Life.

I am so fucking sad I am kinda numb. Life has been a bit of a hurricane that I have been trying to contain but maybe I shouldn’t? I don’t know.

 

My best friend Mariam Gallier has died and I have no fucking idea why or what the fuck happened because there is a police investigation and her mother has been ghosting me. I would appreciate more information about her and her life leading up to her death but no such luck.

Mariam and I were the kind of friends who were soulmates all throughout high school and then a bit after and then we because two very different sides of the same coin. We used to always be on the same page but then we became opposites. But she and I still had love for each other. Did I get mad at her sometimes? YES! But god did I love that girl. She was the first actual best friend I ever had. We would go to barnes and nobles after school and find stacks of books to sit and read and see what we would buy. She and I were huge foodies and would find new food places to explore. Doctor who lovers, comic readers and we could tell each other absolutely anything. She was a phenomenal and loving person and the inspiration for the novel I have been writing for six years.

She and I were talking one night and thought about how cool it would be to be in a society where getting tattoos wouldn’t stop you from getting a job or living a great life and then we thought that it would also be cool if these tattoos could show you who your soulmate was (because we were also obsessed with soulmates).

I know I am rambling but I am grieving!

She was my rock when I was kicked out of my parent’s house and while I was dealing with my alcoholic and abusive father. She was always there for me and made my heart melt. I was there for her amid family issues and etc. As friends do and I will always be grateful for her and her love. I am so happy that I was loved by such an amazing person and this just hurts so much that I will continue living a life where people I know and love will not know her. My kids will not meet their aunt Mariam which breaks my freaking heart.

I hate that while dealing with this pain, I also have to deal with this damn virus. I know that it may sound selfish but can you go away while I grieve because now my anxiety is going up the walls to the point that I feel nothing and then I speak about my shit and then my world just tumbles down.

To get through all this junk, I am trying not to guilt myself about the things I do or don’t want to do. I just want to roll in a ball and run and be left alone. I am a ball of scrambling emotions and I have no idea what to do with it but to just roll with the stupid punches.

I also do not want to go back to my stupid ass job as a stupid barista. I love my coworkers but I do not like the work. I want to work doing things that I enjoy instead of feeling miserable at work, too tired to write after. It just sucks.

I need money to pay off my bills because I have no side money and a bunch of bills to pay. I hate working at that damned place. I want to figure out a way for me to start making money while doing something I love so I am going to start sending out queries for my novel. I figure it is a good time to start putting myself out there and maybe it would help out my anxiety and stress during this time because I don’t even know what else I am supposed to do.

 

I am also so sensitive and vulnerable right now. I feel like a walking and talking opened wound. This feels incredibly shitty and I just want to be wrapped up in someone’s arms like a baby until I feel less, vulnerable.

I think I am going to leave it here. It is late and I am drained. Tomorrow is her memorial and I have no idea how I am going to handle it.

 

I am going to start posting old drafts for the story I am writing. The story I have is completely different now but I think it would be nice to look at my old drafts where Mariam was more present in my stories. I am also going to continue my 32 Orchard Street stories to get my head focused on something.

I hope you’re all well and in good health. Wash your hands.

25 Days of Christmas- Day 4_candy canes

I am doing a 25 days of Christmas using the characters from 32 Orchard Street.

Now these stories will most likely be unedited every time I post. They may be incredibly short or incredibly long and most likely grammatically incorrect. If you see something, feel free to say something or just read along.

This is my way of challenging myself to write. I am doing this for myself and I also wanted to share with you all because these characters are close to my heart. I am still finding their voices and how they are and I believe that in doing this challenge, I will find it. I am so excited about this and I hope you guys enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Don’t forget! I am also doing vlogmas! Check my channel!

 

 

“Did anyone go grocery shopping?!” Luna yelled up to the seemingly empty house.

“No! Everyone has been busy!” yelled a voice similar to  Leo’s.

“I just moved into a home with an empty fridge? What is this? Hell? I am starving and it’s freezing out!” Luna mumbled to herself.

Luna found herself rummaging through the cupboards  and refrigerator in order to find herself something to eat.

In the end, all she found was ingredients to make something but nothing to just throw into the microwave and eat. There was flour, soy milk; but no cereal, flax seeds, leftover rice, and sugar. She could make cookies but to stand in this kitchen and cook. For hours! No thank you!

She decided to heat up some rice and pour herself some soy milk. Before she headed upstairs to her room, she found a bag of candy canes left over from decorating the tree. She brought it upstairs for good measure.

 

Yep! Soy milk, rice and candy canes has to be the meal for today.

25 Days of Christmas- Day 3_ snow

I am doing a 25 days of Christmas using the characters from 32 Orchard Street.

Now these stories will most likely be unedited every time I post. They may be incredibly short or incredibly long and most likely grammatically incorrect. If you see something, feel free to say something or just read along.

This is my way of challenging myself to write. I am doing this for myself and I also wanted to share with you all because these characters are close to my heart. I am still finding their voices and how they are and I believe that in doing this challenge, I will find it. I am so excited about this and I hope you guys enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Don’t forget! I am also doing vlogmas! Check my channel!

 

 

Today shall be short, for I forgot about it and I am exhausted. Prepare yourselves for a few sentences.

On this snowy night in, we lay here in bed hoping hoping nothing will change.

On this snowy night in, I look over and lean in closer to her, buoying the warmth of her skin touching mine.

On this snowy night in…waves of her frat reach my nose and I promptly kick her off.

There is no amount of love that can withstand a fart from a vegan that was fed a nondairy meal. I can smell the dead animals from her farts.

Cute snowy night in is done.

Until she calls me back laugh and apologizing and the smile of Shay brings me back to the bed. That we’ve been sharing. For hours. Just watching the Harry Potter movies from the start.

We return to bed. Candles freshly lit. Now we relax once more.

Shay and Diane.

The dynamic duo.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS- Day 2_hot chocolate

I am doing a 25 days of Christmas using the characters from 32 Orchard Street.

Now these stories will most likely be unedited every time I post. They may be incredibly short or incredibly long and most likely grammatically incorrect. If you see something, feel free to say something or just read along.

This is my way of challenging myself to write. I am doing this for myself and I also wanted to share with you all because these characters are close to my heart. I am still finding their voices and how they are and I believe that in doing this challenge, I will find it. I am so excited about this and I hope you guys enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Don’t forget! I am also doing vlogmas! Check my channel!

 

Hello. This entire story was written on receipt paper. It was pretty dead at work when I realized I didn’t write a story.. so let’s go!!!

“Shay is still being so horrible. She is acting like I was the one who told her off about us being witches.” Diane says to violet. They were laying on Diane’s bed in their undies. They’d just came back from shopping and were caught in a snowstorm. The best idea both had was to remove their clothes and just lay in bed. They’ve been home for over an hour enjoying the warmth of the room and the comfort of being vulnerable with a close friend. They’d chat or browse on their phones.

 

“I’m sure she was just scared.” Violet responded distractedly. Her phone still in her face, her upper body half off the bed.

 

“I get that she was but why would she speak like that!” Diane shot up angrily.” Never apologize and then refuse to have a rational conversation with me?!”

 

“Do you not know your hot headed best friend?” Violet deadpans. Still hanging off the bed focused on whatever was on her phone.

 

“Yes but usually she  will calm town a bit. Enough for us to just talk but she’s been so shit lately”

 

“Well, so have you…”

 

“Yes!… But because she has been so mean. I just hate it!” Diane slumped back into her pillows.

 

“Well, she is a Scorpio…”

 

“That doesn’t mean she can ignore my feelings. What she said really hurt and she refuses to acknowledge it. Even Leo says she’s wrong.”

 

“Leo is always the voice of reason.”

 

“I want to talk to her again but I also want her to just say she’s sorry.”

 

“Good luck with that.”

 

“So I have to be the bigger person?”

 

Violet finally sat up and put her phone down. She looked at Diane and said, “No that isn’t fair to you. I think to you should wait until she apologizes. If what she said to you was that hurtful then as your best friend, she should apologize. Otherwise, it’s not worth it.” With that, Violet declares her need to pee and left the room. Leaving Diane to think about whether or not she and shat will ever get over this.

 

Hours later, Violet knocked out on Diane’s queen sized bed. Diane made her way downstairs in she and Shay’s matching Doctor Who tee shirts. They bought them at comic con a few years back and it’s been the best pajamas. Who doesn’t love a good tarsus tee?

 

She made her way into the kitchen. The only stream of light was from the living room. Someone forgot to turn off the Christmas lights. She swore she’s turn them off once she had her chamomile tea in hand. As she walked into the kitchen, she was surprised to see that it was occupied.

 

Shay sat sipping something  at the kitchen table. When she noticed Diane, her eyes widened, shoulders tended but soon they relaxed.

 

She got up from her seat, grabbed a mug from the closet, scooped some liquid from the pot on the stove and topped it with coconut whipped cream and cinnamon. She came back to the table and placed it in front of the seat next to her, indicating to Diane that she should sit down. So Diane did. Before sipping, she sniffed and silently mumbled a charm spell to ensure Shay wasn’t poisoning her. When she knew it was safe, she took a sip. Warm delicious chocolatey goodness spread through her mouth. The warmth spreading through her body. Shay was staring the entire time. Both of them lit by the moonlight streaming from the windows and the Christmas lights in the other room. 

 

After sometime of silent sipping, Shay said “ Diane I am so sorry for what I said.bit was wrong. I’ve been so stubborn. You mean the entire world to me and I know I hurt you. I knew what I said and did was wrong but I was just blinded by hurt and anger. I know you’ve been trying to protect us. I’m sorry. Shit. Thanks for not kicking Leo and I out of your home. I was such an idi-“

 

“Hey! It’s okay. I love you too. Thank you for acknowledging  my feelings. And I’d never do that to Leo” they stopped laughing. “Thanks for the hot chocolate by the way.”

 

Diane reaches over to hold Shay’s hand and they both sat holding hands and chatting like nothing’s happened.

 

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS- Day 1_STAR

I am doing a 25 days of Christmas using the characters from 32 Orchard Street.

Now these stories will most likely be unedited every time I post. They may be incredibly short or incredibly long and most likely grammatically incorrect. If you see something, feel free to say something or just read along.

This is my way of challenging myself to write. I am doing this for myself and I also wanted to share with you all because these characters are close to my heart. I am still finding their voices and how they are and I believe that in doing this challenge, I will find it. I am so excited about this and I hope you guys enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Don’t forget! I am also doing vlogmas! Check my channel!

 

December 1: Star

“Alright, kiddies! It’s time for us to decorate the tree!” Calle yells from the top of the stairs.

 

Diane and Leo sit in their living room sipping their hot chocolates. The pair of them have a deep love for Christmas. They wear matching pajamas that Shay gave them two christmases ago and enjoying 25 days of christmas on Freeform. The house has already been decorated with christmas lights in each room and the hallways on all three floors. The bathrooms, couches, kitchen and some bedrooms now have christmas decor. Shower curtains, rugs, dish towels, wash cloths, soap dispensers, throw blankets. You name it, there is christmas on it and all due to these two christmas lovers.

 

“FINALLY! We have been waiting for too long.” Diane says bouncing off the couch in excitement and catching the bucket full of ornaments Calle sent flying down the stairs.

“It was a nice thought waiting until Violet and Luna before we got to the tree butI love having the tree up right after Halloween. It’s weird enough not being able to celebrate with our parents,” Leo said sighing

 

“I’m sorry about that kid,” Diane says as she reaches to put Leo just as a flying wreath zooms at her head.

 

“Calle, stop floating things around the house if you can’t see where it’s going. That wreath almost knocked me out!”

 

“Sorry. That’s the last of everything your grandmother had. Now all we need is a tree!”

 

“Shay said she will pick them up on her way home.”

 

“I just hope she picks a good tree. Last year she picked up an old, ragged tree and we were just stuck with the ugly little thing. I hope she has learned her lesson,” said Leo.

 

 

There was a knock at the door and Diane went to answer. 

 

“Hello, my  gay witches! I have arrived! I come baring ornaments, stars and some sweet treat!” Luna says all warm smiles. Her crimson afro stood out. She did her makeup today in a wild and beautiful way. Her eyelids had green eyeshadow with diamond studs rounding the brow to the lid. Her lips were a dark brown and her skin was just glowing. Luna’s makeup is always flawless so there is no surprise but Diane and Leo decided to gush about her look anyway.

 

Calle made her way downstairs and slammed into Luna showering her with hugs and kisses and taking a few boxes from her hands.

 

“Thanks, y’all know I always finesse. Violet will be here in a second. She was doing some code or something  in the car and refused to leave until she was done.” Luna shrugged and glided into the living room and began placing the new items in the room, Calle and Leo trailing behind.”

 

“OKAY! Since I was rudely abandoned in the car! How dare you, LuLu. I thought you loved me.” Yelled Violet from the doorway. She gave Diane a quick hug.

 

 

“I do love you. I am just incredibly impatient.” Luna already started eating the cookies she brought in. “I love you loads and look, you weren’t abandoned for too long! You can still help me unpack.”

 

“No thank you. I still haven’t finished my work. Diane, I will be in your room. Just call when Shay arrives. I will help with the tree.” she soon ran upstairs and they all heard the door slam behind her.

 

“Well Lulu, there is hot chocolate in the kitchen. I’ll get you a cup.”

 

“Add some bourbon, please! Make it strong.”

 

“Yep. The way you like your women, I get it.”

 

“You know me so well!” Luna squealed, picking up yet another cookie.

 

Diane strode in with bourbon in hand, pouring a hefty amount for Luna, then stirring it up and finishing it off with some whipped cream. Luna took it and took a big gulp and sighed gratefully. While Diane and Calle took shots.

 

“Where the hell is Shay?” Leo asked them.

 

“I don’t know, why don’t you text her.” Luna said taking yet another huge gulp.

 

“SOMEONE BETTER LET ME IN! THIS SHIT IS HEAVY!!!”

 

“And there she is!” Leo chuckled.

 

They all got up to help Shay. Diane called up to Violet and within thirty minutes, everyone was in the house and forcing the tree into the stand and trying to angle it perfectly within the room. They’ve decided to put the tree in the corner to the right of the TV so that it can be seen while sitting down on the couch. Violet finally came downstairs and excitedly showed them all what she’s been working on. 

 

“I wanted to make this experience fun this year and on the way here, I thought of something really really cool. She placed an object on the center of the coffee table, stepped back and started typing something on her computer. 

 

And then… stars… 

 The entire room exploded in stars, close enough for them to touch. The room was filled with stars dying and being reborn and in the background, “All I want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey played on. 

 

Leo and Shay began to cry, holding each other up and Diane already mastered the ability to kill the stars and another would take its place, she was doing it with such joy. 

 

They all stood around playing with them all until finally, they looked up to Violet and went to hug her. She made their first holiday together special.

 

After all the tears were wiped, they all because to decorate their christmas tree. They stuck to no theme, they simply gathered all of their favorite pieces and put them on the tree. They arranged Diane grandparent’s christmas train set under the tree then moved on to decorating the room the leftover lights and garland. By the time they finished, the living room looked like a Winter Wonderland. 

 

They ended the night with the curtains closed, the Christmas lights on, Violet’s stars still glowing around the room. Mugs in each hand and Home Alone on the TV.

 

 

ghost.| written July 10, 2019

He appeared as a ghost

It wasn’t supposed to happen

It was supposed to be different

We were planning a future

We were healing

I was changing and growing

I thought it would be better now

But he appeared as a ghost

2:52am

In my doorway.

Questioning the whereabouts of his wine

Trying to prove he is in power

Waking us all up at 3am

Trying to let us know that he bought this wine for us all to share as a family knowing we have been half of a family for years

We all have hatred and fear in our hearts because of him and his drinking. Because we don’t know if this is the day he’ll beat us up

Or is this the day he’ll be our father.

Years of therapy 

Years of being with the wrong men

Years or missed graduations

Years of lies

Years of never taking any accountability to ruining this family

And now I’m here again. 

The ghost rolled in at 2:52 am.

The ghost of the father I was willing to love again

The ghost of the man who should have made me feel valuable but instead told me I was never good enough, ugly, stupid, difficult

The man who made me feel unworthy and unlovable.

The man who I thought died

Came in like a ghost at 2:52 am

Wanting the wine he bought and we hid for our safety

The wine we hid to protect ourselves

To try and avoid the yelling and the hitting.

The last time he drank, he made advances to a young women he took in and raised after her father hurt her in the same way.

That night, I discovered a new version of my father.

I’ve known the drunk and angry father and the sober and thoughtful father. That night, I learned about the devil within my father that I always hoped didn’t exist.

I spent a year with a sober father. 

The devil in my father put him in jail. 

We hoped this call would wake him up.

Make him realize the hurt he’s been doing

Make him see the pain he’s put on us

That year gave us breathing room. 

I graduated, I was happy. I was healing. I was growing. I was learning. I was relaxing.

But then I saw the ghost of my father.

In my doorway.

Asking for his wine

At 2:52 in the morning

I couldn’t sleep that night. 

Before or after his appearance.

I thought he’d come for me.

I thought the devil would come out.

I thought he’s hell and fight

He did none of that but his ghost made me relive it all

Made me get choked at 13 and 14

Made me feel like I had no control 

Made me sob

Made me feel defenseless

Made me feel alone 

Made me feel unwanted

Made me feel abandoned

Made me feel unsafe again

That ghost shook me to my core 

I know the haunting has begun again

32 Orchard Street| Pt. 1

“Okay,” Diane huffs, as she throws herself into the seat next to Calle, wiping the sweat from her perfect brows. Today, she went for a white button down to go under her yellow sweater, her black high waisted jeans showed her beautifully shaped ass and she definitely showed it off to the hot girl at the other table who she knew has a thing for her. Hopping up on the stool, putting an arch in her back before she sat down. “I’m ready to get this class over with. I tripped three times just getting through the house before leaving. There are like six boxes just down the hall near the stairs. The only clean rooms are the kitchen, the living room, a bathroom and my own room. I really need to empty those damn boxes.” SHe sighed twisting a strang of her coily afro.

 

“Yea, no shit, you moved in three months ago and for some reason, you still haven’t made things homey. Your home is so beautiful! What 25 year old has a ten bedroom house all to themselves these days? You know I love coming over, you should let me clean up.” Calle responds handing Diane her morning tea latte and forcing her bubblegum pink bob cut out of her face and shoving it behind her ears.

 

“Thank you, dear.” Diane grabs the cup and sips.”I’m just scared about what I’ll find in my grandma’s boxes. I’m grateful she gave me an entire house all to myself but she and her wife are into wild stuff and I don’t want to find some weird kinks in those boxes.” she hesitated, “second thought, maybe I’ll just let you look through it.”

 

“Alright, will do. Grandma and Gran have far too many things. Do you think they have like whips and chains? OH! Maybe they have a sex dungeon! I’ll check the basement! Anyways, where is Shay? She’s always late.”

 

Just then, Shay runs into the room with paint smears all over her white t-shirt and denim overalls and her brown skin. A few of her locs had some colors in them even while twisted up in a bun. They’d usually hang at her waist.

“I literally ran across campus from the studio. I am so hungry, I didn’t even come here for class but for my-” Calle shoved a warm danish in her face.

 

“Yes,” Shay moaned as she sat in the seat next to Diane.

 

“Wait. Why are you excited about my grandparents having a freaking sex dungeon?”


“Uh. What did I miss?” Shay says over the pastry in her mouth.

 

“Alright. I hope everyone had a great day. Let’s begin today’s lesson!” called Ms. Leo.

 

Diane and Shay began to slouch closer to each other. One enjoying her danish and the other sipping her latte and gazing at the video on the board. Today they are learning about the intricate processes of evolution.

 

As usual, Calle was the only one of the three who was writing out her notes aggressively, trying not to miss anything on the board. The other two jot information down here and there, knowing that Calle would help them study later.

 

After four hours, the three girls walk back to Diane’s crowded home. It was a Victorian style home with three floors. That was in their family for generations. Some slave master was able to leave the home in Diane’s family and it has remained in their care for generations. Her grandmas recently built the greenhouse around back. She lived on 32 Orchard Street. The only black house on the street. The wrap around porch was filled with plants and there was one swing hanging. She remembered nights with her grandmothers and sipping hot chocolates under the stars and telling them all her problems. Both of her parents were there and attentive but there was something about her grandmothers that made her feel protective. 

 

Her grandmothers have just given her the house now that she was an adult and bored with being at home. Plus they wanted to travel during their retirement. They spent their lives securing a comfortable life for them and their family and now that that’s all done, they’ve decided to see the world. Now out of nowhere she has an entire home to manage and it would be pretty foolish to complain.

 

Since the semester started a few months ago, after every biology class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, their ritual was to go over to Diane’s. Once the door opens, Calle walks down the hall and heads for the kitchen to cook dinner and make them some tea. Thankfully the grandmas have also spent a lot of time renovating the home so the kitchen has up to date appliances. Which excites Calle everytime she gets here.

 Shay runs upstairs to lay in Diane’s bed for her post-class nap. 

 

Diane grabs her laptop and sits at the kitchen table while Calle chops onions on the counter. Diane struggles to get her 4c hair into a bun but some strands just didn’t make it.

 

Calle sends a mug of hot chocolate over to Diane with a wave of her hand and moves to begin chopping green cabbage. Diane happily took the mug and began to sip her drink. Thank you. She mutters as the steam from the drink fog her glasses. “Did you put… chili in this?” 

 

“Yes. It’s a new recipe. Priya from the old coven told me about it.”

 

“Well, it’s delicious. Keep making this.”

 

“Will do!” Calle turned and gave Diane a quick smirk before turning to finish her chopping.

 

The two girls work in silence for over an hour. Working in comfortable silence. Diane asks, “So, in evolution, there are some parts within the body that are useless now, like our tailbone, remains, even though we don’t have tails so with that idea, my characters; if they’re ancestors had wings, they’d have wing bones? So, with wing bones, I can use the science within my world to bring those wings back. Right?” Diane asks Calle’s back.

 

Calle turns around waving her knife, “Either way, it’s your own book with its own history. Their history has a different kind of science. Just make shit up. If people don’t get it then, they won’t.” She turns back around and continues chopping.

 

“But according to Williams, the people within our generation will need to understand and connect with my plot. They need to understand the book and connect with the day to day in order for my book to gain popularity.”

 

“So say you write a book that conforms to society’s standards and everyone hates the book. Then what?”

 

“Shut up. You’re right but shut up.” she sighed and turned head head back to her screen.

 

 “Am I just supposed to write this book for me and only me? What if no one gets it. Everything falls to the majority, to widespread media. So… just… How?” 

 

“Just write. Let’s figure it out later. Go get Shay. Dinner is ready.” Calle started reaching for plates to set the table.

 

Diane popped up from her chair and jogged up to her room. Diane walked past three unused rooms until she kicked open her own at the end of the hall.

 

She threw her body next to Shay on the bed. Shay turned over half asleep and just gazed at Diane. Diane gazed back. The two of them laid there staring at each other, unmoving for a bit. Finally, Diane whispered, “Dinner is ready.” 

 

“Okay,” Shay replied, both still unmoving. They heard Calle’s feet running up the stairs and the two of them slowly turned away and got out of bed. By the time Calle reached the room, Shay and Diane were heading towards the door, both slightly towering over Calle. She wasn’t even five feet. She coasted at 4 feet and seven inches. Diane was exactly a foot taller and Shay was five feet and four inches.

 

Calle leaned against the door frame and slyly said, “I thought you guys were fucking. I didn’t know if I wanted to interrupt or join in.”

 

Shay’s eyes widened and she quickly grumbled, “Ha. You would just tell us to stop and go eat your dinner.” 

 

Diane chuckled nervously, “Yea… no… Shay would much rather go find the nearest man than mess with me.”

 

Calle just laughed and followed them downstairs. They all sat around the table, Calle already prepared the table for them to eat. They had pots filled with sofritas tofu, chopped scallions, green cabbage, jalapenos, limes, rice, miso soup, soba noodle salad and cilantro. A plate piled high with tortillas and a pitcher of sake margaritas. Tonight’s dinner was sofritas tofu tacos, Calle’s specialty.

 

Calle loves cooking and combining both her heritages in every meal, Mexican and Japanese. She finds it a challenge. Both of her parents were born in America and don’t really cook so she learns recipes from her grandparents on both sides and cooks.

 

The girls sit at the table and pile their plates up and begin to properly stuff their faces.

 

After a long while of the silence that comes with delicious food, Shay huffs,  and says, “I can’t believe that those idiots I call parents won’t stop drinking.” She takes a big sip of her miso soup before she continues “They argue constantly. I know they hate us, you know, their children almost as much as they hate each other. They made a bad choice when they were young and now they are just miserable drunks who refuse to fucking grow. I don’t want to go back there with them. I’ve spent 25 years taking care of those idiots and hurting myself. I don’t want Leo to have to go through that. I wish we had somewhere better to go. We’re just squatting in my dorm room and hoping we don’t get caught.”

 

“How much do you have in savings? Can you get an apartment?” Calle asks finishing the dregs of her second margarita and pouring another, refilling everyone’s cups.

 

“Not enough to afford anything near this campus. I can’t afford to pay for gas. I’m just a regular broke college kid.”

 

“You know you can stay here in this giant ass house.”

 

“I thought about it but I don’t know. It would feel a bit weird, right? Plus I want the independence, the pride knowing I have paid for my own place.” 

 

“Okay. The offer still stands,”  Diane shruggs and sips her drink then decided to change the subject. “It’s a good thing we have so much free booze from my Grandmother. Now we can afford to get drunk.” Diane says, raising her glass to the other two.

 

“HERE, HERE! Grandma has booze from everywhere around the world stored in her basement! I love her!” Calle yells, slurring her words a little.

 

“Your grandmother is a gay goddess and her booze and her home is saving us. Diane, you live in a fucking man-mas-mansion. How many rooms do you have? like eleven? twelve? Is there a pool?” Shay giggles. Clearly happy to move her thoughts away from her difficult home life.

 

“I do not have a pool and this house has I think ten rooms? I just stick to my own room. I’ve been too busy. There is an art room and a music room and a greenhouse. This place is wild. I swear some rooms just appear”

 

“THERE’S A GREENHOUSE?!?!” Calle looks up from her plate, alert.

 

“Yes! It’s at the end of the hall and to the right, near the basement door. I have no idea what those plants are but I water them every day. When I got here, they were dying.”

 

“What if they’re all mary-j’s!? Your gran is the coolest so I wouldn’t be surprised.” Calle implores.

 

“I doubt there is weed but I did see a bunch of herbs. Gran is a witch.”

 

Shay jumps up and starts heading to the living room, “Sorry, it’s Leo, one sec.”

 

Diane and Calle began cleaning up the table.

 

Shay runs back in, “I need to go, they caught us, campus police found out about Leo and they’re kicking us out.” She chokes on the last words.

 

“What? We’re coming!”

 

The three girls grab their jackets and head out.

 

Diane was the first to grab the keys and they all piled into the car. “So what happened, Shay”asked Calle from the backseat. 

 

“Leo was staying by their friends tonight and they went to pick up some games from the room. Somebody called campus police because they say a little brown kid and for some reason, campus police wouldn’t just let them go. I don’t know how they found out. Leo didn’t say. Oh god. What is going to happen? What if they kick me out of school?” Shay put her head in her hands and started taking deep breaths.

