This was more than a dinner, it was a feast. There were about a hundred people scattered all over the dining hall, although the main dinner table sat over forty people, most of them my friends that I didn’t know and a few family members I had just gotten acquainted with. My smile and my ‘thank you’ responses solved the whole issue for me. So far no one had asked any off-the-board questions, I was safe.
Father sat at the head of the table while Suss sat to his left. My seat at the other end of the table was more of a significant gesture I didn’t need to be schooled about.
The music was as classical as it could be. Even for me. The drink was exotic, and the food was a mix of continental and local dishes. One way I had adopted at keeping myself from literally going insane with the knowledge of who and what I was, was that I tried not to ponder reason too deep. I hoped. I needed to learn about myself. About who I am here.
Sitting across the room from my father was one thing, but sitting across the table from my son was a feeling I couldn’t describe. Meeting my son for the very first time as an older person than I actually am, was beginning to drive me crazy.
Theodore, my would-be son but here my father, kept looking at me in a familiar way. I remember. I remember as a child how I imitated the eagle’s offensive stare, to scare away bullies at school. Somehow it managed to be my default facial expression. It took a good amount of work to convince the ladies I always wanted to attract rather than scare away, that I wasn’t a predator, but more like a ‘saviour’. That was one of the good sides of being a sales man: to pitch my proposal with good intentions, and to be perceived that way. Perception they said, was stronger than reality.
With three years at the job, I didn’t realize when my smile had reshaped my entire face. So to flip into that scary, scampi look, all I had to do was to not smile, even though in my mind I knew I was as toothless as the aged, and harmless as a dove.
That was the look Theodore Akinfe gave me now. I wanted to image his look, instead I chose to smile, and then decided to cover my face half way with my glass of wine.
He was obviously observing me. And I him. From what he had become, I felt proud of him. Or let me be honest and say I felt proud of myself. But again, would the obvious affluence he lived in mean he was a man I would be totally proud of? And the life I had lived in the future before my death, had it been one paved with ease, grace, and fortune. The first twenty seven years I had lived bore no inkling whatsoever to the testament of a life lived in opulence and profusion. I reminded myself again that this was a dream, although I couldn’t wake up yet. Not that I now wanted to.
The tinkling sound of a fork on a glass ware pulled me back from my reverie. Someone was calling for attention. I looked up from my half empty plate. My dad, Theodore stood six feet tall, pressed into a three-piece grey suit made of woven fabric. It spoke of nobility and elegance. Everyone became silent, as a speech was about to be heard. Was Theo an orator? Was he a man given to plush things of life that might seem too extravagant for others? Was he a man faithful and thoughtful to the needs of other people? What could have ever made me think of naming my son Theodore at the first place?
The room was silent before he even ventured to speak. Sure, he was a man that commended a lot of respect and; and perhaps also one that craved a lot of attention.
“My father once told me, ‘To demystify death’,” Theodore looked around the room, before his eyes settled on his wife, like he was about to say something they both had heard a thousand and one times before. “‘You have to be prepared for it.’ But someone who is greater than my father, and arguably me,” he chuckled a bit, “hasn’t only demystified death, but has also made a circus of it.” His eyes finally settled on me.
Everyone cheered and clapped, the faces, one after the other, turned towards me. “Here is to my son, Samuel George-Akinfe.” He raised his glass, and so did everyone. I picked up my glass from its stem, a shy smile tipping the edge of my lips as my father came to the end of his speech. “May your abundant life bring hope to this world and generations to come. Cheers!”
We all clicked glasses and gulped down our drinks. A lot of congratulations than I could respond to filled the hall.
Suss came over to me and gave me a bear hug. She had begun to snuff air out of my lungs before she finally let go.
“Hey bug!!!” a couple of physically chiseled guys bumped shoulders with me. “Glad to have you back, buggie.” These must be Dan’s friends, I guessed.
I returned the smiles with all the enthusiasm I could summon. Joko stood by my side the entire time, while Dan kept nodding at me reassuringly. He had told me once this evening that I was doing well. I guess they didn’t tell anyone I still suffered some memory loss. I guess I haven’t told anyone I am not Sam.
