The Rainbow Bank


Mezie adjusted the glasses on the bridge of his nose and tried to look inconspicuous as he stalked the back alleys of Tomato District. This side of town, apartment blocks were squeezed so tightly together they were often misconstrued for large living complexes. The congestion meant everybody knew everybody, and his wasn’t a face that he wanted to have noticed around these parts. Not at this time.

He hopped over an open pipe which drained waste water between two buildings. The alleys ranked of piss, but Real Night was fast approaching, and the smoke from the warming meisuya grills was beginning to override the general odour of overpopulation. Mezie eyed the number on the building behind him and made out the ’16’ printed on it in fading paint. The rogue ujuist was supposed to be somewhere around here. He scanned around nervously as dusk fell even faster.

A few yards ahead of him was a converted shipping container that looked like it had seen better days. It was sandwiched in a somewhat-too-tight corner between blocks 16, 17 and 18. A tiny red bulb illuminated the front of the container and Mezie winced at the sight of the numerous mosquitoes buzzing around the entrance.

He took another look around to make sure he wasn’t being followed, adjusted the baseball cap on his head and stepped into the container. Tiny bulbs of green light ran on wires on the ceiling, leading to a beaded curtain a few feet in. He parted it and walked through.

“Relics out,” a raspy voice trilled from inside.


“You heard me. All relics out.”

Mezie gritted his teeth. He always carried a protection orb about—side effects of his business. He put a hand into his Gore-Tex jacket and brandished his personal relic. In the dim light, tiny runes glistened over the surface of the fist-sized metallic sphere.

“You’ll find a tray by the curtain,” the ujuist said. “Leave it there and come in.”

Mezie did as he was told. The ujuist sat behind a desk that took up the entire width of the room. An incense lantern hung from the ceiling. Shelves filled with books and artefacts went to the back farther than the lights could reach. It was a very cramped working space.

“So?” the ujuist asked, eyes narrowing at him. “What do you want?”

“Are you Wumi Alaba?”

“Who’s asking?”

“My name is Mezie. I’m here to hire your services.”

“I doubt you’d be able to afford me.”

Mezie measured the woman behind the desk. She was tall, probably 5’9. Her dark skin seemed to catch the green light of the small room. A shawl of the same colour wrapped her neck. Her arms were well defined—long toned limbs that ended with charm bracelets on her wrists and rings over her long fingers. Fingers that looked like they could snap his neck without her exerting a bit of uju.

“I can,” Mezie said. “And you haven’t even heard what I have to say.”

“All jobs start at three gold,” she said in that throaty voice of hers.

“What? I-I mean, that wasn’t what I heard.”

Wumi Alaba shook her head. “You might want to sit. Mezie, wasn’t it?”

He took the stool beside her table. “Look, just hear me out okay? Like I said earlier, my name is Mezie. I run books for Family Man—”

At the utterance of Family Man, the ujuist suddenly leapt, faster than he could blink. In a heartbeat, the cold edge of a dagger was pressed against his throat.

“You work for the syndicates then?” she hissed.

“Are you a madwoman?” he yelled. An action which, in retrospect, wasn’t probably the best of ideas when a knife was inches from his throat. “I’m a potential customer!”

Mezie felt the steel taste blood. “I’d slit your throat if it wasn’t such a mess to clean up blood from the floor.”

He lifted his palms into the air in surrender. “I’m sorry. Please can you let me explain?”

“How did you find me?”

“I have contacts, okay? Just…just hear me out. That dagger is making me very uncomfortable.”

The ujuist eyed him dangerously, but the dagger left his neck. “Talk.”

“Like I said, I run Family Man’s books. Loans, due payments, interest rates, all of that. However, I’ve been meaning to break out. Start my own enterprise, outside Family Man’s umbrella.”

“So you want to leave one rat’s wing to become your own rat?”

“Rats don’t have wings,” he said. The ujuist’s gaze threatened to skin him alive. Mezie instantly opted for adjusting his glasses nervously.

“Well, I am pursuing similar interests, but I want to believe I have a fundamentally different philosophy from Family Man.”

“A loan shark is still a loan shark,” Wumi Alaba deadpanned. Mezie gulped, nervously adjusting his glasses. Family Man was more than just a loan shark. He ran a syndicate of relic trade, spy networks and ujuists. The latter he managed to squeeze under his grip with overwhelming violence. Family Man was as ruthless as they came, and he wielded the greatest power of all.


When the Spillage first happened, many people thought it was the apocalypse and did what every normal person would. Or at least what they’d learned from The Walking Dead. They looted supermarkets and bunkered down in their homes and ‘waited.’ The Spillage itself was the shredding of the conceptual seams between our reality and a place some mystic termed The Isle of Dreams. The visitors on the other hand were less than dreamy. They were a variety of existences; from the ojuju, beasts formed of corporeal shadows, to actual angelic beings. In short, while the entire world was trying to figure out what exactly in crackers was going on and waiting for these fancy visitors to do their worst, Family Man was looting money

Well, here they were now.

“I don’t work for loan sharks. Not even aspiring ones. There’s a reason my office is this far away from Victory Estate.” Mezie noticed the ujuist pulled her shawl closer to her neck. It looked too tight to be comfortable. “And I can’t assassinate Family Man for you. If I could, I’d have done it years ago, for zero.”

Mezie’s eyes rounded in shock. “Absolutely not! I’m not trying to…to assassinate Family Man. Why in heaven would you think that?”

“Huh? What then was all that nonsense about becoming your own rat?”

Mezie fought the warmth peppering his ears. He believed in his own ambition, but there was just this way Wumi Alaba phrased it that made it sound patronising. “I never said anything about killing anybody. I need to hire you to accompany me in search of a particular relic.”

Interest flashed in Wumi Alaba’s eyes. “A relic?”

“If only you’d let me finish when I started.” Mezie took off his glasses to wipe them. Then he remembered he’d dabbed the nick in his neck with the same handkerchief, and instantly changed his mind. “You see, my biggest issue with leaving Family Man is money. I just don’t have enough—”

“I doubt anyone can ever have enough if they’re comparing themselves to Family Man.”

“Ujuist, would you bloody stop interrupting me!”

Wumi Alaba narrowed her eyes, then casually flashed her dagger at Mezie.

“Stop that too,” he snapped. “I already have a substantial information network. One I’ve built for myself over the years. That’s also where I discovered a particular relic that could solve all of my problems. Not just any relic ujuist, mind you, but one of the Stuff of Dreams.”

Mezie smiled satisfactorily and watched Wumi Alaba’s eyes widen and her jaw fall. Then watched as she tried to pick up the pieces of her composure and failed.

“You’re lying.”

“I wouldn’t risk Family Man’s people sighting me in this side of town over something as trivial as a lie. It won’t take long for Family Man to hear about this—maybe by the end of Real Night, give or take—and he’ll mobilize an Outlander team to go after the relic immediately. We both know the number of ujuists he controls.”

