Fiction by Rotimi Babatunde

The Engineer of Transparent Buildings

mmmmmmBeing the text of the document discovered on a doorstep

mmmmmmnear City Hall  after the building became transparent

 

Good girl, these are the things that will happen on the day you will leave home forever and set out on the journey to City Hall. It will be a beautiful day. The sun will burst out in the east, bright and happy as if it could have risen in the west, and over the rooftops of the city the sky will be clear and blue.

That morning’s brilliant sunlight will sparkle in the spray of the fountain before the big hotel at the city centre, eliciting tiny rainbows as fleeting as those quantum phenomena that vanish the moment you try to observe them. The sunlight will wash over the Governor’s residence, causing the mansion’s white colonnades and the flowering plants on the premises to look even more glorious. And it will polarize on the asphalt surface of the road leading to City Hall, demonstrating the laws of optics you had mastered at an age when your mates still believed Santa Claus and such other kindergarten fables were as true as atoms.

From the big hotel, the bus conveying the guests from abroad will leave for the ceremony at City Hall. And from the Governor’s mansion, the blaring sirens of the Governor’s motorcade will depart for the same venue. But in the living room of the house you will soon be bidding farewell forever, you will keep on waiting, even though the ceremony at City Hall wouldn’t have been holding if not for the international science competition you won.

You will look out of the window, checking to see if the removal van from the Engineer of Transparent Buildings has arrived. There will be no vehicle outside. You must not leave for City Hall until the removal van arrives. You will sit on the three-legged chair in the living room. You will continue waiting.

*

While waiting, you will begin tapping your feet on the ground, racked with anxiety about missing the prize presentation at City Hall, until you remember that the Engineer of Transparent Buildings has said the ceremony will begin with a long introduction of the Governor, and of the Governor’s wife, and of the Deputy Governor and the Deputy Governor’s husband, and of other political office holders and their spouses, and of royal title holders, and of serving and retired security chiefs, and of the head of the schools board and other government officials, and of the guests from abroad, and of the heads of the teachers union and the parent-teacher association and the civil service union, and of the head of the police dogs union, had such existed, as well as of the slobbering mutt it would then have had for a spouse, and still those interminable introductions will continue, stretching on and on like an infinite regression of grandiose clowns. So you will stop worrying.

You will survey that living room which you will never again enter once you depart. In its centre will be your family’s scant possessions, ready for removal to your new home. Your parents’ large mattress would have been rolled up, and beside it will be a smaller one, adorned with rosettes imprinted by your kid brother’s bedwetting. There will also be plastic bags stuffed with his clothes and yours and those of your parents and younger sister. And there will be your mother’s sooty kitchenware, as well as the basket she balances on her head when carrying produce to her roadside food stand. All the furniture in the house would have been stacked in a pile, except for the three-legged chair and the stool beside it.

Your father’s old table clock will be on the stool. The clock will seem to be ticking with such tardiness that you will wonder if senility hasn’t deluded it into believing it is travelling almost at the speed of light and time has slowed down for it. You will get lost in thought, fantasizing about the possibility of dilating time for the clock by shooting it like muons and pions through a particle accelerator. The rumbling of a large vehicle will startle you out of your reveries. You will run to the window. The removal van will be in front of the house. Your face will light up with a smile.

You will see your father collecting a bag from the driver of the removal van. It will be the new schoolbag promised you by the Engineer of Transparent Buildings. Your father will begin walking towards the house. You will leave the window. The door of the living room will swing open. Your father will enter. He will have on his face the smouldering look he acquired after last year’s incident at the Governor’s residence. He will hand over your new bag to you.

You will be surprised by the weight of the bag. You will remember that the Engineer of Transparent Buildings told you it will be much larger than your old schoolbag. And that it will be filled with books he has bought as gifts for you, big books on mathematics and physics and the science of transparent engineering. The bag will be heavy, but you’re a big, strong girl. You will lift up the bag and strap it to your back. Your father will look away. You will exit the house.

*

Your sister and brother will be dancing around the removal van, excited that they’re about moving house. You will walk past them and head for the main road. Your mother would have followed you out of the house. She will stand on the veranda, watching you go. There will be tears in her eyes. The prize presentation ceremony of the international competition her daughter won will be happening at City Hall, but she won’t be present because your father has said no.

