The Thirteenth Month has a playlist, a Pinterest, and a preview!

by | Mar 13, 2023 | 1 comment


Okay, I don’t have a cover yet, but I’m working on that part. I do have a preview and a playlist for you though. If you are a newsletter subscriber, you saw this last week. For the rest of you, here is your official first look at The Thirteenth Month.

The first day of Pagume might have been a holiday for most of the country with neighborhood festivals, light shows in Sheger Park, and bright yellow daisies adorning the shops and skytrains, but despite the revelry in the city, Narine was still expected at work.

She gulped down the breakfast of chechebsa and tea before she dressed for work, stuck her freshly charged AI assistant in her ear, and drank a quick cup of coffee Samira prepared in the living room. 

The house assistant greeted her as she was reaching for her zip bike helmet.

“Good morning, Narine. Today is the first day of Pagume and the sixth day of September in the World Calendar. Would you like to hear the news headlines for today?”

“No, thank you.” She grabbed the sleek fiberglass helmet and paused to hear the weather report.

“There will be rain this afternoon at approximately one o’clock. Would you like to send commuting alternatives to your assistant?”

“Nope, I won’t be driving during the rain.”

“There is a knot of traffic under the skytrain overpass in Arat Kilo Square. Would you like commuting alternatives?”

A knot of traffic wouldn’t be an issue on her bike. “No thank you.”

She was almost out the door when her niece stopped her.


“Yes?” Narine kissed the top of Gelile’s head and hugged her shoulders. “Enjoy your holiday. I really need to go, mita.”

The little girl looked up with a dimpled smile. “Will you bring me a present tonight?”

Narine narrowed her eyes. “For what?”

“Because…” The girl fidgeted with the end of her braid. “Ah… I didn’t cry this morning.”

Narine knew she could easily find some trinket for her niece at the shops in Shiro Meda. There would be hair clips or a flower garland or digital wristbands that would delight the girl. “Are you going to complain about your bath tomorrow or be very very good for your mother?”

Gelile considered the sacrifice. “I’ll be very good. Very quiet. And I will pray all day today.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

“Okay, I will pray today though.” She walked over and hung on Narine’s arm. “Please get me a present?”

Eshi, I’m going to call your mother and check this afternoon before I leave work, and if you’ve been helpful to her and Samira I will bring a present.” She put on her helmet and adjusted her assistant. “You don’t get a present for praying.”

“Thank youuuuuu.” The girl kissed Narine’s hand. “You’re not making a jump today, are you?”

“It’s Pagume.” Narine finally walked out the door. “No one travels during Pagume.”

Gelile followed her out to the front step and watched as Narine walked to the concrete block garage covered with solar cells. Along with the household batteries, the garage contained an antique diesel Land Cruiser Teddy had fixed up, a small electric car they used on rainy days and a practical electric all-wheel crawler. 

That morning was crisp, sunny, and the clouds of the rainy season had started to finally ease before the New Year. Narine would take her favorite form of commute, her zip bike.

She unplugged the bike from its charger and glanced at the dusty workbench that hadn’t seen love since Teddy had passed. Genet’s brother occasionally came by the compound to fix things in the house, work on the solar cells, or use Teddy’s tools to tinker with his antique Volkswagen, but he was the only one to use them.

Narine’s house was a twentieth century relic in a city that had grown up and out as the population of the capitol had surged in the past fifty years. Still a single story spreading wooden house with a large garden around it, the property was dwarfed by modern mansions that had been built as the neighborhood transitioned to a wealthy enclave for the upper class and international professionals. In the distance, the skyscrapers in the financial district dominated the skyline, and a skytrain overpass was barely blocked by a soaring row of eucalyptus trees.

The compound had been in her family since her great-grandparents had moved from Greece in the 1920s. As she was the only powerful mage of her generation who had remained in Addis, the property fell into her care. There were three houses within its stone walls and while Narine lived in the largest house, she occasionally had cousins coming and going, along with various friends from Europe, Asia, the United States, and other parts of the continent.

Genet and her daughter lived in the second house, and the third—more like a cottage—was kept for guests, visiting relatives, or the occasional traveling mage.

Narine didn’t like living alone. People were exhausting, but the lack of them was worse.         

