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300 pages, Paperback
First published October 15, 2019
I inch closer to the pond of cool, debris-ridden slime that rims the sphincter. It pulses, back and forth, back and forth, a putrid-looking pucker of flesh. Adalla sticks both of her hands in the hole and pulls hard, her muscles rippling and bulging. The rim tries to hold tight, even looks like it’s tugging against her, but eventually it gives, and the hole widens just enough for a person to slip through.
And of course there wouldn’t be much of a story if things didn’t go terribly, terribly wrong.
‘Instinctually, I hold my breath, as we had done so many times during practice, though from the gasping all around me, not everyone has been so thoughtful. The oily flow grips at me, bids me to get washed away. I hug that little strip of flesh like it’s my closest friend, hoping my cut holds just a few seconds longer. But in all my fear, all my dread, something springs forth in my heart… a feeling that I’m in a place I’ve belonged all my life.’
‘Sisterkin steps between us. “I can guide you, Seske. I know all the ways of the Matriarchy, all the Lines.” She smiles, though the gesture is more like the baring of teeth, the too-white teeth that haunt children’s dreams. Though she was born of Matris’s blood, she is not a part of our family and has no claim to our lines. As per the tenets of our ancestors, she cannot partake of our family teas, so she sips hot water from her dainty cups instead. Our head-father is not permitted to teach her, so Matris hires private tutors. Sisterkin is not allowed at our table, so Mother had an archipelago built where Sisterkin can dine with us without dining with us. Her hair grows freely upon her head, like a boundless sunburst, not the carefully braided knots of our line. Sisterkin has been given nothing, not even a true name. Sisterkin was Matris’s first abomination, and now there’s this surly beast she’s chosen.’
‘I blink. My eyelids are so heavy, holding up to a dozen tiny gemstones each. My whole body feels like I’ve been dunked in slime, but my, how I glisten. I’ve never felt so bold, so beautiful. Doka made me practice my walk while mimicking his gestures. He spoke of calling upon the honor of my patriline, and now I am enjoying the fruits of my toil, no longer Seske Kaleigh, but Sesken Pmalamar, son of fathers.’
‘I’m pulled into their rough huddle, laughing, joking, trying to seem like I’m relaxing, while studying their body cues and posture so I can learn to speak and act and think like they do.’
"How many fingers am I holding up behind my back now?" I say.
"One," he says with a sigh. "And it's most inappropriate."
Our histories lie in rubble, buried upon a dead
rock spinning under a forgotten sky. Our futures
lie in waiting, buried within this magnificent beast
traversing the stars we now call home.
—Matris Otoasa, 438 years after Exodus