Show Me / 1.15.18 / 1:05-1:28

Show me where it hurts, I tell her but she doesn’t move, just stares at me, eyes unblinking. It’s disconcerting, that look, but I can’t turn away, so I say again, Show me where it hurts, and I reach for her in the place I know, I reach for her neck and she flinches, briefly closing those luminescent orbs and I sigh with relief because for once

I feel free from her pain

But those eyes open up again, and they’re wet this time. They’re wet and accusatory and so goddamn sad I want to hit her, so I do, I hit her across her cheek and I shout at her, Does that hurt worse?!

And she says, No.

And there’s this odd feeling in me, kinda like my breakfast was off, like there was a worm in the sausage and I didn’t see it because they’re shaped the same and now that worm is fat on my gut and I’m rotting from the inside out. I’m afraid to open my mouth. My breath will kill. I’ll spread this rot gut everywhere and everyone will blame me for the death in their nostrils, for the death they can’t get away from

Yet, she’s still here. Still staring.

And another feeling arises, this time in my own neck, in my throat in form of an impenetrable knot and it’s almost as if I can’t breathe so I hiccup instead and it’s thick in there, thick like whole milk on a hot day. Boilt whole milk on a hot day with the skin sitting in the back of my mouth, clinging to my uvula, eternally sliding against the back of my tongue and no matter how much I scrape, scratch, grunt it won’t move, it won’t leave.

I want to throw up. I want to get up and leave her, but she has me pinned.

Her cheek is swollen. Purple against Black.

She tilts her head, blinks once, then lunges for me, grabbing at me, scraping, pulling, peeling until strips of my flesh are thrown behind her and she’s tearing me away like I’m a wrapping to a Christmas present, but what the fuck could the present be?

She claws at me until she can crawl into me and I watch, I watch as she reaches for and smooths back the skin she ripped away, strip by strip, and she nestles further, first by my womb, then next to heart where she finds it warmest I guess and she sighs with contentment as she places the very last bit of my flesh back.

All except for my lips and my tongue.

She sighs as the knowledge hits me of what’s missing and she giggles.

And then she screams.

Only for me to hear.

Only for me to keep.

She is my present. I am hers.

Show me where it hurts.

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In Full Bloom

Note: This originally appeared on the blog Oblique 30.

He’s slight in every sense of the word. Fine-boned, like a delicate bird. Pale and sickly. Shoulders rounded, back slumped. A heavy breath from paper-thin lungs could break him.

I want to cradle him.

I want to wrap my large, dark hands around his tiny torso and squeeze. I want to read the notches of his spine with my heavy fingertips, pluck and play his pronounced ribs with my thumbs. My fat tongue fights to taste his powdery flesh. My ears yearn for the crinkle of his reedy skin.

I need him.

Just as he needs me. He’s my baby, my child, a man born of my desire and aching. He is my manifestation.

He looks to me. For care. For comfort. For protection.

And all I want to do is hurt him.

He knows that look. Understands it. Me. More than I even know myself.

My steps are careful, but I am clumsy. Big feet, stubby toes, long limbs. I am everything he is not.

I am his God.

He is my Goddess.

And we fucking hate each other for it.

Long fingers curl into a ball tight enough to crack air. The strike is solid, satisfying.

The sight of red pleases me. He whimpers. I giggle.

The tear is angry, but not alone. More crowd his blind eyes until they fall together, storming down the misshapen hills and valleys of his face. They gather at the peak of his chin, clinging to one another, impregnating each other until there is nowhere to go but down.

Rain meets concrete and I am empty once again.

I turn away, but his claw-like fingers find a wisp of my shift. Clinging. Pulling.

I step forward, dragging him. One inch. One foot.

I stop to peer over my shoulder, to see if he’s still there. If he’s still devoted to me.

His flesh has betrayed him, streaking gore across the gritty floor, leaving him in strips and chunks.

It is my turn to whimper. To moan. To mourn the loss of such beautiful, delicious meat.