She pushed the bike out of the garage and down the path toward the metal gate where Samira was already pulling back the door.

“The Chen family just got a new automatic gate,” Samira said. “It links with the house assistant.”

Narine nodded. “Is that so?”

The girl gave her an innocent shrug. “It has security built in.”

“And it doesn’t squeak when you pull it open?”

The girl gave her a brilliant smile. “You don’t have to pull it at all.”

“But if we had a modern gate, how would the whole neighborhood know when we were coming and going?”

Samira rolled her eyes. “Have a beautiful day, Akeste.”

“Make sure Gelile helps in the garden today before she goes to play.” Narine put on her gloves and flipped down her visor before she mounted her bike. “I’ll send a message when I’m on my way home.”

She rode through the gate, winding through the market stalls that were already bustling as vendors swept the cobblestones in the alley and propped up the metal shades that folded down at night. Over the stalls, electric notice boards flipped between news headlines and advertisements for the latest assistants, zip cars, or new takeaway food stalls.

“India expanding Somali shipbuilding hub.”

“CityZipPasses on sale for the new year. Buy ahead!”

“Beto’s Brazilian Barbecue; new branch in Sarbet.”

The flashing ads and headlines followed Narine down the alley along with the scent of boiling coffee and cooking oil. Familiar sights and smells greeted her as she pushed her bike through the pedestrian-crowded street. 

Men and women on the way to work stopped at the stalls on the corner, chatting over coffee or buying crisp sambusa or beef lumpia before they started their day. A few familiar faces waved at Narine, but the city was waking and the sun was crawling higher in the sky. It was the beginning of the holiday season and everyone had somewhere to go.

She left the side streets and merged onto the main road, weaving between the traffic that congested under the skytrain overpass before she whipped around the traffic circle and sped up as she passed Addis Ababa University.

When Narine was riding, she was just another commuter on her way to work. She could be anyone or no one. She wasn’t a third tier mage of the order, she wasn’t the scion of House Kayl, she was just a twenty-eight year old woman on her way to work. She breathed in the morning air still tinged with the scent of rain from the night before.

Narine passed the lion monument and pointed her bike north, passing the university gates on her left, scattered government buildings, and the countless blue and white electric minibuses that carried residents to their work at the foreign embassies or the always-expanding government compound near Entoto.

While traffic was light, the business of Africa’s second-largest country and the headquarters of the African Union never ceased. 

In addition to commuter traffic, tour buses filled with Chinese, Brazilian, and Indian tourists crowded the roads in the museum district, and the scent of food carts drifted across the road.

Narine tried to slow down as she passed the crowded intersection, but a tall man with a beard, sunglasses, and an orange backpack nearly stepped in front of her before she could swerve around him. He stepped back from the traffic just in time, but yelled after her.

“Hey, watch it!”

Narine stopped at the light and looked back at him, surprised by his rudeness and his English.

She hadn’t been the one stepping into traffic.

“Watch where you’re going!” The man looked like he’d spilled something hot. He was holding a paper cup and shaking his hand.

Narine narrowed her eyes behind her visor. The man looked Ethiopian, but sounded American. Probably one of the numerous diaspora who had returned in the previous decades to invest in the burst of economic activity spurred by Ethiopia’s new status as an energy exporter.

A skytrain whooshed overhead and a driver with a Syrian accent yelled out the window of the minibus he was driving. “Don’t you see the light? Move!”

Narine turned away from the American and focused on navigating the road without holding up traffic.

Minutes later, she pulled off the main road just before the American Embassy, bumped over the pedestrian walkway, and guided her bike through quiet back streets until she wound past a city park and approached the gates that had guarded the order’s Addis headquarters for over one-hundred and seventy-five years.

It was a lush, wooded compound a world away from the bustling city that had grown around it. As large as an embassy, it contained offices, libraries, residential dwellings, meditation rooms, and constellar temples.

Officially, the sign on the stone wall of the heavily guarded compound read “Society of Ethnography, Geography, and Ethno-Linguistics.”

In reality, the compound housed the largest and oldest branch of the Seba Segel.

Copyright 2022, Elizabeth Hunter

All rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  1. Tais S

    I read this last week in the email and had the urge to do a chart with all the names and that’s all to say I’M INTERESTED 👀


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