Season of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

30151412.jpeg– Hajiya Binta Zubairu was finally born at fifty-five when a dark-lipped rogue with short, spiky hair, like a field of minuscule anthills, scaled her fence and landed, boots and all, in the puddle that was her heart. –

– Binta envied [this mother’s] liberty she enjoyed, this luxury of calling her first child by its name and holding it and treating it like one’s beloved. Such affection she, Bita, had never experienced from her mother, nor dispensed to her late son Yaro. –

– She dreamt in sepia. –

– After growing wings through indiscretion, Hajiya Binta, contrary to her expectation, did not transform into an eagle, but an owl that thrived in the darkness. –

– For the loss of a loved one, tragic as it is, dose not, in any way, compare to the loss of the memory of who they were. –

– When surrounded by vultures, try not to die. –

Sting Like a Bee by Tiah Marie Beautement

The good folks at FunDza have published my story, “Sting Like A Bee.” This is Justine’s story, the missing sister from “Surfing & Shakespeare.” The tale begins in a dark place and fights its way to better times. I hope you enjoy.

I don’t like walking alone in the dark. Murky shapes shift and move: human, animal, ghost – I don’t know. Noises from shadowy corners: shattering glass, a scream, a groan, a whisper – “Psst, over here” – mix with the sound of passing cars, their tyres rolling over the streets with a hiss. The law says the bar must provide transport for employees at this time of night. But I’m working ‘under the table’ for cash stuffed in a pocket, a pat on the butt.

You’re such a screw up, Justine.

Footsteps approach. My shoulders tighten, weight shifts to my toes. Look ’em in the eye, make then know – I see you. I thrust my chin up. Two heads nod in reply. Step, step, step – the two men pass. Blue jeans. Sketchers. Fitted button downs.

Get it together, Justine.

I turn the corner, into the alley, suppressing a shiver. Creepy. I’m caught between high brick walls and locked metal doors guarded by bars. But if I don’t go through here, cutting via the parking lot, then it is an extra ten minutes in the dark to home, and the lighting isn’t much better that way.

Not that I have a home, exactly. Romario’s got himself a new girl now, and his sister wants me off her crappy futon mattress. Like, yesterday, if not sooner.

Almost there, keep going.

Footsteps arrive in staccato – tat-tat-tat.

“Wha–!” Air leaves my lungs as a heavy weight slams against my back, arm tightens around my neck, yanking me backwards. Another guy comes forward at me, and I’m kicking, pushing hard. He goes flying that way; we’re falling this way.

“Shi–” whoofs the body underneath me, while the other slams into the wall. My body is still moving, legs curling over my head, elbow jamming into the gravel, flipping those feet over, and then I’m rising, standing, fists raised.

This isn’t going to be any girly hair-pulling fight.

And in the dim light are two sets of eyes, aglow, looking at me in rage. Like I’m misbehaving, like I am the one doing wrong. Both creep closer, crowding in, as my eyes dart between them. The right one lunges – my leg lashes out. He dodges, as his buddy on the left moves in, catching my shirt and I twist and scream and yell, “Oh Lord, help me now!”

But deep down I know not a damn soul is listening, even in heaven. It’s all you, or they win. I throw that punch and hit target.

He smashes against the wall. As if somebody threw him. But I didn’t touch him.

I glance to my right, and my other attacker is gone too, running fast, as if a rabid dog is after him. Somebody is after him, running hard, and fast, and yelling, “Hey, get back here. I’ll fight you. Come on, I’ll give you a fight!”

A voice to my left: “She alright?”

I snap my head around, and there is a huge man in the shadows, looking alert and ferocious.

“I think so,” says a voice. Softer.

My eyes whip over to a woman, same height as me, approaching me slowly. She looks strong and fierce in her weird white pyjama-suit, yet kind. Softly-softly, she keeps saying, “It’s OK. You’re OK. Safe now. You’re OK.”

