The waves are a force of change. Eternal. Magical. Ferocious. Instantaneous. As it had been that day. Long ago it seemed to me. I, reliving that memory being played back in my head or databa- whichever one it is, I am not so sure. What I am sure of, was the power of the wave; when it collapsed around me, and twirled me in its wake, and I was little more than a smoothened stone in the short shore of the sea. Sun on top, lazily humming, my body laying in a heap, languid but alive. Breathing in the saltwater and air as a new-born sucks in those first breaths of life.
“Mr. Baduman, can you tell me how you are feeling at this time? What you are feeling. How you are feeling it? It is important for you to revisit these basic emotions in every possible manner. Because believe it or not, they are the key to you achieving your full … humanness.” Dr. Lekstewart fiddled with his white-gloved hands, periodically tapping the rims of his glasses up to the hook of his purplish nose. He took another second to comprehend Blake’s post-operation condition.
“Your body is you, aged 40. Your mind, however, I can not think to age it with a number, but rather..” On this note, the doctor let his eyes scan the ceiling of the ornate room then through the grand archways that peered out onto the balcony and over New Accra. The cluster of skyscrapers connected in intricate rings of walkways and levitated streets. Bursts of green roofs, and vertical forests climbing each floor of the city in the sky.
“But rather,” Lekstewart’s gaze returned to Blake. “We can only qualify it with the inputs we have accumulated in the time since, and by inputs, I know you know that that means data. Data of your life. As you allowed us to record and track every moment of it. In your case, stored in a private server facility. So that you would one day be with us today, and I would sit before you as I am now. Welcoming you to the world you knew. But knowing it as another slightly different person. Akwaaba.”
Blake raised his eyes to look at the doctor’s narrow face, scorned with age, but eyes twinkling with menacing wisdom.
“I can guess that you would want to look at yourself?”
“No. I — I can’t now.” Blake’s voice was hoarse. Carrying a frequency he wasn’t familiar with.
“But Mr. Baduman, if not now, then when? Eternity beckons you henceforth. The world your pearl. I do have to go. As you know my presence here is limited due to the nature of my work. Especially to those funny members of The Brigade.” The doctor gave one last cheeky smile flashing his white teeth before his wizard-like hair spun around and headed to the door, grabbing his suitcase on the way. Just before he stepped out, he turned to Blake.
“You know how you can reach me, but not too often. As I must remain off-grid.” Then he was gone.
Blake rested his head again, and his eyes lay on the mirror silently perched on the bedside table. The table, a rich oak wood, deep with age and prestige, as Blake had been. But now? Brand new? He lifted it up to his face and peered into the man staring back at him, and within those eyes the same man staring back, and back, and so on into infinity. His rich dark complexion untouched by discoloring, his hair with specks of grey, and lips full of youth. It was like looking into a memory, but someone else’s memory of himself. Wasn’t that what this was? The mirror slipped through his grip and landed on the furred carpet. Undamaged, but Blake was feeling anything but.
That day’s drive to Cape Coast had been filled with a brisk and immense heat, and by the time we got to the Oasis Beach Resort, everyone was sweltering hot and in need of the oceans rejuvenation. My darling wife Martha and Ama, scrawny as she was at the time, were lifting up the ice chest out of the car. Shawn had followed me down to the reception to pick up our keys then we headed to our loft. Oasis had had to re-structure their resort since the sea had sunk the first floor of their establishment, eating the coast up onto the main road. Instead of retreat, the resort’s management decided to go up. Imported beach sand was thrown onto the beachside slums to make way for a new look Oasis Beach Resort. Of course, my hand was very much involved in these refurbishments.
Blake was shoveling kenkey and fish stew into his mouth, periodically taking time to chew and let his eyes wash over the city from atop his apartment on the two hundredth level of Arthur Tower. He always thought that the interlinked skyscrapers reminded him of the traditional compound houses of a time in Accra when whole families lived together. Now, it looked like the upper-city was a giant sky-bound compound house. He shuffled to his feet and leaned over the rail so he could peer down at the city below. He couldn’t see through the haze of sand that had formed overnight, the dusty mist confirming the arrival of harmattan.
“Mr. Baduman, a gentleman by the name of Willos Ofusu from the LDS Clinic is here for your body function test. He is accompanied by Grace Aboagye. She took part in your procedure. Are you ready for them?” Sersa’s dry monotone voice punctured Blake’s serenity. He turned round to see Sersa’s emerald blue-tinted hologram usher him back into his loft. A little annoyed that he had to leave his meal behind, he quietly agreed and made his way to meet his visitors.