“What exactly is this relic that makes you think you can stand up to Family Man?” She couldn’t hide the excitement in her rasping tone. Mezie wondered where the hard-woman act went. He smiled, relishing the moment.

“It’s a pot.”


“A mint to be more precise. It creates money. Indefinitely, and in unlimited supply.” Mezie leaned in to face the woman. “And we can find it at the bottom of a particular rainbow.”

“A rainbow?” Her expression fell. “That’s too vague. Since the Spillage we’ve barely had properly sunlit skies.”

“True,” he said. The skies outside the settlements were mostly made up of ashen and burnt out clouds, and it always looked like dusk. Hence the ‘Real Night’ marked the end of daytime hours. Still danger or discomfort never stopped anybody. “There’s a map to the place this rainbow will be, Wumi Alaba.”

“Will be?”

“Well rainbows don’t just appear and stay, now do they?”

“I wouldn’t know. I was born in an underground bunker a few years after the Spillage. Never seen a rainbow.”

She’d said it with such a straight face. “Heavens! You’re serious. Okay, okay. Then you definitely have to escort me. Time is limited, and how much did you say your price was?”


With the Dreamlings came the relics. A relic was any object that did not obey the natural laws of this reality. Most of them came from the other side, The Isle of Dreams, wherever that was. Others could be produced artificially by any ujuist creative enough with their hands.

Mezie trekked quickly towards the main thoroughfare. Around town, the meisuya grills cooked mouth-watering beef and chicken. Some canopies were up, around which the richness of pepper soup wafted into his nostrils. Speakers boomed highlife music into the night. Around the corner, someone was baking bread, but everything was so cramped and packed together it could have been coming from anywhere.

Mezie crossed the street towards where he’d parked his vehicle. It was an older model sedan, and somebody was pissing by the tires, bottle in hand. Not many people handled the apocalypse well, especially the older ones. Then again, that wasn’t unexpected. Mezie adjusted his glasses, somewhat irritated as the intruder swayed on his feet. On a normal night he’d explore his empathy, but he was still irked that the bloody ujuist had asked for three hundred gold—a hundred times her original price! And half upfront!

“You do realize that there’s a high probability of us losing our lives in this expedition?”

“Right,” she’d said.

“So why would you need 150 gold beforehand?”

“Who wouldn’t?”

“You’re not even making any sense.”

“You work for Family Man right? I hope you weren’t expecting this to come cheap. Especially not after you started with ‘My name is Mezie, I run books for Family Man.'” She’d mimicked him adjusting his glasses.

“Alright! I’ll pay. Just stop talking.”

“‘I plan on starting up my own enterprise.'”

“Stop talking!”

The drunk shuffled towards Mezie carelessly, bumping into Mezie’s protection relic’s repulsion field. Electricity jolted through the man’s upper limb and he dropped his bottle, startled. Mezie snickered, though he doubted the man would see his face in the darkness.

As he drove towards the other side of town, Mezie watched the golden stars flickering in the night sky. The golden stars were actually wards to keep the ojuju from spawning within the residential areas. The ojuju were the most dangerous Dreamlings. Literal manifestation of nightmares, or any emotion on the negative spectrum of the human experience.

The ojuju were also responsible for the decimation of more than half of the human population.

The entire Tomato District was surrounded by tall pillars that produced the golden-starred wards. Everyone called the pillars the “Fingers of God”. Word was they suddenly rose from the ground when the first inhabitants of the area were being slaughtered by Dreamlings and cried to God for mercy. Just as the Darkness fed on human thoughts, some scholars—shady mystics—proposed that the ‘light’ did the same, producing Dreamlings and relics that matched these concepts. These were the Stuff of Dreams. Nobody knew for sure.


The car pulled towards the massive gates of Victory Estate. These were prime property before the Spillage, and after. Family Man’s team of ujuists had somehow discovered a way to move the Fingers of God to cover more space and expand. Mezie toyed with the idea of an expansion himself, but he wasn’t ready for that just yet. Besides, his emancipation needed to come first. And even if he did manage to out-buy Family Man, could he really assert his position in Tomato District without the bloodshed that earned the settlement its colourful name?

He imagined Wumi Alaba snickering at that moment and shook off the idea.

Mezie’s car stopped at the gates. He was supposed to rendezvous with Wumi Alaba at the northwest Finger in four hours. Half an hour had passed already. The guard on duty flashed a torchlight into his car. An unnecessary action since the gates were bathed with floodlights. Family Man might have seemed invincible, but when he waged war against the ujuists, he almost lost his life. Still, Mezie was no serious threat, except to profit.

The guard gave a signal to the control tower that remotely operated the gate. As the mechanism slid open, he glanced at his reflection from the rear-view mirror. He was only twenty-five, but he already had a crop of white hair he was ashamed of. To hide it, he kept his head clean shaven. He was thinner than a doorpost, sunken cheeks and all. Had nothing to do with his nutrition, only genetics. He hid his skinny limbs with layers of shirts and the Gore-Tex jacket he’d gotten from an old flame after an Outland run.

The gates opened and he drove into the estate, past the large ujuist buildings and relic forges. The forges constantly coughed fumes into the sky, even at night. Mezie did not stop until he pulled up beside his building, a six-flat block. He walked quickly to the door and opened it, trying his best to not look over his shoulder. His was the first apartment to the right of the hallway, beneath the stairs. Mezie inserted his key into the lock and slipped into the dark flat.

He flipped the light switch and almost had a heart attack.

Family Man sat on Mezie’s lone sofa, legs crossed with his fingers interlocked over his knees. His signature bowler hat sat atop his head, inclined downwards so that his face was obscured in a mask of shadows. Mezie’s heart skipped a beat. Instinctively, he reached for the relic in his jacket, ready to crank out its defensive field to the max…

…when he heard a slight sound.

A slight…snoring sound?

He cocked his head to the side in confusion. Family Man didn’t seem to have noticed his presence yet.

Was he… sleeping?

Mezie coughed importantly. The mafia boss’ head snapped backwards like a startled cobra. So did his pistol.

“Shit,” he said, lowering his gun. “It’s just you Mezie. How long have you been standing there for?”

What the hell? That’s my line. How long have you been waiting that you had to fall asleep? Don’t give me a bloody heart attack!

“A few minutes.”

Family Man made a grand show of looking at his wristwatch. “You’re home late. That’s unlike you.”

“Yeah, um, well, I had some errands to run.”

“Errands that made you forget the right hat?” he asked, pointing to the baseball hat in Mezie’s free hand. That was just how effective the disguise was, Mezie congratulated himself internally. The fastest way to identify the Family Man’s syndicate were the bowler hats on their heads.

“Casual stroll, Family Man,” Mezie said, activating his sphere before walking towards the kitchen. “I have to exercise my weak bones. Do you want a drink?”

“I’ve been having premonitions.”

Mezie froze. “Premonitions?”

