I know I did not dream as I slept, because what I saw was too vivid to be a dream.
I was different. I felt different. Older. Stronger. Taller. I had memories, different memories from my own- memories of a form of confidence and self assuredness that was new to me. New to Ebuwa that is, but not to who I was now, in this not-dream.
That’s who I was. Amaka Ezediaro. A name of words Ebuwa could not even begin to fathom- words which she couldn’t find even within every one of the hundreds of thousands of words she had committed to memory from 2377’s Eewae Ayae. Yet I knew that was my name, just as surely as I knew I was exceptional, destined for great things, brilliant, driven, and loved. Adored by millions, exalted above all others.
This is insane. Only the Lhoebitta are exalted, or can be exalted.
I remembered… several things. Vivid memories, just as vivid as the experience Ebuwa found herself in, this lucid hallucination that she was certain was not a dream. I remembered a privileged childhood. I remembered an impossible paradise- where, just as 2377 said, green oxygenators grew out of the ground, impossibly, and extended as far as the eye could see from the top of impossibly green-and-grey mountains. A sky coloured blue, more beautiful in reality than could be imagined in any of his stories. White objects gently crawled across the sky. I remembered oceans of blue sparkling liquid- just like the oceans of lava beneath the Factory, and the Masters’ domains- not blue enough to be Sanitary Gel- oceans of what could only be, impossibly, water. These memories poured in like a torrent, each one more familiar than the last, becoming more and more unremarkable and unsurprising as they arrived, and as they came, Ebuwa became more and more of a distant memory, and I became myself, more and more, until I was finally Amaka.
And then more memories came. Memories that hit me with a choking sorrow so powerful it rocked my entire body with a world-shifting vertigo. A lump formed in my throat so large and suffocating that I felt I would lose my breath beneath the force of a hundred sobs, all competing to burst forth at the same time- memories of fear, of uncertainty, of conflict, of defeat, of hope against hope, and finally of loss. I dropped to my knees, my ceremonial dress spreading around me, and I looked around the room. The door burst open and a young woman ran in, a young man behind her. In her arms was a tiny baby. They were dressed in similar clothes to me, and on their faces were tears. From their faces, I knew what had happened.
“Mama!!” screamed my eldest daughter, Adaora.
“Ezinne! Is she alright?!” I cried, holding my arms out. Adaora, as beautiful as she was identical to me at her age, hurried towards me and handed me my precious baby. Ezinne’s eyes were wide, in shock. She did not cry. My son, Chidi, trembled with rage as the tears streamed down his face. “They killed him!!! They killed father!” he said. “I’ll kill them! I’ll kill them! Kill all of them!! K…K…Ki…” the words caught in his throat as he sobbed uncontrollably and fought back the shame of disgracing himself in front of his sisters and mother. “To me, my children!” I said, and they clung to me, for dear life. “To me….”
With a loud bang, the walls around us were torn apart by purple fire. Adaora screamed at the top of her voice, long and loud as a swarm of drones, spewing purple projectiles in spinning arcs, spiralled into the room from all sides, coiling limbs coalescing from clouds of nanoparticles and stretching from them. In an instant, my children were ripped from my grasp and dragged across the room. For a brief instant I saw Adaora spirited away from me, fear in her eyes, a scream on her lips, one hand extended towards me as though begging me to take her hand, and then I became aware of a sudden,cruel jerk as my elbows were yanked to either side and my neck was cruelly yanked backwards. I gurgled in alarm as I strained to see what had happened to the baby I had so suddenly been forced to drop but then my whole world went upside down as I became aware of being dragged through the air at an alarming speed, coiling limbs around my legs as well as my arms, forcing them apart and flipping me over as they untangled me from my stately robes and maneuvered me through the throne room at speed. I caught a glimpse of a drone hurtling away with my baby Ezinne in its’ arms; alive or dead I did not know, and then all of a sudden there was a thud as I was slammed against the wall, pinned there by drones, gasping for breath and trying to find my bearings.
Adaora was still screaming.
I could do nothing else but call for Ezinne, my little one- even though she would not be able to understand her own name. Desperately, I searched the room for her, and for a while, nothing else mattered except her safety; but then something happened, which demanded my immediate attention, and then the mother in me swiftly took a back seat and the other me, the elected, undisputed, universally adored Queen of the Southern Saharan Empire, took her place.
The lump in my throat vanished, and the sorrow in my eyes was replaced with defiance and fierce determination, as the slender, blue figure of the hated enemy strode imperiously into the room, flanked by drones, and human traitors.