Blake received his guests in the downstairs lobby of his loft, the hazed sky blue ceiling mirroring the haziness of the weather outside. Grace was standing up, her bare toes pulling at the goose-down carpet, and Willos, a smiling bald-headed man tampered with his turtleback briefcase on the white couch.
“Welcome Mr. Willos, and my friend Grace. I hope Sersa has been kind? You are sure you do not want anything to drink or eat? Fried plantain?” Blake asked with a smile creeping on his face. He could tell by Willos’s look he loved plantain. And Blake, knowing that plantain was now more of a delicacy because of its rarity, teased it to his guests.
Grace being the senior of the two, responded for them both.
“No sah, we are fine thank you.” She bowed a little and nodded toward Willos to do the same, which he did finally, shooting an annoyed face at Grace before smiling at Blake.
“I see that you are moving well and looking very good, sah” Grace remarked enthusiastically as Blake eased himself down onto the vacant seat opposite Willos.
“Sir, please if you could have the chair in its lying down position, so you are facing the ceiling,” Willos asked.
Sersa had heard the command and the chair instantly transfigured itself into a long lounge couch, allowing Willos to stand over Blake and start plugging in a number of translucent wires into his limbs, neck, and head.
“Sir, my name is Willos. I will be corroborating your motor functions, to make sure everything is running smoothly. Just routine checks. I assure you that you will be fine.” Willos said as his hands busily tapped and firmed up the connections. He then unlocked his briefcase, setting it on the table which had stretched out from the side of Blake’s couch.
“What are you testing?”
“Well there needs to be synchronization between the databa — I mean brain,” Willos chuckled over the error. “… And the limbs. You see, there are a series of set instructions that act as your human functions. Breathing, eating, walking. Things that a norma-” this time it wasn’t a chuckle but a frightened glance at Grace.
“- I mean every person knows without ever really learning. So we have had to pre-program that, and we need to make sure all the connections are effective so you can enjoy yourself and be happy. And most important, taste buds. So you can really enjoy your waakye, fufu, and stew properly!” Will exclaimed happy to finally get to the end.
Blake let out a deep chuckle of his own. More confident and assured in comparison to Willos’. And he did want to enjoy those dishes! They were his favorite, and no amount of climatic collapse or change in dieting would prevent him from digging fingers deep into his fufu and meat-filled groundnut soup.
“How do you account for your time here? Since I am technically not a patient, how do you clock these minutes?” Blake was interested in knowing how the whole operation ran. Being a businessman, he loved the novelty of an idea, executed on a simple model. A model he understood. So confronting something that was a little above his head, he wanted to fully digest its implications. He, Blake, having this extraordinary service delivered to him, was now at its mercy, in a way, he thought. He kind of understood what Dr. Lekstewart did during the operation. But how did he rope in the other elements? How did the parts make the whole, and how did the whole replenish itself?
By the mid-century formal work was continuously monitored, and each employee’s movements, actions, words, and clear enough thoughts were tracked and recorded. Once recorded, data analysts, called ‘readers’ specialized in knowing the tale of the numbers would advise on which employees were worth the pay to the employer. Since New Accra was effectively controlled by trans-global corporations, efficiency quickly became lord of the land. Countless Ghanaians lost their jobs to the global-mobile class looking for greener pastures to live their lives. Doing work that could be, in truth, done from anywhere in the world.
Lekstewart’s work was conducted in the shadow world. He had found a way to form his organization of experts in all matters to do with body-mind technological advancements so that he could offer the service of a client ‘cheating death.’ But obviously, at the right price. The right price being unfathomable to most people, even the rich.
“Sir Baduman, we have you as what we call a ‘shadow patient.’ There are some patients who are exempt from providing certain information, just enough for the clinic to know that you aren’t a troublesome person. Typically corporate elites use this, since clinics are made to be accountable. You see? So we have you as a shadow patient, and that allows us to come here freely.”
“So am I paying you, or the clinic?” Blake poked innocently but hoping to strike gold. Who was in control of this damn thing? Where did it all end up? His money, that is.
“For that, you would have to ask Dr. Lekstewart.” Willos concluded. “Now please lean back and breathe in and out for me. We are going to start the testing. It shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes, sir.”
Indeed the testing took exactly fifteen minutes, and it comprised limb lifting, sound checking, tasting and a host of other basic functions as Willos had described them. The most unnerving part of the exercise was the memory test. When asked to relive certain memories, Blake was able to accurately depict each memory down to the last detail. This was in stark contrast to the usual subjective and lucid qualities he remembered his memories having.
