Instructions: Read or watch Slam Anderson's story, "On This Orbit Day," then VOTE on the ending using the poll below!
oN THIS ORBIT DAY
Earth Residents also known as Ereses (e-res-es) removed themselves from the Universal Council (The UC), millenniums ago. Now, on this Orbit Day, an Eres will speak on behalf of all Earth Residents.
The Universal Council (UC) called an urgent meeting on the Moon in the old observatory used for solidary training. In an almost forgotten past it was the base for Earth Resident’s Star Leader. A dome palace with a glass ceiling that provided the perfect view to the galaxy moving, existing and rapidly growing. Now, it is the most deserted place in the galaxy. There was no seating in the observatory. The nine Star leaders stood in a crescent shape facing the entrance. Outside the grand double doors that hung carelessly on their hedges were their protectors and three Eres (e-res) survivors. The Head Star, one of the youngest to hold the title and still new to his role, didn’t ask for a test. He gripped the knot of his belt and walked in front of the UC members who were the leaders of their residents, referred to as Star Leaders. Several of them were his friends before joining the council. One was his kin-sister born on the same orbit day on Mars. They trained together, learned and answered the council call together.
“The Eres has told us that Earth is rotting in reverse,” he spoke slowly trying to translate the crisis told to him by the star-struck Earth Resident Dr. Green. “There is an infection in the air, leaves are passing diseases down to their roots and the roots are infecting the soil. Nothing will grow anymore. Starvation and dehydration has turned them into beast and monster. There resident has turned against them. They are in need of a new home.” The room was quiet besides the sounds of cracking glass from the ceiling.
“We are not here to condemn Earth Residents. This is not a day for us to empty the atmosphere with the past. This Eres will be given the respect and time given to all who come to speak on their Resident’s behalf.”
“Humble Star, what about the respect they gave to the Orbiters in Mars? How can you request respect?” Bellum, the Star Leader of Mars exclaimed, as she reflected on the recent attacks on Mars that prompted this meeting.
“Because Star it isn’t this Earth Resident that torn their flesh and spirits. We need to at least hear what the Earth Residents has to say. Everything we know about them is recycled knowledge. Whispers and one-sided journeys written down and taught to us as history. This is an opportunity for some truth,” the Head Star attempted to reason.
“Truth is in their actions!”
“We’re here to decide one thing. To help them or not. This is not a trail for individual crimes, Bellum.”
“Well, it should be!” Bellum could barely contain her anger and was fighting even harder to hold back her tears. "We lost too many," she told the Head Star after the Ereses attack on Mars Resident. "Losing one orbiter to rightful death is hard but losing a hundred because of “unnecessary death” is flesh-cracking." She was honored to be a Star Leader of her home Resident, this meeting to her was a sign of failure.
“Your kin will not be forgotten Star Leader but you cannot grieve them through others' death. If you believe that then I know you will make the decision honorable of a Star.” The council members looked down at the belts glowing around their waist; a reminder of the everlasting oath they took. When the Head Star felt the council was calm enough, he motioned towards the door, “bring him."
Dr. Stephen Green walked into the observatory like he was holding a secret that would fix all that was wrong. He had a guard on both sides and his hands tied in front with glowing rope.
“Present yourself to the council?” The Head Star directed.
“My name is Stephen – Dr. Stephen Green. I was – excuse me – I am a scientist from Earth’s Space department.” Dr. Stephan spoke as wobbly as he stood. He was tall, slender, and unsteady; like if he leaned over too far he would probably snap in half.
“Saint Stephen, Your residents sent you to speak on their behalf. This is a deliberation. Once your case has been made, we will decide as a whole the answer your cries. But the previous actions of the Ereses on Mars will be taken into account.”
The Head Star's words deflated Dr. Stephen’s confidence or maybe it was the sudden reality of his situation. Here he stood in front of what he grew up believing was a fictional group, a tall tale like the tooth-fairy and Santa Claus. To Earth Residents: the Universal Council was described as a group of people in charge of granting wishes; but they would only grant wishes made upon a shooting star or wish carriers. Dr. Stephen had been trying to contain himself since his capture by the UC. How could anyone born in his century on Earth know that the Great Universal Council was real!? And they aren’t fairies with wings, instead they're giants at least 10 feet tall, with glowing belts and white robes that dragged on the ground. Their hair was gray and dreaded into thick ropes bonded by metal chains. The scientist in him was mesmerized. He wanted to sit down and analyze everything about them and at the same time he wanted to forget them. Standing in front of the council he didn’t know where to begin. The stories told to him always stressed the importance of being “humble” when making wishes. His father always told him; make sure your wish isn’t completely selfish, son.
