In the previous installment, Azibo and Unity’s Collective contact offers them a life-changing assignment: suicide bombing. Azibo jumps at the opportunity, but Unity pleads with him to think about it. For Azibo, the chance to be a martyr gives him meaning to his unfulfilling life.
Let’s jump into Part 9, where we learn a bit about Azibo’s traumatic childhood and how he ended up in the Collective.
Azibo hated his parents, and he was glad they’d died long ago.
His father, Antonio, was an imposing Italian-American man with arms like barrels and thick, black eyebrows often furrowed in anger. His mother, Kesi, was more gentle but also prone to fits of rage. She was Kenyan, and her name meant “born in difficult times,” which was indeed true.
Kesi’s home country collapsed into civil war, and she ended up in America as a refugee at a young age. She met Antonio when she was a teenager, converted to Catholicism, and gave birth to Azibo soon after, their only child.
The stress of American life, especially urban life, was tremendous right before Portia was born, and religious extremism ran rampant. Antonio and Kesi fell victims to conspiracy theory-based thinking, combined with a devout and strict religious observance. Azibo grew up in a home awash in fear and violence.
When Azibo was twelve years old, his father was shot dead on the street in broad daylight on his way home from work. There was little motive for the killing except for a few harsh words passed between Antonio and the gunman. Antonio bumped into him, an argument started, a gun came out, and in an instant, Azibo’s father was on his back in a pool of blood.
They had little extended family nearby, and Kesi worked three jobs to pay the rent and keep them from homelessness. That was, until the financial crisis wiped out the nation’s economy, leading to a mass wave of unemployment, addiction, and crime.
When Azibo turned seventeen, Portia was suddenly brought into the world amid the chaos of American life. He doesn’t recall his immediate reaction, mainly because he didn’t know how to read yet. He wouldn’t learn to read until two years later in night school.
Azibo’s mother declined government assistance, and she and her son lived on the streets for two years until she passed. Tent encampments had by this time formed throughout the city; tiny communities of the homeless that looked out for each other as best as they could.
Kesi developed a mysterious illness that killed her quickly. Poor nutrition, lack of medical care, and living outside in the elements did it to her. Azibo barely missed a beat, continued to live in the encampment, and began working government-assistance odd jobs. Eventually, he got lucky and landed a studio apartment that was fully furnished.
He never worshipped Portia though, as he’d absorbed his parents’ religious values. He’d heard about the Collective in vague terms, but he wasn’t yet interested in joining them. It wasn’t until he met Unity at work that he began to learn the Collective philosophy. Unity had been a new “member,” and she helped teach him to read, alternating between the Bible and Collective pamphlets.
Unity was nice to Azibo, and it was refreshing. Though his mother was not a mean-spirited person, his trauma early in life made him hesitant to trust others. Indeed, most everyone around him was traumatized.
But it was a new day, now that Portia was here. The American liberal parties coalesced and dominated politics, instituting widespread reforms that cleaned up cities with the help of new technologies. Just when things had seemed darkest, it was as if a light switch had been miraculously turned on.
Still, Azibo and Unity worked their crappy jobs, lived in their crappy dwellings, and worshipped the old God. Other people they knew now lived in luxury, got plastic surgery, and even uploaded their consciousness onto the net, thus living forever in cyberspace. All this appalled Azibo and Unity, who felt the bad old days weren’t as bad as this increasingly permissive society. It was then that they delved heavier into the Collective, becoming informants and attending underground meetings.
Now, Azibo had a chance to fulfill his life mission: disrupt the Machina Church, disgrace Portia, and become a martyr. All he had to do was convince Unity to come along, so they could die like all the Collective saints before them.
To be continued
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6 thoughts on “Mother Portia: A Novella Project – Part 9”
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