“Do I treasure some memories, more than others? Can I access all my memories with such detail?” he asked Willos. Blake was trying to determine what Dr. Lekstewart had meant by him being a slightly different person.
“Yes, sir. Everything we recorded is there for you to tap into. As we told you when you first approached us. Memories are the core of a person. What makes them sad, laugh, reminisce, these are all things that stem from memories. And importantly, the decisions you make.”
“And what about what wasn’t recorded?”
“That will be somewhere in your head-head, and as long as that is working, you will have some trace of it.”
“And how does this apply to someone who is like me, but much younger. And a lot less recording?”
“I don't know, sir.” Willos had finished winding up the tubes and strapping them back in the suitcase. His eyes shifting everywhere but on Blake. Finally done, he quickly nodded at Grace that he was ready. By this time Blake was drifting seamlessly into an easy sleep. His guests quietly leaving him in his loft under the hazed sky.
That night we all slept like babies. The sea had done its work, and we were all feeling the tiredness that only swimming in the ocean could bring.
After dinner, Shawn and I had swung in the hammock outside our room late into the violet night watching clips from the women’s football match. He poked me softly and looked up into my face, with his wide eyes, saying he was sleepy. So we went to bed, and he told me to wake him up early so we could catch the early morning waves before the ladies woke up. He had been so excited to come to the beach, something we didn’t get to do too often in New Accra. Or at all. Or maybe he was more excited of having the chance to spend time with me?
Blake woke the next day feeling distant and slightly faint. He was in every way himself and could sense life brimming through his body. But something seemed remote. It wasn’t exactly his thoughts. They flowed in his head, one after the other as they always did. Stopping at some, before dispelling them, then continuing with the rest. Then he thought of how he felt about his thoughts. He could conjure up emotions. Not deep emotions but shallow triggers for what he should feel for thinking a certain way, or reliving a memory. Unnerved by this caged feeling, he crept into the shower and allowed the cold spring water to reinvigorate him.
He was just about done drying himself when Sersa sounded an alert. A low but audible beacon sound that vibrated across the off-white tiled bathroom.
His daughter Ama was in to see him.
Blake had managed to crawl back into bed before his daughter marched up by his bedside. She was in every way his wife’s daughter. Ama was wearing an electric blue pencil dress, with high shoulders, and neat black lines cutting diagonally across the simple design. She settled gracefully into the bedside chair and examined her father with a scowl drawn on her face. Her hair tied in a well-oiled bun.
“Daddy,” she stopped herself, exhaling and pulling at her skirt. “Daddy, how are you?”
“My daughter, I am well. How is everything with you? Friends, business and all?”
“It’s all ok by God’s grace.”
“We thank God then.”
There was a moment’s silence that consumed the words they just uttered, leaving behind what was left to be said.
“Father Mensah asked of you.”
“He did? Very kind of him.”
“Yes, he was very concerned. He didn’t know the full extent of your condition, as you told me not to tell anyone. But you know, Father Mensah, he is the person I confide in, and he knows almost everything about me.”
“I am aware.” Blake was reminded of Father Mensah’s wide gap-tooth smile. Blake had donated a handsome amount of money in exchange for blessings and prayers toward ailing his sickness. The sickness that no cure or operation could solve. Only the one, the one he had taken. Which was forbidden by the global laws of transhumanism, indoctrinated in the United Nations of Human Non-Rights. The path that was hardly spoken about in the Church he resided. In the sermons. Only briefly touched on. That God is ‘thee immortal being and any man who attempts to ascend himself to such position, is damned.’ That all men should resist temptation. That this was the ultimate test God put before man. With Judgement day impending. To reject immortality on Earth, for immortality in Heaven.
But only the exorbitantly rich could afford this temptation that God had put forth. And only the well resourced and knowledgeable could navigate the underground realm in which someone could achieve this blasphemous feat. He, Blake, being a man of many trades and faces. Most faces, torn apart from the world he had grown within. And now perched on top of his tower having only his daughter to confide in, had told her just enough for her to know he would be alive. But any more and she would have cursed him and left. Just as her mother had done many years back.
“As soon as Sersa told me you had successfully completed your operation, I went to him and we prayed together. Thanking God for what he has done for you, and us.”
God had nothing to do with this.
“Will you take my hand? Father suggested we pray together” Her hand hung mid-air for Blake. A mandatory invitation to join her in her praise of God. An invitation Blake was all too familiar with. One in which he couldn’t refuse lest he accept the scorn that accompanied any denial of the Lord’s grace. Which he had before. But now trying to mend a stricken bridge between him and his daughter, thought otherwise.
