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Author:Nnedi Okorafor

What a story. And even more powerful because it was true. Whenever that theme music would bubble into the narration, I’d smile. Comforted. Zagora the girl from the desert caves was optimistic and imaginative, and that gave her the ambition she would use to change the world. At the end of the podcast, there was always an ad for Zagora raffia camels like the one the young Zagora sold to the journalist. I never bought one. I was a fan, not a fool.

As I lay in that bed when I was fourteen, unable to get up yet, watching ghosts pass by my window, giving me that electrified feeling in my arm that made me feel like I could use it to do anything, I wished so hard that I could speak to Zagora. Not the beloved 84-year-old woman with millions of social network followers who still lived in those caves (though she’d built several of them into beautiful homes) that she was at the time, but the girl she’d been. The girl who loved the desert so much that she found a way to make it the most sought after place on Earth, a place of infinite potential and hope because the sun shined hardest on it. She seemed like she’d be a good friend who would understand me.


    Liquid Sword

I dreamt of the road. That it was night and I was driving and driving in a dark my headlights could barely light. And I wasn’t afraid. If I drove into a car-sized pothole, so be it. If I drove over spokes set in the road by armed robbers and I was forced to stop, so be it. If I ran out of electrical charge, so be it. And if everything became dust because I’d driven so far north that I’d finally reached the beginning of Africa’s greatest disaster area known as the Red Eye, so be it. For some reason, I didn’t fear any drones. I just kept driving.

* * *

When I awoke, the first thing I remembered was that I had no car to drive. I stretched, feeling so rested that I wondered if I’d slept for two days. I sighed without opening my eyes, filling my lungs with fresh air. So I hadn’t gone so far north that I’d entered the disaster zone. Good, I thought. It wasn’t windy yet, but there was a strong breeze now. I flared my nostrils and inhaled it more deeply. The air flowed smoothly down my nasal cavity into my lungs. It smelled of . . . body. I frowned. And manure. Then, I caught a hint of something else. Sweet and earthen, woody. I gasped, my eyes shooting open. I sat up.

Then I froze, my mouth open. Too many things. The most immediate was that I was looking down the barrel of a gun. The cow I’d been sleeping against slowly got up. I got up with her, keeping my eye on the man holding the gun. He was dark skinned with dark pupils, the whites of his eyes so so white. He barked something in a language I couldn’t understand, and I immediately raised my hands. “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” I screeched. “I’m sorry!”

“Eh!” he gasped and I realized my sleeves had fallen back when I put my hands up. Now he was shouting in a language that I couldn’t understand. I stared at his mouth, as if doing so would make me understand him. His teeth were white, perfect, his tongue pink as he shoved his gun at me. He stopped shouting, scrambled forward and pressed the gun to my throat, his eyes wide.

“Please,” I whispered. “Don’t shoot . . . was just resting.” Then I shut my eyes. I’d killed all those men. There were consequences. Of course there were. Up to yesterday, I’d lived my life by the philosophy of “do no harm.” Even when it came to my transplants, if flesh had to be used, I only allowed my own flesh to be cultivated and transplanted into my body, never the flesh of any other animal. Yesterday I had broken my deepest most golden rule. I waited for the end.

He was yelling again. Then he lowered his voice and was speaking. Rapidly, as if rushing to get the words out before they escaped him. I opened my eyes and we just stared at each other. I moved my eyes from his mouth to his eyes, and he stopped shoving his gun at me.

“What are you doing to my cows,” he growled. He spoke English like someone who had been taught in school and enjoyed the teaching.

“Nothing,” I said. “I was . . . I was just resting.”

“What kind of woman are you?”

I blinked, irritation so intense flooding into me that I lost my fear for my life and resignation to my death. I dropped my hands and he flinched. Even then I wasn’t bothered. I slapped his gun to the side. “Why do you all keep asking me that?” I said. I stepped back and fell over the rump of the resting cow behind me. “Ahhh!” I exclaimed, then I just lay there, as he ran around the cow and pointed his gun at me.

“You’re an abomination,” he growled. “Maybe that’s why you are going toward one.”

“You’re an abomination!” I screamed back. I rolled to the side and couldn’t hold it in anymore.

He stood there and watched me cry. Then he sat down and just kept watching. My brain was finally processing the last twenty-four hours. I saw my hand smash the beautiful man’s face. I was grabbing my purse as I left my apartment for the market. I was driving in the night. The men were staring at me. I was getting into my car. Time seemed to have both stopped and was happening all at once. I wept harder, my cheek pressed to the dirt. I covered my face with my hands and the cool of my cybernetic hand in the heat of the growing day was soothing. But I couldn’t fully raise my left arm.

“Are you . . . alive? Like a human being?” he whispered. He put his gun down.

I glared at him. I could move faster than him. I could have smashed his face as I’d done to three of the men at the market yesterday. His face gave me pause and I stopped crying as I studied it. He couldn’t have been much older than me, if he weren’t actually younger. His skin was weathered and deeply bronzed by the sun, but he didn’t look like one of those northerners who needed water. There was no worry or helplessness on his face. Instead, there was a freshness to him. And he had large dark brown eyes that were wide and observant in a way that made me think of an owl. He had sharp high cheek bones and a large scar running up the side of his left cheek. I knew what his question meant, so I answered it. “I am alive,” I said.

A bull nearby awakened and stood up, mooing loudly. “How?” he asked.

“Science,” I said.