Authors: Nnedi Okorafor
The gateman opened the gate in the back of the house to let in the shiny silver Mercedes. He watched admiringly as it pulled into the side driveway. The vehicle gleamed like a diamond. The gateman had dreamed of owning such a car since he was a boy. Now that he was thirty-five, it was a fading dream, but one that still made him smile.
When the bishop got out, the gateman frowned and blinked. He always experienced the same mild surprise when this man came over. His brain simply couldn't hold the fact that a holy man could and wanted to afford such a vehicle. Ahmed Ubangiji was a Muslim and lived ten minutes away with his two wives and five children. He had nothing against Christians or any other people of the world. But a bishop displaying such extravagance seemed wrong. Then again, a lot of things seemed odd lately. He closed the gate and went back to his station to continue listening to the news of the flooding and strangeness on Bar Beach. If worse came to worst, he'd pack his family up and head north for a few days. Surely his boss would understand.
Father Oke stretched his arms and shut the car door. He'd been coming here too often, of late. Brother Chris was too needy. But he was one of Father Oke's biggest supporters, donating an ever-increasing amount of money from year to year. Brother Chris had been blessed by God, who'd made him a wealthy accountant. Even though his wife was a problem, she too brought in good money as
a professor and a scientist. Yes, they were good people to have in his congregation, so dealing with Chris more than he wanted to was worth it.
Father Oke dusted off his black suit and adjusted his immaculate white collar. His shiny shoes were spotless, which was just the way he liked them. He walked to the door where Chris was already standing. He must have been waiting for the last fifteen minutes.
“Good morning,” Chris said, smiling a bit too widely.
They shook hands and went inside.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Adaora was scribbling frantically in her journal. She'd gone upstairs to make breakfast for her husband, the children, and Philomena. After assuring them that everything was okay, she'd run back to get her churning thoughts out of her mind. She had to remember every detail of the night's events. Of Ayodele's reactions, how they'd all met up, the sights, sounds, scents of the beach, everything. She was the scientist; the world would expect her to have the facts. Plus, it kept her from dwelling on the memory of her husband squirming on the ground as though held by invisible restraints. Ayodele and Agu were watching the news as Anthony paced the room.
“The mystery deepens hours after a sonic boom sounded somewhere off the waters of Bar Beach,” the newscaster said. “The military cannot locate a source for the noise. Since the incident, however, and equally as mysterious, the sea level continues to rise. So far, it has risen over seven feet above its normal level. Lagos's lagoon is filling up, and people's homes, roads, and the beaches have flooded. Neither the military nor scientists have any answers at the moment.”
Adaora rolled her eyes.
Of course they don't have any answers,
And if they do, they're not going to share them.
“What's happening?” Agu asked Ayodele, who was happily munching on a raw garden egg.
She bit, chewed, and swallowed the crunchy green-and-white tomatolike fruit for several moments before responding. “It's the
ship,” she said. “The size of it. The waters actually rose last night, not this morning, remember?”
“Yes, it was a big ship,” Adaora said vaguely.
“It's not just the size,” Ayodele said. “It is communicating with the water and the creatures in the water. We are communicative people.”
Anthony continued to pace. He wrung his hands and wished he had a big fat joint, the finest
. “I don't know why I'm still here,” he muttered to no one. “I should have left early this morning.”
“It's because you can't,” Agu said.
Anthony stopped pacing, annoyed that Agu was paying any attention to him. He'd been talking to himself.
“You can go home but nothing will change,” Agu continued. “Who knows, they may have already overrun Accra.”
Anthony flared his nostrils at the mention of his country's biggest city. “Don't say that.”
Father Oke swept ceremoniously down the stairs followed by Adaora's husband and Philomena, the house girl. Father Oke was all smiles and pleasantries. “Good gracious morning, everyone,” he said.
Chris said nothing, making a wide berth around Agu as he moved toward Adaora.
“This man again,” Anthony muttered, glaring at Chris.
Agu and Chris glared at each other, and Adaora felt more than nervous. However, it wasn't Agu she suddenly wanted to protect. She placed herself between Ayodele and Father Oke. If there was one thing she knew about Father Oke, it was that he was a smooth-talking predator. She couldn't keep him from her husband, but she would keep him from her childrenÂ .Â .Â . and Ayodele.
Philo sat on the stairs, took out her mobile phone, and discreetly started recording with the phone's camera.
“Adaora,” Father Oke said. “Please introduce me to yourÂ .Â .Â . new friends.”
“Good morning, Oke. What do you want?” Adaora asked. The man was a bishop, yet he insisted that people call him “
Oke.” This deeply annoyed Adaora, even before he'd sunken his claws into Chris.
“Greetings, my child,” he said. “Iâ”
“How can I be your âchild'? You're only a few years my senior,” Adaora snapped.
Father Oke didn't miss a beat. “You're a child of God.”
“And you are God?” she asked.