 

“It will be okay, Shay,” murmured Diane and reached over to briefly rub her back before placing her hand back on the wheel. “We’re almost there.”

 

When they arrived at the dorm, Shay swiped her ID card and they ran up to the third floor to Shay’s room.  They found Leo sitting on Shay’s bed with a campus police officer standing over them. Leo was crying and Calle and Shay ran up and held them in their arms. Diane walked up to the campus police, drawing herself up, folding her arms and demanding to be told what happened.

 

Looking very pleased with himself, he said “ I found her in the hallway after we received a call about a child terrorizing the students. I got her to tell me where she was staying. This is against the rules, ladies.”

 

“Firstly, I’m sure they’ve already told you that their pronouns are they and them which is something you should be mindful of before saying them. Secondly, you look very proud of yourself about terrorizing a “child”. They just sat there crying and what did you do? Just watch?”

 

 Over on the bed, they kept apologizing and Calle tried to keep soothing them. Finally Shay told Calle to take them to the car. 

 

“Well, if they followed campus rules then she wouldn’t have been crying on the bed. I was told that you will need to pack up your room tonight, Shay. You may remain studying but cannot remain living on campus.”

 

“Why? This is my first issue with campus police.”

 

“That is what I’ve been told. You need to leave tonight.”

 

“I think it’s about time you dismiss yourself, Office Howard. You will be hearing from me soon.”

 

“To say what?”

 

“I guess you’ll just have to wait and find out, Howard.” She indicated for the door and he made his way out the door.

 

“Little does that idiot know, I could get him fired! I will. That is horrible. Why would he be so cruel?”

 

Shay just looked at her with tears in her eyes. “What do we do?”

 

Diane walked over and pulled Shay into her arms. “It’s okay, my love. You guys can stay by me. You know I have the space.”

 

“Fine but would this mess with financial aid?”

 

“I don’t know. We have to ask tomorrow. Okay? Right now we just have to pack.” She gave Shay a kiss on the forehead. “Look. Just sit down and I’ll pack things up.”

 

Diane decided that now would be a good time to use a quick tidy up spell, hoping that Shay would not be able to see. Diane spent years hiding the witch part of herself from Shay. She’s been terrified that she will find out and hate her forever but she will always use a quick spell when she knows that Shay or even Leo isn’t looking.

 

Shay left the room to sit out in the hall. Thirty minutes in, all of their things were tidy and ready to be moved to the car. She called Shay in and soon they were packed up and ready to drive back toDiane’s home. Calle decide to stay with them all for the night to make sure everything was okay.

 

When they arrived home, they quickly moved all of Shay and Leo’s things into the house. Leaving them in the hallway and sitting in the living room to chat and cry until they all fell asleep.

 

Calle was up and moving before the sun came up. She made her way down the hall and into the kitchen. Moonlight crept in from the open windows giving her enough light to see as she chopped onions and herbs for omelets and made some batter for waffles.

A slight breeze comes in moving her curly, pink shoulder length hair. She reaches down for the two hair clips on her shirt and uses them to move back her hair then began prepping their morning feast. Her tattoo on her forearm of a sunflower gleams in the moonlight. If anyone were around they’d notice it slightly moving with the breeze.

 

This was the time she felt the most connected to herself, her power. She loves waking up this early, the silence gave her so much comfort. When she finishes in the kitchen, Calle lights the candles down the halls of the house with a wave of her hand. Calle decides to get Shay and Leo settled in their rooms and so she begins levitating Shay and Leo’s belongings upstairs. The only sounds in the house are the breathing of her friends in the living room and her steps up the stairs. 

 

On the second floor, where most of the bedrooms are, Calle drops off Shay’s belongings into the room next to Diane’s. She can sense the love and admiration Diane and Shay have for each other… and that both girls are foolish enough to not think that the other feels the very same. They’ve spent the year and analgesic since them all meeting being jealous of whomever the other was seeing. She can’t count the times she’s caught either girl looking at the other in a way they’d never look at anyone else. It is so clear to her.She believes that maybe if they are closer to each other, they will realize this. 

 

Calle takes it upon herself to clear up the room across the hall from Shay so that Leo can live near Shay. She gently places Leo’s belongings on the floor and heads for the room.

Calle spent an hour clearing up the room, it seemed to be Diane’s grandmother old art room. She opens box after box and casts a spell to place each piece of artwork around the house. The paintings were mostly impressionist paintings. One she assumed was an outline of her wife’s body. That one will go in the hall and be spelled onto the wall near Diane’s room. Just for fun. The impressionist paintings will line the walls in the living room and the hallway downstairs and the final painting of the sunset was placed outside Leo’s room.

Most of her time was spent trying to find the perfect piece of furniture to suit Leo. Now that they have their own room, they would need the space to chill after long days of school and whatever else they get up to. The abandoned tan futon that sat against the wall near the big window in the room would do well for their bed so that it allows for more space during the day. It will go great with the  white and brown sheets and comforter they took with them. 

 

Grandma’s painting desk can be reused as Leo’s desk. Calle decided to leave all of the old art supplies in a box in the corner just in case Leo decided to get creative. When Calle finished, everyone was up downstairs. Diane and Shay were cooking up the prepared breakfast and Leo was doing their homework. Calle walked straight to them and said, “check the room upstairs. I found the perfect room for you.”

Leo sprang up and ran up the stairs. Calle summoned herself a mug of tea.

Diane followed right behind it scowling after Leo. “You’re not supposed to be doing magic in front of Leo or Shay! They don’t know witches are real!” She hissed.

 

“They already went upstairs! Plus, Leo would be ecstatic to know that magic is real.”

“No duh!” She hisses, “Shay doesn’t even kn-.”

“SHAY TOTALLY KNOWS!” Calle says incredulously.

“If I didn’t know then, I do not now!” Shay said from the kitchen.

 

“B-W- What?? Know what?” Diane said with uncertainty.

 

Shay came out to the kitchen and said, “Was I not supposed to notice all the times you woke me up from my naps while you were in the kitchen? You always made your voice sound like it was RIGHT in my ear. It’s really annoying. You hide speakers in your room to be annoying. You can’t do that now that I’m living here.”

 

“Y-Yeah. Of course not. I wouldn’t dream of it. No more speakers!”


“You should stop hiding the truth, my dear.” Calle said moving to sit on the couch.

“My dear, you could try shutting up because I’ve already told her the truth” Diane rushed to the kitchen.

“Guys, just don’t do it again. This is now a safe space. It was just a prank but no more. You prank me again and I am moving out. I forgive you for now.”

“Big threat for someone who lied to me for years about how cute I actually looked while bald.”

“I really thought you looked cute! You always look so cute!”

“Stop! I think the only reason I got laid so often is probably because they assumed something was wrong with me.”

Shay reached out and softly touched Diane’s cheek, “Oh please! You are beautiful. Who wouldn’t want to fuck you.”

“What’s for breakfast?” Leo asks, carefully seating themselves into a seat at the kitchen table with their homework.

 

Shay and Diane laughed and pulled away slowly. 

 

“Calle set up some waffles and omelet fixings. All vegan so don’t you worry. Everything has been seasoned to perfection!” Diane replies while making everyone’s plates for breakfast

 

“Thank you! And Diane, thank you for letting us stay here. We’re so grateful. I don’t know where we’d live if it weren’t for you,”  says Leo.

 

“It’s no problem at all. I love you both and I might as well do something with this empty home. So do you have school today?”

 

“Yes. I’ll be going to school. I have a test today. What are you guys doing today?”

 

“I have a meeting with this other writer. She’s talking about collaborating on a story. I’m not sure if it will work out but she’s hot so maybe I’ll get some! If not, there’s always fuck buddy Becca.” She says sitting at the table placing a plate in front of herself and Leo. Shay carried her plate and Calle’s. 

 

Calle came in singing, “when will you stop fucking all these women and just settle the fuck down. This place smells like different perfumes and pussy. I’m over it.”

 

“Would you like for it to smell like one pussy and perfume?”

 

“Yes, I like consistency.” Shay grumbled.

 

“Look. I’m just tryna get laid” Diana shrugged fork in hand. She dived her fork into her  omelette and took a bite, giving Shay a taunting look.

“So you really just fuck anyone?” Shay asked

Calle knew that meant, “So why not fuck me?”

“I don’t fuck just anyone. Well, there are different kinds of fucking. There are the quick fucks, accidental fucks, passion fucks-”

“Diane, I am 17, a minor. Please stop. I could tell my friends crazy things about fucking now. What will the teachers say?” said Leo.

“Whoa. Language.” Shay softly scolded.

 

“That better be a joke because your ass is out here talking wild as shit.”

“Um… lil one. Chill.” Shay says shoving a fork full of waffles into her mouth.

“I thought so. Calle can you drive me to school? I need to pick your brain about something.”

“Oi! Don’t teach them anything crazy, Calle!” Scolded Shay.

“I won’t,” replied Calle getting up to clean her and Leo’s plate. Diane noted the wink Calle gave Leo.

“Okay, well I am going to meet this beautiful woman. I’ll see you later. Have fun cleaning…”Diane grabs her things and leaned over to give Shay a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

“Bye Shay!” Leo and Calle called out in unison and the three of them left the house. 

Leaving Shay alone to grumble to herself.


Shay found herself a room upstairs, well Calle chose it for her. Her things were laid out on her freshly made bed.

Calle even blessed her with an old easel and set up her materials. She sat and began painting what she has been painting for months, Diane.

The two of them have been best friends since they were in middle school. For years, neither of them even thought about the other in that way. Diane dated boys until she realized she only wanted date women and Shay was there for her.

When Shay realized she wanted to date women, she never told Diane because she didn’t know what it meant for her. In high school, she kissed a female friend while drunk and it lead to sex. For years after, even though she knew she liked it. She was too afraid to admit it because she still liked men. What point would it make to announce it to everyone?

It wasn’t until one amazing sleepover that Diane reached over to hold Shay. This kind of intimacy was normal for them. Cuddling during sleepovers, kisses on the cheek, holding each other, all normal. It would have been nothing big but she looked at Diane and she looked back and there was a moment.

She could see her hair in bantu knots formed under her black bonnet, the moonlight giving her brown eyes a grey shine, her face so soft and they were so close she could feel her heart beating with her own and how easy it is to just be in her arms. Diane laid there looking at her and Shay scanned her face for more.

Diane finally pulled her close and kissed her softly on her forehead and immediately fell asleep.

There was no way Diane was interested in her. She would have kissed her lips instead of her forehead. That night would have been their first night together if only she were interested.

So that night, Shay decided to go to sleep.

It’s been months since they’ve slept in the same bed. They both avoided it. She’d rather sleep on the couch than be rejected by her best friend.

It doesn’t stop her from trying to paint the exact way the moonlight showed on her face. The light sharpening her cheek bones making her dark brown skin glow. There is no combination of blues, browns, yellows, reds, etc. That can do it justice but she hasn’t stopped trying.

 


Shay was two hours into this painting before her frustration made her give up and started throwing paint on the canvas instead.

Sher heard the front door slam and footsteps running up the stairs, followed by a knock at her door.

“Who?” Shay asked. 


“Me.” Diane opened the door and threw herself on the bed. 


“She stood me up! What the fuck. It was for our writing. Who does that?”

“Maybe her intuition told her you just wanted sex.”

“Nah. It don’t think intuition is all that good anyway.”

“Well she didn’t show up so… ”, Shay shrugged.

“Fine. Let me take you out. Get cleaned up. I like your painting by the way.” Diane got up and quickly left the room. “20 minutes.” She yelled from the hall.

Shay was so grateful she ruined the painting if Diane before she got here. She headed to the bathroom to wash the paint from her hands, face and locs. They always dip into the paint like Medusa’s locs, having a mind of their own. Even if they’re tied up in a bun.

In 20 minutes, she is dressed and downstairs with Diane and heading out.

“Can I drive yours? I want this to be a surprise and I walked from the cafe because I was so upset from earlier.”

“Yea, no problem.” She said as she handed her the keys.

 

The pair of them hopped into Shay’s beat up pink punch buggie and started driving.

After a thirty minute ride, they arrived at an abandoned looking factory off an abandoned road. 

 

Shay and Diane often found weird places to discover together but they would usually plan the trip together so that they could rent out camera equipment. These trips are only good for their pictures.

 

“So why are we here?”

 

“I found this place and I thought we could have some alone time.”

 

“What for? We would have been alone in the house.”

 

“Honey. You know why”, Diane reached over to hold Shay’s hand.

 

Once again, not a shocking form of intimacy but then she pulled Shay’s hand to her lips and kissed it. Then she started leaning closer. Diane normally smelled of lavender and mint but today she smelled different, something more floral. They were so close that their lips were just barely touching. Shay could feel her entire body warming up, her heart pounding in anticipation. Just waiting to feel her lips on her own.

 

She was waiting for the moment their lips finally touched. She hoped it would be better than what she dreamed. What she didn’t expect was a hand on her throat, squeezing. SO hard she couldn’t breathe.

 

Calle finally arrived back at Diane’s home after dropping off Leo and then picking up items from her fellow coven member Violet. She needed to pick up some mugwort and bunch of candles from the wicca shop she works at. Violet always talks her ear off with strange facts and then ends it with giving her a tarot card reading. Now Calle knows for sure that what she needs to do next is move in with Diane. Something is coming and it would be better if she wasn’t living on the couches or the other coven members.

 

Calle is ever so grateful that no one told Diane about her living situation.

Calle decided this was the best time to check out the greenhouse. As she started walking, she heard a car pull up to the house. She peeked through the window and saw Diane so she opened the door wide and let her in. “Hello, love! You’re energy is off.”

