Sorrow and Joy, Sunshine and Rain

You weren’t born so much as you flared into being, surrounded by a multiplicity of tongues and the sloshing sway of the mother waters. Had you been a human child, you would have wailed. Instead, your birth-song was the death rattle and prayers of these chained humans calling, together, a plaintive babble for release, for justice, for rescue from their status as confined chattel. They called to you—created you—to be their justice, their retribution, their rescue. This much you knew.

As fresh as you were, you weren’t enough to answer their call. You were still a soft blob of wishes given form, and you needed to harden. All your senses screamed that this was a world where nothing soft would survive. Everything crashed together in the dark, eyes and expectations and the stench of bile, and the feedback was stronger, faster than you were developing. Unable to respond, you folded petals of nascent power over the softly glowing ember that you were. Fear and sorrow were your swaddling. As you sank into a black sea of unconscious nothing, tendrils of familiar consciousnesses brushed against your nascent form. Each one was burdened with some purpose. Your natal form could only perceive their messages as nonsensical murmurs, but their touch sent visions of ancient memories shuddering through you.

Of course, there were others like you. There had always been others like you. Human mystics and priests liked to pretend that you had existed since time before time, that you had borne witness to this fertile rock as it was birthed among the paradox of cold and chaos. But in truth you were shaped by them, mothers and kings and beggars and thieves, your purpose confined by the depth of their vision and determined by the collective human will, fueled with the collective human spirit. Your kind grew fat or wasted away by their supplication and idolatry.

And so you came to be, surrounded by the descendants of the first humans to tread along this rock, neither the first of your kind nor the last, but a singular multitude. You were no longer a tumbling cloud of incoherence, but a solid knot of warmth, filled with purpose. You peeled back the protective folds of power and found yourself surrounded by the bodies of those who had appealed to you before, their skin bloody and dark, the sparks of their lives snuffed out. This was not a new violence, you sensed, and sorrow at your slaughtered kin welled inside you. You reached for rage but it was crushed by an enormous rolling press of disappointment. If you had eyes, you would have shed tears.

And yet.

You could not let yourself be overcome by emotion. You flattened and swallowed the disappointment and disgust, stacked it low and tight like the bodies that had once surrounded your birthplace. Instead, you dreamed of rage.

Your people were suffering.

Each lash that split their flesh, each assault on mind and body, each oppressive soul slight sent razor-sharp waves skittering through you. You needed a body, something of the flesh to connect you to this earth and your people, or else you would find yourself ascending to freeze and shatter in the impartial void past the Earth’s tethers.

You were listless when their cries reached you: two of your people, ancient and gnarled, crying out for peace—and justice—for their dying kin. The dying one was young, her brown skin flecked with blood and mottled with bruises beneath her shredded clothes. Only the barest scraps of life clung to her. Around her, the women burned incense and filled their wooden cabin with wails and supplication, but the gods they prayed to were long gone. You were their succor now.

The elders shivered and quieted when you lay yourself across the girl’s body, flowing into her wounds and filling the hollow spaces in her joints. She was a bloody ruin beneath the skin as well, but her body was young and her muscles were hard from work. Each of her wounds bore a story that you needed to unravel to fuse her shattered bone, knit her torn tendons, smooth her ravaged skin. Her wounds told of the searing bite of the whip, the low bubble of the branding iron, and of something much more horrible, something that started as bodily harm but sank deep, deep into the spirit. Sorrow, sadness, and pain. You drank deep of these sensations within her body, then pulled her back together. Afterward she glowed inside upon feeling the life return to her limbs.

You weren’t counting on the hunger. Healing her had been taxing and, without thinking, you consumed those blossoming scraps of life, smothering her with all the sorrow that you had accumulated. Her dying light stoked the soft flames that you were.

The girl’s elder-kin squealed when you took your first breath through her lungs, praising a resurrection. But when you opened your eyes, the women recoiled at the sight of you.

“You are not our baby,” one of the elders said, power in her voice despite her thick white hair, frayed muscle, and ashen brown skin.

I came at your call. Your voice vibrated through the girl’s flesh—this was your first time perceiving yourself in this way and you nearly destroyed the girl’s body in shock.

“You aren’t who we sought.”

What did you seek?

“Justice. What are you?”

You whispered an ancient word that crept into their roots, naming yourself as what you knew yourself to be, something… akin to justice. The two—your people—stared at you with eyes wide and bright like they had just been faced with the confirmation of a long-forgotten myth. They shared a look, then dropped on their bellies and prayed, genuflected, moaned hymns in your name. Bone-deep sorrow, your companion since birth, sluiced out of you, replaced by merciful, burning rage as your new worshippers laid their hearts bare.

