Fall 2021 Issue

A Flight to Cameroon

When I fell into a glass of beer, flailing in the massive froth I caused by my flapping about, fearing my drowning, I entered an unconsciousness and epiphany at the same time. I could not tell either apart and knew not what was happening to me, yet I was fully aware that something happened to me in that instant I fell out of the balance of my world. My vision blurred and something like a monolith appeared before me. I clung my hairy limbs onto it as it rose from the golden sea below, the glimmer from the atrium of the beer glass blinding me. It trembled as I clung to it and flung me in a violent manner I did not foresee for I was uncontrollably airborne, propelled against my will, till I was struck against a surface and fell into darkness.

When I came back to life I realised I was an insecta. What more—I could not tell, but a strange environment and faint knowledge of it but myself. Exempli gratia, on my back were extensions which levitated me once I flapped them with intention—and if my intention was of an aviator, they could make me fly. But I chose to pace, burdened by an unusual listlessness. I was still pacing when a humanoid creature tried to sweep me off with a scary object and I levitated from where I paced to escape its treachery. As I droned in the open space, below me were tiny insecta marching in a file with trophies on their exoskeletal heads. I dove in their midst and talked to one of them but it could not understand me.

I was still airborne when I heard buzzing, an uncountable stream of zzhurrrrrruuurrhhhrrr that stopped me in midflight. It marveled me that if I kept still, moving the extensions on my back in willed position, I hovered over a single spot. On a heap of something below were insecta like me practicing the stunt I just discovered, so I dove to their midst and hovered with them as some sort of fun when I was inundated by a foul smell and saw that we were hovering over a heap of rotten organic matter. I hollered at my kin, to dissuade them from their unholiness, why they shouldn’t practice this precious stunt over the mess below, but found out, colossally, that my speech to them, as theirs to me, could not be picked apart from the buzzing air. It immediately grieved me and I was confused—even at my grief and grieved at my confusion. What was all this?

I brooded. Brooded about what next. Not knowing what is or was or what I had to do. Estranged and pained that I might come to nothing of the world and myself, left with nothing to do but pace, pace, and pace, till I was done for and my fossil blown in the wind.

But a strong will goaded meaning to my being. I was in a vortex where I swirled and would soon get lost in, I felt it say. But I was lost already. I was in space, floating like a molecule, I felt it say. Everything I went through was an illusion that I must get out of, I felt it say.

I began to pace again, for pacing was the only thing left for me to do.

As I paced, my mind returned to the time of my revelation as an insect. I connected this plot of my life from that critical point. I had woken from the dead, or from a dream—that’s quite irrelevant now—but of what I dreamt I cannot remember. Except being flung—ahhh, yes! Rescued, lifted up and out, saved from drowning in that golden sea, then . . . it is all I remember. I flew in the air; I was flying, then, then . . . then . . . But why was I flying? As I remembered flight, I decided to fly again as if to find the answer to the question of the verb.

I levitated with intention, defying my size and death, defying illusion, and soon found myself in a sea where other flying insects and specs of dust and nonliving matter—microscopic members of airborne metropolis—were adrift in the air. Below me was a circuit of pathways, trees lining them and humanoids going about. Rectangled structures rose and fell, shimmering on their sides with glass panes. Then I felt a gastric compulsion. Eat. The verb came with force. I wanted to eat. But what could I eat? But I was descending already, auto-piloted by this compulsion to eat.

In a vast waste of uncanny objects I was, with uncreative matter less worried than myself. A mammoth pack of something had the name Capri Sonne on it. A hull protruded from it, which from within propelled a wondrous smell that pulled me onto it. I sucked a juice out of it before I could realize myself. It tasted . . . good. Then something shot from the hull: an insecta like me. I wasn’t alone in the wasteland, I found out to my disappointment. I levitated onto a pavement where loomed a high glass pane. Through it was an unreal sight: beautiful nonsense I could make no sense of. It was a place for human persons. From its ambience, everything was worked out in it compared to the hordeishness below. I did not revel in the moment because a curious creature on the other side tapped the glass and appeared to say something to me.

