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Mother of pearl

By grace tran

  1. Wilting Wildfire
    Wilting Wildfire
    By Sydney Eyerly
          We were left out to dry after the midnight rain. Only a single street light was left untouched on our street after the bombshells hailed from the clouds. Our photographs and memories laid under the rubble, covered by black, red, and white posters.
          "For the Fatherland"
          "Fight for the Future"
          "Protect the Glory of our Nation"
          Promises of a greater world that our leader would create, but my only evidence was the remains of our house littered amongst the shell casings. The neighborhood gathered torn blankets and a few matches to keep each other warm from the frostbite. We decided to leave together in the morning, before the police came to take us to another wretched camp. When we were packing, I had found my ballet slippers and placed them in between my pictures and some clothes. The warmth that once touched my toes while on stage had ended with the start of my child’s life, but she was my little dancer. I left that place with my sweet baby doll and the rest of the neighborhood.
          The neighborhood treated each other like family. Just before dusk, we would prepare stew and eat together: taking part in the holy communion. Mothers would take turns watching the children and keeping them busy while the rest went to forage for scraps. The children treated each other like brothers and sisters. Pearl wouldn't talk with the other girls like she did with me, but she enjoyed the company of other children. They treated her like a sister: braiding her hair, tossing her around, and whispering secrets into her ear. She was their doll. Pearl never fought back or complained; she was my gift from god, a gift to keep me living.
          We survived on the few roots preserved by the ice, but there was never enough. I fed my daughter my portion despite however much she fussed and refused to eat. I was weak and gaunt by the time we reached the river. The current ripped at my waist and, so I held my small child on my shoulders. As I waded into the river, I heard the cries of the other mothers as their children slipped into the glacial waters. The water baptized children too big to be carried and mothers too weak to weather the journey into a better life. When we reached the other side, only half of our group had passed: the rest were left in the water to float out to the sea or left in shallow graves alongside the unmarked trail we had followed.

"The water baptized children too big to be carried and mothers too weak to weather the journey into a better life."

nhggOur footprints left marks in the snow covered stones only to be filled by flurries. I could feel her calling me to move forward. Her elbows and knees had stopped turning, but there were only a few more days until the spring thawed the muddy slush and we would finally arrive on the border. I convinced myself that we would last until we crossed, but the length ahead of us seemed as far off is as the past is to today. As my toes rotted in my shoes and my skin burned in the bitten air, I continued to carry my sweet Pearl on my back, for her sake and my own.
          The night before the journey would have ended, I laid her to sleep. I wove her amber hair in between my blue and purple fingers, trying to grasp a bit of her warmth. She no longer spoke, but she never spoke. Her painted lips and eyes had faded and her plastic face was always stripped of emotions. I had withered into a shell of myself after her birth: a simple reflection of the dancing beauty I had once been and the child I had never carried full term. Pearl never breathed. I had covered my daughter's image in iridescent sheets to carry me through the ash, and she had served her beauty in doll form. On the next day, I carried her across the border like I had promised and left her to sleep in a patch of daffodils.