My Soul to Keep

My Soul to Keep

by Tananarive Due

Paperback(1 ED)

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Overview

"An eerie epic [...] Bears favorable comparison to Interview with the Vampire. I loved this novel." — Stephen King

From the award-winning master of horror and Afrofuturism Tananarive Due comes a modern-classic of dark introspection.

When Jessica marries David, he is everything she wants in a family man: brilliant, attentive, ever youthful. Yet she still feels something about him is just out of reach. Soon, as people close to Jessica begin to meet violent, mysterious deaths, David makes an unimaginable confession: More than 400 years ago, he and other members of an Ethiopian sect traded their humanity so they would never die, a secret he must protect at any cost. Now, his immortal brethren have decided David must return and leave his family in Miami. Instead, David vows to invoke a forbidden ritual to keep Jessica and his daughter with him forever.

Harrowing, engrossing and skillfully rendered, My Soul to Keep traps Jessica between the desperation of immortals who want to rob her of her life and a husband who wants to rob her of her soul. With deft plotting and an unforgettable climax, this tour de force reminiscent of early Anne Rice will win Due a new legion of fans.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061053665
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/08/1998
Series: African Immortals Series , #1
Edition description: 1 ED
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 149,066
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.88(d)

About the Author

TANANARIVE DUE (tah-nah-nah-REEVE doo) is an award-winning author who teaches Black Horror and Afrofuturism at UCLA. She is an executive producer on Shudder's groundbreaking documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. A leading voice in black speculative fiction for more than 20 years, Due has won an American Book Award, an NAACP Image Award, and a British Fantasy Award, and her writing has been included in best-of-the-year anthologies. Her books include Ghost Summer: Stories, My Soul to Keep, and The Good House. She and her late mother, civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due, co-authored Freedom in the Family: a Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights. She is married to author Steven Barnes, with whom she collaborates on screenplays. They live with their son, Jason, and two cats.  Black Horror and Afrofuturism at UCLA. She is an executive producer on Shudder's groundbreaking documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. A leading voice in black speculative fiction for more than 20 years, Due has won an American Book Award, an NAACP Image Award, and a British Fantasy Award, and her writing has been included in best-of-the-year anthologies. Her books include Ghost Summer: Stories, My Soul to Keep, and The Good House. She and her late mother, civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due, co-authored Freedom in the Family: a Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights. She is married to author Steven Barnes, with whom she collaborates on screenplays. They live with their son, Jason, and two cats. 

Read an Excerpt

Part One

Mr. Perfect

A low howl filled the two-story house, bleeding from the cracks in the knotty Dade County pinewood walls. There were intervals of peace, then the sound rose two octaves into a scream that splintered Jessica Jacobs-Wolde's sleep. She sat up, her eyes round. Kira, she thought. Was the awful noise coming through the wall from her daughter's room?

She reached out to touch her husband, but the space beside her in the bed was empty. The aloneness startled her, and she accidentally bit her tongue. When the scream came again, she realized the noise wasn't human. With wakefulness, logical thought began to wash over her like daylight.

Of course it wasn't Kira. Kira wasn't sick. Princess was sick. The dog was screaming from somewhere downstairs, probably the living room. Jessica closed her eyes, simultaneously relieved and dismayed. Nothing terrified her more than being roused from sleep by a faceless emergency. Her heart raced in dread whenever the phone rang at two a.m., as if the impending disaster she'd spent her life anticipating had arrived, just as expected. Sleep always made the unknown a tragedy, and this was bad in itself. There was something horribly wrong with the dog.

She heard clumping up the wooden stairs, then David's lanky form, in white briefs, appeared in the bedroom doorway. "We need to call the vet," he said, breathless. At certain times, like this, she could hear a buried lilt in his accent, showing his upbringing scattered between Africa and France. Usually, he sounded all-American bourgeois Negro, just like her. "We can't wait. I don't know what's wrong with her, Jess."

