The WIP by Esther Kuforiji
The WIP is a collection of interesting things from around the web.
Uche wanted a sandwich. But Uche, being Uche, could not do things simply. She gathered flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and water. She got the milk and her cheese-making kit. It was becoming a habit, perhaps even a problem. She was not even sure of her motivations. Maybe it was for health reasons. Perhaps something in her yearned for the simple life. Whatever it was, every meal she had eaten for the last few months had been made by her own hands from scratch. Once she put the bread in the oven, she leaned against the counter and cast her mind back to months earlier. Suddenly, she remembered. She had been watching a cookery show on TV. It was a show about flavours. Over several episodes, the chef had discussed the nature and types of flavours. In each episode, she had cooked a number of recipes to demonstrate her points. Uche’s eyes had been opened to the true wonder of food. Now eating anything that she had not intentionally and lovingly crafted with her own hands felt irreverent. It had started with simple dishes, but they soon become more complex. Uche had only learnt bread-making and cheese-making in the previous month. Creating a meal from its most fundamental components, and using techniques to procure textures and flavours gave her an almost transcendental feeling. She was creating art and beauty. The sandwich fully constructed before her, Uche lifted it up, admired it, took a bite and felt euphoria.
I feel so comfortable in my suit. Encased and padded, I am warm but not uncomfortably so. In this cocoon, I am closer to my body, closer to my thoughts. I can hear and feel my blood rushing in my ears. My inner sound is accompanied by the buzzing outside. My tiny workmates are a loud chorus, rising and falling, their sound hits me in waves. I remember the first time I heard that sound. I had been walking in the woods on the family farm. One of my friends was having a birthday party in town but I was being punished for failing my Biology exam. I had to stay on the property. Lucky for me, I had a few hundred acres to work with. I was exploring a new section of the woods when I heard a buzzing sound. I followed the sound and came upon a nest in a tree. I got as close as I could. The nest was hanging about a metre above my head. The bees were busy, flying to and fro. I was in the midst of them, and a strange feeling washed over me. I felt like I could hear them, what they were thinking. Wordlessly they communicated diligence, determination, family and loyalty. I felt like I had found where I belong. I never failed a Biology exam again. As soon as I could, I began training to become an apiarist. This is my life: looking after bees, selling honey, helping remove colonies from people’s houses, educating people on bees, honey and everything in between. Sometimes, when I’m lying in bed at night, the blood pulsing in my ears does not sound like a fluid rushing, it sounds like a buzz.
They train you for your worst nightmare. That’s what you sign up for when you join the military. No matter which branch, the goal of training is to prepare you for a unique set of horrors. I joined the Navy. I left the Navy. Now here I was, in the midst of one of the terrors my profession had prepared me for: a shipwreck. It could have been described as a paradise if we had been there by choice. The sky was blue and cloudless, the sand warm beneath our feet. I could feel the heat through the leather of my shoes. I had been at the helm, but others had been relaxing. By some miracle, we had managed to pull all of the crew and passengers who had been on the yacht out of the water. Some did not have shoes. Some were barely clothed. Nevertheless, everyone was alive and accounted for. Given our course before the incident, I knew that we were somewhere in the sea between Barbados and Saint Lucia. Beyond the beach was a dense forest. A full survey would tell us more, but all signs indicated that it was a small uninhabited island. I gathered the crew once we had settled the passengers. We shared our recollections of the hour or so before the incident, but we could not figure out what happened. Everything had been normal, and then all of a sudden all of our instruments started failing and we were sinking. No one had an explanation or a clue about the cause of the incident. There was no use discussing a ship that was now at the bottom of the sea. I told everyone to rest and headed further up the beach with my first officer. I wanted to speak to her and come up with some sort of plan. We also needed to find shelter for the night. We might get lucky and find some of our equipment and supplies washed up on the beach. We walked and talked for a while, tracing the coast of the island. About twenty minutes from where we had left the others, we found some caves. In theory, caves were a good option for shelter, but these required some climbing to get to and I was worried that the tired and traumatised group we had left behind would not be in the mood for rock-climbing. We almost decided to look for an alternative, but then I saw something shining from inside the cave. We climbed up and got closer. A few feet from the entrance of the cave, we saw huge boxes. The kind we used to load and store items on the boat. On closer inspection, each box had a name on it. The first name, surprisingly, was one of the passengers, the next was a member of my crew. All twenty-five boxes bore the name of either a crew member or a passenger. The one with my name had a white sheet of paper tucked into the handle. I unfolded it and saw a single-sentence short message addressed to me. It read: Welcome Captain Jimoh, we have been expecting you.