The Earth Residents made a national plan of evacuation when leaving Earth became the only solution. Everything had been consolidated as much as possible on Earth to conserve resources. The plan was to send a few soldiers and scientist to Mars to check the safety and stability of the planet. Dr. Stephen still didn’t understand how they didn’t detect life during their research; civilized, structured and highly advance life.
“We were looking for safe landing space.” Dr. Stephen said apologetically trying to explain the incident on Mars.
“In the middle of a Village? Truth from an Eres.” Bellum hissed. She wasn’t interested in hearing the Earth Resident explanation.
“Ereses?” Dr. Stephen repeated in a figurative tone, “Ereses? Ereses?”
He tossed the word around in his mouth like he tasted a foreign fruit and was determined to pinpoint its origins. This encrypted language intrigued him, and he suddenly wanted to write a book about it. He wanted to know its rhythm and reasons. He tried not to show his inappropriate overexcitement in such a life-threating situation but it was difficult to contain. He was living in his dream and nightmare at the same time and didn’t know whether to feel afraid or fulfilled.
“Yes! Eres. Earth Resident, that it what you are! You are from Earth right? Humble Star, do we really need to go through this? We are fully aware of why we are here! Let’s us say our piece by way of vote and let our existences continue.”
“Wait, look we didn’t mean to kill your… people. We didn’t know you were here. I am sorry. I am sorry on behalf of the soldiers. I had no control over them. I am just a scientist, a really good one though. I am a really good scientist,” Dr. Stephen said snapping back into his reality and the purpose for his mission. “It’s airborne now. The disease or whatever it is, we honestly don’t know. From what we’ve been able to fine there is no cure. Some people or Eres are immune but we don’t know why or how. There is no logic to whatever this is just a lot of random death. Food supply is low. There is no government, police or money. We are going insane! It’s only a matter of time before everything rots and dies completely. We have to leave Earth, but we don’t know where to go. Please help us. We will right all our wrongs. I know it’s a big wish but it’s not just for me. Please.” Dr. Stephan removed his glasses and wiped his tears.
“Have you spoken your piece Saint Stephen?” the Head Star said with no emotion or concern towards Dr. Stephens’s tears or pleas.
“Yes, I am truly sorry for the lives you lost but the ones responsible have already paid the price for their mistake with their own lives. Please don’t make all of us pay with ours.”
“Whatever fate comes upon your people Saint Stephen, it will not be due to anything we made. It will be consequences for the actions your people made.”
Dr. Stephen looked into the Head Star’s eyes like he was waiting for his fate to be revealed. He was the stereotypical genius that was bullied and out casted through his childhood to young adult years, but every nerd has their day he thought, maybe saving mankind could be could be mine. Dr. Stephen took one more look at the Giants that he once imaged with wings and wands. He looked at the Head Star and offered one last plea assuming his fate and all Earth Residents fates was in his hands; “I ask for mercy if you have any left for us.”
“There is always room for mercy.”
The guards escorted Dr. Stephen back outside the observatory. The Head Star looked around at the Universal Council. They stood in silence, before they were sure of their decisions, now even Star Leader Bellum, stood in deep mediation.
“Centuries have shown that Ereses thrive off of destruction. But we know change is constant. We would be risking our existence in helping them, but helping is the reason we exist. Millenniums ago an Earth resident Star Leader was member of this council. We can waste fragments of our existence going through the old or we can move on in start the new. What should be and what can be, not what was or is. I am not trying to persuade you. Your decision is yours; make sure it is one you can live with for eternity without guilt or shame. It is your duty to not only act on behalf of yourself, but the Universe. Star Leader Bellum, you will vote first.”
Next was face shape.
"Circular or heart shaped?" Nora asked. "That's the option."
"Tall with a circular face is going to look weird."
"It works for you."
"My face is not circular."
We were mad women. Wielders of science and genius when standing at the two knobs on top of a silver drum in a nursery room.
"Sheesh, tell me how you really feel," she kissed me. "I'm still mad at you."
"No you're not, not in your nature."
Then it was personality type.
"This seems silly," I told Nora. "I mean who wouldn't pick an obedient, quiet child."
"Quiet obedient children can easily become adults who get walked all over."
"So you want a strong willed toddler running around tearing down everything."
"I didn't say that," Nora said. "Let's just consider the positive attributes of someone strong willed. We can't just think about what we want as parents but how this will affect her down the line?"
"Her?" I asked. "You want a girl?"
She smiled and shrugged, "I wouldn't mind a little you running around," she said kissing my nose. "I happen to enjoy your stubbornness."
I had just began a shift when my wristlet went off. The house was quiet, Nora already fast asleep in our bed. Lightly snoring. I walked into the nursery to find Marjorie in a crumpled t-shirt. Hair tousled. Eyes unfocused behind thick lenses.
