THE COLD COAST
His jaw dropped when he saw it. The blinking red light just off the coast of Tanzania. There hadn’t been human life seen there since 2022, when the last of the ships had blasted into the Exosphere leaving the incurable sick to die in droves. Or so they’d thought. TB36 dug his heels and pushed closer towards the AVI, bobbing jerkingly as he did. He made sure not to move too quickly, lest the oxygen tube disconnect from the Pod wall.
Tapping the zoom lens furiously, TB36 magnified the area, bringing the ragged edge of Saadani National Park into clearer view. He gasped, fogging up his visor. Sure enough, what looked like a human man sat astride an enormous tusker, muscular arm gripping a long spear. The man’s dreadlocks ran way past his feet, and hovered between the ground and the belly of the elephant, cloaking the beast in dark streaks on both sides. He wore no mask, no visor, nothing to cover his long straight nose and full lips from the toxic air. His skin was the forbidden Dark – the sacred colour that had been outlawed with the introduction of the Mixing Program that made everyone equal. As the animal sauntered towards the coaxing waves of Indian Ocean, the rider drew his legs up swiftly and crouched, surveying the coast from left to right as he did.
TB36’s heart beat faster as the man stopped his mammoth (for it was far too large and hairy to be a normal Former African Elephant) and disembarked, jumping off to land into a perfect superhero squat. He sauntered to the water’s edge, locks dragging behind him on the sand.
A moment after putting his palms together, he raised his long staff towards the partially obscured water. TB36 watched in awe as the Ocean began to froth and churn. Plastic containers, empty bottles and other debris that clogged the once sparkling water began flying in all directions, leaving a channel where fish – actual fish – appeared close to the surface. The man started to sway his hips hypnotically, lifting his staff as he did. What TB36 saw next was surely a mythical scene:
Out of the belly of plastic waste flew wriggling aquatic creatures like missiles, landing at the feet of the bellydancing man. Flying fish. The elephant lifted it’s trumpet as if to celebrate the magic before it.
When a mound of silver fish had gathered squirming at the human man’s feet, he put down his outstretched arms and stood rod straight. The screen blinked, as if it had been holding its breath just like its viewer – the one-man audience watching from Jupiter’s second moon.
The man turned back to his waiting pachyderm. He paused midstep, water droplets glistening on the jet black canvas of his magnificent skin. He looked up, right at the H1NDS1TE satellite lens, lifted his spear tip in the direction of TB36’s sight and smiled to reveal dazzling white fangs.
TB36 contracted, startled, and made to press the ALERT button. As he jerked his head to the left, he miscalculated his momentum. Gravity Management was a slow science, and rapid movements were highly discouraged. As he began to spin and splutter, hovering off the stainless steel floor, TB36 knew it was over. The oxygen cord ripped off, writhing and hissing like an angry snake. He would Expire, with the magic he’d witnessed on the Old Planet disappearing with him. What a shame. There hadn’t been any breakthroughs on Europa in years. Not since they’d been able to implant a womb into males and the migration of MB’s– Maternal Beings – to the ExoSolar planets. Now this?
He barely managed to punch his Life button at the centre of his chest when the world went black.
After a few minutes, the rest of the TB30s bounded down the cold corridor and bashed the door. After 3 powerful bangs, it slid open only to be jammed halfway. TB39, the thinnest of the lot, squeezed in and rushed towards the blue body on the floor, reaching for the disconnected Life tube as he hid. He was too late, and raised three fingers to the others to inform them. The codes were that simple – Birth, Life, Death, the three states that mattered.
As TB31 stumbled in after struggling through the door opening, and glanced briefly at the AVIs to his right. One showed the Continent Formerly Known As Africa, with a Low Pressure cloud cell passing over the lower half. Likely the ITCZ making its now once-a-decade appearance. He turned his gaze back to the dead Tolerant Being. It was such a shame that they, the last human sub-species, were still so dependent on oxygen. The Europa-born Evolved Beings could live off the radiation fumes that the planet supplied constantly, rising from the ephemeral silver water that flowed beneath the crust. The EBs were so much more efficient, so much more evolved, but still, lacked the empathy or kindness made them useless at tasks requiring EQ. Their terrible eyesight made them even worse as Sentries, so the loss of TB36 was unfortunate.
TB31 followed TB36’s frozen gaze to the AVI table, hoping the second screen could give a clue he could scan into the Expiration Report. The MB and TB models had been warned about the dangers of Historical Scanning, but there seemed to be no danger here; just a calm screen on the H1NDS1TE Audio-Visual Interface showing an obscure serene beach, with barely any waves lapping the dirty shore.
Emelda Nyaradzai Gwitimah
is a 29 year old woman based in Harare, Zimbabwe. She is a trained advertising copywriter but is currently knee-deep in advocacy work as the top coffee-drinker, chief-ally and Information and Communication Officer at GALZ, an LGBTI organization. Her stories focus on the experiences and world views of contemporary African women, in all their complexities and nuances.