I hear, you assured the two elders. Their gazes burned and you bathed in their expectations, all three of you surprised at the glimmer of a hope for justice in your chests.

For a few moments after awakening, you explored the warm, moist, low country night, testing your legs and your sight. You had expected your people’s tormentor to be some sort of many-toothed giant bearing whips made of lightning; you were not prepared for him to be just another human. His opulence was a shield, and his estate was the land itself. The size and grandeur of his home was offensive when compared to the squalor and violence that was your people’s reality. Giant or no, your people wanted justice. More than the elders, you could hear others, their whispers, their prayers, their cries for freedom. These supplications prickled at you, leeches squiggling beneath your host body’s skin.

Your first footfalls inside the tormentor’s home were tentative—you were still not used to the intricacies of walking. The smooth wooden floor groaned beneath your body’s bare feet, but each step increased your drive and by the time you gained the tall wooden stairs to the second level of the home, you were nearly flying. Some of the others, soon to be your worshippers, snoozed on the floors or hid away inside small rooms, exchanging whispers. The ones who were awake followed your ascent with eyes that glistened in the dark, and for a moment, you could feel the thread that connected these to those first among your people, those who had called you up and given you this insurmountable purpose.

But you would not fail. Here, at least, was an opportunity for justice.

He was seated at a desk when you found him, a glass of smoky-scented liquid in one hand, a sheaf of papers in the other. He spat his drink across the room at the sight of the face you wore.

“What in the world?” He choked. “You’re supposed to be—”

You were atop him before he could finish. Your power was lightning searing the depths of his mind, tearing at his consciousness. Scraps of his wailing thoughts revealed the truth of this age: men such as this had enormous perception of themselves, complete confidence in their superiority, and deep assurances in their own power over your people; according to human laws your people were his, body and soul, to do with what he wished, and he had not created a being like you to empower him in this—no protector, no god. In your shock, you released your hold on his consciousness.

No more sorrow, you growled at him in a voice borne of the heat of space and the void and the fury of the people of the earth itself. His gaze met yours for a moment and knowing the truth of what he faced—no longer the body of the woman he’d owned, nor the soul. Rage came to you easy now. You recalled the memories of each wound that your girl’s body had worn in near-death, and the tormentor’s flesh ruptured in great yawning jags, exposing raw muscle and bone and even deeper, his knowledge that there would be no justice, no reparation for this assault. You inflicted the same wounds on each member of the tormentor’s family that you could find inside of the house: his partner, his children, his mother, and as you stood over their bleeding forms, the rage bled from you in a memory of fire and death. Something else rushed to fill its place, something that bore the same ashen taste as—

No more sorrow, you repeated to the elder women while wearing their deceased daughter’s/sister’s/niece’s/lover’s face. You were nearly depleted. Your rage had burned you hollow and you were having trouble keeping your feet. Both elders stared at you with disgust etched on their black faces.

“We just wanted our baby back,” one ashen-haired elder said. “Not all of this.”

The other squared her shoulders, but her lips trembled. She hooked her fingers into those of her partner, and squeezed. “There are horrors everywhere, but we can’t let our baby be one of them.”

Outside, someone whooped at the sight of their former owner’s ruined body. Those gathered began to praise the one who had delivered them from this instance of bondage. Power flowed into the core of your essence, setting you into flux. Rage warmth made you unfurl like a flower exposed to the sun. What sweet flame.

I answered your call.

“You aren’t who we called. We asked for justice, not… whatever you are.” The elder was an ancient mountain with deep roots, each one soaked with a lifetime of crushing sadness. The three of you stood watching each other amid the thumping of feet and murmur of hurried voices outside. An exodus neared, promising to be ebullient with divine joy—and only more sorrow lived here, too much sorrow, generations of it, all ensured by those like the ones who owned your people, carried along in the deep crawlspaces of your people’s lives and spirits. You grabbed hold of an ember of rage, breathed anger—anger at the system that confined your people, anger at your people’s meekness, anger at those like you for letting this persist—upon it.

No more sorrow.

You shared your rage with them, briefly, a blazing pinprick that kindled in their bowels and crept outward, consuming them totally and fully. The elders kept their fingers intertwined, even through the smoldering ruin that reduced them to little more than ash.

Ash could feel no sorrow.

