THE IMMORTALS

THE IMMORTALS

We remember the beginning, but not for long…

 

The 1500s had a certain chill to it. Nowhere seemed safe in the kingdom, not with the constant wars. Mykaelis was considered a stranger in this land, but he stayed to be closer to Naade. Their families assumed Mykaelis was courting Naade’s sister. It was encouraged; their fathers were crucial in a secret plot to occupy Oyo. It was to be a joining of great houses –

That is, until the day they were discovered.

The icy air bit into his skin, yet he would not stop. He would never give up the love of his life.

Mykaelis Ozua Osa ran as fast as his legs could carry him. He held onto his cutlass as he cut the vines from his path and tried to remember the spot where they met her during their many trysts. But the night was darker and wilder than he had ever seen before. He smiled when he finally arrived at the Ogun River which ran through the heart of Oyo-Ile. He spotted two figures waiting. The second man smiled back at him nervously, the smile gaining confidence as the worry over being abandoned left his body.

The other figure, a creature who stood next to him, held a powerful aura of protectiveness over the two men.

“They are coming,” Mykaelis said, panting.

He reminded himself to breathe, almost forgetting to inhale and exhale, a she came to stand beside his lover, his earnest gaze on Naade. Naade Seye Àìkú stared back at him, and despite his own fears, love was evident in his gaze. The bravery in his stare triggered Mykaelis’s courage. No time would ever be enough to love each other. Mykaelis raised Naade’s chin and placed a gentle kiss on his soft mouth. This way, “forever and ever” would cease to be just words.

He held Naade’s hand, returning his smile and holding his head high as the beautiful creature swaying in the darkness before them prepared to grant them a single wish. The creature was actually a woman, but Mykaelis didn’t think of her as any ordinary woman he’d ever met.

She was as enchanting as the moon that hung above them, her skin dark and fine as clay, her hair a starkly-white halo around her head, and adorned with cowrie shells that matched the necklace and bracelets she wore over her wrists and legs. The white silk cloth that was draped over her lithe body moved around her like a second skin as she stepped backwards into the river. Her gaze revealed eyes that mirrored the black of the night. And as resolve settled on their nervous faces, her motherly smile widened; making her even more beautiful, her dark eyes becoming as blue as the brilliant azure of the Mediterranean. Her silken cloth fluttered in the wind which both men were sure she could not feel. The air began to crackle with blue sparks as they held each other tighter.

Both men cried out as their skins began to glow with an ebony-gold sheen. Their blood tingled, their skins prickled, and their souls felt as though it was being ripped apart to form something new, something magical, something magnificent and potentially powerful.

She had given them a beautiful gift with a firm warning: that they would remain the same, but their memories would diminish with each new day that they lived.

They’d been called abominations, sinners, possessed of evil spirits – just for loving each other. That magical night, betrayed by the fear of not being understood in the time they lived and motivated by the fierce love they had for each other, Mykaelis and Naade agreed to escape time, to became much more than human.

To become immortals. Living until the day when their love would no longer be accursed.

…. ….

MYKAELIS

I breathe in the clean air of the Lagos metropolitan area, recounting the rambunctious cluster that it was just a few decades ago.

And then, I am taken aback when I see him.

He has invaded my dreams persistently for the past few years, even when I am positive I do not know him. It is a torment I’d been living with for as long as I think I’ve been living. My memory is not what it used to be. My research says I’ve lived for more than half a thousand years.

It is impossible though… Not my age. I assume that is quite accurate.

What is impossible is the young man I’m gaping at. Why does he share the same smile, the same quiet vibrance and the same delicacy as the man who’d been in my dreams? It seemed impossible. I’d been drawing his features in several of my private paintings. I would recognize him anywhere.

Omawumi is with him and they hug, that hug of two people who are newly friends. He laughs with her as they chatter to each other. Omawumi glances my way, and when she waves at me through the melee of revelers on the patio, the stranger by her side is forced to turn his gaze in my direction.

