VOLUME ONE gtb
In the First Metropolis of Lahooni (the spectral port which coincides with Lagos State, Nigeria)
I was born de trop and sent to a desolate slum buried deep in Hakute. I did not learn who my progenitors were until long after it could do me any good. Sometimes, I shut my outer eyes and think back on the time. Back when there was new life, back in the days when an uspec could die, back when an uspec could be born. In those few treasured moments, I think of you, my offspring, and see your little eye. I remember your little green face, smooth and startling because it was free of the eyeless holes we formed as we aged. I remember your ailerons, the appendages that give us flight, but in the young were free of the feathers only time and experience could grow. But most of all, what I spend my few carefree moments dwelling on, is the tranquility. adeolu
It was a time so different from now. A time when there was peace amongst the existences, when the supreme existence held no claim on the standard. When the dead umanis, the detested imps, were slaves who knew their place. It heartens me to know that in the fourth existence, they still are. It was before the war, before the Kuwor retaliated by creating the marked. We gained our immortality in the process and lost our ability to procreate. It was before ajisafe Churaya gave life to ensure new young in the supreme existence and by so doing, left the standard under supreme control.
But that is not what I write about now, those are all stories you’ve heard before. No, what I write now is the one you’ve never heard, the one I was always too afraid to tell you. This is the story of how I came to be, how I moved up, from de trop in Hakute, to the Kaiser of Lahooni.
My ears grow wary, the understandings gained from my outer eyes have sensitized them. So much so, that they can pick up the sounds of swords clashing, and umanis speaking the umani tongue. I hear imps scream and uspecs cry out loud. I know who attacks them, but I do not know how an umani could make an uspec cry.
I do know two things.
One. I know that one of the umanis has green eyes.
Two. I know that the umanis are coming for me.
So, I take this time to write this to you, my offspring, explaining how I came to be. Perhaps it will illuminate my many quirks, or perhaps, if Chuspecip permits, it will make you think a little kinder of me. Whatever the effect, I leave you this.
I am your progenitor, the mighty undead, Nebud, the Kaiser of Lahooni, and this is my story.
But where does my story start?
Does it start when I was born? I would hate to bore you with the trivialities that encompassed my early life. It was a time of days filled with nothing but harassing osins. I remember the time well. The slum I grew up in was out of the way of everything. We had no markets, no extravagant dwellings, no mighty uspecs. The ground was sludge, and the air was filled with fog. We had an okun, a small stream with yellow jejas swimming in a murky pink liquid.
If there was one thing that slum could boast, it was the treatment and preparation of jeja stews. If I never see another slimy little yellow creature, it will be too soon. One of the first things I did after becoming Kaiser, was have all the life drained out of the jejas in Lahooni for spectral magic. Blasted bitter things. But we did know how to cook them.
I diverge. Back to the story, back to harassing osins.
In that slum, we woke up to green. Green skin was all around us. Everyone we saw was green. The older uspecs all had the same green features. They had the same green face with the empty outer eye-sockets. They had the same crinkled aileron with one or two wispy cyan feathers. And that was the norm.
You wouldn’t understand this. You were surrounded by the greatest uspecs from the moment you were born and as such, you became a great uspec at an early age. You gained your understandings and filled your eye-sockets long before most your age, certainly earlier than I did. You racked up on the experiences and wonders of life and your ailerons filled and flourished. But it was not so for me. Not so at all.
Perhaps you can imagine how dreary a life I must have lived, when the greatest occurrence, the most abnormal event, was the visit of an osin.
I remember the osin well. It was what the umanis would call a woman – umanis and their genders – and a beauty to them, I think. To us, in our slum in the middle of nowhere, it was nothing but a dead umani. It was ugly, as all imps are. This one though was allowed by its master to stay in the form it had died in. So, the imp’s eyes weren’t taken, it wasn’t drained for spectral magic. It meant it could keep its umani form, it also meant that it couldn’t siphon the spectral magic off its master. diamond
Maybe that is an important story after all. In some ways, my life changed that day, or at least it began the start of events that saw me taken from the only place I’d called home, from a life I had grown content with living. I will tell it then, I only hope I do the memory justice.
