Tag Archives: African diaspora

The Journey

by Adanze Asante  

Running through the thorny blonde grass, the lone hyena stops to scan the plains of the Serengeti for food and water. After travelling for more than three sunsets, she’s hungry and searching for carrion, but it’s scarce this dry season. A starling alights upon her path as she relishes the strong breeze rippling through her fur, she spots a droughty pond filled with muddy water. Her stomach wrenches tight as she drinks, for the water only incites her hunger pangs.

Through a curtain of heat, a pack of female hyenas lope toward her. Orange dust billows from their paws as they approach. Her fur stands on end, her ears twitch, and at that moment she forgets her hunger. She realizes that she should have stayed on course, but her desire for sustenance had urged her to take a different route.

Knowing it’s odd for a bitch to be alone without her clan, the lone hyena remains steady and still, daring not to move as the leader of the pack pads toward her. This is the first time in her sojourn she has been threatened by her kind. If she shows fear, they’ll attack.

She observes that the matriarch’s head is much larger than normal and that she towers over the other six. Yet when Large Head approaches her, she notices that she’s her equal. Grinding her teeth, she allows the matriarch to move around her in one slow circle and sniff her sex.

Her claws dig into the dirt as she watches Large Head return to her clan, sneezing, grunting, and spitting. Shaking her head, she communicates that something’s wrong with this lone hyena. The clan groans in confusion then a frenzy of rage engulfs them; some stand on their hind legs, cackling.

The seven hyenas begin to gather around her, baring their sharp-razor teeth. The lone hyena remains steady watching them. Breathing slowly and deliberately, she calculates her next move. She never takes her eyes off of Large Head. She’s really too weak with hunger to fight, but she must. Death is the only option, for she is not the only one who’s hungry.

She leaps to rip open Large Head’s throat, but two of Large Head’s underlings foil her attack and pounce on her back. Rebounding quickly, she bares and snaps her teeth, forcing Large Head’s lackeys to retreat.

She launches to rip apart the weakest of the pack, but Large Head barrels into her, throwing her to the ground. They roll and scuffle, each growling at the other, then break apart – the lone hyena quickly scrabbling back up on all fours.

Large Head lunges to bite her neck, but she swiftly squirms out of the way. Then pivoting, the lone hyena clamps her jaws on the alpha bitch’s haunches. The blood tastes bitter yet sweet. Large Head briefly cries out in agony but quickly recovers; it would be death for the matriarch to show weakness to her clan. Her followers whoop and cackle in protest. Turning, the matriarch meets her gaze and they stare at each other for one long moment.

Suddenly the ground rumbles under their paws. Off to the east, a herd of gazelles is stampeding. The lone hyena releases her hold on the old matriarch and the two combatants look to the potential meat and salivate. Abandoning their duel, Large Head breaks into a run, aiming for the slowest and weakest at the back of the herd. The rest of her clan follows her, fanning out to a large hunting V.

The lone hyena watches her in bemusement. She understands that killing an odd hyena is no longer appealing to the clan; gazelles are much juicier. She wonders if she should join them. She could help them rip apart their chosen prey. During their feeding, she could choose a choice body part, thereby asserting her leadership. She notices Large Head has left a trail of blood behind. The clan will eventually kill her as she now appears weak. If she were the one to kill Large Head, she would then lead the rest of the pack.

She hears her own quick shallow breaths, her heart beating in her chest. The warbling of birds, the twittering of insects, even the guttural sounds of vultures circling overhead, clash like cymbals in her ears. A starling alights nearby and suddenly a barrage of sounds and images flood her mind: She is surrounded by smoke, the sound of drumming rings through her ears, cool waves splash against her body, and then a coarse voice whispers: “Go to the One with the message.

She turns away from the pack, as the voice continues to hiss in her ears. It beckons across the vast plains, urging her to leave the clan of roaming beasts behind. She obeys.

As the sun climbs to its zenith, she catches a whiff of blood, causing her stomach to grumble louder. She looks up and sees vultures circling not far off. Frothing at the mouth, she trots toward the carrion birds and finds a half-eaten antelope – a lion pride’s leftovers. She lunges at the birds, scattering them. She manages to snatch a hind leg with her teeth and rip it from the carcass. They swoop in to peck her back, an attempt to guard their meal, but with the meat dangling from her mouth, she sprints away.

Under an acacia tree, she devours the antelope’s backside in several bites, hacking through its skin to the flesh with her knife-like teeth. She relishes how carrion always tastes better when they are seasoned with a lion’s saliva. Its smell tantalizes her so much that she even eats the bones.

She wallows in the dirt to ease the sting of her scratches from the earlier battle with the hyena clan. A starling alights on a branch of the tree above her. Then as the sky turns orange and magenta with dusk, her eyelids grow heavy, lulling her into sleep.

A slim bare-chested man is waving her in through the open door of his hut. His smiling eyes sparkle as he says: “Come to me!”

She is about to walk in when…

Something awakens her. It is a male hyena, marking his territory. Lying on her belly, she pants, observing him. Unlike females, males always roam alone as they are only good for mating and are useless otherwise. He circles her with caution, for she is twice his size and could crush him easily. Yet when he climbs on her back, she allows him. She is much too drowsy to rouse. Many males have approached her for mating before and she has always rebuffed them, but this time it feels good. It feels right.

He awkwardly pokes his penis above her erect clitoris, which is as big and long as his member. Their sexes rub against each other as he tries to enter her shaft, but he keeps slipping off her sleek fur. Her sex moistens from his continuous tries. She stands up to make it easier for him to climb and poke again. When the tip of his penis finally enters, she whoops and chortles with delight. Yes, this time it’s delicious and welcoming.

Image: cryptidz.wikia.com/
Image: cryptidz.wikia.com/

A starling lands on her head and she tries to shake it off, when she hears: “Go to the One with the message.”  Suddenly she remembers: She is no hyena. She is human. She is Duriya Osa! There is no way she can mate with this animal.

She throws him off her and then swipes at his face with her claws. The male hyena cowers under her strikes until she retreats, then tries to mount her again. This time she springs to bite him, snapping her jaws, but the male instantly moves out of the way. Rising on her hind legs, she yowls. He finally surrenders to her threats and lopes off to a nearby tree to lick his genitals and quench the fire of his excitement.

Under an indigo sky, Duriya begins to run. She runs until she is several miles away from the stud and the night lit with starlight. She finally stops beneath an umbrella tree to rest. This is when she hears the sound of an mbira. Her ears prick, listening to the faint notes, its tinkling sound dancing before her.

The sweet melody vibrates through her body, and with each tink-tink-tink-tink, she shudders as if from an internal storm. She leans against the tree shaking uncontrollably. Sharp pain shoots through her body like bolts of lightning and she jerks her head from side to side in rickety movements. With horror, she sees her paws begin to grow into human hands. Her black spotted fur starts to fade into coffee-brown skin and tight curls of human hair. She can feel her jagged fangs pushing back to human teeth. She has to get to the One before she fully transforms or she will not survive this journey.

But her body is changing beyond her control. She halts as her two front legs shrink to human arms. Her ears shrivel from her wide animal ones and her sharp-night vision fades into human sight. Her sense of smell dulls; her strength wanes. She howls in agony, but her breath is cut short as her spine straightens and her tail melts back into it. Her hind legs lengthen into human ones; she is now crawling on her hands and knees. She was to be there by the fifth night, she remembers, and time is running out. She has to get there. She just has to…

Crawling and changing, changing and crawling, she makes her way towards the sound of the mbira, which grows louder with each step. Then a pungent scent of violets stings her nose. She inhales… Ahh… that smell… She cackles and whoops, recognizing it. The One must be near.

At the tree that marks the entrance to his compound, she stretches her body upright and shakes off what’s left of her reddish-brown fur. She shuffles sluggishly to her lover’s threshold where she collapses, supine. She opens one eye and catches him watching her.

“Ahh … that’s my girl,” she hears him say.

#

Owodunni lifts the young woman, his legs buckling from a weight that is still that of a 200-pound hyena, and carries her into his home. A starling flies through the open door and alights on one of the root jars by the entrance as he places Duriya on a straw mat in the centre of the room. The air around them is as heavy as wet mist.

Burning fragrant herbs, Owodunni prays to the deities who helped create Duriya. He gives thanks and offers Ogo, the Dogon deity responsible for the powerful huntress, a boar’s head. He hangs his machete on a hook in the centre of the shrine. As the fresh blood drips from it into a sacred pot, he smokes Duriya’s body from head to toe with a bunch of burning twigs. He notices the deep scratches on her stomach and winces. When he’d cast the spell three years ago he had not thought to arm Duriya; he didn’t think she would confront any danger.

He tucks the shrine’s brown, gold, and ivory cloth around Duriya’s shoulders as she snores. He is careful not to rouse her, for she is still in the twilight of human and animal. It could be hours before her full transition and if he is not careful, she could tear him to pieces. As if to confirm his suspicions, she yawns, revealing sharp fangs. He keeps a safe distance between them and carries a fighting knife in the waist of his trousers: just in case.

He pours libations to Ogo again. He gives praises to his ancestors and to the forces that feed his powers.

#

Duriya’s body writhes in violent convulsions and she wakes up in tears. She struggles to look around. The room is decorated with lion and boar skins and furnished only by a chair with three legs, some wooden shelves against a wall, and an elaborate shrine. A wooden staff decorated with horizontal bands of light mahogany leans on the wall by the door, a starling is perched atop it, watching her intently.

The shelves are filled with glass jars of brilliantly-coloured powders, bottles of ogogoro, feathers, a doll’s head, the swollen carcass of a puffer fish, and three skulls – one of a dog and two human.

