Canaan’s Labyrinth

By Fumi Bankole

“Canaan’s Labyrinth is the story of a young woman whose task it is to bridge the gap between her own multiracial people who survive in tunnels beneath the ground and the pure race people who live in the ultra modern Sky City, unaware that the medicines that maintain them come from the blood of the multiracials living in the squalor of a giant slum beneath their perfect ecotopia.”

—Fumi Bankole

Canaan’s Labyrinth by Fumi Bankole Chapter One

Sharp pebbles bit through the seat of the girl’s fatigues while she sat in the tunnel’s narrow path and stared at the wall ahead of her. There it was, clearly chiseled, her namesake and destiny. Up until now, Messob was simply the lyric that drew her attention and which, in twenty years, she thought she had grown into. As a gust of tunnel air toyed with her long, hazel curls, Messob scooted onto her feet and stood up. There was a haggle of teenagers searching the walls for their own destinies ten meters to her left and a lone reader several meters to her right. She breathed hard and took a step closer to read it for the third time:

“All praises due to God for Republic of Kalifornia. Contraband missiles destroy cities and farmland of our beloved Ethiopia. Sent troops when no United Nations to help, no mercy for us from the West. In 2120, we came to republic in five fighter jets and battleship to repay favor. General Haile Messob, direct descendent of His Imperial Majesty, led us in combat at Kalifornia border. Our ship lost. Kalifornians housed us in Sky City until turned against general, banishing us for blood that makes skin brown.”

The teenagers were moving on, leaving Messob alone with the man who suddenly burst into laughter and blurted out, “Woo wee.”

“What, found yourself?” Messob said loudly enough to carry the distance.

“Yeah, and after how many years?” The man readjusted the worn leather top hat that compressed his bushy hair. “Let’s see, I’m almost thirty. Whatever. It’s been some time.”

“You don’t look it.” Messob said.

“Who does in this tomb?” he said. “Besides, I enjoy the medicines of music and natural mystic.”

“What’s your name?”

“Ziggy Stardust. Ziggy.” A momentary blank stare made him seem doubtful.

“You sure?” Messob said. He glanced at her.

“I think he was a made up guy. Funny thing is I really do play guitar. And I’m left-handed.”

“So it won’t be hard to internalize,” Messob said, thankful for the interlude.

She wandered over and followed the man’s eyes to the wall. Together they read some of it; she silently, he out loud:

“Ziggy played guitar/jammin’ good…the spiders from Mars…played it left hand… then we were Ziggy’s band…”

“Yeah, this is all me,” Ziggy said. He laughed again and hitched up multi-patched jeans.

“I just found me too. Over there,” Messob said, pointing.

“Sonia Sanchez?” he said. Messob rolled her eyes. Her voice was heavy.

“Not hardly. A war general.”

Messob began a quick return to her funk. It just could not be her name. There was a mistake, perhaps just a consonant or a syllable, skewering the meaning that should have been tutor or doula or oils mixer.

“We were just talking about their Laws for Racial Coexistence. Crazy eh, those

tests?” Ziggy said, drawing Messob back to the moment.

“I’m no war general,” Messob said, resisting the urge to rub her eyes for fear of grinding dirt into them. “We don’t deal with war.”

“I used to deny who I was. Trust me. It ain’t worth it. You should read the Republic of Kalifornia’s Constitution?”

“I read it.”

“It’s a stack of farts ‘bout to bust. Maybe you’ll have a hand in that.”

Messob winced at that prospect. She knew alphabets, signs, and symbols. She knew the trader patois that conjoined Spanish to Indio and Korean to English.

Language was at her mental fingertip, and like most other tunnel dwellers, she had been walking and reading it since her youth. By far, the gory soldier confessions scribbled in guilty syndrome-ridden hand disturbed her most. The name was wrong.

“You going up to Ground Zero?” Ziggy said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you out.”