He chuckled. “God speaks
Adaora snorted, crossing her arms over her chest.
“I am not here to fight,” he said. “You need to make peace with your husband.”
Adaora felt rage heat her face. She clenched her fists, aware that everyone in the room was watching her. Slowly and deliberately, she said, “And how can we make peace when you are constantly meddling? You instruct him to starve himself like someone who does not have food! You convince him of your twisted nonsense.” She stepped closer and Father Oke stepped back. “How does him
me in the
? Eh? How can a man slap his wife âin the name of Jesus'?
instructed him to do so! You think I didn't see your e-mail to him a week ago? âBreak her with your hands, then soften her with flowers.'”
Behind her, she saw Anthony shake his head in disgust. Agu glowered at Chris. Father Oke looked utterly flabbergasted. Chris looked shamefaced.
“You have little trust in your husband if you're reading his e-mails,” Father Oke said coldly.
“Get OUT of my house!” Adaora screamed.
house, Adaora,” Chris said.
“Oh my God, I'm going to kill someone this day, o,” Adaora proclaimed. “Your house? Says who?”
“Seke, seke, seke,”
Anthony muttered, still shaking his head.
Chris waved a dismissive hand at Adaora. “Father Oke is not here to speak with you, anyway,” he said.
As if on cue, Father Oke slipped around Adaora. “What is your name, child?” he asked Ayodele, who'd been watching with quiet interest.
“I don't need a name,” she said. “My people know me. But you may call me Ayodele.”
“Are you a witch?” he asked.
“Will you slap her if she says yes?” Adaora snapped. She inhaled deeply, put her hands on her hips, and walked to the other side of the room. If she didn't step away, she knew she'd do something she'd regret.
“Why does this matter so much to you?” Ayodele asked Oke.
“Because I can
you.” Father Oke stepped closer. “I'm trained to help you control your evil, to find grace and salvation and goodness.”
“See?” Chris insisted. “She doesn't deny it. I saw her change. Sheâ”
“You didn't come here to ask me about witchcraft,” Ayodele said to Father Oke, ignoring Chris. “You have other things on your mind.”
“What do you
?” Adaora loudly asked Father Oke from across the room. “People like you always
“I want to
,” he said to Ayodele. “CanÂ .Â .Â . can you show me?”
Ayodele cocked her head as though considering Oke's offer.
“Don't!” Adaora said, rushing back over. But everyone heard the sound of metal balls on glass. Ayodele's skin was already reÂarranging itself. On the stairs, Philo gasped, still holding up her recording phone.
Ayodele had turned into an old woman with dark papery skin and runny blind eyes. Chris scrambled backward, whimpering.
Father Oke's face melted into something like grief and joy all at once. “Mama?” he whispered. He made the sign of the cross.
“I am not a witch; I am alien to your planet; I am an alien,” Ayodele said in the voice of Father Oke's recently deceased mother. “We change. With our bodies, and we change everything around us.”
Father Oke exclaimed. He made the sign of the cross again. Philomena clapped her phone shut, and everyone turned to look up at her. “Sorry,” she said, shooting to her feet. She ran up the stairs.
Father Oke smiled shakily, trying to look serene and pious when he felt like tearing out of that basement screaming. He didn't know if he believed in aliens or not. He'd never considered the question. If there
aliens, they certainly wouldn't come to Nigeria. Or maybe they would. He spread his hands and addressed the creature who was and was not his mother. “I have seen the news,” he said. “I believe all that was caused by you, whenÂ .Â .Â . when you landed here; you coming here, it is all an act of God. I know you love God. Even if you are,
, from another place.” As he spoke, his confidence grew. Speaking publicly always had this effect on him. It was why he had become a preacher.
“See it asÂ .Â .Â . a personal race,” he said, now truly smiling. “All of us have sinned! Human andÂ .Â .Â . alien. No one on earth or in the cosmos is good or righteous. Hence God gave his only son to die for us!”
Adaora wanted to tell him to shove his nonsense up his ass. The man was the worst kind of charlatan. But Agu, now standing beside her, elbowed her to stay quiet.
“What?” Chris asked, perplexed. He'd come for a witch hunt, not a baptism. “But that doesn'tâ”
“Chris, can't you see?” Father Oke said, now completely enthralled by the sound of his own voice. He was on a roll. “I have been chosen to bring this creature and all of her kind into the
Ayodele watched him blankly. Father Oke took her silence as affirmation. He was getting through to her. He had the gift of the gab. He could get through to
, even an extraterrestrial, such
was the power of his faith. “Do you understand what I am saying?” he asked, certain that she did. His mission was clear; divine. “God, the Almighty, he is in control. Give yourself up to the Lord and any help you need to survive will be given to you. My church. My church is a
church. Come join my flock and we will be truly great.” He held his hands out to Ayodele. When she didn't take them, he just kept talking. She was scared. Understandable. She was a blank slate, untilled alien soil. “You can shape-shift. That is a God-given ability,” he said. “Maybe you can become one of my sisters in God. Join me on the pulpit and you and I will pull in a flock to be reckoned with!”