I kneel to him. Take his face in my grotesque hands. Press my plump mouth to his sealed lips. Drag my hot tongue along the bitter muscle that is his.

And I squeeze.

Sin Eater

“Any last requests?”

She shifts. Barely a whisper of movement, but he notices. Can’t help but learn someone through their silence after nine years of dealing with it.

“Last words or thoughts?”

The corner of her mouth ticks and he can feel the smart-ass response sitting at the edge of her tongue. At least, this is what he hopes. A wishful auditory hallucination. He eyes her mouth, the shape of her lips, the divot of her philtrum willing them to move just this once. Four hundred eighty-six visits and he has yet to know what her voice sounds like.

And now he never will.

He heaves a sigh, then stands, immediately crowding the tiny cell. He’d learned early on in his career to sit when enclosed in spaces like this. It eased the tension inadvertently brought on by his striking height and barrel chest, even allowed a beard to grow in without abrupt defense. Yet, none of it works with her. She shows nothing of her hand; not fear, not defense. Not even a withering sense of emotional exhaustion.

She just . . . is.

Yet, there is something undeniable about her presence. The cold cell is alive with her, not unlike constant static in the air. Tangible yet inexplicable. The first time he’d attempted to counsel her, he left the cell giddy, nearly giggling to himself, but not with happiness or elation.

But with relief.

She’d gone through other psychiatrists and psychologists, therapists, LCSWs, volunteer staff counselors. She’d cooperated with none. Five years, four resignations, a breakdown, and an attack later, he was brought in.

To absolutely no avail.

But he stuck by her for reasons mostly unknown to him. He asked questions expecting no answer, yet hoping for one, shared anecdotes to no response, and at times, shared in the silence with her, often lamenting his own struggles and leaving with a sense of purpose, of direction.

He fears what lay ahead of her now. He understood this day would come, but he’d had more than enough time to selfishly deny its inevitability. The panic nearly causes him to sit back down, the contradictory need to shake her out of her stillness and comfort her through this frustrating him to the point of clenched fists and a tightened jaw. He’d walked into this space over three-thousand days ago counting on the glory of solving the most difficult case in the institution. He’d been humbled by her, by this, by the last nine years of monk-like silence. There was no glory to be had, no praise or recognition.

Only the loss of a life.

Gathering himself, he approaches the cell door but stops when he hears the bed creak. He turns to see her standing, watching him. With a smile on her mouth.

His breath catches as she steps forward, her arm outstretched, a folded piece of paper in between the tips of her pointer and middle fingers. He looks from it to her and back again several times as he tries to remember how to breathe properly. She lifts an eyebrow at him, playing with him, toying with his shock. The smile widens, but she carefully hides her teeth. He reaches for the note, noticing for the first time the graceful swirl of a black-ink tattoo adorning the delicate brown flesh of her wrist. The line dances along a keloided scar, thick and braided and clunky in comparison.

The moment is cut once the paper is in his grasp. She quickly drops her arm, her other hand smoothing her sweatshirt down further, hiding both the deliberate and the desperate. With some effort, he turns away from her again and knocks on the metal door twice.

Before the latches are released, before he can give Bob the tired nod of acknowledgment on his way out, she says, “Read it when I’m gone.”

It is only after Bob has locked her back in does it register that it hadn’t been in his head.

***

Her voice is like cold dark honey, slow and deep and bittersweet, and he can’t stop hearing it.

Hearing her.

He sits in his office at home staring at the piece of paper, knowing she’s been dead for hours now, laid peacefully to rest by a cocktail of chemicals as a handful of people watched. His phone rang when the deed was done. He’d looked at the number, then silenced the ringer, letting the director tell the news to his voicemail. He didn’t need to check it. Made note not to.

Not until he read her words.

At least now he had a template to go by; five words to be broken down and manipulated, turned into phrases and lilts of expression. Making her alive once more.

His cell phone rings. He ignores it by reaching for the paper instead.