You will want to run back and hug your mother. You will not do that. You will remember the things you have been told. That your mother’s sadness will turn to joy when she gets acquainted with the uniqueness of the new home the Engineer of Transparent Buildings has arranged for you. That if the offer of the new home is not taken up that morning, it will lapse. That your mother will give thanks to the Engineer of Transparent Buildings after she gets to know that in your new home, there will be many toilets, and you won’t have to share a zinc outhouse, as you do in your old place, with the three libidinous sisters living next door, and the band of thieves in the apartment on the other side of the yard, and the large household, with its often diarrhoeic children, close to the well.

Your mother will remain on the veranda watching your receding figure. You must not look back. You’re a big girl now, almost a teenager. You don’t need your mother babysitting you around town.

You will reach the wooden plank straddling the gutter beside the main road. In the gutter, the resident rats will be frolicking in the stagnant slime. You will cross the plank and face the direction of City Hall. You will keep going.

*

It will be a beautiful day, so the road will be bustling. As you weave your way through the crush of hurrying people, you will keep an eye out for the porters staggering under the weight of the bulky loads slung across their shoulders, and the vehicles lurching towards the sidewalk to avoid the road’s numerous potholes, and the daredevil commercial motorcyclists swinging through the traffic as if in an intricate dance with death.

You will encounter the familiar faces of the neighbourhood. First will be the gap-toothed woman who inspires the daredevilry of the motorcyclists with the shots of cheap liquor she sells. She will wave to you and say, My daughter, I’m so proud of you. Off to City Hall to collect your prize, isn’t it? And then you will see the old actress who sits all day long on her balcony, with only her seven cats for company. They’ve begun broadcasting the ceremony live, she will say, yet here you are still walking! But come, why not let me put pretty ribbons in your hair for you? And the discharged soldier who marches up and down the road, barking commands at creatures large and small, including hump-backed cattle bound for the abattoir, will scream at you, Salute the General, you bloody civilian! And from the white-bearded preacher who rings his bell all day long and wails that the end of the world is nigh, you will hear, Give me a Fibonacci or a Pascal’s Triangle this morning, you little Witch of Endor, or the wrath of God will devour you. And the beggarwoman with three breasts, one for each of her three husbands, will look daggers at you and say, See me see trouble, this small pikin sef dey look my breast. Comot your eye from my chest now, if you no wan make thunder fire you! And the bevy of women sitting in front of their brothel, braiding their hair and startling passers-by with their dirty talk, will get angry on your behalf. They will direct various invectives at the authorities. Shame on all those government people and their middling phalluses! Why didn’t they send a vehicle to bring you to City Hall? There’s no doubting it, those pox-ridden dorks care only about folks from posh neighbourhoods. And finally, from the vegetarian butcher, who kills hogs with a single hammerblow to the head, will come the question, Fine girl, will you marry me?

You will keep walking. Near the garbage dump, you will see Street Pharmacist at his usual spot, dealing marijuana and other assorted drugs to his clients. The sling will be off his arm, but he will still have a brace around his neck. You will remember that after you won the science prize and the newspapers nicknamed you Ghetto Einstein, Street Pharmacist took to addressing you with that appellation. At first, you pitied him because even if he binges on all the drugs he has in stock, he will never be able to comprehend the elegance of the equations describing Einstein’s gravitational universe, or the nature of Riemannian spaces, or the dynamics of the supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies.

But your pity turned to anger when Street Pharmacist moved on to shouting after you, Ghetto Einstein, Ghetto Einstein, come and show me the almighty formula for sucking dick! You reported him to your father, and your father reported him to the Engineer of Transparent Buildings, who then sent his men to have a chat with him. When next you saw Street Pharmacist, he had a sling on his arm and a brace around his neck. He must have had a bad fall after getting high on the stuff he sells, said the Engineer of Transparent Buildings.

Street Pharmacist will bow as you pass. You will see fear in his eyes. Good morning, ma, he will say, even though he’s almost old enough to be your father. You will not answer him. You will keep going.

*

Further down the road, you will come upon the abandoned passenger shelter rotting away by the roadside. The dog without a master will be sleeping in it. You will recall the stories circulating in the neighbourhood about the dog. That while it is sleeping in the rusty shelter, it is also scavenging for food in trashcans on the other side of the city. That it keeps coming back from the dead, even after it has been run over several times by delivery trucks and once by the colonial-era train that materialises on the railway tracks like the fabled incarnation of death. You named it Schrödinger’s Dog, because the dog, like an unobserved quantum particle, exists in multiple states at the same time.