“I’ve tried to build a home here in Tomato District,” he said, leaning back into his chair. The man was no younger than sixty, yet his shoulders were broad with muscle. Even his suit could not hide his terrifying physique. Mezie wondered just how many relics Family Man had on him at that moment. After all, the mafia boss’s bouncers were nowhere in sight…unless they were also snoring but decided to use his bedroom.

“I think you’ve done a pretty fine job.”

Family Man groaned. “Me too. Yet after the Spillage and all the nightmares that fell into this world, it’s been easy to forget just how dangerous we humans are as a species. Of the poisons that pump from our hearts and into our actions between one another.”

“What did you see, boss?”

“Betrayal,” he said flatly. “There are snakes within my court. Do you remember the Leopard Twins? How they planted a spy in my relics business?”

Mezie nodded. The Leopard Twins were a small-time gang rumoured to have been run out of another Stuff of Dreams-settlement further south. A settlement rumoured to be several times larger than Tomato District. Family Man hadn’t been able to run them out of his small town yet though.

He narrowed his eyes at Mezie. “Did you know that I saw them coming?”

Mezie was getting worried. “The spy?”

“The Spillage. I had premonitions long before they came. That’s why when they arrived I knew to go for the money. The Dark angels took my money and in exchange, gave me gold. With that gold I bargained with their kind for protection. What could possibly harm me when I was under their Dark God’s divine protection?”

Family Man rose to his feet. “I was a nobody before the Spillage. You don’t know how the world was like then, more than three decades ago.” He drew menacingly towards Mezie, somehow still a head taller than him. Sweat licked over Mezie’s brow as Family Man’s cutting glare peered into his eyes. “Nobody crosses me, Mezie. Not angels, not gangsters, not even the bloody ujuists. I’ll slit their throats, the whole lot of them.”

His heavy hand fell on Mezie’s shoulder, tearing through his protection field like it didn’t exist. “You’re not planning on crossing me, are you, boy?”

A shiver ran down Mezie’s back. He met Family Man’s gaze, the hard lines between his eyes. “I run your books. If I wanted to F with you, I’d have done it a long time ago.”

Family Man squeezed. Pain flared over Mezie’s shoulder, but he didn’t blink. He could not cower now. Family Man held for a few seconds before tapping the spot. “Good boy, Mezie. As long as we’re all on the same page, get it?”

Mezie forced a smile, feeling like he’d chewed bitter-kola instead.


Family Man walked out. Mezie immediately dashed into his bedroom where he’d packed the essentials for the expedition. His backpack laid innocently underneath his bed, just as he’d left it. Also to his relief, there were no sleeping mobsters either.

It was time to leave.



Mezie was out of breath when he got to the northwest Finger. He’d hiked out of Victory Estate through a defect in the fence he’d been working on for weeks. He couldn’t risk using the gates again and alerting Family Man to the nature of his mission. He was still thinking of how much gold to bribe the lone ujuist he knew to be on patrol that night when he spotted a familiar figure.

“Wumi Alaba? Where’s the guard?”

“I took care of him.” The woman wore a leather jacket over a white vest and carried a bag twice as small as his bag. And he thought he packed light. There was a sword sheathed on her waist, and he noticed the dagger from earlier strapped to her boot. She still wore the shawl over her head and neck.

“You’re early,” she remarked.

“Sure,” he huffed. “Let’s go.”

“You’re not planning on walking across the Outlands, are you?”

Mezie shook his head. “I have a transport prepared somewhere on the outskirts, but we have to make the trek there.”

The northwest Finger, as with the other Fingers of God, was a large pillar made of symmetric stone. It was as tall as a skyscraper and had rows of luminous runes on every weathered surface. Like something that had existed even before time began. It looked ancient. Primordial even.

As they approached it, Mezie’s fingers tingled and goose bumps crawled over his skin.

“Ever gone past the Fingers before?” the ujuist asked.

“Once or twice.”

She nodded and walked past it. Mezie gulped, then followed.

First the air turned plastic as his body pressed against the boundary. He pushed against the barrier and it pushed against him too—into his nostrils and ears and between his teeth. He began to suffocate when, like a bubble, it popped all around him, and he was suddenly standing on the other side of the barrier.

“Congrats,” Wumi Alaba said. “Now shit gets real.”

Under the starless night, the rubble of what used to be Lagos spread infinitely ahead. Hollowed out buildings and cars and overall markers of forgotten civilization stood in the darkness, letting the wind whistle haunting tunes through their deserted hallways. Wumi Alaba stopped suddenly, eyeing Mezie.

“They’re accumulating. The shadows. Control your emotions.”

Mezie gulped. Of course. They were no longer under the Fingers’ protection. Wumi Alaba was still speaking. “We’re pretty close to the barrier so we might be safe. Tell me you hired a cleaner too.”

“I did not. But I know how to work their gear. It’s in the car.”

The ujuist nodded and they continued in silence. They kept to the middle of the road, avoiding the clusters of dead architecture. It wasn’t unheard of for Dreamlings to stalk settlements, and Outland Survival 101 instructed to stay on the street unless while hiding.

“Tell me about this relic,” Wumi Alaba said, her voice quieter.

“It’s one of the Stuff of Dreams,” Mezie replied. “Have you ever heard of the superstition about how there’s a pot of gold at the bottom of every rainbow?”

Wumi Alaba shook her head. “Maybe in training, I don’t know. I’ve never been much interested in the directories of relics. I also think it’s silly. A bunch of cloud-brained idiots can just come together and dream a relic into reality. It gets old.”

Mezie clicked his fingers together. “But then it doesn’t. On one of the recent Outland runs, the squad picked up one of these relic directories. It contained the same old relics that we’ve known about, with an exception. It had been recently updated and this rainbow relic was freshly listed. Under the description were the emergence coordinates and time!”

“So we’re looking for a rainbow? Aren’t those found in the sky anyway?”

Mezie lifted his gaze to the sky. “Everything is possible.” The sensor in his communicator beeped and he pulled it out of his jacket. “The truck is close. It’s just around this corner.”

They turned the corner to find a giant creature clawing at the chassis of the car. Mezie stilled, reaching for his relic.

“Not yet,” the ujuist whispered. “It’s a mutated agama lizard. It senses any form of magic. That includes relics.”

Mezie’s eyes took in the form of the creature. No way in hell that was a lizard. Reptilian scales gilded the surface of its skin and it was almost eleven feet long, head to tail. Once in a while the scales would bristle and the faint glow of magic would ripple under its hide.

“It’s after the engine,” he whispered furiously. “It’s one of the better post-Spillage ones that run on recycled shadows.”

“Noted ‘boss,'” Wumi Alaba snickered, unsheathing her sword. The blade glinted, rectangular with a serrated edge. A very unconventional design.

“I guess it’s time to earn my salary,” the ujuist said and took a stance. Mezie took a few steps back, heart pounding in his chest. The agama hadn’t seemed to have noticed them yet. Good. Good.

“Two forerunners—heat and light,” she chanted.