Messob shrugged. Of course he hadn’t seen her; she never went. Ziggy kneeled and picked up a large, pieced-together backpack that, once strapped on, shot up into a turret above his head. The emzees discouraged going outside. As far as Messob knew, it was reserved for the Outzone workers and was a last resort safe haven if something cataclysmic happened in the tunnels below. Otherwise, it was far too dangerous. Besides a well-gossiped den for the submerged tenth, the sky was lethal. At once, she felt an agoraphobic tightening of her throat.

“We’re always up there playing music.” Ziggy looked around while Messob was quiet, allowing the pause to grow thick. “So I gotta get some air. Coming with?”

Messob thought a moment longer and sized up the boy with a sideways glance.

“You go all the time?” she asked.

“Yep. Can’t beat fresh air.”

Normally, she didn’t entertain strangers in the tunnels, but with her namesake come to light, her life had more than changed; it had spun vertigo.

“Yeah, I’ll go,” she said while grabbing her pack. Then she added, “We have to go this way so we can get my sister.” She pointed up the tunnel.




Open sky at twilight was reason enough for the two hundred people at Ground Zero to have journeyed straight up three thousand dilapidated stairs or taken a fifteen-minute ride in a cargo elevator, breaking tunnel rules, to get there. They finally reached the last stair, and stepping onto the tunnels’ rooftop, Messob and Messiah followed Ziggy through the out-of-doors maze. Half a dozen times Messob tripped for ogling. Small crowds of people sat around blazing fire pits in an amalgam of mud-walled courtyards. They cooked and ate while stars in a clear night sky conferred, gazing down upon them. Men who worked in the Outzone fields beyond the wall drank hot mugs of moya along with their bean gumbo, quinoa, and sardines in preparation for the arduous shift before them.

The rumors of Ground Zero had not mentioned the air. Messob’s brain tingled in the blissful breathing of air so clean it was medicinal. Stars gained in brilliance while the music that Ziggy promised began to speckle the night. Chemlog smoke, spiraling from fire pits, smelled light and savory compared to the oppressive air circulating the gut of the tunnels.

Ziggy looked back making sure he had not lost them. Messob was easy to spot in a fatigue jacket with a blush high yellow complexion and long stretched curls. Messiah trailed behind her lost to Messob’s shoulder except for an Afro puff and the occasional glimpse of incandescent face paint. Another left then right, and a large quadrangle spread before them. People stood around or sat on blankets, old tires, and makeshift chairs. Most were young—under seventy. A scattering of people sat serenely in lotus posture in a deep quiescent trance. They looked shipwrecked up here, Messob thought. She was used to seeing hundreds of tunnel dwellers at a time, clad in all white, meditating in the great sacred space down below. Several fire pits burned brightly.

She wandered over and followed the man’s eyes to the wall. Together they read some of it; she silently, he out loud:

“Ziggy played guitar/jammin’ good…the spiders from Mars…played it left hand… then we were Ziggy’s band…”

“Yeah, this is all me,” Ziggy said. He laughed again and hitched up multi-patched jeans.

“I just found me too. Over there,” Messob said, pointing.

“Slash?” a man’s voice called out. “Odabo brotha. Thought we’d lost you.”

“Who that…Berlioz, the king of string?” Ziggy said. He quickly strode towards the voice with his arms outstretched.

“Where else would I be on a night like this?” Berlioz was one of several musicians in a modest-sized crew huddled around a fire. He held his most recent creation—a bulky, junk-whittled bass guitar. As the firelight hit him, Ziggy gripped the man’s arm in a multi-stepped handshake. Berlioz was scruffy about the chops and solidly built. He wore a sleeveless fatigue button down and a skullcap over hair too short to determine its texture. When Messob and Messiah caught up to Ziggy, sixteen fire-lit eyes ripe with inquiry moved onto them.

“I have come of age by tunnel law,” Ziggy continued. “Yep. Capital Z.”

“That’s all caps for you young man,” Encore said. He was a burly man with brown freckles and three bushy, reddish braids. They all laughed.

“Ladies, he’s legal,” one of the drummers said, and the laughter doubled.

“Where was it, Slash?” asked one of two girls, sitting on the ground. It had taken Messob a moment to catch on that “Slash” was Ziggy’s nickname. Ziggy scratched his temple.

