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It Is This Simple

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You fan your fingers across your stomach that first month, but beneath your palm, there is nothing but the scars and the quiet hum of your own pulse.

No one has to tell you.

You sling the rifle strap over your shoulder and keep moving.


You don't talk about Clay or his pack. Instead, you tell your child stories. You tell your unborn about the war and the mujahideen, about what the slice of a blade feels like and how you never begged for your life, not when you faced off against tanks and grenades and the rupture of gun fire. You hold your palm to your stomach and talk about how blood spills as warm and fast as a trickle of water and how nothing can staunch its flow but a will to survive. You never begged for your life, you say, and later, when your belly is as round as the sun, you tell your daughter that she will never have to beg for hers.

She screams, though, as loud as a missile cutting through air, as loud as a group of survivors, but while she screams, you see her bright pink gums and count her ten fingers and her ten small toes.

She's human and whole and yours.

You cut the cord with the serrated edge of the knife tucked in your boot, rest her on your breast, and listen.


She doesn't ask about Clay and you never talk about him, except to say that he killed your father and some things can't be stopped.

Later, you'll wish you'd heeded your own words.


The moon is full and round when she changes for the first time, but the light is as dull as bullet casings. Nothing can compare to the slick, bright shine of your child becoming something else or screaming as loud and long as the day she was born.

When she returns to her human skin, she stares at her fingers like they're ghosts, touches them to her face like a betrayal.

"Tell me about my father," she finally says, her voice still husky from the transition.

She looks at you with all-too-human eyes and waits.

You crouch by her side and slide your fingers into her damp hair and tell her, "He was a monster."

"Like me?"

"No," you say. "Like us."