With shaking fingers, he unfolds it, his eyes immediately tracing the end for a sense of length. Disappointment floods him once he sees the message is concise, her handwriting sloppy and in block letters, as if the note were an afterthought, not some declaration nine years in the making. He hisses, recognising his selfishness again, then slows down to read.

‘The stories I carry inside me are not mine to tell, therefore my voice is of no use to you nor to me. All the same, a truth must be told at some stage. It is too late for me. Perhaps that has always been the case, having been born with this responsibility. I regretfully pass it on to you, Peter. I hope you do not resent me too much for it, but you’ve been so patient, so kind.

‘So curious.

‘I don’t have time to fully explain, but find my body. I am to be buried in lot 218, row 0. My kind does not deteriorate like you, so do this only when you are ready.

‘Because once you begin, the stories will destroy themselves.

‘Do not try to write them as they are told, just listen. You will remember them. You will have no choice but to remember them.

‘My body will die only once all stories are released. Listening to these stories will release me, will release the truth. I am asking you to release me, Peter.

‘You will know what to do once you find my plot.

‘With admiration and hope—’

She didn’t sign her name, didn’t have to. He’d know her soon enough.

***

“Maybe you should take some time off. You’re allowed bereavement in this case. Nine years is a long time to—”

“Listen to someone breathe in an 8×8?”

The Director smirks, but the joke falls flatter than his mood has been for the last five days. The Director is speaking again, but he can’t hear the words as the phrase “read it when I’m gone” repeats louder than before. It’s been distracting him, her voice, her request. Her burden. He’d been angry at first, resentful of the task he had yet to decide on. But she knew he would, knew it with an infuriating surety that ate at him, robbed him of his sleep, of his concentration. Of his peace.

“Peter.”

He jolts, misconstruing the intonation of that uttered phrase into his name, the innate wish that she’d say it just once manifesting into the auditory hallucination he’d experienced back in her cell. His wide-eyed gaze meets that of the Director instead. He nods.

“Yeah. I’ll take some time.”

***

On the second night of his five-day bereavement, he is standing in lot 218, over plot 0, a shovel in his hand and a royal blue body bag beside him.

The internet never ceased to amaze.

The night sky is crystal clear, the moon nearly three-quarters bright. Security agreed to leave him be for an hour; after that, the hundred he slipped each of them would expire and rounds would resume. With the frigid cold, he could maybe count on an extra twenty, but he set to work quickly. The soil is still loose, but at three feet, his strength starts to wane, his arms shaking violently, hands cramping as sweat froze into little daggers along his beard. Another six inches and the tip of the shovel scrapes at the softened wood of a pine box. Weakened and tired and emotional, he begins digging with his hands, tossing the shovel aside and throwing dirt away from the hole. Six pathetic nails keep the top in place long enough for burial and are no match for the rush of adrenaline fueling him. He yanks the lid before realising what he’s doing, the thin wood landing somewhere above him with a thud.

It’s as if she’s sleeping.

Her hands are crossed at her chest, not her middle, the donated paisley dress fanning around her, drowning her, covering every bit of exposed flesh from throat to naked toes. Her hair has been braided back and close to her skull, tamed from the large afro she normally wore and maintained on her own. He’d asked her about it, nearly dared to touch it for a reaction from her, but stopped himself on more than one occasion. It seems cruel, she’s so lightly dressed, so he takes his long-removed coat and carefully lifts her to wrap it around her shoulders.

For a brief moment, he panics, thinking she’ll awaken, grapple him down into the pine box only for her to escape, her elaborate ruse coming to completion as she runs after burying him in her pauper’s tomb. But no such thing comes to pass as he tucks her arms into the goose down sleeves. He zips her up without incident, then flips her body over his shoulder before crawling out of the hole.

He doesn’t bother with replacing the dirt; her dead weight, his failing resolve, and the beeping of his phone timer all tell him to save his energy for transporting them both to his car.

And so he seals her in the thick plastic, gathers his things, and drags ass towards the back gate where his car is parked.

***

Three hours later, he is showered and sitting at his desk, staring at the patient who never spoke.

