The house where we live has a river running right by it, about 200m from our front porch, and on the banks of this river we found two abandoned canoes. We don’t know who they belong to, and there are no paddles, but I figured, fuck all of that to hell – they’re our canoes now.
I’ve been trying to lash together something of substance for Short Story Day Africa‘s “Water” themed writing competition – instead of churning out the same old foul-mouthed mind-fuckery that I’ve managed to grow so cozy with. I like writing about damaged people, I like believing in damaged people, because it means they can manage. Chuck Palahniuk once said – “The damaged love the damaged.”
Scars mean you survived.
With that all in mind, somewhere toward the back where the light doesn’t quite reach, I presume, I fashioned a make-shift paddle from a broomstick and a dustpan and pushed one of those canoes out into the bitching cold river.
About seven strokes in that fucking dustpan came off and floated away from me, and in trying to get it back I managed to overturn the canoe into the middle of the river, and I’ll be honest – I’m not a great swimmer.
I have a much more intimate understanding of how water works now.
But in the meanwhile, here are some of my favourite quotes from the pages of Terra Incognita – SSDA’s speculative fiction anthology from 2014. If you like gun-toting baboons, inter-species erotica, vampires playing the piano, mirrors with an agenda, wrestlers who challenge their chi to a fight and tumbling down a mountain of cocaine – then this anthology is for you.
Okay, so I lied, there’s no cocaine.
“She looked for him on the horizon, wished for him in the evening on Venus’s unvarying machinery – the big-night star, the morning-after star – which should by rights have watched over her.”
Diane Awerbuck, Leatherman
“The creature spread its lips wide and put its head on one side as if considering his question.
“Ya,” it said.”
Toby Bennett, Caverns measureless to man
“Father turned and looked at us, starry-eyed, and smiled and said, “Look, it’s an angel. An angel wearing the sun’s clothes.”
Pwaangulongii Benrawangya, I am sitting here looking at a graveyard
“Delight. Delicious. Dangerous. This reprieve from my viper could oh too easily become my heroin.”
Tiah Beautement, Hands
“Yet the sound was absolutely distinctive with it’s clip-clop of hooves, proceeding somewhat unsteadily as though the horse was, in fact, slightly lame.”
Gail Dendy, Marion’s Mirror
“Every full moon, blood dripped out of it to colour the water. They called it Leper’s Rock. Spirits lived there.”
Dilman Dila, How my father became a god
“I like American medicine and uniforms. There is security in a hypodermic needle and a saline drip.”
Kerstin Hall, In the water
“One day, Elsie thought, one day he would cut too deep, and when they took his corpse, everyone would know he wasn’t fit for Heaven.”
Cat Hellisen, Mouse Teeth
“Pa used to say that was bad luck, to swing your legs like that. He’d say you’re kicking your luck away.”
Mishka Hoosen, Spirits of the dead keep watch
“But the ocean. The ocean, cellophane blue, crashing and crinking on itself. And empty.”
Nick Mulgrew, Stations
“When they ask me who I am I will tell them. I am the voice of one who long ago fell silent, and my silence has lasted an age and an age.”
Mary Okon Ononokpono, Editongo
“It used to be just people who could play the piano with their feet. Now you’ve got people who can change their skin colour or walk through walls.”
Chinelo Onwualu, CJ
“For no man, however great or strong, can defeat his personal god.”
Jekwu Ozoemene, There is something Ogbu-Ojah didn’t tell us
“The problem is his able mind that refuses to follow suit to bodily decay. Sometimes you fear he may survive you, just because his brain refuses to die.”
Sylvia Schlettwein, Ape Shit
“Do the words ‘cogito ergo sum’ mean anything to you?”
Phillip Steyn, Esomnesia
“You have stretched your limbs to toddle forward into the dark world, and put names to things to tame them, to separate good from bad, friendly from dangerous.”
Brendan Ward, The Lacuna
“It was unnerving being interrogated by a woman who wasn’t there, yet ignored by a man who was.”
Sarah Jane Woodward, The Carthagion
“When the bus conductor found the middle-aged man, sprawled out, half on the seat and half on the floor, it was the hideous sideburns that struck him first.”
Sese Yane, The Corpse
I hope you enjoyed all of those as much as I did, there’s a lot more great writing in those magical pages. My own story – What if you slept? – is buried in there somewhere too. I didn’t include any quotes from my own story because I’m way too modest for something like that.
Also, because every single line is a work of pure fucking genius.
The skill and talent that went into the crafting of such a story is unparalleled.
I got an email from Michael Bay saying he wants to make a movie out of it. Starring Robert DeNiro and Kathy Bates. I told him I’ll think about it.
See you all on the other side of the river.