I could not answer it, having considered the futility in doing so. So I stared at it, or its helplessness, and daftness even, to see that its voice could not penetrate the glass. Then it levitated and disappeared—and I was relieved of that disturbance. Then I heard the word “fly.” Fly! Fly! Fly! It sounded like the mention of a name than a call to action. I heard buzzing. I looked below, in the wasteland, but was certain it had not come from there because this buzz sounded baritone-ish. I turned and looked, and above me was the insect from the other side of the glass, buzzing. I pitied myself for thinking it spoke a while ago only for it to entertain me with its timbre of buzzspeak. I was about to levitate when his buzzing stopped and I heard:

—You walk on your limbs.

It talked! To be certain, I started to levitate, and it repeated itself. So I stopped and answered:

—So what?

—And you talk.

—So what?

—So what?

I stared at it because it did the same, with an uncanny countenance, the very nature of its face. Then it broke the quiet: “My name is Wasp,” it said.


Wasp was waif. He called me “Fly.” We were on the side of the glass where I first saw him. He was with himself, acclimatized to being. He said things and knew things I knew naught. He knew he was a wasp and me, a fly, and that we belonged to the same family, Insecta, and that the extensions on our backs were called wings. We had six limbs except the spider who had eight, whom I should be wary of. Then he talked about humans, using arcane words like flask, straws, cans, money, and kisses.

—Oh, you have to see the way they kiss, he said. They do it every time here, in the evenings. It is like a meeting place. Boys and girls, men and women. Having a drink, talking, looking each other in the eye.

If I brought conversation back to the things that concerned our fate, he waved me off and talked more. “What gives?” he said. “Humans live for years while you have just days to live.” Then he recited poetry. When he spoke of the little time I had to live, I became even more troubled than I was. Seven to fourteen days? How many days had I lived?

Wasp made scrawled marks on the glass. I asked him what he was up to. Preparing the glass for cleaning. By who? If I don’t do so, the cleaner would see the glass clean and not care to wipe it. Why do you do this, Wasp? When the glass is cleaner I can see the sunset clearer. I knew then that Wasp had a punctured exoskeletal head and staying with him was a bad idea. So, I paced. If I had only days to live, I needed to know the days left and what to do with them.

—Say, Wasp, I started, how do you know so much?

—Google, for instance.

—Googool? Who is Googool?

—What is Google. An it, not a who.

—Where is it? Show me.

We flew into the open air. Wasp talked. I didn’t talk back because of the stress of shouting over the friction of the wind against my speech. We stopped. There, he said. The symbol C A F É was above an entrance to a building.

In the building, I hovered, enthralled by its holy mess of activity. After a while, I sat on the shiny tome of a human head but didn’t get a good vision with what it did with the protrusions at the end of its hands on the symbol device below. So I hopped onto the mound that supported its hand to its body for a better view. I watched this: the tapping of its protrusions—fingers, rather (the real name came to me by intuition)—on the symbol device. A pointer moved on the screen of this device, clicking sounds, whatnots. And did I say I sat on the intuitious shoulders of the human?

Soon I was in charge of a device of my own, staring down at its screen and symboled component. I fell hard on the symbols: one symbol, then another, and another. I launched the Firefox, and into its bar, inputted: G o o g o o l. Googool: Did you mean Googol? 1,851,934 results for Googol. Googol is the number 1.0 x 10100 . . .  A fly’s anger roused in me. What was this? Googol was a number? Had Wasp been sly to me? The imp. I paced, devising how to deal with him for playing a joke on me when I realised that most of my answers came when I was airborne. So, I levitated.

The device’s screen light—the computer’s—shone brightly as I was airborne. I felt pride in working it to do its magic. I looked at my handiwork again. 1,851,934 results for Googol. Another word spelt alternatively was beside it: Google, written in multicolored symbols. So I input into the bar once more: g o o g l e, and, alas, the screen transformed bearing the huge symbols Google, with a search tab. So, I typed: f-l-y.

Fly: from the kingdom Animalia, class Insecta, belonging to the order Diptera. Undergoes complete metamorphosis. Starts as a maggot, becomes a pupa, then an adult or imago. Dies after seven to fourteen days. There was an image of my life cycle. Helps in the decomposition of organic matter, contaminates food, causes cholera, usually found in large numbers in sewers, dumpsites or abattoirs. I didn’t know what the last word meant but it sounded poetic. I confess: I was flummoxed. Causes cholera? Contaminates food? Starts as a maggot? The consciousness of my ontology could be traced only to a point where it was trapped; I did not argue with Google’s postulations about me. But I was robbed of my say. Google, after all, didn’t know everything. That I was a fly that could talk and walk and use a computer; that I could pace and levitate and solve problems.