She studies the altar, gazing at the skulls and bones on it. The walls on either side of it are draped with gold and silver material. At its centre, there is a platter full of rice, yam, oranges, bananas, pineapples and beans – offerings for the deities and ancestors. This altar has been her home away from home for the past three years. It is where she seeks comfort from a husband she pretends to love.

Groaning, Duriya crawls until she is next to her lover, directly under the shrine. Her muscles pulsating from overexertion, she curls into a foetal position.

“When will be a good day for me to kill my husband?” She asks absently.

Owodunni glances over his shoulder at her, still not quite comfortable with her human form.

“Killing my brother takes patience, my dear,” he says, forcing a light tone.

He stands to fetch a jar of ointment from one of his shelves. Scooping some of the ointment with the fingertips of his right hand, he returns to her. “Turn over. This should take the scarring away.”

While Owodunni smears the ointment on her belly, Duriya thinks of how, in public, she has been humiliated by her husband’s beatings and threats. How, in private, she has had to concede to his desires for threesomes and foursomes. She thinks of how often she has sat in her hut alone at night dreading his return. Her only reprieve has been within Owodunni’s arms.

“I almost didn’t make it.”

“What do you mean?” Owodunni asks.

“They almost killed me.”

“Who almost killed you?”

“A big-headed hyena.”

“I’m glad you’re here,” Owodunni says. He reaches to stroke her shoulder but she flinches away.

“You don’t understand,” she says.

Owodunni remains silent and listens for he does not want to agitate the beast.

“I nearly forgot myself out there.”

“Did you hear me calling you?”

Without answering, Duriya looks up at the starling perched on the head of the mahogany staff. Then she nods.

“Well then, you have nothing to worry about,” he says.  “You should eat something,” Owodunni says. He moves over to a round-bellied pot she hasn’t noticed before and stirs the soup inside it. “This will help you transition.”

“You know I can’t eat cooked meat right away.”

“I know, but I want a full woman right now.”

“What’s the matter?” She asks with a smirk. “Are you afraid I might take a bite out of you?”

“You are still part animal.”

“Is that so?” She cackles, crawling to him on her hands and knees. “Do I not look fully human?”

“Yes, but your mind and heart are still transitioning.”

He spoons the meat, yams and vegetables into a wooden bowl.

“Here, taste this.” He thrusts the bowl at her.

She shuts her eyes tight and smells the meal before her. Reaching into the bowl, she grabs a piece of meat and bites it. She lets it stay in her mouth for a moment before she tries to chew it.

“Ugh!” In disgust, she spits the morsel into the palm of her hand and wipes her mouth with her forearm. “This is awful! How could anyone eat cooked meat? It ruins its essence!”

“Taste it again,” he persists. “You will soon remember.”

“Remember what?”

“Remember your true self.”

She remembers how much she enjoyed the taste of fresh warm blood while in her animal state, how sweet carrion bones tasted. Too bad she only transitions when her husband ventures out on blood sports once a month, she thinks. Placing the piece of meat into a cloth, she lays the bowl aside.

“What if I don’t want to remember any more? What if I want to let myself go and mate with a male hyena?”

“Now that would be a problem,” Owodunni said, furrowing his brows. “Besides I would have to kill the hyena.”

Duriya laughs. Then she turns serious and asks, “So, you’re not going to cast a death spell on my husband?”

“No, not yet.”

“Does this mean that your medicine is failing?”

“No, it just means that I have to find another road.”

“Another road?” she asks, shaking her head. “Sometimes you talk in riddles.”

“I have to work around my brother’s protection.”

“Your brother’s talisman?”

“Yes, they were given to both of us at birth. I had to abandon mine when I embraced Dogon medicine.”

“Dogon medicine will serve you better than Yoruba.”

“But it means the Yoruba deities no longer protect me. If I cast such a spell against my brother, I would become his enemy and those deities would turn against me. All of my plans to take over his kingdom would end before they even began.”

“This is much too difficult,” Duriya says. “Why can I not kill him? It would be so easy as a hyena. Besides, I might enjoy eating the king’s meat and bones.”

“You are forbidden to kill humans; it’s against the rules of the spell,” Owodunni says, squatting in front of her. “Otherwise you will remain a hyena forever and you will lose all memory of who you are. Do you want that to happen?”

“I’m getting tired of travelling this way,” Duriya says, sighing. “I might not come back to you the next time.”

“Don’t worry,” he says. “You are protected under my spell.”

“I don’t feel protected when I’m out there.”

“You can hold your own,” he says.

She looks at her lover, this middle-aged man of medium height, and marvels at his mahogany complexion and chiselled body. She might have been staring at her husband, except for the gray streak in the middle of his hair and the way his body seems to dance with the wind. That is why she prefers him.

“So, if we can’t destroy your brother then what’s the other road?”

“The other road is called patience.”

“Patience?” she asks, smirking. “I’m not sure if you’ll last, old man.”

“Ahh … you’re starting to talk like yourself,” his light brown eyes twinkle in the candlelight. He caresses her thigh. “How’s the soup?”

She dips her right index finger into the wooden bowl. It smells of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and peppers. Licking it, Duriya finds she is beginning to like the flavours. “It’s not so bad.”

“I’ve been waiting for you for too long,” Owodunni says. “Don’t make me wait another second.”

Owodunni wraps his arms around her and she clasps her thighs around his waist. They make love until dawn.

Afterwards, while Owodunni is fast asleep, Duriya finds a strand of hyena hair at the edge of the mat. It’s from the male hyena. Closing her eyes, she savours the memory of the wind hitting her fur out there on the plains. Clutching the hair, she thinks: just in case.

# END #

Adanze Asante (aka Doreen C. Bowens) embarked on her writing career when she lived in Harlem, trying to launch a community garden. The garden never grew, but her trilogy did. She is a recent Clarion West graduate and just finished A Mother’s Milk, Part I of The Spirit Warrior’s trilogy. Ms. Asante earned her M.A. in journalism from U.C. Berkeley and her writings have appeared in the following publications: The Network Journal, The New York Daily News, The Oakland Tribune, New York Newsday, The Oregonian, Corpus Christi Caller Times, and African Voices Magazine.
Adanze Asante (aka Doreen C. Bowens) embarked on her writing career when she lived in Harlem, trying to launch a community garden. The garden never grew, but her trilogy did. She is a recent Clarion West graduate and just finished A Mother’s Milk, Part I of The Spirit Warrior’s trilogy. Ms. Asante earned her M.A. in journalism from U.C. Berkeley and her writings have appeared in the following publications: The Network Journal, The New York Daily News, The Oakland Tribune, New York Newsday, The Oregonian, Corpus Christi Caller Times, and African Voices Magazine.

Look At Me Now

By Sarah Norman

After a while, it began to get her in trouble at work. Her colleagues thought that she was getting lazy, arriving late, or disappearing in the middle of the day for hours at a time. She bought a headscarf and a long coat, and took to walking into the office with her face turned towards the wall. Once, Gareth from Purchasing bumped into her. She dropped her bag he bent down to pick it up, and then looked her straight in the face. There was nothing there, of course. Her head scarf was empty. But he did not flinch; just handed her the bag and went on down the corridor.

Tendi was getting used to this reaction. As it was impossible that she not have a face, peoples’ brains just put one in for her. Children were different though. They saw what was actually there, whether it was possible or not, and Tendi came to quite enjoy frightening a whiny child on the bus into silence by lifting her scarf, just for a moment.

Her first big visibility loss had happened just as the riots were beginning at home. Her mother had phoned and confessed that she’d been lying, and that actually she did not have enough to eat. She had not liked to ask before, because she knew how hard London was for the undocumented, but she was very hungry now – and would Tendi go on the internet for her and order something?

As Tendi ordered the maize and the meat, her fingers on the keyboard slowly disappeared. At first she thought her eyes were failing, or her mind. She ran away from the mirrors in her flat, down to the corner store, and it was there, at the Pick’n’Go, that she realised that no one else could see her either. While putting out the Pringles, Mrs. Patel picked her nose right in front of her. She thought next about phoning for an ambulance, but she knew that with ambulances came police. She went back up to her flat, and – ever the student, even after all this failure and discouragement – thought of books. She found The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison on the internet and was thrilled when she saw the cover art, but then she read it and found it was just a strange story about some guy in a basement who never actually lost his visibility.

She was slow to it, but she did eventually think of movies. She had been brought up on a farm compound so had little idea of who the superheroes were, but she knew some of them had special powers and thought it might be in some way related to wearing underwear. She went down to the Blockbuster, not sure how she would rent a video while not visible; but once she got there, she realized that of course she did not need a formal rental process. No one could see her taking what she wanted. She took some movies and, this being the early days of her invisibility, actually did return them later.

She watched Spiderman and Superman and Ironman, the Hulk and Transformers and Indiana Jones. That night she got up to go to the toilet and realized she was visible again. Sitting down, she could actually see her thighs and not just her urine hitting the water. She gasped, put out her hands to touch her legs, and immediately disappeared again. She thought about how the Hulk got big and green when he got angry, and wondered if it was distress that was making her transparent. She stood in front of the bathroom mirror in her pyjamas, breathing deeply, talking comforting nonsense to herself. Slowly the outline of her head began to appear, and then her arms. This excited her so much she disappeared again.