“Near Gore Vidal Hall,” Messob interjected. Her arms hung like empty sleeves on account of nerves. Breaking the Ground Zero taboo had been psychologically harder than she thought it would be while there could still be consequences.

“Messob here is my rites twin. Right?” Ziggy looked at her for confirmation. She nodded. “And that’s her sister, Messiah.”

The group collectively greeted them, and there were random introductions. Berlioz and Encore held guitars. Fierce-eyed Confucius with a curtain of sable Comanche hair stood cradling a monstrous upright bass.

“Great night to come up,” Encore said. “We usually get clouds and rain drenching your ass.” Several folk concurred.

“Corny,” Ziggy said, “but I feel grown. Mom and Pops gotta respect me now.”

“What was the passage?” Tupac asked while leaning long arms over the conga propped between his knees. Messob found him easy on the eye. Arab showed through his brown skin and soft black Afro. Ziggy closed his eyes.

“It went ‘Ziggy really sang…screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo…he could lick ‘em by smiling…leave ‘em to hang…jiving us that we were voodoo…God given ass…” Meneylek, the other buff-armed drummer, spun his drum so that it twirled like a top.

“Too much natural mystic,” he said before he caught it again.

“It was definitely an ode to a rocker…with a good ass.” Nobody could deny the glint in Ziggy’s eyes. He made a good advertisement for tunnel customs.

“David Bowie,” Encore said. “He was, um, late Twentieth Century rocker from England. Yeah, Ziggy Stardust and the spiders from Mars. That’s a song.”

Encore quickly checked the tuning of his guitar. He began to strum the preamble with his tongue pinched in the corner of his mouth then lent his voice articulately to the verse.

“Wizard,” the cherub-faced girl on the ground said with a loud slow snap.

Ziggy untied his guitar from the bundle he had been carrying. He strapped up and joined in, as did Berlioz, the drummers, and a new arrival with a flute. Messob and Messiah crouched down on the cold ground near the two girls, Bite Me and Twenty-Twenty. Messob was completely distracted by the unfolding moment. She put an arm around Messiah and pulled her so close that their cold ears bumped. They then looked together up into the night. Beneath stars, the General Messob fiasco seemed far away. Messob was glad to have her best friend beside her. The two had shared every aspect of growing up like real sisters. They had played chess for hours while Messob’s mother traded oils nearby. There were braiding and face painting sessions, jinxes, double jinxes, and sister-worthy tugs-of-war.

The song ended giving rise to a driving beat. Syncopation and counter beats jumped around the fire. Meanwhile, more folk were meandering over from their camps until the group had quadrupled. Messiah nudged Messob when she saw Twenty-Twenty, seated at her other hand, licking the edge of the paper she held and nimbly rolling a spliff.

“Thanks, Sis,” a big man standing over them said. “Roll a bunch of ‘em.” Messob raised her shoulders as she stared. The act was as far from familiar as the snug cylindrical universe of the tunnels was from the open roads of the sky. Yet, there was something knowable in the effect of its smoke.

By this time people were dancing. Chanters and rhymers took turns in the spotlight. Doobies were passed around, touching each person’s lips at least once. The music changed, and guitars were all but dueling. Berlioz played. Ziggy responded. His fingers sped across the strings invisibly, finding Messiah’s breath and stealing it. Hours passed before bedding was finally unfolded, and folk began to walk away. The new lower toned music of the few remaining musicians was the din of a Malian lullaby.

“Groupies no,” Bite Me said. “Warm-bodied inspiration.” Bite Me and Twenty-Twenty had become friendly with Messob over the hours. Now, in their exhaustion, the three women plopped down on Bite Me’s bedroll fifteen steps from the firelight.

“You’re nobody’s inspiration,” Twenty-Twenty said, “just a flabby body.”

“Confucius, Meneylek, a no-name with a drum?” Bite Me said. “You’re a tart minus the brothel.”

“I’m their muse,” Twenty-Twenty said. “You’re a slab o’ pork with no salt.”

“Bite me,” Bite Me said. She seemed hurt.

“You don’t care what people think?” Messob asked.

