First Place | Flash Fiction Writing Contest

51st New Millennium Award for Flash Fiction

Alexandra Blogier of Boston, Massachusetts for “Rebirth”

Blogier will receive $1,000 and publication both online and in print.

 

Rebirth

Alexandra Blogier

 
It’s four in the morning and the Mother is awake, the baby is in her arms. She is always awake. The baby is always in her arms. Her apartment has high ceilings and good light. It has wooden floors covered in the tiniest clothes, doll-sized shirts that always need washing, socks smaller than her clenched fists. It is winter and the baby is one month old.
 
The Mother held the baby inside her for nine months, an avocado that swelled into a melon. They moved together, woke in the mornings at the same time, one’s weight shifting into the other’s. Then they split apart, cells mutating once again, and the baby pushed into the world, wailing.
 
The baby is always sucking at some part of the Mother’s body. If it’s not her breast, it’s her shoulder. If not her shoulder, her wrist. The baby is filled with insatiable want and unimaginable need. Already, nothing is ever enough. You fabulous little creature, the Mother thinks, kissing the baby’s neck. You terrible little thing.
 
It’s winter and this means the storms are endless. Two-headed, four-armed, the Mother and the baby make one shadowy figure, some kind of monster, bound together in the dark. The Mother looks at herself in the mirror over the baby’s head. She sees slight wrinkles and sagging breasts. Heavy stomach and heaving heart. The Mother was young once, she saw her own mother’s body and thought, that will never be me, until she let someone else live inside her, and found out what all women come to understand—your body does not truly belong to you.
 
The first time is an accident, for babies’ nails are thin as paper, and the clippers’ edge is sharp. The blood is no more than a pinpoint. The baby barely cries.
 
“You’re okay, my love,” the Mother murmurs. “I’m right here, my darling.”
 
The Mother raises the baby’s finger to her mouth. It is instinct, the motion of finger to lips, the licking of her child’s blood. The rush she feels is instant. The buzz in her veins is pounding. She is fully fleshed and bursting. The Mother knows it is the feeling of youth returning, blood back to blood.
 
“Just think of it as sharing,” she coos to the baby, blood slick on her tongue. “I’m just teaching you how to share.”
 
After this, it comes easily. Each day, a draining, drip by drip. Each day, a little more. She freezes the blood in breast milk bags she no longer stores milk in, for the baby is always hungry, and nurses without end. The Mother, too, is ravenous. She eats indiscriminately, with all the carelessness of her teenage self. She wants everything, all the time. The Mother feels nothing that resembles regret.
 
Once a month, the Mother sits with other mothers. They meet in a cafe and drink decaf, discussing which baby rolled over, which one learned to grab, which one found their feet, as though they were somewhere else but the ends of their legs. Their strollers line the sidewalk, their babies line the floor. They look at each other from the corners of their eyes, baring their teeth when they smile. The Mother is so bored she could weep.
 
“You look amazing,” one of the mothers says to her, hair pulled high and tight on the top of her head. “What’s your secret?”
 
“Pilates,” the Mother answers, and chugs her coffee with abandon.
 
Soon spring will come. Already the snow is melting in rivers down the streets, the spindly branches of the trees beginning to bud. The moon hangs bright in the sky, even in such broad daylight. The Mother walks through the thaw, making endless loops around the empty park. Strapped to her chest, the baby breathes out, the Mother breathes in.
 
Soon the baby will learn to speak, to move away from the Mother, to say no. The Mother thinks of these things as she squeezes the fleshiness of the baby’s thigh and pricks the needle in.
 
Each week, the baby changes, shifts in heft and length, becomes a stranger once again to the Mother. She runs her fingers across the baby’s gums, feeling for the sharp ridges of growing teeth. She tries to imagine the baby as more than a baby, as a child, someone with skinned knees and broken bones, all the realms of earthly danger she cannot protect against, and finds that she cannot imagine anything close.
 
“You’re bleeding,” her husband says to her as she stands at the counter, ripping lettuce into smaller and smaller pieces, whisking oil into vinegar. He swipes his finger across her cheek. It is old blood, crusted over, and it flakes off her face easily, like a snake molting its skin.
 
“I cut myself shaving,” she says, and turns away from him.
 
“Your beard?” he asks.
 
The Mother does not answer. Oh, the secrets we keep, even from those who share our bed.
 
“Are you hungry?” she asks then. She balances both plates on her open palms. She takes a step. She takes another.
 
“Starving,” he answers, and wraps his arms around her waist.
 
They sit at the table with the monitor between them, watching the baby sleep. The husband jokes that the baby only sleeps in three positions—croissant, reverse croissant, and murder victim. When he’s not home, the Mother holds her fingers under the baby’s nose, just to be sure, just in case.
 
Here is what the Mother does not anticipate about this endeavor—that when she stops, which she does just before the baby turns eight months old, she will age fiercely and rapidly, not so much in flesh but in bone itself. She carries a new exhaustion, a phantom weight always pressing down on her, even in the odd moments that she is alone. The baby now sleeps through the night but the Mother has stopped sleeping entirely, and spends the hours listening to her husband breathe. One night, she pulls her body over his, knees around his chest. Her joints click like the flickering wings of beetles. Her hands on his skin are cold.
 
“Let’s have another baby,” she sighs, kissing his neck, his eyelids, trying to push her desperation down. “Let’s have one right now.”
 
He wakes with a start, pushing her off him.
 
“What are you doing?” her husband asks, and she collapses into him.
 
From the nursery, the baby begins to scream, and it is only now that the Mother cries, howling like a wolf, like the animal she has become. She sees herself from far away, sees herself over him, and knows she has no more life in her to give. This future of hers flashes before her. She should have known how this would end. She sees the baby who will grow up to leave her. She sees herself, skeletal and forever in mourning, all her losses accruing at once. She sees this from her still young life, and then, like that, it’s gone.
 

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandra Blogier lives in Boston, Massachusetts and along the edge of Cape Cod. She is the author of the YA novel The Last Girl on Earth and is an MFA candidate in fiction at Emerson College.

Rebirth © 2020 Alexandra Blogier
• • • Thanks for Reading • • •
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6 thoughts on “”

  1. An electrifying story, so visceral, so real. The surrender of the mother’s flesh will remain with me for a long time, caked with blood.

  2. Your story is riveting and I enjoyed the pace too. It brought pieces of fairytales, horror movies, and even personal surreal thoughts surrounding pregnancy along for the ride.

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing it.

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