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Welcome to SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY

Vol.3. No. 4. July - September 2010

 


CONTRIBUTORS

FICTION

SECTIONS

Afam Akeh
Andy Willoughby
Claire Girvan
Christian Ward
Derek Adams
Esiaba Irobi
Hannah Lowe
Hunter Liguore
Ikechukwu Obialo Azuonye
Karunamay Sinha
Kate Horsley
Laura Solomon
Lookman Sanusi
Malcolm Bray
Mark Lewis
Moa-Aaricia Lindunger
N Quentin Woolf
Nina Romano
Nnorom Azuonye
Norbert O. Eze
Olu Oguibe
Pius Adesanmi
Robert Lee Frazier
Toyin Adepoju
Uche Nduka
Wayne Scheer
Zino Asalor
 

Edited by

Andy Willoughby

and Bob Beagrie

 

This issue of SLQ is dedicated to the memory of

ESIABA IROBI (1960 - 2010)

 


It All Comes Back
 

A short story by Malcolm Bray

'Why me? It's always me! Why not Juno for a change, she's easily big enough!'
 

Martha Coleman looked over at the boy, realising that his flushed face and set jaw were more about the action developing on the wall-screen in front of him than the possible unfairness of the task she'd set him. Watching his life-size twin, dressed in late twenty-first century battle-armour and about to decapitate his opponent with a sweeping bolt of fire, she sighed and held up her palms in defeat.
 

'All right Apollo, you can finish your game first as long as it's no more than fifteen minutes. Okay?'
 

Glancing over at her daughter's half-completed jungle scene on the opposite wall, Martha watched a huge green snake untwine itself from a branch and lower its coils centimetre by centimetre towards an animal grazing beneath it. White stripes were appearing one by one on the latter's quivering torso, and Martha gazed in fascination as the zebras head jerked upright, its newly arrived nostrils twitching in fear. In a way her son was right, she decided, observing the fierce concentration in the girl's bright blue eyes. The eight year-old was indeed big enough to do a bit more around the place. Not that there was much to do though, she thought, gazing around at the comfortably arranged, spotlessly clean room. The house-bots did everything now, and much more efficiently than a mere human.
 

With the single exception, of course, of the garbage-bot. Owing to a combination of overwork and obsolete technology, it spent most of its time nowadays reclining outside in the sunshine. Martha frowned. Scratching itself, if she had correctly interpreted the last action she'd caught the simian-like, well-muscled creature performing. As if she'd read her mother's mind, Juno said: 'If we lived in town like Monica does, we wouldn't need a gar-bot. They just throw everything down the chute. I dont know why you and Daddy made us come out here in the first place.'


'Oh, come on honey, we've been through that a thousand times. We came out to the country for the fresh air, the greenery you have to make some sacrifices for that.'


'Greenery? Oh, you mean the lawn. A green carpet with bugs in it! As for the air, it's fresher in here than it is outside.'


'That's because... oh, you know the reasons,' Martha said, exasperated. The simple truth was that, since the last farms had been forced to give way to their factory equivalents, a necessity caused by a cascading death-rate and the consequent rise in demand for food, the only remaining green areas were the tiny, expensive lawns that 'country-dwellers' valued so highly. The atmosphere that encircled the planet was no longer maintained by plant-life but by its industrial equivalent, and its filtered remnants had the chilled, dead taste of the air-conditioning of two hundred years ago.


Juno sighed and turned away from her screen, her voice abandoning its sarcasm.

 
'Oh, I know, mum. And its not that bad here really, I suppose.' She frowned. 'But I was thinking where does our garbage actually end up? I mean, I know it goes into the skip and then the air-trucks take it away but where to? I've often wondered.'


Pleased to have the temporary attention of at least one of her off-spring, Martha walked over and sat down beside her daughter.


'Nice jungle,' she said, nodding at the screen. 'Scary snake. Surely you learnt about that in school, though, Joon? The trucks take it to one of the centres where it's loaded on to the Inter-stellars, and the Inters take it to the nearest black hole. It only takes about a day now, I think, with that new what-dyou-call-it drive.'


'Ghan Drive, mum. Everybody knows that. I'd forgotten about the b-hole thing, though. How come the ships don't get pulled in? I thought everything did.'


'That's easy, stoopid,' came a voice from the other side of the room. 'Soon as they sense the pull, they just release their loads and come home.'

 

'So? What happens to it then, smarty?' demanded Juno.


'Yes, what does?' echoed Martha, 'and don't call your sister stupid, Polly.'