She spent hours on the internet learning about managing her emotions. She tried mantras, and whale music, and white music, and breathing of all kinds. She found her special place, a patch of sun outside her grandfather’s house on the farm compound, and went there often. Yoga seemed to help too; she was almost always visible while the yoga DVD was on. She learnt that anything she touched with bare skin also became invisible, but if there was cloth between her and any object, it was not affected. She was very careful never to leave anything in her pockets, after an embarrassing incident in which she terrified an entire tube carriage with her house keys.

Over time, she needed the headscarf less and less, but she never got complete control of what she came to think of as her opticality. There were always embarrassing blips, like when she would disappear and reappear on a car backfiring or a door slamming. Gareth from Purchasing was also a problem. He had a very sweet smile, and sometimes when he stopped by her desk to talk procurement, her heart would pick up its pace and she would flash in and out to its beat.

The news from home also seemed to affect her particularly, often able to make her disappear for hours at a time. It’s not so easy to go to your special place when you hear it’s been burnt to the ground, and that gramps is now living in some city slum. She tried various mantras for it. ‘That’s not your home anymore,’ being often useful, though nothing worked all the time.

 

Over time she realized that just as she could maintain calm, she could maintain upset. This meant she could be invisible almost as she chose. That she did not start stealing immediately was testament to her Mission schooling. London is, however, a hungry city and will chew up even the strongest. So eventually she did start lifting a little here and there. Just chewing gum and fizzy drinks, at first .I’m illegal anyway, she thought. My every breath steals air from these British. So she began to take more than air.

It had always hurt her in the evenings as she left work to see friends in bars, families in restaurants, the whole happy whirl of people at home. All the wealthy English stepping off the cold streets into the theatres, golden doors opening onto grey pavement. Now she too entered those doors and just like the English she would wait until the lights began to dim, and take a seat. After a while she realised she might just as well sit on the stage. Once during Mama Mia, she started to enjoy the show so much that she lost her feeling of upset, and her outline started to appear, downstage centre. The conductor, whose brain was on the music, actually saw her and dropped his baton on the cymbals with a clash. That disappeared her quick enough.

She stole a lot of clothing. She’d read news from home for twenty minutes or so, just enough to upset herself, and then she’d go out to the shops. At first it was just H&M, but after a while, Selfridges, Harrods, Rigby & Peller. If the news from home was bad enough, she could keep going for entire afternoons. She did sometimes set off the door alarms as she would leave with her arms full of clothes, but staff always assumed it was a malfunction. If the alarm went off and she was not near it, Tendi would run over as quickly as she could, her arms spread out in the empty space, hoping one day to feel the warm body of another invisible.

She took time off work to go and sit for a few days at Her Majesty’s Passport Service. She had no trouble remaining invisible because she was furious all the time she was there. The workers acted as if their duties were just dull routine, and not what could change someone’s life. She followed around a guy called Derek, and learnt his passwords, and one night when the place was empty she sat down at his desk and entered herself in that great database, which separates those who are allowed, from those who are not allowed. She printed out an Indefinite Leave To Remain certificate, and pasted it carefully into her passport. She sat for a while under Derek’s desk lamp, marvelling at the hologram. Then she took all the workers’ family photos and knickknacks off their desks, and threw them in the skip outside. She had let herself stay upset for too long. But she was legal now.

She thought again about getting help from the authorities. She told herself that the movies had made her afraid of medical experimentation, but really she was enjoying what she had started to think of as her power. She often went over to Gareth’s desk, to listen to him talk on the phone, or to read his emails, or just to smell his aftershave. This came to an abrupt end when she heard him confessing to his sister that he had a crush on someone in the office. She walked back to her own desk, almost in tears. She sat down and kicked off her Jimmy Choos (good fakes, she’d told the girls in the office. African connections, you know. They had no idea).

She went to the bathroom, gave herself a firm lecture, and transitioned back into visible. She went to the lunch room. It was only then, as she sat watching her colleagues warm their sad leftovers, that she realized that the woman Gareth had a crush on was almost certainly herself. She went through each lady there: too old or too married, and had to bite hard on her lip to keep from laughing. It was almost as if she had been in the shadows of the semi-legal for so long she had forgotten she could be noticed.

Then she really did start to follow Gareth quite a lot, to secretly learn what he liked, so she could become it. However, on their first date at a cheap Italian restaurant in Soho, she found she could abandon all her pre-arranged comments about bands and Manchester City. It was strange, after all this time trying to pass as English, to be asked about Africa as it if mattered. There was an embarrassing part, where he thought her gramps owned the farm on which she grew up, and she had to explain that he was just a worker there. But a worker loves his home just as much as an owner does, she tried to explain. She was still a Mission girl, so she didn’t have sex with him for some time, and when she did, she insisted the lights be off. He thought she was nervous about her body, which of course she was.

She still paid for Starbucks, because she couldn’t figure out a way to steal it, and it was one day while waiting to order that the idea of assassination first came to her. She immediately put it out of her mind as obviously ridiculous. But it kept coming back, like a cat you should not have fed the first time. She found she could no longer upset herself over the news from home without a dark shadow of the solution rising in her mind.

She began to feel guilty. It was like the time she had found a dead street kid back home. He wore a bright yellow T-shirt, and would hang about the area where she worked, so she knew him by sight. When she saw him lying on the pavement one morning, curled up in a foetal position, she thought he was just sleeping. But when she saw him again that evening, in the same position, she knew he was dead. She kept walking. He was gone by the next morning. The country was hip-deep in crisis by this point, far beyond where the police might have acted, so she wondered where his body might have gone. She had a horrible image of the other street kids taking him somewhere and some funeral ceremony devised by children. She knew there was a little one who wore a pink shirt and a bigger one in black shorts who often went around with the yellow shirt but she never did ask them what had happened because she did not know want to know the answer. All the times she had refused to give yellow shirt money – “a dollar, mama, please” – would come horribly to her mind for months after that. It only really stopped when she moved to the UK. This guilt now was like that guilt then. As of something she ought to have done, or should be doing.

On the one hand, there was the question of whether it was even a desirable outcome. Would assassination make things any better? On the other hand, there was the question of practicality. Would her invisibility actually make it possible? She had reason to think it would.

One afternoon after a boozy picnic with Gareth in St James Park, she had decided she’d like to see the Queen. It was easy; she just followed a truck through the palace gates. She wondered around for quite a while, feeling a bit deflated by the modern toilets and the standard office equipment. Then she entered a warm living room and there she was! She was wearing a nightie with a dressing gown over it. She looked just like a real grandmother. The corgis ran towards Tendi barking with the pointless enthusiasm of all little dogs. She knew how to deal with them; she just stood still and they lost interest. Then Tendi sat down carefully on the sofa to the Queen’s right and watched some TV with her. She thought she had never felt so welcome in England as she did then, though the old lady did love to channel surf. The living room was just exactly how she had imagined Europe would be before she came, all warm and golden-toned and safe with all the children tucked in their beds, and only on the streets if they were playing on their bikes till dinnertime. And if they did die, after lots of free medical care, they were buried with fluffy bunnies by weeping parents in green churchyards next to their dear old grannies.

Look At Me Now

So Tendi lay awake at night, trying to find good reasons for dismissing the ridiculous idea. There is little more painful than extended indecision. A line from one of those Blockbuster movies kept coming back to her, the one with the Spiderman: “with great power comes great responsibility.” She hadn’t even liked the movie, but the line troubled her.

Then one day on her way home from work she didn’t get off at her stop. She stayed on the line, which she knew ended at Heathrow. She gave up on being an adult and decided to let the oblivious universe decide for her. If there were free seats to home tonight she would go, and she would do it. If not, she would put all that dark country behind her and enter this new one with her Indefinite Leave and her Gareth, and her Jimmy Choos. She waited in the ticketing line, feeling sick. When she got to the front she asked and got her answer. There were seats.

She did not buy one, of course. She just walked on, invisible, and waited till the doors shut before she sat down. She made sure to be visible then as her countrymen were like rebellious rabbits on planes with no one staying in their own seat for longer than necessary. When they landed and she smelt that familiar smell of dust and hot rubber her body blinked out. She’d thought it might; she expected the stress of home to be too much for her fragile content.

What she didn’t expect was that she would not be able to reclaim visibility, even over days. Something about being there kept her unable to reflect the light. So she wandered the town alone, seeing what was left of her home. She went to see her mother, though of course her mother could not see her. Watching that old lady sit alone in her bare flat steeled her at last to go to where he was.

She slid into a taxi that was headed in the right direction, and slid out near his residence. She walked all the way around its high external walls. She stood at the main gate for a while, and then just as at Buckingham Palace, simply walked in behind a truck. She was sweating. She had a kitchen knife in her hand. The truck went to the kitchens and she followed it there. She was surprised to see normal people there, preparing normal food. She climbed out of the kitchens and found herself in a long hallway. It had a dark green carpet and old photographs on the walls. She stopped to look at some old white people she did not recognize. She opened each door along the hall, finding room after empty room, and then finally in one big sitting room, she found a woman watching TV. The Kardashians was on.

The woman was wearing a T-shirt and some old jogging bottoms. It was his wife. Tendi had never seen her in real life, and never without a hat, but here she was. Tendi stepped in and shut the door behind her. The television was on very loud. Tendi looked around the room, which was decorated in red satin with gold detail. She couldn’t believe how close it all was to caricature. There were even some Harrods bags on the bed. Suddenly the wife started yelling.

“Daddy, come!” she shouted. “Come and see!” There was a pause, and then “Da-ddy!”split into two long syllables. A door next to the TV opened and a bent little man shuffled in. He was wearing a white shirt buttoned to the neck and black trousers. Tendi felt all the blood run up into her face.

“I am not deaf, you know,” he said.