The mutated lizard halted its assault on Mezie’s vehicle, momentarily distracted as a flurry of sparks blossomed around the ujuist’s sword.

“Two mighty heralds—rain and thunder.”

The agama turned to the ujuist. Tongues of fire licked her sword, followed by a crackling of lightning. The reptile leapt from the hood of the vehicle, bared its serrated teeth at Wumi Alaba with a blood curdling screech, and started towards her.

“Two hands on my hilt.

“Two legs on solid earth.

“Two outcomes—victory or death.”

Mezie watched in open-mouthed awe as Wumi Alaba’s sword cut an arc in the darkness, cleanly through the neck of the beast. It was as though her body never moved, but in the split second between heartbeats, he’d seen her body spring up from the earth and towards the sky. The beast was in her way and so it was removed, her entire body propelled by the power of her swing…and something else.


Or abundance, as the mystics would call it. Gifted to a select few. Mastered by even fewer. Wumi Alaba sheathed her sword as the rest of the reptile fell to the ground.

“Let’s go. The carcass will attract more of them.”

“Were you seriously planning on killing me with that when we first met?” Mezie narrowed his eyes at her.

“Of course not. I have the small knife for that. Come on, let’s check if your car still works.”


Mezie’s truck rumbled along the Outland terrain. There wasn’t much of a highway, just stretches of barren rocks and the occasional stumps that once represented architecture. The truck’s reinforced tires propelled them along as they bounced on their seats.

“Okay,” Wumi Alaba said, scrutinizing Mezie’s map. “It says here that the rainbow will show up in about eleven hours. That’s noon.”

“Yes.” Mezie adjusted his glasses. “I’m so close.”

The ujuist regarded Mezie. “You live a comfortable life under Family Man. Why leave now?”

Mezie rubbed his scalp in quiet response. “It gets to you. The lifestyle, the violence, everything.”

Wumi Alaba said nothing, pulling her shawl tighter.

“The world is different now, you know?” Mezie continued. “Only a few are born special like the ujuists. Some others aren’t so lucky. Take me for example. I got my genes all mixed up and ended with weak bones. I got lucky and found work under Family Man. That gave me access to body and spirit enhancement relic pills. And protection. This world devours the weak. What happens to those like me who didn’t get lucky? Who didn’t find work with a mobster?”

“So you want to start a charity?”

“No. I’m just telling you it’s not all about the money.”

Silence fell between them. Wumi Alaba said quietly, “There are no laws, Mezie. Those that exist are made only by the people powerful enough to enforce them. Lives will always be lost.”

“Money is power, ujuist. You have your answer.”

Wumi Alaba chuckled and went back to reading the map when suddenly, she exclaimed. “Heavens, Mezie! You never said we were crossing the Labyrinth.”

Mezie pursed his lips in a thin line. “I told you this was going to be a difficult job.”

“You piece of—”

The shadow accumulator at the back of the vehicle grumbled suddenly, interrupting the ujuist’s outburst. The machine was designed to suction the corporeal shadows that made up the ojuju. Those shadows themselves could then be subject to further purification and converted to fuel. The cleaners were the group responsible for handling the accumulators during every Outland run.

“Control your emotions,” Mezie said. “The rainbow will show up at the end of the Labyrinth. That’s why we needed the head start.” A creature shrieked somewhere in the sky. Mezie turned the wheel and the truck left the highway into a cluster of buildings that could have once been an industrial area. The accumulator whined furiously at the back, chugging against the sound of the engines.

“I noticed,” Wumi Alaba started. “Your expressions of emotional extremes are somewhat off. Like they’re rehearsed. You’re way too composed.”

Mezie eyed her. “What does that mean?”

“You said you manage finances. That means you’re a normal person. And the way I see it, you were probably born in Tomato District. The only real danger you should have experienced is Family Man’s.”

“And that isn’t enough?” he asked. “It’s just like your spell earlier. There are only two outcomes. I win, or I die.”

“Still doesn’t explain—”

Something rammed into the side of the vehicle. The car careened to one side as Mezie fought with the wheel to regain control. The impact had shattered one of the headlights.


The monster’s silhouette—because wasn’t that all they were anyway? —flashed past the lights. Mezie stepped on the gas and the engine wailed, rocketing them forward. He flipped open a panel on the dashboard and flicked on all the switches.

Floodlights spilled from the truck’s auxiliary lamps. The road ahead was swarming with ojuju, each one about seven feet wide and tall. Their eyes glowed like burning coals in the darkness. Shadows shimmered over their bodies, radiating like waves of heat from a raging furnace. Each creature was amorphous on observation, without specific form and yet, somehow, complete. They were clumps of malevolent darkness that shifted morphology the longer you looked; and tried to understand; and eventually, inadvertently gave them form. Some things however were clear; there were talons at the ends of their arms, or feet, or tentacles or all of the above. Some of them had wings. All of them made Mezie’s skin crawl.

“Ujuist, do your thing!”

Wumi Alaba had already begun her chant. Mezie bit his lower lip and pushed the gearshift forward. The monsters shrieked, waves of night rippling outwards from the swarm. The floodlights deflected most of the darkness, but not the accompanying cold. Not the terror and the whispering groans that prickled the skin with gooseflesh and sweat.

Two more ojuju crashed onto Wumi Alaba’s side of the vehicle, tearing at the floodlights on the edge. The descent of darkness was instant, and the ojuju clinging to that end of the car metastasized tenfold like a cancer.

“Shit! Anytime now, Wumi Alaba!” Mezie spun the wheel all the way to the right, struggling to overcome the pressure on the passenger side. Wumi Alaba grunted as she hacked at the shadows with her dagger. Her head snapped in Mezie’s direction.

“Use your shield, now!”

Her uju swelled inside the cramped vehicle. It was that feeling again, like the barrier. This time it felt like an airbag was inflating inside the space, pushing against him and the vehicle and everything else.

“Three points of impact, ricocheting three times threefold its origin; three origins of ion, metal, energy.”

Mezie hit the brakes.

The ojuju were thrust forward. Lightning fell from the sky, ripping through the swarm in unnatural arcs. The punishing force of nature fell on the vehicle and multiplied, singeing buildings, raining debris, setting the final minutes of Real Night awash in blinding hot light.

And just as abruptly as it had started, it was over.

The both of them just sat there, breathless. The accumulator was still pumping, even more fervently now. Mezie reached for its controls and turned it off. The idea of so many remnants of ojuju just seeping in behind him made him uncomfortable. Wumi Alaba looked at him and nodded. There was perspiration on her forehead.

Mezie started the car and they continued in silence. About ten minutes in, Wumi Alaba was whimpering quietly in her seat.

“Something the matter?” he asked, still shaken.

“Nothing. Just carry on.”

He held the steering in place, but even his hands were shaking. “What the hell was that? I could hear their voices inside my head.”

“It’s fear,” the ujuist said, hands clenched over her shawl. Her voice was barely audible, and the rasping made it worse. “They feed on it, flourish on it.”