I wave back at Omawumi, feeling weak in my knees when the man narrows his eyes in slight puzzlement at me before moving toward me, as though he is being pulled by a cosmic force. I want to run, but my feet feel like stones fastened to the finely-trimmed grass.

“I’m Seye. You must be Michael,” he says with a smile when he has gotten to me.

He moves his hand toward me and I stare, still in awe, until he gives me a puzzled look. Then I realize he is anticipating a handshake and I stretch my hand to take his.

As our hands get closer, I feel it coming before it even happens. A blue spark frizzles between our fingers, and when they touch, the room hums, and my world feels as though it is suddenly reanimated.

The wind unfurls around us. Our blood seethes and we both start back from the other. He gasps, but I bite my tongue to keep from reacting.

God!

“Who are you?” I say, feeling an overwhelming need to hold him.

He clenches his fist and returns my gaze. I notice for the first time that something about him is different from the man in my dreams. He’s still as young, as beautiful. But he is sporting a beard, and although his delicacy remains, it now holds an undeniable fierceness.

He regains his composure as though the past few seconds were imagined.

“I told you. I’m Seye.” A smile flits past his face.

“No,” I say with a strange certainty.

He gets that puzzled look on his face again. “What do you mean ‘No’? Are you okay?” he says. “Do you need to sit down?”

I instinctively move closer to him, faster than any mere human can move, and I cup his face in my hands, my fingers brushing his beard and sliding into his dark hair until I reach his neck. He closes his eyes and sighs, and I feel him relax into my embrace, like fluid.

But this intimacy lasts just a second before his eyes shoot open and he jerks back from me, glancing hurriedly around the room, I assume, to check if anyone had seen us. Seen what had just happened.

“What are you doing?” he hisses at me, after taking another step away from me.

“Forgive me. I’m not sure what has gotten into me,” I say, feeling very befuddled.

What has possessed me so? What is it about this man?

“Well, until you figure it out, I suggest you keep your hands to yourself.” His voice is crisp with censure, but there is a nervousness there too, as he folds his arms over his body. A protective stance. As though to ward off the things he is feeling – which are exactly everything I am feeling.

“Are you…?” I begin to ask.

“I have to go,” he cuts in.

“No. Don’t.” But he has turned with a swiftness and is walking away with the same desperation that I’d harboured when I’d earlier wanted to escape his approach. But that was then. Now, all I feel is the consuming need to touch him again.

A few seconds pass and I am still frozen. I recover and start to follow after him, moving through the people on the patio in the direction he took.

“Mr. Osa, are you leaving already?” Omawumi asks as she bustles her way toward me.

“Yes. Yes, I am.” I smile at her. A sudden happiness is growing thick in my chest.

She gives a small moue of disappointment, before flashing a smile. “Alright then. Thank you so much for your donations to today’s cause. We…” She is ready with an entire speech I’m sure has been prepared and memorised for clients with big pockets.

But I have already lost any interest in her as I race toward the reason my world has suddenly become so colourful.

As I get to the car park, a car zooms past me. I recognise him behind the wheel, and in that microsecond, we hold each other’s gaze before he disappears.

“Ferocious,” I say to myself as I truly laugh for the first time in as long as I can remember.

I long for the electricity in his touch. I long to see his smile again.

I walk back to the party, scanning the faces till I find the person I am looking for.

“Mr. Osa, you’re back…” Omawumi begins.

“The gentleman,” I cut her off. “That gentleman who was with you a short while ago. I need to find him. Please.”

***

NAADE

How dare he touch me like that! Who the hell does he think he is!

I am fuming as I pace about my room. I find myself getting angrier and deeply unsettled by how much I want to be touched by him again. What is this madness? How can I want someone I don’t even know?

I touch my neck, almost feeling the imprint of his callused palms on my skin, and a flutter runs up my spine. I close my eyes and a moan escapes me.