A dog can’t be both dead and alive, a visitor to the neighbourhood once protested. It’s obvious it’s not one dog but many dogs. Don’t all stray dogs in this city look alike? People sniggered at the drabness of the visitor’s logic. Look, death is not always the opposite of life, and the future is oftentimes also in the past, an old woman said, silencing the visitor.

Schrödinger’s Dog will continue sleeping. You will continue walking.

*

As you advance, you will keep on hearing this voice talking on and on in your head, predicting the things that will happen just before they do. It will be the voice of the Engineer of Transparent Buildings, the engineer who gives you books and who has arranged a new home for you, the engineer who knows everything you know in the sciences and the things you don’t know in other disciplines, the engineer who reads over and again to you three poems that you find incomprehensible. The poem about a rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouching towards its nativity. And the poem about the Shulamite whose golden hair turned ashen. And the poem about London’s daughter, robed in the grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother.

There will be moments on your way when you will be confused, wondering if the things you see happening are the same ones predicted in this document that has been read out to you several times, or if the voice speaking in your head has become so internalised that you’re the one imagining it’s truly speaking out the things see. You will banish those doubts from your mind. This document will be made available to the world after the experiment at City Hall. Anyone will be able to verify, in the way of science, if its predictions truly came to pass. The voice reading out this document will not stop sounding in your head. And for this scientific experiment to succeed, good girl, you will not stop obeying it.

*

At the end of the road, just before you get to the pedestrian bridge, you will hear this voice say, You will look up and, behold, before you will be the old bookseller. And as sure as the prediction that light will bend in the gravitational fields of large bodies like the sun, you will look up and see the old bookseller at his bookstand. He will be looking in your direction.

Seeing him at your favourite place in the neighbourhood, surrounded by books, will bring memories rushing back. How your father, in your childhood, noticed that rather than the picture books favoured by your mates, you preferred books on mathematics and physics, and how he began buying you more and more of such books. How your immersion in their contents soon made calculations that stumped people many years your senior become elementary for you. How you started reckoning bills for the woman who ran the restaurant near your house, frustrating customers who wanted to cheat her, and how word began spreading about a small girl who could compute, in a blink, a complex bill for a table of ten without the aid of a calculator. How you helped the building committee of the new church in your neighbourhood determine, with remarkable precision, the number of slates that would be needed for its elaborate roof, and how the head pastor, in his incredulity, declared, Those calculations were revealed to you not by flesh and blood but by the Holy Spirit. And how, one day, on your way from school, you stopped to peruse the forecasting charts pasted on a betting kiosk. In your innocence, you pointed out to the kiosk’s patrons the accidental number sequences present on the charts. A taxi driver staked with one of the sequences. He won a fortune. Afterwards, people began stopping you on the road, begging you to give them a Fibonacci or a Pascal’s Triangle, or perhaps, some perfect numbers or a geometric progression.

Those memories will make your eyes mist over, and you will start missing the neighbourhood. Good girl, you must not wallow in nostalgia for that ghetto. You will flash your mind back to the regular visitations of anguish that plague the neighbourhood. How gun-brandishing cops flood its streets whenever its residents commit great crimes in the city’s affluent zones. How the cops kick down doors and drag people screaming into their vans, and how they cause splotches of blood to gleam bright-red on the streets. How the main road, usually busy with people going to and fro, as if they were pollen grains in Brownian motion, gets deserted once those raids commence. How the whole neighbourhood becomes still and dead and motionless, like a substance whose atoms have been frozen down to absolute zero. You will remember these things, and your lachrymal springs will dry up.

The old bookseller will show you the covers of a few books. Come and see these great science texts I’ve reserved for you, he will say. You will shake your head. He will be baffled by your uncharacteristic lack of interest. You will head straight for the pedestrian bridge. And you will begin climbing it, leaving behind that neighbourhood, where you grew up, forever.

*

On the pedestrian bridge, you will look across the distance. The tree-lined avenues and august houses of the city’s fanciest district will be resplendent in the sunlight. You will wonder if it’s in that district that the new home the Engineer of Transparent Buildings has secured for you is located.

You will pick out the Governor’s mansion, distinctive amidst the glittering buildings. Memories of your visit last year to that part of town, after you had won the national science contest that qualified you for the international one and your father decided to give you a treat, will come rushing back.