“I wasn’t born in Tomato District you know?” he looked at his trembling hands. “I was born not too long after the Spillage. I don’t know how I made it, but I remember when Family Man and his Outlanders found me. I was the sole survivor in a bunker where an ojuju had spawned.”

Wumi Alaba turned to him. “You were lucky.”

“Was I?” he asked. “I was bloody six years old and I watched a beast tear a young mother and her baby apart. Saw it step on a grown man’s head like it was squashing a bug. Tell me exactly, Wumi Alaba, how the fuck was I lucky?”

The ujuist laid a gentle hand on his elbow. His entire arm was trembling and he hadn’t even realized it.

“Much of who I am today, I owe it to Family Man. I don’t agree with everything he does, but he saved my life. Do you understand?”

The ujuist did not respond. Not for a while. Under the sound of the engine’s rumble, tiny whispers had started coalescing.

“We should probably turn on the accumulator now,” she said.

Mezie hit the switch for the accumulator and with a few sputters, the machine roared to life with a disturbing gurgling sound.

“I will never get used to that.”

“Best not to,” she said. Then after a beat she added, “Thanks, I feel much better.”

“Good,” Mezie replied. “‘Cause I need your A-game now. We’re at the Labyrinth.”



Ahead of them, the walls of the Labyrinth rose skywards towards the early dawn sky. There was no sunlight, just an ambient paleness in the sky. The Labyrinth was a collection of weathered brown walls that spread on both sides for miles. It was a distinct landmark on the Earth’s surface, and it was said to give the impression of several deserts compacted into an endless maze. Nobody knew whose Dream the gargantuan meta-structure was formed from.

Mezie pulled towards one of the entrances—or exits; it was only a matter of perspective. Each column of stone was as thick as an apartment block. If it was dark outside, then the ambience inside was almost fiery. The walls reflected light poorly, like an incandescent bulb doused in engine oil and shrouded by spider webs.

“The map doesn’t say anything about navigating to the relic,” Wumi Alaba said, tossing the navigation chart.

“I know,” Mezie smirked, fishing around in his pack. “That’s why I brought this.”

He took out a relic. It was a disk with a small glass orb affixed to the centre. Within the orb was a floating needle that was currently pointed forward with a slight upward inclination. There were glyphs carved on the disc in three concentric rows. The middle row around the needle was glowing faintly.

The ujuist was clearly impressed. “Isn’t this Kelechi’s Compass?”

“Yeah. The pre-Spillage prophet that claimed God revealed to him the location of the biblical Eden.”

Wumi Alaba laughed. “Whatever happened to him?”

Mezie shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe he found it.”

“At least we’re not the ones out there looking for some mythical paradise are we?”

“Hey! The rainbow is legit!”

“Of course, of course— Mezie, watch out!”

Mezie hit the brakes just in time to keep from running into somebody in their path. It was a slightly middle-aged woman with dishevelled hair and her hands above her head. Mezie blinked, propping his glasses carefully over his nose.

“Who the hell is that?” he asked. The woman had only a short red sleeveless gown on. Completely barefoot. “What could someone possibly be doing on her own in a place like this?”

Mezie was about to poke his head out the window when Wumi Alaba placed a firm hand on his shoulder.

“It’s a trap. We’re surrounded.”

The woman smiled under the headlamp’s glow. As though camouflaged, figures popped out of the walls, each one armed with a rifle. Mezie counted more than a dozen men.

“Hello, hello,” the woman announced, sing-song-like, running her fingers over her hair till it fell down her shoulders and changed colour to a striking golden brown. One of the gunmen approached her and placed boots on her feet. Then another one put a suit over her shoulders.

“How convenient,” she smiled. It was a gold-toothed smile. “We were just wondering how many vehicles we’d need to hijack to house all of our tribe. It’s a good thing everybody is interested in the rainbow’s gold.”

Mezie swore, just noticing the spotted pattern on her red gown. Wumi Alaba whispered, “Do you know her?”

“Yeah,” he replied. “That’s Odion Leopard. One of the Leopard Twins.”

“Another syndicate?” The disgust was palpable.

“Yeah. And by the looks of it, they’re looking for the same thing we are.” Mezie rubbed the perspiration on his scalp. It’d been one confrontation after the other today.

“We can just run you over,” he yelled. “We don’t have to give you anything.”

“All my guys are good shots. Is a car really worth more than your lives?” Another person was placing rings on the woman’s fingers. Mezie rolled his eyes.

“Do your worst,” he fired the gas. “This truck survived a swarm of ojuju.”

“That’s over twelve guns, Mezie,” Wumi Alaba whispered. “And their bullets are sure to be charmed.”

“It’s a bluff,” Mezie pursed his lips. “They probably encountered something far worse further in and have used up most of their ammunition on it. Think about it, they don’t even have any vehicles. It’s a miracle they’re even alive and pulling this stunt.”


“This is the big leagues, Wumi Alaba. Just trust me and hold on.”

“We will fire!” Odion Leopard warned. “Take the olive branch now.”

“Fine by me,” Mezie grunted over the firing engine, fingers curled over the gearshift.

“Alright wait!” the woman conceded, still standing in front of the car. “Maybe we can cut a deal. Anything?”

“Lower your weapons.”

The woman narrowed her eyes at him, then gave a sharp nod. The rifles pointed at them lowered, but not by too much.

“We’ll make the trek,” she said. “But we won’t last a second out there without a cleaner. So could you at least give us your accumulator?”

“What can you give us in return?”

The woman walked to the driver’s side. Guns followed her advance.


Mezie met her gaze. “What information?”

“The groups currently searching for that rainbow,” she smiled crookedly. It was unsettling. “But you give me the accumulator first.”

“Not happening.”

“What stops you from running my men over once you’ve got what you’re looking for?”

“Nothing. Either way, I don’t lose.”

Tension pulled between them in one long breathless moment. Like a string at breaking point. Mezie did not lessen his grip on the steering wheel. There could be only one of two outcomes.

“Very well. You win, kid.” She reached into her coat and pulled out a cigarette. This time, she lit it herself and took a drag. “There are Dark ujuists in here too.”

Wumi Alaba flinched in her seat at the mention of the Dark ujuists. Mezie made a mental note of that.

“That must have been some confrontation if it left you in this state,” he prodded. “What are their numbers?”

Smoke curled out of Odion Leopard’s nostrils and lips. “Six, seven strong. Four are actual ujuists. Mad proficient. The rest are cleaners.”

“And are they planning on coming for Tomato District?”

“I doubt it,” Odion said. “Tomato District is great, but it’s really not that significant. I imagine they have their own goals.”

“And you? What did you want the gold for?”

“Since you name-dropped Tomato District, then you must know Family Man.” She peered into his car. Then at his clean shaven head. “You don’t seem to be one of his. Who are you?”

“Mezie,” he said simply. “And I’m the one asking the questions.”

“Well I’m the bloody leader of the Leopards. If I want money, then it’s obviously to crush my competition.”