“Please,” Twenty-Twenty said and pursed her lips, “we’re the pariah. Can cha tell?”

“What about your names?” Messob said.

“Really how could they mean anything?” Twenty-Twenty snapped, her hybrid accent rolling her r. “Names mean ca ca.”

There was a quiet broken by the huddled back of pillow talk and the occasional crackling of burnables. Twenty-Twenty’s face was slim and olive. Exotic eyes tapered upward. She looked out thoughtfully but then stood and walked off. Messob saw Meneylek just beyond her in the darkness. He and Twenty-Twenty dallied for a while talking. Shortly afterward, they walked out of sight.

“That heifer’s in denial,” Bite Me said. ”But to answer your question, I care. My real name’s Winifred.” She smiled, stood, and pulled her tight jeans down a bit at the knees then looked around. “Let’s see who’s still up?”

She had hoped to see Confucius and to lure him into being her partner for the night. He was the warrior. A metal chain looped to the knee kept his blade in tote. He was like matches, quick to smash his hot fist into a smart mouth and quick to be infatuated. Sojourner was Bite Me’s next choice. She was a virtuoso at finding the nuances on her conga’s skin more so than any of the other drummers except for Narmer, the presently absent mogul of their throng. Sojourner cared about young wallflowers that paced circles in the tunnels and talked to walls. Quiescence was impossible for them. Before they became debilitated, they were taken to the Outzone and, more or less, abandoned. Helpless to nurse them, watching the bloom of gross tumors, the jaundice from overworked livers, and harsh wheezing of serrated lungs was more than most parents could bare. Sojourner sang for them like a seraph working the elements of the unseen. The only good that seemed to come from the repugnant practice was that now in the tunnels few babies were born with defective, extra, or missing chromosomes. Bite Me longed for Sojourner’s big heart now, but only Ziggy and Encore remained by the fire. Her heart sank. Bite Me sat back down, wriggled out of her jeans, and crawled into a sandwich of covers.

“Wanna sleep in Twenty-Twenty’s spot?” she asked. “She won’t be back until twilight.”

“No, we’re ‘bout to go,” Messob said. “I have to start internalizing.” Bite Me nodded. “I’m sure my mom’s worried.”

Messob looked around. “Messiah,” she shouted. Messiah barely made Messob out in the darkness but then turned to face the fire where she had been listening, staring at the last of the glowing embers.

“A barracks then a home to ten thousand,” Ziggy said.

“Which is why they managed to find those guns… back from when it was a garrison for Californian militias,” Encore said. “D’you know they blocked off three tunnels on Level One to fire off those shits? It was loud, man, like a quake.”

“Who’s that one elder… wears the officer’s jacket and holster?” Ziggy said, patting his hip. “Level One. What’s his name?”

“Mzee Colon,” Encore said. “He had those guys shootin’. I pitch a penny at his heels if I see ‘im.”

“Men and guns…bad combo. How’d he get to be a elder?” Ziggy said. Encore raised his shoulders.

“Guess he’s old enough. No, he can levitate is what it probably is.”

Messiah stood and began to walk away, but Ziggy’s voice stopped her.

“Want moya?” She turned to face him.

“Me?” Ziggy looked beyond her as if there was someone else.

“Yeah.” His smile was inviting.

“So let’s rap more tomorrow man,” Encore said, rising from his squat. Big stiff braids fell down his back.

“Righteous,” Ziggy said.

“I’d venture to say that song was based on Michael Valentine Smith from a 1960s novel, Stranger in a Strange Land,” Encore said.

“This is the stuff I need to know man. Feel me?” Ziggy said.

“The man from Mars,” Encore said. “All about spreading the word of love.”

“That’s my message,” Ziggy said while casting Messiah a wink. “This is what I’m talking about.”

“And grokking man,” Encore said, “which are the transitory sympathetic meditations we know all about.” He laughed. “Yeah, you got the right name, bro, for real.”

By this time people were dancing. Chanters and rhymers took turns in the spotlight. Doobies were passed around, touching each person’s lips at least once. The music changed, and guitars were all but dueling. Berlioz played. Ziggy responded. His fingers sped across the strings invisibly, finding Messiah’s breath and stealing it. Hours passed before bedding was finally unfolded, and folk began to walk away. The new lower toned music of the few remaining musicians was the din of a Malian lullaby.

“Teach it.”

“Dig it man. Tomorrow.” Encore walked away, his guitar slung over his shoulder lumberjack style.

Ziggy leaned in and pulled out the cast iron pot that was settled deep in the remaining hot ashes. He topped off a mug and passed it to Messiah who had meanwhile sat down.

“Thanks,” she said.

Messiah wrapped both hands around the warm cup and drank the quinoa ground with a variety of roots and seeds.

“Having fun?” Ziggy asked. Her head had cleared of the natural mystic.

“Yeah, I’m pretty speechless,” she said.

“Messiah,” Messob hollered from the distance, “let’s go.”

“Coming,” she yelled back.

Ziggy’s eyes narrowed in secrecy. He leaned towards her and whispered,

“Have you looked over the wall before?”

“No. Have you?” Her eyes were suddenly huge. The legendary outside fortress circled the grounds above the tunnel entrances at a half-kilometer circumference. Most folk rarely traveled as far as another level, let alone up to see the sky or the wall.

“Yeah, we go all the time. Drink up.”

Messiah’s stomach quietly slid into her throat. She felt giddy like a kid gone without sleep for far too long. Between her and Messob, Messiah was the little sister, the heel to Messob’s toe. The mystery of her name was still hidden on the tunnel walls, making her a girl while Messob had crossed the threshold of womanhood. Good, she thought; this was one thing she would do first.

Ziggy occupied himself with gathering things. His guitar went back in its sack. A strap secured it across one shoulder. There was a blanket.

“Done?” he asked. Messiah nodded and passed him the empty mug. Ziggy then grabbed her hand and led her away from Messob and the last of the burning embers.

Messob had watched them go off into the night and was beyond annoyed. It crossed her mind to stop them, but she didn’t, hoping that Messiah would use the brain in her head. A half an hour later, she wished she had. Now there was little else to do but wait. Messob leaned back on Twenty-Twenty’s bedding and stared at the sky. While full of planets and stars, it stretched all the way down to the wall. Venus was the brightest. There were the alpha and beta stars, Polaris, and Ursae Minoris as well as the Cassiopeia constellations. She could tell the Great Square of Pegasus in the Orion Nebula from having studied the walls along the way to dump compost in the garden at the far end of their tunnel. The entire northern hemisphere was mapped out.

Messob folded the blankets over herself, planted her arms behind her head, and watched. Eventually her eyes shut, but soon the melee of emotion hemming General Haile Messob erupted all over again. Messob knew she should quiesce. It would calm her, but she did not feel like it. Instead her irritation became saturated and fixed.


Islands of slumbering bodies were everywhere. When their eyes adjusted to the darkness, Ziggy and Messiah walked quietly, careful not to disturb them. It was a short while before they came upon several men. One held a flash pack flooding a green spot light on the ground in their midst. The three stood bent in a huddle engaged in talk. When they were only a few meters shy, Ziggy spoke,

“Whatcha got?”

“Metabole,” one of the men said. Ziggy strode towards them until he was staring down at the creature pinned beneath the man’s heavy boot. It had been a fresh kill.

“I didn’t think they ever got in,” Ziggy said. The man kicked at the carcass until the thing top-sided.

“Cracks in the wall maybe,” the second man said, “or the gate.”

The tall, tight circle of men entirely blocked Messiah’s view of the matter. In time, the men began to shift with the conversation. Messiah’s eyes were drawn down through the space between their bodies.

“Omagod,” she said. The moya, that going down was so comforting, came up in a violent sour rush, splashing onto her pants and the ground’s clay surface. Right away one of the men left returning with a full bucket of water. Messiah crouched over it and washed up as best she could then gargled and spit. She had only seen its ropy gray-flesh neck but had smelled its rawhide odor.

“You still wanna go?” Ziggy asked. For the first time the trip seemed foolish. She did not know this man, but it was somehow too late to back out.

“Sure,” she said.

