When it begins to snow, it never stops. Perhaps not for you, but another iteration of you—a manifestation of your wild possibilities. I hope it’s not you, for my sake. When it begins to snow, the sky comes down in sharp, precise fragments, and you press your forehead against the window and think: don’t ever stop. And it doesn’t. I don’t want it to be you, because when it begins to snow, the world ends.
Right before I wake up from a dream of hotel sex, I hear drums. They start low, building, voices murmuring healing healing healing. I sit up in bed, pissed. I look to my altar in the corner. “Come on!” I yell, throwing the covers back. I hear cackling. My ancestors have been on a real asshole streak lately. After the tragedy I did the brown-girl-spiritual-thing, called upon my ancestors for guidance, but when my ancestors showed up, they were like me: sarcastic, shit-talking assholes. I felt seen.
The vine’s voraciousness dwarfs even the kudzu of the Southern United States, whose growth of one foot per day is a snail’s pace compared to the Teczotchicin’s rate of up to twenty-five meters. It is among the rare plants one can watch growing beneath one’s feet, birthing folktales of its murderous qualities. Indeed, the vines have been known to devour whatever they encounter, entangling wild boars in their constriction, swallowing homes of nesting birds, and suffocating local banyan trees which reach thirty meters into the air.
I am ashamed of the way I learned magic, and shame has made me a coward. I stay silent as Arul circles the body of the girl who has made bright flowers of her flesh, silent as he says, “Unorthodox interpretation of Lee’s Symphony of the Meteor. Backlash ultimately fatal. Time of unmaking . . . midnight, give or take a couple of hours. Stop staring, Myei. Write it down.” I write it down. The flesh column that was once a young girl stretches from the packed dirt of the kitchen floor to the belly of the longhouse above us, held high by stilts out of respect for the Mother River’s many moods.
My baby sister didn’t used to be a scorpion, but she is one now. I don’t know if that sounds weird to you, but it doesn’t to me, because right after my sister was born, Abuelita turned into a white crane and flew away. She was so sad after we buried Abuelito, you know. One winter day, she stepped outside of the faded stucco church into bright sunshine, her Bible tucked under one arm. Maybe the touch of the sun was not enough to warm her after the shadows of the church.
Seated on the balcony of the house across the street is a man. He is slumped in his chair and has remained unmoving for several hours. The tattered frays of his agbada spreads about his person like an old sailcloth, snapping in the wind. His equally tattered hat is positioned on his head such that you cannot see his face. He has maintained this position for nigh on a day (which is much, much longer than you think). If you think him dead, then you’ll be wrong; if you think him alive, well . . .
In the beginning were the ancestors, gods of earth who breathed the air and walked in flesh. Their backs were straight and their temples tall. We carved the ancestors from the scented wood, before the fire and the poison water took them, too. We rubbed ebony-stained oil on their braided hair and placed them on the altars with the first harvest, the nuts and the fresh fruit. None would eat before the ancestors were fed, for it was through their blood and toil we emerged from the dark sea to be.
Good art changes you. And that was the point, right? That’s what the social media ad that caught my attention wanted me to believe: Our Shoes: You couldn’t understand our struggle . . . Until now. I had read the line over and over again during a rare downtime in the on-call room and was still mesmerized by it when Danny messaged our Allies 4 Life group. I got three tix to that new BLM exhibit in Brooklyn. Who’s rolling?
Talia sat at the edge of Eliza’s bed, her hands clasped. She was new—so was I, but she was newer. I went to her, and stroked her head, careful to avoid the honeycomb on her brow. “Daughters.” Mother Anam’s face was twisted when she came back from searching the rest of our rooms, her shoes clicking on the hard, pocked floor. It always seemed to us that she was disappointed that we hadn’t broken a rule, that she couldn’t punish us.
“They didn’t believe me,” I said. “They didn’t believe that I wasn’t supposed to be here—that I woke up wrong.” I lost track of time again. My attention shifted toward the floor, drawn to a crack in the tile. It was causing quite a ruckus in my mind. The cup of tea I was holding had long gone cold, the light in the room growing dim. Sometime, a long time ago, someone dropped something heavy on the tile, and it was never the same.