• Seth Singleton - Editor

Rising Shadows: Sisters

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

 It is hours later when Nia finally extricates herself from the crowds offering praise.

   She sits down at the family table where her parents have left a bowl of a savory fish stew within a larger bowl with a lid to keep it hot before they went to bed. On top is a yellow flower.

   Nia is about to dig in when she notices something. A second bowl for Imani. An orange flower resting on top.

   Untouched.

   She strides out of the house with the two bowls stacked in one palm. Nia knows the one place she can always

find her sister.

   She squeezes between prickly bushes that have grown smaller and tighter since last year, before emerging into a secluded grove. It is peaceful here. Magical like the stories Imani loved when she was little. There are numerous, equally beautiful spots, that require far less effort and fewer scratches to reach.

   When they were both little, Nia and Imani both thought that the exclusivity made the grove special — like it was something designed just for them. Now, Nia feels like she was merely a co-conspirator for Imani’s quest to be inaccessible. Nia walks up to the largest tree and calls up in her captain’s tone.

   “Imani!”

   No answer. Nia sighs before rapping her knuckles rhythmically on the bark of the tree. And listens for the

response cypher. A knock that says, “I am here.”  This time, instead of a knock, Imani’s voice rains down.

   “What do you want?”

   “I want you to come down and eat with me.”

   “Not. Hungry.”

   There is a long pause before Nia says, “Imani, I’m coming up now.”

   She feels for the small notches in the old tree that they had made and refined over years of use to make the climb easier. One-handed it is still hard.

 

  

With each step she ascends, Nia feels herself falling deeper and deeper into a nostalgia of adventure and

discovery and kinship. It is entirely incongruous with the present. With one last pull, she hoists herself out of her

reverie, up the ladder and into the clubhouse she and Imani once built together.

The fragrance of soothing herbs fills her nose. Layers of smoke recede to reveal Imani puffing away in the

corner. The pipe was part of a twin set their grandfather carved when they had grown into angst-ridden teenagers. Nia’s pipe is sitting in a case on a table in her room.

   Imani’s frayed jeans and woven yellow jacket hang loosely like a disaffected Sun City kid. Now she wears the orange streaks in her hair like the plumage of a songbird.

   The clubhouse is different. Still cramped and now smaller. Gone is the feeling of adventure and wonder Nia remembers. Obscene artifacts from off-world and

holographic posters of unbathed musicians replacing it with angst.

   The only thing left unchanged is Imani’s work desk. Littered with machine parts and leaky vials of glowing green water. Nia finds this comforting. Maybe even a good place to start.

   “What are you building?” she asks.  

   Imani’s brown eyes narrow until the green flecks glitter and she takes a long drag.

   “Kelm got sick.” She said simply. “I was trying to heal him.”

   Nia picks up one of Kelm’s chew toys.

   “No one knows better what he needs.”

   Nia moves closer but Imani waves her away and puffs a thick cloud of smoke like a wall.

   “What do you want, Nia?”

   “I brought dinner.”

   Imani chuckles. “Said the spider to the fly.”

   “Excuse me?”

   She smiles. “What right do you have invading

Maribadden?”

Nia’s fist clenches and she forces it open again.

   “So, I’m a bug.”

   At this, Imani leans forward in her chair.

   “No, Nia. You’re part of something bigger than

yourself. A web.”



   “We were saving lives”

   “Spare me.”

   “I risk, we risk our lives because it’s the right thing to do.”

   “Who decides what’s right?”

   “What have you ever done but sit there and judge me?” Her voice breaks.

   “Fine. Then explain it to me. Why, if we’re so strong. So right. Why don’t we let them, come here?”

   Nia eyes widen. “You know why.”

   “That’s not an answer.” Imani finished.

   “Imani...there is no answer...that would satisfy you”

   They stare at each other for a long time. Imani leans back and puffs on her pipe. A rush of wind shakes the canopy violently and a fluttering of wings, feathers, and dust fills the room.

   In one corner of the room a small ruby-red bird flies clumsily through the air. Imani and Nia both turn to see the tiny thing struggling earnestly towards them. Imani lets her pipe fall to the floor with a clatter. Nia fights back a smile.

   “Come here, boy.” She says.

   Kelm flutters to gain altitude until he manages to land softly in Imani’s open palms panting. She wastes no time gently petting and caressing his feathers.

   For a moment Nia sees the excited little sister she

remembers. She walks over and strokes Kelm’s head gently with a finger before setting a hand on Imani’s shoulder. Nia picks up her food and walks toward the ladder.

   “I’ll...head back to the house now.”

   “Stay.”

   Nia looks back.

   “Kelm likes fish.”

To be continued...

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