It is 1609, and a distinguished intelligent African leads a European expedition to the Americas. Now, I don’t have to tell you what an oddity this is, or why you made that face you just made when you read the line; but you did read well. The matter of whether this event actually took place is one I cannot say for certain, for I could only be a biased judge of whatever assertions I would offer concerning its verity. But I know this– there is a story to be told here, and for it to be complete, and to weigh just the right amount in the tongue of the hearers – like umami to vegans – a distinguished intelligent African lead a European expedition to the Americas, to find the rumoured seat.
History had it rough for black people. We – I’m black, yes – were in the dark for so long; but what I call darkness is only a concept of relativity. To us, we knew. We ate food, we hunted game, we created fine art, we had music, and clothing, and shelter, and laws, and language, we knew. Our light was sufficient, until a different spectrum was shown to us by the likes of Henry, son of Portugal, master of the seas. What we wish our forefathers did was to simply understand that their light had a different wavelength, and so was a thing we could master – the same way we mastered the difference between ugu and achara – perfect on, and in return, show them our own type of light for them to learn as well. What they did instead was to engrave it in their hearts that the white man’s light, since more luminous in a sense, was superior- not superior in that one sense alone, no, they took it superior in all senses.
So, Sarah Baartman had to happen, Olaudah Equiano had to happen, Kunta Kinte had to happen, Solomon Northup had to happen, and these happenings have not ceased- Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Alex Haley, all the way down to Barrack Obama. Different happenings in different shades and tones. But I believe history’s had its fun. You can’t play around with a toy forever. These days, the different lights are finally mixed, and we universally understand that black light, viewed upon with the right sets of instruments, has what I call, “a forever glow”.
Chude Isaac, somehow, understood this as far back as 1609. He had the entire town of Bradford in Yorkshire know that he knew, just like they, and they came to respect his opinion first, and then him later. If only William Wilberforce knew of Chude, his battle with Parliament would have ended long before 1807, but I digress. Time came, and word was heard of a mysterious gem that had appeared in a Cherokee mine, and explorers were rallied.
It was like a whistle blown, for late 16th Century England loved to motivate their adventurous citizens by setting up expeditions so that it resembled a hunting contest, and it seemed this attitude was carried on to the early 17th. Chude captained a boat with the fewest crew – for though all respected him, it was still unorthodox to behold oneself in an English ship led by a black man – made up of ever-peculiar Lord Allbond, squires Stevenson and Dursley, Miss Dundee (whom everyone kept referring to as ‘Boy’), squiggly Fermoot and his monkey Tomfeor.
The Atlantic, everyone knew was a misty blue mine of unseen dangers, but having journeyed about 120 leagues without a single incident – though out of sight from other ships – the crew reinforced the courage they had in finding the treasure, and began obeying Chude unquestioningly. Close to the eastern shores of northern America, the first canon ball bore a hole twice its size all the way through the hull of Chude’s vessel. It had come to be, as everyone on board now understood, that it had been deliberate, the conditioning of Chude’s sail as if he had won the chase and had kept his competitors at his tail. Ravage battles had gone on behind him, and the Admiral had specifically instructed all ships to leave Chude’s to sail ahead – for he alone had the true sense of direction of an adventurer; he knew and read the right signs – and after they were done squabbling behind him (blowing themselves to bits should have been the phrase), and he had found shore, incinerate his company. They simply were not to have him or the set of miscreants aboard his ship become English champions, or be knighted, for a knighting had been promised. It was well orchestrated; but failed at the end. By pure happenstance, a horde of locals had gone fishing that same hour, and had inadvertently come to Chude’s aid. Tomfeor, the monkey, had saved both he and his crew by being a mere fascination to the Native American Chief. Leon, the French-English captain of the ship that sought to wreck Chude’s, and his team were burnt on sight at the order of the Chief. They had no bargaining monkey with them.
It was a swell time with the Cherokee. Three-quarters of what they said was not understandable, and the quarter that was was seldom intelligible. But they got along; Chude married the Chief’s daughter – true story – as a bargain to be led to the sacred tomb with the white gem. You find that a copious percentage of communication between the two groups was through lengthy hours of bargains with terrible sign language. And when they arrived at an impasse, a game that much resemble golf, but more brutal and involving hungry badgers and wood was played. The winner of the game won the bargain; the loser gets drowned– sacrificed to the gods of the tomb, they said it was. Chude lost Allbond this way.
