Blackwater Children

By Moustapha Mbacké Diop in Issue Seven, November 2022

I didn’t believe there was anything extraordinary about me.

See those beige and brown clothes, wrapped in thick layers around my delicate build? Everyone aboard the dusk lizard was dressed in similar attire, wearing their bogolan in safari suits, sabadors, and wide robes above an inner layer of enhanced shiki cloth to keep in the heat. Identical helmets enclosed our heads, tied to small pockets of oxygen at our sides. We’d needed them ever since the Call had driven us up the blizzard-battered mountains, where no oxygen would grace our lungs. It had been either that or drown with those who could not be saved.

The other passengers couldn’t tear their eyes away from me. There was plenty of space inside the mutated beast that had become our main way of travel, and their gaze felt intrusive, even irritating. I would rather have stayed in my room, sparing them the sight of the strange child they could never accept. But curiosity and a sense of duty had brought me down to the Bush Quartier. For behind the safety of its walls, villagers had been found dead. Slaughtered.

And according to their chief—Ladji, a pathetic fool who detested me even when he begged for my assistance—I was the only one who could help.