Among the Nalatari

THE GIRL WASN'T feeling very well. Something was always trailing from behind her. A bit on the uncouth side. People side-stepped it by the river, the thing trailing. They didn't say a thing.

Hoo Hoo went the strange animal. Behind the rhythms of the drums and the pounding of the feet on the ground, there was a bush. Red berries on it shone in the moonlight, hallucinatorily bright, after the rain. What a tease. Inedible berries. But Sorwon wanted to keep the tree there, rather than chop it up and let it die and throw it it in the fire.

She liked to let herself get caught up in the music, and let her eyes replicate everything there. She just had to stare off into the distance, into the yellow fire. Her blood danced. Her eyes shone.

She coughed, one day, and no one came to her rescue. The log she sat on scraped her thigh as she fell over. The thumping of the ground against her cheek made everything OK.

And then, the giant largeness on her torso that she was always so embarrassed by broke open.

Her scream brought dogs licking her face ruthlessly, with breath like bait. She turned away, could not face what was dangling from some teeth. She humped the ground, flopping, her long brown arms stretched out in front of her straight, landing over and over on the brown ground. Her ochre dress turned to dirt.

Out from her abdomen was heard a sound like a crow in reverse.

Shamans had said it was moving inside there under her skin all those years because she had been jumping rope. They said the circling of the rope around a person was bad luck, and brought the dark things in. They'd live inside you because you'd captured them. The circle circle circle of the rope had made it grow attached. It couldn't leave, and then got comfy. It moved in.

Her mother said it was because of her disappeared twin. She said she had been pregnant with two. She said she could feel them holding hands, one shifting on one side of her belly, the other turning the other way at the same time.

And then, she went out hunting birds for feathers for the dance. The dance was to draw down the sky gods to answer questions. It was – how could they feed two children. The court of dreams had said the crops would fail. The weather was going to be the worst they'd ever seen.

During the dance, storm clouds came. They said her child would never be the same. Her child would be her children.

When everything changed, and the baby on the left side slowly moved toward the one on the right, getting smaller and smaller, the mother knew something was strange. She stared at her reflection in the pond, the day she was able to find the water still clear. No one had been out yet and muddied it, and it hadn't rained for days. She let her eyes dissociate to the rhythm of her heart, and the heart inside her belly, and the heart inside that.

What she saw, she told no one. She locked it away inside a rock. She talked to a bird about it.

Among the Nalatari continues...
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About Tantra Bensko

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Tantra Bensko admires the old ways best. She wishes she were a member of an ancient tribe. She also wouldn't mind being a clitorus living in one, but feels she is probably growing too old to become one at this point. She is OK with that. Instead she writes fiction.
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