"I'll page him," she said, swinging herbare legs over the side of the bed to slip into her waiting Nikes. If you're a doctor, even a doggie doctor, you have to learn to expect calls at four in the morning, she told herself. She pulled the fading tassel on the black Oriental lamp on the nightstand, illuminating the helpless desperation on her husband's usually opal-smooth brown face. Worry lines were etched in his forehead. "See if Kira's awake, David. Don't wake her if she isn't."

He nodded, moving his lips to repeat her words before darting out of the doorway. His movements looked jerky, confused.

He was scared. She'd never seen him more scared in their seven years of marriage, aside from Kira's asthma attack the year before. They both lost their heads then, listening to their child gasping to breathe as they flew down the expressway. It was a wonder they hadn't crashed the car. To Jessica, that memory was still potent enough to make her chest tighten; she'd been convinced, for those endless minutes, that her child was dying in her arms and that she couldn't do a damn thing. No mother should know that feeling.

Yes, thank you, dear Lord, it's only Princess, she thought. I hate for the dog to be sick, but better the dog than my baby.

Poor Princess.

Princess, by pure size, had reached nearly human status in their family, especially with David. The Great Dane gave Kira rides and chased David's Frisbees on the beach with a red kerchief tied around her bulky neck. Truthfully, Jessica had never been able to muster the same affection for goofy Princess as she felt for her rust-orange tomcat, Teacake, when he crawled on top of her breastbone and folded his paws beneath his chin, meeting her eyes for silent conversations. Dogs were entertainers; cats, philosophers.

But to David, Princess was family. Jessica stared up at an eight-by-ten photograph of Princess that David had framed on their bedroom wall. The sleek black Dane was wearing a birthday hat and seemed to be grinning for the camera. Goofy, but lovable. Jessica smiled sadly. She'd better find that vet's number if she wanted to keep David from having a breakdown. She fumbled through her overstuffed woven African purse for her directory.

She didn't understand it. One moment, everything was fine; the next, life took on a mind of its own.

Princess, glad to be out of the kennel after their vacation, had been jogging up and down the street with David earlier, just before sunset. But after she wolfed down a can of dog food, she found a corner in the house and retreated there, coughing slightly as though trying to dislodge something irritating from her throat. It reminded Jessica of a person who'd eaten something that had gone bad and didn't feel well.

David wanted to call Dr. Roman right away, even before the slight froth of dripping foam appeared at her jowls. But Jessica knew Princess couldn't be having a rabies attack, not just like that, and she'd had all of her shots. David wouldn't have let her bite a poisonous toad, and even if she had'as one of her family's two German shepherds had when Jessica was six'Princess would have died immediately. No, Princess was probably just nauseated. All she needed was a nap, and she'd be all better.

Let's give it until morning, she'd said.

Now, those words were ringing in Jessica's head with their stupidity. Again, she'd hoped to make something better by just ignoring it, hoping it would fix itself. She did it when her car made unfamiliar noises, when she got phone messages she didn't want to face, when she felt a strange ache or pain after a mishap. She should have learned better by now. She thought of the slogan at her dentist's office, which seemed to be posted for her benefit alone: Ignore Your Teeth and They'll Go Away.

Princess wailed again, an agonizing plea that made tears find Jessica's eyes. What the hell could be hurting poor Princess so much? Why did the dog have to get sick now? In just hours, Jessica would need to perform emergency cosmetic surgery on her nursing-home stories for the newspaper. It was hard enough to drag into work the first day after a week's vacation, but she'd never be alert now, considering that they'd just made the five-hour drive back from Orlando that afternoon. Images of strolling costumed characters, endlessly winding lines, and fireworks spectacles were still glued to her brain. She grabbed a Minnie Mouse pencil from her purse to jab Dr. Roman's number on the telephone. Following the voice mail's recorded instructions, she punched the code to page him. Minnie's carefree grin stared up at her inanely.

Dr. Roman had been treating Princess since she was a puppy four years before. He was the one who patiently taped and re-taped Princess's ears for months to help them stand upright, despite the dog's irritable wriggling. He would understand.

"Did you call?" David shouted from downstairs.