“Oh yes you are,” said his wife. “Anyway, come and see how modern this clinic is, where Kourtney is having her ultrasound.”

As he crossed over towards the sofa, towards where Tendi was standing, she had to control a very strong urge to run away. Here he was; the beginning and the end. He sat and she heard a little creak from the sofa. She was astonished that he had weight. She had imagined him to be only myth.

“It’s not so modern as in Asia,” he said. His wife said nothing to that.

He sat for a while, watching with her, and then got up from the sofa – not without a little difficulty – and shuffled back to the door. Tendi followed.

It was a small study, the walls covered in bookcases. He went over to a well-stuffed chair and sat down. He opened a book and started to read. The worst part was the room had the light, urine-tinged smell she associated with old age homes. She had often thought of all the things she would say to him. But now she wasn’t here to talk. She had looked up how to kill someone on the internet. What was needed was a quick, hard, ear-to-ear slice. She walked up behind him. She read his book over his shoulder. It seemed to be some kind of adventure story, set in England. She stopped reading as the book tilted forward onto his chest. He was already dozing.

This suddenly seemed like murder. But she thought about her grandfather and his life on the farm, about her mother and her pension, about that yellow shirt boy, and she lifted up the knife. With her blood screaming through her veins, she brought it down hard into his neck.

He gasped and his hands swung up to the knife he could not see. She pulled the knife sideways. His neck was thick, and it was very difficult to pull it across. He struggled and his struggling gave her strength. He was a powerful man and deserved no pity. His blood gushed over her hands as his feet thumped on the floor. The blood was warm and it kept pouring, but at some point she understood it was no longer being pumped.

She had been worried that after she did it she would feel remorse, or horror. She had done Macbeth at the Mission school; she knew what fate awaited murderers. But what she found as the blood dripped down was a sense of well-being, as if all her troubles had been removed. As if someone had gone backwards in time and wiped away all her difficult past. The university she could not afford to attend. The menial jobs. That time in Jo’burg when she had been treated like dirt by South Africans with welfare checks while she cleaned toilets. Every time it had rained in London.

He had broken up her life and that of tens of thousands of her generation, and now she had broken his. She felt the joy of justice done. As he grew still, a great peace came upon her. She removed her hands from his neck, and put the bloody knife in her pocket. She did not want to leave fingerprints. She looked at her hands, slick with his blood, red to the elbows. She smiled. It had, after all, been easy. Then she stopped smiling. She realized she could see her hands. She looked down her body. She was visible.

She sent her mind quickly to what she knew could upset her. She thought about that time in South Africa when she had cleaned the toilets. She thought about her mother’s pension. But somehow they were not as terrible to her now as they had been before. She was not just a small pebble ground down by an all-encompassing grinder, but the pebble that had stopped the machine. She had justice now. She was somebody now. She thought of other bad things, of hurricanes and famines, but still she could see herself. She looked for another door out of the study. There was just the one. Then she heard a voice:

“Da-ddy!”

She heard footsteps approaching. She looked for somewhere to hide and went over to the desk, thinking she could get underneath it. Then she stopped. She was not someone who needed to hide now. She went back towards the door and stood in front of it, knife in hand. She was somebody now. They would see.

SarahNorman01
SM Norman currently lives in South Africa. She has worked widely in the theatre, and her previous publications are in the performing arts, including a contribution to Short and Snappy, a South African anthology of short African plays; radio dramas for Zimbabwe’s Kubatana; lead writer on the children’s pilot for Kenya’s XYZ’s Show; and Harare Files, a play based on interviews

 

You are in the city

By Liam Kruger

You are in the city, and you are surprised to find yourself alone in a bar that might once have been popular. It feels like midday, and the bar is almost empty. As your eyes adjust to the gloom, they take in the animated movement of two young men drinking at a booth, the two bartenders’ lugubrious nods, and the staggered sweep of the ceiling-fan’s shadow across the floor. There is very little else that holds your attention; you are in a wood-panelled dive.

You take a seat next to the row of dusty beer taps. You don’t feel like drinking, but you worry that your sobriety might offend someone, possibly yourself. Neither of the bartenders have moved towards you, and the two young drinkers have not noticed you, so engaged are they in taking turns to smile and nod at one another. One, pale-skinned, thin and red-haired, is busy miming something that could be sexual, culinary or martial; his brown, barrel-chested companion is convulsing with silent laughter, dreadlocks shaking, teeth flashing behind a thick-curled beard.

You eye them for a second or two in the mirrored liquor shelf before shifting your gaze to the nearest bartender, who walks over to where you sit. He is young, pale and watery-eyed, sporting an optimistic growth of beard. You offer a smile that goes unnoticed; he has moved to get your glass before you are finished ordering something cheap. His colleague, older, bald, with a complexion like varnished wood, watches him critically.

Your drink arrives, which you sip at tentatively. It could be worse. The two young men roar with laughter over something, and you recognize delight. It saddens you a little not to be part of it. The skinny youth and his burly friend seem to be having a better time than you can remember having had in weeks.

You lose yourself for a while, then. You listen to over-loud music from a decade ago, and sip at your lukewarm drink. You run your hand vaguely over the wooden curve of the bar; while the pine is solid, and the varnish relatively fresh, there are faint indentations dotted across the bar’s surface. You begin to filter out the noise of the two revellers behind you, only distantly conscious of laughter, of glasses being clinked and emptied. When you find that your drink has vanished, you order another of the same, and tip your watery-eyed bartender generously. He smiles wonderingly when you do so. You glance past him at the fading portraits of white men in waistcoats who had once owned this place, and lose interest in them almost immediately. That’s what they’re there for. You return your gaze to the figure looking at you in the bar side mirror.

Some time later, your attention is snagged by a sudden stillness in the room. Not quite stopping yourself in time, you look over to the two young men, both of whom have stood up, and are walking stiffly to the bar.

The brown-skinned drinker sets two empty glasses on the bar top, and gestures to the older bartender, who is leaning against a keg, grinning. The redhead speaks up:

“I’d like to buy a last drink for my friend here, please.” You are surprised at how deep and quiet his voice is; you would not have associated it with the laughter you had heard earlier.

“I want to do the same,” says his companion. He has an accent, but you can’t place it.

“What drink?” says the bartender, his eyes on the ceiling fan, his tongue held between his teeth. The redhead offers something between a cough and a laugh, and leans hard against the bar. “It doesn’t really matter. Something to forget.” His companion grimaces behind his beard, and looks away, his gaze running across yours without stopping. You are staring.

“You boys aren’t planning on starting any trouble, I hope,” says the bartender, who has made no move towards the drinks or the empty glasses.

A long, quiet moment stretches on between the two men, snapped back by the abrupt slamming of the bigger man’s fist on the bar. He strikes it only once.  His voice is strained by an obscure irony when he says, “No. We don’t want to start any trouble.” He lifts his hand off of the bar to tuck a stray lock behind his ears. You note that there is a faint indentation in the wood where he struck it. The bartender does not seem to react.

The slight man shrugs, and says, “There isn’t much choice in the matter. Now, those drinks, please.” His face is beginning to show either irritation or puzzlement; neither he nor you are quite sure which.

“The drinks to forget, you mean,” says the bartender, rocking on the balls of his feet, still smiling.

The white man’s hand is fidgeting on the bar top, but his voice remains level when he says “Yes, I mean the drinks to for – oh.” He stops, and looks down at the bar’s surface. He runs his hand over two or three of the indentations that run the length of the bar, and glances at his companion before returning his gaze to the bartender. “I see,” he says. “Very neat. We’ll have the usual, I think.”

The old bartender’s smile widens, until it looks like a half-moon might erupt out of his skull.

“You boys got there early today.” He laughs, and retreats into a back room you had not noticed earlier. There are one or two wooden barrels visible where the sunlight gets past the doorway, but beyond them is only darkness, which quickly swallows the older bartender. He must know his way since you don’t see any lights come on.

“I don’t understand,” says the bearded one.

“We’ve been here before,” says his red-headed companion, scowling at the space the space that bartender had occupied. “We’d just forgotten about it.”

“What?” the bearded man says, slipping – perhaps without noticing – into the voice he’d spoken in earlier, when he’d been drinking at the table. He looks around the room, taking in the filth, the stink of smoke, faintly ridiculous Victorian portraiture. “I think I’d remember having been in a place like this.”

“You think you’d have remembered my real name sooner, too.”

The man stiffens, and presses his bulk more firmly against the bar. “Oh.”

“Just so,” says his companion, head propped up on his elbows. The two men are silent, and to avoid looking at one another or themselves in the mirror, all three of you look at the younger bartender cleaning pint glasses at the far side of the bar.

At some length, the bartender returns, clutching a long-necked, round-bottomed clay bottle in two hands. He is still making a considerable effort to grin at the unspeaking men, but his mouth is twisted into a grimace; the bottle is not especially large, but its weight appears to tax him. When he emerges from the dark corridor, the younger bartender sets down the glass he has been wiping needlessly, and moves over to help lift the thing onto the bar’s surface.

Elbows still propped up on the bar the red-haired man tilts his head to one side. “Where did you get that?”

Out of breath, the older bartender hits his colleague on the shoulder. The younger man looks confused for a second, and then blurts out, “Oh! Sorry. If he told you, then he’d have to–“

“Fine, fine,” says the redhead, turning away from the bar and surveying the room, unseeing. The younger bartender brings out two shot glasses, and places one on either side of the bottle. “You’ll need to spit into the bottle, sir. Sirs.”

“What?” says the bearded man. Wilting slightly under his dark stare, the young bartender attempts to shrug. “I’m sorry, I’m new here – but it doesn’t work otherwise.”