After their prayer, Ama was in a much brighter mood and Blake was grateful for it. The opportunity to talk to his daughter as her father without the baggage of arguments-past dragging on them. Knowing at the back of his mind that this might be the last time she talked to him because he knew he must tell her of his new circumstance.
“Yes, Daddy,” her eyes glimmering as she stood by her father’s side, readjusting his pillow.
“I have to tell you something.”
Ama was leaning forward, her eyebrows squeezed.
“I have to tell you something about the operation, and you might not like it. And I want to tell you I am sorry for it.” She took a step back, as Blake unlocked his eyes from hers.
“But sooner or later you will know. You would realize that you and I would have grown to be the same age. And then you would notice that you got older, while I — I would remain the same as I am now. I don’t want you to be confused. But this is the path I chose.”
“I don’t get you, Daddy,” her lower lip quivering, eyes welling with tears. She pulled closer to Blake, her fingernails digging into the bedsheet. She understood what he had said, but it wasn’t enough. She wanted to hear it clearly, without any ambivalence. But Blake was unable to give her that. As he was unable to give her so many things throughout her life.
“So you,” Ama withdrew slightly, shaking her head in what was rapidly becoming disbelief.
“I don’t understand.” Pulling forward again.
“Why? Why would you do that?” Her mouth was full of tears now, and she pulled even closer to Blake so he was consumed by her. Blake turned his head from his grieving daughter and allowed the wall that existed between him and Ama to rise. Solid and impenetrable.
“Why won’t you accept what is right, and have peace in your heart? With God? What is the reason for this abomination Daddy? Huh?” She grabbed the collar of his gown, briskly forcing him to look back at her. “Why do you do this to me?”
“Don’t you want me alive? I did this for us!” Blake spat, ripping himself from Ama’s clutches, turning his back to her again.
“No-no-no Daddy. This has nothing to do with me wanting you alive, or to do with me at all. Nothing you do has anything to do with me. NOTHING!” Ama was standing up, her hair a mess and skirt slightly skewed. She had lost grip for a second. And in that split second, she was on the edge of hysteria. However, something deep in her mind echoed for her to breathe. To just breathe. To allow the rushing emotions to fall and spread over, long and wide. It was an old voice she knew and longed for. The voice of her mother, Martha.
Back from the edge, she recomposed herself and sat quietly trying to stifle the tears.
After a little while, Ama’s sobbing slowed and she was able to address a developing suspicion uncurling in her gut.
“I know why you did it.” Almost at a whisper, the tears replaced by a steel in her voice.
“You don’t give a damn about me. But I know who you do give a damn for.”
“Ama-“ Blake warned.
“You will have no peace, Daddy,” her finger pointing threateningly at the man she had called her father. “And if you think you can go ahead with it -“
“I will make sure that every breathing second of my life is spent stopping you.”
“GET OUT! GETOUTOFMYFACE NOW!”
And without another word, Ama stood then marched out of the room, leaving Blake fiery hot, and more alive than he had been since his rebirth.
“Sersa, I am not sure if this is what I had hoped for.”
“What do you mean Blake?”
“What was I thinking?”
“You were thinking about your son.”
Towel wrapped around his waist in the heaving heat of the sauna, Blake leaned forward on the stool only catching the faint traces of Sersa’s hologram through the steam. The room cooled down, as Sersa determined that Blake had had enough of the suffocating heat, and would rather fall into an easy sleep. Hopefully, one that would smoothen the edges of his worried heart and allow for the full impacts of the operation to take effect.
The sun was barely creeping through the blinds of our room when Shawn gently rubbed my back to wake me. I had been drifting in and out of sleep and was hoping that he wouldn’t wake. But he was up, and the determined look on his little face told me that I would have to wake up too. I was glad I did though. We grabbed our towels and headed straight to the re-nourished beach.
The waves were a little rough, but Shawn and I were confident swimmers. There didn’t seem to be too much harm once we had passed the x point, where the beach profile dips and the waves meet the beach. I heard him giggling as the waves lapped at his face. I was about turning to the horizon when a wall of white foam crashed upon us. At that moment I wasn’t a man. I was a mere particle in the grips of the ocean’s thrust. Twirling in the place between sea and sand. And for a moment I lost my senses and everything was in disarray. The sky was sea, and the sea was sky.
When I had realigned with the Earth, I lifted my head to see if Shawn had been washed up on the beach with me. But, there was no sign of him. I took a moment to calm myself, a moment that seemed impossible. And soon I was frantic. I was going to dive into the water again. The violent water. For him. My son. My only son. But a stranger. A bloody stranger grabbed hold of me. Said it was too late.