The warmth of his home eased her joints, allowing him to seat her, move her arms until her hands were planted in her lap, move her head until her gaze would have met his while he sat waiting, as if this were a normal session, as if she were a paying client.

As if her eyes were open.

He doesn’t have the heart to peel back the lids, so he sits and waits until embarrassment prickles the back of his neck and heats his cheeks.

“The fuck am I doing,” he mutters.

He stands up, rounds the desk, and sits in the matching leather chair, watching her profile, silently begging for an answer, for a response.

You will know what to do once you find my plot, the note had said. But there hadn’t been any elaboration as to what to after that. He’d instinctively believed this was the plan, to have her in a proper setting to release and reveal. But now he’s lost, his confidence gone, yet his curiosity as strong as ever.

She’s a beautiful woman, just as much in death as she had been in life. Almost startling so.

“Tell me what to do here,” he says, his voice strained. To his surprise, his throat tightens, his vision blurring. Nine years of silence, only to be fucked with by five words and a half page note on composition paper. Frustration weakens him to the point of free-flowing tears, his anger hardly a blip as he begins to weep. All of it comes rushing to the surface and he crumples under the weight, falling to his knees beside her corpse, bawling for the first time since he was a child. He doesn’t know for how long he cries, isn’t even sure how he manages to collect himself, but he sits in the chair again, wipes his face and says,

“Tell me, Mvula.”

And she coughs.

He jumps at the sound, nearly stumbling back out of the chair, but catches himself in time to watch her shake herself, limb by limb, digit by digit. She rolls her neck last, bones and joints protesting audibly as they settle back into place. At last, she sighs, moaning along with it, as if she is already exhausted by the road ahead.

He watches her, too frightened to touch her again, but needing to reassure himself of this moment. “M-Mvula?”

She smiles, full and bright, her teeth startling white. And sharp. There appears to be too many of them, her teeth. A new ice-block of fear drops into the pit of his stomach. “Peter,” she says slowly.

And he immediately regrets everything.

Like a child, he wishes for the last six hours of his life back, no, the last week. He’d been given the option to not see her that last time, had been told that it wasn’t necessary. She hadn’t spoken before, she certainly didn’t seem the type to expunge her soul moments before it was set to be dispatched. He wishes he’d never picked up her file, wishes he’d laughed off the breakroom gossip about that weird Black woman whose cell had some sort of drug being pumped into it.

But none of those wishes matter now.

Every movement, every decision has led to this moment.

Peter feels his lungs deflate as her head slowly turns towards him, feels his heart stutter over itself twice as her grin widens impossibly, feels his head disconnect from his body as her eyes ease open.

“Thank you, Peter,” she says.

She reaches for him then, fingers threading with his, palms matching, grip tight.

“Are you ready to listen, Peter?”

The question is patient, nearly kind, but he knows there is no choice. He has awakened her. He has claimed his readiness. There is no turning back.

So he nods, swallows, then says, “Yes, Mvula. Tell me your stories.”

The smile falters; she can hear the tremble in his voice, he imagines. But then it returns just as quickly, this time a little less bright. “They’re not mine, Peter. They certainly won’t be yours either. We cannot own these sins.”

He frowns, straightening in his chair. “Sins?”

The smile falls further, tinged with sadness. “Yes, Peter. I am a Sin Eater. I pay for the transgressions of others. For a price, of course.”

“You mean yourself?”

She shakes her head ruefully. “No. My death is nothing. The burdens I carried . . .” She takes a breath. Looks at him. “You aren’t ready.”

He opens his mouth to protest, but his voice flees from the lie.

She smirks. “It’s too late anyway. You brought me back for this purpose alone and fucking with the process isn’t an option.” Again, he stops himself from prying by settling back further into the seat. “I hope you no intention of going anywhere for a while.”

“No,” he answers quickly. She raises an eyebrow and he shrugs. “Bereavement.” She tilts her head but ultimately doesn’t ask.

“Well, settle in, Peter, and let me tell you of these sins.”