Your walk through the district brought you close to the Governor’s residence. You were so enthralled by the magnificence of the mansion that you didn’t hear the sound of the Governor’s advance vehicle until it stopped behind you. Several policemen jumped out of it. They looked you and your father up and down in your shabby cloths and cheap flip-flops, as if you were vermin that had just crawled out a latrine. Carry your filthy bodies out of this place now, the most senior of the policemen shouted.

Your father didn’t move. This is my country, he said. I have the right to walk freely on its roads.

The senior officer’s eyes narrowed. Get down, he shouted. Get your face down on the floor.

I bow down only to God, your father said. And even then, months often pass before I find time to do so.

You will flinch, even after so many months, when you remember the blows the policemen rained on your father. And the glee with which their black boots ploughed into his prostrate body. Not until the Governor’s car caught up with the advance vehicle and stopped did they relent. The tinted rear window of the Governor’s car descended. What’s going on, the Governor asked.

This man is a suspect, the senior officer said. We met him here, loitering without reason.

With all the bombs going off around the world, one can’t be too careful, the Governor said. Keep up the great work.

The tinted window rose. The Governor’s car departed. The policemen continued where they had left off.

Your father spent days in the hospital. When he returned home, it was with the smouldering look that hasn’t left his face since then. Soon after, he joined the group around the Engineer of Transparent Buildings, the engineer who has had hundreds of conversations with you and can now work out the equations of your future, the engineer who talks about himself to you in the third person, as he will be doing in your head on the day you will receive your prize at City Hall, because in science everything must be impersonal.

You were in your room when your father’s friends came to commiserate with your mother. You tiptoed to the door to eavesdrop. He was the best drinker among us, one of your father’s friends said. But now, he doesn’t even want to hear about accompanying us to the bars again.

The group he now belongs to is nothing but trouble, another of the visitors said. The views they hold are scary. Our people say the sky is large enough for all birds to fly, but they want to have the sky only to themselves.

Your mother’s head drooped down in sorrow. The Governor has taken my husband from me and replaced him with a strange creature, she lamented. But her mood changed when the Engineer of Transparent Buildings ordered his men to start patronising her food stand. And by the time he got her family a brand new home, which she trusts will be the best even before moving in, she had begun raining curses on anyone who spoke ill of her benefactor.

Those memories of the incident at the Governor’s residence will spur your legs into faster motion. The Governor would already have arrived at City Hall, and you will be eager to get back at him for what he did to your father. Your increased pace will make your shoulders, burdened with the weight of your new schoolbag, ache even more. You will want to open the bag and check out why the books in it are so heavy they could as well be rocks. Good girl, you will not do that. You will remember that the Engineer of Transparent Buildings will be angry with you if you attempt it, because he doesn’t want you to get lost in the books and miss the ceremony at City Hall.

And you will remember that you’re being watched. You will scan the faces of people on your route, and you will not be able to tell which of them is loyal to the Engineer of Transparent Buildings, so you will only adjust the straps of your new schoolbag to make it more comfortable on your shoulders. You will continue crossing the pedestrian bridge.

*

A crowd will be gathered, as usual, at the newsstand on the other side of the bridge. They will be arguing about items in the news. You will not bother glancing at the newspapers on display, because well before their headlines labelled you Ghetto Einstein, that moniker you hate, you have never liked newspapers, since they do not contain equations.

The gathering will be discussing the same things you hear them talking about whenever you’re in the vicinity. They will be reeling out the names of places that mean nothing to you and linking them to events you know nothing about. Happenings at the Bataclan and at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris. Incidents at Westgate Mall, Nairobi, and at Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok. Incursions at Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, and at University College, Garissa. Passenger jets at the World Trade Centre. Intruders at the Tigantourine gas facility in Amenas. Gay couples cast down from the rooftops of Deir ez-Zor and Palmyra. Supremacists at the Walmart in El Paso and at the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch. Neo-Nazis at the Unite the Right Rally, Charlottesville, and at the Tree of Life synagogue, Pittsburgh. Funeral wreaths for the Amazon’s indigenous forest defenders in Maranhão. Cow vigilantes on the prowl in Jharkhand, and concentration camps packed with Uighurs and Kazaks in Xinjiang. The empty Rohingya homes in Rhakine.

Those kinds of things can never happen in our city, people at the newsstand will say as you pass by.

*

The glass façade of City Hall would have become visible when you come upon Schrödinger’s Dog. You will not be surprised to see it so soon after you had left it sleeping in the passenger shelter, because you understand the quirky behaviour of quantum entities. The dog will be sitting on its haunches. The hair around its neck will be raised. You will be startled when that dog without a master starts barking at you.

