The boy’s Marblehead glows dull blue. He twitches lightly every seven minutes or so. He is sunken into the burn-dimpled upholstery of the large chair. It has held him in its red velvet hug for over twenty five hours as the glow of his Marblehead has pulsed in intensity according to the activity he has performed. His gloved hands rub and grip nothing in ecstasy.

“Dimeji!” His mother bursts into the room. Her head which has just been freshly made by {EVElyn} is melted in black steel curls. Standing before the door and looking around with faintly masked disgust at the rubbish heap of a room, she looks molded from the same chocolates she eats for hours, while streaming the Yoruba half of an “Endless Nollywood” phase on the Wall and holoporting across the globe to counsel her clients. The boy twitches and moans susceptibly from within the incandescent shell of his Marblehead, suddenly letting out a particularly guttural and sensuous groan.

“Dimeji, what are you doing inside that thing? Dimeji?”

His palm slides through the air, cupping unseen flesh.


She kicks his thigh. He lurches forward, and the Marblehead falls off his skull onto the rug with a dull thunk. Dimeji looks at his mother, the enlarged pupils of his eyes adjusting to the light of the room.

“But Mummy, why now?! Do you want to break my Head?”

She glares at him as she picks up the virtual ball, looking into it but seeing only two discs of melted technicolor. For a moment it seems like she is going to put it on her head. She reaches up and touches her hair tenderly and tosses the Marblehead back into his lap like an angry soccer coach.

“I don’t know why you keep on locking yourself up with this thing. Get dressed and meet me in the Parlor in the next one minute.” She walks out and shuts the door.

Dimeji exhales and slumps back into the chair. He looks up at the ceiling of his room where a hologram of the Milky Way swirls. His head and body are abuzz with phantoms and sensations from hours traipsing through CiTRUS-tele, the prime InVirtua Space for Marblehead—the greatest invention in virtual reality history according to TIME. His bones buzz as his body returns into physical space. He had been a Spy for most of his run, diving off cliffs and battling a fiery god and driving cars that zipped past the sound barrier. He was claiming the prize at the end of his mission, a lap dance from a pitchblack hunk named Henn when his mother had hit him in his thigh. He closes his eyes and prays for escape to the galaxy above.

He stands and speaks to the room. “Simi, clothes to go to Vegetables & Fruits.” The wall to his right slides open and a thin nylon jacket, purple T-shirt, and baggy jeans are handed to him by a spindly arm of silver. He dresses rapidly and walks into the circle of the Parlor. On the curved screen that takes up a quarter of the room, Mrs. Oye is watching a coven of witches decide the fate of a young man. They are all wrapped in black cotton and standing on hot coals while the man’s soul floats asleep in their center. One of them pulls out a thin needle the size of her arm, and Dimeji clears his throat.

“Pause.” She says to the screen.

“Did you know that the World Government warns against extended use of InVirtua paraphernalia?”

She is using her Holoshrink voice on him, and it makes him want to hurl.

“They say it makes you forget how to operate in the real world plus you get brain damage and body locks and twitches. Even marble fever! Do you know how many people die daily plugged into that ball? ”

“I don’t care Mum.”

“Don’t take that tone with me young man.”

“Please stop calling me young man. I’m just eighteen. Also, there seems to be an epidemic of addiction to the Wall and it’s worse ’cause it happens to be tied to food addiction. Obese parents get towed to the morgue daily…like dumplings.” Mrs. Oye rises, arms ready to swat Dimeji’s cheek.

“Hit me again, and I’ll get you fired.” He grits through pale yellow teeth.

She leans into his space, rotund and pretty. A smile touches her lips as she pushes a black pearl into his chest. The smile seems to say I will catch you and when I do…

“The list of fruits I need. Hurry back. Looks like it’s going to rain. I don’t want you to get struck by lightning.”

Dimeji can see that the Weatherstrip beside the door is growling with dark thunderclouds.

“Oh, and take The Girl with you. She’s been moody all day.” The tigercat perched on the bookshelf behind Dimeji meows at the sound of her name. Mother lies back down on the couch and continues watching the movie. The needle goes into the man’s heart.



The Girl and I walk down our street. Empty houses and apartment blocks are covered in mats of vines and moss. The monorail track that runs through the center of the street is flanked by tall grass. The Girl chases butterflies and grasshoppers ahead of me. The sky is grey and petrichor fills my nostrils. I enjoy the pastoral scene before me of solid blocks of buildings getting eaten by wild forest. The outskirts are getting deserted. It started ten years ago when the Earth decided to unify its governments into one place. They chose America even though lots of people already had doubts about that place. When they decided the World Government would be located there, people began to go off the grid. They only reappeared to take the free food and technology that the Government gave out annually.

They explore the world in trucks, fall in lust at festivals of song, and eat keys in nature to see the Truth. They say they are leaving before the Machine Army comes to take over our lives. When they do that we’ll just be kept in pods as fleshy discs of cellular information and blended to feed ourselves at death. I want to leave too, but I have nowhere to go. The friends I had didn’t check up on me when I fell really sick. Thank the Universe that the Marbleheads came in just as I became invalid, or I’d have slit my throat from all the stress that she gave me while I was down there.