Jessica sighed. She'd told him not to wake the baby, not that anyone could sleep through all of the noise in the house. Sure enough, Kira pulled her door open and stuck her fuzzy head out. Jessica still called her The Baby, forgetting she wasn't a baby at all. "Mommy," Kira demanded, whispering, "what's wrong?"

Jessica went to her and leaned over to kiss her forehead, then took Kira's hand to lead her back into the dark room. Kira's old Beauty and the Beast night-light glowed on the wall near her bed, a beacon against boogeymen. Jessica always felt like a little girl again in her daughter's room, with its happy colors and toys and the sweet smell of mini candy bars melting in their wrappers on her windowsill. David was a good artist, and he painted a new cartoon character on Kira's east wall each year; it was long past time to paint over the broad-chested, smirking blue genie from Aladdin. Before that, it had been Barney's wall. Jessica hadn't been sorry to see that sugar-coated purple beast go.

"Princess is still sick. You just stay in here, okay? Don't come out. Go back to sleep." Tears already. Kira bit her bottom lip hard. "What's wrong with Princess?" She would be sobbing soon unless Mommy said something reassuring."We don't know, honey," Jessica said. "We'll fix it."

"Mommy, will she die?"

Another yelp from downstairs, as though Princess had been struck sharply. Jessica tried to hold her expression blank, pretending she'd heard nothing, as though the dog's pain wasn't hurting her. She stroked the top of Kira's head. "Shhhh. Go to sleep, sweetheart. It'll be better soon."

Teacake warbled and bounded into the room. Jessica lifted the oversized cat and dropped him on top of Kira's bed as she slipped back beneath her blanket.

"Your job is to watch Teacake, okay?" Jessica asked.

"Okay. I'll do that," Kira said with an urgency of purpose.

Downstairs, David was kneeling beside Princess on a pallet he'd made from blankets and newspapers near the dining nook, the corner of the house he had converted into his office. His computer sat on the dining room table in the midst of piles of papers. He'd stacked history journals, music theory books, hardbound classic novels, and language books on shelves that reached the ceiling. Sometimes the clutter of their house made Jessica feel like she couldn't breathe, and she wondered if Princess was having the same reaction. Princess was lying prone, her head resting against the hardwood floor beyond the pallet, her eyes wide open. Foam was still dripping from her mouth. David stroked her neck, occasionally rubbing behind her upright ears.

"Maybe you shouldn't touch her. She may bite you. She's in agony," Jessica said, squatting beside him.

"She won't bite. She knows it's me."

"David, I wish I could figure out what happened."

"We missed something," David said, moving his hand to Princess's abdomen. "Feel here."

Gingerly, Jessica touched Princess. She drew her hand away quickly. Princess's abdomen was stone'bloated and tight. "Oh, my Lord. What's'""It's serious. We should have done something. It's not just her throat. It's something internal." David could barely speak.

Hindsight. Damn, damn, damn. It was her fault. An apology was forming on Jessica's lips when the phone rang, its sudden shrill making her jump. Their living room phone was an old-fashioned black antique with a rotary dial, and it rang with a jangling bell that reached every corner of the house. She grabbed it to silence it.

Dr. Roman sounded put out at first, but he drilled her with questions about Princess's condition. Had she eaten just before she got sick? Did her tummy feel bloated? When did it first start? The longer they spoke, the less sleepy his voice became, and the more rapid his words.

"I want you and your husband to get her to my office," Dr. Roman said, "but I feel obligated to prepare you. It sounds like it might be a stomach torsion, Jessica, and if it is, it's very grave. Princess may not make it. The only thing would be surgery, if it's not too late. And even then . . ."She saw David staring up at her expectantly, and she could only listen with her mouth half open as the veterinarian's words assaulted her with their finality: Very grave. May not make it. "I don't think we can lift her," she said softly to Dr. Roman, filling a silence on the line she'd been unaware of for seconds.

"We'll lift her," David said, standing, sounding encouraged.

Jessica stared at him and shook her head slowly, the tears creeping to her cheeks. She watched David's boyish face change slowly, from puzzlement to gradual understanding to despair. He understood her eyes. Once again, he kneeled beside his dog and began to stroke her ears, speaking to her in low, soothing tones. Princess had been very quiet for a long time. "I'll meet you at the office," Dr. Roman said to Jessica.

