Dawn

by Cat Leeches

My mother’s last memory is my first. With her final, gasping breath (Did she have lungs? I do not know her species.) it transferred to me:

Once I saw a woman,

Once I saw a woman swim up to my island (I had never see a human before, it was their first year in existence), dripping skinned-kneeson-asphalt, a color so pink I wanted to lick it off and chew the small stones clinging to her skin b/t my molars. She slowly unhooked her bra, but instead of her breasts slipping to the earth, it was my eyes that fell out of my skull.

And the dirt came up to meet them. My eyes rolled to separate ends of the earth. And I hatched from one of these mammalian eggs: boneless & breathless (I think this is when the memory becomes my own). (I have never met whoever hatched from the other eye. Lovers have told me somewhere on this earth I have a brother, but he is still bodiless). I disappear whenever the sun blazes full in the sky, and I only return to existence when night recedes.

Every new day a vessel of men washes up on my island.
Some I take for lovers.

***

I’m never bored by a body. I can talk to a creature who occupies a body for days, until it turns to detritus and is blown off my island, or carried away by hungry birds.

After a millennium of wanting, I created mine through pure desire and the gods told me, as I was growing the roots of my tongue, still unable to speak or lash back, I was the only creature who had fucked her body into existence. And they trapped me here, on my island, but I had never thought of leaving, even before then.

Yet I built myself wrong.       My first body was a pink terracotta rectangle.

And I still haven’t gotten it quite right:

Today there are sea anemones in my belly, their spines have shredded my intestines, and are bursting through my abdominal wall. From afar it looks like there is a line of thick hair rippling in the breeze. I have feathers, talons, and a split tongue. I’m always bleeding between my legs, and the blood gets caught underneath my fingernails. It refuses to wash away, drenches everything I touch, including the sky.

Still when the sun blazes, this body will disappear. Every new day I rebuild from scratch.

***

I don’t know where these men come from—what calls them to the edge of the earth.

At the beginning of human existence, women also came to my island. They do not come here anymore. I don’t know if the gods or their men have kept them away.

***

I would split the women in two to learn how to make a body.

Some have wombs eating away at their lungs; others are pure soul and viscera.

Mostly, their bodies are like my island, filled with sand, soil, water, trees, and rotating moons. Sweeping winds move currents of blood to each limb. A kleitoris winds its way through a forest to the roof of her mouth, where it resides like a beloved pet. Or it slithers through her body like a weasel, chewing on the edges of her nerves. Carving her fingers down to claws, her spine into a bow.

And of course, each body has birds pecking away at the integrity of the cell.

***

I would talk to the women as I examined the contents of their bodies. They were not like me. They don’t want a body. They tell me they want to fuck (or be fucked) so hard they lose their body and do not need to eat, sleep, or shit. Better yet, they want to not care if they shit, and it
consumes their lovers & children entirely.

When I tell them about the birds inside their bodies they don’t believe me.

***

I have loved the men who come off the vessels too, but it isn’t the same—I do not have the urge to cut them open and model my own being after theirs.

***

I have seen the world end many times now, and it’s always on the wings of birds. In some endings, it is the birds inside the bodies that strike first—they boil and slice collagen. Other times, they drown mortals in bird cum and feathers that rain down from the heavens.

But this, this is the ending that I have lived most often: Vessels of men no longer arrive on my shores. I’m alone in blood stained floral underwear, and birds fly up to my window (I built a house just to get away from them) they have the eyes of my ex-lovers jiggling in their sockets, and yet there is no flicker of recognition. Then I disappear— and there is nothingness, truly nothing—until night gives way.

Cat Ingrid Leeches lives and writes in Alabama, where she is the current editor of Black Warrior Review. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Collagist, Passages North, and Fugue. She has a cat named Dirtbike, and they share a twitter @Lizard_Eyes.