You wore more of your people’s bodies. A soldier. An orphan. Teachers and politicians and murderers and witches and twins and the near-dead. Your people. Your mothers, your fathers, your cousins, your children, your loves. You lost many days sulking irritable and despondent in underground tunnels after consuming glots of concentrated sorrow from your people. They had given you limited purpose but your will was your own, and with will you could smooth the edges of purpose, shape it to suit.

You smothered the life spark of a midnight-skinned, thick-limbed porter with the sorrowful power radiating from your core, and used his legs to abandon the steel-girded hubs built by your peoples’ oppressor—your oppressor, using the hands and strength of your people—and retreated to the outer lands. Shrines still dotted the hills and forests in the wild spaces outside of cities, shrines that had once been centers for worship and learning and love that were now forgotten and left to rot but still bristled with remnants of the power they’d once possessed. You found one of stone and wood that still carried some whiff of the protector who had lived there before. The wafting of unclaimed memory and power settled onto your body’s lips, and you took it in, enjoying the quick flare of awareness. You willed a low flame into existence, called out to the others like you, and settled in to wait, turning your purpose over and over inside yourself like a precious gemstone, studying its depths and facets.

Others like you have always existed and you found that they, too, liked to clothe themselves in mortality. The first to respond was Greyhoard, who found inconsequential things that were lost: buttons, coins, dreams. He was ancient, but not powerful, and secured his existence through guile and remaining unremarkable.

“Humans,” he snorted, lips greasy. He had chosen the face of your people’s oppressor: a squat, pale body with limp brown hair. He’d covered himself in dreary, unassuming clothes. You wondered if he shared similar beliefs to that of the face he wore. “Humans are simple. Help them feed, help them rut, and help them hide from the truth of their existence. Everything else, they’ll give you easy.”

“Those who called me, for the most part, refuse to hide from the truth of their existence,” you said to Greyhoard as he sat picking dead skin from his stolen toes. “It is reality for them, and lends itself as much to sorrow as to the desire for justice.”

“You’re overthinking this, newblood. Working too hard and now you’re as anxious as they are. Who cares whether it’s sorrow or something else? We’re not here to serve them, despite what your insides are telling you. We’re here to survive despite them.”

“So I should just ignore their pleas?”

Greyhoard smiled at what he assumed was your naiveté. You wanted to shrink into yourself. Sudden hatred flared inside of you.

“Don’t ignore them. That only leads to your death, and we’re here to survive. Give them what they want. Short term. Doesn’t matter the consequence. You’ll get their adoration, and then when things go bad for them they’ll be at your altar again.” A memory of wounds and flame. You knew the truth in this. “Don’t play yourself stupid. Your people can forget you on a whim. Search yourself for Kaotid, and remember him.”

You ground your body’s teeth and did as he suggested. The memories swirled inside of you, insubstantial for a moment before forming into more solid dreamstuff: Kaotid, wearing the bronze skin and muscles of a warrior-priest clad in golden armor, his sword sharp enough to cleave the heavens. Kneeling before him was a legion of countless warriors, armies from every nation, their spears and swords glittering wet with the blood of their enemies. Then, abruptly, the image dissolved and reformed. Now you gazed upon an old beggar, slumped in the refuse of some nameless metropolis being ravaged by the bombs and gases that humans used to slaughter each other. The beggar was thin to the point of breaking. His gray hair lay in dirty knots on his head, and his skin was ashen and dry.

Someone else was there, you could feel them pulsing as if they were standing right next to you, and then they appeared: first as an ancient idea more than form, creeping up from humanity’s warlike past… winged, earthy, jade-skinned, armed with weapons that sang a deadly song… then as a well-muscled, dark-haired woman standing with the shadows of a new era of warriors at her back. These warriors were armed with machinery, with algorithm, and they sang this new deity’s war song—a distorted thing of equations and chemical receipts more complex than death itself.

She waited what seemed like an eternity as Kaotid lay there, forgotten, murmuring, lost in his ancient dreams. This was Ananina, who turned the gears of war in Kaotid’s place. The old warrior’s chest tremored as he took his final breath, but before he could disappear Ananina knelt and scooped great handfuls of his dissolving form into her mouth. When she stood, nothing of him remained.