I was very ordinary. In those early days, I was not one to stand out. Perhaps there was a part of me that knew what I was, a part of me which knew that I was an abomination. Whatever the reason, I did not stand out. I did not make waves, I simply belonged. I was one out of many young uspecs settling into life in the slum.
How old was I then? We uspecs keep age by tracking the growth of our features. But I’ve come to think of how inexact an act that is. For example, I can say that it was before any of my outer eye-sockets formed, before any feathers grew onto my ailerons. My cyan tail was still just a stump then, as were many of the tails of the other uspecs in my slum. But then tails grow at different paces, and sockets form from different stimuli. You were at least half the age I was then, when your first eye sockets began to form.
I will go with the umani ages then. If there is nothing else that can be said for the umanis, their one good thing is that they have perfected the science of age-keeping. It cannot be exact, but I would say it was at most 17 years after my birth. I was still very young, very young indeed.
There was an uspec, Bentuj we called it. Bentuj was the chief. In our small slum, it was the uspec with the longest and most impressive tail. I remember many days spent crawling into its hovel and looking at the tail with wide eyes, just wondering if mine would ever grow to half of Bentuj’s. Bentuj’s tail reached midway down its legs. A most unimpressive feat, but it was the longest tail and so it was the most respected.
As was the practice amongst most Kaisers, when an uspec is born and unclaimed by its progenitors, the uspec is termed ‘de trop’ and sent to live in a slum. It was the only influx of new life the slums would ever see as the uspecs in the slums could never be progenitors. When I was sent to this slum, I was taken in by an uspec with a half feather on its aileron and a single empty outer eye-socket on its face. The uspec died 2 years later, and another uspec was brought to replace it. Bentuj took that uspec and named it Junte.
Junte was child of the chief. In our slum, Bentuj was the Kaiser and Junte its heir bank.
Although, it raises the level of our slum to liken Bentuj to a Kaiser. No, Bentuj was more of a chief. For Bentuj to be a Kaiser, it must have, at the very least, had spectral magic, which it didn’t. No uspec in our slum had spectral magic. As you know, an understanding must be gained before an uspec could have and use spectral magic. For an understanding to be gained, an uspec had to acquire two imp eyes. One from an imp who, in its umani life, was born in the same plane as the uspec, and one whose umani life ended in the same plane.
No uspec in our slum could boast that.
Although, as we found out later, Junte was conspiring to do it. A single uspec with a single understanding would make the difference between a slum and a burg. A single understanding would turn an uspec from de trop to a commoner, from inconsequential and powerless, the lowest of the low, to an uspec who was counted, an uspec who mattered, an uspec with the right to own an imp and request to procreate.
Junte was the one with dreams. I just wanted a simple life, like the uspec I’d been given to. I didn’t even aspire to leadership, not even to Bentuj’s status. It’s funny how fate sets the course, pulling on our strings, and we like puppets swing.
But I get ahead of myself. Back to that fateful day.
The imp walked in as it usually did, crossing the boundary from the neighboring burg, which none of the uspecs in our slum had ever had the privilege of stepping into. The imp walked in, carrying a small bucket, and wearing what umanis call ‘clothes’. Why they need such, I will never know, but I have learnt how adamantly the imps cling to it. 0037285998
The imp’s journey was usually the same. It would walk in, unmolested by the elder uspecs who only looked at it with their single eye, the one in the center of their face which they were born with, and looked away. It would walk past their hovels to ours, and we would taunt it.
Imps with masters learnt the tongues of the spectrum their master belonged to, so we knew it understood us. We would tell it how disgusting it was, then we would form sludge missiles from the mud on the ground and aim it at the imp. The imp would walk past us, head held high, on its way to our okun, the real reason why it came into our desolate slum.