The bell jolts me into alertness. I open my eyes and push back the desire. I clear my throat, forcing back the lump that has formed.

I walk to the staircase, and as I begin to descend, a frisson of alarm races up my spine. Suddenly it feels as though the air is crackling. Just like the time when he touched me.

Impossible! He doesn’t know where I live.

I laugh at myself. Get a grip. Without knowing the reason, I am positive I have nothing to fear from him.

I don’t bother to ask who it is. I just open the door and find my gaze arrested by his.

“Naade…” he breathes out.

“Mykaelis…” I want to answer. But I don’t.

Because Mykaelis does not exist. At least not anywhere but in my journals.

But I never gave this man my first name. I remember introducing myself to him as Seye, the name I have been going by for my career as an established writer.

“Say it,” he says firmly to me. His tone is fierce, his stare intense. The heat of him is starting to burn me up from across the threshold.

“I don’t know you. And I don’t know why you’re stalking me but I will call…” The rest of my words are choked off as he pushes past me and walks into my home.

“Where are they?” he asks as he stalks up the stairs.

“Where are what – Get out of my house!” I shout, stunned by his brazenness.

“I keep them. So, I’m pretty sure you do too!” he shouts back.

“Keep what?” I ask incredulously, although the answer claws at me.

“Your memories,” he answers.

I gasp. And my momentary reaction firms the certainty in his eyes. He smiles. “Naade, where do you keep them?”

I arrange my features back into their characteristic woodenness and respond, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mr. Michael.”

He chuckles. “You’re still so stubborn.” And then he continues up the stairs, leaving me to hasten after him.

He finds my room and goes in. I dash after him. My quick feet slip past him, reaching him as I place my hands on his chest before he takes another step.

“You’re fast,” he says with raised brows and a smirk, before I realize my own incriminating action.

I glare at him but he looks past me, finding my hard-covered journals neatly tucked inside my shelf. He moves with equal superhuman swiftness as he grabs one of the journals before I can react to stop him. Then he sits on my bed, opening the book before I can protest.

I stand stiffly and watch him. A few moments later, he looks up at me and his face now holds a sad smile. My anger crumbles to a similar sadness. He gets up and reaches for me, his movement a blur. His quickness makes me shut my eyes. It’s inhuman, incriminating.

It is him.

He takes my chin in a delicate hold.

“Open your eyes, Naade.” His command is gruff, a contrast to the smooth silkiness of his voice.

Don’t you dare open your eyes, I tell myself.

I open my eyes. The book is open and turned to face me. A single word is written over and over across the two pages. My stoicism begins to crumble, leaving behind raw emotions.

“Say it, Naade.” This time, there is a hint of pure pain in his voice.

Don’t! Stay strong. Stay stubborn. I keep shouting the instructions in my head.

“You’re Mykaelis,” I say the word and it slips naturally off my tongue.

“My love,” he says, a tear slipping down his cheek, then another, then another.

I lift my hands to his cheek, fingers trembling with the effort not to, as I wipe the tears away. My own tears threaten to fall.

It is him.

***

MYKAELIS

Naade wipes my tears away and his body trembles with his own grief.

“I thought you weren’t real,” he says as his eyes sparkle with his unshed tears.

“I prayed you were real,” I respond. I touch his lips. “May I?”

He doesn’t answer. Instead he moves his feet an inch higher and draws his face closer to mine.

I claim his lips with mine, hungrily. He tastes like honey and I feel it in my bones, these lips that were once mine to kiss. Mine!

I lift him and deposit him against a nearby desk, his bottom dropping with a dull thud on the wooden surface. I continue ravishing his lips, as we both flail with our hands, knocking books and the lamp out of the way and onto the floor without care. He growls as he rips my shirt open to touch my bare chest, the heat of his body filling me.

We look into each other’s eyes for a minute before we start to kiss again, this time much slower. His kisses feel like magic, actual magic. Nothing else but his kisses.

