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Noor
Author:Nnedi Okorafor

When the beautiful man went down, the dirt of my local market place mixed with his blood. Another of the men jumped up and angrily knocked over the stool he’d been sitting on. This man’s white agbada shined in the sunlight. His mouth hung open. He was shouting, a fist raised. He flew at me, and I saw a white wraith. I smelled dust and blood. I jammed the heel of my flesh hand into the underside of his chin and then crushed his ribs with a hard kick. People fled. There were five men total. Five men in agbadas and sokoto. Five men I destroyed. Everyone else ran, except for some teens who recorded it all on their phones.

And the market dirt mixed with more blood. They knew me there. As well as they could. Until I stepped out of line. Out of their knowledge. Now they know me there. This was my home. The woman on the far end sold palm oil pressed by her husband, a man who got angry with her if she talked to me for too long. The woman who fried the salty spiced termites always laughed when she saw my dexterous metal hands, but she never insulted me. These men were sitting and eating food that used fresh herbs and vegetables she grew in her own garden. The woman whose peppers I’d been looking at had been trained to be a barrister but gave all that up to live with her husband here in Abuja.

My market’s dirt was mud with blood now, a blue Imam Shafi Abdulazeez flyer mashed into it. I stood over their bodies, the taste of metal in the back of my throat like smoke. I felt both destroyed and indestructible. My left arm. As I’d fought all those angry men, someone had smashed at my arm with a brick, just below the demarcation where flesh became metal. Now my left arm felt electrified. I briefly wondered if touching my left arm to my leg would create an electric current. Would the metal on metal kill me when the current jumped to flesh and rushed to my heart?

I turned. I ran.





CHAPTER 2


    GPS



I couldn’t stop looking at the sky as I drove. Occasionally, I spotted drones above, but they were all carrying delivery packages, so that was okay. None turned and followed me. The nightmare was over; at least the one at the market. I’d tripped my car offline weeks ago at the shop. Olaniyi had used the tracker on his phone to force connect to my car and monitor me during one of the few times I’d asked him to give me some space. I’d driven to a small hill not too far outside of Abuja. It was a dry hill where trees and plants refused to grow for some reason, maybe there’d been some chemical dumped there. It was my secret place to sit in the sunshine and just stop thinking. I don’t know what he thought I was up to but thirty minutes after I arrived, he showed up, his nostrils flared, his eyes bulging, full of suspicion.

Though my car had 360 degrees of camera eyes, he claimed he still couldn’t see my every move. He’d blurted that he’d been sure he’d find me fucking another man right there in the dirt, like some animal. His anger didn’t leave him fast enough to stop the nasty ideas broiling in his mind from escaping his lips. Idiot. I was furious and though I forgave him, I still had to do something to calm my fury. Something quiet that he’d never be aware of unless he had the nerve to try and track me again. Tripping my car offline so he couldn’t track me was the perfect solution. I should have understood then that things were going to go wrong between us eventually. He didn’t try to track me again, though, so he never knew what I’d done. But in a matter of weeks he found another reason to leave me.

In this way, as I fled up the highway, heading north, the authorities could not immediately locate me, not through my car’s cameras or satellite. My car had no digital footprint, I’d sprayed it with a transparent detection scrambling veneer and even before I met Olaniyi I’d tweaked my phone to stay incognito. This was illegal in the way that cracking phones to serve multiple people was illegal, you just made sure you weren’t caught. And most people are too lazy to bother with such things; their privacy wasn’t worth much.

So I was okay for now. Drones wouldn’t find me unless they spotted me when I stepped out of my car or they flew down and caught a glimpse of me through the windshield. My only worry was that they would track me through my implants which were always online. I kissed my teeth. If they could, they would have by now.

I drove fast, but not too fast. This was difficult because I felt such a strong urge to flee where I was, who I was, why I was, when I was. If I could travel through time, I would have happily jumped into the machine and left everything I knew behind. My family, even my brother, my past, my present. Everything but my future. I glanced out the window as I drove past an opening to a street. On the corner sat a large yellow-brown monkey. I caught its eye as I passed, and we stared at each other as if we knew each other’s stories. As the sun set, I spotted a ghost heading toward Lagos, an electric blue purple cloud that looked beautiful against the orange pink sky. It would probably be the last one I saw because of the direction I was going.

Then it was just more dry trees, a small market here and there, dusty parked cars and more dusty trees.

I drove.

And I drove.

The roads grew crumbly and pocked with potholes.

My car used its navigation to avoid them.

And I drove.

North.

When I stopped to buy some water or get a bite to eat or just to take a breath, I saw that beautiful man’s face leering at me. Moments before he tried to smash my face in. I remembered his blood making the dirt into mud. And so I drove some more. My car was solar, but the sun was going down and I hadn’t charged the battery the day before.

I saw a charging station and stopped for a travel-sized supercharge. My charging port was the magnetic kind, so I didn’t have to get out of the car. The card I drew from was connected to my “walking man” account, so there was no record of transaction or, if there was, there was no specific location given. According to my phone and my account, I was in fifty different Nigerian cities all at once, none of them where I actually was.

The hours blended together. My skin grew oily and sticky with sweat and dust. I relieved myself in the bushes alongside the road, wiping with only the napkins and paper towels I accumulated when I picked up food, and this also left me feeling unclean. The terrain and the air grew drier, the roads rougher.

Night fell. I kept going. North. The night deepened. My GPS stopped working. When I’d used up all the charge my car’s battery held, and there wasn’t a charge-or-fill station or even human being in sight, I resigned myself to what I would do. By this time, I was in a state. I was exhausted, but images of what I’d done back in Abuja, what I’d left behind, and paranoid fantasies of what I was—all this was like a demon that had chased me into an underground cave. What was left of me was my technology. My body and my brain.