 

“That girl stood me up! How rude! At least I got myself some tea and the barista’s number.” Diane threw herself onto the living room couch and Calle followed. Throwing herself onto the love seat on the other side of the room.

 

“Great. Another perfumed pussy around the house. Did you bring anyone new today? Something smells off.”

 

“Nope. No one. Is Shay still here?”

 

“I don’t sense her here so no.”

“That is so creepy but I also wish I could sense people. I wonder where she went.”

 

“Cast a spell or use that new spangled ability. I have a feeling. Something is off.”

 

“You just magically have some feelings and now I have track my own best friend? Invade her privacy?”

 

“Do it and shut up. My senses are better than yours.”

 

“Fine.” Diane threw herself into a trance, eyes going white for a moment and then she was out of it as quickly as she went into it.

 

“We have to go. Now.”

 

“Why? What’s wrong?”

 

“I saw her. She’s with me.”

 

“How?”

 

“Exactly. Grab my hand.”

 

“Can we drive? I hate this part.”

 

“No. I’m about to kill her.” Diane grabbed Calle’s hand, thought of Shay and then they were there. Just in time to see Diane choking the life out of a struggling Shay.

 

Calle used her power to yank the car door open and then ran in to quickly unbuckle Shay and pull her away. Shay was gasping for breath on the floor near the car.

 

Diane in the car grew pale, eyes turning black, hair turning grey and it began hissing as it came out the car readying to fight Diane. It leapt towards her only to be forced back by the force field she placed on herself and her friends behind her. She yelled to Calle. “What the hell is this thing?”

 

“It’s a shapeshifter!?” Shay started regaining her breath and finally sat up in Calle’s arms.

“No shit!” She formed balls of electricity in her hands and began throwing them at the creature. It seemed to be holding it but in no way detering it from trying to kill them all.

“It looks like one of the creatures from this book! I forget the name but try fire!”

 

Diane gathered both hands together to create a giant ball of electricity, hoping it would give her enough time to concentrate on producing enough fire to fill this thing. It seemed to have grown five feet since changing to its normal form.

 

The giant ball of electricity finally knocked it off it’s feet which gave Diane enough time to create a ball of fire big enough to kill the thing. There was a loud shriek before it fell into dust.

 

“Finally.” Diane says smiling and turning back to her friends.

Shay was lying in Calle’s arms with such fear in her eyes. When Diane walked close to her, she shrank away.

 

Calle put her hand up to Diane, telling her to stay back and Calle began murmuring in Shay’s ear. Softly stroking her hair and giving her kisses.

Diane knew that one of Calle’s gifts are to soothe but it is breaks her heart seeing Shay lie there in anyone else’s arms but her own in this moment. She has been holding Shay for years but one step towards her seemed to scare her. She has never seen Shay gives her a look like that. 

 

Diane thought it would be best to push down that hurt and do the most practical thing, checking the car to see if they could make it home. Gas was full, there was surprisingly no damage to the car. She looked over and saw the two of them still on the dusty road clutching each other so she sat and waited in the car.

 

Calle and Shay lay on the couch in the living room. Almost in the exact same position they were in when they were on that abandoned road.

 

“I-I’ll pick up Leo from school,” Diane mutters.

 

With that, Shay finally looks up at Diane. Her eyes full of something Diane has never seen before. There was sadness in it. Definitely still that hurt laced with contemplation. She looked on for a beat longer then in a huff, she laid back down. Diane took that as saying that Shay is okay with her picking up Leo so she headed for the door.

 

“What did I just see?” Shay whispers in Calle’s lap once Diane shut the door.

 

“I think we should wait for Leo to get here, okay?” Calle said brushing Shay’s locs behind her ear.

 

“Why?”


“I think they need to hear this too. We need to talk about it as a family.”

 

“I want to know what the fuck is happening.” Shay says leaning up and looking at Calle so fiercely. Calle looked at her in surprise, realizing the effects of her natural soothing ability seems to be wearing off or Shay is growing an immunity. That hasn’t happened before.

 

“Please. Can you just wait maybe ten minutes.” Calle says, trying to lace her words with calm. Hoping that Shay would just lay back in her lap until Leo and Diane get home.

 

“No. I need to get us out of here. What kind of shit is this?” Shay got up quickly, walking across the living room rug then turning to go up the stairs.

 

Calle figured it would be best if she just remained where she was and let Shay try and pack. She’d just cast a spell that would unpack her belongings as she packed.

 

Since her first method of calming Shay didn’t work, Calle found herself back in the kitchen making mugwort lattes and pulling out her lavender cookies for everyone to eat during their witchy chat.

 

By the time Calle finished setting up everything on the kitchen table, Leo and Diane were home.

 

“SHAY! I got an A on my test! Let’s order pizza!”

 

“No! Leo. We need to leave. Come pack your things.” They heard her yell over the shuffling in her room. Boxes obviously being packed.

 

Both Leo and Diane looked at Calle questioningly. Calle saw in Diane’s face that she hoped they would both be on the couch when they came back home.

 

“Shay. I need everyone to come downstairs and sit at the table.”

 

“NO!” and then mumbles in frustration, “I just packed my glitter thong!”

 

“SHAY! Get. Your. Ass. Down. The Goddamn. Stairs. Now!” Calle yelled in her firmest voice. Only heard when she was tired of eveyrone’s bullshit.

 

They heard more shuffling, frustrated grunts then a loud sigh and then She appeared at the top of the stairs, looking down at Diane and Leo standing in front of the door.

 

“Everyone. In the kitchen.”

 

Leo threw her bag into the living room to the right and then glided to the kitchen to the left. Diane stood there for a beat looking at Shay. Shay quickly looked away and marched down the stairs and Diane turned to walk into the kitchen.

 

There were six seats at the table. Leo and Calle sat at the either head of the table. Diane took a seat on the right closer to Calle and Shay took the seat closest to Leo.

 

“Grab a mug and a cookie.”

 

They all reach for a mug and a cookie in unison. Shay, aggressively avoiding any physical connection to Diane.

 

“So, this is our first house meeting–”

“Um. Do you live here now, Calle?” asked Leo expectantly.

“I will address that in a moment.” She turned and gave Diane a look that asked if she could move in and Diane gave her a happy little nod. Some of the tension released from her shoulders.

 

“Okay. We are gathered here today because Diane and I want to tell you guys that we are witches.” She paused for dramatic effect but Shay and Leo just stared so she started again. “We can perform spells and incantations. I have a familiar, Rockie. The jokes about Diane’s grandma being a witch are true and today, Shay was attacked by this shapeshifting beast that acted like it was Diane. For that, I am so sorry. We planned to tell you both tonight at dinner but… then you were attacked.” Calle looked at Shay who had tears in her eyes. Leo looked at everyone like they were crazy.

 

“Are you guys on drugs?”

 

“No, Leo. We are not on drugs.” Diane said while raising her hand up to conjure a small ball of electricity. 

 

“W-Wait.N- No. What the fuck?!” Leo says as they hop out their seat and take turns looking at all three girls seated at the table in shock.

 

“Leo, Dear. Can you please sit down? I truly understand what kind of shock this could be to you. I really do and I sympathize but what I am asking for everyone is to temporarily hold off the excitement or shock or… fear. I would just like to say one more thing.” Calle says using the voice she knows will get everyone to shut up.

 

Leo takes a deep breath and sits back down in their chair indicating for Calle to continue.

 

“Thank you. Today, I went to visit a friend from Diane and I’s former coven. Her name is Violet. You guys know her from that party. She did a tarot card spread that gave me a warning that something was coming. I had no idea what that means. I still don’t but today has shown us that there are dangers out there. Diane and I have never had to face anything like we did today. Our magic is mostly focused on plants or small spells. It has never been used as defensive for us but something is now coming and because something actually came for you, Shay, I believe that something may be after all of us. I don’t know but I can feel something brewing and I want everyone to be on guard. This shit never happens.”

 

“I just want to chime in and say that it really never does.” Diane said, a finger in the air. “We did in fact plan on telling you both soon since you just moved in and I didn’t want you guys to wonder.”

 

“Bitch, I’ve known you since we were kids and you have never said a word! All those sleepovers and drunken nights and not once did you tell me? But now that I moved in. It was necessary! Interesting. Leo. Let’s go pack our shit.”

 

“Wait.” Diane jumps up, chair clattering on the floor. “Please just wait one second.”

 

Leo and Shay pause for a moment.

 

“I’m sorry. I truly made a mistake. I thought that you both would hate me so I never said anything. I thought it would end our friendship. Plus, I didn’t even know I was an actual witch until junior year of highschool. I assumed that the levitating shit in the house or candles lighting themselves was just normal. I didn’t really think too much of it. I don’t know. It just happened. I’m so sorry.” Diane choked on the last words, eyes brimmed with tears. “I never wanted you to get hurt. I-I just thought you would be safer not knowing and things will just stay the same. I didn’t want things to change or for you to hate me but I realized it can’t be hidden anymore with you guys here. Things happen. I wanted you to feel safe-.”

 

“This is bullshit. Too much bullshit. Leo! Come on!” and turned one one foot. Leo stayed where she was.

 

They took a deep breath and sat down, grabbing onto Diane’s hands. Entwining their long and thin fingers with her short and chubby ones. “Diane. I understand why you didn’t say anything but I really wish you did. We love you.  There is nothing that will change that. Shay is just going to need some time. We have been lied to and hurt before. You know that. We have been in traumatizing situations. That you have been there for. She will need some time to process. We can’t just willingly jump from trauma to trauma.”

 

Diane, full on sobbing pulled Leo’s hand up to her lips and kissed their knuckles, nodding. After a moment, she released their hand and they got up slowly then retreated to the stairs. Leaving Diane crying at the table and mournful looking Calle at the table. The pair of them held each other’s hands. 

 

As if sensing it, Calle’s familiar appeared at the window. Rockie, today he had black fur with piercing grey eyes and a brown arrow looking mark trailing down his back. He hopped from window to counter to table and planted himself on their joined hands and began licking Diane’s risk for comfort.

 


Leo made it in the room just in time to narrowly miss a pair of underwear flying towards their face.

 

“WHOA! Watch it,Sister Shay!”

 

“Sorry. Have you packed yet?”

 

“No. I haven’t. I think we need to talk about this. Remember. We are a team and you can’t just make choices for me.”

 

“You really want to live with THEM?”

 

“You mean our friends for years? Yea. No shit.”

 

“But they have been keeping things from us!”

 

“You mean like you have been keeping one from them?” Leo hissed low.

“It-It’s not the same thing. You know it isn’t.”

 

“Then why are you keeping it from them?”

“Because- they just wouldn’t understand.”

 

“That sounds exactly like what Diane said. That fear of judgement? Of course. There is fear.”

 

Shay settled herself down, she sat on the bed and put her head between her knees. Her breath finally slowing. Leo moved themselves from the doorway and closed the door. They seated themselves next to Shay and began rubbing her back. “Shay. I can only imagine how scary it must have been to have had that experience. I get it. I just want you to not make a rash decision without talking it through. I mean witches. CRAZY! Who would have even thought about having friends who are witches?”

 

“I know. You seem to be taking this better than I am.”

 

“Yea. That’s because I had a feeling. At least with Calle. Diane was a shock. I once saw her stir tea and then she let go and I saw it go three times around the cup before it stopped. I felt like it could have been something that could have been explained away. Like no big deal so I kept it to myself but then one day, I came by and Calle was cooking and all the pots on the stove had been stirring on their own. I thought I was crazy so I kept it to myself. I mean it was crazy so I didn’t want to start calling my friend a witch. I mean. It’s crazy. I didn’t even think they existed but isn’t it cool?”

 

“Yes. It is. You know when my life isn’t in danger but that’s fair. I honestly would have done the same. It’s a weird concept to wrap your mind around. They’re actually real and we know two of them. What?” She laughed incredulously.

 

“I know. Ha! You think the Salem Witch Trials were right all along?”

 

“Yea, no. That’s a stretch. Like men don’t jump at the chance to kill a woman that doesn’t conform to what they want. They were probably like: “this woman doesn’t want children? WITCH!” Or “this woman doesn’t like me! WITCH!” Or even “these women want to spend their lives living in the same home away from men who murder them because they think they’re witches! WITCH!” Honestly, men are an absolute mess. They were probably incels”

 

“Wow. That was quick. Back to the old Shay! Love you, girlie.”

 

“No. I’m still pretty shaken up though. I mean that thing looked and acted like Diane It- it was so close.”

 

“I know, love. I know.” Leo indicated for Shay to come lay on the bed and they laid there soothing her locs until they both fell asleep.

 

By midnight, Shay and Leo had woken up from their mournful nap and made their way downstairs. They were slightly surprised to find both Diane and Calle still in the clothes they worn before and sitting on the couch in the living room. Calle leaning on Diane’s shoulder reading whatever she was writing on the laptop. It looked like they had been sitting there as day slowly turned to night. The only light that shone on the screen from the computer. Exhaustion written on their faces. Their eyes glued to the screen.

 

“Hey. Can we talk?” Shay asked softly breaking through the silence. 

 

 The only response was a grunt from one of the girls on the couch but Shay couldn’t figure out which one.

 

“I-I’m sorry I was so quick to dismiss you guys. I’d like to listen to what you guys have to say so that we can work through this.”

 

The only thing that answered them was silence. Diane typed on and Calle was entranced. Leo walked into the room and tapped them both on the shoulder and got no response. They yelled “GUYS!” And nothing. Leo looked up at Shay and mouthed “what the fuck?”. Shay finally found the confidence to walk into the room. She tried moving the laptop from Diane’s grasp but it wouldn’t budge either.

 

Shay looked up at Leo with panic on her face, “What is happening?”

 

“I have no idea. DIANE! CALLE!” She began slapping them both aggressively but still nothing. “Fuck. Do you think it has something to do with the fucking things that are trying to get us or whatever?”

