Tuesday, 10 July 2018

THE DWAYNE PROJECT


Beautiful Space Wallpaper
Beautiful Space Wallpaper
Image: Eliosh
'Life' scared the shit out of her. She knew that NASA and a host of scientists were really testing the possibilities of life on other planets. She also knew that for life to exist on any of these planets, they would have to be super intelligent and greatly evolved.

That wasn't what scared her.

That last scene in the movie where the alien was freed from the sealed hatch was what did.

'What if life (she smiled at the pun) imitated fiction? What if a single cell brought back from any of these planets could mark the disruption of earth's stability and the extinction of human life?'

She imagined that like War of the Worlds, the aliens might be defeated by something as simple as earth's atmosphere, but she knew that loads of people would have to die in the process. Seven billion people pushing on ten. What would happen if aliens got two? She sighed. Who was she kidding? Five billion people will definitely die.

But would there be good aliens? Like Optimus Prime (before that evil Quintessa cast her metallic spell on him) or Curtis from Deen Koontz's 'One Door Away From Heaven'?

Arggghh! This is what happens when I watch horror films at night!’

She knew she would sleep fitfully. She just hoped she didn’t have dreams where Calvin chased her around for his late night snack.

She pumped her pillows and settled in to sleep.

Thirty minutes later and her mind just wouldn’t settle down. It was preoccupied with alien life and being in space. If she was true to herself, she would admit that she wanted to experience outer space. She didn’t want to just learn about these things from books, movies and her daily newsletter from Space via IFTTT. She wanted to feel things in real time. Heck, she wanted to meet an alien.

She jolted out of bed.

‘Girl, you are getting stark raving mad! Meet an alien?!’

She shook her head and laughed.

As she settled back into bed, she wondered. ‘It would be really cool to meet an alien though. To learn their thought process, understand their existence.’

‘Yeah. Just before it swallows you up in one gulp.’ Her rational mind countered.

She laughed…and swore it was the last time she would smoke weed before watching a movie.
With that, she fell asleep.

***

People were whispering above her. Had her village people come to torment her? But she wasn’t feeling any tightness in her chest. In fact, she wasn’t feeling any fear. She just knew that she should be afraid…but wasn’t.

She kept her eyes tightly shot, hoping they would go away, hoping they were not some criminals with guns ready to do her harm.

‘You can open your eyes now. We know you are awake.’

She did, sat up in bed…and shouted, ‘Jesus Christ!’

‘Hahahaha…pay up. I told you they use that name for every emotion they are feeling.’ The cute one with the geeky look – glasses, white shirt tucked into brown Chinos trousers with a light blue cotton sweater on top – couldn’t contain his excitement.

The older, seemingly more mature one who was dressed in all black denim and the newest Kobe A.D NXT 360, looked at her and smiled; or something akin to a smile.

‘Hello Ada Evans.’

She blanched. How do they know her name?

‘For the sake of this meeting, you may call me One. He is Two.’

‘Hey! That was not the name we agreed on. Why do you like to be so…drab?’ Two was angry, very much like a teenager.

Ada could have sworn he gave out some light in his anger. Her eyes widened. She looked away from both men to study her environment. She was on her bed alright but this wasn’t her room. And wherever she was couldn’t be real!

The walls seemed to be made of pulsing Citrine, with light snaking through them and giving out warm, brown tones that had a surprisingly calm effect on her. It was weird because the light in the room should have been a mixture of gold and brown but it was…clear. How did they achieve that? How did they balance out the light? She looked up, trying to find the source of light.

She shouldn’t have done that.

The ‘ceiling’ (could she even call it that) was beige with rivulets of as many shades of brown as possible constantly intertwining to form a story. On closer inspection, she saw that the stories were from aspects of her life; the happiest ones. When she was playing basketball and scored her first three, when she first tasted Maltesers and let that chocolatey goodness melt in her mouth, when she finished her first short film, when she sunbathed in Seychelles…

‘Wait! That hasn’t happened!’