Amid our taunts, despite the mud missiles flung at it, the imp would kneel by the okun and wade its hand into the stream to catch yellow jejas. It would fill its bucket with as much of them as it could get and then it would leave.
This day was different.
On this day, when the group of us young uspecs, gathered by the pink stream, we graduated from verbal insults and mud projectiles, to physical assaults. One of us slapped the imp across the back of its head. The imp fell and half of its face sunk into the mud. I kicked the filthy creature in its back and it screamed. I still remember the way it sounded. It was such a ghoulish noise.
Junte laughed and so I did it again. Looking back at the day, and knowing how small of 5588273351 an individual Junte really was, I wonder what drove me to be so desperate to impress it. I really wonder.
Junte had a prized possession, a sharpened horn which Bentuj had bought for it from a trader who came in from a neighboring burg. It was the distinctive feature of the mejo spectrum, the ones born with a natural inclination towards clouds. When they gained the understanding, they could use the clouds to alter another creature’s body temperature. We’d all heard stories of them. But we’d never seen another feature. We were of the kute spectrum. Our distinctive feature is our tail, and we were born with a natural inclination towards okuns. If we gained the understanding, we could use the okuns to drain any living creature for its spectral magic.
Junte ordered us to hold the imp down and then it said, “I’ve heard imps can’t die. Let’s test the theory.”
We all laughed. Truly we were fools. Not for what we did to the imp, but for the lack of thought we put into it. This was an imp permitted to stay in its umani form. An imp which we knew belonged to a powerful uspec, one at least powerful enough to have its osin walk around burgs and slums, unprotected. We were fools.
Junte ordered us to hold the imp down and we did. I held on tightly to the imp’s arms, kneeling on it to keep them from moving. I distinctly remember the feeling of having the base of my ailerons scratching against my legs and thinking it was uncomfortable. But I held still, so did the others.
Junte took out its fancy horn and dug it into the imp’s stomach. The imp cried. It cried as if it had never known a moment of pain. It cried as if it had never been disciplined, as if its master truly treated it as the ‘pet’ it was known for.
That thought annoyed me.
I was an uspec. Perhaps a poor and dirty one, but an uspec nonetheless and I had known pain. I would not cry the way this imp cried. I was furious at it. I was furious that it would dare cry out, furious that it would shout. And when the imp began to scream for its master and call us names, when it began to insult us, uspecs, I only saw red.
Junte stabbed it, over and over again with the tip of the horn, and the other uspecs laughed. It insulted us, Junte retaliated by carving marks into its face, and the other uspecs laughed some more. But I was too angry to laugh, I heard the imp’s insults and I needed to punish it, I needed to teach it a lesson.
In a blind rage, I ran my right hand over my smooth green face all the way down my neck, and chest. By the time my hand came down to the imp’s face, the imp was screaming. It was screaming even louder than it had when Junte stabbed it. Screaming as if it was dying. It stopped insulting us and began to beg.
You see, I was too upset to know what was happening, to see what I was doing. One moment I was furious, and the next there was blood. Red blood everywhere.
I felt a hand on my shoulder, and I heard Junte’s voice in my ear, but I stayed where I was, my hands moving of their own accord as I knelt over the imp.
Finally, the other uspecs got me off it. They moved me away, carrying me back to Junte’s hovel. They laughed and cheered me on, singing, screaming and jubilating over something. I did not know what, in fact, I could not really hear the words they were saying. I felt very strange, very strange indeed.
I remember that one of them walked up to me, pointed at my face and then jumped back laughing and clapping. I remember seeing that Junte wasn’t happy about something. The uspecs kept pointing at Junte’s arm and then at me, or more precisely at my face. But Junte was shaking its head and yelling. All of a sudden, it was as if I couldn’t hear them.
It was as if I was not a part of their spectrum anymore.
That was a disconcerting thought. My eye closed and I drifted off.
I think I will tell this story, or attempt to tell it, as it happened from this part on. Then, I suppose, this is where the real story begins.