Standing on the station, fifteen light years from Earth, I breathe in the sweet yet spicy smells of herbs from Brusallis, a planet in the Marikini star system. The eli eli, a species of fluorescent floating flower from Kwakno, catch my eye as they float in bunches at a neighbouring stall. Being in the market makes me feel as if I am at the centre of the universe. I am far from home, but I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to do business in such a vibrant and wonderful place. I had applied on a whim. When Earth signed on to the Interplanetary Alliance Economic Agreement, it was mostly big commodities companies that had grasped the opportunity. Yet, the agreement gave access to anyone on the planet to apply for a licence to trade at the Interplanetary Wholesale Market at the Hofadaka Space Station. For years no small earth companies applied. Twelve light years seemed a long way to go to make a sale. My application was the first that they had received from Earth in the three years since we joined. They accepted it immediately and sent a starship to help transport me and my goods. I look at my stall. Beautiful bubas, flowing agbadas and more, all handmade in Nigeria and exported across the galaxy. Some of my customers don’t even have legs or arms, but they are excited to own their very own piece of Earth fashion. In addition to making money, I’m teaching people from hundreds of planets about Earth’s cultures. I’m learning too; languages that you speak without words, recipes that take several weeks to cook. So many cultures, so many customs. So many goods for sale, so many things to experience. A mound with feelers dangling down floats over to me. My first customer of the day.
On a sunny day like today, I like to get out of the office as much as I can. My afternoon chai latte is a great excuse to momentarily escape and enjoy life’s simple pleasures: sunshine and a beverage. I enter the shop and there is already a queue. Tomi the barista waves when she sees me walk in. She knows my usual order. Sometimes I come in on Saturday mornings when it is quiet and we talk about tea blends, life and everything in between. I hear a cough from behind me. I turn to see a man, he has a strange look on his face. “Well this is awkward,” he says. “Is it?” I ask. He stares and there is a slight crease of confusion on his forehead. We take a step forward as someone leaves the front of the queue. “We haven’t seen each other since…” I watch the muscles in his neck tense and he grips the phone in his hand tighter. He does not want to finish the sentence. “Do I know you?” I ask. He chokes on a muffled laugh. He sees the confusion on my face and his amusement dissipates. “I know things ended badly,” he says. “But I thought we could at least be cordial.” “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I tell him. His face changes; his whole demeanour shifts. It is as if I can see something crumble inside him. “I can’t believe you did it,” he says, his voice low, a little above a whisper. “Did what?” “You had the procedure.” “What procedure?” “You had me erased.” A feeling of bliss washes over me. I don’t know what he’s talking about but I know what he means. Targeted memory erasure (TME) has been on the market for over five years now. The ability to completely remove a person, object or event from your mind was once far-fetched but is now as easy as a visit to the dentist to have a tooth removed. In fact, it is a lot less painful. The painful or inconvenient memory is removed and in its place, a feeling of very mild euphoria is inserted. Some people shun the practice, there are still protests outside the clinics, but I am, apparently, not one of those people. I look at the man. He is a total and complete stranger to me. Nothing about him triggers even a glimmer of remembrance. I step forward again. I am now at the front of the queue and Tomi immediately starts making my drink without me asking. I smile my thanks to her. “Three years,” he says. “Gone, just like that.” “Look,” I say, patting him gently on the arm. “I have no ill feeling towards you, that’s a good thing, is it not?”Tomi hands me my cup, I tap to pay and turn to leave. “Some things are best left unremembered,” I say as I pass him. I walk out of the shop, back into the sun. I could occupy myself with questions about what I chose to erase and why I felt that I had to make that decision, but what would be the point? TME offers us the luxury of forgetting. A former me decided that he was not worth remembering, and I am confident in her judgment.