• Ekow Manuar

V. Unhinged.

Updated: Mar 31



Wiping the last of the Koko off his chin and tossing it in the nearby bin, Immanuel poised himself for the moment that it seemed his whole life was building up to.

The plan; simple. It’s development; dense.

He was going to blow up the data server.

He had first thought of destroying the dam used to power the data servers. He recalled scaling the scaffolding with Daniel, his younger brother when he had first arrived back from his studies in Sweden so many years back. Once at the top, Immanuel saw from the depth and width of the excavation that the dam would not only kill the river Baba, but damage the sensitive ecosystem surrounding it irrevocably. The soil, the vegetation, the insects. The snails that would crawl out after the rain. The core of his community and their livelihoods would be forever disrupted.


But the dam was reinforced concrete on beams of steel and required a much more industrial effort to penetrate. It would be an impossible feat for one man. Even as driven as Immanuel.

Then it came to him.


After many weeks of persuading Daniel finally convinced Immanuel to visit New Accra and experience firsthand the internet service, his company’s servers were providing. Daniel had an access card on account of his work with the servers which enabled him to enter New Accra with a guest every month.


The road into New Accra was a mega highway that floated above the mashed chaos of Old Accra and dived into the neon glow of the new. At the final police barrier before entering New Accra, the occupants of their bus were first scanned to verify identification and tickets, then tapped with a wristband that doubled as a tracker if the day visitors were to overstay their welcome. After several minutes and a few illegal passengers discharged, the brothers were on the upper deck of Liberation Avenue. Immanuel’s head had been stiff and distant from the window, refusing to accept his interest. But his eyes betrayed him and took in the spectacle of New Accra. A place he had only seen from far above on his flight back from Sweden. And indeed, a spectacle it was.


Lean towers loomed over his head spearing the sky, and all along the incline was thriving vegetation cutting across from balcony to balcony in a web of green. Tropical birds fluttering in tune from branch to clothesline back to the branch. The birds, not alone in the sky. Drones zooming by delivering packages, food, and in some cases people. Their legs dangling over.


The roads were narrow and busy with young adults. Some white, some dark. Most, a variation of brown. All handsome, as if cast for a scene in a movie.


The broad sidewalks were cut into thirds. A bike lane, an active pedestrian sidewalk, partly occupied by kiosks numbered with their TINs, serving their smiling customers. Sobolo and yam chips, hand-plucked fruit smoothies, chocolate bofrot and other street foods of Accra. Every once in awhile Immanuel saw a green patch for little community gardens, little children happily plucking into the soil. Between the banks of sidewalks, a tram line cutting through the middle of the road. Solar panels on its roof, reflecting the sheen of the sun as it ran on the rails going in either direction.


The canopy of the city was a cluster of sun blockers, mist fans, rain harvesters, more solar panels and mini turbines fluttering to the eddies of the wind. You could follow the pipes that connected the city fountains to the harvesters. Immanuel remembered a blond-haired brown-skinned child who popped up to the water dispenser and he could see the machine bubble as the kid clapped in amusement waiting for his cup to be filled. His mother came along and handed him a small bofrot which he clutched with one hand and bit into. A burst of jam slopped down onto his white shirt, which he soiled further by running into the water sprout other children were dancing around at a nearby park. His mother, distracted by conversation as other parents were. Not with themselves. Nor anyone around them. But the irrepressible voice of the Internet.

There was an energy to the place, an allure, and Immanuel couldn’t help but make a connection between that and the dire predicament back in his home town of Babaso. He stood in the shadow of what seemed a monument of human ingenuity and remembered that there was a time before when he lived in such a place and believed in it. He had worn this blissful ignorance with pride even. For the hope of progress was inevitable. But since being back it seemed his life was a stream of heartache with every pain tearing the skin off his back and leaving it raw as flesh.


He rejected it finally. The hope of progress. Refuted it. That wasn’t him. It had been. But it wasn’t anymore.


Daniel told Immanuel that New Accra’s internet infrastructure had all but deteriorated and the company he worked for won a contract to provide a services upgrade to the city. The dam in Babaso would undergo an immediate expansion as per its ten-year plan, and provide fifteen megawatts of electricity of which ten would be channeled to a new mega data server in Ejura to service New Accra via state of the art fiber optics.


Daniel told Immanuel that New Accra’s internet infrastructure had all but deteriorated and the company he worked for won a contract to provide a services upgrade to the city. The dam in Babaso would undergo an immediate expansion as per its ten-year plan, and provide fifteen megawatts of electricity of which ten would be channeled to a new mega data server in Ejura to service New Accra via state of the art fiber optics.


Daniel left that day touching his brother’s shoulder softly, assuring him “be well my brother. These happenings are a work of God. And you and I are mere beings in His presence.”


Are we?” Immanuel had thought. The words never leaving his lips, but caught nonetheless by Daniel, as they always understood each others’ muted messages.


***

It was during this visit to the city with Daniel that he saw that it was not the dam but the server which was the center of it all. The city ran on data.


That was the reason for diverting electricity from Ejura to the data server in times of an emergency. The reason why Ejura Central Hospital was drained of its electricity that night when the drought of the region had caused the dam’s levels to drop to critical. The calls, the texts, the avatar animations, sad face, happy face, stupid face. The pictures, selfies, videos, snaps, money transfers, payment of salaries, payment to vendors, shopping lists completed by virtual assistants. Traffic light coordination between tram, rail, bike, car. The number of steps each person took. Their heart rates, their health profile that their doctor would scrutinize. What they shouldn’t eat, what they ate, what they shat, what they saw, what they would want to see, then buy. How many hours they biked instead of drove to be legible for tax breaks. Who they met, who they were likely to want to meet, where they were likely to want to meet, the water and electricity needed for the places they would want to meet, the other events and services of interest in the vicinity. And all the other subtle necessities that had become second nature to the people of the city.


That was the purpose of it, the dam. To serve the city’s data above all else. Above those on the fringes of the World. Above Immanuel’s little sister, Joy, whom when she needed it most was not entitled to the electricity needed for her life support. But rather the breathless heaving of her chest, up and down until it was dead like a doll on the hospital bed. With eyes sunk in the sockets of her face.

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