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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 20 page 19


A dodo bird pokes his head out of a sewer hole

The Dodo Initiative

by Samih Nassar

Tom shuffled through piles of discarded compost and pop cans. He struggled to hold his phone and maintain focus while he tried to get a fix on the harsh cawing sounds that ricocheted off the sewer walls like high-calibre sniper rounds. A light flashed through the grating above and briefly illuminated the sewer. Tom looked up and observed the Drift Craft soaring above him. The CN Tower, lit neon green, peeked through the numerous condominiums that gobbled the skyline.

Tom got his head back into gear and placed his ear to the phone.

“Where are you?” Ceren asked. “I can barely hear you.”

“Sorry baby, I’m still on the hunt.” He kicked aside a few cans and a banana peel the colour of charcoal.

“What happened? I thought I heard banging. Are you alright?”

Tom jumped from a trash heap to land on the ash-coloured brick flooring. “Yeah, course I am. You know me, hon.”

“That’s why I’m concerned.”

Tom approached a rivulet of running water that looked like sludge. A pathway above the rivulet led through a tunnel. The sight of the brown and black water prompted Tom to tuck his two necklaces behind his shirt. One of them held a bone carving of a turtle, the other a nazar amulet, its blue eye said to ward off evil. He would not chance losing them.

“Did it really, you know, escape?” Ceren asked.

“They’re not telling me how. Guess they’re embarrassed,” he said. “Fear not babe, I got this.”

Ceren exhaled nervously. “I trust you, it’s not that. They work you too hard at the lab. What they’ve been doing lately, it’s a bit dangerous for my taste.”

“I’m head of security, Ceren, what can I tell you? This is my job. There was a time when you found danger sexy.”

“That was before I realized I loved you.”

Tom laughed. “I love you too baby. I swear I won’t be long. I know what I’m doing.”

“You better be home soon. You owe me dinner.”

“Oh damn is it my turn tonight?”

Tom started walking through the tunnel. The cawing sounds chimed in once more. Faint, but strong enough to follow. He picked up his pace.

“Don’t tell me you forgot.”

“Never hon, just preoccupied with this work stuff.”

He heard a crashing sound. He continued onwards.

“Okay, I’ll let you get on with it then.”

“I promise I won’t take long.”

Ceren was in their apartment as she spoke. She sat by the kitchen table and observed her crystal tablet. The word “RENT” intimidatingly beamed at her.

“Just got an email from our favourite landlord,” she continued.

“Damn, we’re not behind are we?” Tom turned a corner in the tunnel.

“No, we’re good. But I just got an email. Rent’s increasing 18% next month.”

Tom stopped in his tracks, the sound of the flowing sludge nearly drowned his reaction. “Tell me you’re kidding.”

“I’m staring at the message.”

He stepped on the skeleton of a dead rat. The bones crunched under his boots. “Yuck.”