You watch out of the corner of your eye and the mirror behind the brandy bottle as the bearded man snorts and begins to move away, his pallid companion turning to follow suit.

Wheezing, the older bartender speaks up: “You’ve got to spit your names out.” He coughs, dislodging something in the back of his throat. “The stuff in the bottle clears out all the minor memories, but it can’t drown out your names – and if you both still have those…”

The two men glance at one another briefly.

“You have to put your names somewhere safe,” the bartender finishes.

The big man regards the bottle, and the two bartenders behind it, critically. He scratches his beard, and shakes his head slowly. “No… that won’t work. Where would be safe from us?” He looks at his companion. “We’re wasting time. We should go and get this over with.”

“Wait!” says the redhead, a little too loudly. He whistles between his teeth for a moment, and drums his fingers on the bar, staring at some distant point outside of the room; he glances at you, and stops drumming briefly, but resumes almost immediately. “We’ve been here before,” he says.

“What of it?” says his companion, half-turned towards the door. Your drink has been refilled without your noticing it.

“We’ve been here before, which means we’ve done this before, and successfully.” He turns quickly to look at the bartenders. “What did we do last time? Where did we put them last time?”

“Clearly whatever we did last time didn’t work – or else we wouldn’t be back here,” says the larger man. Late afternoon light creeps into the room as he opens the swinging door.

“It worked for a while!” snaps the red-haired man. “It worked for a while, and that’s something.” His companion says nothing, and with the daylight behind him his face is shadow. The redhead speaks again. “Please. You don’t want to do this now. You don’t want to do this at all.” Still, the brown-skinned man says nothing.

He begins to turn away, and you feel your stomach clench for no reason you can understand.

“I’ll buy this round!” the redhead calls out. He leans forward, trying to make out his companion in the evening haze. You can hear sirens outside.

A snort, and then the man lets the door swing shut behind him, returning the room to a comfortable gloom. He raps his knuckles on the doorframe, and nods, walking back to the bar. “Fine, then. Remind me to get the next one,” he says. You watch the redhead man and the younger bartender relax visibly.

The two men take turns tilting the long neck of the bottle towards them and hawking up some quantity of phlegm into it, neither with apparent distaste. You observe that neither the large, bearded man nor his scrawny companion have much trouble moving the bottle. The bartenders work in tandem to pour the bottle’s contents into the two shot-glasses, the younger aiming the flute of the bottle while his colleague levers the bowl upwards with as much care as he can manage. The fluid that pours out of it is clear and syrupy, and gives off a faint vapour. The redhead pulls a large note from his breast pocket, which the older bartender accepts with a nod. The two men pick up the glasses dubiously. They are silent; you shift in your seat and try not to be heard.

Finally, the bearded man shakes his head and raises his drink. “Skaal,” he says, clinking his glass to his companion’s. Smiling faintly, the other says, “Kara o le.” They knock back the clear liquid with a shudder, and set the glasses down on the bar. They regard one another, and the black man burps; the redhead takes an uncertain step backwards, in your direction. “Catch him!” hisses the younger bartender from behind you; he has rounded the bar and is rushing to grab the larger man, who is stumbling to his left. You jump to your feet, which are less sturdy than you had realized, but you manage to stop the suddenly unconscious redhead from falling over completely, and you manoeuvre him towards the chair you were sitting in. He is surprisingly light. The bartender, on the other hand, has only barely kept his burden from cracking his head on the side of a table; after a few more moments of struggle he shakes his head, and lowers the big man to the floor.

He stands up, panting, and nods at you. “Thanks.” He looks over to his colleague and stretches out his hand. The older bartender stares at it. “What?”

“Give me the money he gave you.”

“What money?”

“The money he paid you for the stuff. You said we don’t charge for that.”

The older bartender mutters, but slaps the banknote on the bar counter, before picking up the two empty shot glasses and bunging them in the sink. The younger bartender steps awkwardly over the supine bearded man’s body, and tucks the money into the redhead’s front pocket.

The older bartender circles to the front of the bar, and heads for the door.

“Where are you going?” asks the younger.

You Are In The City

“I’m on break,” he answers, cigarette in mouth. “Mind the cash box.” He wrenches the door open, letting the beginnings of a sunset into the room and making you squint.

“Wait, do you want me to take the memory stuff out back?”

The man at the door pauses, and seems to regard the two unmoving figures.

“Leave it.” The doors swing shut, and the bar seems colder suddenly. The remaining bartender sighs, and moves back to his station to start cleaning up.

You reach over the redhead for your drink, and find a new seat.

“So, um, hey.” You say as you clear your throat. The barman stops and turns from the basin to look at you. “What was all of this about?”

“Oh! Hey, sorry.” He switches off the taps, and walks over to you. “I figured you knew.”

“Not really, no. Sorry.”

“Right! Well, this,” he raps a knuckle against the long clay bottle, “is water from the land of the dead. I’m not sure who our supplier is, but we use it for people who seriously need to forget something.”

You blink, and sip your drink, which has gone tepid. “Okay.”

“Okay, and those,” he points at the man on the floor and his friend propped up against a chair, “are gods. They’re called….ah.” He snaps his fingers. “Sorry, I knew who they were like five minutes ago. This happens whenever they come and get their names erased like that – I remember who they are right until they take a drink, then it goes.” He shakes his head, smiling faintly. “Anyway, so these two are sworn to kill each other.”

“Really?” You frown. “They were sort of hitting it off when I came in.”

“Well yeah, exactly – that’s the thing. A couple of years ago they realized that they had a lot in common – come from the same country, speak the same language, and they don’t really want to kill each other. Also I think if they kill each other the world’s supposed to end.”

You purse your lips, and regard the unconscious figures. “So why don’t they just not kill each other?”

The barman slaps the bar, warming to his subject. “Exactly what I want to know. Exactly. But apparently gods just don’t work that way, so instead they get their memories wiped every now and again, so they forget about one another and don’t have to kill each other.” He grabs a glass and holds it to the light, almost entirely for effect. “Except, since they’re gods, they can’t wipe away their names – not completely. They have to hide them away somewhere, like in a duck or an egg or something.”

“What?”

He shrugs. “This is just what my boss tells me, alright? Anyway, the universe seems to want gods to know who they are, so the duck/egg/whatever thing usually doesn’t last too long. They find the egg with their name in it on their sandwich in two or three days, or… I don’t know, the duck breaks into their house. And then they know who they are again, and what they have to do. Which, apparently, is fight, die, and end the world. After a while my boss figured the best solution was to make them hide their names inside each other – this way they’ll wander the city for a couple of weeks, at least, before they find each other.”

“What happens when they find each other? This?” you gesture towards the two gods. The redhead is beginning to stir.

“Pretty much. I mean it’s not exactly the same every time, but they meet up, hit it off, come here and start telling each other stories, and jokes, and whatever. Eventually they run out of things to say, so god number one says the last thing he has left, which is the other guy’s name, god number two says the last thing he has left, which is the first guy’s name, and then they have to go through this whole spiel again.”

The pale, thin god chooses this moment to wake up, with something of a start; he has drool on his face. He looks from you to the bartender, and back. “Oh my god,” he says. “I’m sorry, but,” he belches, “where am I?”

“Downtown,” says the bartender. “You can get a cab from about two blocks over.”

“Great, great,” says the god. “Thanks.”

“You need a cup of coffee before you go?”

“Jesus,” says the god, standing up retching slightly. “No. Thank you.” He nods at the bartender, and at you, before turning to the door. You nod back. The god pauses, frowning, at the sight of the bearded man splayed out on the floor. “Is he with me?” he asks.

“No, he’s just some drunk,” says the bartender.

“I know the feeling,” says the god, and walks a little unsteadily out of the door.

The bartender waits a couple of seconds for the door to stop swinging before resuming his unnecessary glass-polishing. He shakes his head. “It’s weird – I don’t understand why the little guy always comes around first.”

You don’t have anything to say to that, so you pour the dregs of your drink into your mouth, which you regret. Once you succeed in swallowing the taste of it out of your mouth, you say, “So, that’s what you do? You keep gods doped up so they don’t kill themselves?”

“Well, I mean. Not just gods. I’ve only been here a year or so, but we get a couple of boudain once every now and then, and the guy who runs the kebab place next door is a djinn.”

“A gin?”

“A djinn. It’s how you’re supposed to say genie.”

“Oh.” You look down into your glass. “Alright. How’s the pay?”

“We do pretty okay.”

“I mean – is everybody who comes here secretly somebody else?”

“Not everybody,” says a voice behind you. You turn around; you did not hear the older barman come back in. “A lot of you, though.”

“So who am I?” you ask, only half-joking. “What do I forget?”

The barman looks at you carefully, then over at his colleague. “Go check the stall in the men’s bathroom,” he says. The younger barman nods and ducks out of the room without a word. The older barman moves behind the bar counter, and places a leathery hand on the neck of the clay bottle. He looks at you with something like sympathy, but it’s getting dark and they haven’t turned on the lights yet, so you’re not sure. He whispers your name into your ear.

You look at him, and he doesn’t meet your eyes. You both agree that to be what you are is a terrible thing; he passes the large stone bottle to you, and takes your name away again, safe from you for a time. He hides the knowledge in an obscure writer’s story that, you will tell yourself, is not about you.

END

Liam
Liam Kruger is a South African writer currently working in Turkey; He’s had stuff in places like AfroSF, Prufrock, GQ, Mahala and The Rumpus.

 

 

The Horse Of War

By Mame Bougouma Diene

“Hey! Bring that back!” The fish salesman yelled at Neila, as she slipped into the crowd and disappeared from sight.

