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Angharad

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Angharad picks up threads from other girls. The vault is empty when she comes to the Citadel, but there are things in the shadows, like bones picked clean, like secrets that aren’t really secrets, like the words scratched into Miss Giddy’s skin. She finds a bundle of papers first, tied with twine and hidden in a hollow in the wall, carved out and covered up. It tells the story of a girl named Min, who was a wife, who bore a daughter that she never saw again. It tells the story of Immortan Joe, who was a monster. The last scrap of paper has an inked thumbprint on one corner. I will have no more babies, I will not be here long. He killed the world, nothing can grow here.

“He killed the world,” murmurs Angharad to herself, rolling the words over her tongue, clattering them across her teeth. “Nothing can grow here.”

“You’ll do good to keep your tongue bit,” Miss Giddy tells her, because she hears everything in the vault, and she knew the girl on the paper.

“What happened to Min?” Angharad asks, though she’s sure she knows the answer.

“Min had her shot, she knew what would happen,” says Miss Giddy, her eyes betraying nothing. “Now don’t speak her name again. The Immortan can get what he wants from you even if you’ve no tongue.”

So Angharad keeps silent. She finds the doll next, a ragged thing with blacked out eyes and a belly painted red and cut wide open. There is a stone resting inside and it is dressed in dirty white, twin to the shrouds Joe gives her. Angharad sits it on her bed for a night, and then cracks the glass in one of the windows, and throws it down a thousand miles to the dust. She does not like to be tricked into seeing herself in plastic things. A person is not a doll, she decides, not even when they are treated like one.

The third thing comes with Capable. It’s friendship, and love; things Angharad has not felt since she was ragged and small and tangled up with other Wretched children, playing games in dust. She winds her fingers up in Capable’s hair, and she drapes her arm around her shoulders, and they touch for the miracle of touching.

“Nothing can grow here,” she tells Capable, later. “He killed the world.”

“Not him,” says Capable, shaking her head. “It’s a sickness more than him.”

“Then who?” Angharad asks.

“Then who,” Capable sighs, pressing a hand to her forehead.

“Keep your tongues,” Miss Giddy warns (because she hears everything in the vault).

There are other girls then, as precious as Capable, and as trapped, and as wounded. Angharad loves them all fiercely, and she thinks that none of them are dolls, none of them are plastic girls with stones in their bellies, none of them are things. The thought sets a monster growling in her heart, and she thinks that if she could free it, she could save them all. It is raw like gravel, and it burns like sand, and it’s as cold as steel, and she tries to dig it out with a needle taken from Miss Giddy. She scores a cage of blood into her cheek, and forehead, and she scratches ladders into her arms, and her blood sings with freedom, and her skin shivers. This is a violence that she can control. This is a monster that she holds on a leash.

When Furiosa tells them of the green place, the monster under Angharad’s ribs whispers yes. Angharad runs her fingers across the cracks and ridges of her face. Angharad winds her fingers into Capable’s hair. Angharad thinks of paper and of dolls.

“We are not things,” she tells Miss Giddy, because Miss Giddy will hear it even if she isn’t the first to be told.

The old woman stills, and tilts her head like a bird, like a puppet, like a sheet caught on the wind, and then all the air runs out of her, and she leans against Angharad like she would fall without her.

“No,” Miss Giddy agrees quietly. “And I suppose you’ll keep your tongues, and more besides.”

“We’ll tell everyone,” says Angharad. “We’ll tell them what it’s like to be owned by the Citadel.”

“I believe you will.”

Miss Giddy shows her a shotgun, the shells cleaned carefully of sand, the trigger worn smooth. This is another thing, like the dolls, and like the paper, something hidden in the vault by the women who have walked there. Ghosts. Voices on the air. Angharad thinks that when her monster is set loose, nothing in the world will stop it. Not with the weight of all of these women behind her. Not with the many mothers ahead.

There is a baby under her ribs too, curled up with the monster, and Angharad tries hard not to think of it. It is not a stone tucked into the hollow of her belly, and it is not a warlord, but she is not sure what it is. It doesn’t matter, she decides, only the road matters, and the green place, and her sisters by her side.

When they are in the hold, when they finally start to move, Angharad starts to cry and cannot stop. Capable holds her hand. Cheedo stares at her, terrified. She clenches her jaw until it aches, but cannot stop the shudders that tug at her shoulders, and twist at her chest. She cannot stop the tears that taste like salt. I have not cried in a thousand years, she thinks, deliriously, and she jams her hand against her mouth until everything has quieted.

“We’re going to the green place,” she whispers, as the tears dry on her cheeks.

“You don’t have to hold us all up,” says Dag, her eyes wide. “We can stand on our own.”

Angharad pulls at threads until they fall apart. Angharad has a monster under her ribs. Angharad is full to the brim with love. They are close to the end, she thinks, and when they get there, the relief will be so great she is not sure she will survive it. But Capable will, and Toast will, and Dag and Cheedo will, and it has always been about them and not about her. She will join Min and a thousand other girls without names and together they will light a path and hold out their palms and give their victory to anyone who would claim it. Angharad knows that everything hurts, but together they will find the sort of pain that makes them stronger.