The entry to the tomb – catacombs, really – was to be performed at night, with all the full rites of entry observed. Only one with royal blood, or married to royal blood could enter, hence the marriage. Ornate and confounding rituals they were, and when things got undeniably suspicious, both Chude and his new wife, Sequoyah, were thrown into the dark tomb, and locked in with a large rolling stone. Before the stone was completely closed, he heard the words, “fool! I’m no chief. You think you’re Hernando de Soto. I’d rather be Shoshone than help a foreigner, black or white. Good luck. And in case you’re confused, I hate Sequoyah; and she’s undeserving of that damned name. It’s a man name even.”
Chude worried about Stevenson, Dursley, and Boy. They were as good as dead, and he was stuck with a funny-smelling native who had a disturbing love for rocks that she licked some of them, and spoke no English. He left her. Was it inhumane? That question could come later and bother him. Now that he was left alone, he was alone. He had only with him wood with cloth laced with oil thrown in by Boy at the closing of the tomb. He took two rocks from Sequoyah, struck them to no avail, and in frustration, kicked the wood, and like the badgers in their strange golf-like game, the stick lifted off the ground and kept sailing in the air. No landing sound was heard, and Chude wondered if such a deep pit was before him. Then the sound was heard, not from some terrifying depth below him, but from an alarming distance in front. Then the torch lighted, and glory was shone all around him. The innards of the tomb, in some manner, had come to life, and it breathed light.
Chude had heard and read Scottish tales about the Willow o’ the Wisp. Now he saw one, or maybe some mimicry of it, for he followed the lights as they went off on his trail, and Sequoyah at his wake. Then he saw. He saw.
It was white, but not white as you know, or blanched if you choose to classify the whiteness. It wasn’t translucent or transparent either. It was whiter than all the white in the world. And it shone. The only other colour that could be seen on it was golden, and the bright golden colouration were inscriptions, which as he drew nearer proved unreadable, and dare I say, utterly useless to Chude.
However, the words read:
βωλγ ιθ ζλΰρ ταθ τίσ ιθ ίβτσομ σιθ δνα
These engravings at the headrest of the white chair which lay on a raised dais directly under a moon roof at a height unreachable by man or any of his devices, riddled, puzzled, and arrested dear Chude to the confines of the catacombs, and even though he couldn’t see it yet, all the years he spent in that tomb, eating nothing but being inexplicably sustained, teaching Sequoyah the English language and the ancient language of his African tribes people which he uttered in hushed tones alone while back at England, recording the events of his voyage in a severely dog-eared scroll with quill and ink (later his and her own blood), laughing, and dancing, and getting their eyes adjusted to the lights of the tomb that never dimmed, loving, and kissing, and making love – for circumstance had rid his mind of Sarah who waited for him in England, and had rendered Sequoyah his one true, necessary, love – while the many eyeless skulls of the dead watched and perverted their eternally lost souls, receiving each corpse thrown into the tomb from the moon roof, he, Chude, was to become the stuff of legend– a secret tale told from one ear in a generation to only one other ear alone in the very next generation, the almighty myth: The African man who lead a European expedition to the Americas, discovering the rarest gem on earth, and never leaving the cave to tell the tale, only surviving 167 years in said tomb by his reckoning, before his mythical, cursed, scroll leaves the tomb and falls into the hands of none other than Mister Washington himself, who was to soon lay the seeds for the biggest socio-political invention earth had ever seen– The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, and the writings of that scroll underneath.
By stars! I’d just written 305 words without a full stop. Was highly enjoyable.
“And the post of Senior Prefect goes to…”
“Gabriel Ochinta,” the students of Our Lady Shines Her Star Catholic Secondary School echoes the name of one of the three candidates for school senior prefect before the principal could get the chance to finish. They all knew he’d win; it was written in the stars. All would agree that Gabriel was born to lead, and having shown exceptional qualities, put himself out there for candidacy, run his little campaign with his little school savings very effectively – having armed himself with the right team – he was damn sure to win. The community of Umuororonjo in Imo State must hear his name. He had what most would call a Messiah-complex, but it was certainly not misplaced, or erroneous, for everything Gabriel touched turned to gold. It all started when he had the first vision of the hill with a perfectly round hole at its crest where faceless men threw in corpses of soldiers who’d died in battle.
After each dream, he’d begin hearing voices. Initially, they were broken and unfamiliar, then they took shape, sound, and colour pretty soon. They were his instructors. They called themselves The Watchful Eyes, and each time, positively announced themselves as the souls in the tomb. Soon, Gabriel figured out that destiny has set a course for him; he was meant for something larger than himself, and the voices of those corpses he saw were destiny’s emissaries. He started bossing everyone in his family around– a character his mother termed ‘new juvenile aggression’ in her local tongue. His father paid him no mind, but gently, as Gabriel noticed, ceased talking to him as a father, and soon, was taking wise instructions from him. And the perk about the entire thing was that he, Gabriel, was always right.