“How many are there?”

She smiles again, hiding her teeth. “Now? Fifty-one. And none of them are pretty.”

He still has a choice, he believes, though he knows this is a lie. He could get up, leave, call the cops and report himself. But he’s frozen to the spot, that curiosity brewing stronger than ever before.

“I’m listening, Mvula.”

And she opened her mouth and began the tale of the first sin.

Bits & Bobs — An Update

i’ve been rereading a lot of my old work lately and . . .

i hate most of it.

good lord, was i a wordy, pretentious fuck. still am to a degree, but damn. several times while reading, i just yelled at the screen, “get to it, Zin! what is all this?!” thank goodness for time and tons of self-doubt along with the nagging desire to keep reading.

this year, i was a little obsessive about updating my GoodReads (yes, that’s my government name, boo! hiss!), mostly to keep track of whether i’d actually read some of the books i claim to remember. while there are plenty i will enjoy at the time, there are so few of those that will stick with me. i may even get excited while talking about them, doesn’t mean i’ll remember much detail. so, i’ve been keeping track and also bringing myself to task to finish books.

unless i absolutely hate them.

life is too short and there are way too many good books out there to fuck about on something that has me inexplicably enraged or so bored, i have to read that last paragraph seven times.

which brings me to my first point: my old work.

there are bits and pieces of so many stops and starts that i absolutely love, that still resonate with me, damn-near haunt me that i wish i knew how to incorporate them into a new work.

take Dark Hearts for example. it’s an excerpt from a larger work, same name, that went absolutely nowhere. i’d been obsessed with Clive Barker at the time (still am, to a degree) and was falling in love with the absolute mess that is Sacrament. the world, the language had me yearning for the usual: a Black woman in the center of this fantastical universe. and so i started Dark Hearts. it’s thrice as sloppy as Sacrament and with even less direction, but i still remember the feel of that world, both ours and the fantastical set above it. i remember the maps in my head, the layouts of darkened corners that would open up to a room in Remillie’s castle. Or an alleyway that would yawn straight into the darkened forest. i can feel how lost Ethan Tourney is, can see how beautiful and elegant Simeon is as clear as day. i can hear Roux’s laugh, squeeze her chubby cheeks.

most of all, i know Remillie’s frustration, of her need to be realized in all worlds. i know it intimately well. i seethe with her, yelling into the void of immobility because we’re powerless to someone, something we trusted our whole selves with.

i really want to work with these characters again, but like in real life, i have a hard time letting go of the past, of an original premise. in the case of Dark Hearts, i’m hoping that maybe i don’t have to, that i can dip back into the world and make some sense of it instead of just wandering like some open-world RPG though how fucking dope would that be? 

i’d like to make promises that i’ll update this blog more often, but that’ll be a lie. i’d like to though. namely, i’d like to get back into freewriting, back to those half-hour prompts that did me pretty well over on Oblique 30. get back to my little worlds without that unspoken pressure to perform.

Dark Hearts

The train car was empty, but Simeon preferred it that way. With the slow gentrification of Heightstown, newer, richer residents wore their green in nervous glances, twitchy hands, and uncontrollable smiles in order to seem friendly and approachable. Open. Honest.

Please don’t kill me as I am a valued member of society.

Nothing seemed to bother Simeon, though. Not the growing violent retaliation of the old city nor the encroaching void of lost art and inclusion of the new. A potential client once told him his black skin and proper speech were protection enough. Simeon had smiled at the simpleton, his white teeth gleaming, the pale cream of his sclera intensifying as he leered at the idiot. The fool never became a client and subsequently didn’t have much of a life, never mind a career.

He learned that Simeon’s silence was infinitely more devastating than any talk.

Simeon took a seat directly in the middle of the train car and crossed one long leg over the other, his lithe frame folding gracefully. A puddle of fresh piss sat directly next to him, the initial lurch of the train threatening to spill the contents over. But Simeon paid it no mind, knew it was there by the sting of his nostrils, but gave the offensive liquid no further thought.