“See this man,” Adaora said quietly to Anthony, “he's just trying to use her. So one-track minded. Even in the face of an extraÂterrestrial,
“That was obvious to me from the start,” Anthony replied.
“If you join us, we can best
you from the evil forces of these lands,” Father Oke continued. He smirked knowingly. “In this house, anyone can come for you. It is not safe.”
Ayodele opened her mouth to speak, but Father Oke held up a hand. “Don't,” he said. “Just think about it for now. We will come back to hear your answer later today.”
Ayodele shrugged and said, “Okay.”
Father Oke nodded, slowly backing toward the stairs, grinning. He motioned for Chris to follow.
“Oh,” Chris said softly, as if waking from a dream. “Okay.” He scurried past Father Oke, up the stairs.
“It was wonderful to meet with you, Ayodele,” Father Oke said. Then with a wave, he whirled around and followed Chris up the stairs.
Adaora let out a breath of relief. “Can you imagine?”
Ayodele was smiling. “This place is fascinating, o,” she said. “
That man, I could see all his ideas!”
Adaora noted how Ayodele was even picking up slang. She frowned as she said, “You're not seriouslyâ”
“We need to get her out of here,” Agu interrupted. “Soon.”
Anthony nodded vigorously. “My father was a preacher,” he said. “I know that man's kind. He'll return with his entire congregation. Oh
, of all the people your husband could have broughtÂ .Â .Â .”
“I know,” Adaora replied darkly. “Once word gets out, the kidnappers will start arriving too.”
“Mama?” they watched Father Oke slowly ask.
Despite what he had just seen, Moziz snickered. He knew Father Oke. The man sponged plenty of naira from his grandmother every Sunday, leaving her with barely enough to buy gari and bags of “pure water.” When the footage ended, Moziz clicked replay on Philo's mobile phone to watch it again.
Philo smiled. Back at her employers' house the children were still asleep, and she'd chanced leaving for a half hour to come to see her boyfriend, Moziz. It was worth the risk; she loved to see Moziz happy. She loved Moziz. She looked around his sparse one-Âbedroom flat. Nothing but a computer on a desk, a chair, and the mattress they sat on. He didn't have much, but he kept his flat spotless. Damn near sterile, from the smell of disinfectant it always carried. Moziz hated roaches, and this “face me, I face you” building was full of them.
A struggling medical student forced to take the year off due to strikes, Moziz was the most educated guy she knew. He was quite dark-skinned and short (neither of which suited Philo's tastes), but he was articulate, ambitious, and crafty. At the moment, he was making most of his money from 419 scams on his computer, but Philo knew this was only temporary. She was certain that Moziz was meant to be somebody, just like his name implied. The actual spelling of his name was “Moses,” but he'd changed it because he thought it sounded cooler.
“Eyyy!” Moziz exclaimed as he watched Ayodele change again. He laughed hard. “Look at Father Oke! De man wey dey do
before see as he dey shake like waterleaf ! He don nearly shit for him pant!”
Philo smiled. She'd bagged an educated man
he spoke like a man of the streets.
“Baby, dis ting na real? Abi na film tricks?” he asked.
“I say I take my two naked eyes see de thing as e happen, just like two hours ago,” she assured him, dropping into Pidgin English too.
He pinched his smooth chin pensively with his fingers. Philo could practically hear his brilliant mind working. He really was the sharpest man she knew. She'd chosen well. With him, she'd surely have a good, easy life.
“True true, you say dis woman na from space? You say she come from space?”
“Na so she talk. She say no be only her come, she come with many others wey still dey for inside dem ship wey land inside Bar Beach.”
“Okay, o,” Moziz said. “Well, if dem get flying ship, wetin again dem get wey we no sabi?” He narrowed his eyes. “Maybe we fit tell am to print original naira notes for us, o. Yes na, if she fit change herself, na him be say she fit do other things, too! Miracle! Heiyaaa! Na so na! Na so universe law be, o, no be mek de law.”
“Maybe,” Philo said.
“In fact sef, no be even naira we go ask am to make for us,” he said. “American dollars! Or even euro. Euro cost pass dollar, so na euro we go tell am to make for us!”
Philo shrugged and laughed. “If she fit do am na, dat one no be problem. But I no sabi if she fit do am, o.”
, dis one na something, o,” he said, now grinning with all his teeth. “Baby, dis one na something. You do well show me dis video.”
Philo giggled as he caressed her cheek. His hand slowly made
its way to her left breast. “You fit get me inside dere?” he asked, his voice lusty in her ear.
“I go try, baby,” she whispered. She lay back and as he climbed on top of her, his computer beeped the arrival of a new e-mail. He paused, looking at the monitor.
“Mek una wait! Mek una wait! Eh? All of una wey be e-mail fit wait for now!” he said, turning back to Philo.