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posted by [personal profile] mmoa_writes at 04:59pm on 27/05/2010 under , , , ,
An excerpt from a YA sci-fi novel I'm working on, the first version of which will hopefully be finished this summer.

*goes back to revising*


Prologue: Enugu

In the afternoon, when most of the staff is asleep, I race myself to the top of the stack. I managed to get there in just over three minutes last time. Ebuka said he’d done it in one and a half and though of course he was exaggerating, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to bring my time down to a round two. So I race my past self, occasionally slapping the coms when I pass them, just to make sure she knows I’ve got there before she has.

When you do this sort of thing often, you learn which pains to ignore and which pains you ought to stop for. My thigh muscles are straining in that nuisance way of theirs as they try and get me to stop. My heart at least is behaving well and pumping away – I would gladly stop for her, but she isn’t taking advantage. My lungs expand and contract with air as if they could be doing this all day long. It is a good feeling when I run like this. In Biology we are studying mammalian anatomy and I can remember Professor Chiang’s notes, his pointer striking the various features of the body as he tells us of their function and behaviour under stress. With each strike against the image, I focus on one part of my body: my head, with the neck muscles holding my skull in place, making sure it doesn’t crash into my vertebrae; my brain surrounded by fluid, cushioned against the blow from each brutal step; cartilage in my knees keeping the bone ends apart as I bend and stretch my legs. It is glorious to think of everything working together, in that neat understated manner that the body is so good at. I can’t think why some people don’t like running, like ma-nna. He always gives me one of his looks when he sees me returning to our apartment just as he is awaking from his siesta.

“I have fathered a lunatic,” he always says, but then he goes into the kitchen and offers me cool juice and we sit and talk about whatever it is that he’s planning to do in the evening. Usually he has to teach, but sometimes there are meetings with the other researchers and other times, very rare times, with members of the board. I always comment that I’d rather be a running lunatic than a scientist one and he always pretends to be shocked.

I am two levels away from the stack-heights when I notice the weather cast on the com screen. It is starting to rain, he says. I slow down for a few moments – not long enough for past self to quite catch up, though – and accelerate. The view from the top of the stack is always amazing, but it’s nicer when the sky is clear, especially when you’re already in a good mood. When I reach the final level, I am so relieved that the sky is still bright blue that I almost forget to jog a while. My lungs start to burn and I immediately jog on the spot as I look out of the window. My watch says I made it in exactly three minutes.

The rain must be approaching from the other side of the city because there isn’t a grey cloud to be seen. The Sun is shining brightly and the other city stacks glitter merrily with reflected light, as do the curving tracks of the shuttle service from amongst the trees. The older concrete houses gleam with their brightly painted walls and aluminium roofs. There must still be some water from the rain last night, because even the leafy top of the forest seems to be glistening.

To the south east, I see the afternoon shuttle rush into the station below. The last time I went on one was when I’d gone to visit Aunty Chiamaka, but it’d been a bit of a disappointment. You go so fast, you don’t really feel it, unless you are slowing down or speeding up. You only know you’re moving when you open the blinds and see the forest rushing past. Ma-nne says that in the old days, you had to travel by road most of the time, which amazes me. Nigeria is such a big country, it seems impossible to think of travelling across it without the shuttle service, but she says that never stopped anyone. I can only imagine the journeys must have been very tiring.
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