The young woman ran through some back-alleys and hid inside a torn down church. She pushed aside a large stone and crawled into a dusty alcove, caught her breath and began biting furiously into the raw fish she had just snatched from the vendor. She’d gone hungry for a few days, a nibble here, a bite there…

Her meal done, she stepped back out into Haiti’s fractured capital.

“What’s the news?” she yelled at another scavenger who was pushing a cart full of plastic.

“Transparent bottles go ten cents, dark bottles go five, that’s all the news I need,” he answered without slowing his pace or looking at her.

Something inside the people had changed with the First Caribbean War. There were fewer people now, but they shone brighter. You found more dead poultry on the streets; their necks snapped even where people starved. More prayers graffitied in blood against the walls, and little altars to the Saints flourished on every corner, their candles burning day in and day out lighting the streets more efficiently than street lamps ever had. And in some places – where even the rubble sought shelter – reality was thinner.

The warning sirens rang out weakly across the city. It was a miracle some still worked, even if all they did was announce early deaths. Several people hid behind rubble but the rockets flew overhead and landed somewhere in the outskirts of what was left of the city.

The rockets kept raining but Neila wondered why; most of the hills of Haiti had been flattened in the first salvos. Her family had died in the first few days. Bombing the city now was like stomping on sand after kicking down the sand castle.

The battlefields had moved to the Dominican Republic, and then to Mexico while the minor Caribbean islands were slowly being converted into garrison islands for the fence-riding European powers. Port-au-Prince was merely an afterthought.

Perhaps the war was Rapture and all the better souls had gone to Guinea, leaving the damned behind to their empty incantations.

Neila caressed the small statue of Papa Legba in her pocket and made her way downtown towards the coast for the evening. Staying in the same place for too long wasn’t safe anymore. The possessed wandered the alleys to dissonant drum rolls. Hiding among them were the winos and fiends, their eyes rolled upward and muttering gibberish, until they assaulted you. She had to keep moving.

“Incoming!” A random voiced screamed as the shrill sound of a missile rose above the coastline.  This time, no alarm rang from the few loudspeakers that remained. Perhaps the warning sirens had given their last wail.

In the candle-lit darkness of breathing shadows there was no telling where the rockets would land. Thankfully, Neila knew of a small hideout nearby. She made her way through a cluster of torn-down buildings and down a hole into the foundation of an older building whose solid structure was impervious to the carnage above. She risked being trapped beneath the rubble, but she could die any day, and her luck had held thus far. Her luck, and her pocketknife.

She sensed another presence in the darkness, and lit a candle.

A diminutive woman was hiding behind a pillar, sobbing faintly and mumbling something under her breath.

“Gerard, Gerard poukisa ou te kite?” The woman said, a little louder. If Jerry was the old lady’s husband, he’d left her for a better place – if there was anywhere else to go.

There was always someone hiding somewhere, no matter how improbable; some people would survive a nuclear winter along with the roaches.

Neila approached her and placed a gentle hand on her shoulders. She had needed a place to cry too, once.

“It’s alright. Jerry must be thinking of you,” she said softly.

The old woman flinched and turned, dropping a bottle of rum. Her braided hair was caked with mud and her threadbare red dress was barely holding together, but her eyes were eloquent and deep.  The depth of a sinkhole. There were things buried there, ancient things.

“Padon ti fi, padon,” she apologised, hugging Neila by the waist.

“It’s alright, grandma,” Neila said. “There’s plenty of room for both of us.”

The old woman picked up the bottle, dusted it off, opened it and proffered it to her.

“Rum? It’s good!”

Neila grabbed the bottle and took a swig. It burned her lips and her tongue, removed the plaque from her teeth and seared her vocal cords. But it sent a halo of warmth from her crown to her toes that momentarily lifted her over the rocky basement. Then the alcohol caught up with her and smacked her back to the ground.

“You have kind eyes and a good heart,” the woman said and gulped down two large swigs without so much as a shiver.

They went tit for tat, each taking a swig, for almost an hour but the bottle never seemed to empty and the old lady never seemed to get drunk. Neila, though, was starting to have visions.

“What’s your name?” Neila slurred. “And what is in that rum?”

The old lady smiled. “I thought you’d never ask.” She pushed a cork into the mouth of the bottle. “I’m Maman Brigitte, and the rum has twenty-one spices to open the Loas to you, child.”

Neila tried to get up, but stumbled against a pillar. Her small statue of Legba fell out of her pocket and rolled to Maman Brigitte’s feet.  The old woman promptly poured some rum on it, kissed it and recited a quick Hail Mary.

“Elegua!” She shouted. “You carry Saint Peter; you carry Elegua, girl. I have to hear your story now; I have to hear your dreams, girl. Come, tell Maman.”

Her voice was making Neila drowsy, it echoed wrong inside her head, or perhaps it was hard for it to fit with all the liquor and herbs sloshing inside her brain.

But the bottle beckoned, and the old woman had found time to draw a chalk circle with some symbols inside of it, and light some candles around it.  Neila tried to make sense of them, but they kept shifting under her eyes, slithering to make new patterns and then change again.

Maman Brigitte handed her the bottle again.

“Have some more, and tell me your tale…”

 “Strike out!”

The umpire waved Neila’s brother Serge off the baseball field after he missed the ball for the third and last time, marking the end of the game and the end of the school year.  He walked away, his head high and a huge grin on his face. His teammates laughed him off and patted him on the back. Win or lose, the holidays had started.

Standing alongside the field with the other teenage girls, Neila looked down from their uphill slum of Ti Rivyé onto the residential heights of Petionville streaming from the city then farther down to Cité Soleil on the coast below.  Oil rigs dotted the sea as far as the horizon, reflecting the sun’s rays into mandalas over the blue-black waters.

Parts of the city were still dotted with thousands of IDP camps dating back to the earthquake 20 years ago. Her sheet metal home was among those in the treeless hills of western Haiti. Yet where others saw only despair, she imagined skyscrapers, sprawling shopping malls and parks, a city sprinkled with cranes around new neighbourhoods, new suburbs and new hopes.  

“Still day-dreaming, huh?” said Serge landing a huge paw on her shoulder. Her older brother was too big for his clothes, too big for his room and generally too big, even for baseball, but he kept her safe. “You won’t get your haute couture just yet.”

He was right: her country striking oil didn’t mean anything to them yet, but she was proud and looking into the shape of things to come she knew things would change for the better. Though she knew he would never admit it, Serge also looked at the gleaming oil rigs lining the horizon with envy, he usually spent his summers pestering tourists in Santo Domingo, but now Haiti had to shoot Dominicans trying to cross its border illegally. The world had changed.

“Dad’s got a surprise for us waiting at home,” he said. “Let’s be out of here.”

Their mother was deep-frying chicken and plantains when they made it home through the meandering alleyways of the slum. Dirty water streamed from under every porch, but the smell of dinner drowned out the neighbourhood’s refuse. Some konpa music, an old Martelli song, was playing on the transistor radio inside.

Their father stood by the door shaking hands with a couple of white men in suits flanked by two bodyguards. He smiled at their backs as the men stepped over the sewer and headed downhill towards another house, and his smile widened as his children walked up to him.

“Hope you didn’t make the pros this year, son!” he joked to Serge.

“As if…” Neila whispered under breath and earned an elephantoid elbow to her ribs for it. Her father laughed.

“Good! Because I just landed you a job working the rigs for the summer. Nothing big, part-time for both of us, mostly relaying tonnage on the coast. But maybe you’ll shed some weight – since running across the Dominican border couldn’t do it!”

“Odoya,” Neila said thanking the Mother Lémanja.

Her father grunted his approval and turned to his son. “Light a candle for John the Baptist before sleeping and ask for strength.”

Her mother appeared by the door and grabbed Neila by the shoulder.

“There you are! You thought you’d have it easy, heh! School is done. Now help me with the food!”

Neila stuck her tongue out at Serge and followed her mother to the mud stove. The music on the radio was suddenly interrupted by a newsflash:

“Dominican warships have rounded Jaragua National Park and are making their way towards Jacmel. The government is calling a state of emergency and an immediate curfew over all urban centres. The United States is sending in aircraft carriers to counter Dominican manoeuvres. All residents are requested to remain indoors and keep their radios on until further notice. … Dominican warships have rounded Jaragua National Park…”

Drums beat and herbs burned through the night. Further up the hill someone was allowing themselves to be possessed.

Neila turned on her small cot, drifting in and out of sleep as smoke made its way over and around the shanties, cloaking them in hauntings from another world. Her father and her brother were spending more time out on the rigs. The stand-off between Haiti and the Dominican Republic had drawn in most of the region; destroyers lined the maritime borders of the Hispaniola, and the rigs desperately pumped crude 24 hours a day.

The ground shook violently under her and a blinding flash broke through the window leaving a flurry of black flecks dancing across her vision. She pushed herself up and ran out of the house in her underwear, her mother on her tail. Every resident in Ti Rivyé who was spry enough to move stood outside starring slack-jawed into the clouds.

An unusually large number of shooting stars bisected the night sky; and in the distance, the oil rigs spurted geysers of burning petroleum under a billow of grey smoke that was spreading towards the city.

The shooting stars didn’t disappear but kept getting closer. Narrowing down towards the city, they revealed themselves as scud missiles. Transfixed, Neila barely felt her mother’s hand shaking her shoulders roughly.

“Girl!” Her mother yelled, her eyes locked with hers. “Run in, grab what you can. We have no time. Hurry!”