Mezie smiled. “Fair enough. Are Family Man’s people here yet?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Okay. Good.” He turned off the accumulator, reached under the steering and pulled the uncoupling lever. She gave a signal to her people and they moved to the back of the truck.

“Man of your word, I see,” she smirked. “I’ll be keeping an eye out for you, Mezie. That is, if you do survive.”

He adjusted his spectacles and gave a half smile. “You too, Ms. Leopard.”


The truck continued down the Labyrinth, following Kelechi’s Compass. Wumi Alaba played with her dagger, twirling it between her fingers. She hadn’t said anything since the encounter with the Leopard tribe.

“What?” she asked.


“It’s not nothing, you keep glancing at me.”

“Really, it’s nothing.”

“‘Really, it’s nothing'” she mimicked.

“Cut that out.”

“‘This is the big leagues, Wumi Alaba.'” she huffed, adjusting imaginary glasses over the bridge of her nose.

Mezie laughed despite himself. “At least you’re not in a sour mood.”

“Boy you’re just dying to ask your questions, aren’t you?” Wumi Alaba rolled her eyes. “Go on. Out with them. I won’t bite.”

“Noticed you started acting a bit strange after Odion Leopard mentioned the Dark ujuists. What was that about?”

She sighed loudly. “Dark uju is dangerous, Mezie. You’ve seen how potent uju is, ordinarily. When ujuists become Fascinated by the Dark, their uju becomes… more.”

“More?” Mezie turned a bend. “Isn’t that a good thing then? This Fascination?”

“No!” she snapped. “It’s corruption. It eats away at the mind.” Her voice dropped down an octave. “Makes you mad.”

“D-did you know someone?”

Wumi Alaba made a small noise. Her hands worked nervously over the scarf on her neck. “I stopped training when I heard Family Man was rounding up the ujuist community in Tomato District. Rushed home to help. We stormed Victory Estate and we lost, can you believe it?” she laughed sardonically. “All the uju at our disposal and we couldn’t take down one man!”

Mezie knew that war. Family Man and his Outlander crews. Countless relics. All against the ujuists. The ujuists fought back. Hard. And they had stood a good chance at victory until Family Man somehow managed to summon a Dark angel within the Fingers of God.

“Wasn’t there some point in that war that the ujuists almost won?”

“They started going Dark,” Wumi Alaba hissed. “It was either that, or death. And once the Fascination begins, there’s no going back.”

Mezie wanted to say something, but the compass needle had started tapping against the globe, pointing skyward. He took a look at the dashboard clock. 09:59.

“It’s almost time!” he exclaimed. “We’re close!”

Mezie hit the gas and the truck sped up. He took the next turn, excited. The front wheels suddenly crushed against something hard. Mezie pulled the vehicle to a grinding halt.

“My God,” Wumi Alaba gasped.

Along the expanse of the road, the maze was littered with machine skeletons. Humanoid machines, disembodied and burning, scattered over the red stone like an iron carpet. Columns of thick black smoke rose from the mounds of severed limbs and torsos, the walls marred with splatters of black grease and a familiar inky-night hue.


“What in heavens happened here?” Mezie asked, but even his voice had a faltering note to it. A shiver had worked its way down his back, and goose bumps followed.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Wumi Alaba hissed, opening the door. Mezie yelled for her to get back, but she had already turned to the front of the car. Swearing, Mezie followed. The air was charged with static electricity and thick with the stench of burning oil. In front of him, Wumi Alaba drew her blade. Mezie gulped. Whatever went through here completely decimated these machines. There was barely any resistance from them.

Wumi Alaba had stopped walking. Mezie came up beside her. Before them was one of the humanoid machines, still mostly intact. Welded into life-like precision, the machine-being was on its knees. Its upper body was almost as bulky as a bodybuilder of average height. One of its arms had been severed from the shoulder, and the black steel that made up its chassis had an ugly gash that cut across its torso and into its right eye. Strangely, there was a tattoo over its exoskeleton—a bird, in striking neon orange hues. It was such a sharp contrast against the machine’s black body that Mezie couldn’t focus on it for long. When he squinted too long, it looked as though the bird’s feathers were moving.

“I sense residual uju energy from this machine,” Wumi Alaba said.

“D-do you think it was the Dark ujuists Odion Leopard warned us about?”

Wumi Alaba’s face was contorted in a deathly grimace. Too many emotions swirled behind her eyes for Mezie to comprehend. The machine’s good eye suddenly flared green in activation and it reached for Wumi Alaba. She was faster, stepping out of the way as it fell to the ground. The machine clutched its head and screamed—a mechanically amplified human wail. Mezie took a cautionary step back.

“Ujuists!” Its voice resonated in the narrow space. The sound was an overlay of voices, not entirely machine. The tattoo on its body was unmistakably moving. The machine dragged its body along the floor, its legs crushed. “Come to finish the job?”

“I am sorry for your pain,” Wumi Alaba held her sword over her head. Her voice was painfully sombre. “I will end your suffering.”

“You are all the same,” it hissed in that multi-layered voice. “We did nothing against you. We were peaceful nomads!”

“The Dark takes, and it never returns.” The ujuist’s voice was hard. “If you wish it, I will make your death quick.”

A blazing wing suddenly erupted from the machine’s back. It was a mass of brilliant vermillion feathers that momentarily stunned the both of them. The machine took off from the ground, grabbing Wumi Alaba by the neck just to pin her against the opposite wall. Mezie drew his pistol, firing three shots in quick succession. They ricocheted against the machine’s angel-like wings. Wings that arose from the bird tattoo on the machine’s steel body.

“Ahh, you’re a possessed machine, aren’t you?” Wumi Alaba wheezed. “An android golem.”

“Our name is OROS!” it screeched. “We are no golem. We made a pact for protection with another sentient being, and this unit was chosen to house the entity.”

“I understand what it feels like to fail.”

“We have not failed!” it yelled.

“Do not turn your gaze away from reality, OROS.”

“We will snap your neck. Then we will take the lives of the ujuists who destroyed this clan.”

“Maybe you can snap my neck. Then you can go after the Dark ujuists again. But in this condition, you’ll only lose. Again. And what happens to your clan then? Everything will be truly lost.”

There was a stretch of silence between the two of them. Mezie held his breath.

 “What do you suggest we do then, ujuist?”

“Recuperate. Then when you’re sure your strike will be absolute, seek your vengeance.”

Her words sent a shiver up Mezie’s spine.

“Don’t be hasty. Pay your respects to the dead. As long as you never forget this feeling, and you never let the fear keep you from moving forward, you will prevail, OROS.”

Mezie was taken aback. Was the ujuist projecting? Was this a kind of critique against herself too? In her fear of Family Man, did she let herself stagnate in that slum in Tomato District?

OROS let her down. “What is your name, ujuist?”

“Wumi Alaba,” she rubbed her neck before offering OROS her hand, which it clasped.

 “Let us meet again, Wumi Alaba.”