I was moody, however. The humans lived for up to a hundred years but I had days. Very few left: I was already an imago. I brooded and recalled Wasp’s poem and rigged it for my benefit:

I brood upon the world

I see vast nothingness

Indeed, all insects come

To explore their end.

Wearied by melancholy, I rose from my brooding to join the world, to accept the handshake of fate.

As I levitated out of the ca-fé, a screen loomed before me. It had moving pictures of humans. On its top right corner was a little-sized picture of a human. Below it was another little-sized picture of a fangled equipment with a hull protruding from it. Beside these little pictures was another human talking in measured finesse. And below was a tag in big block symbols: MILITARY TAKES OVER ZIMBABWE. I hovered for a while, pondering upon the fad, upon the riddle that entered and stayed in my mind, imposing on me the task of musing. What was Zimbabwe and why had Military taken over it? A foreboding rushed through me: Military’s name sounded metallic, “Zimbabwe” sounded powerful, yet Military overtook it: why did Military take over powerful Zimbabwe?

What if Military was a bad thing? What if Military was taking over so many things and Zimbabwe was one victim among many? What if Military was responsible for trapping my memory? Although I had not much time to live, I knew I had to find out about Military. Fired, I went back to my computer and quickly inputted: Military takes over Zimbabwe. Financial Times, one of Google’s affiliates—a curious name for a website to read about Military and Zimbabwe—is where I found an article for which I consulted another affiliate of Google, Merriam Webster, a dictionary, by and by, to fully assimilate what I read. I found nothing about Military. I found out, rather, that Military was irrelevant to my cause. Zimbabwe was neither powerful. The fad or what happened was instead about a human called Robert Mugabe who was a president of Zimbabwe, which is a country, for more than a whopping thirty years. I could not bother but as I read on I saw that other humans were not happy about this. Robert Mugabe, it seemed, was a very bad person. I felt the badness deeply within my exoskeleton, what Robert Mugabe did, and felt an affinity to humans, able to share in their plight. Financial Times seemed to know more than Google. It led me to another story about one such human as Robert Mugabe who still stood on the heads of other humans in Cameroon, another country.

Cameroon did not sound powerful. But when I looked it up on Google, I was disappointed that Military had not taken over it. I was flummoxed. In this world and especially that of humans, you never understand anything at once. Was Biya, an old fool standing on the heads of the multitude of humans in that country, too powerful? As I mused, something brewed in me.


Getting to Cameroon was not a fly’s headache. Google found out. I had to get to an airport and board an airplane to Cameroon. Getting to the airport took over my being than any other thing, even pacing; for going to Cameroon to bring down Biya if Military had not the guts. One last human was standing on the heads of millions of other humans without getting his treatment.

Finally, I was at the airport place. Too many droning sounds like a million insecta buzzing filled my ears from time to time. The edifice of the airport was maze like. I hovered for long-long, stopping at one point and then another, confused. Nausea seized me. In the air, I inhaled insect-repellant smells and tried to navigate my way safely. And finally, I tagged along a group of humans going to Cameroon. We found our airplane. I entered and found a spot to relax. It was complete peace, complete distance from all intended afflictions. I was away from pacing and droning in the open, dangerous air where the wind was intent. I was in the midst of a sea of humans surer of their destination than any other human anywhere in the outside vortex. My thoughts, a reverie of my ploy to deal Biya his treatment. The airplane began moving. I smirked to myself because Google would soon include “Overtaker of Biya” in its search results about me. I would become The Greatest Fly That Ever Lived. The airplane rose from the ground and broke the sky, climbing higher, and higher. I felt it in my exoskeleton. Soon, a calmness came upon me and I took a nap.

Carl Terver

Carl Terver is a Nigerian writer and poet, and holds a BA English from BSU, Makurdi. He was assistant digital editor at Praxis magazine and now Founding Editor of Afapinen. His essays have been published in The Republic, The Question Marker, Praxis, and The Shallow Tales Review. His poetry chapbook is For Girl at Rubicon.

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