Read the introduction by guest editor Kij Johnson.

 


 

The Night Market

 

“You’ve got a real talent for this, you know,” said Oduwe, the head gardener at the Temple of Osun, as Drake worked to weed the yam seedlings. She emerged from the recesses of the tomato bed across from him, combing through the vines on their trellises, and picking off dead leaves for compost. “Don’t think I haven’t heard you out here talking to them.”

Drake was unsure how to reply. He’d only been a gardener’s assistant for a few months and he wasn’t known for being talkative. He flushed at the thought that the old woman had been listening to his crooning.

“That’s good; you should talk to plants,” Oduwe said. “They can hear you, you know.”

She shuffled over and pointed out a patch of grass Drake had missed. “They’re talking back, too. Trick you’ve got to learn now is to listen.” She patted his shoulder and moved up the sloping path to the next level of the terraced six storey greenhouse.

He squatted down and uprooted the stringy plants. It was best to pull weeds by hand as Martian soil was too fragile for hoes. Crumbling the powdery red earth from their roots, he stuffed the weeds into the compost pouch at his waist. Straightening, he surveyed the neat formation of bamboo stakes that stretched to the greenhouse’s glazing several metres away. Each had a delicate green vine twined around it like a lover. He stroked the smooth, heart-shaped leaf of the one closest to him. His fingernails had taken on an ochre tint that refused to wash off, but he didn’t mind. He liked the contrast.

On earth he’d grown up a soldier, taken from his parents as a baby and trained by the warrior priests of the Amethyst Order. When he was 10, Drake had tried to grow an orange seed in his rations locker. His commander found it and he had been forced to smash the pot in front of the other boys and grind the delicate green shoot under his heel. A soldier has only one love, his commander had told him, his duty.

The great gong boomed across the complex, signalling the first prayer of the day. In his first few days its low thooms would set his teeth on edge; they sounded too much like explosions. Now, he appreciated its soothing quality, so different from the shrill bells of his childhood. He was on the first floor terrace with a clear view of the doors that led to the Acolyte’s quarters and as the gong boomed again, he waited. Within a few minutes, the Acolytes streamed into the greenhouse.

They had to pass this way every day, crossing over the bridge that spanned the fish pond, to get to the temple. Dressed in simple white wrappers, they moved in a single file. Those who trained to be the priests and priestesses of Osun had to be without physical fault or blemish, and the goddess demanded only the most beautiful. So each Acolyte was luminous jewel, possessing a fearful symmetry that bordered on perfection. Yet none of them compared to his Bella.

Where the other Acolytes were shades of copper, bronze and gold, her skin was a radiant black, hinting at blue under the greenhouse lights. The white cloth wrapped around her hands and arms seemed whiter by contrast. Bald as an egg and just as delicate, she moved with a smooth grace that made her seem as if she was gliding. The temple had taken her in as soon as they saw her, while Drake had struggled for months before landing his current position.

She must have felt his stare because she raised her head towards him. Her expression was the picture of dignified solemnity, but her eyes, gold as the heart of a flame, were alive with good humour. She winked at him and Drake could not help but smile in return.

“Stay away from those ones,” Oduwe spoke from behind him. Drake spun round, his garden fork poised to stab. The old gardener eyed the tool impassively. Cursing his soldier’s instincts, Drake slipped the tool back into his utility belt and forced himself to relax. “They aren’t for the likes of you or I.”

“It’s not like that,” he said. He and Bella were not related, but they were bound together by more than blood. He wasn’t about to try and explain that to his boss, though.

The old woman gave him a sceptical look “All they have is their beauty and their Goddess,” she said. “Mess that up for them and they’ll never forgive you.”

It was Drake’s turn to look sceptical. The last thing he or Bella were searching for here was religion. Their faith had been burned out of both of them a long time ago.

#

Night was a quiet time in the temple complex. On earth, the dark would have been full of the sounds of nature: owls hooting, wild dogs barking, crickets chirping and the occasional whomp whomp of tree frogs. Here, there was little to hear beyond the sonorous chanting of the Night Singers.

Drake lay on his pallet in the gardener’s spare room tracing the filigree cracks in the regolith walls with his fingers. His furnishings were spare, as fit for a semi-skilled labourer: a single mattress, a small side table, a prayer mat, and a hook on the wall where he hung his one change of clothes. He clenched and unclenched his hands, revelling in the sweet ache that only came after a hard day of honest labour.

