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Edwin "Caesar" Clark took a long, leisurely drag at the cigarette and let the smoke hiss through his pursed lips in three quick, short squirts. He was unbelievably bored. Staring through the near opaque louvers of the only window in the small room, he wondered whether bloody murder was actually worse than the purgatory he found himself in. Granted his enemies would have to be near telepathic for them to find him in this godforsaken town called Roni where he had taken refuge. This small town in Northern Nigeria was the kind of town that might miss being on a good map. In this town time stood still like a forgotten photograph.
He had done his one year long National Youth Service in this town some years back so he wasn't unfamiliar with the environment. It's just that he never thought he would ever be back for any reason whatsoever. It wasn't that he hated Roni- he actually enjoyed the serenity of the place and its locals- it was just that boredom was rife in the town and he regarded boredom with the same affection as lung cancer.
Caesar was on the run. His occupation as a freelance journalist had got him in trouble plenty of times. When he was still a staff writer at a newspaper in Lagos, his editor had sent him to England to interview an exiled Nigerian politician who had embezzled state funds only to run into a racist serial murderess. Another time he had traveled to the Niger Delta to investigate a string of ritual murders and had nearly been buried alive. Now he was being hunted by hired assassins after exposing a white slavery ring run by a powerful Nigerian senator. A reporter's job in Africa wasn't a happy job.
He heard the door open and he heard the loud, boisterous voice of his friend calling his name. Caesar smiled. Sadiq Usman was semi-drunk again. He had wondered whether all those little bottles of Vodka he saw in the cupboard followed the police officer to work. He couldn't blame Sadiq for his vices. The crime rate in Roni was probably the lowest in the world. The jail cell in the small police station rarely had an occupant. Most times the only law breakers that spent a night in jail were goats or sheep. They were usually arrested for trespassing when they wondered into someone's farm to nibble at some crops. The owners of the offending livestock had to then pop down to the station to bail them out.
"Caesar, my boy, I have some friends here that would like to meet you!"
Caesar sighed and shuffled out of the bedroom. He suspected his 'friends' were girls and that most likely enrolled in the present batch of National Youth Service Corps after graduating from some Nigerian university. Any other females in this town would be strict Muslims and discreetly covered from head to toe. Sure enough he saw Sadiq standing in the living room with two other ladies. He was smiling sheepishly. Caesar ignored him and appraised their guests.
One was dark and slim and not too pretty even though her body seemed supple and flexible. Caesar had no interest in her even though she was eyeing him hungrily. The other one however was very fair with an excellent figure. She was a bit plain but her eyes were dark and smoldering. She looked even more bored than Caesar and eyed him with mild disinterest. He could detect a malevolent undercurrent in her. He was immediately hooked.
Sadiq made introductions and Caesar learnt that his lust interest was called Amaka. An Igbo girl he mused. His mother was Igbo. Preliminary conversation with the girl revealed to him that she was well educated and quite enlightened. Caesar didn't take long to let her know from his body language that he would dearly love to screw the daylights out of her but she smiled thinly and kept him at bay.
Sadiq took them to another small town in his car where they found a chalet that sold alcohol. In Northern Nigeria Sharia law was in full force and the sale of alcohol was prohibited. However the woman who owned the chalet wasn't Muslim and made good business catering to the alcoholics like Sadiq and company. As they drank beer, smoked endlessly and slurped pepper soup the couples divided and immersed themselves in their own conversations. Later Sadiq took Caesar aside and they conspired to book two rooms for each couple. As the night wore on each man took their prospective lays to their individual rooms.
"So what do you do in your spare time?" asked Caesar, his eyes glued to her splendid cleavage.
"I'm a dream walker" she replied with a small smile.
"You're a what?"
"A dream walker."
Caesar stared at her. She seemed serious. Great, he thought. Another nutter. My kind of girl.
"I'm not crazy" she said, still smiling, "I can actually dream walk."
"I like to move around while I dream, visit places and even people."
Caesar smiled exasperatedly.
"What are you, some sort of witch? Fly around on a broomstick and all that?"
"Some people like to call me that but no, I'm not a witch. I'm just someone who has... ah... what shall I call it? A free spirit."