The train draws up to our side so silently that I don’t realize it is there until The Girl jumps into my arms. It’s like someone dewinged an aeroplane and elongated it and placed it on the ground. It shines dully in the flashes of lightning from up above. I go in, and the car is empty. Me and The Girl sit on one of the stainless steel benches and soon drift to sleep as the monorail rides noiselessly towards the city. The sound of it is like falling.



The Lagos branch of Vegetables & Fruits is known for its rowdiness. Thousands of people flock the knee-deep aisles, filling their baskets with produce from around the world. Somebody decided to arrange the vegetables and fruits according to color, and it’s a sight to see. Thousands of black heads bent over rows of red and green and yellow that stretch many hundred meters off into the hangar-like space, reminiscent of all segments of the Free Bazaar. One would think that with an actual Free Bazaar from government there would be less people going off-grid, but the very act of providing free clothing and food and pets and travel seems to have induced a mistrust in the hearts of those rebels. The Girl clutches onto my shoulders as I toss twenty oranges into the sack. Sacks are easier to haul around. We move over to get tomatoes the size of grapes.

“Hello sir, what are you doing alone in a place like this. Let me help you.”

“No, thanks.”

I walk rapidly towards the garden egg-apple hybrid that makes amazing jam. The man talking to me is built like a boxer and has three teeth missing in the front of his face. He’s also wearing the yellow polythene gown of the Veg&Fruits worker. I hand over the sack. He lifts it like it’s full of balloons.

“So you were first doing big boy for me abi? Don’t you know I can stop you from getting food from here. I am the Manager of this whole place.”

I look him up and down as he lifts his arms, sack and all and turns around the place like he’s king.

“One of fifty Managers, Mr Kosoko.”

He smiles at my acute pinching of his game and starts to move towards the checkout place where I was going before he accosted me. As we arrange the fruits into waterproof boxes, he asks if I’m ever going tribal like ‘the rest of the youth them who are running away from real work’.

The look I give him silences the both of us and even after we walk out into the street where bicycles and cars hover past, there is a distance that has been created by his remark. I suddenly feel the urge to runaway, out into the city where I could get someone at Travels to set me up for one of those good tribe spots like Calabar or the Congo or Gambia or Mexico or Iceland. I am tired of living here.

Instead of running like a mad hare into the streets, I hold The Girl like a baby and ignore the man till the monorail returns.



The rain is heavy, and I am thinking of Mr. Kosoko from the Bazaar. He thinks the people leaving are afraid of work. He doesn’t know that the Machine Army is real and that he or his children will have to decide on being a battery or a puppet in due time. Everyone calls it a conspiracy theory, and I sometimes have doubts but somehow I just know it’s true.

The Army of Machines first appeared in the psychedelic arts and dreamscapes of the mid-2030s. Almost anyone who created any art found themselves pulling forth tall glass beings with nervous systems of light centered on a burning heart. In the earliest paintings and drawings and doodles, they displayed superhuman feats of strength and cleared out the debris of the old civilization. According to the art, they were worshipped and adored, even deified.

But then, subsequent work began to reveal landscapes of fire and chaos. There were hemispheres of silver steel, where human bodies hung, drained of plasma and blood. These glass beings used our worship of them to enslave the future of us. Most of the mystics of the time, particularly the igbo seeress known as Old Water, warned that on seeing these beings we would be unable to stop ourselves from giving our fates over to them. She said that they were being created now by the World Government with all the biological information they could gather from the past and present. She said they would fail at trying to create a human soul and thus set our futures up for catastrophe.

I know this because I visit a cave in CiTRUS-tele where people meet to talk about it. Most of the people who show up there are already off-grid, free in a sense. One of them, whose avatar is of Malcolm X, says he’ll come and get me one day from the clutches of my wicked stepmother. I don’t tell him that I’m the one who really doesn’t want to be free yet. The new world is an oyster of possibility, doomsday future and all. The thought of freedom leaves a taste in my mouth of rose skies and violent waterfalls, of hugs and kisses and lovers. But it also tells me that I have to leave behind the things that I have built to understand myself for a big blue nothing. It tells me to be fearless, and I don’t know what that really demands from me.

The Monorail stops in front of the duplex and the boxes slide off the train onto the front of our door. The Girl is purring against my shoulder and, again, her sleep reminds me of how tired I am. I drop her down, and she slinks inside.

Thinking of the Marblehead game, Bliss, where you jump through cloudbeds ad infinitum, as I haul in the boxes with the stamp of the planet encircled by human hands, I hear a sound and look up. My throat dries as my heart leaps into it. I stumble backwards, spattering tomatoes out of the box I’m carrying onto the sidewalk. The Girl, who left me after I started lifting the boxes, is in the hands of one of them. One of the beings of glass with the nervous system of golden light and the heart, oh the heart, that burns like a little sun.




Portrait - FalowoDare Segun Falowo is a writer of speculative fiction and a Farafina Creative Writing Workshop alum. He has some old tales at

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I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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