And that’s when I notice the object at my feet. A knife. A sharp, jagged, evil looking thing. And before I can stop myself, I’m quoting Shakespeare like an idiot, “Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle of my hand?”

Proving you can leave home, but its claws are embedded into your soul.

Read the rest of the story HERE

The Returning Tide by Liz Fenwick

Tide.jpeg– I looked forward to not thinking in dots and dashes. I’d only realised recently that I was selected for telegraphy because of my fluency in French and Italian. I’d had no idea that Morse was taught as a language or that it would push other languages out of my head…Dit dit dah…But unlike having a lovely song in my head my nights would be filled with SOS – did did did dah dah dah dit dit dit… –

– He should have been focusing on living, but he wouldn’t be told. –

– It was almost too much and that was the problem with Americans. Too much smile, too much teeth, too much good humour and, finally, too much here. –

– People did things they never would have considered before the war. –

– If I died, would these letters tell the story? –

Review for the Sunday Times:

Marlena by Julie Buntin

34726829– Tell me what you can’t forget and I’ll tell you who you are. –

– Why do they say ghosts are cold? Mine are warm, a breath dampening your cheek, a voice when you thought you were alone. –

– Marlena called me naive, but what I really think she meant is privileged, a word people use like an insult in New York, but that I’ve always taken to mean safe. Privilege is something to be aware of, to fight to see beyond, but ultimately to be grateful for. It’s like a bulletproof vest; it makes you harder to kill. –

– For so many women, the process of becoming requires two. It’s not hard to make out the marks the other one left. –

– I didn’t steal from the houses Mom cleaned, from the very, very rich, is because I was afraid of getting caught. Marlena didn’t steal because she didn’t see the point. You can’t steal a whole new life. –

– Who can recognize the ending as it’s happening? What we live, it seems to me, is pretty much always a surprise. –

– An ending that happens again and again no matter how much I don’t want it to. Maybe that’s all loss is. What happens, whether you like it or not. What won’t let you go.
Marlean – look. I didn’t forget.
I wrote it down. –

Review for the Sunday Times:

A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

32966408– You can’t get away with anything on a ship, you know. Someone always finds out. –

– Lily is confused. It’s as if the wind has blown the pages of a book and she has jumped ahead of where she thought she was. –

– On a boat like this, everyone is running away from something. –

– The really marvellous thing about them – shipboard romances, I mean – is that they don’t count. You can do what you want on a boat, behave as badly as you like, and when you get to wherever you’re going it’s as if it never happened. When the ship sails away your sins go with it. –

– All lines are blurred, all truth becomes, by the act of retelling it, a fiction. –

The White Road by Sarah Lotz

28375191.jpg– I met the man who would save my life twice – and ultimately destroy it – on a potholed road in the arse-end of the Welsh countryside. –

– I couldn’t shake the sense that I was dragging myself through the smuggy intestine of a huge animal. –

– Everest. Frozen turds and fractured egos was how I pictured it. –

– Who is the third who walks beside you? –


– Maybe the dead don’t haunt us. We haunt them. –

SPIRE by Fiona Snyckers

34697553.jpg– Let’s be honest here – I’m the black guy in the red shirt beaming down with the landing party. A salt demon will get me. Or a face-sucking parasite. –

– The ecologists might see Antarctica as a delicate flower, but in Caroline’s eyes she was a tough bitch who would outlast them all. –

–Of the whole contagion of humanity that blanketed the earth, women were the most infected. They were the fecund ones, the ones that carried the seeds of the next generation in their wombs. Their diseased ovaries spat out eggs every month, like large-cell bacteria that lived to multiply. –

– Men did stupid and criminal things around her. It didn’t make her feel flattered or wanted. It made her feel unsafe. –

– Goran Elkabir was clearly a bat who hung upside down in his cave for a few hours each night, probably with a cell phone clutched in his claws. –

To read a preview, click HERE

I Will Find You by Tiah Marie Beautement

The good folks at FunDza have published my YA short story, I Will Find You. The story is a reimagining of The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Andersen.