From bossing his family members to becoming class monitor at 8, then library prefect by 11, and then senior prefect by 13, he was the youngest his school had ever recorded. He brought in money to his family through the ever-brilliant business ideas he presented. His parents suggested business school for college; he preferred political science. He intelligently usurped a scholarship to study in Nigeria’s most prestigious university, and came out even hungrier. He breezed past his Youth Service Corps program like it was yesterday’s news, and immediately over-impressed the leading candidate for local government chairman at his hometown by prophesying through statistics exactly the way his campaign must be run for him to obtain majority voters and win by a garish margin. He became the campaign manager and indeed, won the election for his candidate as he predicted.
They weren’t predictions, he’d insist, and when he had accidentally released word to his candidate when he was running for second tenure that his prophesies presented him, Gabriel, as the next LGA Chairman, his candidate was so pissed that he worried himself to chronic illness.
Gabriel won, then ran alongside the next governor of Imo State in the next four years, won with him. At this stage, his success story had become everyone’s bible. Patriotic Nigerians yearned to follow his example. If he was proud, or greedy, or corrupt, he did a damn good job at hiding it. He was the change the country had been waiting for. He went ahead to run for governor in the next four years, won, then presidency, and won on a landslide.
Gabriel Ochinta, GCFR, OON, was now president of Nigeria. People expected him to do two tenures at Aso Rock, and then rest. He thought – and even prayed – he would. But his guiding voices weren’t finished with him. He had recognized, and had even named, some of them, although some like Boy (who was a woman actually), Fermoot, Allbond, and the pesky monkey whose English sounded like Minions going on decided – insisted – to keep theirs. They were proud kingsmen and would not surrender their identity to mishandling so easily.
The voices, seductively, and terrifyingly (when he would oppose them) egged him on, and he soon understood his real target. They had all told him the wonderful tales of Chude Isaac, and had even suspected that he, Gabriel, was kin to the 16th Century black English sailor. They sparsely mentioned Sequoyah, although Gabriel was most interested in her than anybody else in their tales. Gabriel’s real target was the white gem. It was fable to him, but sometimes, he swore than he could taste the rare stone on his lips, and he would hunger. Therefore, the United Nations was his next target. He needed to acquire power and influence enough to pull whatever stunt he required to pull on American soil without international attention. He got there, as expected. He was Secretary General for four years, but in those four years, all the connections he amassed and shameful secrets about human brutality and wickedness he got to learn could not still get him to where he wanted. One day, a conversation with the Chinese Prime Minister gave him his craziest idea yet. The Prime Minister had asked, “how come you come from a third world country and yet have achieved all these; yet your country is not in the G8?” His idea was simple – hell with the G8. He was going to bring Nigeria into the sanctum sanctorum of it all – the G3, if you would call it that; the World Security Council.
It was to require eight more years as President, and in the eight years, pull ninety percent of his focus on the military. Ninety percent of the focus of someone as high-functioning as Gabriel was a lot I tell you. And this was proven. Soon, Great Britain lost its spot– it was hotly contested for, if you must know. But a public parley lead to a compromise– England was to operate under Nigeria, just like Israel under the United States. If only Chude could see what was going on now.
Then the cogs of Gabriel’s thirty-two year old wheel – for these are the number of years it took the young man to go from campaign manager of a local government area chairmanship candidate to the leader of the World Security Council – began turning for real. He called for his own expedition, and pulled in the best team available in the world. It was clandestine. Team comprised of his son, Ugo, world-acclaimed best cryptographer alive, a Nobel-Prize in Physics winning Kenyan physicist, his co-winner– a female Chemist from Uganda, South African archeologist, Reuel Theba, a mariner from Ghana, and finally, a historian from Ethiopia. That his selections comprised entirely of Africans was purely coincidental. Their task was simple – dig a big hole in the rose garden on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, follow the clues in the map that he offers them, winner, if still alive, gets to make his country the greatest in the world, for the gem shall be transported to his or her country for safe-keeping, and tourism.
They were all patriotic suckers, so they set out, Gabriel giving his son needed leverage by telling him the story behind the naming of Nathaniel Gist’s son Sequoyah, and the story of the inspirer of that name. He was a hardcore cryptographer, so he appreciated the story. No other living human being would.
Gabriel would rest well, knowing that his son would win, his torment by the people in his head would end, he’d finally breathe in life since turning six, and would die a fulfilled happy man.
