I’m relaunching The Weekly Fix, with a twist. For now, instead of a serial tale or a short story, I’m sharing excerpts from the stories in the forthcoming Fix the World anthology. This is a fantastic collection of twelve hopeful stories from sci-fi writers on how to fix some of the greatest problems we face as a world.
Juma and the Quantum Ghost
Juma doesn’t believe in perfection, but she does believe in balance, diversity, and beauty. This strange, charming, and quirky state is like happiness. Always just out of reach, until you stop chasing it.
Tana—her oldest daughter, in charge of day-to-day operations—has begged the afternoon off. She wants to watch her beau Ntaanga (nice boy, but he couldn’t distinguish a Muhwahwa from a Muhuluhulu to save his life), her ‘Little Kalu’, play against Mongu United. Nearly her complete work force is there: Kaoma Boys can lose any match, but not the local derby against F.C.M.U. It doesn’t matter, they’ve been working overtime to get the week’s work done before this Friday afternoon. Sometimes Juma thinks she’s the only one who’s not crazy about soccer.
Which leaves her to survey the hodgepodge of herbs, fruit trees, spices, vegetables, and assorted organic cultivations that form her sustainable, super-symbiotic farming project. So close to nature you can’t tell the difference—the slogan her Biqco made up. Part garden, part forest, part agriculture, and all her people’s great effort. Years of struggling, getting by, and making some very counter-intuitive investments. Finally, things are looking up.
Her cell phone’s ringtone spikes through her temporary contentment. An unlisted number. Yet she recognizes the voice but all too well.
“We’ve got your boy.”
“Chuulu. You piece of scum.”
“It’s time you paid the protection money, Juma. With interest.”
Keep him talking, Juma thinks, mixed with, I’ll kill him, hang him by his balls, and My boy, my boy, oh my boy! She runs towards her office to get in touch with her Biqco pronto.
“You know I can’t pay you,” she says, “we can barely pay our workers.”
“Who get above-average wages.”
How would he know? I told our people not to advertise their income, she wonders. “Every little surplus goes into expanding our operation. Our people need food.”
“And I need to pay my people, so they can protect you. I have a nice sum in mind. That is, if you don’t want anything untoward to happen to Timmy.”
Juma starts to haggle as she approaches her office and is within wireless range of her Biqco—Mama Miombo as she calls it, or MM if she’s in a hurry—and the quantum ghost immediately starts to track the phone number.
—protract— MM says, as if she doesn’t know it already. —30 seconds more for geolocation—
“I can’t afford that,” Juma keeps bargaining with half her mind on the GPS pinpointing, “the whole of Forest Fruits, Ltd doesn’t make that kind of money.”
“Of course they don’t, you’re outcompeting them.” Chuulu says and slightly lowers his ransom. Juma’s eyes grow wide with shock as his position becomes clear. She covers her cell phone’s mike and whispers to Mama Miombo: “He’s in the Litunga’s hall. You know what that means.”