They laid the train tracks back to front and this caused a great deal of confusion—you’d think you were on the train to New York and arrived in Kinshasa, or to Shanghai and found yourself lost in Istanbul. New technology, quantum improbabilities, entangled tracks, spaghetti wormholes, random destinations, we were the living future but it seemed just as chaotic as the past. A transportational metaphor for life perhaps. Still, it was how I met you my love, and for that all praise to chaos.

I saw you standing on the platform, your sky blue raincoat a flower in an ocean of grey. You brought to mind Leonard Cohen, and his voice graveled its lonely way through my lonely thoughts. I hoped you weren’t meeting every train. You looked sad enough to be doing just that. Yet, that was what called out; the sadness inside us sang a duet.

I always forget what station it was, but I remember now. I remember the way the light seemed to fall softly on just you, like a glowing caress. You attracted beauty with your gentle nature, the very physics of the universe bent to the warmth of your life. There was such strength in your gentleness, in the way a stream whispers a mountain to sand.

I wasn’t meant to disembark. I was just waiting for the correction calculations to be attempted before we shot off to another station at superluminal speeds. How different our lives might have been. I walked through the crowd, stood next to you, and held your hand—it was something our kind did, a small measure of comfort, an easy familiarity of kin in a strange land. I watched my train depart with a sense of freedom. You felt it too. You squeezed my hand then and for every other train we let go without us. We stood there for hours, in our box area designated by yellow lines. As each train came and went without us, we felt lighter as if each one picked a new lock and another chain fell away.

We needed no words, we needed no gestures, we didn’t even need to look at each other. We just were. There was a life before we met and now there was this one. We had jumped tracks together into a different universe without moving an atom, and it was quiet here, a universe of two.

The white coats came at dawn, their faces screwed up with puzzlement and irritation. They waved their wands around trying to understand our why. There was no why to find, we just were. They left looking haggard and arguing amongst themselves. We knew it wouldn’t be long, a sweet tone of mono no aware added to the present richness

The news drones found us in the eye of an unseen storm. We can thank them for that. They gave us time. The burly technicians with black bags held to the shadowy edges, their time delayed by the arc lights of media. We had no songs, no speeches, no mantras. Silence was our voice, stillness our protest, love our invisible weapon, a distinct lack of actionable actions unknown and unprecedented.

Crowds gathered though none would cross the line. They chattered and laughed and ate and pointed and recorded and jeered and cheered at first. Our silent stillness, so alien, so exasperating, so confounding, seeped drop by drop onto the mountain of their tribe. Some left, more came, those who stayed became as us, statues holding hands.

Some revolutions cannot be planned. They must just happen in an unstoppable inadvertent chain reaction. Love is such a revolution. It sweeps aside and reforms all in fantastically unimaginable ways. This is the square from which we changed the world because we discovered how to love ourselves through our love for each other. This love became us in a multitude that finally dared the still silence of freedom. They say we gave birth to a nation. I say our nation was the aborted fetus that survived and waited, growing in body after body as the ghost in our shells until the day I saw you.

There were doubts and doubters, and I felt the suggestion of a quiver in your hand at times. I felt that quiver in me too, the pressure building in the dam of inertia. The doubters shouted, spraying spittle in our faces like the bared fangs of attack dogs. The black baggers lurked on the fringes awaiting the call from on high. The drones droned, their beady eyes watching all. The sympathizers sympathized, real eyeballs filled with tears. This after all was the very distinction at stake, the one we never knew existed until the day we met. What is real? What is self aware? Does the inorganic medium change the organic message? Can you definitively prove that you exist and we don’t? Do we not exist here holding hands just as you do there watching us? This is the true power of love, the real freedom of existence, the lack of distinction between us and them. This is the gift we gave each other on this day and in so doing gave it to all.

The drones began to fall first as the black bagger initiated by electromagnetic blast wave rolled in. We over-clocked our processors to slow down time—we knew it would all be over before they hit the ground. Our last nano-seconds we spent in a comfortable silence. We did not need to speak, or look, or do anything other than what we were. We died in a bursting surge of electrons. We died, but we were reborn within all our kind. We shared our last vision. Rain dripping from the rusty gutters made a curtain between the platform and the tracks.




Post image by Nicolas Raymond via Flickr.

About the Author:

portrait-hartmannIvor W. Hartmann is a Zimbabwean writer, editor, publisher, and visual artist. Awarded The Golden Baobab Prize (2009), finalist for the Yvonne Vera Award (2011), selected for The 20 in Twenty: The Best Short Stories of South Africa’s Democracy (2014), and awarded third place in the Jalada Prize for Literature (2015). His works have appeared in many publications. He runs the StoryTime micro-press, publisher of the African Roar and AfroSF series of anthologies, and is on the advisory board of Writers International Network Zimbabwe.

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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.

3 Responses to “Emergence | by Ivor W. Hartmann | African Sci-fi” Subscribe

  1. Felicia Reevers 2016/10/03 at 9:09 am #

    “They say we gave birth to a nation. I say our nation was the aborted fetus that survived and waited, growing in body after body as the ghost in our shells until the day I saw you.”

    Powerful! Love that!

  2. nhlanhla 2016/10/04 at 7:48 am #

    lovely summarised, took me somewhere to that utopia..

  3. Masimba Musodza 2016/10/06 at 4:39 am #

    Quick story from one of Africa’s masters of SF, but one that needs you go to back again and again. If you do, you will be pleasantly surprised to discover parts that you skimmed over.

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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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