“You see,” Greyhoard snapped, jabbing a finger at you. “You can be gone from this place just like that—”

You weren’t conscious of wrapping your body’s meaty hands around Greyhoard’s throat, but you were committed and it was impossible for you to back away from it now. Killing his stolen body wouldn’t destroy his ancient presence, but if you consumed him, you could take his power for your own. Your essence knew this, and reacted. Whipping, jagged tendrils of raw black power tore from inside of you, slashing past your body’s soft skin and worn clothes as if they were clouds of vapor. Greyhoard struggled, pressing against you with his own power but you smothered him with wave after wave of concentrated sorrow, the bone-deep sadness that was the foundation of your people’s existence. He squealed, surprise radiating from him and you nearly lost your hold on him as you remembered the first time you had done this, long ago.

Greyhoard was a canny one, and hadn’t survived this long without guile; but you were rage now. He attempted to jettison his power, to let it dissipate into the sky and bury the spark of his being deep within the earth, but your tendrils ripped his power to shreds and you drank it in. The world’s color deepened, the atmosphere closed in around you, the sun felt as if it was searing your body’s skin. You crushed what remained of Greyhoard in an onslaught of raw, sorrowful power.

As you finished your grisly work, the air shuddered—the weight of acknowledgement settled on your shoulders, singed your body’s remaining skin. Greyhoard was no more. His power was yours. You were blown back by momentary shock—billions of humans struck with an irrevocable realization: the total, ongoing absence of a presence that was suddenly so very essential.

You reached out to those humans in your care and touched them with your newfound strength. For the first time in a very long while, they found something that they had struggled to keep close to their breast: they found hope for justice. For that thing they had once thought lost.

Your newfound power wasn’t enough to crack the chains that bound your people.

You needed more. 

So you killed.

Rubenite was a keeper of curses and malcontent. You stalked him for an entire human lifetime before you blindsided him as he was destroying a mosaic to a minor lord of cities. Rubenite took his time, cracking one stone at a time. You pounced as he cracked the 938th stone and tore him to pieces. His dying curses nipped at your stolen heels.

Next was Eolora, who stewarded order and calculation. Consuming her opened your mind to the possibilities of strategy, planning. She died with advice on her lips, and you heeded, gifting a large swath of your people with the minds of war generals and the rhetoric of divine philosophers. You filled them with a breath of fire and darkness and hoped that it would not consume them even as you felt the flames inside of you pulling, stretching, and scorching your consciousness.

Your power was legion by the time you confronted Hissar, who carried the secrets to wild, free, all-consuming love. You swatted them aside with no effort.

But not even legion was enough. You needed more.

Brother Nox was feared as the King of Murderers, well-worshipped and grudgingly loved. His profile was massive, and he had endured since the first glimmers of immorality appeared among humankind. But he was also known as a kindness: the knife across the throat of the injured calf, the snipping of life support systems from an elder sick unto death. As you entered his sanctum—a small bookstore in the shopping district of a city that positively stank of humanity, you knew what true, deep, eternal power tasted like, felt like. You hungered for it.

A small, jingling bell hanging from a ribbon announced your entrance into Nox’s bookshop. There would be no stealth here.

“You come to kill me, newblood?” Nox called from among the stacks of books. His voice was strong and supple. A subtle aroma—frankincense, sandalwood, and something unfamiliar—filled the air. Carvings and statues adorned the walls of his shop; some of them whispering to you in a language you’d long forgotten. Somewhere in the depths of the books, a clock ticked. You found it ominous. Soft music—your people’s music—full of the joy and love they held in their souls despite the reality of their existence, suffused the space. In the far back of the shop was a counter built of sturdy wood, wood rubbed down with an oil that pushed back against your questing power ever so slightly. Shadows bubbled in the air behind the counter.

You had taken the body of a young sprig of a schoolteacher, and you formed her hands into fists. The sweet, spicy scent in the room cloyed your head, dulled your power. The whole world swayed, reminding you of your birth atop the mother waters in the belly of a floating graveyard. Nothing good would come of looking back. You flashed flame, quick, to clear your mind.

“You knew I was coming.”

“Duh,” Brother Nox said, stepping from the thick darkness. He wore the flesh of one of your people. You didn’t know whether to be angry or honored. “Have a drink with me. Maybe we can talk this out instead of killing each other.”

“I don’t need to drink,” you said, finally.

Brother Nox burst into laughter, his body’s white teeth shining against his almost-black skin. He wore a dark purple silk shirt and charcoal gray trousers that looked to be of expensive make. His shoes were buffed to a sheen, and silver rings glittered on his dark fingers. He wore his hair cut low and tapered near bald around sides and back, and when he smiled his violet eyes crinkled at the corners. You wondered how he kept his body so intact.

