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Authors: Nnedi Okorafor

Lagoon (5 page)

BOOK: Lagoon
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“Please, all of you, come,” Ayodele said, sitting beside Adaora on the right side of the sofa.

They couldn't leave now. There would be checkpoints. And checkpoints were potential trouble; Agu knew this best. Ayodele didn't seem bothered.

“Kola, Fred, out,” Adaora snapped, noticing them peeking into the room from the top of the stairs.

Philomena came rushing down, out of breath. “Sorry, Madame,” she said. She took Kola's and Fred's hands. “I was . . . I was in the bathroom. Kola, come. It's time for lunch.”

“Mommy, we want to see the alien,” Kola demanded.

“How do you . . . ugh, Kola, go!” Adaora snapped. “Upstairs, now!”

The startled children snatched their hands from Philo's and ran up the stairs. Philo followed.

Adaora shut her eyes and sighed, tired. Agu plopped on the left side of the sofa, looking equally as exhausted and far more physically battered. It was around two p.m. and none of them had gotten even an hour of sleep. The television news droned on about the rising water, how the government still did not know who was attacking Nigeria, and how government offices and facilities were closed for the day.

“You three were chosen,” Ayodele said. “You made sense. I know we've made the right choice.”

“Wharreva,” Anthony drawled. He was sitting on the coffee table, his long legs stretched before him. He seemed more interested in the chaos on the news than in Ayodele.

“Adaora, you understand water,” Ayodele said. “You'll soon also understand something about yourself, and what's to come. You can explain.”

“Myself ? Meaning? And will you people affect the water?” Adaora asked. She remembered what she'd seen when they were under the sea. In the surrounding glowing water had been a riot of bright yellow butterfly fish, clown fish, sea bass, eels, shrimps, urchins, starfish, sharks, stingrays, swordfish, barracuda, a bit of everything local; some from the deep, some from the shallows. She'd never seen such a thriving coral community in any of her dives off the coast of Lagos. Would they come
of the water?

Ayodele took her hand and Adaora instantly stiffened. Ayodele's hand felt warm and remarkably . . . human. “Agu, soldier,” Ayodele continued, looking into Agu's eyes. “You come from a family of yam farmers, they are the salt of the earth to you. They represent the heart of Nigeria. You joined the army to protect them. Now you understand your army is corrupt. You need a people to join.”

The clear truth of her words warmed every part of his body and left him speechless.

She smiled. “
you have a direct connection to your country's leader, your president. Your superior is his relation and can reach him quickly.”

Agu and Adaora looked at each other, uncomfortable. Agu wiped his eyes and began to explain. “Yes . . . but our president is . . .”

Adaora shook her head and Agu shut up. Ayodele didn't seem to notice. “Anthony,” she said.

“What?” he snapped. “
, what about me?” He turned away.

Adaora almost chuckled, marveling at the fact that he was nothing like his public persona. He was actually rather reserved. He
certainly hadn't bulged his eyes and randomly screamed, “Anthony DEY CRAZE!” once since she'd met him.

“You are a communicator, like us,” Ayodele told Anthony. “You spent the most time with the Elders. You've heard their song. Even
can't imagine what you've learned.”

Adaora and Agu both looked at Anthony, who backed away. Tears started to roll from his eyes. Helplessly, he held up his hands. “I . . . I don't want any part of this,” he said, his voice quivering. “Okay? I just want to leave.” His lower lip trembled. “But I can't stop
it.” He took a deep breath, steadying himself. “
, it . . . it is beautiful. I was hearing it during my concert, too. That's why I needed to go out for some air afterward.” His wet eyes grew wide. “I was seeing
grow between the crowds. . . .”

He sat down hard on the sofa, breathing heavily. He wasn't going anywhere.

“This house is a good location. You will draw a crowd here,” Ayodele said, smiling.

Anthony untied the veil from around his neck and wiped his face with it. Agu stood very stiff, gazing at the fish tank. And Adaora looked at Agu's hands, wondering if they'd changed size when he'd punched his superior into unconsciousness.

“Anthony, you understand, correct? You must call the people to you,” Ayodele told him. “The way my people operate, we need a gathering, first.” She turned to Agu before Anthony could ask why. “Agu,” she said. “Go to your
superior. Explain things to him. Take Adaora as your expert. You know what you must convince him to do.” And both Adaora and Agu knew very well.

It was time to find the president.



Moziz took a deep hit from the joint Troy handed to him. “Pass am give de others, e still plenty,” he croaked as he held in the smoke. Troy, Tolu, and Jacobs, also students forced to “take time off” because of university strikes, had just arrived, and he wanted them to be relaxed when they watched the footage on Philo's phone. He let them smoke.

They were outside at the old table under the tree behind his apartment, a nice quiet spot. He squinted at them through dry red eyes, knowing that they were waiting for him to speak. He'd sent urgent texts to each of them saying it was a matter of lots of money. Still, right now, they knew not to rush him.

Philo looked at her watch. She could make it back to the house in about five minutes if she ran. And today Sir and Mistress were so preoccupied that they didn't even notice when she was gone, and the children didn't mind her absence. For now, she leaned against the tree, her arms around her chest. She was nicely sore from the early afternoon with Moziz. He'd made her a thousand and one promises in the dark, including marriage and a big, big house. All would come true once he got the creature to do what he knew it could do. She felt a tingle of arousal between her legs as she watched him eye his friends.

After they'd seen the footage, Tolu, Troy, and Jacobs stared at the phone. None of them knew what the fuck to think. Moziz's girl Philo wasn't smart enough to make up something so extraordinary,
and Moziz had no reason to. And that meant what they saw could only be real.

“E get anybody here wey no still believe wetin e don see with him own eye?” Moziz asked, after Tolu, Troy, and Jacobs had watched the film another three times.

Tolu handed the phone back to Moziz. He held it out using only his thumb and index finger, as if it were contaminated.

“Lagos don scatter for confusion sake of say dem no fit know wetin dis kine
come mean,” Moziz said, getting up. Like Father Oke, Moziz knew when he had people wrapped around his finger, and he reveled in it. He sat on the table before Troy, Tolu, and Jacobs. “
know wetin e be. And one of them dey my girlfriend
house. Una don see am unaself. Na from space dem come. Dem get ability to change dem shape and dem body as dem like. Now, na only imagine person fit imagine all de many many other things dem fit do.” He leaned forward. “Una know wetin we fit do if we kidnap them? Tink am well well!” He held up a fist for emphasis. He leaned back. “Ol' boy! If we no act and move fast now, na our chance we don miss be dat, o.”

When none of them said a word, Moziz continued, “De first thing we go ask am to do na to print money for us. Naira, notes, American dollar notes, euro, even sef, pound sterling! My people, nobody go rich like us! We fit even tell am to enter online people bank accounts too. Fuck all de 419 rubbish, we go bypass dem middleman dem and go direct to the money.”

Troy asked, in a small but worried voice, “If danger come dey all this plan,

Jacobs and Tolu murmured agreement. Moziz gave Troy a very foul look. “No worry,” he said. “Na woman de ting be, o. Look am.”

Troy frowned at this. Something wasn't right about what Moziz was saying, but he wasn't sure what it was. But he felt Moziz was right, what he'd seen in the video was just a woman. She looked like
a slightly older version of his sister, even. She had to be harmless. She'd be easy to kidnap.

Tolu liked the idea of kidnapping the alien well enough, but more importantly, he didn't want to cross Moziz when he was in one of his moods.

Jacobs didn't like the idea at all. If the woman was an alien who could shape-shift, she wasn't
a woman. And maybe that made her dangerous. However, Jacobs
like the idea of getting rich. It was about time. He'd been a struggling university student long enough. He took the phone from Moziz and watched the footage again. He glanced at Troy and Tolu. Both were looking intently at Moziz, and Moziz was enjoying their attention. Discreetly, Jacobs sent the footage to his own phone.

“See,” Moziz said. “We catch am, carry am, come my place. We go rich before sun go down. Na who no 'gree? She just woman; she no dey harm.”

They were all in. Moziz glanced at Philomena, blew a kiss, and then flicked his tongue at her. Philomena smiled shyly, glad that no one could see the ache between her legs and the hopeful dreams in her head.



That afternoon, the church was packed, thanks to the television, newspaper, and radio, though not so much the Internet. According to the media, the water along all the beaches was “rising at an alarming rate!” and pushing into the lagoon. Government buildings and independent businesses were all “closed until further notice!” There had been an “excruciatingly loud racket tumbling off the ocean.” Something was amiss, and everyone was getting ready for whatever would come next.

Some packed up and fled for the rural villages where they had built homes that they normally only stayed in during holidays. The wealthy and influential tried unsuccessfully to procure plane tickets to the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States. Some even tried to fly to Ghana and Cameroon. But all planes everywhere were grounded indefinitely due to the unidentified sonic boom. Many flocked to mosques. And, in Lagos, hundreds flocked to the church of Father Oke. For many, Father Oke's church was exactly the refuge they sought.

Father Oke smiled grandly as he moved away from his wooden pulpit toward the three kneeling women. Behind him stood his bodyguards, just to keep an eye on things, keep everyone safe. As he stepped before the women, he glanced down at his expensive gold-tipped white loafers. They peeked out from beneath his spotless white robe. He was looking sharp.

He moved his eyes from his shoes to the first kneeling woman.
He had to work hard to keep his disgust from showing. He could almost smell her.
he thought
. Rubbish. Filth.
But he would take her money.

“What do you want?” he asked.

“I'm a winch.”

The audience gasped.

He blinked, shocked. Her words pricked him like a needle. “
did you say?”

“I'm not a winch. I'm a winch . . . for Jesus,” she said.

Her voice was flat, her face slack as she looked up at him with stupid eyes. She wore an old white blouse and a long blue skirt. From what he could see, she was flat-chested and her coarse hair was untouched by refining chemicals. She might have been about twenty.
This idiot must be one of those empty-headed girls who was dropped as a baby,
he thought. A waste of a woman.

“What is ‘winch'? Do you know what that is? Can't you speak English? Are you uneducated?”

“I'm sorry,” the woman said in her flat voice. “My English no be good, o.”

“Witch. You are a witch?”

“Yes, for Jesus.”

He felt the rage rise in him before he could control it. This . . . this common piece of female trash in his glorious church had the nerve to admit to the greatest sin! To his face! In front of his swollen congregation!

“You are a FOUL DEVIL! Do you know who you are speaking to? Foul
!” He brought his hand back and slapped her across the face as hard as he could. The women beside her screeched.

“Praise Jesus,” several of the audience members shouted. Others applauded.

Still, as his hand connected to her face, he regretted his action. He'd gone too far, he knew it. He glanced to the side of the stage where the camera was recording everything today. And did he also
spot a young man in the audience with his mobile phone open?
he thought. But the woman had just made him so goddamn angry.
How dare she?
He started walking away from her but then walked back. He couldn't leave it at that. He didn't know what he would do, but he couldn't leave it at that. He had to remain in control of the situation. Make it work for him.

“Where are you from?” he demanded. He couldn't get the anger out of his voice.

“I'm from Imo State,” she said, tears in her eyes. But she stayed kneeling.
he thought.

“Where did you learn witchcraft from?”

“I'm not a winch. . . .”

“Who are you?”

“. . . but I am a winch for Jesus.”

he thought, the rage flaring up in him again.
Again, she says it! What is wrong with this bitch of the devil? And look
how she speaks so defiantly! Maybe she IS a witch!
He stood up straight and looked out at his captivated audience. He smiled, taking a deep breath. Then he nodded to them, taking several more.
he thought, his heart rate slowing. Steady.

“Jesus has no witches! You are a demon!” he roared. But he spoke with controlled passion now. Confident power. His audience jumped up and shouted and applauded. He looked at the kneeling woman and again felt his heart rate try to surge. He stifled the urge to slap her a second time as she mumbled something. He put his hand in her face, refusing to hear another word. “All of you, know this! Whoever speaks a lie shall be
struck down
! Now, foul devil, get out of here before God kills you right on my stage.” The other two women got up, and quickly dragged the woman he'd slapped offstage. He hoped that the audience beat up every single one of them. In the name of Jesus.

He dabbed his face with his handkerchief. He was riled up. He needed to calm down. Today was about something special, not
about idiot peasant women. Before this stupidity, for three hours, spittle flying from his lips and sweat dripping from his face, he'd preached about
. He'd hedged around the
matter at hand, building to the climax that would bring it home. He knew exactly how he'd broach the topic with his loyal followers. The energy was high already. His confrontation with the witch meant he had their undivided attention.
was the moment. He called on Chris to stand in his front pew and speak to Father Oke's flock. The other man stumbled to the pulpit, looking ragged.