Jessica told Kira not to worry and to stay in bed. They were opening the front door because Mommy and Daddy were putting Princess in the car, and then Mommy would be right back.

Luckily, the minivan was empty because Jessica had forced David to help her move their bags out so she wouldn't have to face the task in the morning. They folded the backseat forward to make room. Jessica hesitated to touch the dog at first, still thinking she might snap at them, but David was getting frantic, telling her to hurry up and to take the dog's haunches.

Sweet Jesus. The dog weighed nearly two hundred pounds and felt unbelievably heavy. They strained to half drag her across the aged marble tiles to the doorway, then they grabbed her at either end to lift her into the back of the minivan, which David had driven over their dirt pathway to back in as close as possible to the front door. Princess, wide-eyed, didn't utter a complaint. By the time David slammed the back hatch down, they were both perspiring and Jessica's forearms ached.

Jessica smelled something in the air besides the blend of their combined unshowered musk; it was sickness, turgid and bitter.

Jessica stood in the breeze and watched the vehicle rock as it drove up the steep driveway, the only sound on their quiet street of houses sleeping beneath a blanket of eucalyptus and ficus trees, and majestic old oaks buried with hanging moss. The red lights from the minivan's brakes lit up the street, illuminating clumps of the moss that appeared to be hanging from air. Then, with a screech, David was gone. Jessica heard the water from Little River lapping softly behind their house, and a dog from across the way barked into the dark. Princess's favorite basketball, riddled with teeth marks and half full of air, was on the front stoop beside Jessica, left behind.

Jessica sniffed and wiped her face with her nightshirt before she went back into the house. The sickness smell was on her. And she was alone. And, somehow, she already knew Princess would not be coming back.

Once inside, Jessica switched on the television set in the living room so a familiar noise would drive away her discomfort. As usual, David had the cable channel set to American Movie Classics. The black-and-white movie, one of those Fred Astaire dance spectacles, made the living room a safe bluish hue. The song was so cheerful that it made the moment feel more pronounced and ugly. Jessica went upstairs to look after her daughter, and to wait.

It was six-thirty, becoming light outside, when Jessica heard the front door open and knew David was back. She had been anxious, only half sleeping on top of the covers, and she felt equally wired and exhausted when he came up to the room. His eyes were pink from strain, vacant. His hair looked bunched.

"No?" Jessica asked.

David shook his head, not looking at her. He stepped out of the green University of Miami sweatpants he'd thrown on and folded them neatly to replace them in the drawer of their antique oak bureau. She knew he was acting out of habit; he should be putting them in the hamper in the bathroom instead.

"It's called a stomach torsion," David said mechanically, as though reading from a veterinary textbook. "It happens with big dogs. Especially Great Danes. Sometimes they're too active or they eat too fast, and their stomach just . . . twists . . ."

"I'm so sorry, baby," Jessica said. She replayed the dog's last hours in her mind; Princess tearing around the clear patch of grass on the side of their house, barking at their neighbor, then coughing, the foam at her mouth. How could they have known? "Did he say it would have made a difference if we'd . . ."

"I didn't ask," David said quickly, and Jessica knew then that he had asked, and that acting sooner might have saved Princess.

David sighed, shrugging, his back still to her. He was slender but toned, and his shoulder blades poked gently against the sinews of his back. "I guess it was us being out of town, her cooped up at the kennel all that time. A damn week. She was just so excited. I don't know. Maybe when she ate, it went down wrong. Something. Dr. Roman said it happens to Danes a lot."Now, with confirmation, Jessica realized how bad, really bad, this was. Very soon, they would have to wake their five-year-old and tell her that the playmate she'd known as long as her world had existed was gone. Just like that.

David Wolde climbed into the bed beside his wife, hugged her tightly from behind, and began to cry.

Table of Contents

Interviews

Before the live bn.com chat, Tananarive Due agreed to answer some of our questions:

Q:  Say My Soul to Keep is made into a movie. Who plays the principals?