He was meeting someone.

He wasn’t sure of exactly who would join him in the cacophony of transgressions this train had to offer, but he could feel it in the tingle of his skin, in the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. His long, elegant fingers twitched against one another as his hands sat cradled by his lap, the corner of his mouth tugging upwards. He closed his eyes.

And waited.

Three stops. His stop. Then another.

Then she stepped on.

Simeon kept his eyes closed, his smile growing wide, lips still sealed. He longed to see her, especially after all these years, but there was a glory in this suspense.

So, he waited.

Her footfalls were short and hurried, the click of her heels in time with his increased heartbeat. The palms of his hands began to sweat profusely, the heat they created penetrating the crotch of his slacks, his cock excited for the first time in years. He uncrossed his legs, sat forward. But kept his eyes closed.

At last, she stood before him, her breathing heavy, but her breath sweet as it rolled towards him in waves.

“Re–”

A small finger pressed against his lips and he frowned.

“She’s not here yet.” The voice was young, small, almost shy. It was her voice as if she hadn’t aged in the forty-odd years. But that was impossible. As strange as their world had been, time did not stand still, as evidenced by Simeon himself. Unlike Ethan, he never denied The Gift. “She’s testing you.”

An involuntary twitch seized Simeon’s neck, the left side of his face going slack momentarily. The little girl’s finger was still pressed to his lips with an impossible force which silenced him fully. The muscles in his face and neck pulled tighter, the cramp spreading down to his shoulder. Simeon whimpered, the only sound that would escape him despite his need to scream. His eyes began to water from the pain radiating through his upper body. The affliction gnarled his fingers, the knuckles twisting against their natural range of motion. The fight carried through his tightened lungs, pushing at the crowding at his throat.

And, finally, Simeon was allowed to scream.

The intensity of the bellow warped the structure of the train car, poles leaning, plexiglass plumping, plastic seats cracking. The puddle of piss to his side gathered into itself, bubbling up and away, floating as if in space, as if the train were traveling at the speed of light. Simeon’s eyes did not witness the small miracle that was the bubble of piss, one that distracted and amazed his guest, the one whose tiny finger had managed to silence a large and intimidating man.

As her digit slid from yawning mouth, Simeon’s pain ceased, the muscles and joints righting themselves until there was relief.

Only then did Simeon stop.

And once he did, the train did as well, the last stop of the line long gone, passengers stranded for a while longer as they chatted excitedly about the runaway that breezed by in a silent scream.

They were in darkness, save the emergency lighting.

Simeon eased his eyes open, the shock of the fluorescent lighting muted by the figure standing in front of him.

“Remillie.” It was barely a whisper, but the girl heard, her chestnut brown eyes shiny with excitement. She giggled and swayed, her two braids helicoptering around her as she shook her head.

“No!” she shouted excitedly, then giggled again. The space where two front teeth should have been attempted to gnaw at her thick bottom lip, her boxy white canines holding it place.

Simeon frowned, his entire handsome face falling comically. “But you look just like her.”

The little girl nodded and stepped forward in between Simeon’s legs, then crawled into his lap, her sharp knees dangerously close to his genitals. Simeon cringed out of precaution, but the child deftly avoided his sensitive parts, plopping herself onto his thigh.

“You’re pretty,” she said, the same finger that had brought him agony nearing his face.

“Roux. Stop.”

Two words and Simeon felt his world bottom out.

This time it really was her, but he could not move, could not even speak her name one more time. Perhaps he hadn’t been ready. All those years, crossing over after Ethan had denied her, them, their world, Simeon never stopped searching for her. But with Ethan gone, there was no reason for her to be there for him.

The base of Simeon’s belly clenched as he relived the silent rejection all over again. The neglect. His desperation to find her. All along Simeon had known his presence was merely a cover for something greater between the two of them. At some point, he hadn’t minded. But it wasn’t until they both were taken away did he realize how much he did.

“You’re angry with me.”

He could feel her approach but did not hear footsteps. His skin began to heat as her shadow invaded his periphery. He turned his head away.

