|Art by Shade Tubor|
"Hope" by Seun Odekoya (951 words)
This is a fun and fast-paced story of a man seeking a cure for a sickness that his daughter has contracted. A sickness that has decimated global populations. At least for those who can't afford the cure. The story is told with an immediacy, an urgency, as the man attempts to sneak his way into the heart of wealth, into the stronghold of those who left mainland Africa behind and left those who couldn't afford the relocation to fend for themselves. The story spends most of its time focused on the heist, but embedded in that narrative is the story of how wealth puts walls between the haves and have-nots. How wealth makes islands of the wealthy in a sea of misery and inequality. And the story is aptly named, showing the ways in which resistance is still possible, and that the ultimate resistance is to live and to fight to level the playing field, to make sure aid reaches those who need it instead of being horded by those who probably won't need it anyway. It's a fun way to start this issue, showing how flash can flourish with a fast pace and a nice mix of action and emotion. Indeed.
"Yes I Can Dance" by Ifeoluwa Nihinlola (992 words)
This story slows things down a bit, moving from physical action to more emotional and romantic distress, showing a man coming up against those same walls between the wealthy and the poor, but in a lot less of a literal sense. Here again he wealthy live on an island, though there is a reconciliation program that's supposed to bridge the gap between the two sides. The main character is taking part of the reconciliation, working on the island but still not a part of it, his separation emphasized by his attempts to court a woman from the island, a woman out of his league. Despite the lack of physical walls and gun turrets, the insulation the rich enjoy is maintained just as strictly. With this story, though, the hope comes in the form of expression, in dance, in the main character seeing in a bartending droid move to music. So even as he sees the ways the bridges that have been destroyed, he also sees a way to further the reconciliation. Not in a relationship with one of the wealthy women, not by conforming to the island but by bringing a bit of himself to it, by refusing to completely adopt the values of wealth and retaining a bit of raw humanity. A fine story with a great ending.
"Debug" by Rafeeat Iluya (771 words)
This story continues the strong theme of how wealth separates and revisits the themes of more violent resistance that "Hope" brushed against. Here, though, the main character is a nursemaid robot named Anuli is engaged in a much different kind of heist. She's trying to get Awele, her ward, away from an abusive situation, a situation that money perpetuates. Because she is a robot, because the woman responsible for Awele's abuse is wealthy, it is Anuli who is punished for trying to do the right thing, for trying to protect Awele from harm. The story captures Anuli's drive, her need to fight, her anxiety and her fear because of the virus that has been unleashed to stop her. It's also a dark story, a violent story, showing that immediate change cannot be accomplished with a slow subversion of power but an immediate resistance and revolution. When people are in danger, violence must meet violence, and the story shows one woman finding a way to fight. Not only for herself, but for the future, for the hope that by standing up to injustice now it can be defeated, and those that come after can live free of the corruption and need for violence. Another fine piece!
"I should have loved you" by Niyi Ademoroti (558 words)
Well this is a sad tale, dropping a bit the focus on wealth and instead introducing islands of a different sort, the islands people make of each other, of themselves. Afraid to express themselves, a race car driver and his mechanic love each other but won't act on that love. The mechanic keeps his distance, doesn't allow himself to act, afraid of rejection or of what people with think or any number of things. The story is a tragic one, a story of missed chances and lost hope. Of how waiting on change often time means missing out on living. There is a risk with life, with love, with freedom, but sometimes they are worth the risk, are worth not waking up with a lifetime of regret. In that the story does sync up nicely with the previous stories, showing a need for rebellion, even if that rebellion is not in the snap of bones or the spilling of blood. Even if that rebellion is love, love that is not condoned. Revolutions take on many shapes, and this story sets its sights on exposing a revolution most do not see, a fight many do not want to take a part in. But even standing back is taking a side, and opting out does not prevent you from being a victim. It's a powerful story, short but haunting, lingering. An excellent story.
"The golden child" by Abdul Sataar (993 words)
This is a rather unsettling and surreal story about a man fighting against an infection transforming him into something…not quite human, into a HighMan, made of metal and incapable of feeling. He's seeking a cure, a way out, a way to fight against an enemy that seems everywhere, that is consuming him. Meanwhile he is chasing a woman, a Woman, who seems to be the key to fighting back. The style of the story is a bit disjointed, the ideas clashing and moving without an awful lot of explanation, but what the story does very well is capture the feel of chaos and the feel of uncertainty. The uncertainty of quick police action, of things falling from the sky, of violence and carnage. And the main character, seeking a better way, in the end can't avoid becoming what he was fighting, joining in the system that he hoped to dismantle. It is only through other means, through the Woman, that he has hope, and hope for him of being destroyed before he can do harm as a HighMan. This is a story that I think deserves a few more readings, because it was a bit difficult for me to get my bearings at first, but there is a lot to see here, a poetic piece of flash filled with action and transformation. Kafka-esque, I'd say, and unsettling, dark, and well worth reading.