‘We know. We also know that is one of your biggest dreams so we thought to throw that in so you could calm down.’ Ada was sure it was Two’s idea. He seemed so happy with himself.

Their plan had worked though; she was calm. What type of sorcery was this? And where the heck was this place?

‘You are aboard the Athena. We heard your request to…’

Ada interrupted One. ‘What is the Athena? And where is this? Have I been kidnapped? And how did you get my bed out of my room?!’ She jumped out of bed and took a fighting stance. The floor felt…very comforting; like how she read a sheepskin rug should feel.

‘I have a black belt and you nerds don’t look like much! I will beat you guys faster than you can say Ava Duvernay!’

Two started to pacify her but One interrupted him.

‘You don’t have a black belt and you know you cannot fight wimpy looking Two, talk more of both of us.’

‘Hey!’ Two showed his indignation.

One continued. ‘So if you would settle down, I can explain where you are and answer your questions.’

Ada knew he was right; the goody two shoes.

‘You deserved that!’ Two laughed.

‘It is okay if you think I am a goody two shoes. But, I will like you to please sit down so I can explain what this entire…thing is about.’

Ada and Two heard the ‘waste of time’ under his breath.

First, these people could read minds; which meant that she was doomed. If she so much as thought of running, they would know. If she even thought of breathing, they would know. There was no escaping these men. So maybe she should just listen and hear what they had to say. And why wasn’t she afraid?! She knew she should be scared shitless but why wasn’t she feeling any fear?!

‘You are not feeling any fear because we channelled some of your emotions into this room; fear, anger, the need to faint when you find out where this is and the likes. That is why the walls are pulsing. Those are your emotions lighting up the walls.’ Two was excited. And this time, Ada was sure he was giving out light.

‘Pipe down. You don’t want to scare her.’ One said in his flat, fact-of-the-matter tone.

‘Such a bore.’ Two responded and rolled his eyes.

‘Can somebody tell me what the hell is going on?!’ Ada shouted. She wanted to be afraid. Fear would get adrenaline to cause her to do something! And she wanted to be angry!

‘Fine. Have you emotions. If that will help you get through this.’

The walls stopped pulsing. And Ada went into survival mode.

‘Please be calm’, Two said. ‘As Marcus…oh sorry, One said, you are aboard the Athena. The Athena is a…ermmm...how do I say this in the gentlest tone…ermmm….

‘Spaceship.’ One said.

‘What the hell man! Why would you do that?! Must you always be the brusque?’

Ada wasn’t listening. Her heart was nearly exploding in her chest. ‘What do you mean, spaceship? Do you work for NASA? And since when is NASA into kidnapping people?’

‘Work for NASA? Wow! Just wow!’

This was the first time One showed any emotion beyond bored cynicism.

‘Don’t mind him. He just hates to be compared to NASA. The youngest person where we are from is a million times more advanced than the entire people who work at NASA. I am that person.’ Two glowed.

‘Where you are from? Are you saying you are…?’

‘Please don’t use that word.’

‘She is going to use it.’

‘…aliens?!’

One pulsed white.

‘Oh wow. I haven’t seen him this angry since we were paired on this assignment. Kudos girrrl! Did I get the drawl right? I have a thing for black people’s accent. Wait…is it okay if I call you black? Is that racist? Is that…?’

Ada was shaking. She looked pale. And she was going to throw up.

‘Bucket.’ One said just as Ada bent over.

Her eyes bulged as a bucket appeared to collect the remnants of the Eba and Afang soup she had the night before. She felt her head tilt back as a cup of water drained into her mouth. Just before gag reflex set in, her head was bent back towards the bucket.

‘Rinse.’

Ada scurried away as quickly as she could and fell to the floor. THERE WAS A PERSON…THING...ALIEN…THERE!

‘Marla, that was disrespectful! You should have asked her permission. Marla, don’t you dare walk away from me. Marla! Marla!’

‘They are not going to catch on. So stop it with the names already.’

