Aisha dashed through the thick bushes, dodging branches that seemed to appear out of nowhere, the smell of wet grass and dew filling her nostrils. Getting to the first turning point, she stopped and leaned forward, her hands on her knee caps, to catch her breath, she listened to the sounds around her to ascertain she was not being followed.
The silence, not including the customary sounds of the forest confirmed she wasn’t, and so she fell to a heap on the ground, not mindful of the creepy-crawlies that probably lay there, or the twigs cast to thorns, or the overgrowth of itchy grasses.
Finally, she gave in to tears.
She lay in that same spot for so long, time seemed to pause, and by the time Monsurah joined her, her eyes were swollen, and her body was still jerking with hiccups.
“I came as soon as I got your letter.” She said, as she inched closer the crouched figure.
Aisha gave no immediate response, and as soon as she got close enough to see what had become of her friend, she knelt down in front of her and asked what the problem was.
The question only triggered a fresh bout of tears from Aisha, and so Monsurah didn’t probe, instead she drew her into a hug, and whispered that everything was going to be okay, even though she had vague idea of what everything could be.
“Papa has set the wedding date.” She croaked, through silent sobs. “I’m to stop attending our regular school, and start marital evening lesson with the community wives, so they can train me to be a good wife, and do what I am expected to do before the day of my wedding.”
Monsurah’s hold loosened, and she numbly fell apace her, figuring it was only a matter of time before she too was to be married off to a man five times her age, and already married to six or even a thousand other wives.
Her life would be taken from her even before she figured out what to do with it. She would have to hide her face away from the world, live through the coverings of a black veil, and answer to no one but the man who was to buy her. Buy her like a merchandise of little value, until it was owned, and later cast off to be used when remembered – if remembered.
“What are you going to do – what are we going to do?” Monsurah muttered to herself. Kept muttering to herself.
“Let’s run away,” she said, after what seemed like hours, “Let run far away, from them. We’d would start afresh, learn a new language, adopt a new culture.” She looked down on the lace that girded her, picking with disgust at the gold jewelries that adorned her wrist. “Let’s go to the east or west or south. Anywhere.”
Aisha swallowed, and stared like she had only just noticed her presence. “How? To where? We are only fourteen, how are we going to get the money to? How are we going to survive?”
Monsurah, stood to her feet, her eyes dazed and staring far off north, focused but unseeing. “We have our legs, and hands, and that’s all we need for now. We’ll keep walking, and if we get hungry, we’ll work.”
Finding strength in her friend’s resolve, Aisha got to her feet and nodded. And both set out further into the forest, trailing their way into what they hoped was the next village, but turned out to be a portal into the future.
They had walked for hours, when Aisha noticed something weird was going on.
Sweating profusely, she slumped to the floor and pointed her observations to Monsurah, who then mirrored her thoughts, and countered it couldn’t obviously be possible as she had been conscious enough to mark their route, by trailing the rod she held, deep into the soil, and taking notes of the trees as they went on.
Aisha, tired and weary, had already started to doubt her decision to leave home without prior preparation and planning, but was too timid to voice it out to Monsurah so she wouldn’t sound ungrateful and weak.
“We’ve been here before,” Look at that oak tree, we passed it about three hours-“
As she said so, the same thought seemed to pass through their minds, and they both looked up to the sky, and she gasped.
The sky was still as clear as the early mornings, the morning sun hadn’t even risen. They both brought their heads down slowly, and held each other’s gaze.
“Something evil is at work here.” Aisha mouthed, afraid of her voice giving her out.
Monsurah, on the other hand, shook her head, wanting not to believe it.
Her words countered, but her face mirrored the doubt, and probable fear she held in her heart.
“It might just be the rain,” She cleared her throat, “We should find something to eat, I can see some edible leaves around, we could just steam some, and maybe set a trap, Brother Aziz thought me how. Left to me, we’d just keep moving as the next village is probably a few minutes away, but it seems hunger is causing some of us to hallucinate.” she winked, straightening up.
Aisha bit her lower lip, to keep from saying how nothing about what was happening was an illusion from hunger as she had had something to eat that morning.
A light behind Monsura caught her eye, and she pointed to it, “Tell me you see it too, if you don’t then I guess I really am hungry.”
Far in the distance, a blue light broke in, tearing through the wall of trees and overgrown bushes like shinny blades.
“The spirits of our parents are hunting us.
We never should have run away, we have committed a crime against them, and they know.” Aisha screeched, and fell to the ground, pleading.
Monsurah, looked confusedly from her to the light source, and then back at her. “It could must be that an experiment is being carried out here. You watch to many Yoruba movies Aisha, come, let’s go check it out. You’ll see its fine.”
Aisha clutched at her ears, and shook her head. “I’m not going anywhere again. I just want to go back home. I will beg Papa for forgiveness. I will beg Mama to beg Papa on my behalf.”
Monsurah sighed, “fine, you’re scared because you believe too much in the supernatural, but I would prove to you it doesn’t exist. But as for going back, count me out of it. I am tired of living that kind of life. I am tired of being judged by my looks and sex. I am tired of being objectified. I am tired of being told my future – of how many children I would bear, and what sexes they would be of. I am tired Aisha, and I know you are too.” She finished, and walked off from a whimpering Aisha.