Many meters beyond, Ziggy and Messiah wound their way to the wall. It stood a solid five meters high. Ziggy looked back and forth.

“This way queen.” A watchtower’s black silhouette loomed visible. Towers perched at the top of the wall were situated every twenty-five meters along the Ground Zero perimeter. During the night, they were supposed to be manned. This one was vacant. Ziggy climbed the ladder up through the base of the clay-walled kiosk. He dropped off his guitar pack then reached back down and offered a hand.

Islands of slumbering bodies were everywhere. When their eyes adjusted to the darkness, Ziggy and Messiah walked quietly, careful not to disturb them. It was a short while before they came upon several men. One held a flash pack flooding a green spot light on the ground in their midst.

“We can do this?” Messiah asked.

“If we don’t get caught,” Ziggy said.

Inside the kiosk was small and dark while the ground was sabuline and cold. Messiah touched the walls and noticed a light track in place near her.

“Should we start the light?” she asked.

“No, don’t,” Ziggy, said reaching for her hands to stop her. “It’ll be harder to see out.”

Ziggy struggled for a moment with latches but finally felt his way to opening the shutter doors. The vista that lay before them was the sleeping giant Messiah had both read and heard about. It was the road to exile. The dump. The morgue. The mental-institution. It was the source of all things recycled that lead to elsewhere and nowhere.

“Omagod,” Messiah said. Both hands rose cupping her face. Powerful spotlights revealed this outer world undressed. Immediately outside the wall were tire tracks ground through sparse and sickly shrubs. The stars offered enough light to show eerie, lumbering structures on the low-sloped range. Pointing, she asked,

“What are those?”

“Buildings. They got names. B of A, Microsoft—at the top. Scavengers squat in ‘em.” Ziggy nodded to the south. “Over there’s a mall.”

“A what?” Messiah asked.

“Mall…where they had villages.”

“No doubt.” The Second Level Village came to mind, which was always a bustling bazaar.

Closer to them were small mountains. A succession of tractors and trucks droned noisily on their own hunts, searching for anything that could be useful in the tunnels. Messiah watched a truck that drove unwieldy up a mountain, using its mechanized claw to scoop a load into its bed. After repeating this several times, it clambered back down the hill. The bed was raised sending the load tumbling into a heap that ten workers on the ground began scouring over.

Messiah did not have to ask about scavenging. This was a way of tunnel life. In incandescent hard hats and jumpsuits with numbers blazed on the sides, it was what the Outzone workers did night upon onerous night.

“My father scavenged the mall and old military sites close to here,” Ziggy said. “D’ya know our fatigues came from there?”

“Uh, uh,” Messiah said.

“Vintage USA.” He laughed. Something moved on the ground just below.

“Ziggy.” Messiah pointed to a large rat-like metabole on its way up the wall not far from the kiosk. Messiah jumped up. Just missing the hole in the floor, she backed into the opposite wall.

“They can’t make it this far,” Ziggy said in a reassuring tone.

Messiah watched. Eventually she returned to sitting on her heels. Ziggy leaned out of the window, pounded the shutter, and hooted. The spooked metabole plunged back down with a thud. They watched it struggle back onto its stumpy legs then inspect its hairless body for damage. A large single human ear grown lopsided out of its head was, at first, difficult for Messiah to stomach. She leaned back relieved by the creature’s failure.

“They make our nasty tunnel rats seem cute and harmless,” she said. Robust cockroaches roaming about distracted the metabole. After catching one, the metabole tore the wings from its body and consumed it. Ziggy sat on the windowsill and let one leg dangle down the outer wall.

“The U.S. had crazy ideas back in the day,” he said.

“What exactly are they?”

“Little bit o’ this species, little bit o’ that spliced together.”

“Poor, gross things.” Some metaboles had the face of swine while others were monstrous rodents from the neck down. Some were segmented like an insect but with the frame of a feline. There were features that were unarguably human. All of them waddled, occasionally bumping into one another. They sniffed one another’s rears. Barking rang out in the distance.

“Dogs?” Messiah asked.

