Updated: Mar 31
Immanuel was bent over his shoe tightening its grip on his foot so that he could move like the wind. His eyes drifted to the bin he had thrown the rest of his Koko in then down the road that led to his village, Babaso. Dust twirling casually over the road. Wisps of sand in suspense.
He looked back down at his shoe and saw his hand shaking uncontrollably. Before he could steady himself his body began to heave and the contents in his stomach were threatening to spill over. He was retching. Or going to retch. And he wouldn’t be quick enough to reach the bin in time. Then people would see. Then they would be concerned. They would ask what he was doing. And he would have no answer. And every day afterward they would notice him. Then that would be that. Plan aborted. His life’s purpose discarded.
He found that his shaken hand had covered his mouth. Squeezing his lips shut he summoned the numbness he once knew so well to take effect. The numbness that he used to wrap himself in. To insulate. To protect.
The propulsion eased and clarity was restored. Breathing through his nose he wiped a slip of saliva from the corner of his mouth and looked back down the road again. The sand still in the air.
When calm was fully restored, Immanuel’s pupils darted from side-to-side, hoping that no one had taken notice of his episode. Sweat had formed in his hands and in the wrinkles of his eyes. He lifted himself and saw in the distance three huge trucks carrying forty-foot containers. They were approaching the Y shaped intersection at which the data server, the market and bus station were all located. Each occupying a pie between the roads. The trucks would eventually park between the market stalls and the data server’s west fence.
During the construction of the server, market women swarmed into the empty space opposite the site to feed the hungry laborers who needed something to eat during their short breaks. Eventually, those stalls evolved into Ejura’s second market. Immanuel first noticed the three trucks supplying the market from behind them. It was whilst coughing and shielding his eyes from the sandstorm the heavy vehicles were causing that he thought - “how can anyone see through this?”
The stand he had just bought his Koko from was on the outer rim of the market, opposite the bus station. From here he would need to sprint through the inner market, cut across to the main road so he would be behind the parked trucks, then through the dust cloud to the other side behind the data server’s back fence. This was the only way he could buy enough time to cut the electric wiring then jump the fence without being seen. Whilst the trucks parked and the drivers’ mates carried the cargo from the truck to the women. Whilst Mr. Ofori helped, as he always did restock the market’s goods.
If for whatever reason Mr. Ofori didn’t partake in lifting the cargo, and instead remained slumped on his seat, he would be in a comfortable position to see Immanuel jump the fence.
Immanuel grabbed the mask buried in his pocket and rolled it down his face. Taking a final breath he looked down at his still hand, then back down the road to Babaso. A small wind had cleared the suspended sand. The road back was visible again.
Immanuel was up on the fence staring directly at the security cameras when the first wrench was thrown into his plan. The security cameras weren’t the problem. In fact, they were unmanned, empty bluffs installed to deter would-be thieves.
The hundred and thirty-five permanent indigenous jobs promised to maintain the data server had ended up being only eighteen. Three at Ejura and fifteen in New Accra, since the technology allowed for remote monitoring. Mr. Ofori, Mr. Motari, and Fayed were the lucky three of which all but one, Mr. Ofori, neglected their work almost entirely.
But not today.
Fayed was at the other end of the data server near the outer wall of the room that housed the huge air conditioning units.
The site for Immanuel’s third bomb. The first and second were to be set on the cell tower. The distraction. But also to shut down the emergency response system.
The servers themselves were immense heat generators and demanded large cooling units to maintain a stable temperature to operate optimally. The design of the prism prevented Immanuel from reaching the servers themselves without going in. An impossible task. So instead, removing the cooling systems was his only bet to destabilizing the data service.
With Fayed there, another life was at risk. A life that Immanuel did not want to take. To avoid the Fayed problem, he needed to find a way to draw him toward the first blast, without killing him with the second.
Or, to avoid the Fayed problem, don’t think of the Fayed problem.
Daniel flashed in his mind as he always did when Immanuel would be plotting this plan. All that information he had unknowingly divulged to him put to such use.
He jumped off the wall and rolled onto the ground to lessen the impact. Crouched, he continued toward the bottom of the tower where he quickly hooked the bombs then set the timers. The first bomb would set off a minor explosion. Ten seconds later the bigger bomb would go off blowing up the tower and whatever else was in a fifteen-meter radius. If he was lucky, Fayed would not be drawn to the first explosion and that could still give Immanuel the time to go round to the AC units undetected.