 

“I don’t know. Maybe.” Leo tried grabbing and closing the computer.

 

“They’re the witchy people. What the fuck do we- AH! I’m calling Violet. She’s a witch. I mean she never fucking lied about it.” Shay whipped out her phone and called Violet. “Hey! I need you to come over here now. Okay? Something is happening to Diane and Calle. I don’t know what to do.” From the other side of the phone she heard Violet say, “Okay. I’ll be there in five.”

 

Shay and Leo kept trying to break their trace and soon the door was busting open and Violet was coming through. She quickly made her way to Diane and Calle, She analyzed the scene and dug in her bag, pulled out a powder, blew it on them and then quickly using her middle and pointer finger made a circle. Within moments, Diane and Calle were up and Diane slammed closed the laptop.

 

“What the fuck just happened?” moaned Calle rubbing her head. 

 

“No idea.” replied Diane.

 

“What happened was that you two idiots got hacked. You guys know about witches casting shit through viruses. What the hell is wrong with you both? I will add in software.” said Violet grabbing the laptop and left the room. 

 

“You guys don’t know what happened?” asked Shay.

 

“No. We don’t have issues like this. I told you guys. For us it’s just like telekinesis or small spells. We don’t fight. We don’t practice defensive magic.”

 

“Well that is fucking stupid!” Yelled Shay, walking up to them both and scanning their faces.

 

“Shay. It is not stupid.” Calle grumbled.

 

“Yes it is! You know for a fact that there are dangers in this world and you do not know how to protect yourself? How dumb is that?”

 

“Bu-”

 

“No. You guys could have been hurt because you aren’t protecting ourselves. Shit. I GOT HURT because you guys aren’t prepared for attacks. That thing got into this house. Walked up the stairs. They could have gone through anything. If you won’t protect yourselves, protect us. Protect this house! What the fuck.” Shay turned stormed out of the room and went back upstairs.

 

“My very dramatic sister is right. We need to feel safe. At least in this house. Do you have a spell or something? We need to create a plan to keep us all safe. Diane, can you call your grandparents? Maybe figure out what attacked us and how to stop that from happening?”

 

Diane looked like she was still processing what happened in the past ten minutes but finally she said, “yes, I’ll call her now. Calle, you can get in touch with the coven? They can teach us some protective spells or something.”

 

“Of course. I’m on it. Leo, I am so sorry we scared you so many times today. We will make this house safe.” Calle got up on unsteady legs and walked to the kitchen where Violet sat at the kitchen table typing aggressively on the computer.

 

Leo sat next to Diane on the couch, wrapping a blanket around them both. “I know you like to have control of things so this entire situation must come as a shock. It’s all very scary but we need to prepare. We need to get ahead of whatever happens next. We need to protect our family, okay?” Diane nodded and leaned on Leo’s shoulder. Diane and Leo’s coily hair meshed together and Diane pulled out her phone and dialed her grandparents.

 

Late Night Entry

I feel like my openness with my mental health is often viewed as a form of weakness. Many moments, when I speak about my mental health issues, there are people who believe I’m using it as a clutch. As an excuse for me not to get a job or not to get a date. People close to me, who have never experienced the issues I’ve experienced see it as a way for me keep holding myself back and because of this, they feel like it is their place to give me some tough love which has always made me feel like an outsider within my own home.

Within my immediate family, I am the only one who is queer and also deals with persistent depression. There are so many things that I experience or feelings that I have that I do not express because I know that no one will understand or even try to understand. I constantly feel dismissed within my own home. When queer couples appear on TV or even when I simply tell someone that my feelings are hurt, it is always buried under the opinions of the majority in the household.

I love using my voice on my social media platforms in order to connect with other people who also feel like their voices are buried. 

I want nothing more than to be heard and understood and I hate that that is such a hard thing for people to do. Even when their your loved ones.

I often feel broken and damaged because I just don’t go through life the way my family does. I find myself wishing that I were different. That I could go get the job, the date, the apartment I want as soon as I speak it up but it’s hard. It’s so hard when I don’t want to get out of bed or I think of all of the thoughts and opinions of other or the many different outcomes. It makes me just want to stay put. 

It’s so easy for someone to say that I should just follow my heart and stop worrying and stop stressing BUT DOING IT IS SO FUCKING HARD!!! I would have done it already if I could. Your words are no help! 

I just want to be heard!!!

There are many things that I want in life and I know that I will get it. It will just need to take some time and some compassion from those around me that I love.

I often feel like I drag everyone down with any mention of me or my wants and desires and it’s really a miserable way to live. I’m just being honest. I constantly feel like I need to be a better sister, daughter, aunt, friend. 

I just don’t know how to get over this feeling. Mental illness is a whole ass trip and it’s not that easy to just get over. Please be compassionate to people. Listen to them. Really and truly listen to what people need. Especially the people that you love. I don’t want anyone I love to feel like they aren’t loved.

Crier’s War by Nina Varela| Non-Spoiler Review

Crier’s War by Nina Varela

 

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.


 

Hey, guys! CAN I GET A SLOW BURN?!?!?!?

This book was amazing! I obviously don’t want to give anything away so I will mostly just be raving. Nina is an amazing writer. I wanted gay and I was given gay. I really want a bunch of science fiction pieces with queer characters simply because I know that that is what I deserve. (Send any and all recommendations, please!)

The world building in this was amazing. I felt so connected to the story. I love reading books where I get so caught up in reading that I miss my stop on the train or keep reading even while walking… in the streets of New York… because I can’t put it down.

I had so many assumptions of how the book would end up and I was incredibly wrong. Once again, another great feeling. Not knowing what will happen in the book I’m reading. I don’t like predictable literature. 

I think it was an incredibly original and thoughtful plot and I am so grateful I was able to get my hands on it so early. I can’t wait to dive into everything Nina has written.

I  also can’t wait for book two and I hate that I have to wait so long to get it. Nina, Epic Reads, God. Please grace me with an ARC when it is ready. I really want to read what happens next.

 

Thanks for reading! See ya soon!

“Space Is the Place”: Afrofuturism and Science Fiction by Djenne Grant|My Finish Senior Project!

Introduction

  This essay discusses how black people appear in science fiction literature and put a spotlight on the genre Afrofuturism. I am an avid reader and aspiring author who loves to be taken into space, whether it’s through film, literature, or music. I’ve always found interest in worlds away from this planet, or in a planet where the strange appears, but I’ve always had issues with finding books with characters who looked like me or had the same experiences I did. When my own books get published, I want to be sure I have characters who look like me and have similar experiences to my own. I want to be able to inspire young children of color to seek worlds beyond their own. For me, it’s been a bit jarring to see characters defending the galaxy in the future yet to have none of these characters be people of color. It’s led me to question why that is.
On my journey to understanding why there was a lack of black characters in science fiction, I stumbled upon the genre of Afrofuturism, which led me to the major thesis within this essay. First, I will discuss the definition of science fiction, comparing it to what I’ve uncovered on Afrofuturism. When understanding what Afrofuturism is, I decided to discuss at length one of the first Afrofuturist creators, the artist named Sun Ra, and I use his life and his creativity in order to further explore what it means to be an Afrofuturist creator. I discuss how blackness is experienced as Otherness and how this experience might lead to otherworldly art, as found in Sun Ra’s music and poems. Being an Afrofuturist creator often takes place outside of the margins and I use Sun Ra’s life experiences to further this argument.

Finally, I will conclude this essay by using Sun Ra’s “Otherness” to look at an example of contemporary Afrofuturism in the short stories of N. K. Jemisin. I will use three of her short stories in order to express how an Afrofuturist thinker/creator often lives outside of the margins of society, which grants them a better understanding of their society and alternative ways to fix the issues within them. I want to further this connection of being a marginalized creator by finding reviews of people who critique Afrofuturist’s work and display how most readers do not get a full understanding of their work.

Introduction to Science Fiction

The critic Dr. Beshero-Bondar offers the following definition of science fiction, the genre I focus on in this essay:

Science fiction is a time-sensitive subject in literature. Usually futuristic, science fiction speculates about alternative ways of life made possible by technological change, and hence has sometimes been called “speculative fiction”. Like fantasy, and often associated with it, science fiction envisions alternative worlds with believably consistent rules and structures, set apart somehow from the ordinary or familiar world of our time and place. Distinct from fantasy however, science fiction reflects on technology to consider how it might transform the conditions of our existence and change what it means to be human. “Sci Fi” is the genre that considers what strange new beings we might become—what mechanical forms we might invent for our bodies, what networks and systems might nourish or tap our life energies, and what machine shells might contain our souls (Beshero-Bondar).


Science Fiction is a genre that explores possible alternatives for humanity, sometimes with magic or technological advancements, which is why it can also be called “speculative fiction”. Similar to fantasy, both genres are based on alternative worlds, but science fiction focuses on technology and how it can alter the definition of humanity. When discussing the futuristic aspect of science fiction, we might use as an example the film Star Wars, created by George Lucas in 1977. In Star Wars, we follow the lives of the Skywalker family, from “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….,” where there are aliens and droids, all fighting to understand the divide between the Rebellion and the Galactic Empire. This beautiful series inspired many people to read more science fiction and to write their own stories, including the author Ytasha L. Womack, who will appears later.
As with most science fiction writers, George Lucas was inspired by the world around him for his film series. He said in an interview with Ty Burr for the Boston Globe, “It’s really based on Rome. And on the French Revolution and Bonaparte.” (Burr). George Lucas also mentioned in the interview that readers from the United States believed the series was about George W. Bush and people from Russia believed it was about Russian politics. Most writers are inspired by the world around them, just as George Lucas was, which allowed people all over the globe to speculate about what could have possibly inspired such a huge franchise. The powerful thing about science fiction is that it is often about real life: real wars, real injustices, or real ideas about where we will be in the future. Most people see the future the way George Lucas did, in the stars and with robot and alien companions. My question is, if science fiction is based on real life and created with an imaginative version of the future, then where are the people of color who naturally fill our everyday lives?

 In the entire Star Wars franchise, there are only two popular black characters: Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Episodes V-VI, IX and by Donald Glover in Solo: A Star Wars Story; and Finn, played by John Boyega in The Force Awakens (2015). In a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, why aren’t people of color around? The answer to this could be institutional racism, which is racism expressed in the practice of social and political institutions. This obviously doesn’t encourage the hiring of people of color as actors or writers; nor does it encourage directors to create films featuring people of color in futuristic spaces. The knowledge of institutional racism, and the lack of characters to relate to, led many people of color to try and create their own forms of media—ones where there are characters who look and speak like them, where characters of color are seen as heroes and not simply as sidekicks. For black people, this led to the creation of Afrofuturism, which is what will be explored in this essay.

 

Intro to Afrofuturism
The term “Afrofuturism” was coined in 1993 by Mark Derry in his essay “Black to the Future” and has been given several different definitions. For example, it was described as “an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation” by Ytasha L. Womack, author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. “I generally define Afrofuturism as a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens,” says Ingrid LaFleur, an art curator, and Afrofuturist” (Womack 9). As discussed before using Star Wars, there weren’t many black people in the world George Lucas created. Many other science fiction writers have also lacked in having black characters and black readers, and black writers have decided that they wanted to see themselves in the future. Reynaldo Anderson says in Womack’s book, “What I like about Afrofuturism is it helps create our own space in the future; it allows us to control our imagination” (16). Afrofuturism can appear in different genres: for example, science fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and magical realism with non-western beliefs. These genres reimagine history by imagining the future—an imagined world that carries the culture and history of black people into the future. 


The Reception of Afrofuturist Work

Black Panther (1966) is a comic book series created by Stan Lee that follows a black superhero who is king of his own kingdom, Wakanda. Wakanda is a technologically advanced society hidden in Africa. The series depicts black characters in the future as thriving, socially powerful and technologically advanced people rather than as people who are living in America today, still stifled and held back by the racial and societal divide. The people in Wakanda are all black and were given a fictional metal called Vibranium, popular for its extraordinary abilities to absorb, store, and release large amounts of kinetic energy. The Wakandan society valued their African traditions; even with their wealth and intellect, they stayed true to their roots. Vibranium allowed the people of Wakanda to hide their wealth and advanced technology from the world. Within this comic book most of the characters, whether superheroes or villains, are black people and the only white people who appear are the side characters. 

Afrofuturism has become popular lately because black readers are begging for more representation. In February 2018, a hugely popular film adaptation was made of the Black Panther comics. But we need to realize that it would not have gained as much popularity in the past when racism was more dominant. While there have been some negative response to the film, reactions have largely been positive. “In the group, Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and its fanboys, a moderator created an event titled, ‘Give Black Panther a Rotten Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes.’” (Verhoeven ). The most negative responses came from a self-proclaimed ‘alt-right’ Facebook group that has since been deactivated after it threatened to flood movie criticism aggregator Rotten Tomatoes with bad reviews for Black Panther (Destra).
In our current political climate, creative pieces that depict black people as heroes are still being criticized. But because our society is beginning to hear and listen to the needs of people of color, there can be a popular film with mostly black characters made in the first place, and it can be fairly positively reviewed. The New York Times describes the film as “buoyed by its groovy women and Afrofuturist flourishes, Wakanda itself is finally the movie’s strength, its rallying cry and state of mind” (Dargis). It was ranked 97% on Rotten Tomato and one comment by Geeks of Color says, “Marvel’s Black Panther film means so much to so many people. The film is a lightning rod of representation, in a time where black people feel so belittled and not paid attention to” (Geeks of Color).

Though Black Panther is a contemporary and successful example of Afrofuturism in film, it is hardly the first example of the genre. For example, Blade (1998), another film with a black main character, got criticized for its poor acting and scenes. Within the late 90s, people weren’t open enough as yet to accept a movie with a black superhero, with the New York Daily News describing the film as “pure hackwork”( Kehr).

