Overview: Convinced to go take part in research that will advance scientific knowledge on survival and evolution, Nyarnam travels to the US, where a multi-disciplinary group of experts examine her unique anatomical features at a prestigious university.The trip turns out to be more than she bargained for. Major competing forces are interested in studying her, and they go to extreme lengths to capture her. She finds herself in a war that has nothing to do with her, separated from her family and fighting for her very life.Amid the turmoil, wounded, lost and broken, Nyarnam discovers capabilities embedded in her DNA that she had not been aware of. However, her biological capabilities may not be sufficient for her to save herself, reunite with her husband and return to her beloved home.

 

Shoreline Evolution by Jacob Aliet Book Chapter One

 

MARCH

MICHIGAN, UNITED STATES

THAT dayspring would mark the last time that Forrest would be walking down that street in his original form.

It was a downcast morning. The musky smell of sawdust hung in the air. Forrest Brown walked down Michigan Avenue, lean and rugged, like a character that had been snatched from the book of Exodus.

Sun rays occasionally slipped through the grey clouds, but they quickly got snuffed out by rampaging clouds.  

He kept his head down and shuffled forward, cutting the image of a released puppy sniffing the open ground after being locked in for a while. He wore a pair of blue skinny jeans and a faded navy-blue T-shirt.

His blonde hair was tousled. His animated brown eyes, the colour of dry aspen leaves, were trained on the ground just ahead of him, gazing at it as if it held a secret clue. A beak-like nose jutted down his face, its prominence making him look like a rock pigeon.

He walked fast, his head bobbing from side to side as he made long strides in a pair of worn-out open leather shoes.

He looked up the street momentarily and recalled from his history lessons that in the Great Fire of 1871, the road he was walking on was destroyed by fire. He pondered that for a moment.

In the eye of his mind, he saw screaming people jumping from burning buildings to their deaths below and men, blackened by smoke, yelling for buckets of water to put out the fire.

The wind whispered, caressing his face. A strand of his hair got into his eye. He pushed it behind his ear, his fingers deft and delicate, like those of a pianist.

The history of Michigan fascinated him. Historical records indicated that about three hundred people died in that fire, four square miles of the city was burnt to a crisp. More than a hundred thousand were left homeless.

Michigan Avenue served as Streeterville's main commercial street. It was now lined with lush maple trees jutting out of the concrete and huge, marble buildings that bustled with activity that grey summer morning.

Forrest smelt the coffee from a Starbucks across the street. A whiff of gasoline wafted through the air as the traffic moved about the city.

A mile away, a yellow Honda minivan loaded with furniture barrelled down Michigan Avenue. Behind the wheel sat a heavyset man munching a croissant with his coffee in a Java styrofoam cup set in a holder next to the steering wheel. A beefy hand clutched the steering wheel as the man manoeuvred the car down the road.

An occasional car horn blared. The din of the traffic formed a buzzing background soundtrack to the human activity in the street.

Forrest had grown up in in a middle-class family in Pittsburgh and studied in Michigan State University (MSU). His parents were not very involved in his life and hardly checked on him.

He was glad to go to university in a different state and get away from them. During his low times, he imagined they weren’t his parents. They hardly ever called him.

He was a voracious reader. He liked the classics, but on that day he clutched in his right-hand Elizabeth Bronfen's book, Over Her Dead Body. On the front cover, a white woman lay on a bed with her head hanging close to the floor, seemingly dead, with some blood on her lips.

Her eyes were closed. Her left arm spilled lifelessly to the floor. Her right arm was folded at the elbow. Her skin was milky white with pink blotches, and her round cheeks made one imagine what the statue of liberty would look like if it were asleep. She was in a white flowing gown, and the size of her ample bosom was diminished because she was lying on her back. There was a black man with large lips in the shadows beside her, who seemed to be cringing at the sight of the body.

The book was about Virginia Woolf’s suicide. It explored how, through her death, she had given birth to her inner poet. Feminists celebrated her transgression and viewed it as a powerful act of subversion.

It was the kind of postmodern analysis of deviant behaviour that fascinated Forrest. He believed that it would help him understand his girlfriend, Sarah, who was once a delicate, flower-like girl but had lately become a rebellious, out-of-control, unhinged campus slay queen.

Forrest thought about Sarah. His eyes blinked rapidly as they did whenever he was deep in thought. Sarah was his complete opposite, and this had ultimately torn them apart.

Initially, they were both fascinated by each other, enjoyed great conversations, and accommodated their differences.

Things changed when she reached the third year. He preferred to be in the shadows and out of sight. He avoided change and made do with a few nondescript off-colour clothes while she wanted to go shopping for new clothes every other time. His focus in life was to make something of himself rather than have things. She wanted stuff—plenty of it.

She preferred to be loud and be the centre of attention while he wanted peace. She had told him he was afraid of living fully and needed to embrace life. He told her she wore so much make-up because she was fearful that the world would not accept her for who she was. He thought she was a stimulus junkie, and she thought she was just an outgoing and open-minded person.

He thought she was shallow and was in deep need of acceptance because she did not love herself. She thought he was closed-minded and was too afraid of death. Over time, it became clear that their differences were too significant, and their fights became frequent.

They had quarrelled the previous night and after a heated argument, she told him she was leaving him. She wanted to live her life and did not want to be smothered by one who had no energy.

As he replayed the fight in his mind, he felt a cold wave of emptiness creep from his stomach towards his heart. His grip on his books tightened as his steps quickened. He gritted his teeth as he reminded himself that the feelings of emptiness coursing through him were exactly the feelings that he had been avoiding all his life.

How could he have allowed himself to fall for her? His eyes shone with the distemper he was feeling.

He marched forward sightlessly. His bony frame and rugged look made him look like a troubled figure that had seen too much adversity. He stepped onto the road without looking to his left as he started crossing the street.

A yellow minivan sped toward him as the driver put his coffee cup into the cup holder next to his seat.

The driver looked up and saw Forrest a few meters ahead. His eyes widened in alarm. Coffee sprayed from his lips as he cursed. He quickly made to step on the brakes and in his panic stepped on the accelerator instead. The van leaped forward, throwing him back.

As he frantically tried to correct his error, the van closed the distance in a flash. The driver braced for impact as the human figure on the road became a blur.

There was a gut-wrenching sound of bone and flesh colliding with folding metal. The windscreen shattered and caved in as Forrest’s head smashed it.

Books and papers flew upwards as Forrest’s body soared above the car towards the back of the van. The driver closed his eyes reflexively as glass fragments flew towards his face. Airbags exploded into his face and rammed him against the seat, pinning him and closing him out from the unfolding catastrophe.

Forrest sailed above the car, his body a blur of fabric and flesh. His spinning body hit the back of the van on his way down. He crashed to the tarmac on his side, his back twisted awkwardly.

Tyres screeched and someone screamed. Silence descended upon the scene and time seemed to stand still for a few seconds as the smell of gasoline and smoke permeated the scene.

Feeling embarrassed, Forrest awkwardly tried to get up to collect his books, but he could not feel his legs. He pushed himself from the tarmac and reached up to grab something for support.

His hands found nothing to hold on to and fell back to the asphalt as confusion registered in his eyes.

His lower body felt like jelly. He looked down to inspect his body, but darkness emerged from the corners of his eyes and rapidly sucked away the light as consciousness fled him.

A dark crimson fluid slithered from his nose and pooled next to his head.

“Call an ambulance!” someone yelled.

The flight of dark clouds overhead reflected on Forest’s sightless eyes as a curious crowd gathered.