"August" by Biram Mboob (999 words)
This is a story about age and bridging the gap between generations, as much as it is also a sort of panorama of a future as it could be, as some would like it to be, without wealth inequality and with technology to dazzle, but with a certain sterile feeling to it. Here the battle is against uniformity, strict utility. The main character is an old man more and more separated from youth, from people he sees as almost alien. He is a relic, doing a job a computer could do much more quickly but not as well. The story focuses on the need for true diversity, not just of colors but of outlooks, of abilities. The old man translates, and there is something requiring a human mind in that. But even as he distrusts the future where humanity he also sees that the only way to be a part of something is to participate, is to learn, that learning never stops. So instead of isolating himself, instead of creating an island out of age (which is where most of the other old people have gone), he decides to stay, decides to meet the people he doesn't quite recognize, and in doing so discover their commonality, their common drive and ancestry. A very good and layered story.
"A.P" by Imobong Emah (1000 words)
Rather like the last story, this one focuses at least in part on exploring a future space. A future world where people can stay inside and pay to remotely access other places. To tour other countries, to attend functions they're not physically present at. Which strikes me as immensely likely, the way this product was meant to help people get out until it proved to be profitable at doing the complete opposite (which is great and the story pulls off very well). For all that the story is about future tech, it's also a bit about distance, about separation. Perhaps it's just that I've been connecting a lot of these stories through this theme, but the main character, Aniekan, is interested both in connecting and remaining alone. Like with much social media, the tech is designed to form connections. To be exposed to things unavailable otherwise. But it is also isolating. Isolating because it requires money to rise and isolating because the purpose of the tech is no longer to help but to make money. And money is made by want and need. The story does a fine job of examining that drive to have, that drive to experience, and how that drive, to climb socially, to be steered by money, separates the real from the manufactured, and how it fails to bridge the gaps loneliness creates. Another fun and deep story.
"The Broken Nose" by Mame Diene (1000 words)
This story goes back to the idea of islands and distance and walls, introducing a place where the fortunate live under a dome that provides them food and clean water, clean air, as the people outside the dome go without, many dependent on a drug to stay alive and all of them desperate. The main character is a pusher of the drug that allows people to live without clean water, though it's not much of a life. He's taken by a group of people and I loved the surreal nature of their magic, of their song and dance, evoking a long history of loss, evoking it in order to fight against the inequality that oppresses them. The group, a force out of the past, seeks to remove the advantages the dome offers, the corruption it represents. The main character is their portal, their way in, and the story does a nice job of making the experience strange, unsettling, but necessary for him to understand the why of it. I love the analogy of the Broken Nose, a system of islands but also a wound, something that might not set right. Something that needs healing. Something that might need to be broken again in order to make sure it sets straight. And it flips the idea of stealing from the rich. Here the idea is that the advantage needs to be destroyed, refused until all can rise together. It makes a nice contrast to some of the other stories, and the language is poetic, powerful. Anoter very good story.
"The Cylinder" by Nneoma Ike-Njoku (850 words)
This story draws the future in much the same outline as the present. A woman takes the death of a child as a reason to run from her life, is stopped only by a chance encounter on a great glass train called the Cylinder. But for all the future tech that the Cylinder represents, the story encapsulates the idea that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The conflict of the story, the fear and the shame and the hurt and the everything, are very human emotions, timeless emotions. The stories walls here are pain and loss, are the artificial barriers that Deku erects in order to try and protect herself from the hurt. But in separating herself, she realizes that the walls keep the hurt alive and her alone. The Cylinder, with its transparent walls, is the reminder that sometimes walls are illusory and sometimes all that's needed to reach through to the other side is just to try. It's a sad story but told with a fresh voice, though one tinged by tragedy. Both Deku and her man work with texts, translation and printing older works, and for all they live in a future it is a more analog solution that works for them. Human communication. Talking. Which works quite well for the story. Indeed!
"Love and Prejudice" by Amatesiro Dore (863 words)
Okay so this was a great way to go out, a great way to wrap everything together and I just really like this story (perhaps I'm a particular fan of queer content but I make no apologies for that). The story is told from the point of view of Eyimofe, a woman hoping to broken an advantageous marriage for her son. And I love that the story sees the progress of LGBTQ+ rights to the point that the son, Jaiyeoba, being gay does not change the story. Here again the look to the future is to see that there is no loss when a man loves a man, or a woman a woman, or when trans men and women are recognized for who they are. The stories are the same, the same care that mothers sometimes show their children. The same way that love can overcome, find a way, the same way that young people can and do fail sometimes but that they must be allowed to try. That everyone must be allowed to try without the prejudices of the past. The story is about the walls we build around each other and ourselves and the ways those walls can come down, the joy and the life that can spring from the union of people, from love and from progress. The story is fun and funny and the voice is great, the characters alive. This is a story about hope, about not standing in the way of the future, about joining with it to create a world where love wins. A big yes to this story, and a fantastic way to close out this issue!