The Baobab's Rusted Chains

Shyell Lowe

Drapes of moss occasionally fell from the baobab trees; littering the city below. The moss never hits anyone, it just grazes by, surprising people as it lands on the streets. The moss brings flavor to the white streets below. Dabbing it in a rich earth-green color. From above, it looked like an abandoned city, engulfed by nature's resilience. Foreigners never noticed the little specks of humans playing and laughing between the openings of sunlight. The ground floor was filled with rays of sunlight, illuminating the pockets of darkness created by the moss's thick layers. The moss hid our country, shielding us from diseases and plagues. If foreigners looked a little harder past the forest of moss, they could see the little specks of humans glistening in the small beams of sunlight, looking up at them. Smoke from the ginger-streaked salmon rose through the holes, the spices sticking onto kitenge tops and loose-fit pants. A mixture of ancient African words as well as modern African languages enthralled each other as people walked down the streets; not bound by the shackles of time. They held children on their hips or in strollers as they hummed along with the street bands, playing popular tunes from their Djembes and Koras. A small opening appeared at the center of the street, its untamed light blinding by passers. Baobab trees brought shape to the bland blue sky, its big branches spiraling towards moss-covered buildings. A few kids played a game of wood chips, using the shade of the baobab trees as cover from their invisible lava, only visible to the creative minds of children. Some people bathed in the sunlight, immune to the burning sensation of the dry heat, its waves settling on the streets. The whole city was encased in an invisible dome. The dome lights projected a fake forest scenery on the outside to shield our country from foreigners. The interior was made up of golf ball-sized discs, only recognizable during the deep afternoon. When the sky’s colorful appearance hit the discs its light bounced into the city, filling the gaps above a beautiful magenta color. But if you really looked close enough, you would know that our defense system was failing. Every night, the eerie sound of discs clicking off, one after another, gave everyone a stark reminder of how close we were to death. The decades spent projecting false images and protecting the city have taken a toll on the shield. Little cracks started to form at the very edges of the shield, only noticeable to the plantain and cassava farmers during harvest season. Our city was bound to fall. Everyone knew it was simply a matter of time. But no one truly carried. People continued eating Cassava bread in the rays of sunlight and dancing to the drums of our ancestors. Everyone’s country is chained to a doomsday clock; ours just happens to be pulled tighter.

Shyell Lowe is an 18-year-old Queer African American female from the suburbs of Chicago. She strives to write stories with African and LGBTQ characters and themes to help diversify books. She got her inspiration from a short story she was working on that also talked about baobab trees. She wanted her story to highlight the emotions Africans may have felt shortly before their countries became colonized with a sci-fi twist. Her favorite shows and movies are Steven Universe, Arcane, and Spiderman. Shyell is committed to the University of Illinois for golf.
"Avenue of Baobabs, Madagascar" by Rod Waddington is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.


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A magazine for teen writers—by teen writers. Under the Madness brings together student editors from across New Hampshire under the mentorship of the state poet laureate to focus on the experiences of teens from around the world. Whether you live in Berlin, NH, or Berlin, Germany—whether you wake up every day in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North or South America—we’re interested in reading you!