'And don't call me Polly, mum, for crap's sake. It's bad enough at school. The answer is that nobody really knows, even now.' The boys eyes flickered continually over the screen, his thought-synapses causing his likeness to leap nimbly over a fire-breathing demon, turn abruptly and vaporise it with a quick puff of green light. 'Some people still come up with the old parallel-universe thing, but there's never been any real evidence for it. Me, I think all the mass and energy that's dragged in is simply absorbed, expanding the b-hole minutely each time.'


'Okay Pol ... Apollo. Since you're so smart, can you tell me the name of the b-hole in question?' his mother asked with a sly grin.


'Easy. Ranks-Corfina, quadrant three-one-oh. Smallest known to man, but one of the oldest. About seventeen L-Y's away.'


'Hmm.' Martha thought a moment. 'But why bother taking the garbage so far? Why don't they simply fire it at the sun? Wouldn't it just burn up?'


'Because,' said Apollo, his eyes rolling, 'It's against the law to dump anything inside the Solar System. Everybody knows ... oh, bugger it, I'm killed! That's all your fault!'


His mother smiled her satisfaction. 'Good. Now, how about that garbage?'
 

As they watched the scowling boy depart, dragging a loaded plastic hover-sled behind him, Juno's exquisitely proportioned little face, product of a long perfected gene-cycle, looked questioningly up at her mother. 'Mum, what's recycling, then?'
 

Martha frowned. 'Recycling? Well, I think that comes from the time when they ran out of places to put the garbage. It had to be ... used again, somehow. Yes, I think they had to separate the different types like plastic, glass and food waste and use them all again.'

 

'Use them again? Yuck!'
 

'Well, Im sure they cleaned it all up first. I'm talking back in the last century even the twentieth, maybe. It was a big problem for them then, I think.'
 

Juno shivered. 'Well, I'm glad I wasn't around then. Imagine having to re-use everything. It's disgusting!'
 

'It is to us, but you have to remember that everything used to cost a fortune once. If it wasn't for cold-fusion and the solar ...' Martha paused, tilting her head. 'What's that noise? Did you hear something, Joon?'
 

'What noise? Oh, it must be raining.'
 

'No ...' said her mother slowly. 'It's Wednesday. It only rains on Thursday afternoons. Unless ...'
 

Her words were cut off as Apollo burst into the house. The twelve year-old was panting hard and his eyes seemed about to burst from their sockets.


'Mum!' he yelled. 'There's stuff coming out of the sky! All kinds of stuff!'
 

As he spoke there was a loud crash outside and all three ducked instinctively. Clutching her children to her, Martha stared out of the window to witness a strange snow falling across the grey, factory-filled horizon a snow made up of objects in a variety of shapes and sizes, many of which she recognised. Floating waves of coloured plastic swirled around a torrent of cascading bottles, cans and television screens. Battered vehicles air-cars, scooters, sledges and trucks hurtled downwards to explode on contact with streets and forecourts, their fragments screaming away like bullets. Martha jumped as a thick green liquid splattered against the sil-plast surface in front of her, the mess causing the self-cleaning window unit to whine and hiss with effort. Then, as the air began to fill with a rank stink of death and decay, something heavy landed close to the house, shaking its walls and floor with the vehemence of an earthquake.

Aroused from her terrified funk by her children's screams, Martha swung around in time to witness a huge shard of glass slip magically through the soft material of the ceiling, transforming itself into a million shining arrowheads as it hit the ground a second later. Her body crying out in pain and her mind reeling in fear and confusion, she struggled to enclose her children still deeper within her torn and bleeding arms.
 

But then, as their house exploded into a thousand pieces, neither Martha Coleman nor her children had any sense remaining with which to identify the choking mix of ancient garbage that replaced it; a century of discarded detritus whose constituents melded in a terrible familiarity with the flesh and blood of the humans, before burying itself over and again, layer after layer, hour after hour, until the day came when a kind of peace would return to planet Earth; a silent, wind-swept peace in which no life stirred under a new and constant twilight.

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JULY-SEPTEMBER INDEX
COMPETITIONS
DRAMA
ESSAYS & REVIEWS
FICTION
IROBI IN SENTINEL
IROBI, TRIBUTES
POETRY

 

Malcolm Bray is the 3rd Prize Winner in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Short Story Competition (July 2010) with 'It All Comes Back'

 

 

SPQ #2

 

 

JULY-SEPTEMBER INDEX | COMPETITIONS | DRAMA | ESSAYS & REVIEWS | FICTION | IROBI IN SENTINEL | IROBI, TRIBUTES | POETRY

 

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