As she got closer, the light seemed to move farther away from her, but her mind was too occupied with thoughts of what could possibly happen if they got lost, and had no means of even tracing their way back. She knew she had made the right decision but she wasn’t sure if it was sensible thing to have done at that moment. Maybe if she had planned their escape better, she wouldn’t be in the middle of what she had at first thought was a familiar forest, looking for the source of a light that was the spirit of her friend’s parents.
She laughed at her own joke, but was suddenly snapped out of her reverie.
The light had vanished. She looked around, and noticed she was in the center of a clearing, in the right middle, enclosed in a circle around her feet. She stared at the trees that surrounded her, and noticed the markings they had about them. Incisions made on them seemed to have been recently done, as the latex still bleed from the barks.
A chilly breeze began to blow, and the trees swayed in motion to it, making her feel dizzy. She tried to step away but found he was rooted to the spot. She opened her mouth to scream but her voice was carried away from her.
She saw it go up, like smoke carried into the air before it merges with it. But her voice wasn’t as black as smoke. It was blue and pink and white, and it swirled as it was swept into the air, forming curlicues that seemed to disperse into the four corners of the sky.
She threw her hands after it, as if to catch it before it was taken away from her. But saw to her amazement that her hands were breaking into tiny almost invisible little pieces, cell by cell, pore by pore. She looked down at herself and saw her lower body was leaving to, she tried to grasp herself with her other hand, but only she quickened the process as her upper body and arm started to leave. Flying with the other, until she felt one with the wind, floating through air, time and then space.
She opened her eyes and stretched, as one does after awaking from a long sleep, but the voices around her brought the hairs on her body to a standstill.
She got up from when she was curled in a fetal position on the bench. She squeezed her eyes shut, and opened them again.
When she still met the same sight, she pinched her thigh. The pain shot through her, making her affirm everything she was seeing she was real, and she wasn’t in a dream.
All around her, the people dressed in deep rich colours, giving life and freedom to the steel, and white sky-scrapers that seemed to reach far into the heavens.
She looked about to reconcile her current position. She was lying on a white painted wooden chair, in what appeared to be a glass walled garden. Kids in Ankara’s of different colours ran about her, and the trees that surrounded her in the glass smelled of petrichor even when the skies above were as clear as she had last seen them.
“The central meeting!” one of the little girls with a sun flower in her afro screeched. “We are all going to see her.”
Monsurah stood up, only then noticing what she wore. It was a brown jumpsuit with patterned flowers all about, she cupped a palm over her mouth to keep from shouting. It was bad luck to shout in a dream
Her hair was worn down, plaited into tiny braids that reached her waist, and decorated with beads that danced about when she moved.
Soon, the kids began to walk towards the garden’s exit, and she followed in line, looking in astonishment as she walked towards gazed ahead to where a crowd was beginning to gather.
Parents waited at the entrance, calling out to the kids that came out along with her, and lifting them onto their necks, or holding their hands and walking further to join the forming populace.
It was a conveyance like she had never seen before. There was to shoving or pushing, even though there could have been over a million people in attendance.
They all stopped at what appeared to be a wall, and everywhere grew extremely silent, only the subtle breeze could be heard.
Just as she turned to inquire what the gathering was all about, the wall un-bricked itself to expose a white screen and a woman appeared on it.
A smiling woman, with a large turban on her head, and the kindest eyes Monsurah had ever seen.
The crowd erupted in applause, and whistle were blown by the men, as she waved, turning this way and that, at the people.
“Welcome great people of Uba.” She called out, her voice like bells. Ringing through the distance, and inciting more applause.
“She is beautiful,” Monsurah whispered, “Who is she?” she asked the man pumping fists into the air with his left hand, and making a whistling sound with his thumb and middle finger, curved into his mouth.
He looked at her like she had just called him leprechaun, and said, “Little girl, don’t tell me you don’t recognize your own President.”
Monsurah smiled beguiling, “President of a Modeling agency, maybe.”
He looked at her with concern this time, “Where are your parents? Did you break out of the hospital? How long have you been admitted? That’s the president of our country.”
The last time she checked, women weren’t even allowed to run their homes, even if the head of the family was late, they were instead passed down to the nearest male relative.
To think that a woman reigned over the country, the same one they weren't allowed to take seats of power. The same one the President has proclaimed to the whole world that the only worth while place his first lady belonged was in the kitchen or bedroom. If it really was, it meant she was either dying, probably lying in coma in a hospital, or dead, and in heaven.
"Where is this?" She asked.
"Nigeria." He replied.
“Sir, this is Nigeria, Northern Nigeria right?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Nigeria Nigeria?” she repeated, as if to give him a chance to correct his mistake.
“Yes. It is,” he answered, his voice strained with worry, and tinged with irritation.
“Are we dead?”
The man reached out, and felt for her temple. “Your temperature seems okay, but we need to get you to a hospital.”
“I think I am going insane,” she whispered, “Please what year is this?”
“Year 2500. You don’t also know the date?”
“Sir, I know this might sound stupid, but I swear it’s the truth.”
“I think I time-traveled.” She said, and fell backward, but was caught in time before she reached the ground.”
The elderly man pressed the blue button on his wrist band as he laid her properly on the ground. The gadget on his arm shot out like a beacon a blue streak of light into the sky, so that everyone turned at the same time to look at what had caused the interference.