Ada watched as the shape of a comely older woman retreated to the far side of the wall and disappeared. Her heart couldn’t take anymore. She got up and started running. The faster she ran, the more the walls retreated from her. She started shouting; screaming really.

‘Adrenaline is their biggest weakness. Has way too much control over them.’

A chair materialized and One sat down, looking at his nails in a picture of..boredom. ‘This is going to be a long day.’

Two went after Ada. When she looked back and saw him coming, she thought he was chasing her. So she ran faster. Two could appear in front of her but he didn’t want her heart to fail. So he ran after her, like a human would, making sure to keep a little distance so she thought she was faster. This went on for maybe 15 minutes before she fell in a heap, exhausted. She really should start working out.

In a blink, she was right back on her bed.

‘Ready to talk now?’ One asked.

Ada look at him, then at Two, and just nodded.

‘Please don’t probe me.’

‘Well then. First, we hate it that you call us “aliens”. It is disrespectful to our species. For now however, that dreadful term will have to do. Second, we never probe anyone! It is abhorrent and completely out of character for any of us. Even the Grus from Saturn are not that disgusting. If anything, it is your lot that does the probing. It says a lot about the people on that da---'

‘Okay then!’ Two interrupted. ‘I will take it from here. First, I would be honoured if you called me…Dwayne. You don’t have to but it would really mean the world to me to finally have someone call me a name I worked so hard to choose. But like I said, no pressure. And before he says anything further, let me explain why you – in particular – are here.

‘We have been trying to connect with people from your planet who will genuinely see us as we are instead of something to probe. We have been here longer than you so we understand that we have to be gentler with you, but your insistence on portraying us as ugly, evil beings can be frustrating. I mean, I understand that Men in Black was shot years ago but ewwww! No one in the entire universe looks like those hideous creatures portrayed in that movie. And why are you people so engrossed with the oval headed, hollowed eyed depiction you think is us? That is so unflattering!’

‘You said you were going to tell her why she is here, not rant about your vanity.’ One muttered.

‘I am! Why do you always like to bust my bubble?! Oh wait! I just used that phrase for the first time. Their languages are so interesting. There is so much you can learn fr---'

‘Dwayne! Why. Am. I. Here?!’ Ada shouted.

Dwayne froze in his tracks. He started to glow, to shine bright, until his light hurt Ada’s eyes. She started to shout when he disappeared.

One sighed.

‘Anyway, you expressed a desire to meet one of us so you can understand us. It has been years since anyone showed that real interest. I am sure you will argue that NASA exists because of that but most of them are so caught up with the thought of finding life on Mars or the moon that they miss out on the messages we leave them. You, however, didn’t seem to want anything more a chance to understand us. So…here we are. I am ready to take your questions.’

Ada got up from the bed. One was such a stoic personality. She needed to stand so he didn’t overpower her with his lackluster, yet domineering, persona.

‘Ermmm…is Dwayne going to be okay?’

One pulsed orange. Surprise? Ada couldn’t tell.

‘He nearly just hurt you with his glow and you are worried about him being okay? Weird. Anyway, he will be fine. He gets excited a lot. But it is expected; he is a child. And don’t encourage him with that name.’

‘How old is he?’ Ada asked as she paced the length of the wall.

‘A little over 6 million years.’

Ada stopped abruptly.

‘You are kidding, right?’

‘I don’t kid.’
‘Wait! Human years or ali--- I mean, outer space years?’

‘Human years.’

Ada looked pointedly at him.

‘I am 220 million years old. And yes, it is rude to ask.’

Ada couldn’t blanch any further without being completely drained of blood.

‘Okay. Any more questions?’

Ada was ready.

‘Why do you look human?’

‘Because it is the best way to interact with you.’

‘Which means you have a form. What do you look like?’

‘Definitely not like any of the depictions of us which your cinemas derive pleasure from showing.’

Ada touched the wall. Smooth. Like some of the Chakra stones many believed had super powers. Weird that when she was running towards it, it kept retreating from her and now that she was just walking, it was so close.

