Here you’ll find merch, Issue #21 story excerpts, and the issue’s Spotify playlist. So take a look, and make sure you haven’t missed anything!
Artwork by Terri Chieyni
The work email came in at three in the morning, sent, most likely, by a joyless HR bot from one of their offices on Jupiter’s moon, Io: New silica deposits found. Promoted to senior geological officer. Report to Io within one day if travelling by teleportation or within three months if by space shuttle. It finished with vouchers offering discounts for the teleportation companies: T-Port, Yahoo, and Mansk.
Idris had never used T-Port. Until now, he’d had no reason to leave Earth; his job as a geophysicist consisted mainly of sitting in a cubicle, analysing seismic data sent in by the field workers scattered around the solar system. He could barely remember the last time he touched soil samples.
He vaguely remembered signing some documents when he first started the job, about being able to travel on short notice. Crap.
She was the tallest woman Samuel had ever seen, a hair shorter than his six foot three frame and just as thin. Samuel held the door open so she could enter the room. As she paused to nod her thanks, she did not have to look up at him like everyone else. Instead, her calm brown eyes met his levelly, a slight pleasantness wrinkling the corners. Samuel was the tallest person in his family, and his mother frequently commented that he had not yet finished growing at only eighteen. He loved when a woman had to tip her head back to look him in the eyes. The girls liked it too, and he was often the center of attention when he walked into a room.
But Samuel found this woman strange in other ways besides her height. Her black hair hung in long, thick ropes to her narrow shoulders. Samuel had never seen anyone with such hair, and he wondered how it got like that.
You were six the first time you had a vision of someone’s death — your parents. The vision came when y’all were walking to the park and you were between them, holding their hands and heading towards the monkey bars. The vision was blurry and foggy like peering through smudged glass; a brief flash of light, a blaring of a horn, rain hitting the pavement like a low round of applause; metal grinding on metal, and raspy gurgling breaths, like nickels scraping in a blender, or someone struggling to clear something from their throat. Somehow, you even knew the day their deaths would happen.
When that day came, you begged your parents to please, please not drive. You told them to stay home; running errands could wait until another day. The rain outside fell on a slant and hit the window panes of the house. They stared with raised eyebrows. “Lila,” your mother said. “Me and daddy will be back.”
It’s a little cramped as the two of you cuddle on the couch, but you don’t care. You reach up to grab Sonele’s beautiful face, and she grins at you with the charming smile that captivated you from the start. She’s got the cutest gap in between her front teeth, framed by the most kissable lips you’ve ever known. She grabs you back, squeezing your cheeks so that your lips pucker out a bit, and pulls you into a firm kiss. You never knew a kiss could be so captivating and time-stopping until you met Sonele. It’s the pressure, the way she bites your lip ever so slightly after your tongues part. Your stomach flips — it’s way too soon to say you’re falling for her, but damn, you’re getting there.
“Thank goodness I found you on BF,” you whisper.
Your newly budded relationship means more to you now than it ever could have months ago, before you transformed. Before you lost all autonomy of your life.
Poem: Telepathy by Chisom Okafor
Poem: Delivery by C.L. Polk
Poem: The Economics of Death by Nnadi Samuel
Essay: “When Black Boys Find Magic” by LaDarrion Williams