He is here. With me again. Our love feels like instinct, even without remembering.

But my mind follows after my feelings and the memories of Naade in my arms, naked, invade my thoughts.

We kiss like wild animals, and then at other times, we kiss delicately, each time touching like it’s our last, even with our gifts. We must have somehow known we’d be separated.

Several images play in my head like flames dancing passionately, furiously, burning rapidly until the fire just stops.

We both pull away from each other and struggle to catch our breaths, reeling from the glimpses into our fractured memories. I push back, placing some distance between us. My body shakes from the chemistry – from the magic we share.

He gets down from the table and walks closer, pulling me to him.

“What happened to us? Does any of your journals say why we’ve been apart?” he asks, hands tight around my waist.

“I have written a lot of journals over the years, and I recently found one of them displayed in a museum.” I smile wryly as I continue, “Took me calling on every favour I was owed to get that journal back, and in it, I saw what could have been the reason we lost each other. Humans. I think they found us.”

“What year?” he asks.

I shake my head. “I stopped taking note of the years centuries ago.”

He nods and maintains a contemplative silence, before asking, “So what now?”

“I want to keep holding you and kissing you and never let you go again,” I say with conviction.

“Why do I feel like you’ve said that before,” he says, smiling sadly as I touch every part of his face like it’s my first time.

“They can’t keep us apart forever,” I say firmly, kissing him again. “We will always find each other. We are immortals after all.”

Written by Abrams

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10 Comments

  1. Mandy
    January 15, 07:22 Reply

    God, this story!!! I can’t even talk about the way it’s doing me. The gift that woman gave them feels more like a curse than a blessing. To be immortal and to be losing the one you love over and over again because of the loss of memories… To reconnect every few hundred years and remember everything afresh, only to lose them after some years again.
    Nawa o!
    And immortality sef… How do you explain away to your environment about how forever young you’re looking while everyone around you is aging? These two must relocate a lot. Because you simply can’t stay, say, 30 years of age too long in one place.
    This is a beautiful and powerful story. Well done, Abrams. You keep serving great stories here.

  2. S.A
    January 15, 07:25 Reply

    Loved it, and highkey wished it is a series!
    Thank you, Abrams.

  3. nuel
    January 15, 14:34 Reply

    structure and story line
    out of the ordinary this released a motion creation in my mind and my God its One amazing work of art

  4. Delle
    January 15, 15:38 Reply

    Wait, this is not a series? That’s so unfair.

    Amazing story. Enthralling plot.

    Well done, Abrams!

  5. BRYAN PETERS
    January 15, 16:04 Reply

    Sheer beauty – this piece. Wow. So sweet and so sad at the same time. The fierceness and depth of it all. Kudos.
    P.S this shld totally be a series biko

  6. Andrevn
    January 15, 18:26 Reply

    Phew! YReading this left me with several thoughts and emotions running through my head even after the last period.

    And yes, it has sparked a day long conversation with a spec-fic writer friend/ally who I sent the link. Highlighting some of the tough choices queer persons have to face in a 21st century Nigeria circa SSMPA ’14 which this story has tried to capture in breathtaking prose, we’ve been arguing back and forth about the logic behind the plot.

    Of which I told him that given the right of choice in the face of eventual death at the hands of homophobic mob baying for our lives, immortality and memory loss, are only minute to the sacrifices LGBT Nigerians would gladly pay just to love without inhibitions.

    I just hope you’d turn this into a series or better, a fully fleshed out novel for mainstream publication, Abrams. Afterall, the future for African Literature is Queer (despite the flawed logic of suppositions like this).

    In other News: Who has read Amatesiro Dore’s essay recently published in The Johannesburg Review of Books ‘Letter to a Young Queer Intellectual’. Pinky?

  7. Phael
    February 05, 19:52 Reply

    Damn…… this is just awesome shii. For a second i thought it was motion picture. Pls make this a series. This write up qualifies for a published novel turned movie 😍

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