Fiction by Mayfair Maclean
It was 5:15 pm in Accra, the sun was setting and it was starting to get dark.
Nii Lante slowed his car to a stop at the intersection, his was the first car to arrive. The light turned red, and unconsciously he begun to count the seconds; the progression of time until the light turned green again. It was noisy with the hum of car engines, the shuffling of feet and the drone of people buying, selling, reminiscing over the end of a work day. In front of him parked by the curbs the Trotro drivers and mates had already sprung into action. Each one aggressively shepherding the pedestrians towards his bus.
He was texting at 19 seconds, did not see but heard the driver on his left shout at someone,
“Jack yɛ na tɔ kwedu no wie na green nu bɛ sɔ sesiaa”
This did not register immediately, and so when his head jerked up and he saw that everything was wrong Nii Lante had 21 seconds to fix it.
In his head, the image of a timer appeared, ticking. Loudly.
21. 20. 19. 18…
The pedestrian signal timing at the N1 Highway Lapaz intersection was increased from 18 seconds to 42 seconds two weeks ago. Nii Lante knew this because he remembered reading the article online:
N1 HIGHWAY LAPAZ INTERSECTION ENHANCED TO IMPROVE SAFETY.
Remembered impatiently counting the seconds till he could drive off on his way home from work every weekday.
Two older women stood under the traffic light, bickering. The walking man caricature on the traffic light was green and several people were crossing. From his rear view mirror, in the reflection of a shop window, he saw what the other drivers saw instead. The walking man, yellow, seconds away from red, and then only two pedestrians, almost at the end of the crossing.
16. 15. 14…
47 cars revved their engines, and 13 pedestrians were crossing, walking to their deaths.
Nii Lante accelerated his car, heart thundering and hands shaking. Furiously, turning sideways in the middle of the road so that he blocked the other cars, he run out of the car without turning off the engine or shutting the door.
He slowed down as he reached them, catching bits of their arguments.
“Yɛ no ntɛm yɛ bɛyɛ late”
“Bronya aduru nti ye hia mogya, yenkoa na yenfaa yɛndiɛ mbaa yɛ”
Figures he thought, witches. He forced himself to slow down, to walk and stand still in front of them until they noticed him.
“Ah, na hwan so nie?”
“Ei asɛ ohu yɛn oo, yendwane anaa?”
“Hoh! diɛn na obetumi ay…”
10. 9. 8…
The women stopped talking abruptly, standing completely still, staring, stunned out of their wits.
Nii Lante was smiling at them.
Two cars to the left, Nana Pokua dropped her phone in shock. She too, had seen what Nii Lante saw. She was in the middle of calling for an ambulance when she saw a tall man calmly diffuse the situation. Nana jumped into her car and followed Nii Lante, needing to know. She followed him for 45 minutes on the N1 and then for 15 minutes across the back roads, until he stopped in front of a gated house and made to open it with a remote. She hurried out of her car, shouting,
Nii Lante stopped, got out of his car and walked slowly towards her, stopping close enough that she had to back up against her car and look up at him.
“What’s with the stalking?”
“How did you do that? I saw those witches change the timer and then you just walked up to them and and…”
“…I smiled at them”
“…yes exactly and then you smiled at them and you did something to them because they went still and just left then th…”
“…I smiled at them”
“…the timer fixed itself and the drivers were yelling at you and you just drove off and… no what did you do? how did you stop it, tell me.”
“I smiled at them”
“Yes yes I saw you smiled then they disappeared why do you kee- wait. Wait that’s your Advantage? Smiling?”
“Not exactly, smiling is part of it, it’s more- why am I telling you this? I don’t know you.”
“I’m sorry. Let me start over my name is Nana Pokua you’re telling me the truth because that’s my Advantage. I’m basically a human truth serum and you are?”
Nana Pokua said all this in one breath, smiling up at him, and he couldn’t help but notice that she had a pretty smile.
Mayfair Maclean is a law student. When she is not pursuing a career in law, she is re-reading the Harry Potter book series. She tweets from @_____livvy
Originally published April 15, 2020