I walk under the blazing midday sun toward the block of flats ahead of me. To my left is an abandoned monorail station that was never destroyed after the monorail was taken down. Now it’s a police checkpoint.
This is bad. I walk a bit faster. I don’t run because I know it will look suspicious to whomever is behind the cameras mounted on floodlights at three-meter intervals.
Behind me is the sign that is about to cause chaos. Yesterday it said the name of our local government area, New Elizabeth. Today someone has spray-painted the words ‘Eti Osa’ over it. Vandalism, treason and terrorism charges all wrapped up into one.
There is no one around but me. I break into a run.
I see a flash of movement from inside one of the houses before the blinds close. There’s a ‘clink clink clink’ sound of locks sliding into place along the length of the street. I hear the wailing of police sirens. Behind me a door swings open. An old woman with dark skin gestures for me to come inside. I dart into her house. She shuts the door and twists the single bolt closed.
“Thanks,” I say, panting.
The woman smiles. I squint at her as my eyes adjust to the gloom. They’ve taken light and our fuel rations for the gen never last this far into the month.
She’s wearing an apron with bits of…is that dough stuck to it? Where’d she get that from? The woman sees me looking and her smile grows wider. She peels a scrap of dough off her apron and hands it to me. I put it in my mouth. It’s warm. It doesn’t taste like anything I’ve ever had but I know that it’s illegal. I drop my backpack by the door.
“It is better with stew,” she says in such a thick Nigerian accent that my eyes widen. The woman places a wrinkled finger to her lips and I laugh.
There’s a whooshing sound from outside and I know that a hovercar—no, cars, I can hear two—have parked. I follow the woman into her living room. It is identical to mine, with bare white walls and standard gray furniture. She pinches the blinds and peeks at the street. I do the same. Two police hovercars have parked in front of the council flats and two policemen stand on the road in riot gear. The third officer is at the end of the road, covering up the offending sign with white paint. He looks younger than the others.
The woman shakes her head. “My grandson is very foolish.”
I turn toward her. “Your grandson did that?”
“With his friends who are more foolish,” she says. “But he is a good boy. Like you.”
Does she think I’m a boy?
“How is he like me?”
The woman doesn’t respond.
I hear the whine of a PA system. “All residents of Council Estate A13B7D assemble outside immediately! Any persons found inside will be punished!” The old woman snorts. I feel faint.
“Very stupid men. Me, a woman of eighty-three. Punish me how? We will see who walks away from that.” The woman unties her apron and hangs it from a hook on the door. She offers me a weathered hand. I hesitate then take her hand and hold it tight. My heart pounds as she unlocks the door and we step into the sunlight.
People file out of their homes and assemble in groups of fifteen, three lines of five from shortest to tallest. A mother has strapped her baby to her back with a bit of the muted gray cloth that all our clothes are made from. A policeman scans her face with an identifier light. I pull the old woman toward another group. I’m not a resident of this government area and if they catch me I’ll have a lot of explaining to do.
The old woman and I join a group. I lock eyes with a teenage boy to my left then look away. He is as frightened as me, if not more so. I wonder if he is one of her grandson’s foolish friends. What did she mean by ‘like you’? It sounded like she was referring to something other than him being good, like she was referring to something totally different.
A blond policeman walks between groups, shoving people into straighter lines with the butt of his voltgun. He prods me in the ribs as he walks by. The old woman squeezes my hand.
The Police Captain begins to speak from the shadow of the hovercars in front of us. An amplifier mask covers his mouth and nose. “Who did this?” he shouts. I resist the urge to clamp my hands over my ears. “Step forward! You have committed an act of treason to the crown and our good king.”
Our good king. Right. If you’ve ever wanted a textbook example of an oxymoron, now you have one.
No one steps forward. The blond policeman presses his voltgun against a slender teenage girl’s forehead. She shrieks and falls. A man near me hisses, as do several others in the crowd. The girl takes the arm of the woman next to her and gets to her feet, trembling.
The three policemen circle the crowd, getting closer to intimidate us but nothing happens. A small boy, maybe seven or eight, sobs. The blond policeman tells him to shut up but he cries harder. “Wey my mama?” he says in Pidgin.
My heart stops.
“Who taught you the Forbidden Language?” the policeman asks, pointing his gun at the boy’s face.
“Don kill me o,” the boy says, still crying. The blond policeman tells him to shut up again but the boy’s crying is so loud, I doubt he can hear.
“Shut up!” The policeman slams the butt of his gun into the boy’s skull.
Blood splatters against the pavement as the boy crumples in a heap. A girl screams from a different group and runs toward him. The blond policeman picks her up as she claws at his face but I barely notice. That boy. I can’t tell if he’s alive or not.