 They took another path down the Labyrinth. A shorter route, according to the golem. Wumi Alaba had not said anything since the encounter with OROS, and Mezie didn’t press. He was worried about the Dark ujuists ahead of them. Twice already, he’d witnessed the destruction they wrought. And even though his companion’s composure did not falter, he knew the road ahead was about to get a whole lot more difficult.

The walls began to glow, a liquid-like spectral sight of seven colours. The illumination washed into the car, spilling golds and greens and vermillion over them. Mezie took off his glasses at the sight of the fluid colours streaming through the walls.


“It’s almost like we’re underwater,” Wumi Alaba whispered.

“The rainbow is nearby. I can feel it.”

The exit to the Labyrinth came into view. Here, the sky was set ablaze by streams of colour arching from the ground, skywards. Mezie could not see where the rainbow ended, only the curtain of dazzling colours before him.

They were here.



“We go on foot from here,” Mezie said.

The rainbow was a stream of light given solid form. Closer to the rainbow, Mezie found steps on the surface of the light. The staircase glistened like something made out of glass.

“Damn,” Wumi Alaba said under her breath. “So this is a rainbow? A little extravagant, don’t you think?”

Mezie’s heart pulsed with excitement. “It’s perfect.”

He placed a foot on the staircase and the colour radiated from his foot, floating upwards like will-o-wisps. With each step, wind rushed against his ears as they climbed even higher. Before long, the entire Labyrinth was below him and he saw every passageway and corridor. Every dead end Kelechi’s Compass kept them away from, shrouded in shadow. The rainbow spread forward before him in sharp contrast—a wide stream of a million colours.

They were about to start moving when Wumi Alaba suddenly tensed beside him, her fingers curling around the hilt of her sword. “We’re not alone.”

Mezie turned, in time to see individuals in black hoodies emerge from the stairs.

The Dark ujuists.

“Shit. Run!”

The Dark ujuists let loose bursts of purple lightning. Most of them went wide, impacting the rainbow in bursts of effervescence. Mezie turned back in time to avoid a bolt of hot energy whizzing past his ear. He pulled his pistol from the folds of his jacket and started firing. Wumi Alaba drew her sword, deflecting the spells.

Cleaners climbed up the rainbow, carrying with them large backpacks of shadow accumulator gear. In a flurry of motion that Mezie’s eyes could not follow, the cleaners pumped out shadows onto the rainbow; dark, writhing inky blobs of ojujuessence. The Dark ujuists began to mould the shadows, giving them robust, winged forms.

Then mounted them.

“Run, Mezie!” Wumi Alaba yelled. The shadows of the flying ojuju fell over them as they sprinted across the rainbow. Mezie’s eyes searched frantically but there was no cover. Only the massive stretch of the rainbow. It didn’t matter whether he shot at the flying ujuists or not–his party was completely open.

Just then, a gargantuan shadow fell over the rainbow. The air rumbled tremulously as a vessel soared above them, sleek in design and flattened like a… saucer?

A spaceship!

Phase cannons locked on the two groups on the bridge. In a split second, Mezie grabbed Wumi Alaba and cranked his protection orb’s field to the max.

The spaceship rained fire.

Explosions tore the rainbow’s beams apart. The sphere of protection shivered with each impact, the relic crackling defiantly at the brunt of the damage. The laser fire singed the air wherever it struck, leaving shimmering trails of ionized air in its wake. Mezie looked to the sky where the spaceship was careening to the end of the rainbow and cursed.

Wumi Alaba stared at Mezie, wide-eyed. “We survived that? Damn! Mobster trait unlocked; a cockroach’s tenacity.

“Speaking of mobsters,” Mezie huffed, rising. “That was Family Man.”

“How can you tell?”

“I ran his books and inventory. I know he has one of those. Wumi-Alaba, we need to get to the bottom of the rainbow before he does.”

“You go,” Wumi Alaba replied, pointing to the fallen ujuists. They had been shot down by the phase cannons. “Of course that mobster can even overpower Dark ujuists,” she hissed. Their cleaners—who had been too far behind to be affected by the phase cannons—were now drawing pistols. “I’ll take care of these guys.”

Mezie nodded and began sprinting towards the bottom of the rainbow. His feet pounded on the surface and he willed himself to move faster. Scorch holes pockmarked the rainbow—holes that dropped to a dark uncertain surface. He ignored these, arms swinging in front of him as he ran. In the distance, where the arch of the rainbow sloped downwards, the hovering spaceship was lowering something. A small shuttle transporter.

Mezie’s feet suddenly felt heavy. The consistency of the rainbow’s surface was changing, and he could see the colours no longer as shiny as the staircase, now almost viscous in consistency. Like he had started running in mud.

He dived.

The slope lost form, instantly terraforming into the rushing intensity of a waterfall. Mezie gurgled and gasped, trying to keep his head above the violent downpour of liquid light. Below him everything poured into a cloud. That was it…That was the bottom of the rainbow!

Mezie took a deep breath, folded his spectacles in his hands and let the waves carry him.

The crash was painful. As if the entire world had dropped on him. Mezie rolled away from the falling beams. He was now in the cloud he’d seen from the top of the arch-fall. And the pot of gold that was supposed to be able to infinitely produce gold…

Was in fact, a machine.

It stood a few feet tall, almost like a vending machine. The body was made of dull steel. It had a slot, then a pick-up outlet. Numerous buttons dotted its surface. It was nothing spectacular, but it stood there, clearly the relic he’d been looking for.

Mezie took a step towards the machine.

“No, no, Mezie boy,” a familiar voice stopped him dead in his tracks. Mezie turned his neck mechanically, dreading the answer he already knew.

“Family Man.”

“Again, here you are. Not with the wrong hat, but with no hat at all.”

Family Man was alone. No bouncers, no familiars, nothing. He just stood there in a beige three-piece suit, a brown bowler hat on his head and white gloves on his hands. Mezie could not believe it. Did Family Man think this expedition was some kind of a joke?

Family Man shook his head. “I saw you in my premonitions, Mezie. That’s how I knew. To think you found a relic that could take my business to the next level and you said nothing.”

“Well, I’ve been thinking of branching out myself,” Mezie said, putting back on his glasses.

Family Man put a hand into his suit and brandished another hat. “You’re like a son to me. You’re a part of the family. Take the hat and I’ll forget about this whole misunderstanding.”

Mezie gulped, taken completely aback.

Did he… did he seriously just pull a spare hat from his suit?

Just like that?

He carries spares around?

“Come on.” Family Man placed a hand out in welcome. Mezie glanced at the machine under the rainbow. The rainbow bank. Family Man shook his head. “You’ll never get out of here alive, Mezie. I have three Outlander teams waiting above. Take my hand, and maybe you see tomorrow.”

He had a point. Mezie closed the distance between them, his feet sinking into and out of the cloud with each step. He took the hat from Family Man’s outstretched hand.

“Misunderstanding?” Mezie scoffed, flinging it to the ground. “Do my dreams look like a joke to you?”