"Glasses?" I asked. "Your parents didn't modify you?"
She yawned, shook her head. "Couldn't afford to," she replied. "Where's your wife?"
"I think this is something to wake her up for."
Nora hurriedly jumped out of the bed when I told her who telecommed in.
"I apologize for the late hour but I have pressing news that I didn't want to wait on."
"It's time for the window for the sexes," she told us.
"Sexes?" I asked. "What do you mean?"
Nora covered her mouth. I could see the smile through her hands.
"What am I missing?"
"H-how can that happen?" I asked. "I mean we didn't request twins."
"Every so often, it happens too quickly for us to catch. It's actually the only modification we haven't patented yet. All the features you've chosen so far will apply to both fetuses. Any features chosen from here on out will be by each child." She smiled wide. "So what do you say? What are you having?"
We decided on a boy and girl just to be fair. We painted the nursery forest green. The color of earthly leaves. What I imagined Ireland looked like. Rolling hills of trees and shrubs. We decided on one crib with a divider. Our research informed us that modified twins needed each other even more than unmodified ones. Something about the genetic code almost missing one another after leaving the incubator.
At first, we waited for Marjorie's calls with suggestions and desires and selections. Then we began to call her. Filling her in on little tweaks we'd like done. We had the money and figured why spare any expense. We worked hard and were having two after all.
Then the time came when we began reaching out separately, each picking a child to craft to our liking. I with my notes of voice patterns and accent cadences. Nora with learning styles and love languages. We were mad women. Wielders of science and genius when standing at the two knobs on top of a silver drum in a nursery room.
We should have known our tickering would have more consequence then we initial thought.
But instead we had to learn by pain and misfortune.
We held each other like we knew bad news was coming. "We need to talk" has ever been a great phrase to hear. But was even scarier coming from our installer. Marjorie wasn't in a command room like the majority of telecoms before. She stood in a purple hued room. Headset off. Sitting down instead of her usual standing. She offered us to sit so we did on the loveseat of the nursery. Marjorie told us that there was a pressing issue. That either only one or none of the children could proceed during the process. That our multiple modifications weakened them.
"Wait a second," I said. "You want us to chose one?" she nodded. "Why didn't you tell us about this risk before?"
"It was all in the paperwork," Marjorie said.
"But our physician said the labs came back great that a successful birth was imminent."
"Yes, for an unaltered child," she replied. "You have not only one, but two incredibly altered fetuses."
"Then why the hell offer someone when-"
"You seem distressed," she cut me off. "Let's reconvene at a later date."
The call ended. The room silent. Just my wife and I in silence. It wasn't until Nora touched my hand that I realized I'd been shaking. That my anger was rumbling just beneath my skin. IT was true. Two babies were in the device next to us but we'd only get to meet one.
WINNING ENDING: Cancel the whole thing.
about the writer...
welcoming valerie boyd, sheree renee thomas, and shay youngblood TO THE KITCHEN TABLE LITERARY ARTS ADVISORY BOARD
I wanted to start off with how reading Wrapped in Rainbows before I decided to attend graduate school for writing--leaving my family for the first time and shunning a corporate career--made me feel possible. I had planned this mini-essay recalling how Zora Neale Hurston's Florida helped this Wisconsin girl make sense of Tampa Bay and how Valerie Boyd's research and writing and careful loving attention to fact, fiction, and the in-between made everything about my own writing journey, with its starts and stops, disappointments and discoveries, an exercise in trusting the divinely mysterious plan that promises to lead you right where you're supposed to be. I have a photo with Valerie Boyd from nearly every writing conference I've attended since graduating with my MFA nine years ago, and I just saw her again at Zora Fest in January. Something about seeing her is like a cosmic nod that I'm on the right track.
The press release-turned-love-letter would become a photo-essay/journal entry that reflected on my trip to Paris in 2014 to walk the streets Baldwin, Wright, Himes, and Baker walked. The journal entry would explore how that dream of that trip began as a flickering flame of "Could I?" after reading Black Girl in Paris, which I read twice before finally taking the leap to craft a writing life in 2005. I would tell Shay Youngblood that, even though we have yet to meet, her writing called my name from the shelves of the Yaddo Library last year and that reading her plays encouraged me to walk the woods slowly, breathing deep and casting spells, challenged me to write courageously, breathing deep and telling the truth.
Thank you Valerie, Sheree, and Shay for sharing your work and sharing yourselves. Your guidance and support mean the absolute world to me.
