A small eternity later, with a flask of skin-cooling rosemary water in hand, Edith crossed her garden to the back door of her main house. The sun was finishing its peak in the sky, and the cramping in her stomach reminded Edith that she hadn’t eaten anything since the morning light made its first forays into the day. Before food, she had to deal with more pressing concerns.

Inside her house, by the back door, rested a floppy paddle fan made of conductive wires and treated cloth.

Picking up her fan, Edith followed her nose to the kitchen, leading her to Widow Anker, back facing the room, scouring her medical gear with sand and water. Stomping the ground to alert the woman, Edith said “What were you thinking, being out all night?” Widow Anker wilted at the sound of Edith’s voice, loud enough for the deaf to hear. “Do you want to give the City Watch a reason to lock you away? You of all people should remember the black’s plague curfew.”

Turning around, Widow Anker waited for Edith to bite her fan before slowly enunciating, “Mrs. Abrams was having a difficult birth.” As her words hit the paddle, its cloth and metal hummed, passing the woman’s message through teeth and bone. “I spent all night and a good part of yesterday making sure she and her babies would remain on this earth.” Her muscles turned to rags, she slumped against Edith. Widow Anker said something Edith couldn’t catch, prompting the woman to tap her Marja‘s shoulder and point to the fan.

*The woman sits before the interviewer. She bites the fan she holds in her hands*

Who are you?

My name is Edith Derosiers. I make and sell the tonics that keep the world alive.

So, you are an herbalist?

You can say that; or you can call me a gardener, or a healer, or a perfumier…I am all those things.

And what is so wrong with the world that you have to keep it alive?

The world is sick; polluted beyond cleansing. To breath its air; to feel its wind upon your skin is to die.

How did the world get this way?

You haven’t read the Rococoa anthology.

Is the answer in the Rococoa anthology?

Read it and find out.

I will.

Good for you.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My Marja, Widow Anker.

Marja? What does that mean?

Marja is Widow Anker’s given name. It does have meaning, though. One’s Marja is ones source of emulation. One to follow, or mirror. In the Finnish language, it means berry.

Fitting, seeing as you work with plants.

Berry good! *Edith chuckles*

Who are your favorite writers?

I adore Emmalia Harrington’s work. So much so, I commissioned her to write my story in the Rococoa anthology.

What is your motto?

Remember the plague curfew!

Check out Emmalia Harrington’s story, Seven Thieves, 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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