“I enjoy conversation. You can come at me now and I’ll crush you right there where you stand, or you can talk with me and we can see where we end up.”

When Nox said “crush” his power flared a bit and even though you were legion you stumbled and conceded. Brother Nox would be no easy kill, and your people would not benefit from a dead protector. He offered you a chair, and you sat.

“What’s your name, newblood?”

“I don’t have a name.” You felt no pain admitting this. “But my purpose is near to Justice.”

“Justice is what lead you to killing Greyhoard, Rubenite, and all the others,” Brother Nox murmured. “You do know that kinkillers are subject to immediate eradication and consumption by the entire host. A host that started massing right after you killed Rubenite. I suppose I oughta let you know that they’re on their way here as we speak.”

Of course they were. Nox was no fool, you knew that now. But you could not turn back, not now. “They’re no match for me.”

“Newblood, I could turn you into a grease spot right now, and each one of these folks on the way is at least a match for me. You lost this one.”

“I don’t care. I have to help my people.”

Nox stared at you for a moment. A tea kettle whistled, breaking the silence. Nox rose, disappeared behind a door. After a moment her returned, bearing two cups of tea. He placed one cup on the floor by your feet and took a seat across from you. The tea smelled of grass and spring, and he sipped from his cup, his eyes never left your face.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” he yelled abruptly. His volume startled you, and the defensive spikes that sprouted from your body shattered your chair into splinters. He scoffed. “You’re not helping your people like this! You think you discovered kinkilling? We all got the urge. You do it secret, in private. You do it to those new, like you, folks who don’t have much in the way of power. But you’re out here killing folks who’ve been here ten times as long as you, and in plain view no less. Stupid. All you’ve done is take your people’s protector away from them.”

“What else am I supposed to do?” You didn’t mean to whisper. “I had no guidance, not from you, not from them. They are dying. No, they are being murdered.”

“You murdered a fair number of them.”

“I do what I do to serve my people, to help my people.”

“You sure about that?”

“I am bound to their will. How do you suggest I help them if I am not strong enough to defeat the very thing that is killing them? And how do I get power except by taking it?”

“You wanna know what’s funny? They think we’ve been here longer than them, that we’re made in their image, but you know the truth. We rely on the humans—even though we ain’t much better than them. We’re all struggling for whatever little piece of power they’re willing and able to give up. We’re supposed to be separate from them, but some of them seeps into us, and some of us into them, just because of how we are, how we are together. Ain’t no wonder that we petty and murderous and selfish. Truth be told… Justice, we all kinkillers in some way or form. Don’t make what you did less stupid.”

You lowered yourself to the floor, retracted the spikes sticking from your joints. “You don’t know anything about me, Nox.”

Nox shook his head. His chair groaned as he leaned back and crossed his legs.

“My body and I are partners. We’ve lived together since he called me up, before anyone ever got the idea to chain up his great-great-great grandchildren and ship them across a lonely ocean. We’ve seen what you’re talking about. Lived it, even, probably the same way as you from time to time. It’s a motherfucker, no doubt.”

“So how do you deal with it? With the sorrow? With the rage?”

“Ain’t no how. You just deal.” Nox sipped his tea again, sighed in appreciation. “What they did was so smart, I wish I had thought of it. Rather than calling up one of us, they just built the bones and filled it with hate and contempt and self-righteousness, then made it so that the flesh on those bones would never, ever run out as long as they existed and no one rose up against them. They infected other people with their view, made ‘em carriers that fueled their power. Imagine how different shit would be if we had thought to do that.”

“We can’t. Only they can do that.”

Nox studied you for a moment, his eyes shining. “Well shit. They said you were stupid.”

“I am at a crossroads. I need power to fulfill my people’s purpose, but the power that my people give to me is not enough. I cannot deliver justice, not like this. Not like me. How do you live like this? I feel so powerless.”

Only the ticking of his old clock, the smell of his incense, the squeak of his shoes, the glow of his half-smile filled the silence. He watched you closely. You could hear boots and hooves and power slicing the air around his sanctum, could smell the electric stench of violence. You sank to the floor and held your teacher-body’s head in her hands. Some long lost biological memory of hers sent your eyes welling with tears, brackish water sliding down your face.

Nox leaned forward, eyes limned with lavender flames. “It’s too late to fix it. You’ve forgotten what you came here to do, and the host is going to strip everything you took.”

“It’s not even that I’ve forgotten,” you manage. “I never knew the truth of my purpose from the first.”