She thought too soon. The wall jumped a bit and she jumped even farther back. Guess wall touching time was over.

‘You say this is a spaceship.’

‘Yes.’

‘It doesn’t look like anything I have ever seen.’

One sighed. ‘The answer is simple. We made it look as relatable to you as your perceptions of reality would permit.’

‘So you are saying, if I could perceive it to be like the USS Enterprise, it would look like that?’

‘Yes.’

‘Does it work for anything or just space ships?’

‘Whatever you imagine this place to be, it becomes.’

The room changed into the Staple Centre. Ada was shocked! She hadn’t even finished expressing the idea when the room changed. She ran around the room, imagining herself to be Kobe when he was number 8 and still had hair. She was so excited!

In quick succession, she imagine the place to be different things.

The best patisserie in Paris.

Madagascar.

Oprah’s bedroom while she slept.

A Filming Studio in Kaduna.

Deep, deep underwater.

A volcano.

Central Bank of Nigeria’s vault.

‘This has gone on long enough.’ One interrupted her reverie.

‘Just one more.’

‘Don’t do it.’

She was standing on the boat as the sealed hatch was fished out of the sea. In the hatch was Jake Gyllenhaal wrapped by some slimy creature. Ada knew what would happen. Jake kept telling her not to open it. She knew what would happen but…she still stretched her hand to open the hatch. She heard her own voice from last night saying, ‘Don’t open it! Don’t open it!’ And yet, she did.

Calvin unwrapped itself from Jake’s now lifeless body, slowly turned to look at her…and lunged.
Dwayne came back just in time to catch as her as she fell.

‘What happened?!’

‘She replayed the final scene of Life.’

‘Why did you let her do that?!’ Dwayne asked as he carried her to the bed.

‘I told her not to.’

‘She is in shock. As long as she perceives that Calvin is wrapped around her body, she will begin to lose the use of her organs. I can see she went to a volcano and the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Why didn’t it affect her so?’

‘In the others she wanted to see the place. In this, she wanted to feel the scenario.’

‘You have to dislodge her from the thought.’

One went to her head and placed his fingers on her temple. The walls changed back its original form when she first woke up. The walls began to pulse in shades of brown until all the colours merged into…Ada.

She woke up.

‘Calvin is real!’

One sighed. ‘No. He felt real because that is what you wanted. No creature in the universe is like that.’

‘How would you know?’

Two coughed. One turned sharply and looked ready to battle.

‘Because we are the guardians of the universe. We keep things in order. We ensure that the universe maintains its balance. Humans make our lives difficult. Your lot destroys everything. Look at how your planet is managed! You destroyed your environment, pollute the air, kill animals and yourselves and generally pose a nuisance to the rest of us. This is because your planet is about to implode and guess who has to restore other to the galaxy? If anyone is ugly, it is you lot! I should know.’

‘Don’t you think you are a bit hard on her? She hasn’t done anything.’

‘Silence!’ One turned white. If Ada’s emotions weren’t in the wall, she would have felt fear; raw fear. The cold breeze she felt was her fear translated to something physical.

‘I think you should calm down.’ Dwayne quipped.

‘See, we have been away from home for long because we are trying to get your planet to stay alive. It can get frustrating to constantly have to deal with your wars, and hunger and poverty and environmental degradation. Add your exploding population and mismanagement of your resources and we have a recipe for disaster. And now you want to go and disturb the Martians. We just want someone who cares about it all to push the message of sustainability. The United Nations is doing its best but it is not enough. So what we are hoping for is that an understanding of the galaxies will help in the advocacy for your survival and you, Ada Evans, are the person we need.’

Ada looked at One and Dwayne. And back to One again.

‘Tell me what to do.’

And so they did.

***

‘Wheww! I am exhausted. There is so much to be done.’

‘We believe you can do it.’ Dwayne said with a smile. One didn’t smile but he didn’t look super grumpy as he first did.

‘It is time for you to go back.’

‘Before I do, I need to know something. I have seen the beings in the all planets and interacted with them but I don’t even know what you look like; what you really look like. I want to know.’