The old woman lets go of my hand and looks at me. In the sunlight, I realize one of her eyes is a pale hazel.
“Be brave, Aarinola,” she says. How does she know my name? She shuffles towards the blond policeman holding the frantic girl.
“Don’t—” I say, but she continues as if she hasn’t heard.
“WHO DID THIS?!” the Captain says through his mask. This time I do clamp my hands over my ears, wincing.
The old woman stands before the policeman and the girl who still struggles in his arms.
“Get back in line,” he tells her. He drops the girl but still holds her wrist, even as she sobs and writhes and tries to crawl away.
The old woman places a hand on the girl’s forehead and she instantly stops crying. Her limbs relax. She collapses onto the pavement and begins to snore.
The crowd is silent. “How did you do that?” the Captain asks, stunned. “WHAT DID YOU JUST DO?!” Everyone covers their ears now. The blond policeman pulls another gun from a calf holster and points it at the woman’s head. It’s an old-fashioned model with metal bullets.
“Shoot me o. It will not do much, I can tell you that,” she says.
I am rooted to the spot. My hands ball into fists and my heart pounds. I glance down the street.
A figure in a black hoodie rounds the corner with his head down, hands in his pockets. He looks up and freezes. Then he runs, but not away. Towards us. “Grandma!” he shouts.
His grandmother stares at the blond officer with steely eyes. She whispers something under her breath, either a curse or a prayer. Just like that my paralysis breaks.
“Get down!” I scream, running towards the woman. She turns to me. Her hazel eye glitters.
The officer shoots her in the head.
The side of her face blows apart, turning her gray dress red with blood. People in the crowd scream and the orderly lines break. They flee towards the monorail station. The Captain and the young policemen run after them, voltguns crackling at their sides. The sleeping girl starts awake and darts toward her brother who is still crumpled on the ground.
The woman’s grandson stops next to me. His skin is dark like mine. His eyes are wide with one so black I can’t make out the pupil and the other an impossible green. He is a good boy. Like you. Oh.
The boy is silent as he studies his grandmother, his head slowly turning towards the blond policeman.
The policeman takes a step backwards. “Get back,” he says, but I think even he knows his words are meaningless.
I move in front of the boy and place a hand on his chest. “Don’t,” I say. The boy grabs my wrist and shoves me aside, staring at the blond policeman. The boy presses his fingertips to his temples, closing his eyes. The officer raises his gun.
I leap forward, kick the gun out of his hand, snatch it from the air and point it at the officer. Being the sister of three so-called terrorists has its advantages.
The officer lunges at me then gives a scream of pain as I shoot a metal bullet into his knee. He jerks and falls. The boy gives a sharp cry and I turn my focus towards him. His eyes are open. His green eye glows. Just as my vision fades, he disappears in a flash of green light and I hit the pavement.
I was around five when it started. I had just come out of the bath. The fluffy towel around my head probably saved my life. I’d looked into the mirror and realized my one blue eye was glowing. My vision faded and I dropped to the tile floor.
I stood inside an ice cream store. It wasn’t a dream. It was more like a memory. A woman with emerald cloth wrapped around her waist and a white lace top shared an ice cream with a young boy. They spoke in a language I couldn’t understand. The bell above the door jingled and I saw the security guard—three vertical scars on each dark cheek—open the door for an old woman and her granddaughter in matching pink dresses. The old woman thanked the guard in broken English and my breath caught in my throat. She was about to be arrested, surely, and in front of her own granddaughter!
But the guard smiled. “You are welcome, Madame,” he said. My mouth fell open.
When I woke up, my mom was shaking me, sobbing. She thought I was having a seizure. I did a full set of scans at the hospital and received a clean bill of health. My parents assumed it was a one-time thing. It wasn’t. It happened again, a couple of weeks before my sixth birthday and again a few months afterwards, getting more frequent as I grew older.
My parents didn’t believe my stories at first. But they weren’t stories. Eventually they realized I was telling the truth and seeing things. Random things. A group of dark-skinned children walking freely to school. A man saluting a green and white striped flag. Cars with wheels that touched the ground. Eventually, I realized what I had. Turned out there’s even a name for it.
Postcognition. The ability to see the past. I had been seeing things from the late twenty-second century, more than a hundred years ago. My parents kept my secret but one of my older brothers thought it was cool his sister could do juju magic. He slipped up and told his best friend.
They came for us after that.
Radha Zutshi Opubor is a 13-year-old writer in the seventh grade in Lagos, Nigeria. A poem she wrote when she was 8 was published in The Worlds Within anthology. Since then she has won her school’s creative writing prize and two short story contests. Radha’s hobbies include reading, playing tag rugby, horseback riding and fiddling with small objects.