"You don't believe me, do you?"
"Would you blame me?"
"No, I won't but don't you ever have dreams that seem so vivid you could actually have sworn that it was real?"
"Yes, I have" Caesar said thoughtfully, "But then again, I woke up."
"Not all dreams are just dreams. Some are actually what you see as your essence roams free."
"I like the concept but sorry, it's a bit too much for me to swallow."
"Okay, then, I'll prove it to you. Dream walking isn't just about moving about aimlessly, you can do more practical things... like inhabit a person's body."
Caesar nearly spilled his beer.
"Yes, it's possible. For someone in my level it's actually very easy."
"What do you mean by 'your level'? Do you mean there are others like you? Some sort of cult?"
"Maybe but not in the way you think. Let's just say I'm not the only one with such abilities."
"But it is impossible for you to give me any evidence of any so called powers you have."
"I have abilities and I'm going to prove it."
"This I would love to see."
"Alright then, do you see the proprietress of this shit-hole?"
"Yeah... what about her?"
"Would you like to sleep with her?"
Caesar did spill his drink this time.
"Excuse me?" he spluttered.
"I know you want to bang me, Caesar... you can't take your eyes off my boobs but don't you want something juicy first? She has nice tits doesn't she? Even if they are huge..."
"I like huge tits."
"Yes, I know, you perverted bastard but I am giving you the opportunity to sleep with her."
"There is no way she is going to sleep with me. That's a wedding ring on her finger and never mind she's selling booze, she's still dressed quite conservatively."
"Good then, a challenge. Tonight while we're in bed she's going to visit us and ask you for sex. I will be in her body while she will be sleeping in mine. Just don't try waking me up."
"I think this is going to be an interesting evening but if she doesn't come I am still going to screw you senseless."
"I'm all yours."
Caesar reclined on the sofa smoking while he resentfully watched Amaka's back as she snoozed on the mattress. He had to admit she had a fantastic body and her milk white lingerie emphasized that.
Dream walker, my ass, he thought. Why did he always get the crazy ones?
There was a tentative knock on the door.
"Come in" Caesar answered automatically thinking it was Sadiq coming to ask for more condoms- his friend and his partner had been making a din for the past one hour.
The door opened and a large figure walked in. Caesar's mouth fell open.
The proprietress was wearing a see-through nightgown and nothing was left to the imagination. She was smiling sheepishly as she slowly approached him and Caesar noticed her eyes were vacant.
She's sleepwalking, he thought.
"I'm sorry, sir" she said in perfect English, "I am sorry for being so forward but I want to have sex with you."
Caesar thought he was going to have a heart attack.
"Er... Mrs. Abdul, shouldn't you be in bed?" he asked weakly.
"I know I should be in bed with my husband but tonight I just want to shag you."
She inched towards him and Caesar jumped up from the sofa. This is really crazy, he thought and since when did a local woman who has never left a predominantly Hausa speaking community learn to speak perfect English?
"Please, Mrs. Abdul..." He shot a furtive glance at Amaka who had not moved an inch. From the rise and fall of her chest she was still fast asleep. How could she not have woken up?
He looked back at Mrs Abdul as she boxed him in a corner. Her eyes were empty as she watched him, as if she wasn't really there. She hadn't blinked once.
"Don't you want to touch me?" she asked again. Her flawless English accent was giving him the creeps.
"No, Mrs. Abdul, please go back to your husband before you get us both killed."
"If you insist" she muttered and slowly turned away "Please do enjoy your stay and please do not ask me about this in the morning. Amaka is hot isn't she? Why don't you screw her instead?"
She drifted out of the room, her laughter ringing in his ear like a bad music box. Caesar slumped back in his chair and actually started shaking. Five minutes later Amaka stirred and stretched. She sat up and stared directly at him. Caesar stared back.
"Well that was fun" she said smiling.
"I can also travel back in time."
They were lying in bed contemplating each other's bodies. Caesar wasn't in a hurry to have sex, understandably he was a little traumatized from the previous episode half an hour ago.
"Really?" At this point he doubted if anything Amaka said would sound completely outlandish still he thought this was completely over the top.
