„No, Sapele, don‘t you dare. You will eat your burger box first. The whole box. Just like your sister already did. We discussed this. Now is the time, Sapele.“
Mom in parenting mode. No boy deserves such bane for dinner.
Next, she’s going to say „As I warned both of you, on the way to the diner: Fine to get us a veggie burger for a lunch-on-the-go, but you‘ll have to have that plate for dinner…“
Sapele takes a small bite of his burger box, to signal compliance.
This bloody packaging tastes as yuck as it looks cartonish. Totally unlike the rice he‘s craving. Everybody else is having rice, he‘s stuck with packaging. Not fair.
Azmia, she had a burger, too, and has rice now. She fed her burger box to a street dog, the bloody bitch. Mom didn’t notice, was too busy haggling with the eCarShare helpline, about her late return fee. And now Azmia sits there, munching rice, all smug. Not fair.
Sapele would love to rat on Azmia. But she’d take revenge. Sisters are cruel. Especially when they‘re older than you, and taller on top. Not fair.
A clever boy needs to bide his time. He has to grow up first, to teach her her lesson.
He’ll make things fair. Like the Black Panther hero in that retro movie, so old it wasn‘t even immerse tech. They were made to watch the movie in class, for history awareness.
That was a surprisingly cool event, for a school thing. Until they had to write an essay, about minority majority casts in their historical context. Perfect way to ruin a fine movie.
Sapele ended up with one more lousy grade. Supposedly got minority majority upside down.
How the hell is a boy supposed to guess the ancient ones considered perfectly normal black people a minority? He‘s not into reading fineprint. Unless dealing with a game manual. Not fair.
„Sapele, I know that grimace. Don‘t you dare. It‘s written all over your face, how you wonder where to hide that burger box, to pretend it has been eaten. No way, young man. I’m here to watch your every bite. If there’s one thing I won’t tolerate, in this household, it’s hypocrisy around waste and environmental damage. No acting white at my dinner table, period.“
Time to take another bite. Sapele avoids looking in dad‘s direction.
Dad should ride to his rescue. When they go watch a football match, rarely enough, unfortunately, they always have food and drinks at the stadium. Without ever eating the packaging. They just dump it into the bio waste bin. Like everybody else, except mom.
Dad explained how this bio waste is fed to very happy pigs. They get turned into the sausages on offer at the stadium. „No waste, no environmental damage, Sapele. But we better don‘t discuss this with your mom. She‘s a vegan, doesn‘t see the pig point.“
Poor dad. All grown-up and tall, and still afraid of mom. Just like everybody else.
That‘s because mom‘s an expert. A social cohesion expert. A SOCE, that‘s really big.
Everybody has the same say on everything, how it‘s organized. But then a SOCE comes in, and does her thing with software, about the numbers. And she tells everybody if their idea can be done. More often than not, she tells them off, and their idea gets binned.
Mom is mighty cool. As long as you don’t end up at the receiving end of her SOCE ways.
„Sapele, mom really is watching. Just get it over with. I haven‘t got all evening.“
Now that‘s rich. Azmia would so deserve him ratting. Sapele doesn’t even need to look at her to see her raised eyebrows. Currently, they’re pink, in tune with her heavily lipsticked smirk.
Since her sixteenth birthday, Azmia is officially allowed to wear makeup.
An unfortunate development. In the old days, she was at Sapele’s mercy. He kept quiet about her smearing herself up at school, she procured games. They had what mom calls a mutually beneficial relationship for progress and a bright future.
They were on the same side, in the good old days. But now Azmia is playing at mini-mom. As if she was going to make it into university, with her grades. She‘s no SOCE material.
And that’s not just Sapele dreaming vengeful.
He overheard mom telling dad how they might need to have a word with auntie Rosie, to check if she would take Azmia. Two days a week in a beauty course, two at auntie Rosie‘s salon, that’s the plan b for his sister, if she keeps failing at school.
Azmia already smells like auntie Rosie’s beauty parlor. Each movement, each forkful of rice, sends a cloud of perfume wafting Sapele’s way. Disgusting. He can’t even smell his own sweaty shirt any more, despite having played football right up to dinner.
Feeling mom looking at him more robustly, Sapele quickly takes another tiny bite, his gaze firmly locked on the window. No one can blame him for that. It‘s quite a view.
They reside at the top, thirty floors up from the ground, courtesy of mom‘s SOCE might.
Sitting at the dinner table, you get a bad angle. There’s nothing to see but sky, currently darkening fast.
But if you stand up, you can see all across high Lagos. All the way to where low Lagos melts into the sea in a thinning twinkle of lights. That‘s the view from the kitchen.
