When I was a girl my nipples were hard enough to cut my hands — a point of pride.
Yet a day came when my body became vulnerable: my thighs turned into fontanels, which itched maddeningly during the transformation. I could feel the roots of three tongues forming in my throat. Ichor leaked between my legs, and the smell seemed to follow me everywhere. I furtively tried to sniff the other girls on this island to see if they were leaking the same substance. Once I stole two pairs of dirty underwear during gym class, but the stench was mine alone.
Not long after the transformation started, a woman appeared in my dreams. I knew all the women and girls that lived on my island, but she was like no other I had seen before. She had no lips (the sun had made them rot- I knew this instinctively), but her breath burrowed into my cochlea:
“My sons will tear into your body, and come out with a fistful of jewels or rotting fish spines, (and when they are starving these will be more valuable than gold). But you are a container to be unwrapped, pillaged, taken for granted – nothing more.”
I felt these words snake down into my cloaca, and come to rest there. This was how I first learned about the existence of men.
Here are my theories about men:
+ They grow thick horns that fracture their skulls. These horns might have been evolutionarily advantageous eons ago, but now they’re too heavy to be useful. In fact, they’re so heavy they cause men to sink beneath the earth and that’s why I have never seen them. Mother’s venture through a deep maze of caverns to find them, defeat them, and create daughters.
+ Men arose from the sea, but only when the girls are in school. This theory explained why the windows facing the ocean were boarded up.
+ Men are made of sand. They could be lurking beneath my feet even now.
I began to carry broken seashells in my pockets. Fantasized about driving their sharp edges into a man’s throat. There was little resistance, the air filled with his blood mists. I imagined going to school the next day, triumphantly telling the other girls I was finally a woman. But those were daydreams, and in my dreams at night, my hand shook and when it shook, it wasn’t strong enough to penetrate the man’s skin. He hated me. In his eyes, I was no longer a daughter, but a lover. And he knew I could see him for what he was after all, he had been inside me, and I must have taken something from him, but what, what was it?
Did my classmates know men existed? Even while we braided dead fish in each other’s hair, I was no longer able to relax beneath their touch. Either there was a horror in this world and they had no idea what awaited them, or they had known all along and kept it from me.
Outside of my dreams I met a man on the beach. And he said he smelled the dead fish my classmates braided in my hair, and that I didn’t wash between my legs often enough – he could smell the ichor crusted to my thighs, when I reached for the seashell in my pocket it felt brittle, and I tried to stab him, but before I reached his throat, he snapped my wrist and it turned into sand.
“You are mine,” the man said.
And the only way I could escape was to transform into an animal, swim across oceans of time, space, spit, and algae. This is not a sad story.
The world melting away beneath my rasping, sandpaper tongue,
layers of skin falling away like clothes – mine and others – while my mucosa sings: look at me, feel me – and yes, I know that death can come at any moment
(I am now an animal, now disposable), but every lover can be molded into my
desires, I lick away their shells until I find the parasites beneath: children,
infestations, universes: I dive indiscriminately into with my fangs.