Here's an excerpt from my Cyberfunk story 'Carnival.' You can read it in its entirety in Hadithi & The State of Black Speculative Fiction due to release October 6, 2020 from Luna Press. Photo by Wilmer Martinez (instagram.com/wilmer.lens)
Antwon was late. He rushed out his Peachtree Street flat as he summoned a Rideout and the electric transport appeared moments later, scanning the young mixer for his id and payment. Antwon jumped in and the door closed.
"King Center Art Gallery," he said. 'High priority.'
"Insufficient credit,” the car replied.
Antwon slammed his fist on the empty seat.
"Scan for ride share options," he said.
The car hummed before answering.
"Ride share confirmed. Please buckle your seat belt and thank you for choosing Rideout for your transportation needs.”
Antwon buckled up then leaned back into his seat, pissed. The latest song by Prince, Inc. filled the cabin as the Rideout lifted into aerial traffic. If his account was short that meant Antwon's payment didn't go through. That was the second time. There wouldn't be a third.
He tapped his band and the holoscreen hovered before his eyes.
“Damarius Taylor,” he said.
The screen pulsed for a moment before Damarius appeared a wide grin on his brown bearded face.
“There he is!” Damarius said. “Man, this shit is ice!”
Damarius took off his shirt then extended his muscular arms. His tats illuminated then danced about his body. Antwon grinned. He did do good work. He tapped his band and the tats went dark. Damarius looked stunned.
“What the fuck?”
“Dee, where’s my cred?”
Damarius was still staring at his torso.
“Your what? What the hell just happened?”
“Mufa where’s my cred?” Antwon shouted.
Damarius glared at Antwon. “You shut me down? You shut me down! Man, I paid your ass!”
“My account is short the same amount you owe. You didn’t pay me kaka.”
“Quit fucking with me Twon,” Damarius said. “I made the trans while you were walking out the door!”
“I’m not arguing with you, bwoi.” Antwon shut down the comm. The Rideout rose to the fifth level then eased down on a condo plat. The door slipped open and an umber woman wearing a tight-fitting kente dress and matching headwrap entered the lift and sat beside him.
“Piedmont District,” the woman said.
“Thank you for choosing Rideout,” the lift responded. The door closed and the lift maneuvered into the swirling traffic.
“Nice outfit,” Antwon said.
The woman turned to him and smiled.
“Thank you . . .oh my ancestors! Antwon Green!” The woman squealed then clapped her hands. “I’m sharing a lift with Twon the Don!”
No matter how many times it happened Antwon was always flattered and somewhat embarrassed when people recognized him. The woman opened her purse and her phone emerged, rising over her head.
“Look y’all! I’m riding a lift with Two the Don!”
Antwon waved. “Hello friends of the woman in the fiya dress.”
“Kecia,” the woman said. “My name is Kecia Thomas. I was at your Solstice set two years ago. It was my life!”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was hot.”
“So, what you doing for Carnival?” Kecia asked.
“Can’t tell you,” Antwon replied. “All I can say is that it will be unforgettable.”
“Better than Solstice?”
Antwon smiled. “Life ending.”
“Piedmont District” the lift announced.
Kecia opened her purse and her phone descended into it. They stared at each other in silence. Kecia finally blushed.
“This is my stop,” she said.
“Yes, it is,” Antwon replied.
“You know, my plans are flexible.”
Antwon laughed. “Mine aren’t. It was nice meeting you, Kecia.”
Kecia lunged at him, wrapping him in a tight hug. She smelled of mangoes.
“You are so ice!” she said. “I can’t wait to see what you do for Carnival!”
The lift door slid open and Kecia climbed out of the lift.
“You have a nice day, Kecia,” Antwon said.
Kecia waved as the lift door closed. Antwon’s phone buzzed; he looked at it and saw Kecia’s number. He quickly deleted it. The phone buzzed again and Damarius’s face appeared.
“Check your account,” he said.
Antwon punched up his account. The creds were there.
“Thank you, bwoi,” Antwon said.
“Now turn my tats back on,” Damarius said. “I got a date tonight.”
“Done,” Antwon said. “And never call me again.”
Damarius’s eyes went wide. “Wait, bruh! You ain’t gonna . . .”
Antwon cut him off, deleted his number and blocked him.
