In The Beginning.
Blood and hay and a baby. The blackest membrane of night gored on the death thrusts of a slit-throat gold calf; a torn hole of light above the sleeping town. Hail the king. Praise our saviour.
They appeared. Infidels, invaders; leaving our cities slumped in their post-rut radioactive sweat; bruised and broken-backed and barren. Filthy-fingered foreigners, slouching through our streets of splintered glass like they owned them; indecorous, atavistic, inimical to reason, culture; fumbling at the fastenings of our heritage; pressed up against the fine portraiture of our country, panting, their breath making the landscape crack and bubble. Animals. After one thing only: our women.
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I took him in my mouth, and weeks later my throat began to close, like fingers were squeezing it shut. I should have known better. I’d heard about those women, the ones with ruined wombs like burnt, blackened aubergines. I’d seen them on the news, bloody bitter juices running from them and down the legs of rusty gurneys, marbling white rubber-gloved fingers red. I’d heard their screams echoing around the white, tiled walls, through my television, as speculum squeaked and scalpels scraped as surgeons tried to peck out the decay.
I want to angle my mirrors, to stare deep inside my mouth, to check for tumours, but I can’t bear to look at myself.
I wait. They’ll come for me, I know, take me out to the fields, with the others.
We are the Civic Reclaimers of Our Women.
The tale is immemorial. Once upon a time Coronis cheated with a mortal, while pregnant, and the crow guarding her failed to peck out her lover’s eyes. Apollo’s anger turned the white crow black. We still feel the sear, and wear black though are souls are white.
Coronis was not the first, and nor will she be the last.
Our women are our borders. They cannot be crossed. We do what we do because they are weak. We save them from themselves.
I am a traitor to my people; a plague upon them. This is my confession. I fell in love with one of them. Let him kiss me. Let him defile me. I will let the C.R.O.W’s take me out into the field, and let them slit me open and fill me with straw and sawdust. They will sew me up and leave me there, sterile, clean; strung between poles, tainted seed dripping from me like maggots from a corpse. I will scare away the birds. I will make the ground fertile again.
It’s cyclical. Reap and sow. Life and death. Seasons change. It’s nothing personal; it’s nature. The soil is richer than ever now, the potatoes yield and yield. My wife sinks her teeth into the strawberries and tells me that they’re delicious. She spits the pips into the sink. She’s a good girl.
The Farmer’s Wife.
I took fruit to the first few, apples and pears pale in the moonlight; while he was asleep, of course. They’re bled slowly, emptied drop by drop, kept there for days at a time. I wanted to cut them down but I didn’t dare. Some of them were old school friends. We’d swim in the lake together, do handstands beneath the water with the sun rippling on the surface and lapping at the soles of our feet as our toes wiggled. But I kept my mouth shut. I still do. When I hang my washing out to dry, I pretend I can’t see them.
While we do not condone the actions of the C.R.O.W’s; neither do we condemn.
A mother bird will reinforce her nest with spit; will pass food from her beak to those of her chicks, and so they grow. If they’re polluted, corrupt; drooling like bitches on heat in the streets, then society is nothing more than a pile of sticks in a stream; mere leaves in a gale. What will keep it together?
My daughter asks me what they are, those silhouettes in the distance with their battered arms splayed like broken windmill propellers and their heads lolled like rotting roses.
My precious ten-fingered-ten-toed-perfect-ball-of-guilt. They’d answer her, show her, take her and let her father’s blood splash across the soil as a lesson to us all.
I tell her to keep quiet.
We creep through the field, hand-in-hand, carrying all that we own, following that one star to the city.
Stitched up lips, sutured eyes; heads shaved like the fields after threshing.
“Close your eyes” I say, and pull her close, folding my cloak over her; like a wing.
© Nicola Belte
Nicola Belte lives in Birmingham, U.K, and writes fiction. You can find her at her blog, nicolabelte.blogspot.com.