At last, the crowd had thinned out, and Suss and Theodore were at the pouch bidding goodbye to some of their friends who came through for the evening. I sat next to the pianist at the end of the hall, while I watched members of my family walk to and fro the mansion.
Joko was now busy with a few things, although I could guess I was under her radar. She had walked up to me a few times to ask if I wanted anything. I had only smiled calmly, “just enjoying watching Andre Wedd play.” The pianist had exchanged a look with Joko. I had heard his name when he was first introduced. “People change,” were the only words he could say, responding with a smile to Joko’s surprised face.
Now, Suss and father talked alone under the white pouch light. They looked tired, but their body language spoke good chemistry.
“Come with me,” Joko came over again, but this time she didn’t even wait to see if I responded. She walked on, gracefully and elegantly down the hallway. I slowly stood, deliberately ignoring the look from Andre Wedd’s face. I walked purposefully through the path Joko had taken. Where could she be leading me to?
She stopped at the edge of the stairs, one foot lifted to the first landing. I noticed the lavishly decorated portal beside the stairs, but my eyes were fixed on Joko’s. She spoke no words, only beckoning me with her index finger.
I followed her up the stairs, the sound of music and conversations slowly fading out with their echoes. She didn’t look back again until she stopped before a white door. She looked at me then, a certain desire in her eyes. I couldn’t remember how we went through the door, because she had planted a soft kiss right on my lips, and we hadn’t disengaged since.
She slowly eased up, and then looked me in the eyes again. “I’ve missed you.” Her arms wrapped around my neck; her eyes looking straight into mine, trying hard to read my thoughts, hoping that I said something.
“I… I ,” I stuttered a little, not knowing what to say. Most definitely, I was supposed to be dating this pretty lady. I could have spoken endearing words to her as well, but I had to be careful. In as much as she was a pleasant and beautiful lady, I felt I would only be taking advantage of her if I complied with whatever feeling of emotion.
For the first time, I noticed she was wearing a ring on her ring finger. It glowed enamel green as light reflected on it. I thought for a bit what that could mean, but still had no words to say to her.
“You don’t really remember, do you?” Her eyes saddened and then brightened immediately at the thought of another idea. “Hmm, this may just be a blessing in disguise.”
I was beginning to wonder what she meant. “How do you mean?” We stood awkwardly in the middle of a large room which painted all white with its far side facing what seemed to be the sky above the sea.
She took my hands and was about to explain when a knock sounded on the door. We fell silent at the instant, turning to look at who it was. I didn’t even know how to answer the knock. Joko read my expression, and ventured. “Yes, come in please.”
The door first opened only slightly, then halfway. In walked Theodore Akinfe, his grey top coat now taken off, leaving a tightly fitted monkey jacket wrapped around his torso, and a loose tie hanging on his collar.
“Excuse me please, I’m sorry to disturb.” He stood by the door, waiting for permission.
“Please come in, sir,” Joko picked at the helm of her gown and moved towards the door. “I’ll let you both talk.” She had gently shut the door after her before I could think of an appropriate response for my dad.
I swallowed and adjusted my lapels. I watched Theodore walk up to me. He pressed his lips together in a solemn but joyful way. The crow claws at the both sides of his face revealed a man who had not only fought many battles but had also chosen them wisely.
“Father,” I said.
“Son. How are you?” He put his hands on my shoulders. I thought about his question. Other than that I suffered from amnesia, as the doctor said I would, I was perfect.
“I’m fine. Sir.” I reassured him.
As he looked at my features, the device strapped to my left wrist earlier at the hospital, beeped. We both took a look at it. It showed three pairs of numbers. I recalled Dan helping me out with them some hours ago, but right now, I was totally confused.
“Hmm, your doctor is on your circuit,” my father said.
“He is what?” I thought aloud, not catching up as fast as I should. Theodore had walked over to the end of the bed and pressed on a button without waiting for me.
A ray of coloured light diverged from a tiny source from the bedside, and the full hologram of Dr Smith appeared before us. I withdrew about two steps before I found my balance. “Howna, Doctor?”