On the other side, in the bedroom Sapele has to share with his sister, because mom insists on adhering to the ten square meters per person rule, and also needs space for her desk, you can see all the way to the refugee camp. So little light at night, for so many people.
When he‘s laying awake and trying to control his breathing, not to get called a masturbating dickhead by his sister, Sapele focuses on the camp. It‘s so scary, especially in the dark, chills you down your man faster than anything else you could think of.
Just imagine, rows and rows of containers with hordes and hordes of light people. In the dark of night. Even the police don‘t dare drive into the camp at night. That tells you a lot.
The social cohesion teacher always waffles about how light skin doesn‘t turn people bad.
According to her, they suffer from circumstances. „Brutality breeds brutality,“ she says. „No one wants them around, everybody is fed up with all the rationing, and they get even less than we do. No wonder they‘re not cheerful. Turns them mean. And it‘s only some of them anyway…“
Little does she know. Sapele‘s football coach, he accepted a kid from the camp into their team, Emanuel. Zero English, impossible to talk to, but a pretty good player anyway.
Sapele liked Emanuel, for his good passes. But then Chioke‘s lunch box got stolen, with all his food. Never before had anything such happened. No one saw Emanuel stealing. But it must have been him, because there were never no thefts, before his arrival. And he ran, without even trying to argue. Proof positive it was him. Pity to lose his passes. But that‘s camp people for you.
Oops, mom and dad are done arguing about whether they might apply for a vacation voucher. Sapele‘s compliance is about to be checked again. Time to take another bite from that box.
If only the bloody thing wasn’t so huge. Edible lunch box with a waft of patchouli, if that doesn’t send you vomiting, you’re ready for the territories.
The recolonization of the territories, Sapele‘s bright future.
He didn‘t tell dad yet, because he can‘t be trusted not to tell mom, but he‘s all set for a career in the Reconquest Legion.
Sapele‘s bright future came about in microbiology class.
The were doing basic genome analysis, on their own blood. First the standard tests, to check if they found what it says on their ID chips. Basic stuff, like allergy and cancer risk factors.
Next they performed the Reconquest Legion tests, for Fog Blindness Immunity and some minor robustnesses, like radioactivity tolerance. That was cool, made them feel like real recruits.
Fog Blindness Immunity, or FBI, that’s so rare. And so precious, like a million holiday vouchers.
And Sapele is FBI. The microbiology teacher at first didn‘t believe him, insisted on repeating the test. And again, because his result was exactly the same as Sapele‘s.
All three tests confirmed Sapele to be FBI. He‘s prime Reconquest Legion material.
There‘s no way to protect yourself against infection with the Fog Blindness prion. It‘s so small, even full body gear doesn‘t keep you safe. And there is neither vaccine nor cure.
The prion is assumed to have evolved as a side effect of the Global Cooling Initiative.
In the old days, there were no SOCE, and bang, people got a big one wrong.
They made all those artificial clouds to stop the seas from rising. That didn‘t work all that well in the first place. The water had to come back down eventually, and the floods resumed. But the Fog Blindness Prion was an even worse outcome. It thrives in the cool regions, making them unfit for habitation. Which totally sucks, because that’s where the best farm land is.
„Give me that, Sapele, and help yourself to some rice. We can’t have you going to bed on an empty stomach, with the upcoming match.“
Dad, sacrificing himself to save Sapele. He might only be a sustainable mobility maintenance operator, meaning he spends his days doing nothing more fanciful than sweeping bicycle lanes, and filling in the occasional pothole, but tonight he’s Sapele’s hero.
„Don’t you dare give in to our little drama king, Somto. This is a perfectly edible box, and Sapele needs to learn that eating on the go comes with a cost. I won’t have you… Oh come on, Somto, really now? So it’s two boys in the household, now, instead of a husband and boy combo?“
At least mom is laughing. She can’t help it. Dad really does look funny, with the whole burger box stuffed into his mouth in one go, to avoid getting forced to hand it back. He can’t close his lips, never mind chew. A picture now, and he’d be sure to go viral.
„Dad, stop it, that’s disgusting! Your cheeks look like uncle Rosh’s fake boobs. Stop it, dad…“
Azmia‘s laugh is cut short by mom going full mighty pissed off SOCE: „Don‘t you dare, you impertinent little pest. That‘s auntie Rosie for you, as you perfectly well know. Auntie Rosie has had her surgery, and her paperwork, done years ago. She’s entitled to your respect, and I won’t be tolerating transphobic slander at my dinner table. Talking of nos: You’re in no hurry, young lady. Not going out until I have seen that homework, and it better be good…“
Dad and Sapele exchange glances. Happy lucky bloke glances.