A:  Maybe Halle Berry as Jessica, Blair Underwood as Dawit, and Khaldun...let's see...someone wise?...Morgan Freeman.

Q:  How much of Jessica is you?

A:  There is definitely some of me in Jessica. I was very naive when I was the age Jessica is when she meets David. She's also kind of based on a good friend of mine who has a family similar to Jessica's.

Q:  Who are your major literary influences?

A:  Octavia E. Butler -- a science fiction writer; Stephen King is incredible; I love Jane Austen; Toni Morrison is someone whom I aspired to be like when I was younger; I've recently been getting into Kafka.

Q:  What is your favorite food?

A:  I love so many different kinds...I recently discovered sushi. When you develop a taste for it, there's nothing like it.

Q:  What are your favorite films?

A:  "Pulp Fiction," "Mo' Better Blues" -- I really like that movie; "Godfather I and II" -- I'm excluding the third one on purpose. I loved "Jerry Maguire."

Q:  If you had the chance to become immortal, would you?

A:  There's a time I would have said yes. Writing this book affirmed for me that that's not the way it's supposed to be. Live a long life...and when it's done...it's done.


Customer Reviews

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My Soul to Keep 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Kalduwn More than 1 year ago
This book makes into my top ten. The story held my attention from cover to cover. Listening to it on audio (read by Peter Francis James) was even better. I couldn't wait to read The Living Blood and Blood Colony.
Kaileigh More than 1 year ago
This book took me a very long time to get into. It didn't get iteresting for me until I had read at least 150pgs. I was ready to give up and put it down. It slowly starting getting better and better. The life of an immortal is something I have now found myself contemplating. All in all, it was a decent read, but I rated it only 2 stars because it took SO long to get in to.
Annie-Pannie More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. The writing is excellent you love and hate and cry with the characters. You go to bed and they're there in your dreams. This is the kind of book that stays with you forever. Due is one of my all time favorite authors.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am not s mystery reader, but I am a FAN. I could not oput it down and will be starting on the sequel, I WANT TO SEE THIS AS A MOVIE.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My Soul To Keep has to be the most intriguing book I have read to date, and I have read many. It was extremely hard to lay it down and I would find myself reading into the early morning hours. I am patiently waiting for the movie. I have also read 'The Between' and 'The Living Blood'. Keep them coming Ms. Due!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms Due's ability to convey the story is wonderful. I could not put the book down. It is in the same class as Interview with A Vampire. I've read Living Blood and was blown away. WHEN IS SHE GETTING A MOVIE DEAL!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is absolutely amazing. I think I stayed up nearly 24 hours trying to finish this novel. I'm not a big sci-fi fan, but this book was definitely worth the read and left me breathless at some portions. Due creates characters that are so real, and they stick with you long after you finish reading. Granted, some of the religious elements are disturbing; nevertheless, I'm in awe of her writing ability. I can only hope to write novels as compelling. I would LOVE to see this made into a movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is outstanding. This the first book I have read by Ms Due, but before I completed "My Soul to Keep" I went back to the store and ordered "The Living Blood." The characters grab you and just pulls you into the story. You can't help but want to turn the pages. I am afraid my husband and daughter were sorely neglected for the day and a half it took me to read this book. It is a MUST READ.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down, it captured me from page 1. What a talented writer Tananarive Due is! The characters, the story, the intensity, it all took my breath away. I have the sequel, The Living Blood, and I'm starting it right now.
Anonymous 26 days ago
Such a different twist to this type of book. Very entertaining.
anyanwubutler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
David is Mr. Perfect the attentive, loving, sweet husband to newspaper reporter Jessica. He¿s also a 400 year old immortal who must keep his secret at all costs. Strange things happen and David tells Jessica his secret, something he¿s never done in all this time. People like the Watchers or the Talamsca (who are his brother immortals) come after Dawit (the name he was born with in Ethiopia) and Jessica. He makes her immortal too. It¿s a neat book, that I wouldn¿t have heard of without Dark Matter.
