When I met my mother, she was dying.
I held her hand as a tiny baby, surrounded by nature. My mother was a goddess with horns so big her head barely stood still. I still have memories of her head rocking, side to side, trying to hold up the spiky things. My father decorated her horns every morning, roses with thorns adding to the weight.
I think she wanted to die with some beauty, some honor. The ugly gurgles that come for us close to the end, when our lungs are too full of fluid and flowers, she made the best of them. She sang songs to me, a tiny thing overgrowing, surpassing her other children. When she died, surrounded by roses and green children, we didn’t bother burying her or turning her to ash or anything, really.
We’re not allowed in the graveyards.
When I met my father, he was dying.
Aside from picking flowers for my mother, he taught me things. About my life expectancy. About our place in the world. We hid from townspeople who rode by, screaming violent obscenities at us, throwing rocks and logs and calling us plants. My father wasn’t as calm as I am – there were many times when he’d yank a Boar or two off of a pathway and rip them to shreds. When he finally died, he was in front of hundreds of spectators who wanted to see what happens when you killed a tree away from the forest. My grandmother barely survived the pain of that – knowing my father was away from his land, away from our home, and would likely never be returned to us. I learned from him that the people who hate us have a way of winning no matter what they do.
They executed him for murdering a man who very literally buried my sister alive.
We’re not allowed to defend ourselves. At least, we weren’t.
When I met my siblings, they were dying.
Our lungs grow these flowers, these plants, and they slowly suck away our ability to breathe. Our horns turn to wood. Our flesh stiffens. Eventually, our hearts harden and crack, and we just die. It’s all so slow. It’s all so painful.
But I’m proud. I’ve watched my sisters and brothers die one by one. I’ve watched my family die out in pain, in anger, in agony. And here I sit. Alone.
I’m not allowed to grieve. All I know is death.
When it was just me and my grandmother, an ancient woman with the smile of a demon, I was prepared. She told me stories of times when our family was well. How our ancestors were some of the oldest in the country, some of the strongest back in our day. She liked myths, my grandmother. She told me about a curse placed on us, on our bloodline, because of a smart-mouthed ancestor. She decried men a lot. She missed my mother the most.
I don’t think it’s a curse. I think we’re just sick. We’re just sick.
Animals loved us. We’d sit in our concrete home, wrestling thunderstorms that shook the country and protect the rabbits. We’d defend the chipmunks and other furry creatures that lived with us. She thought it would save us. If we protected the animals, we’d be spared. We wouldn’t suffocate. But day after day, more and more, I found her coughing up mucus. Blood. Dirt. She refused to prepare me for isolation. We will not perish, Bosque.
I went out to help find food for the animals and came back to her eyes rolled up, head slumped back against the wall. The rabbits covered her, scrambling around her. I imagined they wanted her to wake up.
I was 13, and it’s been these animals and me ever since.
When I saw her that day, screaming her head off, rancid with anger and a bit of fear, I felt something. I wanted to protect her. From these beasts. From these violent excuses for living beings. Something about Bunni made me want to pull away from all the concrete, from all the Earth, from all of the rot my family promised me. Something about her made me want to escape this disease and be…well.
Bunni, with her rabbit ears. She breathes, and you can see the world spinning for her for eons and eons. She was made for me.
When I was born, I wasn’t allowed to love. I can’t keep waiting for my end, though.
Maybe Bunni was sent here for me. Maybe she’s the real cure for the curse my grandmother was so sure of. Maybe my grandmother’s spirit sent me to the market that day to meet her, to save me. To preserve our bloodline.
I’m not allowed hope. But I’ll love her anyway. Right until the last breath.
I’ll allow myself that.