The room was warm, but he kept his window shut. The bio-dome which made the Holy City of New Thebes habitable was also supposed to keep the temperature constant, to compensate for the planet’s extreme changes in temperature. After a century though, it could no longer keep up with its massive population and the nights were often far warmer than necessary.

A soft knock at the window startled him. Rising, he drew his hunting knife out from under his pillow and peered out of the narrow slit. A dark figure wrapped in a cloak stood just under his sill. Hefting the knife, he lifted the pane open a fraction. The spicy scent of holy oil wafted in with the warm breeze and he lowered the blade, but he did not put the knife away.

“What are you doing here, Bel?” He asked, opening the window all the way. Bella raised her hood. In the gloom her smile was a strip of light.

“I am bored and in need of company,” she said. She sometimes spoke like someone who had learned to talk from an old book – which she had. “May I come in?”

“No. Go back to the dorms; read a book.”

“But I have read every book in their system.”

“Already? What of your classes?”

“We are mired in theory,” she said with a sigh. She leaned against the wall below his window and slid down until she was sitting, her feet splayed out in front of her. “Theories of the body, theories of pleasure, theories of connection, and on and on. What, I ask you, is the point of theory? Why worship the goddess of sexual pleasure if one cannot even touch oneself!”

Drake suppressed a laugh at that. They were only two years apart, but separated by a lifetime of experience. He had been assigned to her guard detail when he was 12. He had heard stories of the secret genetic experiments the Amethyst Order conducted on their lab-grown children. When he first met Bella he had searched for any signs of what they’d done to her: horns, a tail maybe, but there was nothing he could see. Just a little girl – small for her age as the lab-grown usually were – who kept staring at the sky because it was the first time she’d ever seen it.

He had been warned not to get attached. The girl had a sacred destiny to fulfil as a holy sacrifice and mere touch would contaminate her. But he couldn’t help it. Maybe it was the way she’d stood in the sunlight in the temple garden with her eyes closed. Like a plant left too long indoors. Maybe this time he wouldn’t have to destroy it.

In a few days it would be two years since their escape from the Order. He still searched the news waves for any reports on them. So far, no one had come looking. Maybe Mars was far enough away.

“Do you want to leave?” asked Drake. “I thought you liked it here?”

“I do, but–” Her head snapped up and she fixed him with a quizzical look, her yellow-gold eyes catching the light from the security lights in the distance. “Do you not wish to leave? I thought you hated it here.”

“I do, but...” He looked at the knife he still held. His red-tinged fingernails were a sharp contrast against the dark leather of the blade.

Bella leaped to her feet and draped herself over the windowsill. She reached out a hand to him, but Drake was careful to shift back, maintaining a safe space between them.

“Let’s visit the Night Market,” she whispered.

“No, Bel, have you forgotten what happened last time? Those men thought you were a Nightwalker.”

“No one will bother us this time, I am certain. We will be in disguise.”

“No.”

“Please?” She fixed him with a look so pitiful it cut Drake to the deep. “Please?”

Drake scratched at his bald head. It was a bad idea and this was shameless manipulation. He sighed. It was going to be a long night.

#

Drake loathed the Night Market. Its filthy pathways were a churn of mud and garbage and it smelled like a mix of oozing sewage and the oily clog of fried and roasted fish. He couldn’t walk among the chaos of people and music, the inflatable shacks and plexiglass stalls arranged in no order, and those solar lamps that lit the place with flat earth-light, without his stomach clenching. It wasn’t as if gardening was a clean job, their fertilizers were the by-products of human shit after all. It was more the way he had to be.

When he was gardening, it was just the sun, the soil and the tender green. In the Night Market, everyone was trying to hustle everyone else. Thieves would steal the shirt off your back, if they could. It was like being back at the barracks again. Drake had to straighten to his full height, which was at a foot taller than most, square his shoulders and keep his arms loose at his sides. No expression. He had to make sure that people know wasn’t the one to target; that he was not weak. It made his bones ache.

Bella wore one of the long-sleeved red and green jumpsuits favoured by the temple servants, which she’d stolen from the laundry room. She’d changed the linen wraps around her hands to a pair of black gloves which were less conspicuous. As they plunged into the cacophony of hawkers calling out their wares, shopkeepers and customers haggling over prices, and entertainers displaying their skills, Bella transformed.

Her graceful poise disappeared, replaced by the hip-rolling swagger of a street girl. Her usual mask of serene composure morphed into sneering weariness. To complete the image, she reached into one of the pockets of the jumpsuit and produced a stick of dog’s gold. Popping one end of the bark-wrapped sweet into her mouth, she chewed with crass abandon.