“My wife . . . She is troubled,” Chris said. He wrung his hands, desperate and stressed. He was so glad that Father Oke had finally let him say his piece. He needed help. Salvation.

The congregation murmured encouragement.

“Something has taken her,” he said, wrapping his arms around himself. There were sweat marks around the collar and the armpits of his white cotton shirt. He'd worn this same shirt two days in a row to work. “I don't know how to say this. . . .”

People shouted and clapped encouragingly.

“I'm sorry to say, my wife has become a marine witch, o!” he announced grandly.

The church exploded with indignation, and Chris's heart swelled. Tears gathered in his eyes. “I need help!” he shouted, clenching his fists.

“You will get
!” a man shouted back.

God will help you, o!” a woman shouted.

“The Lord will favor you, o!” a child shouted.

Some condemned the heathens who did not go to church. Some shouted about how it was all coming to pass. Whatever “it” was, only they knew. They announced that the ocean would soon swallow them all up for the sins of these marine witches and warlocks, nonbelievers in Christ who'd taken over the country. Some blamed the Muslims of the north. Others blamed the Americans.
Al-Qaeda. Sickness. The British. Bad luck. Devils. Poverty. Women. Fate. 419. Biafra. The bad roads. The military. Corruption.

Father Oke raised his hands to quiet his flock of sheep. He had the answers for them. He was holy. They grew silent, including Chris, who looked at Father Oke in earnest. As much as he could love a man, in this moment, he loved Father Oke very much.

“Have no fear!” Father Oke told Chris. “
will save your wife.”

His sheep sighed with relief.

“Tell everyone about your wife's friend, Brother Chris,” he said.

Chris nodded, but frowned. What did his wife's cure have to do with that one? But he trusted Father Oke. “Last night,” Chris said, “my wife brought something home with her. A . . . a visitor. A true visitor. I saw—”

Father Oke quickly spoke up. “A visitor from outer
! An alien! An extraterrestrial!” he said, dramatically rolling his
's. The entire church went silent. This was the shock Father Oke had hoped to cause. Perfect. “It is in Brother Chris's home! It is only the first of many!” he continued. “You see the news, all these strange things happening. We are being
, my friends.”

He paused as people started talking among themselves.

I knew it!” a man exclaimed to the woman beside him. “Didn't I tell you? There is no smoke without fire!”

“Why here? Why here?”

“I didn't see a damn thing last night.”

“We all go die, o!”

When the chatter began to swell into panic, Father Oke shouted, “Calm down! Calm down! Listen!”

Near instant silence. He had these people eating out of his hand. It was beautiful.
Thanks be to God,
he thought. “You have seen today how I handle witches and their devilry. Have faith in my power to heal! Now, these visitors, my friends, they mean us no harm,” he said. He laughed confidently and leaned against the pulpit, holding his microphone to his lips. “I have
the one at Brother Chris's
house. These are
who need to be saved! We will welcome them, enfold them into our flock. Wash them in the Blood of Christ! Make them immaculate.” He paused, smiling at their frightened faces.

“Who will join me? Who will come with me to Brother Chris's home to enfold this intelligent creature into our flock? Who will make our church the first in all of Lagos, in the WORLD, to do such a thing? Who will come with me and do God's will?”

There was only silence. Father Oke looked into the crowd of faces, and what he saw made him feel a pinch of doubt. Cowards. All of them. Frail. Afraid.
The Lord has given me weak vessels,
he thought with despair. Then someone in the back started singing. The voice was shaky and panicked. Father Oke knew who it was: Memory Fulami, one of his craziest parishioners. She'd joined his flock four years ago and came to church twice a day. She sang too loudly, smelled like dirty sweat, and was known for shouting at girls who wore tight jeans. She drove him crazy. She had a voice that would kill every cockroach in that filthy “face me, I face you” compound she lived in down the road. But at this moment, of his entire congregation, he loved her the most. Father Oke dug his nails into his leg as he fought to hold the pleasant smile on his face.

“Count your blessings, see what God has done,

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

The others began to join her. Maybe it was to drown out her awful voice or maybe it was a show of true solidarity. It didn't matter. Soon the entire church was singing their support for Father Oke.

Everyone except Chris.

BOOK: Lagoon
9.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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