Schrödinger’s Dog will rise and move in on you. Its teeth will be bared. The dog will cut off your path, preventing you from progressing towards City Hall. You will call out to the dog, Schrödinger’s Dog, Schrödinger’s Dog, expecting it to bound towards you for the usual pat on the head, but the dog will not stop barking at you.

Passers-by will stop to watch, puzzled by the scene. You will pick up a stone and throw it at Schrödinger’s Dog. The dog will not budge. Its barking will intensify. Bystanders will join you in hurling missiles at it. Not until Schrödinger’s Dog has been hit several times by the projectiles zipping towards it with increasing frequency will it withdraw. But it will keep barking at you from the distance. Good girl, you will not let your encounter with that dog unsettle you. Everyone knows Schrödinger’s Dog is a loony, anyway, and beside it, even the battiest black hole could well be obeying the laws of classical mechanics.

*

You will resume your progress. Just before you get to City Hall, you will see the Engineer of Transparent Buildings, the engineer who has promised to make City Hall transparent, to disprove your scepticism, the engineer with whom you will be collaborating on that secret experiment, the engineer who charms you with the softness of his voice but who barks out commands at his acolytes, who whistles them near like his dogs.

The Engineer of Transparent Buildings will be standing a good distance from City Hall. He will be wearing strange clothes and dark glasses, and he will be sporting a moustache he didn’t have the day before. With him will be a file folder, inside which will be a copy of this document.

The Engineer of Transparent Buildings will be inserting batteries into a cordless phone. Good girl, you will not stop to stare or wave at him. You will begin climbing the steps leading up to City Hall, as if you didn’t know he was there.

*

Several teachers from your school will be at the foyer of City Hall, exchanging words with a group of government officials. The parties will be trading blames for failing to ensure your prompt arrival at the ceremony. A handful of the guests from abroad will be standing a few metres away. Among them will be the woman with green eyes. She will jump up with joy when she sees you. You will run to give her a hug. No wonder you had to take your time, she will say. So you had to walk all the way down carrying such a large bag! And you will reply, We’re moving house and I had to bring my new books along.

Your teachers and the government officials will be relieved to see you. Along with the foreign guests, they will fawn over you as they escort you towards the doorway of City Hall. The policemen at the door will step forward, seeking to peer into your new schoolbag and run over its contents with their scanning devices, but your large entourage will not allow them to delay you further. All that she has in it are her books, they will say. Unscreened, you will stride into City Hall, your entourage in tow.

You will take your seat at the front of the auditorium. Beside you will be the green-eyed woman. Your bag will be on the floor, wedged between your legs, and your shoulders will be glad they’ve been reprieved of its weight. You will look towards the stage. And you will see the Governor sitting at the high table.

*

Bored by the succession of long speeches from different speakers called to the podium, your mind will drift to your first encounter with snow. That was during your trip abroad for the international science competition. The green-eyed woman was your host. From the window of her house, you watched the snowflakes, large and magical, falling without cease on the rooftops and on the parked vehicles and on the trees, their bare branches white and heavy with the falling snow in a world that had gone whiter than bones. Overwhelmed by the alluringness of that frigid severity, you opened the door and ran out into the snow.

You didn’t know how long you stood in the snowstorm. Your fingers started going numb, and you thought about returning to the house to put on the jacket and gloves your host had bought for you, but you got lost in your reflections on the relationship between the molecular structure of water and the hexagonal geometry of snowflakes. You remained in the storm, trying to devise a new statistical model for predicting variations in the geometry of snowflakes from the ideal. Perhaps, that was what got the snowflakes angry. When you looked up, thousands of them were gunning for you.

You started running. The snowflakes didn’t stop chasing you. And they didn’t stop growing larger and larger. And their sides, like those of the Koch snowflake, didn’t stop iterating, transforming them into spinning, monstrous cogwheels with ever finer and ever more numerous teeth. Just when their serrated edges were about slicing through you, you screamed and woke up. You were on a hospital bed. The worried, green eyes of your host were looking down at you. You succumbed to hypothermia, she said. She nursed you back to health in time for victory in the science contest.

You will feel a tap on your shoulder, bringing your attention back to City Hall. You will look up. The green eyes of your host will be looking at you, as if you were back on the hospital bed in that foreign country. An usher will be standing close by. It’s time for the trophy presentation, your host will whisper. You will rise. The usher will chaperone you towards the podium.