“Hello, Your Excellency. A very quick one, sir. Just wanted to be sure Sam was fine.”
Rather than answer the question, my dad gestured at me with a wave of his hand.
Oh, sure! “I’m fine, doctor. Doing well, sir.” I stood at attention.
“Ok, we are monitoring your progress from here. Just want you to remember you have all the time in the world to get back to your best. Your brain activity coefficient was raise to power of 4 sometime within the last three hours. So I insist that you remain calm. Not all speed is progress.”
“Sure.” I nodded my head.
“That would be it, Your Excellency, sir. We would come by the Bay tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Doc.” Father answered, and the light puffed out.
Father sighed as we had both gotten distracted. I thought of what I just heard and seen, especially how my father was addressed.
“Son, I got to leave you to rest for the night. It’s been a long day for you.” Theodore put his hands in his side pockets.
Leave me to rest? In this sparkling white suite? I looked around. A large overstuffed bed sat patiently at the head of the room. “Yes, sir.” I turned to look at him. He moved closer to me, as he withdrew his hands from his pockets.
He bore a tiny box in his open palm. “It’s yours, son. We are glad to have you back,” he said. “Remember, you’ve got all the time in the world.” He turned and headed for the door. “Goodnight, Sam.”
“Goodnight…” Theodore. “Dad.”
I was all alone for the first time since I got to the future. I stared at the box now in my palm. It was a tiny box helmed in silk material. So tiny that I wondered what it could possibly carry. I sat on the edge of the king-size bed, my jacket now laid by my side. I sighed deeply, thinking of everything, and thinking of nothing.
I gently flicked open the box with my finger. What I saw made me stare. No, it wasn’t a ring. It wasn’t a key, neither was it a diamond stone. What was in the case was a tiny quartz watch the size of a Two Naira coin, fastened to a silver chain. I pulled it out, my attention totally captivated.
I traced its silver frame with my eyes, studied the fingers of the watch, then the digital board at its base.
I lifted the device up, closer to me. I squinted a little, then tilted towards the source of light by the bed.
I was looking for a clue: something that dragged my curiosity to the end of the world… And there it was… Umendikayt was written totally oblivious to any ordinary scrutiny.
A mix of sorrow and joy whirled in my mind. If my thoughts were right, this device could be my gate pass to my original life. I thought of my alarm clock and the words that were inscribed in it. Were they each powerful by themselves, or was the potency as a result of an exact numerical synchronization?
Aoys fun umendikayt ir gekumen, fun umendikayt ir vet tsurikkumen. The words lurked on to my lips as it had happened the first time. Just then the tiny watch in the hollow of my hand made a sharp sound. My brain must have taken a capture of the time as the fingers struck 10:30. Was a clock meant to strike at such a time?
I recollected what happened to me when the alarm clock in my original life had begun to glow. Now I seemed ready for this. I waited for the tiny chain clock to begin to glow, but it didn’t. I braced up for the quacking of my body but nothing of such happened. I felt begowked for an instant and I was about to let out a restful sigh when I noticed the fingers of the clock move so fast till I couldn’t make them out again.
At no point in time did I notice the clock glow, but I noticed that it suddenly went dark brown around its inner wall, and then black. I heard the subtle whirling sound of the clock’s fingers, only that I couldn’t see them again.
Suddenly, the light in the room began to go dull, then dim. It looked as if the tiny clock was sucking up the light in the room. In a few second, everywhere was dark. So dark that I couldn’t see my hand when I waved it across my face. The room became warm, then a little too warm. It became hot, then a little too hot. I began to choke; it was either my lungs were failing in their duties, or the air had gone lighter.
A mixture of panic and acceptance flowed through my veins as I thought about a few things: Was it the watch, or the words? Or the synch of both that made this mysterious act possible? 2, was this taking me back to my original present, or to a medieval past? Or was I being ported to a further future where only spirits sat at the table? I lost my balance and fell backwards. I didn’t remember landing or crashing into anything. I just kept falling.