“Broke ass,” he whispered.
The Rideout descended to ground level, landing wheels dropping as it touched pavement. It rolled to a stop before the King Center Art Gallery.
“Thank you for choosing Rideout,” the car said. “Have a blessed day.”
Antwon skipped to the Center door, which slid open when it recognized his id.
Marissa jogged up to him and gave him a warm hug and a quick dap.
“You’re late,” she said as she passed him a joint. Twon took a deep toke then coughed.
“Shit! Where’d you get this?”
“Rocky Mountains Hydro,” Marissa answered. “Only the best for the best.”
She grabbed his arm then dragged him across the gym floor to the dance hall.
“Kye and Dame have been going at it since daybreak,” she said. “They killing it.”
She extended the joint to Antwon and he waved it away. One drag and he was probably going to be high the rest of the week. When he entered the dance hall he smiled. The room shook with old school soca and like Marissa said, Kye and Dame were killing it. He almost began dancing but didn’t. He was as bad a dancer as he was a good DJ, and he was the best DJ in the world.
He watched them dance for few more minutes, his smile matching his high. Kye and Dame were money well spent. Carnival was going to be so ice.
Kye was spinning when she saw him. She stopped then glared at him.
“Music off,” she said. “Where have you been?”
Antwon walked toward Kye; his arms outstretched for a hug. Kye hit him in the chest with the palm of her hand.
“Where are our costumes?” she said.
Antwon dropped his arms to his side and made an exaggerated sad face.
“What? I’ve been waiting all day . . . oomph!”
Kye hit him in the chest again, this time harder.
“Stop playing with me,” she said. “We’re only a month away from Carnival. We should be dancing in our costumes right now. And what about the holos? I hope we didn’t get these implants for nothing.”
“The costumes are on the way,” Antwon promised. “I talked to JaBarr and Dean two days ago and they’re almost done. As for the holos, let’s see how they work.”
A smile broke like sunshine on Kye’s face.
“Put on your skins,” Antwon said.
Kye skittered across the floor, grabbed Dame then dragged him into the dressing room. They returned moment later, the dance skins clinging to their every contour. Antwon lost concentration staring at Kye’s perfection. Her hands went to her hips and she frowned.
“Twon, concentrate,” she said.
“What . . .oh yeah, right. Lights!”
The lights dimmed. Antwon pulled up his shirt sleeve, revealing his touchpad on his forearm. It was old school, but Antwon liked tapping the screen in time with the music. This task, however, didn’t require rhythm. He punched in the code and the holo costumes appeared. Marissa almost dropped her joint.
“Ice!” she exclaimed.
Kye and Dame hurried to the nearest mirror.
“What do you think?” Antwon said.
Kye shrugged. “It’s alright. I’ve seen Trinnies with better.”
Antwon grinned. He knew Kye was going to say that.
“Music,” he said.
Kye and Dame took the queue. They danced, the holo-costumes synching with their every move. Antwon tapped the buttons and the costumes changed colors in rhythm with the music. He saw a smile come to Kye’s face.
“This is better,” she called out. “Can’t win with this, though.”
“You haven’t seen it all,” Antwon called back.
“When?” Dame said.
Kye and Dame kept dancing with angry faces. Antwon laughed.
“Don’t worry. It will be amazing. You just keep doing what you’re doing. I’ll handle the rest.”
He swiped his hand over the pad, sharing the code with Kye.
“Keep practicing. I’ll be back in a few days.”
“Where are you going?” Dame asked.
Antwon looked at Marissa. “Where am I going?”
“Mile High,” Marissa answered.
“Mile High!” he yelled out as he and Marissa walked away.
He turned back to Marissa.
“She’s in Mile High? You sure?’
Marissa shook her head. “No. Nothing’s sure with her. It’s the best lead I got. The note said go to Mile High. Once you get there check into the Snowcap Hotel. She’ll find you from there. If she wants to.”
Antwon gave Marissa dap. “I owe you.”
Marissa grabbed his arm. “Hey, why don’t I come with you? We can finish this.” She patted her pants pocket.
“Not tonight,” Antwon said. “I got to lay some tracks tonight then pack. Rain check, okay?”
Marissa looked crestfallen. “Okay, cool. Next time.”
I hope you enjoyed this teaser. Hadithi drops on October 6th.