“You foolish—”

Mezie drew on him, emptying his clip right in his face. Family Man grunted and grabbed Mezie’s arm. His grip was vice-like, and beneath his sleeve—between the cuff and the glove—Mezie could make out the golden glint of something mechanical.


Mezie pulled out his protection orb and reversed the polarity. The device exploded, separating the both of them. Mezie wheezed, stumbling as he tried to get on his feet.

Family Man’s shadow fell over him.

“Shit!” A barrage of gunfire assaulted Mezie. Family Man was somehow controlling the shuttle’s weapons system remotely. Gunfire pattered with a deluge of bullets, kicking up clouds where they struck. Mezie dashed towards the only cover available—the bank under the rainbow.

Almost there, almost there—

Something about the air before him changed. It shimmered, like heat waves over concrete. The hairs on his skin rose in attention. Silence swelled. The air dried up with a faint aftertaste of copper.

A beam of hot energy bridged the sky and the rainbow. The cannon blast tore open a crater inches away from his position, burning righteously as it expanded, separating him from the bank.

Mezie turned, but Family Man was there already. His right arm was charred; sleeves, glove and all. His hat—by some miracle—was still on his head.

“Game over, kid.”

Something suddenly dropped from above. Fast. For a split second, both their attentions were drawn to the mass of clouds that had risen on the object’s landing.

“Four years of festered vengeance; forge fastidious fetters for four seconds.”

Wumi Alaba’s voice materialized into bonds. Radiant blue shards of energy struck Family Man from all sides, trussing him like spokes on a wheel. Wumi Alaba was still chanting, listing items in fours as her uju expanded oppressively. Her blade was shining bright now, the serrated edges igniting with tiny sparks of luminous night-like energy.

She struck Family Man.

The energy sundered space itself. Her spell set the aether ablaze, momentarily blinding Mezie. The air rippled in ear-splitting resonance and his eardrums sang, his bones screamed, and his teeth trembled. It was over in an instant, leaving a thin haze of cloud-fog hanging between them.

“Ha-ha-hahhh,” Family Man croaked, now on his knees. His suit had disintegrated. His muscular frame hung limp, but there were golden runes zig-zagging over his dark skin. Steam curled over the mechanical gauntlet on his right arm.

“So you were serious, Mezie.” There was mockery in his rasping voice. “You hired a Dark ujuist. Even I wouldn’t do that.”

“D-dark?” Mezie looked up, confused. Wumi Alaba stood before Family Man, breathing heavily. Her eyes were cold as she stared down the mafia boss.

“Do you remember me?”

He chuckled weakly. “Am I supposed to?”

Anger flashed over her face and she pulled away her scarf. Ice licked down Mezie’s back as he saw the rough patch of scarred flesh over the skin of her neck “Look, you bastard! This is what you did to me!”

“Of course…” he drawled. “You refused to work for me. I guess you turned to the Dark to survive, didn’t you?”

Everything made sense then.

“W-Wumi Alaba?”

The ujuist did not look at him. “This is what the ojuju showed me back then on the road; the day Family Man slit my throat. I had tried to breathe and instead I felt my life bubble away. Slip through my fingers in futility. Uju forsook me. Now I can barely talk without the burning reminder that the bastard who did this to me is still walking around, eating and breathing.”

She placed the edge of her sword to his neck. “It ends now.”

“But does it, ujuist?” Family Man croaked. “You’ve hit me with your best shot, haven’t you? I’m still breathing. I have an army waiting for my summons. You failed.”

Mezie saw her hand falter. “Stop it, Wumi Alaba,” he said. “We’ve won. We have the bank. That’s what we came here for.”

Wumi Alaba pressed the blade harder to his neck. The golden runes on his skin coalesced at the point where her blade met his skin. There was no blood. “He’s not wrong,” she hissed, her voice breaking in frustration. “I’m not strong enough to beat him, and we’re outnumbered.”

“We’re not.” Mezie rose. “He’s bluffing. Remember, ujuist, this is the big leagues.” He walked towards the bank, circling the crater the spaceship’s blast had created. “He probably found out about this relic way too late. Rushed here in his fancy spaceship. See that arm of his? He uses that for remote control.”


“And I don’t recall hiring you to kill him. This is what we came for.”

Mezie fished a gold coin from his pocket and slotted it into the machine.

The machine came to life. He saw the buttons x10, x100, x1000 glow up and smirked. He clicked on x100.

The bank shuddered and rumbled and Mezie took a step back. The three of them watched the machine cough up gold onto the clouds, each coin reflecting the spectrum of the rainbow’s colours like heavenly currency.

“A-amazing,” Wumi Alaba breathed.

“Here’s what’s going to happen.” Mezie adjusted his glasses. “Wumi Alaba, disengage the gauntlet from Family Man’s arm. We’ll be taking his shuttle. And his spaceship.”

Family Man let out bellows of laughter. “Don’t get conceited over a little luck. You’re my enemy now, Mezie. And you’ll eventually return to Tomato District. My domain.”

“Sure, right after you walk there.”

Wumi Alaba laughed at that.

“Besides, I’ve had it with everybody going on and on about my luck. And you’ve got something else wrong, Family Man.” Mezie stalked to where Family Man knelt under Wumi Alaba’s blade and gave his most sinister smile. “You’re my enemy now.”

Family Man growled and Mezie drove a fist to his face. The man fell to the clouds, passed out. Mezie rubbed his knuckles in satisfaction as he watched the golden runes on Family Man’s skin grow cold and darken.

His emancipation was complete.

He turned to Wumi Alaba. The ujuist did not meet his gaze.

“I know what I said about the Dark,” she said. “You can just pay me and I’ll take the truck back to Tomato District.”

“Then, how about we extend our agreement? Partner up with me.”


“I couldn’t have done this without you. And you sure as hell don’t look mad to me. Well, that is if we overlook the casual death threats. But I think we’re good.”

“You saw what happened to OROS’ clan.”

“Yes. And I also saw what you did for OROS. You’re a good person, Wumi Alaba. Dark uju or not.”

She scoffed, but there was a shimmer in her eyes. “You can’t afford my services, remember?”

Mezie pointed to the bank. “I beg to differ. Now are you with me or not? I don’t want to be here when Family Man wakes up.”

Wumi Alaba stretched out her hand. “As long as you do better than him.”

Mezie returned the handshake. “Now let’s get out of here.”

“OK boss.”

“‘OK boss.'”

“I still have my knife.”

“Forget I said anything.”


Copyright 2023 Uchechukwu Nwaka

About the Author

Uchechukwu Nwaka

Uchechukwu Nwaka is an Igbo medical student at University of Ibadan, Nigeria. His works have appeared in PodCastle, Escape Pod, Fusion Fragment, and Omenana among others. When he’s not dreaming about mythical banks, he can be found reading manga, streaming TV shows, or generally trying to keep up with endless schoolwork.

Find more by Uchechukwu Nwaka

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