In gratitude, community, and sisterhood,
Sheree L. Greer
rEAD BIOS FOR VALERIE bOYD, SHEREE RENEE THOMAS, AND SHAY YOUNGBLOOD HERE
a review of dr. nnedi okorafor's binti: home
by silk-jazmyne hindus
The author carries on the originality of the first book while delving deep into sensitive topics. The reader gets to see Binti’s growth while understanding her challenges. There’s an incredible amount of time spent on mental health. From instances of panic attacks to night terrors. Often times in science fiction when disasters occur, the protagonist is sad for a moment then goes on to save the day. The reader is able to see her strength through moments of pain.
“For the first few weeks, I was okay, but eventually I started having nightmares, day terrors, I’d see red and then Heru’s chest bursting open.”
“Similar to the Meduse, in my family, one does not go to a stranger and spill her deepest thoughts and fears. You got a family member and if not, you hold it deep, close to the heart, even if it tore you up inside.”
“I felt a sting of shame as I realized why I hadn’t understood something so obvious. My own prejudice. I had been raised to view the Desert People, the Enyi Zinariya, as a primitive, savage people plagued by a genetic neurological disorder. So that’s what I saw.”
With one hundred sixty two pages to work with, the author uses simple, concise sentences for the majority of the book until she deems it absolutely necessary to expound. She slows the narrative down in the big moments to allow the reader to fully soak up what’s happening.
“In one sentence, she explained something that had been bothering me for a year. That’s all it was. The random anger and wanting to be violent, that was just Meduse genetics in me. Nothing is wrong with me? I thought. Not unclean? It’s just … a new part of me I need to learn to control? I’d come all this way to go on my pilgrimage because I’d thought my body was trying to tell me something was wrong with it.”
This book is an ode to growing up, letting go and evolving. The first book was about leaving home and the second is about returning. A navigation of balancing who you were raised to be and becoming who you are and want to be. Coming home after being on your own is very hard (ask any college grad who’s had to move back in with their parents after graduation). This book was about how moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting the past but also not being afraid of becoming who you were meant to be, even if it makes people uncomfortable.
Binti: Home is the story of every golden child who has fallen from grace. It’s about family and culture. How following your dreams can feel like turning your back on a collectivist home. I found myself genuinely tearing up at some of the more pivotal moments. There’s a level of beauty in the rawness. The author doesn’t shy away from giving you a complete view of Binti in her strength and weakness. This book is an encouragement to anyone scared to branch out from their traditional family. When I finished, I couldn’t wait to get into the third book to see how this character’s story ends.
MISSED THE FIRST BINTI REWIEW? READ IT HERE!
review of dr. nnedi okorafor's binti
by silk-Jazmyne hindus
“My science fiction has different ancestors - African ones,” says author Dr. Okorafor in her November 2017 TED talk. She’s an American born daughter of Nigerian parents born on April 8th, 1974. She began writing while recuperating from a surgery to resolve scoliosis and has since published multiple books and stories which reflect West African heritage and American life.
This particular book is about a young woman named Binti leaving home for the first time to attend a university very far away and without her family’s blessing. The reader is immediately presented with the human struggle of establishing oneself outside of their family. At just ninety pages, this Afrofuturist, young adult novella packs a lot of punch with its marriage of African tradition and technology, linked through the theme of human truth.
Binti is an incredibly well-rounded character. Her motivation is obvious, and the protagonist begins as one thing then evolves into another while remaining clear and concise at every point of the narrative. She’s believable, her plight relatable. In a world of transporters, astrolabes, and alien species, there is a constant thread of humanity concerning class and race relations, self- discovery, and personal growth.
The plot moves swiftly, as a novella should, and stays on task through each page. Sentences are concise yet incredibly poetic. There are lines so well written, I found myself just putting down the book to process. Binti describes her people as: “We prefer to explore the universe by traveling inward, as opposed to outward. No Himba has ever gone to Oomza Uni. So me being the only one on the ship was not that surprising. However, just because something ins’t surprising doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with.” Lines like this made me understand Binti, and her people, on a spiritual level.
"I wanted to tell him that there was a code, that the pattern spoke my family’s bloodline, culture and history. That my father had designed the code and my mother and aunties had shown me how to braid it into my hair.” Hair braiding as mathematical genetic art? Yeah, she did that, and I was so there for it.
The author makes the case of noticing how the other girls are different from her yet immediately creates a connection based on how they are the same. Like my grandfather once told me. “It’s okay to be different. Being different don’t make no difference.” The plot is the epitome of going to college and meeting new friends who you probably wouldn’t have had the chance to know if it weren’t for higher education and seeing how similar humans are at our core.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Binti not only because of the effortless world building but the pairing of the future with past traditions while exploring the human experience of creating oneself. I don’t want to offer to many criticisms due to the fact that there are two other books in the series that I haven’t yet read. Overall, this was a quick and enjoyable read that definitely lived up to the praise given to it.
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