At that time, Bill Clinton was president. Four years prior to the release of the film, he signed a bill which promoted mass incarceration. Mass incarceration severely penalized and demonized the black community. To be clear, there is not a direct cause and effect relationship between mass incarceration and the reception of Blade. But it is worth noting that twenty years ago, when the black community began experiencing mass incarceration, which lowered the status of representations of all members of the community by the dominant, white one. Mass incarceration furthered the divide between people of different races, pushing black people further outside the margins of society. The experience of mass incarceration and demonization perhaps played a role in the negative reception that Blade received upon its release. But, through the continued othering it brought about for the black community, it also contributed to the subsequent flourishing of Afrofuturist works in film and other media.
Throughout history, there have been many black people who knew that the majority viewed them as outsiders and who chose to fight again this instead of accepting this new normal. Some became politicians, pastors, and social leaders. Others became Afrofuturist creators, using their art in order to bring a better understanding of black people and the black experience. Most of black history has been silenced and Afrofuturist creators use their history and culture in the hopes of connecting people within and outside of the African American community. These creators allow their minds to stretch far into all of time and space, creating imagined futures where people who look like them are seen as important members of their society.


Music in Afrofuturism
In Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture, Ytasha L. Womack describes the many different art forms of the genre:

Whether through literature, visual arts, music, or grassroots organizing, Afrofuturism redefines culture and notions of blackness for today and the future. Both an artistic aesthetic and a framework for cultural theory, Afrofuturism combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity, and magical realism with non-western beliefs. In some cases, it’s a total re-envisioning of the past and speculation about the future rife with cultural critiques. (Womack 5)

 

For example, Octavia Butler, one of the first black science fiction writers, wrote Kindred—a story about a young girl who travels back in time and gets a first-hand experience of slavery. This novel allows the main character to experience her history firsthand in order to gain a better understanding of her ancestry and her own society. Butler granting her main character the ability to travel through time makes it a timeless piece of Afrofuturism. Although the main character has no crazy technical time traveling device, her going back in time and seeing how her ancestors lived makes it science fiction. Kindred then allows us to understand black history more fully by imagining the future. That’s the power of Afrofuturism, it imagines a black future where the reader can better understand a black history and the current black experience. 

As Womack’s quotation makes clear, Afrofuturism is a multi-media genre, appearing not just in literature but in visual art, films, and music. A current and popular creator within this genre is Janelle Monae. A black woman, Monae is doubly marginalized as a woman of color. Like many great Afrofuturist artists, Monae works in different forms: she created a short film based on her album. The film imagines a dystopian future where people get penalized for their expression. This is a common theme in Afrofuturism because these creators use their work to express what they experience in their everyday lives. When Janelle Monae started her career, she was known for wearing tuxedos and her natural hair, which wasn’t how most black female artists would ordinarily present themselves. Now twelve years into her music career, she is still making strides to branch out from what is expected of her as a female creator. In an interview with the New York Times, she says, “The songs can be grouped into three loose categories: Reckoning, Celebration, and Reclamation. The first songs deal with realizing that this is how society sees me,” she said. “This is how I’m viewed. I’m a ‘dirty computer,’ it’s clear. I’m going to be pushed to the margins, outside margins, of the world” (Wortham). Afrofuturist creators often create from a space outside of the “normal” parameters of the world. This world openly tries to silence black voices with police brutality and systemic racism. With social and political movements like Black Lives Matter movement and with artworks from the Afrofuturist tradition, creators are doing what they can in order to promote the community and fulfil their own creative expression.

 

Sun Ra

It is important to understand how Afrofuturism first started and who its early practitioners were in order to better understand it. And, if we are to consider the history of the genre, then we have to talk about Sun Ra. He was a creator in the 1950s and was born Herman Poole Blount in Birmingham, Alabama in 1914. Sun Ra was a jazz musician who decided to forgo his past and create an imagined persona named Sun Ra or Le Sony’r Ra. As Patrick Jarenwattananon writes, Sun Ra was a carefully constructed identity that “drew from Egyptology, black Freemasonry, Biblical exegesis, science and science fiction and most anything else that lay outside the traditional domains of scholarship” (Jarenwattananon).

 Sun Ra grew up with his mother, great-aunt, grandmother, and older brother, and all but his mother valued the words of God, which influenced his journey into music. His grandmother and great-aunt made sure that he attended services and went to Sunday School, and he took his studies in church as seriously as he took his studies in school. In the best full-length biography of Sun Ra, John F. Szwed’s Space is the Place: The Life and Times of Sun Ra, Sun Ra is often referred to as an intelligent child: “He moved quickly ahead of others in his class, meaning top grades in everything… Most of his classmates knew him only as existing quietly on the margins” (19-20). Blount was intelligent all throughout his career as a student and was always eager to learn more. His studies never pushed him outside the margins the way his work did. From a young age, he experienced marginalization and this experience helped make him the artist he became. 

His eagerness to learn more led him into a journey of understanding the world around him. Throughout his childhood, he developed the desire to understand Jesus: as he said, “I never could understand if Jesus died to save people, why people have to die. That seemed ignorant to me. I couldn’t equate that as a child” (9). He attempted to better understand the actions of Jesus, paired with his love of music and living in 1940’s Birmingham, “the most segregated city in the United States” (3), are both factors of what gave birth to the name Sun Ra, one of the first Afrofuturist creators.

Sun Ra’s Music and his Arkestra

Sun Ra was known for creating his beats with the sound of hard bops and for his audacious claim to be an alien from Saturn on a mission to preach peace. Throughout his career as a musician, Sun Ra publicly denied ties to his prior identity and his life before taking on this new role as a leader of a new movement. He possessed and made public a vision that would make his work and his style an icon of today. He was a bandleader, composer, arranger, artist, and poet who played jazz, Bepop and Space Music. During the four decades of his career, most of Sun Ra’s past was a mystery. It was not until close to his death that writer John Szwed wrote his study Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra, published in 1998. Sun Ra encouraged the confusion of his identity by spreading fake and contradictory news about his life during interviews. Indeed, he claimed he was born between 1910 and 1918 but never gave an exact date which gave him the illusion of timelessness.

Szwed was able to uncover that as a young boy, Sun Ra taught himself how to read music and play the piano. From an early age, he showed passion for music. He would go out and see many musicians perform, memorizing sheet music for his school band to practice to. As Sun Ra remembers in Szwed’s book,


My grandmother liked church music so she bought a book with religious songs because she couldn’t believe it either. I played everything in the book. Then my friend William Gray came, who played the violin, and he didn’t believe in me. He said, “I have to study every day. I know it’s impossible just to play music without reading it. You play it like you hear it, and that’s it!” He went home to get sheet music and I played everything that he bought, Mozart, everything, I played it. So from that day on he brought sheet music every day to find out if there was something I couldn’t read. I had to play everything by sight. He couldn’t find anything I couldn’t read. (12)

Sun Ra showed a natural gift toward music and he began composing music a short while after, sharing it in a way that was distinctly his own. Sun Ra knew that his place wasn’t in the church but he did use what he learned during his time there in order to create a new sound. 

As previously mentioned, he didn’t feel a connection towards Jesus. Instead, he questioned the motives of Jesus and spent his life trying to better understand his connection to God. Later in life, he reflects:


…I decided since I was making such good marks, there wasn’t no need being an intellectual if I couldn’t do something that hadn’t been done before, so I decided I would tackle the most difficult problem on the planet. I could see how I was progressing on the mental lane, on the intellectual plane, but the most difficult task would be finding out the real meaning of the Bible, which defied all kinds of intellectuals and religions. The meaning of the book that’s been translated into all languages. They could never find the meaning and that’s what I want to do. (28)

 

Sun Ra’s path into becoming one of the first Afrofuturist creators was inspired by his desire to better understand God. Though Sun Ra showed promise with his intellect, he decided that it would all mean nothing if he couldn’t inspire the world in some way. His studies pushed him to exist outside the margins but it was his art that truly forced him to the margins and perform boldly. As Sun Ra grew older, he began to show promise due to his skill. His former English teacher, Ethel Harper, offered him a full-time musical position in 1934. Sun Ra toured with Harper’s group across the U.S. Harper left the group mid-tour and Sun Ra took over until the tour stopped making income. Yet, in this time, they did acquire a lot of fans. When he returned, he went to study at the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical Institute for Negroes in the 1930s. As he was in high school, he kept good grades and focused on his music. Through this experience he realized his calling to branch out on his own and create. 

In his 1974 film Space is the Place, Sun Ra talks about an experience that caused him to change his name and identity:  

My whole body changed into something else. I could see through myself. And I went up… I wasn’t in human form… I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn… they teleported me and I was down on [a] stage with them. They wanted to talk with me. They had one little antenna on each ear. A little antenna over each eye. They talked to me. They told me to stop [attending college] because there was going to be great trouble in schools… the world was going into complete chaos… I would speak [through music], and the world would listen. That’s what they told me. (Szwed)

Sun Ra believed that he had been abducted by aliens and was given a divine connection to space in order to begin creating music. He used his newfound connection in order to bring connectivity to the black community. As previously mentioned, Sun Ra grew up in a heavily segregated community and he knew firsthand what it is like to be prejudged. He had a gift with music and many people would deny his ability to create to music the way he did. With this visit from space, Sun Ra set off onto his journey to create music and became the creator he is known to be today. Sun Ra had an experience of feeling like the “other” throughout his life because while living in Birmingham, AL,  he was poor, and an intelligent black boy which left him on the margins of his school life. During his college experience, it seems that his experience of being abducted was just an amplified version of this experience of otherness and alienness from the world around him. This experienced pushed him further outside of the margins of society sense there is no definitive proof of aliens. His claim to have been taken to Saturn would have understandably ruined his credibility.

Sun Ra set out to create an entirely different sound of music, using many different genres—jazz, Bepop and Space Music—in order to convey his message of peace. He often used his instruments in order to create different sounds. For instance, he used a bass guitar to create the sound of a woman screaming: 

…in my music, there’s a lot of little melodies going on. It’s like an ocean of sound. The ocean comes up, it goes back, it rolls. My music always rolls. It might go over people’s heads, wash part of them away, reenergize them, go through them, and then go back out to the cosmos and come back to them again. If they keep listening to my music, they’ll be energized. They go home and maybe 15 years later they’ll say, “Whoa that music I heard 15 years ago in the park… it was beautiful”. (122)

He was an intentional performer; he wanted his audience to experience a trip just as he did when he was abducted. He wanted his audience to leave the mundanity of society and experience the cosmos and then gently return them to Earth. He wanted his work to be memorable. Sun Ra was known for creating his beats with the sound of hard bops and his claiming to be an alien from Saturn on a mission to preach peace. Throughout his career Sun Ra experienced many bouts of loneliness, which is to be expected since he is the only creature who has claimed to have been visited by aliens and based his career on this. Through his experience visiting Saturn, it is assumed that he gained the ability to create Space Music because of his visit: 

Those who live the jazz life, those who dwell and create on the margins of society and art, who toil on the real graveyard shift of life, whose art is rewarded less with fame than notoriety, develop means for dealing with it: brilliance, madness, hip talk, worldly polish, simple withdrawal, disdain, obsessions, addiction, a whole panoply of defenses, evasions and shields. (Szwed 97).

Traditionally, working in the Jazz life is a lonely business. While creating outside of the margins, one would also find themselves desiring to be valued within the margins. When there is still trouble being accepted within the society, the natural response is to become more reclusive and falling into the safety of their own security, which is the case for most Afrofuturist creators. Sun Ra did feel a connection towards his Arkestra because they lived together. But none of them could understand him and his connection to the otherworldly, which led him to bask in his “onliness”—a phrase that is found in his poems in the next section.

 

Sun Ra’s Poetry

Sun Ra is most known for his musical performance and outrageous outfits; most people don’t know that he also wrote poetry. Sun Ra would perform his poetry in front of an audience, giving off the same otherworldly feel of his music and style. He was an Afrofuturist creator which allowed his work to be otherworldly and see the world from a different point of view. Living in a world that doesn’t want to hear the voices of black creators, Afrofuturist creators are given a gift: the gift of being able to connect with anyone who feels like they are living on the outskirts of their society. Sun Ra embodies this theme in these three poems: “The Other Otherness,” the original written in 1972 and another version written in 1980, and “Other Planes of There, written in 1980.

In his poem “The Other Otherness” (1972), we can see how Sun Ra views the world from the point of view of the “other.” Looking at the title, we can see the emphasis he puts on the words. During Sun Ra’s years of creation, he saw himself as the other of otherness. Sun Ra has a vision of being an alien on earth brought to preach peace, forgoing negativity and hate in order to bring forth love, truly making him the other of otherness and living outside of the margins, as Janelle Monae has previously said. Many black men during this time spoke of preaching peace, like Martin Luther King Jr. Sun Ra and MLK are black men who were living outside of the normal parameters of society. They chose, in their own ways, to promote love within the black community and showed people of other races the multiplicity of black people. Sun Ra was such an outrageous and out-there black man, living in his truth, he was separate and living in “onliness,” for he is the only one living this life. Not only was he deemed crazy or a drug user because of his truly out-there behavior; people would run away from his performances. Some people did not understand that this jazz musician wasn’t just playing Jazz. Sun Ra chose to bring peace and love from Space with “no ego” (line 2) and no communication for those were made with love will bring forth love.

