Issue #27: CARNIVAL

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FIYAH SUMMER 2023 Carnival cover

Artwork by Manny Edeko

Story Previews

The moon had turned its face away from this place, an act of forbearance that allowed spirit and human alike to frolic and engage in earthy jubilation. In the darkness of its absence, one cannot differentiate politician from public servant, rich man from poor man, spirit from human. Illuminated only by the neon glow of streetlights and the rainbow strobes of music trucks, all danced in the streets, allowing the music to move them.

Carnival again. It was one of Bois Man’s favourite times of year. He would come down from his forest repose to mingle with the revellers, imbibe Guinness, and engage in stick fighting. J’ouvert morning was a time of revelry but also of spirituality, making it the perfect time for his kind to walk among humans. This time of year, the veil grew thinner than a whisper. The revelry, the ecstatic energy, the sensuality, the intoxication, the thumping bass, and the rhythmic drums called the spirits to celebrate in the same way that it called the living denizens of the land, the people dem. Many of the spirits embraced the Carnival tradition after it was developed by the people brought to this land in shackles. Some spirits pre-dated the arrival of settlers, while others spontaneously manifested, born out of struggle and resistance, or even suffering. Some spirits travelled in the hearts of the enslaved and the dispossessed and emerged in this new land determined to survive and sustain their people.

Tamani loves his long baths, be it on the coldest day in winter or the hottest in summer. He lies in the tub allowing the bubbles to run over his skin and the water to warm his body, he thinks about how his art supplies need refilling, how far the craft will take him, the house and how lonely it tends to get, and he worries about his mama and his stagnant life. Sometimes he imagines farfetched possibilities of finding a suburban house of his own with an evergreen lawn, an abundance of petunias and a woman with whom to share love. But thinking excessively exhausts him, so he shuts his eyes and listens to the soothing sound of bubbles going pop, pop, pop.

Something propels him to open his eyes, perhaps the drop of a leaf from the tree outside. He glances around the room, stunned. The water, his tub, the steam has all turned green.

“What the hell?” he whispers. The bubbles have ceased. The water is silent when he smacks it repeatedly with his hands. He snaps his fingers. His ability to hear is gone.


As I sit in the small, dark changing room, Uri calls out to me. She rummages through the partly dried palm fronds on top of the multi-coloured wrapper that stands as the room’s demarcation, and stands before me, frowning. She looks set, her attire and makeup for the dance all done. Despite the heat, the white chalk drawn around her eyes, the dot on her chin, and the two on both sides of her cheeks remain clear. There’s a change in her countenance, and her smile is richer, telling me that she’s happy to perform at the festival today.

The festival brings together everyone in the village, old and young, rich and poor, in a harmonious celebration. It’s a time when the sweetness of roasted yam is complemented perfectly by the savoury oil the women make. The atmosphere is alive with the sound of laughter, the aroma of food, and the joy that can only come from being surrounded by community.

The mask in my hand gazes back at me lifelessly, it feels like a deep chasm of never-ending darkness that calls to me. I sigh. It’s that time of year again when I must put this mask on and perform for the villagers at their festival. I’ll need to dance to the river, stir its spirit, and awaken it with the ritual, just like I do every year on this day, so the people may offer their sacrifices to it. But that is their desire, not mine.

The library’s rings pulsed in greeting. It welcomed the waiting ships with three flashes of bright blue light, calming once all its visitors responded. Storm clouds swirled on its surface, a blue-green spinning top glistening in the surrounding blackness of space. Salmik watched it from the standing observation deck with awe.

They shuddered. Gooseflesh dotted their arms at the unbidden memories of alien ecosystems, little monsters alive and thriving in that thicket. The ships were trapped in its orbit like unfortunate flies caught in a web. Though they’d seen it before, the planet-sized archive never failed to fascinate them into a stupor. In all their years, they’d only visited twice.

The first time was on a desperate research mission aimed at countering the spread of a nasty, flesh-eating fungus on the fringes of their solar system. The plague hurtled toward them at alarming speeds, rousing every habitable planet in the system to the peak of panic. The second of the visits was to bear witness to the best and rarest performance of their life. What a way, they had thought, to usher one’s ailing mother into the arms of death.

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