I hope you enjoy.

Once upon the not-so-distant future …

“We have to go dancing,” Vuyisa said. She tugged on Ntando’s arm. “Come on, girl, the night is fiiiiine. Put on those red shoes and we’re going out.”

Ntando shrugged off Vuyisa’s grasp and looked away. She loved Vuyisa, more than any person she’d ever known. But tonight was not happening. “Sorry,” she said. “I’m beat; tired. You know how it is. That time of the month, and–”

“I’m gonna stop you right there, girl, because I know when you’re lying to me. I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again – I can see those lies written right across your face. So spit it out. What’s the real problem?”

Ntando swallowed hard. She knew Vuyisa would understand. She, too, depended on bursaries and loans to attend University of Cape Town. But it didn’t make saying the words any easier. “I’m temporarily embarrassed of funds.”

Vuyisa smacked her lips. “So what? You know I wouldn’t leave you behind over money. Come on, it will be my treat. We’ve survived our first term, this is something to celebrate!”

The music thrummed into the marrow of both young women’s bones, but it was Vuyisa who moved as if she was the music. Joy radiated out of her, as her body glided and swayed with the beat. It was contagious. People around them fed off her energy. In her presence, everyone’s spirits lifted as their cares and woes slipped out through the soles of their dancing feet.

But only Ntando received the full voltage of Vuyisa’s attention.

The girls had become close since day one at varsity when Ntando, struggling with a bag of clothes and a box of books, had tripped, scattering her stuff. Vuyisa was the first to rush over and help. She had smiled at Ntando and said, “It’s all going to be OK.” And so far, it mostly had been.

“How you feeling?” Vuyisa shouted into Ntando’s ear.

“Good, but hot,” Ntando replied. “Let’s take a break.”

The crisp air caressed Ntando’s cheek as the pair walked into the night. Vuyisa took Ntando by the hand and led her away from the mingling crowds.

“Is this good?” Vuyisa asked.

“Better,” Ntando said, looking up into the starless sky. “But it’s freezing out here. Or was it just that hot inside?”

Vuyisa shook her head. “It was hot, but this is cold.” A slow smile slid across her face. “But I can warm you up a little, if you like?”

Ntando held her breath as Vuyisa’s lips touched her own. Warmth spread through Ntando’s veins, as she savoured Vuyisa’s kiss.

“How are you doing, now?” Vuyisa breathed.

Ntando nodded.

“Good,” Vuyisa beamed. “Because I’ve wanted to do that since the day I met you.”

Ntando opened her mouth to reply, but nothing came out. A snowflake had landed on her nose.

“It’s snowing!” Vuyisa squealed. She flung her arms out wide and began to spin and laugh. “It’s only April and it is snowing!”

Ntando tilted up her head and opened her mouth. Snowflakes landed like icy wishes on her tongue.

“This is unbelievable,” Vuyisa laughed.

Then her laughter cut off abruptly. “Ow! Damn it. Something is in my eye.”

Ntando rushed over. “Let me have a look.”

Vuyisa blinked a few times. “No, I’m fine now. But damn, that hurt.”

“Want to go back inside and dance, or walk back?”

Vuyisa smiled. “Let’s walk. We need to savour this weather fluke. It will probably be gone by morning.”

Read the rest of I Will Find You by clicking HERE

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

31349579– I see you. –

– Before I got married, I believed love could do anything. I learned soon enough that it couldn’t bear the weight of four years without children. –

– It was so much easier to be a father after three bottles of beer. –

– I told Olamide several stories, expecting that one day she too would tell the world my story. –

– Akin could keep himself neatly folded in while he drew out other people…Akin could talk for hours without saying anything and with that skill he had managed to make me feel like part of the inner circle. –