“You are disturbingly good at this,” he whispered to her.

She beamed at him. “Thanks!” Then she went back to scowling.

At every turn, impromptu bars of two or three tables squeezed together attracted miners, labourers, and factory workers to drink cheap potato gin. And in the dark corners between shops and stalls, just beyond the pale floodlights, were the huddled masses of the city’s discarded, lost in their worlds of synthetic bliss.

They passed a jewellers’ kiosk where a long-limbed woman displayed sets of bronze necklaces under a glass case. Bella stopped to admire the goods and pointed out a string of coins looped like prayer beads.

“How much?” she asked, even though neither of them carried any money and Acolytes of the temple were forbidden to wear jewellery.

“Thirty credits,” the woman said.

“That’s too much, nah!” Bella said, doing a passing imitation of a colonist’s accent. “It’s not fifteen?”

“Ah Misseh, fifteen is too low. See the quality; you can’t find this handwork anywhere on the planet. That’s earth craft, right there. Lowest I can go is twenty-eight.”

“It is lovely,” Bella said and traced the outline of the necklace on the glass. “I’ll give you seventeen.”

“Twenty-five – and I’m practically giving it away.”

Drake kept one ear on the conversation, waiting for the seller to realise she was not dealing with a serious customer, while he scanned the crowd. He stood just behind Bella, his bulk shielding her from any accidental contact while giving her enough space to keep from bumping into him. All around people scurried about like ants: A hunched woman with a sleeping baby strapped to her back; a slack-faced beggar in a dirty turban and tunic; a group of raucous ore miners, their helmets and pressure suits slung over their shoulders; two prostitutes in diaphanous robes that left little to the imagination, the male winking at him. Drake noted their bodies, whether they kept their backs straight or bowed, the placement of their hands, the pace of their walks. Each body told a story, and sometimes it told of violence.

Drake heard the shouting first, a disturbance somewhere beyond the glare of the solar lights. A wave of tension rippled through the crowd as many stopped to determine what was going on. Others moved off into the shadows between the stalls, ready to flee at the first sign of true trouble. He shifted to keep Bella behind him, one hand out to shepherd her away if need be, and the other at the hilt of the knife by his side. The shouting grew louder, and on the far side of the pathway across from the stall, he saw the source of the disturbance: A man, running.

The man moved with the wiry smoothness of a dancer, bounding over tables, slipping between stalls, and slicing through the throng like a fish through water. The three men who pursued him were not as graceful. They overturned stalls and tables, and shoved aside anyone unlucky enough to get in their way.

The runner sprinted past the jeweller’s table and Drake had just enough time to step out of his way. Drake managed to catch a glimpse of his face, though. It was locked in a rictus of glee. Minutes later, the man’s pursuers thundered past.

Drake shook his head. You never knew what could happen in the Night Market, he thought and turned back to Bella. She was gone.

He looked around and saw that she was ahead of him, running after the men.

Olori buruku,” Drake cursed in Old Yoruba, and raced after her.

He followed the flash of her temple livery through the crowds. They were headed to the market’s main complex, a series of prefabricated buildings from the early settlement period, little more than windowless white boxes stacked atop each other like children’s blocks. Makeshift ladders ran from one level to another and rope bridges linked each stack to the ones nearby. The area was deserted this late at night.

The three pursuers had cornered their man in a dead-end alley between two of the stacks. A faltering solar light buzzed on the wall above them, casting strange distorted shadows. The running man leaned against the wall, heaving with exertion, the manic grin still on his face. Bella had managed to catch up to them and stood in the circle next to him. She had found a sharp piece of rock and brandished it at her attackers. She was doing a fair job imitating a fighting stance, but anyone who knew how to brawl could see that some of her moves were not quite right. From the bulges under their black jackets, these men were more than brawlers.

Drake spied a foot-long iron bar in a pile of rubbish at the mouth of the alley and picked it up. He crept up behind the nearest man and cracked the bar against the base of his skull, hard. The man went down without a sound. He jabbed the second man in the solar plexus with the butt of the bar, knocking him breathless, then caught him behind the knees and swept his legs out from under him. The third man had time to scrabble his blaster out of his jacket, but he was far, far too slow. Drake whipped the bar against the man’s shooting arm, eliciting a dull crack as the bone broke. The man howled in pain and dropped the weapon. Cradling his useless arm, he loped off, leaving his unconscious companions behind. Drake stepped into the circle of light and kicked the blaster into the shadows beyond the alley.