Within this same poem, Sun Ra uses the phase, “To feel our worthless pricelessness” (line 9). This is such a contradictory statement, for something to have no worth and also be priceless, valued. It’s such a confusing statement at first glance but once analyzed, it can be seen as Sun Ra seeing his work and himself as priceless. His creativity and his new way of making music is priceless. He uses instruments in order to create screaming sounds. Most people listened to his music and thought he was insane or on drugs for orchestrating such chaotic music. The value most people placed on his sound was worthless. This is why he isn’t mentioned in today’s media as a valued creator. The majority chose to ignore his sound in favor of classical jazz music. This ties in with Afrofuturism because science fiction is being normalized: we have started seeing science fiction appear in more television and films but there is difficulty finding pieces of media that have black people as the main character in these films. For some science fiction lovers, having characters of color isn’t very important but for the small portion of us who love getting our hands on a book that has people with brown skin and cultures that relate to their own.
This poem begins by discussing being “the other of otherness,” so far removed from a society, truly living in the outskirts of everything. Science fiction is still such a weird topic in many social and literary circles. It’s hard enough chatting about your love of aliens from other worlds. Now imagine talking about your love of black aliens. Get ready to crash and burn at that social gathering.
Sun Ra writes, “There is no communication/ In the supervised state of distances/ For we who are/ Know we are to is/ To be” (lines 5-7). This seems to mean that in order to become this other, you must forgo your ego and not communicate because those who are other naturally know how “to be,” As previously mentioned when discussing Janelle Monae, “This is how I’m viewed. I’m a ‘dirty computer,’ it’s clear. I’m going to be pushed to the margins, outside margins, of the world.” She is living her life outside the margins; she is being outrageous in a time that views her as a “dirty computer”. Sun Ra has been viewed as weird because of his sound and as he dresses, he acted outside the assumptions of a black person in the 50s, making him another “dirty computer.”

Often within this poem, Sun Ra writes as if there are more people who are on the same plane as him, as he uses “we” and “our” but then uses “only” and “onliness.” The loneliness of not being seen by the majority also suggests how rewarding it must be to have traveled with so many people who were living in the same plane. His world, his people, seem to be in a bubble—free and out-there creators.

Throughout his entire career, he never got the success he deserved for being so far out of societal norms. My family, who was around during his rise, gave me mixed comments. My parents loved his work, but I have older cousins who judged his work and assumed he and his Arkestra were all on drugs. His work was dismissed and most people didn’t understand his vision. He was around before many well-known jazz musicians like John Coltrane and Miles Davis but his work wasn’t as appreciated. Most people don’t even know who he is or that his Arkestra is still performing to this day.

I believe his space persona was his way of alienating himself. He knew that his vision and his sound would place him out of the norm but he followed his dreams anyway. He lived as an outsider with a passion, a dream. He grew up with his family alienating him because he chose not to continue his education in school or go into the military. Instead, he chose to leave his family and create.
Sun Ra revistits this poem two other times in 1980. I want to focus on his version 1. In this first version, he once again focuses on the word “Onliness,” a combination of only and lonely. There seems to be a lot of solitude in his creative journey into space. In this poem he writes, “Movement out to behold kindred otherness / Of and from other worlds /Beyond worlds………./  … ./ Beyond worlds ……. Beyond worlds beyond worlds(line15). The great worlds beyond will hold the otherness he seems to be searching for. Sun Ra often felt that the creativity for his work needed to be found in another world. No one during his time made music that was even remotely similar to his music and, in order for Sun Ra to find inspiration for his work, he had to look outside of himself.
In version 1, Sun Ra uses a lot of ellipsis in this poem as seen from the quote in the previous paragraph and in this: “to rise above the earth’s tomorrowless eternity…..” (line 7) It seems like the use of ellipses in this stanza is to express that he is trapped in some sort of endless cycle. His onliness is leaving him in a world with a “tomorrowless eternity,” a living with no end. This could be in relation to Sun Ra’s reality. He was alive during the aftermath of Jim Crow America and the Civil Rights Movement. In his life, Sun Ra did what he could to help his community: he would invite artists into his home and Arkestra with the hopes of getting them on their feet and getting shelter and security. He also took in people who did drugs, though he did none himself; he simply wanted to support his community. Putting that much pressure on himself to support his community and produce his music that wasn’t very well received could have possibly taken a toll in him leading him to feel like life was a “tomorrowless eternity.” When will the bright light at the end of the tunnel show itself?
Sun Ra’s feeling of loneliness is often how it is to be an Afrofuturist creator. Afrofuturism is a multi-formed genre that embodies the black experience in a different light. Afrofuturism isn’t what white people or other races believe the black experience is; it is black people writing about their own experiences and very often, the feeling of exhaustion and the hopes of being recognized for our hard work and craft often comes up. The society we live in has not valued the work of black creators the way they do white creators. It is especially hard when the creator is like Sun Ra and they branch outside of the expectations of the society. There is a different kind of “onliness” when the majority doesn’t understand your motives.

In Sun Ra’s poem “Other Planes of There” (1980), we see similarities to the other two poems. Within this poem, we are actually branching into a part of what Afrofuturism is. Sun Ra writes, “And from the future/ Comes the wave of the greater void” (line 5-6). This means the “greater void” is the future, the unknown. Sun Ra had no idea what the future would hold for his work or the future of the black community. He didn’t know if all his work would be greatly appreciated or if people would still view his work as “worthless.” He also writes, “The displaced years/ Memory calls them that” (lines 1-2), forgotten as Sun Ra feels as if he is forgettable. He has worked years on his music and his sound without getting the success he deserved. People would run out on his music because his sound was too much to hear. From reading his poems, it seems like Sun Ra often felt like his work wasn’t as important to the world as it was to him. He spent years being undervalued for his work.  

Sun Ra later writes, “They were never were then”, which means that they never were memories; they never were displaced or forgotten. This line is fragmented, as his memory seems to be. He later says, “Memory scans the void” (line 4). The void here seems to be a vast emptiness, which ties into him saying that the greater void is the future. He follows this by saying, “A pulsating vibration/ A sound span and bridge/ To other ways/ Other planes there” (lines 7-10). I think what he says is that his sound is what connects the displaced years and the great void. The sound is what brings him back. It ties into his previous poem, where he mentions “onliness”; there is still a piece of solitude within this void. His sound is what brings him back from the void, the “Onliness.” He calls it “A pulsating vibration” (line 7) and “A sound span and bridge” (line 8). The bridge is what he needs to get him centered, back to the present; it is what allows him to move beyond worlds. Sun Ra used his art to carry him between the mundane and the world beyond, which is similar to Afrofuturism.
Afrofuturism moves beyond the world of the majority and focuses on the minority, the voices that aren’t often heard—the experiences that we don’t normally understand in mainstream media. Sun Ra’s music moved beyond worlds, too. His listeners were used to mainstream music; his sound was heard in small bars and clubs unlike John Coltrane who performed at larger venues but he believed that his songs needed to be heard. As previously mentioned, Sun Ra’s sound comes in waves: he begins his work with the classic sound of jazz which has a smooth ebb and flow of sound then he lifts off into space and plays his funky space-sounding music that is so otherworldly that many people ran out in fear. If you stayed with him along with this journey though, he brings you right back down to the Jazz that you know and love. He brings you back to earth which is what Afrofuturism does. It takes what we see in popular works, what we know and love, but adds people of color into the work and continues the story as it normally would be. The story of someone’s life but in another world or another space, we see it in pieces written by N.K. Jemisin, in particular in her short story collection How Long Til Black Future Month.

 

Understanding Afrofuturism Through a Contemporary Lens

Sun Ra gave birth to decades of Afrofuturist creators, as many black creators want nothing more than to see people who look like themselves in futuristic or powerful positions. One author that will be explored is N. K. Jemisin who is the author of nine books—two trilogies, a duology, and now her collection of twenty-two short stories. She is a three-time Hugo award winning author who writes within the genre of speculative fiction. In How Long Til Black Future Month?, Jemisin writes about her anxieties writing within the genre of speculative fiction because there weren’t people who looked like her within this genre. In an interview with The Paris Review, for instance, she says,

In Star Trek, in the future, everyone can be part of the Starfleet. Supposedly all of humanity has access to good education, good food, all of that other stuff, and yet, Starfleet is still dominated by middle-class, middle-American white dudes. So, something happened along the way, clearly. There’s only one Asian man and Asian people represent the bulk of humanity now. That’s crazy. (Bereola)

 This is very similar to what was discussed with Star Wars, where there is a disparity within the possible future of humanity. Everyone within this society seems to be flourishing; they’ve solved the economic and financial issues within our society but the characters who are seen as the heroes are predominantly white and the only character of color is Asian and apparently Asian people are the majority within this society. Jemisin acknowledging this disparity shows that she can see from the outside of the margins. She can acknowledge when there is an issue within this fictional society which is also apparent within our own society.

N.K Jemisin’s writing embraces what we have seen with Sun Ra: Afrofuturist creators struggle with finding their place within the society and it shows in their work. We saw with Sun Ra’s poems that he felt like he was creating “beyond worlds” because other black artists were playing music that was accepted by the majority. Many creators before and after him were popularized because they created work that was valued more. For creators within any genre or form of media, when the society undervalues you because of how you look or speak, you gain the ability to see the world in a new light. 

Although it can be a difficult and frustrating journey, there is power in being unseen or underappreciated. Jemisin realized her power in wielding her otherness. She speaks about this in her interview with The Paris Review:

Maybe because I am a black woman, there is an automatic assumption that I am somewhere in the margins of science fiction, in the margins of fantasy, and therefore people from outside of the genre’s margins are a little bit more willing to take a look at me, even though I’m writing solidly science-fiction stuff. (Bereola)

Jemisin says that, because she is a black woman and is somewhere within the margins of science fiction/fantasy, people outside the margins are willing to try and understand her and her work because she only writes Speculative Fiction. She expects people to see her as “other” and finds herself being more accepted as being a writer as the “other.” Those who live outside the margins of society have an understanding of how the world could be different. Living outside the margins of society helps bring out the ability to imagine or see other worlds and other ways of being. N. K. Jemisin’s stories feature underappreciated characters who are able to see beyond worlds and truly make a change within their society. 

 

“The City Born Great” by N. K. Jemisin

In her collection of short stories How Long ‘til Black Future Month?, Jemisin examines modern society and infuses magic into the mundane. In a review for Tor.com, Martin Cahill writes: 

…the majority of How Long ’til Black Future Month? is not only about characters of color being given the opportunity to see the systems affecting them, but also giving them the chance to seize the power that runs those systems, and use them to protect themselves, safeguard their communities, and write their own futures. (Cahill)

Jemisin allows black characters to be seen as the saviors, as superheroes or simply as beings within a society where they are not seen in most works of science fiction. She gives her characters the opportunities to “seize the power” that runs the system. It’s what is found in Sun Ra’s music and it is a powerful element in Afrofuturism. 

A short story in the collection title “The City Born Great” has a main character who becomes the “midwife” of New York. The story follows the character who undercovers the truth of New York, which is that the city isn’t a just a city: “Great cities are like any other living things, being born and maturing and wearying and dying in their turn” (How Long 20). Just as Sun Ra mentions, there are strange things within the mundanity of the world but it takes someone who is already on the outskirts of the society in order to see it. Jemisin embodies that within this story. Using that description of the way cities operate within this world, the cities need a “midwife” to connect with and protect them from the dangerous beings created to destroy them. 

 In the beginning, our unnamed main character is told by their mentor Paolo to listen—to listen to the street as it breathes. He didn’t believe Paolo until one night, as he was graffitiing a mouth hole on a wall, he finally felt connected to the city. It was through his creation of art that he found a connection to the city. Sun Ra experiences the same as do many Afrofuturist creators. As a person who does not feel connected to the world around them, our main character gets invited to a cafe with his mentor and he notices how the occupants watch them: “The people in the cafe are eyeballing him because he’s something not-white by their standards, but they can’t tell what. They’re eyeballing me because I’m definitely black, and because the holes in my clothes aren’t the fashionable kind” (15). He realizes that he is the other within the society he was born into. Within this setting, he feels misplaced and he knows that those around him would like for him and his mentor to leave in order for them to maintain their carefree environment. He later says, “I don’t stink but these people can smell anybody without a trust fund from a mile away” (15). He believes that they can all tell that he isn’t one of them by their own senses. No one in the cafe needed to mention him or his attire in order for him to feel unwelcome; he just feels it.

After graffitiing, he feels breath on the back on his neck and he knows that he is listening for the sound New York makes when you really listen. After that moment, he goes out every night to draw a breathing hole on every wall, using his art in order to connect and support the city. He feels very unsure about his place as a midwife for the city, even after he is convinced by his mentor, because his only living parent abandoned him. He lives outside the margins of society, homeless and often looked for a place to live. He often finds sanctuary with his Mentor Paulo but he often feels like he should remain unseen, not knowing where his future would lie. He feels like he wasn’t that important for such a huge task but he finally knows he is connected to his place when finally faced with the terrifying dangers of the city. 

 In this story, cities work differently: “As more and more people come in and deposit their strangeness and leave and get replaced by others, the tear widens. Eventually it gets so deep that it forms a pocket, connected only by the tiniest thread of… something to… something. Whatever cities are made of” (20-21). The people coming into the city and creating a connection that feeds the city is like an umbilical cord that feeds a “child” in the womb. The more people that stream in, the faster of the city grows, pulsing like a heartbeat: “The gestation can take twenty years or two hundred or two thousand, but eventually the time will come. The cord is cut and the city becomes a thing of its own, able to stand on wobbly legs and do… well, whatever the fuck a living, thinking entity shaped like a big-ass city wants to do” (21). In the meantime, it needs its Midwife to protect it against the beings that wait to kill the city before it gets to its maturity. The main character gains the ability to see how the world is connected and to also see what is trying to destroy the city and fight against it. He gains the ability to feel and hear the city’s breath and to feel the pulsing vibration of the city.  When he is truly connected to the city, he is able to use public transportation and the natural flow of the city as a weapon against the beings who want to destroy the growth of the city.