“But…Father and Serge…” Neila said looking over her mother’s shoulders. Her mother slapped her across the face.

“There is no time!”

 Shaken, Neila ran back into the house, grabbed one of her brother’s shirts and her mother’s pocket radio, and together they ran as far up the hills and away from the city as they could.

“…And that was that.” Neila finished. “My mother was dead hours later, Serge and my father probably never made it off the rigs. Even if they did, there’s no way they survived the early bombardment.”

The old lady seemed younger under the glow of liquor and spices, she stopped drinking as Neila finished her tale, put the bottle on the ground and wiped her mouth with a dirty sleeve.

“So. You want to stop this madness do you?”

Neila nodded.

“And bring your family back?”

She nodded again.

“Tsk, you can’t bring your family back, girl – unless you’re looking to trade places. And I don’t think anybody can put an end to this,” Maman Brigitte said. “But you were kind to an old woman and others wouldn’t have been. I can help you ask for a favour – that I can. If you’re ready for it.”

The tale had brought something back. For a moment, she had reconnected with who she had once been. Her mother’s radio was all she had left, but none of the voices on the airwaves sounded like her.

Neila nodded vigorously. “I’m ready.”

Maman Brigitte leaned over her ear conspiratorially.

“First you must find an innocent,” she whispered.

The baby screamed and coughed, the lesions on his skin oozing with blood and pus. Each cough rattled his small body and little red flecks appeared on his lips with every raspy breath.

The candle burned slowly in the centre of the small white circle Neila had drawn on the ground. The old lady had left her with a bottle of that foul concoction and it sat next to her along with her knife, and her mother’s pocket radio. She lifted the knife, but found her hand shaking. In fact, her whole body rocked along as the child coughed and cried.

Finding an innocent in the skid row of lower Port-au-Prince had made sense before she’d passed out, but less when she woke up alone with a hangover searing through her brain. Still, the old woman’s words had been unequivocal.

The child had been abandoned in the gutter. If he’d been old enough to think, his mind would have been filled with hate for what had been done to him, but an infant – the true innocent – screams only in pain, hunger and loneliness, without greed or malice. She had picked him up, wiped him off as well as she could and carried him down to the basement where she had met Brigitte the day before.

The child cried in her arms. He didn’t deserve this, but he did not deserve to die chocking on sewage either. Maybe, just maybe, if her favours were granted and she could bring an end to all this, his painful life would not have been in vain.

Neila found her strength and sliced the baby’s throat before death could take him.  She let a few crimson drops hit the ground inside the candlelit circle in front of her. She put the corpse down reverently and closed his eyelids. She wiped her bloody knife on her jeans and pocketed it.

She picked up the bottle of rum, took a hefty swig and sprayed a fine mist in the four cardinal directions. Then she began to chant:

“Papa Legba ouvè baryè a pou mwen, Ago eh!
Papa Legba ouvè baryè a pou mwen,”
Ouvè baryè a pou mwen, Papa, pou mwen pase,

Le’m tounen map remesyè Lwa yo!”

She poured rum out of the bottle three more times, mixing it with the infant’s blood in the circle on the ground. She chanted again:

“Baron Samedi

Brave Gede

My own ancestors! I offer you food and rum.

I offer an innocent

Hear me! And open for me the gates.”

The basement shimmered around her, changing into a field of high grass under the moonlight.  She took a step, and a fingery mist spread around her feet turning the moonlit field into the lurid darkness of a graveyard.  The smell of cigar smoke hit her and footsteps echoed between the graves followed by the grating of a glass bottle being dragged and bumped against the tombstones.

A shape outlined itself against the mist, revealing a tall man wearing a top hat and tuxedo, his face painted like a skull, taking a sip from a bottle.

“So girl? What have you called on me for? A favour or a thrill? My mojo or my manliness? You know how strong both are, yes?” The man asked in a rumbling baritone, chuckling lewdly.

“Baron Samedi?” Neila asked.

“No, little girl, Baron Jeudi Après-midi,” he said sarcastically as he drew on his cigar, coughed up some phlegm and spit it against a grave. “Are you crazy, or have you forgotten the life you took? Ou te pèdi, ti fi?”

“There was a lady – Maman Brigitte, her name was – she said I could ask you for a favour, but not for my family.”

“You met Maman? And she promised you a favour from me, huh? She drinks too much, she does, Maman Brigitte.” He paused, sombre. “Never get married, little girl, it’s only trouble.”

“Can I ask you to stop the killing?” Neila asked quickly.

Samedi threw his head back and laughed, a hearty belly laugh mixed with wheezing giggles. He wiped his eyes and cheeks of tears, smudging the white paint on his face.

“You need higher Gods than me for that favour, little girl, and you cannot find them at the Gates. They require other rituals to make it through – and more sacrifices.” He smiled slyly. “Do you wish to meet their companions? I cannot favour you, I’m afraid, but since Brigitte promised, I can do that much.”

The graveyard disappeared and Neila found herself in a stable amidst an endless series of stalls, but the ceiling was concealed by a fog that occasionally lit up with flashes of lightning. The air smelled like hay and horse droppings. The floor was wooden and covered with straw. Neila followed the old lecher down the aisle for what felt like hours, but the far end of the stable never got any closer.

The Baron turned and smiled at her.

“Don’t worry, little girl, time runs differently on this side.”

They passed a sickly white horse, its skin covered in boils, panting in a stall.

“The Horse of Pestilence,” introduced Samedi, and they marched on.

Then in another stall she saw a thin brown stallion, its ribs showing through its hide, all the muscle on his legs and shoulders long atrophied

“The Horse of Famine,” said Samedi.

Further along, a pale, almost translucent horse neighed in his stall. It had no eyes yet it stared directly at her.

“The Horse of Death.”

Something battered against the wooden doors of a stall further down the corridor. Angry neighing followed each crash of hooves.

A huge stallion, matte black with burning red eyes, huffed and puffed like an enraged bull. It kicked furiously, crashing into walls that should have shattered under such blows. When it saw Samedi and Neila it charged the door with all its might. The impact shook the ground and the other three horses neighed loudly, but the wood held. Neila patted the knife in her pocket for reassurance.

“The Horse of War.”

Unlike Samedi, who seemed as solid a human being, the beasts all seemed ethereal, like creatures out of a dream.

“Are they… real?” Neila asked.

Samedi didn’t turn. He stared into the stall, fascinated by the red-eyed beast’s mad cantering.

“They are and they are not. When the gods ride them they are invincible, otherwise they are transient and ephemeral, like the human soul.”

The Horse of War stood across from her, its burning eyes intent. So that’s the beast, she thought. The beast that thrives on desolation. The beast that makes people tear each other apart limb from limb, the beast who took my family, my dreams, everything… You took everything from me! The horse seemed to gain consistency as if feeding on the anger and pain she felt. She forced herself to calm her mind. The quieter her breath, the slower her heartbeat, the calmer the Horse of War became, until she saw it flinch and the power in its legs begin to weaken.

She took a step back and when the Baron, still distracted by the horse, didn’t turn she took a few more. Then she broke into a run, past Samedi, and leapt over the door into the stall.

She heard Samedi gasp. “Ti fi!” He shouted his deep voice rumbling threateningly across the barn.

The huge beast towered over her, filling her entire field of vision. It shook its head furiously, its man-sized hooves pounding the ground in anticipation of a fight. Neila threw herself between the animal’s legs, pulled out her knife, and sliced the horse’s stomach open. A rain of blood and guts poured over her and she ran towards the wall at the back of the stall. She began to chant:

“Maman Brigitte, Queen of the Dead, beautiful woman, healer of the sick!

Brave Gede, first among Ancestors,

Open for me the gates!”

The Horse of War neighed and grew thinner, the luxuriant black of its coat fading to grey, to white, then it was transparent, and then it was gone.

The barn wall shimmered, the ground turned to grass, and then to the humidity of the Port-au-Prince basement where the candle still burned in the chalk circle. Neila landed on her knees, out of breath and dripping thick droplets of preternatural blood that singed the floor with a sizzle. Maman Brigitte appeared from behind a pillar and dropped her bottle, shattering it on the floor.
“Bondye, ti fi! Kisa ou fé!”

“Relax, it’s not your husband’s blood,” Neila said, getting up. Brigitte backed away from her, slipping on the broken glass and leaving a trail of blood.

Neila ran for the small transistor radio. While Brigitte wept in a corner, she flipped through the frequencies and found a frantic voice:

“…has withdrawn its support for the Dominican Republic. Brazilian warships are retreating from the region. The war is over. I repeat the war is over. Vive Haiti! Vive Haiti!”

Neila breathed a sigh of relief, let herself slide against a pillar, and fell asleep…

She couldn’t recognize the landscape or the city across the hills from her, but she knew it wasn’t Haiti and she knew she would need to reach it before nightfall.

Everywhere around her long blades of grass grew, withered, and grew again in endless cycles of death and rebirth. A little boy appeared on the road beside her. It was her Innocent and he was smiling. He caught her hand and pointed ahead.

 “It’s this way,” he said.

“Where am I going?”

“To Ifé.” The boy responded. “Come.”

She paused.

“In Nigeria?” she asked, surprised “Why am I in Nigeria?”

Something in the young boy’s voice changed, it sounded deeper, angrier.

“The Horsemen want to see you.”

Panic cut through the dream. Neila looked down at the little boy, his eyes were falling from their sockets, his skin bubbling and melting slowly like running paint.

She screamed and turned to run, but he caught her wrist, and started burning through it.

the war horse sketch

 “You are not done,” he said, his fingers cut through her flesh and into her bones. “You owe me. Come to Ifé.”