When Ugo’s dead naked body was brought to him, out of the chasm they’d made in the rose garden, three months later, Gabriel cried, and he never stopped. The voices had stopped; they’d been silenced, but Gabriel had a feeling that someday, someone else will take over from him, for he suspected that the marking etched on his son’s dead bare body were the same as those Boy had told him were in Chude’s mysterious scrolls.
I will not bore you with the specifics of how Ugo and his team managed to infiltrate The White House, remove every human and artificial presence from the section of The White House they were interested in, dug a perfect hole that could fit six persons at once, covered the hole up, and eventually found the tomb buried under layers of dirt, still intact as promised, no. I myself do not understand half the sketches in their operational blueprint, and still cannot comprehend the subtle movements they had to make, all whilst a White House tour was being embarked upon by some kindergarten pupils, but I know one thing– it took them exactly 24 hours to pull the job off from start to finish. They celebrated while at the entrance to the tomb, in the hole, and by the time they were done shouting shouts of victory, a seventh voice was heard among them– that of the guardian.
“You know, it took me quite some time to admit it, but you all are evidence of its truth. The Watchful Eyes chose another in my days. Hmph. Who would have thought?”
Reuel pulls out a gun nobody knew he was with. “How did you get that past security, Zulu?” Ugo asks him. Part of their strategy was to use codenames. Reuel’s was Zulu. Ugo’s was Igbo. One can see that even though they aimed to hide their identity, they still desired whomever that may have been listening in on them to know where they were from.
“Not to matter,” Reuel replies and cocks the gun. “Who’re you?” he asks the owner of the voice whose face could not yet be seen due to the darkness surrounding them. Then Reuel’s gun flew away from his hands crashing with so much force into the walls of the cavern they were in that it shattered. The owner of the seventh voice approached their glow sticks.
“No wonder I didn’t feel like I had full communication. They’d indeed split their gifts. That of Protector for me, and that of Messenger to him.” It was the Vice President of the United States. “By him, I mean your father, Ugo.”
The others rushed at him and with wave of hands, he telekinetically tossed them all to the one side of the cavern, rendering them halfway unconscious, leaving Ugo and Reuel. “How?” Ugo asks, his quivering knee betraying the fearlessness he tried to portray at the calamitous situation. He was scared shitless, but somehow knew that if someone as powerful as the US Vice President had allowed them to carry out their plan and get to the cavern, it implied he needed their help locating the gem as well.
“How is it that the Vice President is telekinetic? Or how do I know the things I just uttered? Or how am I here?”
Ugo made to speak before the Vice President cut him off and continued. “Real question you should be asking is, how do we get into the catacombs?
“See, I don’t have the details in my head like your father. The Watchful Eyes decided that I was to be the one to not reap the full benefits of the Carriers…of the secret, that is. Vice President after Vice President after Vice President, we were all born with it. But in the case of my predecessors, unlike mine, they had the Powers, as you’ve just witnessed me demonstrate, and as well, the Communication. I know what I know from the Chude Scroll – name was changed to the Isaac Scroll recently actually – and the Isaac Codex Nixon created.”
Ugo was calmer now. He approached the Vice President, heaved a sigh, and then asked the true question bothering him. “What is it you want? I can tell you’ve let us get here. What do you want?”
“You’re a quick one, can give you that. Maybe that’s why you’re a darn good cryptographer. In fact, I can see your father hand-selected you all because of your specific skill sets. Mine should be the ingredient he missed.”
“He knew about you?”
“Hell no. I hid myself. Perhaps he suspected, but he certainly did not know, and did not account for me here.” The others were getting to.
“What I want,” the Vice President continued, “is what you all want. To obtain the one treasure that will make the United States remain the most powerful nation in the world for the long foreseeable future. I promise to be civil and cooperative during the hunt like you guys, but the moment I see the gem, there are no promises.”
“Yes, hunt, son. You didn’t think you guys will continue operating like a well-oiled engine as you have when you sight the goods in that tomb, did you? Son, prepare for the greed of mankind to show itself to its fullness. I’ve braced myself for it. You better.”
With those words, and the full recovery of the victims of the wall-tossing, the team of seven set out to the tomb wall. At the wall, they found the rolling stone and rolled it away. Then they stepped in.
The concentrated stench of dead bodies ambushed them and they went for gas masks. The Vice President brought one for himself too apparently. He was as prepared as they were. They kept walking, and when it was clear that the distanced they’d walked with their glow sticks was way too much for what they were in to be a mere tomb, they went for a brighter source of light.