“Bella, what in the Seven Hells were you thinking?”

“He needed help; I could not stand by and do nothing!”

“You do not know what is happening here; you cannot just jump into other people’s business!”

Before Bella could reply, the man groaned and slumped down against the wall, head tucked into his chest. In the light his features were clearer. Slender, with a loose mop of dark curly hair that fell over his heavy brows, the man could not have been more than seventeen years old.

Bella ran to his side and whipped off one of her gloves, but Drake stopped her hand with the metal bar before she could touch him.

“Don’t,” he said.

“He may be injured.” Bella glared at him. “I want to help.”

“You cannot simply fix everyone you meet, Bella.”

“And what am I to do instead? Watch silent as they suffer?”

“Once you heal him, then what? They will know that we’re here and they will come for us,” Drake forced himself to lower his voice. “Besides, people were never meant to be perfect, you know. Our weaknesses are what make us whole.”

“Is that why you won’t let me touch you?”

Drake didn’t know how to answer that. But he didn’t have to as the man in the alley jerked awake and looked wildly around him. His eyes were bloodshot. He fixed Drake and Bella with a look of surprise, then he burst into high-pitched maniacal laughter. Before he passed out again, Drake caught the smell of something sickly sweet on his breath.

He muttered another curse in Old Yoruba. The young man, whoever he was, was high on Drop.

#

“Mother Superior says that should you save a life, you are responsible for it ever after,” Bella said, arranging the addict’s feet on the makeshift pallet they’d cobbled together out of metal in the storeroom of the shop they’d broken into.

He and Bella had carried the young man as far from the alleyway as they could. They had slung his limp form between them, pretending he was a friend too drunk to make his own way home, but they could not leave the Night Market. As long as they remained on the market’s raucous grounds, no one would look twice, but their ruse would never fool the guards of the City Watch.

“Your Mother Superior has obviously never met anyone on Drop,” Drake said. He patted the man down for weapons. The man wore fine linen clothes, though wrinkled and dirty, and soft-soled sandals. From his smooth, manicured hands to his golden-brown skin, unmarked by any scars, he reeked of wealth mismanaged. “These addicts would sell their own children for a hit.”

Finding nothing, Drake straightened and stretched, unknotting the kinks in his back and shoulders. He unclipped the flask strapped to his belt and poured a measure of water into the cap. He offered it to Bella who gulped it down, then poured a cup for himself. The cold of it burned pleasantly.

“We should try to find his family,” said Bella. “Perhaps we can ask him about them when he wakes.”

“This is crazy, Bel. You know that, don’t you?”

She sighed. “I know. But sometimes I want...” She hesitated, looking down at her gloved hands, and folded them under her armpits. “There’s so much pain all around us, and I want to feel that I am significant. That I have this gift for a reason.”

“And I’m sure you’ll understand that, someday. But until then you can’t take these kinds of risks. New Thebes is a harsh city. Believe me, you don’t want to be alone on her streets.”

She gave him a long-suffering look. “You cannot care for me all your days, Drake. Your service ended when we left the Order; you are no longer bound to me.”

“It’s not about my service,” Drake protested, oddly hurt by her words. “We’re family now; we look out for each other.”

The young man on the crates stirred and sat up. His eyes – an attractive shade of honey brown – had cleared.

“Where am I?” he croaked. Drake poured him a measure of water, which he drank in one delicate sip, his long fingers cupped politely around the cap. “Thank you.”

His voice had a sibilant edge to it, the kind Drake often heard on the temple’s high-born visitors.

“What’s your name?” Bella asked.

“Abbeh,” he said. “Abbeh Nuhu Moro.”

Drake could barely suppress his groan. This young drug addict was the son of one of the most powerful women in the city.

“And the men who were after you?” Drake asked.

“I’m not sure….” Abbeh blinked in confusion. Memory loss was a common side effect of the drug. Hard users could erase whole years – which was often why they went for it. “My mother’s men, probably. Or Congo’s.”

“Congo, the drug dealer?” Drake made no attempt to hide his dismay. The last time he and Bella had come to the Night Market, Drake had tangled with some of Congo’s underlings. He had no wish to repeat the experience.

“I suppose he might sell drugs. He does always have something for me,” Abbeh said, as if talking to himself. He steadied himself and spoke up, his voice firmer. “But I’m done with him.”