  Throughout the story, he tries to hide from police officers and other authority figures. When leaving the cafe where he met with his mentor, he runs into a police officer and mentions, “I imagine mirrors around my head, a rotating cylinder of them that causes his gaze to bounce away” (16). He later acknowledges that there is no real power in willing them away; he just does it to try and make himself less afraid. He often tries to think of himself as small and insignificant in order for the police officers to stay away from him. This relates to our society today: where police officers will see a brown face in a sea of white faces and decide that the one brown person is up to no good. When our main character is seen by a police officer, he tries to will their eyes away from him. It has always worked until one of the beings who want to destroy the city come after him disguised as a police officer. In a direct connection to Afrofuturism, a genre that uses fantasy and SF to think about and through black experience, racial profiling plays a crucial role in this story. The monster who has been lying in wait uses racial profiling in order to get police officers to stop our hero before he gets away. Our main character is able to get away from this parasite by running into traffic and using the natural flow of New York in order to run it over. He says, “My city is helpless, unborn yet, and Paolo ain’t here to protect me. I gotta look out for self, same as always” (25). It seems like his instincts are telling him that he needs to protect his unborn city even though he doesn’t exactly know how and so he runs for safety. After he feels that connection to the flow he remembered that what he’s doing is a part of an ancient battle—an actual battle. You can see our character as a mother protecting a child as natural as anything. He runs through the streets of New York after he discovers the monster in police clothing. Many black people experience racial profiling in their everyday lives and for Jemisin to write her monsters disguised as a police officer who is determined to catch a black person. This story gives a fantastical spin to an experience black people face everyday: racial profiling. 

  This ties into what we learned about Sun Ra: he felt a connection to music from a very young age, just as our main character felt connected to art and therefore the city: “I’m painting a hole. It’s like a throat that doesn’t start with a mouth or end in lungs; a thing that breathes and swallows endlessly, never filling” (17). As previously mentioned, the main character begins to feel more like a midwife for the city when he starts drawing breathing holes throughout the city in order to bring life to the city. For Sun Ra and the main character, a connection isn’t all that was needed for them; they needed to tap out of the mundanity of this Society. They needed to branch into a deeper understanding of the world around them in order to protect what they loved.  Sun Ra used his deep love of music in order to bring people to a higher level of being and the main character in “The City Born Great” uses his connection to the city to protect what was important to him instead of ignoring his connection. They use their ability to see beyond worlds in order to encourage and protect the majority. 

 

“Brides of Heaven” by N. K. Jemisin

  The second story that falls in alignment with Sun Ra is called “Brides of Heaven.” In this story, we see a colony that traveled from Earth in order to find a new life on another planet. The only issue is that the male population died on the way to the new planet: 

…when they’d emerged from the coldsleep unit naked and healthy and horrified to discover that the men’s unit had malfunctioned, Illiyin Colony had been dying. Oh, there’d been hope for a Time, in the form of the boy-children who had shared the woman’s unit with their mothers: Dihya’s Aytarel and two others. (186)

Their last remaining hope for their colony survival died with those boys. All three boys died accidentally, one from drinking contaminated puddle of water, and the other two from childish incidents like falling after climbing a bookshelf. The story we follow is Dihya’s. She is known as the crazy person within their colony. After losing her son she stole a “landcrawler” (186), which is a form of transportation, and went to find a way to revive her colony by finding God on the planet. She succeeded and she was able to find a sentient pool of water that was able to put life into her womb. 

Within their colony, they all rely on the word of God. They live in a society of Muslim women who start to lose faith in God because of the death of all those men and children. Dihya mentions that “She could never believe God would leave them to die alone on this planet” (191). She begins to criticize the women who do believe that they’ve been abandoned on this new planet, “That one is a sinner. She lies with other women” (189). The response for this is “Many in the colony have committed that particular sin” (189). Without men, the women within the colony resort to acting out of “sin” in order to adjust to this new way of life, believing that, because God has abandoned them, they can receive some allowance in building more intimate relations with each other. 

They are told that men and women complement each other, which is why they need men in order to sustain life. This is true on a biological understanding, but Dihya wants to find another truth. She wants to find a silver lining to all the sadness in chaos. After all, moving to an entirely new planet with no way of communicating to the place you once called home and knowing that every living being within your colony will die with no one to replace them is a sad concept to accept ,which is why she refused to. As shown in Sun Ra’s work, Afrofuturism is used to challenge the way most people view the world, instead deciding to look for the strange within the ordinary and to seek alternatives found in the world. Afrofuturism and science fiction are one and the same. If you understand and enjoy the workings of SF, it’s all found here. The story is literally placed in another world, a future where a colony of Muslim women find a home on another planet. It uses religion and questions a possible future where a religion that most people hold close to their hearts can morph after the feeling of abandonment.

 The story is told from the perspective of Ayan, the leader of the community who is tired and unhappy with the realities they face. There is no contact from Earth for another millennium and they have no way of reaching out to anybody to tell them that they may die on this planet and all of that responsibility weighs her down. But when Dihya returns and breaks into the Colony, she takes the time to listen to her story, which ends up being eerily similar to an Amazonian myth. The Amazons are a female-ruled society with women who were able to defend themselves and were self-sustaining, with no need of men because “when one of their kind wanted a child, she went into the forest and found a sacred pool. When she waded in it and prayed, God sent a child into her room” (193). Dihya finds a way to continue living within her colony without men. Before leaving, she would tell stories to children and other women about the Amazons—women who are able to sustain life and their community without men. These women were able to protect themselves and to live a peaceful existence with no need of man. Her telling stories makes everyone believe that she is crazy because all they know is that they need men in order to continue living. As the story continues, Dihya’s audience begins to panic because they see her as crazy; by the end, they wonder what she put in the communal water supply. 

  An enjoyable quality at the end of this story is that it leads the reader to wonder if the water she put in the water supply will kill the Colony or will give birth to a new species. Caution would suggest that on Alien Planet, one should stay away from water that is conscious. But for Dihya this is a sign of God. It was her own calling that led her leave the colony to search for an alternative way to save everyone. This is in alignment with Afrofuturist creators, who often have the desire to produce a creative piece in order to move themselves or their community forward and although the world may decide that their work isn’t good enough, as was the case with Sun Ra. There is power in continuing on that path in order to support the community.

    Her intentions were to save her community because she saw that everyone was unhappy because they all believed they would just die out and no one would come to save them until years after they’ve all died. For Dihya, being the protector or savior for her community could have in fact damned them. It remains unknown whether her journey to the pool was God showing her the way to save everyone or if it were a sentient being who simply wanted to kill them all. After traveling to an unknown planet and learning that half of the population has been killed is difficult to digest. Then realizing that the only way to sustain the society relied on three young boys one of which was her own child. That is a lot of pressure to place on a woman and a child so young; when he died the only obvious way to move forward was for her to find what God meant for her in this world. 

Being deemed the crazy person in her society, Dihya is able to go out and break the rules in order to find a way to support everyone.  This story follows an outsider, someone who lives outside the margins of society who gains access to the deeper truth because she chose to steer away from what is “normal.” This is in relation to Sun Ra’s work and creators of Afrofuturism: being seen as “other” within your society, one gains the ability to see beyond the traditional world and gains the ability to see beyond worlds.

 

“The Elevator Dancer” by N. K. Jemisin

In the final short story, “The Elevator Dancer,” we are able to see the inner workings of someone who is ready to branch out of the “normal” and begin to think outside of tradition due to an outside influence. Afrofuturist creators don’t just wake up and become these creators; there is always an influence, something that awakens the soul and encourages change. Within the previous stories, both main characters had an influence that spurred them on: in “The City Born Great,” the main character had Paolo; for Dihya in “Brides of Heaven,” she had the death of her son. For these stories, we were either told after they step out of tradition or the main character was encouraged into this new step. “The Elevator Woman” has a character who branches out on his own, oblivious to stepping out on his own but thoroughly entranced by the movement of someone known as the elevator woman.

  This is the shortest story within this collection but also one of the most provocative. The story opens with a man shocked to find a woman dancing in the elevator. He admires her dancing, which reminds him of the dance moves his mother used to do. He is so shocked and entranced by this woman that he thinks about her even when he goes home. At home, he leads a mundane life in what we come to learn, is a dystopian society: a society ruled by a leader who monitors all that the citizens are doing. Their world is filled with prayer and organization. The story’s protagonist goes home; he eats dinner with his wife; he washes dishes; and he thinks about the woman dancing. He watches TV with his wife and then during the “prayer-and-commercial break,” he thinks about the elevator woman, wondering what she prays for. That night he has a “lackluster orgasm” (235) with his wife and is still consumed with the thoughts of this elevator woman.

  As the days go by he still looks at this woman on the elevator. Their elevator has a camera within it and he notices when the woman dances. He notes that she will only dance in the elevator when she is by herself; whenever she is on the elevator with anyone she is still and acts like a normal civilian. But when she is by herself she dances and every time she dances it is always something different.  She will pirouette; she will do the mashed potato and anything she feels likes doing by herself. He thinks of this woman so much that he believes that she could never be married and even wonders how it could be if he married her. His fixation on this woman leaves him to question God and his motives: 

… he begins to believe that God has sent her to reach him. The pastor’s words, from Wednesday night Bible study… If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear it, it makes a sound if God wills. The elevator woman is that sound. She exhaults him and inspires him. She fills him with fervor he believes is holy. To dance with her is to embody prayer. He weeps as he tries to find her and fails. (236)

 He becomes so obsessed with her that he finally tries to go and speak to her. He tries to build a connection with the strange woman dancing in the elevator but when he goes to speak to her he finds that she isn’t there; from looking at her in the monitor and running to the elevator doors, she has vanished. The reader learns that within this dystopian society, those who go on “psychotic breaks” like this get help. And because he has been a good American all his life he just has to go to a camp and in this camp, he learns that the elevator woman was just a hallucination and that he has misplaced his faith. When he returns from the camp, he goes back to his job monitoring the elevators but he still wonders. He questions:

It is shameful and sinful to question the will of God. Still, the guard cannot help wondering. He does not want to think this thought, but sly, like temptation, it comes anyhow. And well…

If…

 If a tree falls…

 If a tree falls and there’s no one around to hear it (but God)…

 would it really bother with anything so mundane as making a sound?

 or would it

 Dance. (237)

 

The story is different from the other two because our main character isn’t the one making a change. The main character becomes obsessed with this strange elevator woman; the movement of her body makes him begin to question God’s motives. He lives in a restrictive society that doesn’t allow dance or love. When seeing this woman dance in the elevator for the first time, “He does not alert the police, who these days concern themselves with other things besides crime. He simply stares as she twists her feet and hips over and over, bopping her head, too, in time to her own internal rhythm” (234). He later goes home wondering if the police will come for him for watching her. He questions if she has an “assigned” (236) husband but realizes that she couldn’t because she is employed. Him mentioning having assigned partners gives the reader the impression that there is no love between them and without love and with dancing being illegal, as you find out later on, one would imagine that there is no imagination within their world. One would begin to wonder what happens now that our main character has started questioning their society.  

This short story is interesting because it shows what could happen in a society before a character begins to see outside the margins. Now that he has seen or hallucinated the elevator woman he is now marginalized; he went to a camp where they try to convince him that the elevator woman was all in his head. After serving his time, he returns to his position as security guard and is still wondering how he could connect the movement of that woman’s hips to the movement within his own society. Now that he has seen beyond his understanding of the world, he now questions the structure of it all. 

Each story displays a character who appears to live within the margins of their society. They use their place as the “other” in order to question and then possibly influence the people around them, just as Sun Ra did. These stories display a fictional creation of Afrofuturist creators. There are many people of color who live outside of the margins of society but try to do anything they can to be accepted by the majority. Afrofuturist creators decide to see their “otherness” as power instead of as a weakness and they wield it to change, encourage or support their society. Dihya in “Brides of Heaven” uses her ability as an outsider to give her colony a chance at a future instead of allowing them all to wither and die without anyone knowing for millennia; the main character in “The City Born Great” wields his new connection to the city to force out the creatures who tried to destroy it; and the main character in “The Elevator Dancer” refuses to believe that the woman in the elevator was just a figment of his imagination. Instead he chose to hold on to the memory and question the society. The power of Afrofuturist creators is that they chose to use their work to fight against the world that is holding them back.

 

Conclusion

The reason I wanted to do this project was because I have a great love of science fiction, but I’ve rarely found characters of color within the stories I’ve read. If I did find these characters, they were always side characters or would be killed off soon within the series. I got pretty fed up because I admire female characters like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, but I started to wonder what it would take to finally see a black Katniss. I questioned how I could see a bestselling series become a blockbuster movie and have predominantly black characters. I started wondering why there weren’t black people in many books or films and how I could get my own work out there and how many obstacles I’d face on my journey.

I found it imperative for me to look into the past to find out what it took to become popular figures within the genre of science fiction, specifically as a black creator. There are still issues today that set the black community back from becoming popular creators but I believe that as a society, we are making strides to become better and more accepting of stories written by creators who live outside the margins of society. There are safe creative spaces for people who aren’t accepted within the margins of societies in order to create, and I hope that upcoming creators do not feel the isolation and “onliness” that Sun Ra felt.
Because Science Fiction readers and publishers are predominantly white today, there are still barriers blocking black writers from further publishing their work, and this obviously discourages many people of color from writing in the first place. In many literary texts, there are black characters who are used as tools in order to spur on the white main character. These texts are created to connect primarily with a white audience; most texts don’t try to directly connect with a black audience, which is why Afrofuturism has been created. This genre encompasses the fantastical and visionary exploits of the future of black culture and black people. There are more Afrofuturist creators who have surfaced today and are being valued for their craft instead of being deemed as crazy the way Sun Ra was.

 

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