A mighty halogen lamp was lit, and it could only see as far. As far was still more road to cover, and more putrid skulls adorning their route on both sides. Then Ugo stopped them all. His head had been restless all this time. He’d remembered the tale his father told him at his briefing. Chude lit a stick and kicked it into the distance. His crew wondered how that would help. They thought it silly.
He found a leg bone from one of the skulls, tied a piece of his shirt he tore around it, lit it with his cigarette lighter, and kicked it. The stick sailed, and like in the stories, its landing thud was heard much later, but no light came.
Ugo got frustrated. They kept on going forward, eventually relinquishing their gas masks, and the large lamp kept showing them more of the same thing ahead, just as if they were going in circles. They kept at it for four more hours, their patience running thin by the hour, until Reuel could not handle it anymore. He screamed, and began shouting nonsensical Zulu at them all. Every other person followed his cue, except the Vice President. He was sat with his legs crossed on each other at a corner, watching, silent. Then all of a sudden, he started laughing. The laughter took a sharp crescendo, got the attention of others who kept mute, and then seemed to herald and accentuate the infinite lighting of the entire tomb. Soon, everywhere got so bright that all fourteen living eyes in that tomb fought battles in adjustment. The laughter didn’t cease.
“What is it!” Reuel screamed at the Vice President.
The Vice President shook his head, and chuckled his insane mirthful episode to a halt. “I know what spirits are in this tomb,” he said. “If St. Benedict’s Catholic school had taught me anything, it’s that what comes with inexplicable powers and becomes alive when there is chaos can only be a malevolent spirit.”
“What are you on about?”
“Lady and gentlemen, behold,” the Vice President dramatically stood and waved his hands, “The White!” He pointed at the most beautiful seat Ugo, or Reuel, or the others had ever seen in their life. It was white beyond ethereal existence. And then Ugo saw the golden inscriptions. The cryptographer in him came alive as the Vice President concluded. “Beautiful sight. I will indeed die in peace. And the day of my death shall be this day.” He was talking to himself, but audibly enough that all could hear. “I had planned killing you all and transporting this large giant-size chair telekinetically to the Smithsonian, but now I know that even if I do not lay a finger on you, you all, and myself, shall perish, today. The Spirit of The White cannot let any alive.”
“You’re a crazy person,” one of the others said.
“It’s Ancient Greek. In reverse,” Ugo began. His gaze was fixated on the golden inscriptions. “I’ve read about something like this. It’s like mirror language– the mother of the eventual concept in lingual civilization where glyphs like those used by the Hebrew or Aramaic were converted from right to left scripts to left to right scripts as they were Romanized, and eventually Anglicized.”
No one understood what he was saying or where he was headed. He wrote things down on a piece of paper, cancelled them, rewrote, and cancelled, while others walked round the marvel before them, all the while sizing their counterparts up and deciding how best to eliminate them in spite of the Vice President’s crazy talk of massacre.
Ugo stood. “I’ve got it! I’ve got it! It’s a very obvious inscription, really, but I’ve got it.” He ran to Reuel, who was the only person at a place and ready to listen aside the Vice President.
Ugo wrote on his paper:
ανδ θισ μοστ βί θι σίτ θατ ρΰλζ θι γλωβ
“And This Must Be The Seat That Rules The World”
“Brilliant!” he exclaimed.
“It is, isn’t it?” a strange echoing voice was heard. The hiss behind each word reverberated so hard that the lights flickered.
“Rude of me,” the voice carried on, slowly, softly, predatorily, speaker completely unseen in all the light. “I should introduce myself.”
“The Spirit of the White,” the Vice President says, in a little voice that turned everyone else’s head in shock. It was little, and it trembled, like the man himself.
“Yesss, Mister Vice President, you’re right. But that is not my name. The call my throne ‘The White’ now. It’s funny, and I reckon, is the reason why you give me such complicated name. The truth is my true name cannot be spoken by any tongue conceived, given, or learned of man. Its intricacies and involvedness would only confound you. For your sakes, just call me what you all have been calling me for years, unbeknownst; call me Uncle Sam, for that is my name.”
“Wait what, Uncle S–” Interjecting Reuel was the utter disappearance of the chair, the turning off of all of the lights – including the halogen lamp, the etching of words on all their stomachs, and the dying of them all, in one fell swoop.
Ndukwe-Nwoke Chiziterem is a fresh graduate of Federal University of Technology Owerri, where he studied Petroleum Engineering. He has been a writer at heart for many years, and has recently founded the non-profit for emerging African writing talents known as Route Africa.