Among the Nalatari
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Among the Nalatari

 Tantra Bensko
 Tantra Bensko
Among the Nalatari
by Tantra Bensko  FollowFollow
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 more one, but feels she is probably growing too old to become one at this point. She is OK with that. Instead she writes fiction.
Among the Nalatari
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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.

She didn't understand why such a thing to happen to her. It didn't save on food that much to have a daughter who had absorbed the other fetus. Her daughter couldn't bend as well to help with gathers. Her giant growing moving thing on her abdomen seemed to take a lot of nourishment over the years. Had she been punished just for asking? She looked up often at the sky. Lightning she took personally. She whispered in its eye.

She always wished she'd been there to see what her daughter pushed out of her broken tummy. The stories about it became feared and revered in the tribe. A dance was made about it. Long black dresses the dancers wore. Cloth shiny from rubbing it.

Because the thing that had been inside there all that time and came out was nearly black.

The women who wash came forward. They approached the log and the little girl with determination. They lifted the hairything at the top of it and saw underneath it what they had not expected. The face was moving. But no sound came out, until again, the croaky sound like reverse crow.

The healer women carried the daughter to the water, and wrapped her up with large leaves, and roped them on to stem the blood. The veins in the leaves were red, and the leaves themselves iguana green.

The rest of the tribe bent over, tall, curving their bodies so their heads got closer than their feet were allowed to go. Their eyes were wide, their beautiful economical cheeks glinting squarely in the moonlight, backlit by the fire, the smoke rising behind them.

The thing inside could not see that, looking up. No eyes, exactly. Nothing quite what you'd want to look at for too long. But you couldn't help it. Gritty spices, nodules, flakes, bulges, alimentary track of sorts.

It reached out with part of itself, stretching the amorphous shape. Most of it was hanging, without much structure but thickness in the middle, a solid core.

The Vanishing Twin, the doctor said, who came out to write a book about it, from a place called Bostom. And that's what he named the book: Ghessa, Vanished but not Vanquished.

For Ghessa was its name. Some said it was meant to be a boy, others disagreed heartily, and gave knowing looks at each other. They'd go get together in the hidden spaces and talk and giggle.

Ghessa had a mouth, and got to use it for the first time. Luckily, the rains hadn't been so bad that season as had been foretold. Feeling it was easy.

They just pushed it in, and felt the squeezing around their fingers rhythmic peristaltic gulping darling.

They loved it. The father brought it the biggest meat.

It got into their dreams, and haunted the nights of the girl it came out of.

She never believed she was only she. She grew together crooked, but much thinner, pale for loss of blood, and dizzy, but finally able to flirt with the boys. If the boys would have her. She became of age.

Some said she was a blessing and others a curse. Some said the rains were staved off because of her. The boys who liked her smile said that especially.

She and Ghessa moved in sync. When she was dancing, Ghessa would be rocking itself, an oblong thing with protuberances, on the table, violently, enthusiastically, in perfect rhythm, and breathing hard.

Its lungs had taken time to clear, but seemed quite well equipped.

She helped take care of her little twin blob in the hut, and liked to dress it frivolously. She dragged it around with green grass in its hair, on a piece of animal skin. She laughed when she tried feeling it fur and it ate it.

It turned its faceyness toward her suddenly, though it had no ears. It must have felt her vibrating against it. It rolled and knocked her down.

But mostly, they got on well. This is not a story of violence. This is a story of cheer. Because when a boy she liked asked her to to walk with him into the bushes, she opened her mouth and he put his tongue inside, and she felt herself tingle and buzz. Back at the hut, Ghessa got to sweat. It got to glow and quiver, lean and slump, shake, and explode into joy.



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