“Or coyotes. Scavenging the mall back in the day, dogs trapped Pops in. Mangy, sick wild dogs… maybe a hundred. My father and his men had sticks, but what was that gonna do?”

Messiah listened watching Ziggy, admiring the silver sand dollars strung around the brim of his hat.

“Pops got the idea to break into the music store. Took kazoos…whistles. Every man blew, all the way back to the wall. Dogs went berserk howling but never touched them. Old people remember that.” Messiah smiled. “All Outzone workers hold whistles…’cause of them.”

“You been out there?” Messiah asked.

“Kind of.” He laughed and patched an eye with his hand. “Young, dumb tag-along.”

“I wanna go.” Messiah’s voice hit a melodious pitch allotted to women and small boys. Ziggy looked down, choosing not to launch the unsolicited warnings ready at his tongue. “If Messob goes, I’ll go. Maybe I’ll go first.” Ziggy’s stare focused on something in the horizon.

“Well git on witcha do-what-you-want self. I’ll be right here.”

Ziggy untied his guitar and, fingering the fret board, began to play. He smiled and offered a song that was quiet compared to the boisterousness of an hour ago. He hummed. His music was soft if not a little sad. The song tapered off. With that, he swung his leg back inside and leaned his axe against the wall.

“I should probably get back,” Messiah said.

“No doubt,” Ziggy said. Sometime later, he moved closer and put his arms around her. They soon drifted off to sleep.

They awoke to blaring horns announcing twilight. The sky approached the opaque gray of pre-dawn that Messiah had never seen before. The trucks were gone. There were no metaboles. Splintered boughs of dead trees stood broken and leafless in the distance. Messiah could see slightly more detail on the buildings. Whole sections were collapsed. Many were only crumbled remains. Corroded, ancient pipes punched up through the dirt just beyond the wall.

Finally, Messiah looked at Ziggy whose warm breath grazed her shoulder. He smiled full of sleep. She was glad she had come. They could hear people beginning to stir in the distance. Workers were returning from the Outzone, and all of Ground Zero was beginning to rouse.

“Ready Queen?” Ziggy asked. Messiah smiled from beneath the blanket that Ziggy had spread over them and nodded.


The pre-dawn horn blared driving Messob to bolt upright. By the time she was fully awake, she was seething. Soon Twenty-Twenty returned and began talking to Bite Me as if insults from the night before had never flew. More people began to emerge from their respites and repopulate the fire pit. Encore and Berlioz were the first.

“Where’s a chemlog, damn it? I need moya,” Encore said.

Ziggy and Messiah walked up. The two parted ways, Messiah heading for Messob while Ziggy made a beeline for the fire pit.

“Where’d you go?” Messob asked.

“To the wall,” Messiah said with a felicitous sparkle despite her caking face paint.

“Messiah.” Messob’s scowl was punishment. “You don’t just go off like that with a stranger. It was stupid.”

The second siren began to blare its last warning. Berlioz slung his pack over his shoulder and headed off.

“Gig at Dali’s Saturday,” he said. “Regular show times to whoever’s coming.”

Messiah shrank back and turned to the sky as it broke with morning. An amazing, yellow-streaked sunrise pervaded low-laying clouds to the east. Messiah studied the budding Solaris as well as peoples’ faces. Everyone was a shade of brown. They ranged from creamy gold like Messob to darkest olive. The artificial light in the tunnels and their dark absorptive walls distorted this. Messiah examined her own skin, a warm-toned sienna. Bite Me’s Asian face was fava bean colored. Twenty-Twenty had bronze skin.

Messiah turned to face Messob, having found the right words, but she was gone. People were moving in a steady river toward the closest underground entrance. Messiah numbly stood with her knees locked. She felt dreadful. In a beat, Ziggy came from behind and swept her into motion.

“Come on Queen,” he said, and the two joined the flow of people marching underground safely out of reach of the murderous sunrise.

This excerpt is taken from Fumi’s Blog, The Mood Stone. Visit her Blog for future installments and more news about her work. Her engaging poetry is eagerly explored here in the kinté space in “Allegories of a Red Hot Angel,” “L.A. River” and “Zoom Zooms n Wham Whams.”