He shoves his left hand into my pocket and roughly removes a couple of tens instead of asking for them as he normally does. I glance at Uyi, a small smile masking my surprise at his atypical behaviour, but he doesn’t smile back. Rather he has a strange look in his eyes which I struggle to interpret. Is it anger? Discontent? I don’t know. My conscience pricks me to ask, but I can only speculate about his thoughts as he remains silent.
Five weeks ago I promised both of us I wasn’t going to do this to him. Five weeks ago I was firm in my resolve and fully committed to seeing it through, but here we are, five weeks later, ready to break my own promise and powerless to stop my capitulation. Self-preservation is a bitch.
As we walk down the road to his new beginning, there is an uneasy silence between breeder and product which words cannot penetrate. Words cannot lighten the dire mood that pervades the atmosphere. We both know what is coming.
A cataclysm which took place 100 years ago wiped out almost the entirety of the human race, leaving only a handful of people to roam the earth whilst the animals and plants remained largely unharmed. They called it “The Great Plague”, a reset by Mother earth to create balance between humans and other species as we were threatening to overrun the planet. In a bid to recoup losses and populate the world with a more superior race, impervious to any surprises Mother Nature may come up with in the future, The Order put in place a new system. Parents (now referred to as breeders) were selected and matched based on specific algorithms to produce the new generation. The children thus produced are raised by breeders to a certain age before their memories (save for certain selected files) are wiped and they are sent to colonies to live out the rest of their days under strict rules. Omo has been my partner, and as a couple our ranking has always been great among fellow breeders. The quality of our products means we’re consistently in the 98th percentile, earning the right to a good life with all the necessary perks.
I try to start a conversation, hoping to get him to at least say something.
“Hope you drew up the list of memories you want to keep?”
There’s no response, so I try again.
“Remember that this has nothing to do with me and your mum? It’s the way of The Order.”
“What will you use your money for?”
There is a payment for every acquisition, a kind of seed money to start off a new life.
Still no response. There’s no sign that he can hear me at all, but I know he can.
Since my match-up I’ve had ten kids given up for acquisition, each with his/her own unique traits and abilities, but there’s something about Uyi that’s different, something I can’t actually put a finger on. His name Uyi means ‘grace’ in Bini, a language spoken by a renowned tribe of warriors who lived in Africa before the Plague. I long to call it aloud again one more time, to feel its power, to hear him answer me in that unusually clear voice of his, to have another animated conversation about his favourite cartoon and to feel his trust as his arms wrap around my body in a show of love, but I know that won’t happen today. Not again, not ever.
Today I am going to do my duty as a breeder, and fail as a parent.
Finally we reach the gigantic black gates of the processing centre and stop. I can see a flurry of movement inside the huge compound through the high barbed wire fence, but he shows no interest in the sight. I want to say something, to offer some words of comfort, to apologize for breaking my promise to him, but my lips refuse to part. I try to pat him reassuringly on the shoulder, but he anticipates my action and moves out of reach, looking at the ground. I think to myself that maybe Omo should have come with us, maybe her presence would have made things easier.
“Why did you lie to me?”
His question catches me unprepared, but not as much as the look of pure hate I see in his blazing eyes. Turning abruptly on his heels, he starts walking rapidly away in the direction of the gates without saying another word. His quick steps have defiance in them, and something tells me that memories of our times together will be among the first set he will let go of.
Austine Osas (@iM_Gawd) is a Nigerian, an executive of Peda Studio, creator of the kickstarter backed Chronicles of the New Born and co-organizer of the Lagos Comic Con 2016, whose writings has appeared on Africa.com, Africanwriter.com and Kalahari Review. You can catch him trekking the landscape of Lagos and Abuja documenting the lives of everyday people through his lenses.
Related country: Nigeria