Still crouched, Immanuel sped up to the north-facing wall of the data server, where he would not be seen by those from the main road or bus station. His back against the wall, the salt of his sweat stinging his eyes, he stared at the scenery before him.
Power lines hung lazily from pole to pole over the meekly stream that once stemmed from the river Baba. Beyond the embankment was the low lying Afram plains, stretching into the hazed horizon, disturbed by a few hills and distant manmade machinations.
A crow had glided from the power line to the stream and was pivoting toward the dried water. It’s black beak pecking until it finally gave up. Waving its black wings and exposing its white breast, it took to the wind, heading for wetter pastures.
Shrill shrieks slashed through the sunny day and Immanuel’s split-second respite was vanquished by the ensuing panic from the market. But before anyone could get a grip on the situation the world ripped open and the ground rocked to a second more seismic blast.
All sounds muted.
A mighty gusts of wind slamming Immanuel to the ground.
Winded and dazed Immanuel pressed his hands to the shaken floor to lift himself up but realized he had no feeling in his left hand. Dust enveloping the whole world around him he clenched his stomach and pushed himself up with his right. An almighty push. His teeth clenched as he rose. Bit by bit. Legs trembling. Nose clogged. Staggering up, but up nonetheless, he stumbled to the wall and leaned on it for support. Breathing in only sand he wobbled around the corner to the wall of the massive AC units. He was just a few meters away. Just a couple of strides in fact. He was coated in sand, his outside and in. He couldn’t breathe and when he coughed it was wet and dry at the same time.
He was in full sight of the bus station he realized. But at this point, no one would care. No one would see. And hopefully, no one else would die.
Dizzied, he tried to unscramble the alarms blaring off in his head. Or were they real alarms at all? Whatever it was, it was banging in his head like a hammer. Shaking his vision. Throbbing at his temple. He lowered his head down to see if it would yield. Just a little. But it kept pounding. Unrelentingly. He couldn’t concentrate. His eyes were unable to focus. The numbers on the board of the timer were in twos. His fingers twitching. He couldn’t get them to stay still for long enough. To do what he wanted. Which was becoming ever harder to maintain. The timer, heavy in his hands. A mistake could prove costly. He was still too far away from the cooling units. Not that he would know. He would be gone. Obliterated. He honed in again on the board. Pulling every sinew of muscle and mind to focus. To concentrate. It didn’t want to come. It didn’t want to stay still. The numbers. Jumping up and down. Maybe it was the universe. Plotting against him. Again. At this crucial time. Ready to pull the rug from underneath him. Like it had done. When his father died. His mother. Joy. Joy. JOY! Then the white ball of fury which was compressed in the chambers of his heart exploded. Nothing would stop him.
This was it.
He lifted his head and felt the hammer smash again. He almost dropped the timer. He did but felt his hands clamp down on it again. Pure reflex. Because at this point, control was not in his hands. Literally. He just needed the numbers on the display to be solid for just enough time. So he could press down on them. And set ten seconds on the clock. That’s what he needed. Just to press down. Four to five times. On the right buttons.
That is all he needed.
Then he saw them.
They were there.
Vague expressions of his memories of them.
Joy a foot taller than mama and papa. Mama with her hair wrapped by Papa leaning on his cane.
He would’ve called to them. But they were too far away.
What would they think? Would they still accept him? Still, love him? Would his father hold him as he used to? With pride? Would Joy grab his butt? Laughing into his ear.
He couldn’t know.
Because they were dead.
And he would be dead too, soon enough.
Then everything seemed suddenly clear. Serene even. His fingers now obeying his thoughts. Immanuel back in control.
He looked up again to see if they were there. But they had vanished.
Immanuel set the bomb for ten seconds then tossed himself toward the AC units. But he still wasn’t close enough.
Chest heaving he looked down on his left arm but his mask was obscuring his sight and the heat and dust was making it impossible to breathe. He wrenched it off and saw blood pouring out of a wide gash in his arm. It wouldn’t matter now.
Pulling his right hand from underneath him, he raked himself toward the AC units. His fingers clawed at the loose sand, legs pushing, trying to get himself to the unit in time. Dragging his body. Just one more big pull and he would be there.
He peered up ahead and there was a little boy standing on the other side of the fence. Eyes wide and shocked. The loose clothes on his body trembling. Immanuel wanted to shout out to him. But couldn’t. But wouldn’t.