All around them the hills burst in flames.

 “How? The world is burning!”

The last of the boy’s faced melted and disappeared. “Come to Ifé. Ifé will remain.”

And Neila’s hair caught on fire.  

Neila woke up with a scream, alone in the basement. She checked her wrist for burn marks, but found none. She shook the nightmare off, packed her things and walked out from her hiding place into a Port-au-Prince revelling in the euphoria of peace.

“Come.”

The voice rang inside her head as she made her way through a lunar landscape of slagged hills. The hills from her dream, but this time they stayed dead.

In the three weeks she’d spent inside the tanker making the trip back to Africa across the Atlantic, Neila had tried to close her mind to the voices of the dead. But when she shut her eyes, all she heard was Brigitte’s cackle, Samedi’s suggestive laughter, and saw things fall apart all over again, in blood and dreams denied.

Nothing made sense… For a few months things had gone so well. The world had healed: full unconditional denuclearization was underway, terrorism had disappeared overnight, an all time drop in crime; for the first time a woman could walk around safely without fear of aggression. She’d steered clear of the oilrigs, there was too much pain there yet, but she worked construction, one brick at a time, one building at a time, and she taught.  Teaching one child and soul at a time. Then China declared war on the world.

The world had won the war in less than two months, but there were no transatlantic flights left, or airports to take off from. Anywhere.

When the first rockets had landed the voice had started ringing again. Come. It had been lingering in the back of her mind ever since she’d woken up, but she’d let the clank of machinery and the questions of eager children drown the voice out. Now it came louder than the explosions, drowning out the screams of her new friends, and tugging at her sanity like a compulsion, until – finally – she listened and obeyed.

Gritty radioactive dust slipped into her lungs with every breath. Her eyes watered, but the dust on her sleeves stung her when she tried to dry them. At the centre of the wasteland a city glowed like an old gem in the evening light. Its buildings were intact and its people healthy and celebrating. The boy in her dream had spoken true: Ifé remained untouched and beautiful.

Come. The voice thundered inside her mind. Come.

She entered the city, exhausted and in pain, every person she approached backing away from her in horror and fright.

She let the voice guide her to the centre of the town, where a belfry stood in the middle of a grassy square.

You are here now.

And the world disappeared.

Neila came to in a dark cave, the pain gone.

Four people stood around a stone table staring into a shimmering screen that showed a scene of carnage in a city she didn’t recognise. They were each cloaked and hooded in different material: white, black, red, and a translucent substance that revealed the wearer’s bald head and thin features. The figure in the red hood had its fingers on a glowing ball.

They lifted their hoods, revealing uniformly bald heads and scarred faces, and turned their eyes on her. They all looked exhausted, but the being in the red hood looked ready to tear his face off. Only the being in the translucent hood seemed fully awake, and furious.

“Where am I?” She asked, picking herself up and adjusting to the gloom. “Who are you?”

The being in the white hood spoke first: “You have come a long way under Olokun[1], Daughter. And not a moment to soon.” His tone was even, but anger simmered through his exhaustion. “We have been waiting. You have no place to keep us waiting.”

“So you’re the higher gods Samedi told me about.” Neila stated flatly. “I hope you’re nothing like him.”

“Why is she allowed to speak, Babalu Ayé?” asked the being in the transparent hood in a snarling voice said that turned to a growl. “Silly little girl has no idea what she’s done.”

The being in the black hood raised his hand to silence the speaker. “Calm down, Eshu, we’re just starting with her.” He turned to Neila his eyes burning. “Samedi was much like you, once. Young, defiant…” his eyes narrowed on hers “…and foolish.” His smile turned predatory. “Now he guards the Gates.”

“I was offered a favour for my kindness!” Neila retorted, more forcefully than she would have thought, given there was fear in her spine. “The Baron let me in and told me what the horses were but I killed the Horse of War. I freed us! And everything got better, didn’t it? The people, the world… The war – it stopped!” She remembered the parades, the shell-shocked joy on her countrymen’s faces as they celebrated with a new hope. “Why else would he have let me in? I needed a favour, the world needed a favour and I took it. I–”

“Silly girl!” Eshu interrupted harshly. He pointed at the black-hooded god. “Heed Oxossi’s words, heed them well!”

“Samedi thought that if he let you into the Stables, he would have your soul. He did not expect you to kill the horse. No one has ever tried to kill the horses.” Oxossi, the black-hooded God, shook his head in disbelief and stared at her as one would an infant. “Do you know how many people they tricked before they found you? Did you really believe there was something special about you? Something stronger than the Gods?” His contemptuous laughter bounced around the cave. “You were presumptuous and selfish,” he snarled. “And now you have unleashed War.”

The being in the red hood was looking weaker by the second. He let his hand rest on Eshu’s shoulder.

“See! See what you have done to Ogun?” Eshu said, turning violently on Neila.

“The horse you killed…” Ogun started, his voice tired and shaky. Then he paused as if trying to focus his thoughts. ”The horse you killed was War and bloodshed and every person’s passions… their desires, their greed… and I reined them in. I tamed them and you set them loose.”

“That’s not what I wanted!” Neila said turning to the gods around her. “Not any of it! All I wanted was peace, I wanted to…”

“You cannot kill war without killing peace, Daughter,” said Ogun. “The price of peace is not the death of war. The price of peace is eternal war.”

He paused for breath. His knees buckled, and his three companions lunged to catch him. He managed to stand upright, waving the others off.

“Had we had your soul we could have carved a new horse out of it. But you fled and then you hid, and now the cycles are spiralling out of control. I can no longer tame your passions; I can no longer rein in War.”

Something minute snapped inside Neila’s chest. The ground was solid rock, and yet she felt an abyss open beneath her feet. It was filled with the angry voices of people killed before they could find their peace, of people who had died aching with regret. She hadn’t just killed the horse, she had slit a child’s throat and watched him burn, and yet she hadn’t saved a single soul. She had gotten drunk with a stranger and the world had paid for her hangover. Her head started to spin, tremors rocked her body. She looked into the abyss, but she would not let it swallow her.

“Take it now!” She yelled. “Take my soul now, I beg you. There are still people out there, millions of people who can be saved, millions of lives who shoulder no blame.”

Eshu leaned over and smiled hungrily.

“Not for much longer,” he said. “Soon Ogun shall fade. Then Oxossi will weaken and there will be no crops, and then Babalu Ayé shall weaken and disease will run rampant, and I… I will collect. For I am Eshu, and I am always.”

“When the cycles spin into infinity, the Orishas will withdraw and all will begin anew,” said Ogun. “For the soul you took for the crossing, you shall become the price of peace. You shall become War and I, Ogun, will rise again to tame you.”

The gods hummed. Several screens appeared circling her and the Orishas. In one, a tidal wave washed over hundreds of thousands of refugees; in another, cave dwellers descended into cannibalism over the body of a dead companion; in a third a mass of people looked like a den of cockroaches as they piled and stepped on top of each other, trying desperately to flee some unknown catastrophe. The screens merged into one, tightening, closing in on her and the humming gods, and then snapped shut.

The darkness was, and then it was no more. She was then, she was now, and she would be again. Through the obscurity she sensed something different: a mind with a purpose.

A small band of bipeds were crossing the border of their traditional hunting grounds into unknown territory for the first time. There were only a few tribes roaming the world, and fewer yet that had decided to expand beyond the bushes or rivers that marked their little territories.

She let herself drift over to the band, swirling unseen around their rough animal skin clothes, pricking her finger on their spears. They were fit, they were hungry, and they were nervous.

A few miles away, she sensed another band was also taking its first timid steps into the wider world. The two tribes had lived next to each other for hundreds years but had never met, and now both had depleted their resources.

She probed into the mind of a single deer, bringing it to graze halfway between the two tribes, and waited. They would meet soon and one of the tribes would want that deer more than the other, but which one?

She waited for them to meet.

This would be fun.

[1] Olokun: Orisha of afro-descendants taken into slavery.

Mame Bougouma Diene
Mame Bougouma L.P Diene, is a French-Senegalese American development worker based in Paris with a fondness for progressive metal, tattoos and policy analysis. He is working on his first publications this year (The Horse of War is his first) and blogs for the Times of Israel when he needs to blow some steam.

Mami Water: Calm Waters

By Kelsey Arrington

“That neverending nurturing you need, the sea has it.” – Nayyirah Waheed

Mami Wata is a water spirit celebrated throughout Africa and the Diaspora.

Believed to be the bringer of good and bad fortune, a healer of the sick and nurturing mother, Mami Wata is a complex representation of good vs evil.

Photo: Kelsey Arrington
Photo: Kelsey Arrington

 

Often portrayed as snake charmer or mermaid, Mami Wata is described as a woman of excessive beauty.

Taking the form of a mermaid, Mami Wata can be seen splashing in the waters at the end of a rainbow after a heavy storm before descending into the magical realm in which she resides…a whimsical world of unrestrained fancy.

Kelsey Arrington is a photographic and mixed media artist working in  Detroit MI (USA). Kelsey will graduate from the College for Creative  Studies with a BFA in Photography in May 2015. Kelsey's work explores  the intersections of cultural and philosophical ideas about dreams and  identity. Her concepts often involve elements of afrofuturism, magic  realism and the African Diaspora.
Kelsey Arrington is a photographic and mixed media artist working in  Detroit MI (USA). Kelsey will graduate from the College for Creative Studies with a BFA in Photography in May 2015. Kelsey’s work explores the intersections of cultural and philosophical ideas about dreams and identity. Her concepts often involve elements of afrofuturism, magic realism and the African Diaspora.