Round Trip Ellise Heiskell
I woke up after a dream where something, perhaps a snake, had sunk its teeth into my ankle. I knew I hadn’t been bit, that it was just my mind, my body remembering what that shock of teeth felt like. It mimicked the squeeze and punch of teeth that my freshman bio teacher’s boa constrictor delivered one spring. After that I always remembered to fill the snake’s water dish first, and feed the rats second.
I’d like to say I remembered a bright light, a feeling of being altered in some fashion, but no. Nothing but a niggling pain traveling in a slow orbit around the base of my spine. Right where the muscles tense during my period.
I’d reach back and rub, wondering at it like some odd pimple that might need that last satisfying squeeze. You grew quickly, not even a week and you cuddled near my ribs like I had worried up a blister on my left side. Needless to say, sleeping was a little difficult, not only because of you, but because of them. Wondering if they were watching, keeping track. Making sure I’d lose my taste for sodas, or gain it.
I wore big sweaters and loose dresses. Nothing out of the ordinary, no one would ever guess. I hid my fear well, the terror that would hit. Did I walk too close to one of the satellite dishes when I went to pay the cable bill? I remembered stories told by the head engineer of the PBS affiliate I worked at, how certain dishes could fry you from the inside out before you’d even realized it, he’d tell me as he hit a few buttons to bring down a new feed to record. That’s why it wasn’t such a good idea to shinny up a tower to steal a blinking light, no matter how tempting and candy-like they may be. But at least every month or so, one of those lights would go missing.
So small, I’d pet my side, running a hand over you as you swam in that fleshy cocoon that was only my skin protecting you. Like the largest blister anyone’s ever had.
Not a tumor, but I did worry. A parasite? Was I to finally be devoured like a paralyzed caterpillar? Had they divided me up like a diagram in an old butcher shop? Were you silently tasting me though the blood we now shared?
Forty-three days later I awoke tangled in soaked sheets. Torn with a pain that blacked everything out until the sky shone violet, the last stars fading to dawn. I woke at the prickle of sharp tiny teeth at my breast. You’d go for my heart, or nurse while my head swam with dreams of you swimming — tiny and gray — among the stars.
We woke again, you bigger and me finally fully conscious. I counted 3 pupils in each eye as you blinked. Iris the color of mine. Would they want you back?
Don’t they realize that you’re just as much mine? I refuse to be their livestock, to be bred and discarded.
We’ve started to talk. If you can call it that. You with your pictures in my head, me giving you the words in return. I can find my mind shaping those things inside yours as easily as we had shared blood, DNA, mitochondria, and maybe even something we like to delude ourselves into thinking is a soul.
I know they want you back. A success perhaps. I can feel it when you stir, swimming, grasping at what appears in front of you. Doing what all babies do, reaching for things unseen. We are charting their return, counting the minutes. Counting beyond minutes, something so different when your life is measured in speeds my species is still scratching their heads to decipher.
They can’t have you. I know you won’t go. They are only one thing. You are both and by virtue of your birth and incubation, so am I. Hybrids are stronger.
They’d better just take us both.
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