“Good for you!” said Bella. “I’m sure your mother will be happy to have you back.”

“That witch? Life with her is hell.” Abbeh began to rub his arms as if he was cold even though the room was close and unpleasantly warm. “So many rules, you know? Every day it was: ‘Do this, go there.’ I could barely breathe. No, I’m not going back there. I want to live free, you know?” By the time he had finished talking he was shivering from the first stages of withdrawal.

“Yes, well, good luck to you,” Drake said. He had no interest in whatever Abbeh was caught up in, especially if Congo was involved. He straightened and put his flask away. “Come on Bel, it’s time we get you back.”

He started towards the door, but Bella blocked his path.

“Are we just to leave him here? You said yourself the streets of New Thebes are harsh.”

“We don’t need his kind of trouble, Bel. He’s not one of us. He’s not family.”

She fell silent at that, her fingers drumming an unknown rhythm on her thighs. Behind them, Abbeh groaned. They turned to find that he had slid off the crates and was curled into a foetal ball. Drop addiction was so powerful that for its heaviest users, even a few hours off it was agony. For some the withdrawal could kill. They needed to be far from the scene before that happened. 

Drake pressed on. “Don’t worry about him, his mother will find him. The rich always look after their own.”

Bella clenched her fists, pinning him with her yellow-gold eyes. Drake knew that look. When he spoke he tried to keep the note of pleading out of his voice.

“Bella, think about this. Everything we’ve been through everything we’ve worked for… You to this and you’ll throw it all away. We’ve finally found a life here.”

“No, you’ve found a life, Drake. All I did was trade one prison for another. I became an Acolyte to heal people. Instead I am groomed like a pet, forced to mime empty rituals and mouth empty words. And now when I may be able to truly help someone, you wish that I should turn my back and run? No!” Tears sprang to her eyes and she rubbed them away angrily. “No, Drake. I will run no longer.”

“Would you rather be selling your body on the streets?” Drake said, choking back the lump in his own throat.

“At least it would be my choice.”

She went to kneel over Abbeh, who was convulsing now. Gently, she eased his head onto her lap and took off her gloves. She placed a naked palm over his forehead. At her touch, Abbeh shuddered like a man being electrocuted, then his body went limp. For a moment, Drake thought was dead, until he caught the slow rise and fall of the young man’s chest.

“You should go now,” Bella said. “It’ll be bed check soon.”

Drake felt as if he’d been kicked in the stomach. As if to punctuate his despair, they heard the storeroom door open.

#

A heavyset woman wearing a hairnet and a lappa wrapped around her chest – she’d obviously been woken from sleep – entered the room.

“I don’t know who told you that,” the woman said as she walked in. “My shop has been closed all night.”

The shopkeeper stopped short when she saw then: Abbeh still stretched out on the floor in the middle of the room with Bella kneeling beside him. Her eyes grew wide with fear and flicked to Drake just before four black-jacketed thugs marched into the room. The men wore the same uniforms as the ones who had cornered them in the alley, but only one of them had participated in the attack. He had a bandage wrapped around his head and held back when he recognised Drake.

The other three brought out their blasters and circled him. Drake slipped out his hunting knife, settling into the familiar ease of a fighting stance. He was out-armed and outmanned, but unlike them he had once been an Enforcer of the Ameythst Order. Some of these men would die tonightif they were lucky. The thought saddened him.

“Stand down!” A woman’s voice cut through the tension. The thugs straightened up and backed away. The shopkeeper took the opportunity to scurry out of the room.

The woman who strode in looked as sharp as a blade – not a crease or wrinkle in sight. She wore a black high-necked tunic with long sleeves and matching trousers, a black hijab and a pair of round-framed smoked glasses. She towered over everyone in the room, her frame earth-dense. She was either a recent arrival or one of the city’s super-rich. Drake didn’t need to note the family resemblance to recognise Haleemah Zazzau Moro, Abbeh’s mother.

Haleemah removed her glasses and her icy gaze swept across the scene. She stalked slowly across the room until she loomed over Abbeh, who was now sitting up and looking dazed. She fixed her son with a look of contempt. Then she slapped him across the face.

“You stupid, stupid child,” Haleemah said. “Have you any idea what you’ve put me through? Two days I’ve turned this market upside down searching for you.”

Abbeh rubbed at his cheek and stood slowly. At his full height he matched his mother. There was a steadiness to him that hadn’t been there before. Haleemah squared her shoulders, as if readying for a fight.