“Simeon–”

“I do not get angry.”

“Not easily, no.” He heard her sigh, felt her impatience. “Look at me,” she said.

He refused. Like a petulant child, he felt the bitter defiance rise in his chest, choking him into silence with prickling, sensitive eyes and clenched fists.

“Look at me, Simeon.”

He shut his eyes tighter, his teeth grinding. That voice. How he’d dreamt of that voice over the years since she’d disappeared, since their secret land began to deteriorate.

“I’m sorry.”

But he knew she wasn’t. He knew she felt her decision was best, no matter what it caused. Her cool fingertips pressed into his temple, then dragged lightly along his jawline. She sat down next to him, the puddle of piss not a worry to her. Nothing worried her. Yet he could feel tension rolling off her in waves.

“Where is he, Simeon?”

He felt his body deflate, his chin dimpling as a tightness in his throat released an involuntary whine.

Remillie hated tears.

“I will break your fucking neck, Simeon,” she said, her fingers keeping their light strokes.

He turned to her then and couldn’t breathe. She was just as beautiful as before, even more so with the addition of a few scars. Soft planes of dark brown skin, skin that mirrored his own in blackness and clarity. Full lips. Wide nose. Black eyes with irises so big, the white of her sclera glowed like misplaced parentheses. She always seemed to be smirking at whomever she gazed, always had the upper hand.

As much as he missed her, as much as the dull ache that had been his regular heartbeat since last seeing her all those years ago had finally begun to ease, he couldn’t stand it.

Simeon fucking hated her.

“Do it.”

She held his head in her hands and squeezed.

Razorfangs

The children imitate razorfangs and I am without yet another night’s rest.

The swell of my belly increases with each new dawn, my joints all filled with useless fluid, hindering movement and completion of daily tasks. I abhor my present state, but termination is not an option.

As I’ve been told to the point of biliousness, this child must be born.

Seventeen hundred forty-three days at sea. Recollection of a life without the current in our legs is of mythic proportions. We trade stories. The babes listen in wonder, having taken their first steps on this cursed boat, their disbelief palpable. Teens brood in mildewed corners, hissing at daylight and orders to earn their keep. The girls bleed late and we are eternally thankful to the godless depths below. We rut in anger and loneliness. And every once in a while, an affliction is cast upon we womenfolk.

I am the only to carry this far.

Four women have perished for the sake of continuing our wretched lineage, their blood stained on our deck. One fetus managed to cry out before it suffocated on its own defects. The men mourned more than we, the bodies afflicted with this failure. We turned away from the sight of the young ones sending their contemporary to its watery grave.

I took Hirat that night. And many after.

I lost myself in the heat of his heartache, the wetness of his sorrow, the pulse of his perseverance. He was one of few who hadn’t tried to dive deep. He stood at the bow of our boat greeting the orange of the sky with determination in his eyes and a faith unrivaled. Even as time ate away at the fat of his cheeks, the bulk of his chest, the baritone of his voice, he stood tall, giving the weakest of us something like hope.

I hate him for it.

Hope has no place on this vessel of death and disease, aimless and everlasting in its path. We’d fled the soil once it was clear the waters’ appetite for it was insatiable. Sand dunes and low lands were not enough. Walls of stone and brick, huts of clay and blood all torn away in the teeth of the rising tides. Hills wore away. Plateaus topped. Mountain peaks mere posts in the shimmering endless road.

I speak of this as if it were instantaneous. Gods-like in its swift retribution for our foul existence. But it wasn’t. It was achingly slow, deliberate. Hubris blinded us to the intimacy of the sun’s heat, the boldness of below surface creatures caressing the innocent flesh of our curious young ones. We were the finest coastal traders of the continent. Sea-battling vessels, fish, fruit, and labour were our currency. We were hardbacked and hardworking. We were proud.

And now we are dying.

The children imitate razorfangs and I grind my teeth, sharpening mine own. Preparing.

horror writer, dream weaver, purveyor of nightmares