Kehinde was fearless—an ahosi, king’s wife, warrior woman—running for her life, daring to love and honor another man before Béhanzin, the king of Dahomey. She saw me come together in scummy water tumbling over smooth boulders, my eyes drawn from rainbows, feet on fire, crystals melting into skin. Momentum carried her relentlessly through the cave mouth right toward me as bright green algae twisted into hair and I sucked in foam and slime to form lungs. Even if she had wanted to turn and run from an alien creature materializing from mist, dust, and light, there was nowhere to go. Enemy soldiers rushed past our hiding place, bellowing blood lust. Seeing me emerge into human form, Kehinde did not scream or slow her pace, but accepted the event, an impossible vision, a dream/nightmare unfolding before her as fact. Her disciplined calm eased my transition. Yet, nothing prepares you for the first breath, for the peculiar array of new senses or the weightiness of gravity. I was stunned by the magnetic field and the urgency of desire—for food, for touch, for expression and connection. The first experiences are paradise. As I selfishly reveled in the miracles of this universe, in the delight of a new body, danger threatened at Kehinde’s back: bayonets, bullets, and a hundred furious feet. She gulped the humid air and glared back and forth between me and the watery entrance. Her deep brown flesh was torn and bleeding as her heart flooded bulging muscles with iron rich, oxygen dense blood. An unconscious man was balanced on the fulcrum of her shoulder. He bled from too many wounds onto the knives, guns, water gourds, ammunition, bedroll, food, wooden stool, palm leaf umbrella, human skulls, and medicine bags that hung from a belt at her waist. She settled the man against the damp earth. Foreign projectiles lodged in his organs. He’d soon bleed himself away.
Andrea Hairston is the Artistic Director of Chrysalis Theatre and the Louise Wolff Kahn 1931 Professor of Theatre and Afro-American Studies at Smith College. Her plays have been produced at Yale Repertory Theatre, Brown University's Rites and Reason Theatre, the Kennedy Center, StageWest, and on public radio and television. She has translated plays by Michael Ende and Kaca Celan from German to English. Since 1997, her science fiction plays have been produced by Chrysalis Theatre, Soul Repairs, Lonely Stardust, Hummingbird Flying Backward, and Dispatches. Ms. Hairston has received many playwriting and directing awards. "Archangels of Funk," a science-fiction theatre jam, garnered her a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship for 2003.
A Clarion West 1999 graduate, Ms. Hairston's first novel, Mindscape, was published by Aqueduct Press in 2006. Mindscape won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and was shortlisted for the Phillip K. Dick Award and the Tiptree Award. In March 2011, she received the International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts Distinguished Scholarship Award for distinguished contributions to the scholarship and criticism of the fantastic. Her second novel Redwood and Wildfire, published by Aqueduct Press in 2011, won the Tiptree award.
Novels and short stories include:
Published essays include:
I write because I have to. What else can I do with all the words and thoughts and passions and characters and actions racing around my head?
I plan to finish my third novel. I'm trying for 750 words a day. 1000 words a day would be marvelous.
I hope to raise as much as people can give!