Here you’ll find merch, Issue #25 story excerpts, and the issue’s Spotify playlist. So take a look, and make sure you haven’t missed anything!
Artwork by Raki Sy
Kehaka weeds the early-season tomatoes with practiced, mindless jerks. Dirt gathers beneath her fingernails and the heat of the day crawls beneath her shirt, but her mind is far away. She’s thinking instead of the half-packed duffel hidden in the back of her closet and of the decision looming over her, of nervousness and hope and fresh dirt after a rainstorm, messy and new. Her thoughts have drifted so far on the early morning breeze that sweeps languorously across the rooftop garden that she doesn’t hear the humming approach.
A pinch creases her hip. She slaps absentmindedly at the spot and then freezes as recognition prickles the hairs along her arms. One hand balances her against rich, dark soil. She holds the other out to find a spot of blood beading against her middle finger.
A single blood bee lurches away as she looks up. Red frosts the end of its elongated proboscis. Its abdomen is engorged beyond understanding, almost too heavy for its fragile wings to support. A distended crimson sac visible below the innocuous fuzzy back stretches the creature to the length of Kehaka’s thumb.
She hissed as her blunted nail slipped under, then lifted the fresh scab, tearing at the surrounding flesh before coming completely away.
The fibrous patch was still under the nail of her middle finger when she looked at it, along with a little blood. Shuddering, she flicked it off and into the sink, her other hand gingerly pressing against the now open wound at the back of her head.
Small droplets of blood stained her fingers. She rinsed them and opened the medicine cabinet, pulling out the mercurochrome and a fresh Band-Aid. She quickly cleaned the cut and the area around it, then bandaged it, immediately returning the packages to the cabinet once done.
She closed the mirrored door and her eyes met her reflection, head on. She normally avoided glances longer than necessary, but the stinging at the back of her skull made her pause.
Brown on brown. Plain faced and ordinary. Thick lips, wide nose. Unpretty.
Her shoulders sagged. The wound began to throb.
It starts with a weird TikTok video. You’re not even on TikTok but your sister sends you videos constantly and this one isn’t even the video she’s sent you — one of Sylvanian families having a potty-mouthed argument — it’s the one that comes after it. It’s only a teaser video, designed to make you start your own TikTok account, and you see just seconds of it, but it stays in your mind. You dream about it, actually.
This is how the dream goes. You are in a spacious white kitchen that has marbled worktops and a white matte Smeg cake mixer. It is fancier than any kitchen you have ever been in. The floor is real wood, not laminate, and it has been bleached yellow white, and the gaps in between the floorboards are filled with diamante. There is a cake on the marbled worktop. It is huge, like, four or five tiers. You don’t know much about baking, you’re way more into savoury foods, but somehow you know it’s a steamed Joconde cake, layered with vegan pâte à bombe-based buttercream. You are about to cut the cake, and you are aware that your ring finger has a plaster on it. The plaster is white with a bubbled texture like a Ribbed for Her Pleasure condom.
“Keep, keep, keep, trees say when I sleep.”
–Sandra Cisneros, “Four Skinny Trees,” The House on Mango Street
August 15, present
It’s brute work moving this body around. It takes every ounce of my spirit to keep the pieces together. I pick up one leg, move it forward, try not to let it thump to the ground. It’s not at all like I remember walking. Even on my worst days, even at the end, when I was bone tired from the cancer treatments and gasping with each step, I didn’t have to think so much about what order the motions should go in. It’s like being inside a steel robot and trying to manipulate the controls while dragging around the hull.
Focus, Helen. Pull in and keep holding. Move down the street. Not much longer.
Poem: My Mother, she ate me by Akua Lezli Hope
Poem: Questions for the Coming Age of the God of Meat by Denzel Xavier Scott
Poem: Recounting the Cat-Child’s Birth to the Elders by Joanne Godley
Essay: The Magic is in the Roots: Cultural Reconnection through Magical Realism by Lysz Flo
Essay: How Cyberpunk 2077 Became The Definitive Example of Afrofuturism by Ural Garrett