourceful girl, but my husband wouldn’t let me anywhere the mechanics of the car. I tried calling Dudu, but of course I had no reception. I was resigned to walking up the hill to our new place. The heat was over bearing and exhausting. My first day in Glen Nyanza was not looking promising. Glen Nyanza was an idyllic valley, in the heart of Zambia. The town was so small; it did not even appear on the map. The only facilities it had were a church, a market and an itsy bitsy school. Of course, as the norm goes, it was a farming community. And absolutely everyone knew each other. Putting on sunglasses, I begun to walk resolutely up the hill. Despite the heat and the overwhelming distance, the walk was somewhat enjoyable. The road was surrounded by lush greenery on each side, teeming with all sorts of bright and colourful birds. Occasionally, the bushes on the side of the road would rustle ominously. More often than not small animals like lizards would dart onto the dusty road, see me and dart back into the bushes. I even saw a squirrel at one point. however, the more I walked, the more I begun to fear animals of a larger kind. The slithering of the leaves, reminded me of snakes or bears or whatever else was hiding in these woods. Suddenly, I heard the sound of breaking twigs and the heavy deliberate steps of a very large animal. Questions were racing through my mind, could I out run it? Did it think I was edible? Would I reach home in one piece? As I tried to find a solution, hopelessly transfixed to my spot, a child suddenly emerged from the dense bushes. He was wheeling a blue bicycle and had dirt smudged on his chubby cheeks.

“h-hey there.” I stuttered nervously.

“hello ma’am,” he smiled toothily, “I hope I didn’t scare you.” He was as polite as anything.

I laughed and shook my head, and continued walking.

“was that your car I saw down the road?” he asked. I gave him a side long look, not wanting to show my suspicions.

“my brother can fix cars. we could ask him to look at it for you.” He continued with a smile.

“that won’t be a problem, my husband is a mechanic.” I said, smiling at the child. He was almost angelic. He had chubby cheeks and beautiful thick curly black hair. He was a bit fat, but I could tell he would probably grow out of it.

“Ma’am, can I help you carry your bags?” he asked out of the blue. Without waiting for my response, he lifted the bags out of my hands and put the groceries in the bicycle’s basket. Rather than actually riding the bike, he wheeled it along to keep my company.

We didn’t talk too much as we walked along, just took in the scenery. Presently we reached the top of the hill, and I could see the house looming before us. Something about that house just tugged at my heart, like there was something going on, something deeper, larger, bigger than me. I turned to my companion, and found him stationery, staring blankly at the house.

“okay, sweetie, let’s go inside and I’ll give you a treat.” I smiled at him.

His hands shook, as he pointed at the house.

“you live in there?” his voice shook, and his chubby little fingers were shaking from fear.

I stepped forward, and tried to put an assuring arm around him. All of a sudden, he was screaming wildly, flailing in my arms and fighting me off. I was getting scared, why was he so scared? I tried to calm him down to but to no avail. His screams rent through the air, shattering the idyllic peace that surrounded the little valley. Before I knew it, out of nowhere, a whole troop of children on bikes had encircled me. At the helm of the kids was a young boy, with the same thick hair as the little boy.

“Ezra!” he called out sharply.

The chubby boy in my arms settled down suddenly. He wiped his eyes on the back of his hands, smudging even more dirt over his face. Out of nowhere, he ran towards the older boy, and crashed into him with a hug allowing his bike to fall to the ground too. The boy put his arms limply around Ezra, and looked up at me searchingly. He had intense brown eyes, and honed features. He was quite tall, certainly taller than me and had lean muscle. I tore my eyes away from the youth, and begun to pick up my forgotten groceries.

“Everyone time to go home,” the youth commanded. His voice was silky and deep, giving me goose bumps.

I snuck a glance at the children, who all dutifully rode off into the distance leaving a cloud of dust. Ezra came to collect his bicycle fearfully; tear tracks still etched onto his face. He looked downcast, and picked the blue bicycle up forlornly. As he sped off into the distance, the youth stepped closer to me.

“I apologise for that.” He said, holding his hand out. “My name is Myles, I’m Ezra’s older brother.”

I looked stiffly at his hand, and smiled coldly. “No worries. He’s clearly got an overactive imagination.”

He narrowed his eyes at me and put his hands in his pockets, nonchalantly. “you look exactly like Maria.”

I pulled my sunglasses off, and stared at Myles. He smiled cockily.

“Maria was definitely the prettiest woman in the glen though.” He smirked.

I laughed. “I’m married Myles.”

His eyebrows went up the slightest, “I’m sorry ma’am, I didn’t realise.”

“I’m 21.” I said flatly.

“Oh. I see. How come?”

I answered with an incredulous look.

“I mean how come you married young?” he chuckled.

“It was a personal choice I made.” I said bluntly. I wasn’t quite ready to have my story dissected on the tongues of the village gossip. “Have a good day.” I walked up to the driveway of the house, leaving Myles standing there, looking somewhat perplexed. I already knew I shouldn’t have lashed out at him, but I wasn’t very remorseful. I was walked to the front door, I saw my husband watching me through the window, straight-faced and grim-looking. I heaved a heavy sigh, thinking wistfully of the long bubble bath I would have enjoyed but probably wouldn’t have. A wave of cold washed over me as I entered the house, it was sinister, old and still smelt dusty. As hard as I tried to make the house seem warm and light, the dark atmosphere still clung resiliently to the air, swallowing my happiness and suffocating the light. I walked over to the window and looked out. Our house stood on the highest hill, giving me a good vantage point to see the whole town. A heat wave settled over the roofs of the houses, blurring the edges of everything. Occasionally, brightly coloured birds would dart out the foliage on one side of the road and settle themselves in the thick bushes of the other side. As I was about to turn away, I spotted Myles, surveying the house under a tree, barely attempting to hide himself. I clicked my tongue in irritation and turned away. Like I said, Glen Nyanza didn’t look promising.