I was ecstatic when “Roar at the Heart of the World” was selected to be included in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.
I’d been reading non-fiction about coffee plantations and racehorse ranches owned by European colonists in Kenya before the Mau Mau Rebellion. I was fascinated by the mix of people, and by the geography and all that came with it. I envisioned a future version of that world, which appears to be so isolated and insulated, and how it would be affected by a war of world-wide destruction. If humankind could survive its own aggression, it would be here, where our long-ago ancestors took their first steps.
Some see Elizabeth as a little English girl out of place in the Kenyan highlands, but she is where she belongs. I think that’s something we all look for and, hopefully, find. There are details not stated in the story but implied. I realized I could not let go of Elizabeth until she discovered more about herself. So, I wrote the next phase of her life in Sleep-waker (notice that it is waker, as in being awake, and not walker). I’ll post that one, too.
Books set in Africa that I especially enjoyed: Flame Trees of Thika, Elspeth Huxley; West with the Night, Beryl Markham; Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen.
Roar at the Heart of the World
I remember the day the world changed. Not by a date or a time or by any number. I remember it by the low voices of men in dusty boots who hunched over the table on our veranda and drank gin and tonic. I remember it by the dry wind through the weaving grass and the red-maned lion’s roar. I remember because that day Africa changed. And Africa was my world.
“One man dead and a war begins.” Young Mr. Finch tapped the side of his glass but ignored its contents. “South Africa seems so far away, and yet–. If only they hadn’t killed him.”
“They were looking for an excuse,” Mr. Kreshenko said, his Romanian inflection rumbled deep from a round chest. “Any would do, but they got about the best possible. The real reasons are more complex–economics, dignity, power, ego. So it has always been. This is only the lit match tossed onto the pile of straw.”
Poor Mr. Finch. Thin and pale, he seemed unsuited to the wilderness of the Kenyan highlands, newly reopened to foreign ownership a century after the remnants of the first settlers were expelled. “The blaze is out of control,” he muttered. “What will we do when it reaches us?”
From my child-sized chair at my child-sized table set a short distance from the adults I searched the horizon for the glow of flames. I sniffed the air for smoke. I listened to the animals for panic. A fire is a frightening thing in a land that gives water more by whim than season. Beyond the veranda the night was black and still. I heard my dog Orion patrolling the stable. In their boxes the horses dreamed of familiar things. In the hills a leopard circled its prey without a sound. They did not know of a fire. Not then.
Find the complete story in my collection Roar at the Universe, Tales of Crisis and Survival. The ebook and print book are available through Amazon and other distributors. Published by Wayward Serpent.
“Roar at the Heart of the World” was first published in the anthology Full Spectrum 4.