hoosieriu97 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book had so many layers and small details that all fit together to make this a truly enjoyable, suspenseful novel. Jessica had what she thought was a happy marriage with David and a child named Kira. Little did she know that David/ Dawit was five hundred years old and had lived many lives before her. He was offered the Life Blood, which made him immortal. Some of the scenes of his former lives were touching as well as the love he felt for Jessica and their daughter. This tale mixes thoughts on Christianity, racism, marriage, self-less love, and whole lot more into a great read.
Darrol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Best rethinking of the vampire story I have read so far.I would say that comparing this book to Ann Rice in inappropriate. This book is in another class altogether--and better.
eldi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One thing I love more than anything else in this book is how the opening sequence resonates through out the whole story. With out wanting to spoil the events of the story, I will say that it deals with Death, in a way that many other stories do not. Tananarive Due writes a story about a woman named Jessica Jacobs-Wolde, a news journalist whose married to David Wolde, a former school teacher. David Wolde has a secret, he is an Immortal (not a vampire, something else) who has to return to his colony of brothers. The Life Brothers are out to retrieve David, and kill his family because they know to much. No one must know. The first rule of the life colony. Its a very suspenseful book, with out using cheap tricks like riddles and puzzles to latch you in. The charecters are well rounded, enjoyable and intelligent. Tananarive Due's writing is very colorful and adds to the emotional content of the story. Very fine book. Very fine indeed.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another vampire story that on the cover is compared to Rice's Vampire Chronicles -- but again, I must disagree. As I've said before, I liked the original Vampire Chronicles, but this one was different. At the beginning of the story, we are introduced to David and Jessica Wolde, who seem to have it all. She is a journalist and her worked is being groomed to win her a Pulitzer Prize. He is a professor and avid connaisseur of music, a love for things beautiful, and is very respected and respectable. They also have a very sweet little girl named Kira. There's just one hitch in this otherwise dreamlike life...David, who after undergoing a strange ritual 400 years earlier in the deserts of Ethiopia, is an immortal. We won't call him vampire, exactly, because he doesn't seem to need to take blood for nourishment (in fact, he seems to be an outstanding cook), but his blood and this ritual made him one of a small select community of brothers. We gather bits and pieces of David's story throughout the novel, in which we learn of his travels from Ethiopia to Europe to America, and the life he had to endure even as he watched his loved ones die. But Jessica knows nothing of his past; she met him when he was her professor at college. One day David is pruning a tree and ends up falling out of it, dislocating his shoulder, rubbing skin off of his body & breaking several ribs. He refuses to have any medical attention, yet manages to heal quite nicely pretty much overnight. Jessica begins to wonder how that could be possible. From that time on, incidents escalate and soon it is Jessica and her daughter Kira who find themselves in danger of being killed. I thought this book was very good. Here's my complaint: sometimes things were a little too contrived, a little too coincidental and I thought the ending was a little sappy and overdramatic. However, all in all it was one of those I couldn't put down until finished. Tanarive Due is a fine author & I cannot wait to start another book by her. Definitely worth a reread at some point in the future. I recommend this one, but if you're looking for the Vampire Lestat, Count Dracula or any number of other vampire literary legends, this book may not make you happy. This is definitely much more sophisticated than Anne Rice's work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
mrsbossd More than 1 year ago
This book touched me in a way that I wasn't expecting it to. Its was beautifully sad. That's the best way I can describe it. Perfectly written. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book & looking forward to the next one. Thank you to Ms. Due for this journey into the supernatural. Can't wait to start on the next one. And P.S. For some reason Blair Underwood does not come to mind to play the part of Dawit if this became a movie script. 
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Such suspence! Great read for paranormal readers.
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Tracey Jones More than 1 year ago
Tananarive Due is magnificentm visionary storyteller. From the beginning of the story I was compelled, wishing I could be apart of the Living Blood. This story is supernaturally Spiritual. Wish my mind/imagination was that expansive
Candy1908 More than 1 year ago
I love this author!. This story is so exciting and left me wanting for more. This is a great start to the tale of the Immortals. A must read if you love Sci- Fi!