*

On the stage, the multitude of eyes riveted on you will cause your heart to pound so fast you will want to run out of the hall. Good girl, you won’t let stage fright ruin your big moment. You will be emboldened by the recollection of how well you have been coached for that moment by the Engineer of Transparent Buildings, the engineer who will be watching the live broadcast of the ceremony from a location close to City Hall, the engineer who has promised you a cordless phone of the same type as the one he will have with him, the engineer who, in fulfilment of that pledge, would have placed the promised cordless phone in your new schoolbag.

The Governor will be talking at the podium. He will be claiming that your victory in the international science contest is a testament to the great strides his government has been making in education. The hall will applaud. You will wince. The leader of the delegation from abroad will join you and the Governor. With him will be the international science trophy. It will glisten under the bright stage lights. You will survey the sea of eager eyes in the auditorium. Among them, you will pick out those of your host. Her kind, green eyes will remind you of the relentless deathstorm of the snow. And you will shiver.

The leader of the foreign delegation will hand over the trophy to the Governor. He will raise it aloft, and then he will turn towards you, smiling as he makes to present you the trophy. Good girl, your hour come round at last, at that moment, the cordless phone in your new schoolbag will ring. You will not hear it, but the atoms in City Hall will.

Those atoms will begin a vigorous dance of transparency, imbuing City Hall’s dark glass panes and the section of the roof above the front part of the auditorium with instant lucidity. The transparency will spread, as relentless as the falling snow, to other parts of the roof and to the plush leather seats in the upper balcony of the auditorium and to the wood panelling on the walls and to the masonry of the building. The dance of transparency will pick up an energy boost from the fuel storage tank beside the big generator next to City Hall, and it will waltz back to further astonish the building. The pillars of the building will be stubborn, but ultimately, even they will relinquish opacity. By the next morning, like on that September day when other engineers of transparent buildings changed the migratory patterns of the iron birds and the Twin Towers became Ground Zero, the whole of City Hall would have become transparent.

*

That next day will also be a beautiful one. At the newsstand by the pedestrian bridge, the gathering will be talking about a Shulamite in the news. Her golden hair would have turned ashen. And she would have been robed, like London’s daughter, in the long friends, the grains beyond age. Some of those present will be sowing their salt seeds in the valley of sackcloth for her. Her hair became ashen because of what she never knew she was carrying, they will say.

Members of the gathering will also be talking about the Shulamite’s parents. The woman must be innocent, they will say. Imagine it, not even believing it when she was told that where she thought she was going was just a ruse. Her husband is missing, so he must be in the know.

And they will be talking about this document. The newspapers say the person who discovered it is still in shock. Rotimi, isn’t that his name? Yes, but his surname escapes me now. The poor fellow, the document must have been deliberately left on his doorstep. Wait, back to the document, is it possible to predict the future with such accuracy? But the things in it happened, didn’t they? True. So what’s there to debate?

We didn’t know those kinds of things can happen in our city, people at the newsstand will say.

*

Your new home will amaze you. From your lofty room, you will have a great view of flowing springs and blissful orchards. You will have royal couches on which to recline, and the large trees around will bring forth a variety and abundance of fruits. The air will be so pure that the fragrance of your sweat will be like musk. You will have an eternity of time in your hands, more time than you’ll ever need to think about numbers and equations. This is Paradise, you will exclaim. You won’t be wrong.

*

The lovely sunlight of that following day will stream in through the transparent roof of City Hall. Passers-by will stop to marvel. They will look through City Hall’s transparent walls, and they will see the buildings and vehicles and people on the other side. Most of those onlookers will depart the scene in haste, but Schrödinger’s Dog will not. It will sit in motionless vigil over the transparent gloriousness of City Hall, whimpering like an idiot.

*

At the same time, Schrödinger’s Dog, like a single photon that appears to pass through two separated slits at the same instant, will be in your old neighbourhood. It will be a beautiful day, but the main road will be deserted. Policemen will be entering into the houses. There will be red blotches on the road. The old actress will not be sitting on her balcony, and neither will her seven cats. The brothel women will not be shocking bashful folk with their dirty talk. And the white-bearded preacher will not be declaiming that the end of the world is at hand. All the other regulars will likewise be absent. Only Schrödinger’s Dog will be in the derelict passenger shelter, sleeping. But you will not see these things. You would be gone.

 

Rotimi Babatunde’s stories and poems have been widely published and translated. His plays have been staged on four continents. He lives in Ibadan.

 

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