But it couldn’t be.
I don’t know how long I stayed in the man’s clutches. How long I lived dying. Seeing the sun steadily make its way to the top of the world. As if nothing at all had gone awry.
Blake awoke but seemed to be midway through drying himself in front of the bathroom mirror. Looking at his reflection, he had the strangest feeling. Something he couldn’t put his finger on. The feeling that he was locked in a closet and could see through a keyhole everything going on around him, but was unable to do anything. It didn’t last for long, and he was able to wrestle back control over himself.
Discarding the brief experience, he instructed Sersa to contact Dr. Lekstewart. Blake needed to discuss the next phase of the operation.
“Dr. Lekstewart, I hope you are doing well?”
“Ha. Under the circumstances, I would say well enough. And yourself?”
“I think I am beginning to understand the small things that make me — human — as you said.”
“And your overall experience? How is that playing out as compared to what you were expecting.”
“Doctor, you always have a way of pinpointing what is on my mind.”
“Of course I do Mr. Baduman. If I didn’t have a complete grasp of your mind and the way it works I wouldn’t be able to do my job so well.” Dr Lekstewart’s 3-dimensional face hovered just above the sleek steel desk in Blake’s office room. Even through his hologrammed projection, Blake could feel the arrogance of the man seeping everywhere.
“I don’t feel whole.”
“And you might never -“
“I want us to start the next phase.”
“His body, his memories, his vital organs, his mind. I have it all, and I want you to bring him back to me.”
“Mr. Baduman, with all due respect that is a feat, that I am not too sure I am ready to cross.”
“You aren’t ready? Who said anything about you? You provide a service. Yes?”
“Yes I do, but this is quite a diff-“
“Then I need this service, it is either you can do it, or you can’t. If not, I will find someone else to do it. And you know I know that there are others out there.”
“Mr. Baduman! A businessman through and through, looking to get everything you asked for and more.”
Dr. Lekstewart pondered for a moment, and Blake could see his gloved hands scratch his hologram chin, before tapping up the bridge of his glasses to the hook of his nose.
“Yes, Mr. Baduman. I will do it. You will need to give me a couple of days.”
“Good.” Blake breathed. “Then I wait for your call.”
With that Dr. Lekstewart’s face disappeared, and satisfied with the day's work Blake leaned back on his chair and thought of an appropriate song to cap his mood. Sersa activated the Intuitive Sound System.
“Sir, you are listening to the Orchestral Suite from the Godfather movie’s original score. The movie was, and remains, a classic in American film, released in…”
As the opening flute began to wind and snake its morose tune, Blake pulled out a cigar from his drawer and asked for Sersa to light it for him. He turned in his chair and motioned it to move him to his balcony so he had New Accra spread right before him, in between his lifted feet resting on the rail of the apartment balcony.
Soon, the song plunged into its crescendo. A volley of string and wind instruments. Blake could feel a rushing of tears from within him soaring up to his eyes. But as quickly as those tears threatened to rise, he was suddenly being ushered away. Slowly. As a rowboat being pulled from shore. A gentle but uncompromising force. And he felt himself slipping further into that closet in which the world could only be peeped through the keyhole. The darkness had surrounded him totally, the keyhole, distant. He couldn’t feel himself as a physical entity but knew that he existed, in an in-between place it seemed. Caught between life and deep sleep. He was reduced to his core element. And the only thing keeping him from losing sight of the keyhole was the image of being with his son again. Shawn, his darling child. That he had loved so much. He had held in his hands when born. Cradled him with all the love he could give. That he had seen grow to an energetic, witty, boy and who he had foreseen becoming an even better man than he was.
How could Shawn have been taken like that? What was the point? Why would God allow such a thing to happen? There was no lesson to be learned. It was pure randomness. The unrestricted, uncalled for chaos the universe spun to create the drama that evolves life. Blake would not be a victim to this chaos. He had resolved to find a way to bring his son back. He had dragged his body from the water, embalmed him. He had invested in research. Made sure to develop replica organs for the day that he could be brought back to life. Because God couldn’t have his way. Why should he? The science was there to allow Shawn another life. And if it meant tearing down all religious and moral codes, then Blake was more than ready to do that. To have his son in his arms again. So they could watch football and swim in the great sea for as long as they wanted.
Existing as he was, in his body, or now it seemed a body he shared with another growing entity, Blake Baduman was not going to give up. The distant chords of the music chimed along, morosely, unwinding as a serpent preparing to strike its prey. He waited.