‘The human mind is not advanced enough to see us. So we gave you…’

‘Blah! Blah! Blah! I have seen all sorts of things here today. You think I cannot handle a little extra?’

‘Yes.’ One was unperturbed.

‘Okay. I guess this was for waste then. You can carry your own message to earth and save it. Seeing how easy it is to take human form, that shouldn’t be so hard to do.’

Dwayne laughed. ‘You drive a hard bargain. I guess One has finally met his match.’

One looked at Ada. He got up from the chair he had been sitting in and took slow, measured steps towards her. He swiped his fingers and walls stop pulsing.

Ada was afraid.

When he got right in front of Ada, he stopped.

‘I have been doing this for 170 million years and I am all but tired of your wasteful race. If the earth wasn’t critical to the balance of the universe, I would advocate that the rest of the galaxies destroy yours. I swore that this is the last time I would do this and having taken my time to show you everything, you think you are in a place to threaten me?’

He was getting progressively whiter.

‘Easy now, One. Please.’ Dwayne responded, antsy.

‘Do you know that all I need to do is think of killing you and you will be dead? I will have you explode to tiny bits way smaller than the atom and have them scattered everywhere in the galaxy.’
Ada inhaled to quieten her nearly imploding heart.

‘Fine. Do that. You finally have a chance to save humanity and you want to hold it back because of your…pride? There are a million and one things that the human experience could not fathom that I have seen, heard and felt today. Heck, I am in space without oxygen…’

‘There is oxygen on this ship.’

‘…the point being Dwayne, I am in space! With gravity! Doing things no human can do…yet. I am your best bet for stability and I ask for one thing. Just one thing! But if you would rather kill me, go right ahead. It is not me who has to tell my superiors that the light at the end of the more than 170 million years of struggle was put off because you didn’t think the human mind can fathom your exact form. Wait! Maybe, just maybe, you are as ugly and gnarled as we do portray you. Hmmm…which alien was the ugliest again in Men in Black?’

There was a collective gasp.

Ada was shocked. There were more ‘people’ in the room?!

She turned around as the walls began to fall away. What looked like a situation room began to take shape. There were thirty, maybe thirty-five other beings in the room. All of them were looking at various hologram like screens, with data streams feeding them with different images from earth. Wars, NASA, CERN, killing rooms, torture chambers, slave trade and human trafficking, oil spills and pollution, gas flaring and indiscriminate burning, mass shooting and murders, racism, LGBTQ phobia, domestic violence and rape, child abuse and every other thing that was wrong with humans on earth. On some of the screens were also people helping to solve the world’s problems, giving their best, touching one life at a time. And even more, were people who were just sleeping, or reading, on a date or watching a movie. The screens kept changing; after all, there was so much to monitor in a planet with over seven billion people contributing to its destruction.

But beyond the gadgets were the shocked faces of some of the most beautiful beings she had ever seen. They had similar features to human beings, but better. Standing at about 9 feet, they were all shades of brown; from burnt umber to beige. Their skin looked so soft that Ada wanted to touch them. Their clothes were dark chocolate with rivulets of gold and the corresponding shade of brown. On their heads were crowns that constantly interconnected to form different kinds of bonds. They pulsed with awesome melanin glow!

What was more shocking to Ada was the glorious wings each of them carried. It opened up to more than twenty feet of golden beauty.

‘Angels?! You are angels?!’

‘That is what you people call us. We are…Melanin.’

Ada turned back to One and Dwayne. And gasped. Up close, they were even more beautiful! Then a thought came into her head and she started laughing.

‘Share the joke.’ Dwayne urged.

‘Oh my goodness! Some white people are going to shit their pants when they realize angels are all these melanin goodness! But wait…when did you stop reading minds?’

‘When you showed yourself an equal. And didn’t your friend, the tall one with the glasses…what is his name again? Isaac’s brother. Didn’t he repeatedly tell you to stop being racist?’ One said, and for the first time that night, smiled.

