She turned her back to Mattew then lifted her shirt. Ragged keloid scars marred her dark skin. Brak grabbed Mattew’s hair, pulling back his head so he could see the gruesome sight.

          “This is what the cane does to you,” Siren said. “There is nothing harder than the cane.”

          She dropped her shirt then walked back to her seat.

          “You can go now, Brak,” Siren said.

          Brak shoved Mattew’s face into the table before he walked away. Mattew’s nose bled as he lifted his head.

          “Every man and woman on my ship has worked the cane,” she said. “Hell is a relief to us, Heaven a place we’ll never see”

          She picked up the machete then pointed it at Mattew.

          “Now I ask you again. Have you worked the cane?”

          “I’m…I’m sorry,” Mattew said. “I’ll leave you be.”

          Siren’s movement was swift. She cut off the tip of the man’s little finger then pressed the machete’s edge against his throat before he could cry out.

          “A souvenir,” she whispered.

Who are you?

Call me Siren. I am a…merchant.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Courage, skill with a musket and a cutlass, a pretty face and hands that have seen work.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

The same I most like in a man.

Are you a woman who possesses such qualities?

Ask me again and I’ll show you. Except for the pretty face; you already see that.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My family and my crew.

No man to keep you company?

You offering?

Well, umm…

You couldn’t handle me. I am working out something with a friend, though. We’ll see where it goes.

What is your most treasured possession?

What you got?

I only have this laptop and about thirty dollars on me.

I’ll give you fifty dollars for the laptop. You can throw in the thirty dollars.

This laptop is worth almost ten times that!

Apparently, you have mistaken this as a negotiation. It’s not. Brak!

*A musket barks*

*A new interviewer steps in*

Welcome.

Thanks! So, what do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Working the cane.

Who are your favorite writers?

I like Milton Davis. He wrote my story that is in the Rococoa anthology. You did read it, didn’t you?

Yes.

Right answer.

Whew!

Any last words?

Umm…what?!

Is there anything else you’d like to ask me?

Oh! Yes…how does one become a member of your crew? I’d like to be down.

You ever worked the cane?

Check out Milton Davis’s story Cane in the Rococoa anthology. Available now!

 

About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link, Rite of Passage: Initiation and Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at https://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of eight novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika; a Fight Fiction, New Pulp novella, Fist of Afrika; the gritty, Urban Superhero series, A Single Link and Wrath of the Siafu; the two-fisted Dieselfunk tale, The Scythe and the “Choose-Your-Own-Destiny”-style Young Adult novel, The Keys. Balogun is also contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. Finally, Balogun is the Director and Fight Choreographer of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis and co-author of the award winning screenplay, Ngolo. You can reach him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at www.tumblr.com/blog/blackspeculativefiction.

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