"I'm not exactly sure the stunt you and that woman pulled some minutes ago but there's no way you can prove to me that time travel exists."
"But why mot? It is very possible."
"Everything that has happened, is happening or will happen has already happened."
"Okay, you lost me there."
"Let me put it in very simple terms. Take yourself as a character in a story. If the reader wants to know your fate all he or she has to do is to skip to the end of the story."
"Are you telling me that I'm a character in a story?'
"Aren't we all? Our lives are all roles we play in some grand story written by an author. Everything that happens is for a reason."
"Hmm, sounds like something I've heard before."
"Look... this universe is circular. The most important events and processes happen in cycles. The world is born, it exists, then it dies and then it starts all over again. This goes on for eternity. There is no beginning and no end... an infinite cycle. So don't say the future hasn't happened yet. It already has, again and again."
"So how can you 'travel' in time?"
"Physically it is impossible for me to time travel but my essence or consciousness can. Your essence is like energy and energy can travel in time. In the dreamscapes time and space mean nothing. Haven't you had vivid dreams of your past or even strange dreams of the future that actually happened?"
"Then why do you doubt me? Nostrademus could see the future because in his visions he could visit any point in the cycle of time. You can too... if you want to."
"So prove that to me."
"Okay, is there any part of your life that you would like to revisit?"
"Yes, but is there one in particular you would like to change?"
"Yes. Are you saying I can travel back in time and change things? How?"
"You travel to your body at that point in time and you will be practically in control of yourself. All you need to do is to change things you did then to alter the future."
"That's impossible. Do you have any idea of the implications of such an action? You could rewrite history. That is not possible or even if it is, very unsafe."
"But would you like to try?"
"Yeah, of course!"
"Then let's do it."
"So how does this work exactly? Incantations, spells... magic potions?"
"Shut, up, Caesar. How far back do you want to go?"
"Twenty five years, 1984... when I was seven."
"Sorry, that's private."
"Suit yourself. All you need to do is to go to sleep and start dreaming of the place and time you want to go to. It would be easier if you practice lucid dreaming..."
"The process of consciously being aware you are in a dream state. People who can do that are called Oneironauts. Anyway since you are a rookie I'll help you enter this dream state."
"By making you go to sleep and inducing you to dream. All you have to do is focus your mind on the event of choice and your essence will travel to your body at such a time. Which means you will experience being inside your seven year old body."
"Wow! So you are telling me that I will be seven years old but with the mind of a thirty two year old?"
"That is so cool. And I can control my seven year old body and actually perform tasks and such?"
"So if for instance I had a goldfish that died because I forgot to feed it I can now go back in time to feed it and save its life?"
"Is that what you are going back in time to do? Save your goldfish?"
"No, but is it possible?"
"You keep saying that. What happens to my seven year old soul?"
"It will be residing in your thirty two year old body right here on this bed fast asleep."
"Really? Well don't try and give me head while I'm seven okay? It might traumatize me."
"Okay. Are you ready?"
"Look into my eyes and think only of that place. Remove every other thought from your mind. Focus..."
Caesar stared into the black depths of her eyes and seemed to find himself falling to a bottomless abyss. Amaka's voice became more monotonous and he struggled to hear what she was saying as his mind began to drift, her face dissolving in front of him like sugar cubes in hot tea...
I woke up suddenly shivering, the blankets damp with my sweat. I stared up at the familiar ceiling wondering where that awful dream came from. My goodness it felt so real!
I slipped out of bed feeling a little excited. I glanced at the calendar and confirmed that today was the 7th of July, 1984. Today was my birthday! Today I clocked seven years of age, my magic number. I pulled on my Liverpool FC football jersey with no. 7 on the back and got ready to go downstairs. The digital clock said 03:31pm. I hopped down the stairs and wondered what my dream was all about. I could hardly remember it since it was rapidly fading into nothingness. I do know there was a lady who seemed to be in her thirties and she was naked and she was doing strange things to me... I shivered again and noticed that my groin was stirring.
