Your cart is empty. Go to Shop
Menu

Nuclear Daughter Lora Gray

By Dario Bijelac
By Dario Bijelac

I remember the static voices:  “Bomb.  Bomb.  Bomb.” The great, distant flash.

I remember the day the bomb seed entered me, thrust deep and spilling into my bones and blood. I am a Nuclear Daughter. I will bear its children. For six months I have watched them swell, twisted lumps pushing out of my abdomen like fists, slow motion punches that eventually open into palms, fingers splayed and grappling for oxygen and light.

I’ve named them Lily and Nod.

I haven’t the heart to tell them that the light here is vicious and the air is poison. Nothing grows on the outside anymore. The green spaces have quivered to yellow-brown, the vineyards have shriveled, and the April lambs drop dead between their mothers’ legs, memories of a nevermore spring.

Mama Nuri says it was the same when the first bombs burst over her mother’s mother’s sky. They slammed into the horizon, she says, and shoved the silver cities down, ripped their breath away and replaced it with twisted seeds. With no cities left to take, this last bomb has taken us instead.

Mama Nuri says the bombs know who deserves its children.

I am a Nuclear Daughter.

Someday my children will grow out of me.

I imagine them nestled against my cheek, cooing with the tiny mouths I know they will never use. I imagine them giggling secrets to each other and running through fields on feet they will never have. I imagine them growing older as I grow old and I try not to mourn.

Today, I can feel my pulse echoed in them when I wake, hand cramped against them to still the pain. The straw mattress I share with the other Daughters is too thin to cradle the shape of them and I stroke my fingers over their knuckled masses. There is pressure too, now, lancing through me, dangerous and insistent. Maybe they’ve finally decided to push their way out of my kidney and into my womb where they can dream themselves into real children.

I have been dreaming lately of Daughter Sarah, found dead two weeks ago in the west ravine. Her body was bloated and black, her bomb child sprouting out of her chest like coyote brush. Her flesh had peeled away in careful, curling strips to reveal the pulpy, faceless infant, three arms frozen against the yellow sky, a hundred fingers aching for Sarah’s embrace.

Today, the morning is red and clear and cold. I dress in heavy leather, folding it carefully around Lily’s jagged spine and Nod’s insistent cooked knee.

“Tainted,” Mama Nuri says when she sees me. She makes the Helix Sign above her head, spits onto her own gnarled feet three times and walks in a wide circle around me, her eyes on the twin mounds curving out of my body.

I have tried explaining to her that Lily and Nod are my children, grown from me like limbs from a tree, like vines, flowers, but all of the old village women insist we Daughters have been cursed.

“You still have your moon blood, girl,” she says. “And no man has seeded you. Your body is poison. You infect us all.”

Death incarnate, says she, the echo of the bomb spreading under my skin.

I climb the bluff cradling them, past a toppled winery with withered grape veins like a forgotten heart. My pulse is Carignan heavy. I remember the last of the grapes, beads of fruit the color of old blood. Bitter, sun-puckered things that clung to my teeth and soured my stomach as if trying to convince me that they had never been worth the trouble to begin with.

The bluff crests, climbing high, and I curl close to the earth. Animal low. Hand, hand, foot, foot, I ascend. The wind is sharp as glass this close to the sea, and I pile my hair over my nose and mouth as I make the final crawl. Lily pinches my spine and Nod spreads himself like a dull sigh against my stomach. I pause, letting the acid air sting them into stillness before hefting myself up.

The ocean breaks below us, a tableau peeling wide and white against the rocks. I close one eye. Click. I close the other. Click. And tuck the image deep, pushing it down to where Lily and Nod can see it. Where they can smell salt air and wide swaths of foam surging onto a wild coastline, pale arms entwined, embracing. I smooth my palm over the mound of them, uneven and rocky as the shore.

For a moment I imagine those open fists closing around my fingers, three hearts beating in time with the tide, and I lower us into a hollow between the stones.

I shed my leathers and, shivering, wait.

Finally, there is a swell. A surge. My kidney quivers. I can hear Lily and Nod squealing, feel them hammering their fists up and out, up and out. I am screaming with them when muscle and bone heave aside, and Lily and Nod burst through flesh.  Pain becomes fear becomes joy as they surge upward. Their bodies coil together, and their heads loll heavily in secret rhythms I can feel in the backs of my eyes, my toes, my breasts. I can hear a cacophony of children laughing. Lily and Nod and would-be others I never knew lived inside of me. I watch as they scamper up the tender cords of Lily’s legs and Nod’s strong back, their heads thrown back, faces shining as they emerge into the crimson world.

For a moment, my children are a city, silver and pure and bright as the dawn.

© Lora Gray

Meet the Author

Lora Gray

Lora Gray

Lora Gray is a speculative fiction writer and poet from Northeast Ohio. Their work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Asimov’s Science Fiction, PseudoPod, and The Dark among other places. Lora is also an artist, dance instructor and wrangler of a very smart cat named Cecil. You can find Lora online at www.lora-gray.com or on Twitter at @lorajgray

Become a Patron! Check our our NEW membership levels!

Sign up prior to March 31, 2021 to receive access to 365 Days of Flash Fiction Writing Prompts! (See Patreon for details)

FIREFLY

Receives weekly links to new stories, exclusive behind-the-scenes content, and our undying love.

WILL-O-THE-WISP

Receives Monthly discount code for a free download of our current issue, plus benefits from lower levels

SHOOTING STAR

Join our monthly chat/”ask me anything,” plus benefits from lower levels

AURORA

Get a shout-out in our monthly editorial, plus benefits from lower levels

LIGHTNING

Receive a monthly prize, which may include critiques, digital or physical swag, or other special events, plus benefits from lower levels

SUPERNOVA

Receive one flash fiction critique per month, exclusive polls, an opportunity to “sponsor-a-story,” plus all the benefits of lower levels!

1 Comment

  1. JP
    July 24, 2016 @ 12:56 pm

    Hi Lora!
    I am really glad I stumbled upon your story.  I really enjoyed your take on life in the apocalypse.  It was a nice change of pace from the typical wasteland story like Fallout or Mad Max.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Become a 2022 Super Subscriber!

If you’re a fan of our boldbrief, and beautiful fiction, we hope you’ll consider purchasing a 2022 SUPER SUBSCRIPTION. You’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping to publish amazing stories by talented writers… plus you’ll receive the following benefits (details listed below)

  • 12 monthly issues (+ a vote in our first FFO Reader Awards!)
  • bonus content from our authors
  • live events on our Discord server
  • one FFO annual anthology
  • your choice of one ebook from an author or  staff member
  • entry to our $100 gift card giveaway

Support Flash Fiction Online

Flash Fiction Online is a free online magazine that pays professional rates. So how do we make that happen? It’s due to the generosity of readers like you.

Here are some ways you can help:

Become a Patron.

Sign up to become a monthly donor. Read more…

Subscribe to FFO.

Never miss an issue! E-reader formats delivered to your inbox. Available from WeightlessBooks.com

Buy our issues & anthologies.

Each of our issues and anthologies are available in convenient e-reader formats (epub/mobi/pdf). Available from the Flash Fiction Online Store, WeightlessBooks, and Amazon.

Donate.

Consider a one-time gift that fits your budget.




Advertise with us.

Have a product, service, or website our readers might enjoy? Ad space available on the website and in our e-reader issues. Sponsored posts opportunities are also available. Learn more…

Spread the word.

Love one of our stories or articles? Share it with a friend!

%d bloggers like this: