Downwinders by Sarah Blackman
Inside the body the baby is coiling, flexed, not on the way to becoming but already become. Mother is having a picnic with father and brother and sis. The baby has no name for these things. Mother is the body that is her body and the blood. FatherBrotherSis are sounds that come and go, sometimes a thrust into the blood and body which makes a dent the baby thursts back at. The baby is not a baby. Not yet. She is herself, body and blood. She is the warm light and the way she can move up toward warmth and down toward warmth. She is the way all her parts touch each other and what is around her is also her.
For a second, less than a second, there is far too much light.
Inside the body of the baby the eggs are millions and in each a tiny prick of light waiting to grow. Eggs are patient. Eggs are contained. Inside the body that is the body which contains the baby are other eggs which have not yet become a place where light will grow. They are waiting. They are patient. Left behind by BrotherSis are loops and chains and knots and little rubbly ladders in the warm, soft, red everything they too once touched. Long ago what BrotherSis left behind became part of motherbody and babybody; maybe they were always part. Motherbody eats a bite of egg sandwich. She has packed thermoses of tea. They are on vacation, an American road trip to a great American gash in the ground which lulls babybody to sleep with the sway of the car. They have stopped in the desert to eat on the ridge with other bodies from the nearby towns. An event is taking place. They are just in time.
“Here, pin this to your shirt,” says a young woman with coiled blond hair in loops and rings and tempting hollows. She wears a pin with the image of galactic whirls and in the center the nucleus waiting to shed its light. Atoms are patient. Atoms wait. “We’ll collect them after the event and check the levels,” says the young woman inside whom are millioneggs and all their light. “It’s for science.”
“For science!” yelps Brother.
“Shut up, Virg,” says Sis.
Oh, motherbody, oh oh, eat another bite of the sandwich, sip another sip of the tea. Babybody kicks for joy of kicking, moving part of body away from the body, but inside the body still. It is soft. It is warm. There is light coming through the shape of babybody’s fingers like the blood that comes through the cord in babybody’s belly. Soft and warm. Joyful
For a second, less than a second, the sky is white as if emptied of blue.
As if an eye blinded by too much light.
As if the body made x-ray.
As if arrows traveling past and through.
“Lookit that” says Father.
“Fred,” says Mother, verycalm, “feel her move.”
Oh cartwheel! Oh free flowing fish! The body waits for the body to spill its light. Inside all the eggs open up, a chorus of tiny mouths, and eat what comes to them from the air and the soil, the water and the wind. All around the familybodies, sitting each on their individual blankets, clap.
“It does look just like a mushroom,” says Father, chewing. “Truth in advertising, I guess.”
When the motherbody walks back down the hill she is happy. Babybody can feel happy. It makes her rise and arch, release the water inside her into the water outside her (both waters that are her) and swallow it down again. Around motherbody float FatherBrotherSis, unclipping their badges from their collars and hems and waistbands of skirts. Brother is excited and shouts. Sis is mean and presses into motherbody to make sure she is felt. They put their badges in a basket held by young coiled hair. For science. The film inside the badges will be developed. The numbers will be recorded somewhere, analyzed somewhere, abandoned somewhere, repeated somewhere. Inside motherbody, babybody sings. Motherbody’s waiting eggs sing. Babybody’s waiting eggs sing. Young woman with the coiled blonde hair’s eggs open up to light and sing. A bigger light than them sings, seeping outward, raining down. A light made out of many tiny lights. The center of the atom opens up to light and sings.
This is all perfectly normal.
This is all perfectly safe.
This is all in the name of science.
This is all in the past.
Sarah Blackmanis the Director of Creative Writing at the Fine Arts Center, a public magnet high school for the arts. She is the author of Mother Box and Hex, both from FC2, and the co-fiction editor of DIAGRAM. She lives in Greenville, South Carolina with her partner, the poet John Pursley, III, and their two daughters. Every day she visits the future and comes back home to the past.