Sunday, November 10, 2013

Tlotlo Tsamaase: Rev 1: Satellite Hearts

Name: Tlotlo Tsamaase
Genre: Young Adult, science fiction, thriller
Title: Satellite Hearts
Sunday carries a static silence in our home, punctuated by Mama’s praying; always in the lounge as though it’s a mihrab pointing to God. The air, our invader, is the only way the Botswana government can listen, with the often intermittent faint white noise. She doesn’t understand, I was my father’s property and now I’m the government’s property categorized under military warfare. They have authorization to do as they please with my life.
Mama shifts in the lounge and my heart knocks a marimba beat. I squeeze myself, carefully, through a crack in the corrugated sheeting that forms the wall of our home. Outside, I can still hear her soft voice praying, praying to the savior to delete my transfer date tomorrow.
Praying won’t save me Mama.
I stare at the compound of Old Naledi: rusty shacks, unpaved grounds littered with broken glass, fizzy drink cans, plastics and trees. My childhood prison.
It stings to know I’m leaving forever but I don’t know what it is to cry, how it feels before and after the tears fall. My program settings for tears are disabled. I was as much a victim as the patients Papa and I programmed: Papa driving a screw into their hearts to extract their emotions as though they were juice from a fruit. I don’t want to be a Prog—thoughts deleted, emotions altered and body controlled.
This is my body. I won’t lose it.
A few minutes left to decide my freedom: I’m sorry Mama, to be another death in the family.
I run four huts down from mine—old, scraggy and made from scrappy sheet iron— along the Old Naledi fence, my hand scraping the diamond wire.  The Botswana heat melts into the air coating my skin with a layer of sweat. I strain my eyes to look up as the fence rises—shaking in the breeze—towards the deep crimson sky: the time when the sun begins to bleed.
Walking to the Stats, our short name for the rank station, is tiresome but I’m not complaining; this is the last time I will see my home. I take my time as the sun sinks into the horizon. Not too long, an hour has passed. Darkness should freak me out, but I’m more nervous about how tonight will end.
The sky has a thousand eyes, a thousand insomniac moons: The celestial authority— The Beings of The Skies who’ve built a home in the skies from which to watch over our world. Want to know a secret? I think they piss on us, each time they gather for their monthly kgotla meetings and have a jol and they say, “Just rain people, just rain, move along.” Rain my ass.
During the day the Gaborone bus rank is full of bustling combis and hooting taxis, grey–clad commuters darting between them. At night, it transforms into a Death Train Station: a train the commuters board to death, having received the Letter of Resignation from society. It’s a desert of coldness, metal scraping against metal, empty pavements, and bare, derelict buildings. Tonight the wind whines a low wail, collecting paper as it sweeps through the station. Ghostly vapour creeps over the ground. I can see the old commuter bridge stepping over the railway to the rank area.
The breeze, controlled by the Celestial Authority, whistles through standpipes as if the night has a case of asthma. It snakes through the aboveground station, searching. I pin myself against a trunk when the nearby trees rustle and hold my breath, afraid the breeze will feed on more than my fear.
The fencing is torn through, so I step over it without much harm and search and pinpoint a lenyora. He’s a shady looking boy with pants high above his ankles and hands tucked into his pockets, shivering from the chill. His dark eyes are locked down at a body huddled at his feet, hands tied together. Perfect. A crime-druggie boy never disappoints.
“S’beno,” I say.
His head jerks up in relief. “Ao sister, z’khipane? What took you long?”
“Time.” I stare down at the culprit on the floor.
Michael Mackerel, a white, fat beefy man, stares at me with shocked eyes. “Little Z


  1. By big note is that there are a lot of gaps in the storytelling. I would work on filling those gaps which I discuss below.

    Don’t’ know what a miharb is

    The government listening via the air is a little too cryptic. Not sure if it is drones or some other type of eavesdropping. For example, you don’t have to say drones. But something like “there is a buzzing sound high above. I can’t see the tiny dark object in the sky. But I know it is there. And I know they are listening.” This is at least similar to your eyes in the sky so what are their properties in terms of what they do and how the people experience them.

    plastics is vague

    It’s unclear what parts of the protagonist are human and which are artificial or why she was enhanced. I don’t need all the details but I need a lot more of a flavor. “My father inserted an X into me because of Y.” It is also unclear what is the social context. Is this a time when everyone is being enhanced, a select few, etc.? What are they being watched.? You mention that the government wants to control the populace, but they must want to control them for some purpose. We need more of an inkling of this.

    I am also uncertain what these objects in the sky control. It seem like it might be weather. If so, let’s see it instead of have the protagonist half say it. When I first read it I thought “they piss on us” was metaphorical. So for something like “Just rain people, just rain, move along.” I would add:

    Add everyone runs for cover as torrents of water fall from the sky.

    Your way with language is very poetic.

  2. This is really coming along! It reads much more clearly now (though I think quite a bit was cut off from the end?) and I have a much better sense of where it's headed.

    A couple things I found a little confusing that could still be clarified: Does the "transfer date" mean that your character will be boarding a train at the Death Train Station the following day? From the first paragraph, it sounds like she has been chosen by the government for some other purpose... so I suppose it just wasn't clear to me whether she received one of the Letters of Resignation or if her own struggle is unrelated to that.

    The sentence towards the end of the first paragraph tripped me up a little ("She doesn’t understand, I was my father’s property and now I’m the government’s property categorized under military warfare"). When I first read this, I thought she didn't understand about the spies in the air, because of the preceding sentence. Is it really that her mother doesn't understand the situation? Or that she doesn't want to believe it? And why isn't she "property" of her mother as well as her father?

    The setting is described extremely well, and I think that comes through even more in this revision. Looking forward to seeing your next one!