“Never lay a hand on me again, mother.” Abbeh voice was soft, but there was hard certainty behind his words.

“When you insist on acting like child, you will be treated as one,” Haleemah said, though her voice faltered a little. “This isn’t some kind of game.”

“I know, and I’m sorry,” said Abbeh, without any trace of his earlier petulance. Haleemah’s eyes widened. She gaped at her son as if she had forgotten what she was about to say. Abbeh laid a slim hand on his mother’s elbow. “You and I have much to discuss, mother. But first, I want you to meet someone very special.”

Abbeh took Bella’s ungloved hand and held it like a precious jewel. “Mother, this… This is my healer.”

When Abbeh looked at Bella, he radiated more joy than Drake had ever seen in anyone. What demons had she saved him from? He wondered. He expected Bella to have a look of similar elation, but she was calm, her expression open. This was no role she was playing, no pantomime. Bella was blooming, and it broke his heart.

#

The guest quarters of the Moro family home was thirty paces long and fifteen paces wide. Twice the size of Drake’s room in the gardener’ cottage. Lavish tapestries embroidered with the flora and fauna of a faraway planet lined the walls. A massive canopied bed dominated one end of the room, while a dresser and closet of real wood crowded the other. Bella sat on one of the three brocade divans arranged around a low glass table in the middle of the room. Hands bare and dressed in the loose silk kaftans favoured by Mars’ elites, she sat calm and straight-backed, her eyes fixed in the middle distance. It was one of the poses she’d learned as a child to hide her fear.

Drake stopped his pacing to stand before her. “So, you’ve made up your mind, then?” He said, breaking the silence that had grown between them for the last few minutes. 

Bella took a deep breath before speaking. “I’m going to the underground levels; Abbeh says there are Drop treatment facilities there.”

Drake bobbed his head, not quite understanding. He struggled to articulate what he wanted to say next, but the words had left him. “I’m sorry,” was all he could manage.

Bella’s pose dissolved as she bounded to her feet.

“You have nothing to be sorry for, Drake. I’m the one who should apologise. I was selfish and you were only trying to protect me.”

“No, it wasn’t about you. I just… I didn’t want to lose you. I don’t want to be alone.”

“You cannot lose me. We are family and our bond is more than distance. But you must let me go.”

She reached out to embrace him, and for the first time in both their lives, Drake did not resist her touch. As her arms wrapped around him, he braced himself for the electric charge of her gift, but it never came. He raised his eyes to hers in a silent question.

“There is nothing wrong with you,” she said. “There never was.”

Drake broke into tears, the years of fear, heartbreak and guilt breaking to the surface. He wept, but he could not have said what he mourned: the children they had once been or the people they were about to become.

They stayed wrapped in each other’s arms until the sun crept over the horizon.

#

The gong that woke Drake the next morning was insistent with alarm.

“What’s going on?” he asked Oduwe when he shambled into the kitchen. His head throbbed with pain and his eyes burned. Every muscle ached with weariness, but he felt a curious sense of lightness – as if he’d been freed of a burden he hadn’t realised he carried.

Oduwe, who sat at the kitchen table with a bowl of hot corn mush and a cup of mint tea, raised an eyebrow at Drake’s dishevelled appearance but made no comment. It wasn’t her way to delve too deep into the personal lives of her employees, as long as they got their work done.

“One of the Acolytes has run off,” she said as she tucked into her breakfast. “Get dressed; we have work to do. The Mother Superior will be in a black mood today.”

Drake nodded and turned to head back to his room when the gardener called him back.

“Just wanted to say I’m sorry,” she said. “It was the bald one; I know you had your heart set on her.”

“It’s not like that,” Drake said. “She’s family. And she’ll be fine.”

 

 


Chinelo Onwualu is an editorial consultant living in Abuja, Nigeria. She is a graduate of the 2014 Clarion West Writers Workshop, which she attended as the recipient of the Octavia E. Butler Scholarship. She is editor and co-founder of Omenana, a magazine of African speculative fiction and lead spokesperson for the African Speculative Fiction Society. Her writing has appeared in several places, including Strange Horizons, The Kalahari Review, Saraba, Brittle Paper, Jungle Jim, Ideomancer, and the anthologies AfroSF: African Science Fiction by African Writers, Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond, Terra Incognita: New Short Speculative Stories from Africa, and Imagine Africa 500. She has been longlisted for the British Science Fiction Awards and the Writivism Award. Follow her on twitter @chineloonwualu.

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