A Bite of… Bonnie Milani’s Nikki and Sam

An interview with Nikki Sotolongo and Sam from ‘Cherry Pickers’ by Bonnie Milani
Interviewer: Which is your favourite Grimm’s Fairytale and why?
    Nikki Sotolongo – a tall, wiry 17-year-old with cropped hair and freckles – cleans her machete while she thinks about it.  “Cinderella, I guess. I mean, who doesn’t want a Prince Charming?”
     A chittering erupts from the shadows lining the ceiling. She breaks off to chitter back at it.  
    One of the shadows drops off the ceiling on a silken thread. Long, black legs uncurl on the way down. A nine-foot tarantula lands beside her. Its face consists of a double row of eyes bracketing a pair of fangs beneath long, fuzzy antennae. Razor sharp pincers spread out around its mouth. Nikki barely glances at it. “Hey, Sam.”
    Sam rears onto his back four legs.  He folds the front four across what passes for his chest and chitters.
    Nikki sheathes the machete and jams hands on hips. “What do you mean, that’s your favorite? That’s a girl’s story! And turn on your voice box – we got company.”
    Sam touches a hand-leg to a slender band around his cephalothorax. The chittering turns into a somewhat scratchy baritone. “You always get the story wrong. The prince is the whole point of Cinderella…Besides, you scared your Prince Charming off.”
    “Me? Oh, yeah?”
    “Yeah! Just like you’ve scared this human here!” He flips an antenna at the interviewer.
Interviewer (backing away): Which is more important romance or friendship and why?
    Nikki: “Friendship.”
    Sam:  “Romance.”
    Nikki: “Now what kind of tom-fool answer is that?  Candles and roses aren’t going to watch your back when you hit trouble.”
    Sam:  “Ah, but without romance, life is mere existence, without purpose, without beauty.” He scuttles past Nikki to perk antennae at the interviewer.  “Don’t you agree?”
Interviewer (quavering- the wall blocks her retreat): What do you like most and least about the world you live on and why?
about the world you live on and why?
    Sam and Nikki look at each other.  Sam’s antennae curl into question marks.
    Nikki: “Gee, I dunno.  I mean, I was born here in the Sisyphus colony.  And Sam’s a local. We never lived anyplace else-“
    She spots a movement on the floor near the door. Whirling, Nikki whips out the machete and slashes apart a snaking, fanged tendril. Sam sidles past her and nibbles on the thing’s oozing remains.
     Nikki hunts up a rag from her pockets. “Gobbers.  And I just cleaned it, too.” She cleans the weapon while she considers the question. “I mean, it’s a penal colony, y’know?  What’s to like?”
    Sam pauses over his snack.  “Free food.”
    “Well, yeah, if you’re a Sissy.” Nikki shrugs.  “But SisPenOne is a penal colony. I don’t think us humans are supposed to like it.”  She shrugs.  “It’s home, anyway.  From what I hear, it’s not that different from Earth.”
You can find out much more about Nikki and Sam in ‘Cherry Pickers‘.

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