“Lhoebus,”I said, surprising even myself with the extent to which hatred coloured the sound of that word.
“Indeed,” said the alien, as he walked up to me, careful to stand well outside of spitting distance. “You, as with all primates….. Humans, are a lot smaller in person. But…” His leering, alien gaze travelled the length and breadth of my body, so agonizingly slowly that I began to fight feelings of revulsion and sickness in addition to my burning hatred. “…always so, exquisitely pleasing to the eye.” he snapped out of his reverie and looked away, surveying the destruction that had been wrought on my throne room. “At least, the high quality specimens. The majority of you are, to be frank, an eyesore. Which is a problem we shall solve for you in due time.”
He flounced across the room, his slender blue fingers giving directions to form-shifting drones as they buzzed around, busily executing his instructions. Rearranging, constructing. Even though I hated it, I couldn’t help but marvel at the versatility of the aliens’ technology. Nanotechnology- the likes of which we couldn’t even begin to comprehend. We had, humans, as a species, conquered sustainability, life expectancy, inequality, and sickness. We had transformed our planet into a paradise for ourselves. We had taken great steps towards unity, forming great nations and putting old grievances aside. But we had no answer to this- nanotechnology.
In addition to nanotechnology, the aliens had yet another trick up their sleeves. As they buzzed around, the drones disintegrated and reformed, eventually constructing small devices at different parts of the room. They then activated these devices, creating glowing purplish discs of light, out of which objects were taken and others placed. These were Gates- known as “Thur’cron” by the Lhoebitta. As much as we tried, we could not reverse-engineer or duplicate this technology. Perhaps, if we had done so, things may have gone differently. Perhaps, if we had been united.
One of the humans in the room removed his helmet. I found myself staring into the cold eyes of my old friend, Farooq, Khan of the Northern Sahara. “Amaka”, he said. “It doesn’t have to be like this. We can still…” Farooq was cut off as he suddenly understood why Lhoebus had kept a certain distance from me. He wiped the saliva off his face, and couldn’t hide his fury. Good, I thought, and I hawked and spat again in his direction. He cursed loudly and pointed his weapon at me, resulting in a burst of purple plasma energy from a drone that seemed to have magically appeared in the right location. He screamed, staring at the stump that had once been his arm, and was all of a sudden seized by drones that extended tentacle like arms around him, seizing him, taking him into the air.
His men stood agape as the drones took up positions around them. In seconds they had individually made their decisions. Some dropped to their knees, dropping their weapons, and others were torn to shreds by purple fire as soon as their brains’ synapses registered their intent to fight for their Khan. Dropped weapons were disintegrated, and the kneeling Lhoebitta allies were then seized by drones and also spirited to the edges of the room. So much for Lhoebitta integrity, I thought.
“Such a pity,” said Lhoebus, absently, as he oversaw the construction of what appeared to be a bank of extremely large gartes- Thur’shiens, the Lhoebitta called them. “You …. Primates must feel our greatest advantage comes from our gate technology, or our nanotechnology. But you have no idea just how wrong you are. You see, Amaka… we Lhoebitta have something that a species evolved through natural selection can never possess.”
He looked straight at me, and his alien features were contorted into the most bizarre approximation of a smile that is possible to imagine.
“Unity,” he said.
Ebuwa woke with a start, stinging pain banishing Amaka into a place beyond memory, beyond where fading dreams go when swept aside by vivid, unwelcome wakefulness. She cried out and leapt to her feet, only to be struck again by the drone’s whip.
“Your productivity and your consumption are in imbalance. You waste oxygen by breathing. Justify your existence!” it said, and whipped her again. Ebuwa screamed and backed into a corner, trying to defend herself with flailing, ineffectual little arms. She had overslept. Her permission to use the room had expired. A Thur’shiatta gate was present and she had not stepped through it in time, to receive her first assignment. She was in danger of…
“Do you wish to be reclaimed, candidate 4327?” demanded the drone.
“No!!!” Cried Ebuwa, tearfully
“Do you wish to steal from the Masters?”
“My life for their pleasure forever, no!!!!!!” she cried, as the Drone lashed her again, and again.
“Ever may they enjoy us. Then step through the gate or experience more pain.”
Whimpering and sobbing, while clutching her stinging welts, Ebuwa ran into the Thur’shiatta, briefly wishing it were one that led to the sweet release of reclamation.