He was even more beautiful. Ada blushed.

‘Oh please. You know his name. And it is not racist to call out racists for their racism. And I said some white people; not all.’ She laughed. ‘On a serious note though, I apologize. Ugly should never be a word mentioned near you. You all are so fine! If you were on earth, there would be a lot of confusion; if you catch my drift.’

‘Yeah…that is not going to happen…again.’ One said with a finality to his tone.

‘Again?’

Dwayne laughed. ‘Funny story. We had some ‘confusion’ with humans before and look how it turned out. I mean, would you feel comfortable standing near Shaq or that Praying Mantis of a man, Kevin Durant?’

Ada blanched. And her eyes widened.

‘That story is true?! Angels slept with women at a point?! I have to start reading the Bible again then. What more mysteries will I discover?’

‘You know what else is funny? Some of One’s friends were among those who---'

‘That is enough. Ada, it is almost time for you to wake up. I need to know if I have your word to help save your planet.’

Ada looked at them…and nodded.

Dwayne changed back to human form and hugged Ada. ‘Thank you! For being open.’

Ada hugged him back and closed her eyes. ‘You smell like fresh rain on sand.’

‘Girl, my research is flawless!’

They both laughed. That was Ada’s favourite smell.

‘I have to ask though; why didn’t you come as a woman? Don’t you know that is so disrespectful?’

‘You like tall, dark men! Girrrlll…you know that is the only way we could have reached you!’

Ada and Dwayne guffawed. His research was flawless!

One interrupted them. ‘We have ten seconds. Thank you Ada and we hope to see your work change lives on earth.’ He had changed back to his human form. He extended his hand to Ada. ‘We may not meet again but keep in mind that we will always be around to help guide you on your path. Thank you.’

Ada shook his hand.

‘It was nice meeting y---'

***

---ou.’

Ada’s alarm clock was ringing.

5am.

She woke up.

***

‘Do you think she would remember?’ Dwayne was nervous. As was the rest of the team. This was their last chance to get things right or return home for good. They had raised their hope with many such individuals who had gone on to wake up not remembering anything or thinking it was just a dream. NASA was 200 years away from cracking the code and earth needed to be saved now. What they didn’t tell Ada was that there was evil; pure, wicked evil in earth’s solar system and it was working overtime to distract human beings with wars and sickness and hate so that it could destroyed the planet.

That could not happen. And it depended on Ada waking up…and remembering.

***

She opened her eyes and smiled. ‘What an awesome dream!’ She said as she stretched, yawned and got out of bed.

***

Everyone was crest fallen. Chief of which was Dwayne. He pulsed green, disappointed.

‘Well…we tried our best. I guess we are going back home. Let us pack it up.’ One delivered matter-of-factly. Everyone could tell he was hurt but they knew he would never show it. This would set into motion the backup plans to repair whatever tear may happen to the universe when earth self-destructed. Losing one race was better than losing this entire Milky Way; and the ripple effects it would have on the universe.

They were out of earth’s atmosphere and heading home when they heard the statement.

It was faint, very faint.

But it was also very clear.

***

‘Here I was thinking I wanted to save black women and children but the universe has more for me. Saving the world? This is going to be epic!’

Ada was excited. Very!

***

There was celebration all over the Athena. Finally! A human being remembered. The pilot turned back. While they couldn’t interact with her physically, they could always be around to guide and protect her. And she was going to need protection. They knew evil already knew that a human cracked the code. It was going to get risky. And extremely nerve wracking.

***

‘What would be an appropriate name for this?’ Ada thought. “Operation save the world?” She shook her head. That sounded too cliché. “Planet Rescue?” Sounded like something showing on Discovery channel.

Then it hit her. And she smiled.

‘The Dwayne Project’.

***

Dwayne looked at everyone. ‘I have a human name! I have a human name! And it is going to live forever.’ He started dancing. ‘Look at me now, look at me now! I am making paper!’

Everyone laughed as he glowed, a glorious black.

THE END.

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