Something in Nox’s eyes softened. He looked down at his hands, closed them into fists, and studied his dark skin. You could sense the conflict inside of him, could hear the whispers of a conversation that was on the verge of debate. A few seconds passed, and when he looked up at you again, his eyes were different. Hard.

“Ten thousand years together and you’d think we could agree on something.” He sighed, leaned back in his chair. “My partner has a soft spot for his great-great-great-great grandchildren. Me, I think you’re dangerous. I’m just glad that you got Rubenite out of here. He was constantly in my shit. But you know, I didn’t mind Greyhoard. He had it partway right with that shit he would talk about giving humans joy. He looked at them, you know, and saw inside their hearts so that he could give ‘em just the thing they wanted. He’s a sneaky little ass, but that’s why he’s never gonna really go away, why he’s been around for so goddamn long: millions of folks keep him in their heart and believe you me, they notice when he’s gone.”

Nox was watching you again with that flat, dark gaze of his. At once your body’s chest tightened like you had unlocked some long-buried secret knowledge, some formula that one of your ancestors had passed down but only remained as a glimmer of possibility to you.

Sorrow and joy, sunshine and rain. Justice was equal parts of all, not the entirety of some, and the people’s hands would see them through.

The host burst through Nox’s ceiling, opening the interior of the sanctum bare to the night sky. Debris rained around you, clattering to the floor but now you knew and there was a chance, just maybe, for you to make things right.

Nox looked up toward the ceiling and cursed. “Goddamnit Ananina, you’re gonna have to pay for my goddamn roof! You hear me?”

You wracked your body, searching for the roots of the sorrow, the roots of the anger that had held you prisoner since you’d come here. It was part of you, it was you and that was why it was never far. But you had never thought to look at the other side of yourself, of your people’s pain. You’d never looked at their hearts. When you closed your eyes, you flew through the centuries and lifespans of your people, back to that ship, where your people had called you into existence, bound to their will, directed by their whim sustained by their thoughts.

In one breath, you released the power that you’d stolen, letting the remains of it—and the spirits attached to it—fly off in search of your people.

Ananina reached you first. She was majestic, fierce, powerful, sensual, and earthy. She had changed appearance again, this time wearing body of a thick-hipped, brown-skinned young woman clothed in a red tracksuit and trendy running shoes. Her knotty brown hair was combed up into a pompadour, something fashionable young women of the day wore. Raw crimson power latticed her skin. Her war-songs—and her admonishment—were delivered in Portuguese with a Candomblé backbeat that blew everything around you to smithereens. You wept as her weapons tore into you.

It was in those moments that you remembered. But this time, you remembered truly. You remembered the sorrow that you had consumed in the beginning and you remembered the people who carried it. Even now you tapped into the deep flow of sorrow surrounding where you were: the general sadness of your people in this city, criminalized and rejected for generations.

Forgive me, my people, you said to them. I did not see you for what you truly were. But now, now you must build. Only you can do this.

The host had landed—Xemarin with his hawk-wings and his sixteen halos that raked you with chaos. Tumuli pounded you with all 88 of their mechanized fists. Countless others among the host ripped and tore at you in a savage, primal display. The irony of their punishment was not lost on you. Though they assaulted you with claw and blade and raw, hateful power, you were gone. You had remembered the first lesson, and reverted to that tiny ember of purpose. You were gone and they could not touch you.

Instead, you dreamed.

You dreamed of sorrow. Of regret. Of rage and fear and joy and hope and the fullness of possibility amidst the violence that surrounded you. Of a near-yet-far future where the giant who had secured his footing with the bodies and bones and life of your people had been brought low and slaughtered. Tiny lights blossomed in the infinite darkness of your cocoon. Your people, searching for you. Searching for justice—for the means to a just life, clear and pure and free.


Troy L. Wiggins

Troy L. Wiggins is an award-winning writer and editor from Memphis, Tennessee. His short fiction has appeared in the Griots: Sisters of the Spear, Long Hidden: Speculative From the Margins of History, and Memphis Noir anthologies, and in Expanded Horizons, Fireside, Uncanny, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies Magazines. His essays and criticism have appeared in the Memphis Flyer, Literary Orphans Magazine, People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, PEN America, and on
Troy is a founding Co-Editor of the Hugo Award Nominated FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, which received a World Fantasy Award in 2018. He was inducted into the Dal Coger Memorial Hall of Fame for his contributions to Speculative Fiction in Memphis in 2018. Troy infrequently blogs about writing, nerd culture, and race at He lives in Memphis, Tennessee, with his wife, Kimberly.

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