When they stitched our lips together, not another ‘saheb’ or ‘mem-saheb’ did we have to utter, but there was nothing they could do about our noses—inhaling food, so they asked us for our stomachs—you can’t all have stomachs of your own. We took out our bones and laid them on our chest—but no, these were brown bones from brown men, brown women, brown children—what good was brown chinaware. We left, leaving the stomachs, the bones. We walked, and we walked, until some of us—turned to earth—told us to go on, but what good was it without stomachs and bones, tongues caged behind our stitched lips.

When we came back, the earth was forest. The wood folk asked for our names, each trying to find their own, until night fell. The faeries hurried into tree-trunks, urging us to join them. But try as we might, we couldn’t fit into their tiny living homes. The men came—men with brown bones still inside their brown bodies, and brown lips that had never been stitched. They didn’t have stomachs either, born of men and women who’d given up stomachs. But it mattered not when they plunged axes into our breath-like bodies, and we fell watching as the axes swung into our wood fore-fathers and they fell, and together we became earth.

***

Maria Zach is the pen name of an author who loves weird and quirky.

She lives in Kerala, a small but densely populated state squished into the southernmost corner of India. She is a dreamer, mother to a toddler, healthcare engineer, wife, whichever among these happens to be demanding her attention at any precise moment.

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