A Mother’s Love

Once, my mother held me up to look down from the crags. “You see the bright field, shining behind the purple asters,” she said.

How could I not? I nodded. It was magical.

She spat. “Let us make a fire there tonight, and dance around the burning flowers.”

When night came we went. There were dozens who came at Mother’s suggestion, and we watched the fields burn all night.

“But Mother?” I wondered. “Won’t the golden fields be ruined?”

She laughed and scratched my head.

The next morning, we braved the light from the crags. The fields were all black, and I could not figure it. But mother said that the itchy flowers made us cringe. I nodded like I understood, but she rightly doubted me.

Once, I was put in the ring with a pointed stick. The ring was deep, and no way out without help. Mother dropped me over the side, and I fought with the friend whose mother dropped him in. I was bigger and faster, and I beat him happily. I beat him so well that he was pinned and trapped, and I did not need to stab him again. But just as I revelled, a pointed rock bounced from my head. Mother had thrown it, and I was so shaken that my opponent took advantage, forgetting his pleas for mercy, and he turned my own stick into me. The pain so incensed me that I don’t remember more of the ring. Just the blood that had to be cleaned after.

“Why did you throw the rock, Mother?”

Any pride disappeared from her. “There is purpose in you, black and meaningless.”

That didn’t make any sense to me. “Have you never felt the pain?” I asked her. “The pain of a sharp stick?”

“I have felt it.” She touched her empty socket. “It is only that I want you to suffer.”

“Don’t you love me?”

She gasped. “Where did you learn that word?” She didn’t want the answer, her blow attested, as it closed my mouth with splintered teeth.

Finally, I was alone on the crag. I didn’t need mother to lift me anymore. I could have looked down to the charred fields on my own. But the thing I was watching was small and blue. Winged and singing. I had never seen one here, or so close. It sang, and sang again, and I smiled and spun slowly with joy.

But its song choked and died. An old hand had seized it, slithering craftily up the cliff from behind. Mother’s venomous face scowled momently behind it, her aging sinews drawing her stealthily over the crags. She pulled out a knife with her free hand, and pressed it into mine.

“Cut it,” she cried. “Cut it slowly.”

I recoiled, and we looked at each other in disgust. She held the straining songbird up nearer my face. She crushed it slowly. The life ran out with the clear liquid from its eyeballs, and finally burst. She turned away smiling, her tongue caressing her fingers. It was the laugh that finished me, though. She laughed and she was laughing at me. Her back was there, broad and easy, and I slammed the knife home. She fell straight forward with the collapsing of a lung. I twisted the knife and she turned to stare in surprise. The breath was still spilling out of her, but she grabbed my hand and met my eyes. There was a smile on her lips. And there, love in her eyes.


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