And why did I wake up feeling so angry at mummy? It didn't make sense, I loved mummy! She had gotten me some great presents this morning and spoilt me with cake and food. There was going to be a party in the evening and I had decided to go to my room and play with my GI Joe action figures. Next thing I knew I had drifted off to sleep and had that weird daydream.
I could hear voices talking heatedly from the living room as I approached. I slowed down as I got to the door.
"You can't take my son back to Nigeria just yet! He would have a better life staying here with me."
"You never did support my political ambitions, did you, Edmund. My son needs to know his roots anyway!"
"Yeah, right! I know you, darling, you'll never have enough time to take care of him. And don't think that I don't know you, Cassandra. All you care about is getting what you want."
"That is not true! I've given Caesar everything he could ever want!"
"Stop calling him that! His name is Edwin. And your idea of a present was to give him a crime novel!"
"He enjoys reading books doesn't he? In fact he told me he would like to become a writer someday."
"Pah! He should be thinking of being a lawyer like me. I'm not comfortable with him going to your country. He should grow up British."
"No way, Edmund, he's going to be Nigerian. You can't take his heritage away from him. He can come and visit you all the time when he's on holidays."
"We are not divorced and I'm not going to divorce you. I am a strict catholic you know that."
"Keep religion out of this!"
"If you want to go back to Nigeria, go ahead. But Edwin stays with me."
"Damn it, Edmund...!"
I walked in at that moment and stared at the two of them. I felt crushed. What had they been arguing about? They argued all the time but this was different. They stopped talking abruptly and stared guiltily at me.
"Hello, Edmund!" said Mummy gently, "I thought you were playing with your toys?"
"I slept off, Mummy. I just woke up. What's going on?" I looked from one parent to another.
"Your Mummy wants you to go to Nigeria, Edwin" he said looking at her accusingly, "Would you like that?"
"Stop saying it like it's a bad thing!" hissed Mummy, "Nigeria isn't a bad place, Edwin, there are so many nice people there."
"Are you two breaking up?" My heart felt like a torpedoed ship.
"Of course not!" Mummy said quickly, "It's just that I've just gotten a very big job with the Nigerian Government and will like to use this opportunity to take you to your roots."
"I suppose that's okay" I said finally. Daddy looked at me with a hurt expression on his face.
"You see, Edmund?" said Mummy triumphantly, "He wants to come with me..."
I would never forget the way they glared at each other. I felt guilty and even though Daddy was the greatest I just couldn't bear to be without Mummy Dearest.
Then why this nagging feeling in my chest like I had made the wrong decision? Like I was supposed to choose to stay with Daddy instead? Like I was supposed to be on some kind of mission? Something felt amiss. That day dream... what was that dream all about? Why was that dream so important?
I walked over to Mummy and climbed on to her lap. I rested my head against her warm bosom and my eyelids began to feel drowsy, my thoughts began to drift, Daddy's sad face dissolving in front of me like sugar cubes in hot tea...
Caesar jolted awake and stared in bewilderment at Amaka's face.
"Well did you accomplish your mission?" she asked.
"It was all a dream" he whispered hoarsely, "Just a repressed memory brought back to life."
"Really? Are you sure?"
"In the dream, I thought I had woken from another dream. I was seven again and it was my birthday. My mother and father were arguing. She wanted me to come to Nigeria with her. My father said I should stay in Swansea, Wales. I thought I was making the right choice then. Now see how that turned out. I and my mother hardly speak to each other now. She never had time for me. All she cared was climbing the political ladder."
"Who is she?"
"Cassandra Okafor, the Minister of Aviation."
"Wow! Your mom is a powerful woman."
"Yes, she is."
"You still love her, don't you?" she asked smiling.
"I don't know."
"You do. I can see it in your eyes. So that's why you became a reporter! You wanted to fight back at the government and your mother represents everything you hate about your country."
"I love my country! We have good people working their asses off to make a living but they keep getting trampled on by those bastards in power. Why didn't I just be a mummy's boy and live off her ill gotten riches? Because I care. Because I am tired of the outside world thinking that we Nigerians are just fraudsters and thieves. We have great people who can do anything that anyone in this world can do."
"But you wanted to say no, right? Wasn't that the point of you going back in time?'