My Siblings are the Birch by A.D. Sui

Sister guides my hand, and the brush smears paint across canvas. Brother reads over my shoulder, whispers to linger on a paragraph before turning the page. We move from one house to another. Eight times now, and yet they follow. Their laughter echoes in every bedroom and down every corridor in the bright afternoon sun. In the dead of night. Their footsteps ring in the new day.

Mother says I am the lucky one.

I have Sister’s hands, she tells me, natural for the piano. I have Brother’s strength, and I should apply myself to sports, tennis perhaps, he would like that. What is in me that is mine? I ask, and the question hangs in the air unanswered for years. Sister suggests my next haircut. Brother picks out my next book. I am a chimera of life and death, with dues to pay to either side. Sister and I bond over our love for the academic. When I slam doors, it is with Brother’s rage.

Mother says I am living for three.

No wonder my hunger is never satiated. No wonder I can sleep for days and never be rested. No wonder Mother’s eyes never meet mine. She scans my room, bearing witness to the shadows that escape everyone else. What blessing it is to have company, she reminds me.

So, I welcome their haunting and open my heart to their ghosts, offer it all, surrender every bit of me. Puppet me around at your whim and your whimsy. Cry through me, laugh through me. Breathe with my lungs. Make the air hitch in my throat. Your eyes are forever shut, but mine are yours for the taking. I can be the conduit of grief in this house and the next.

You owe them your life, Mother never says. But her silences are ever articulate.

Sister was born in the spring. Brother, with the autumn leaves.

I stand in the rain in the birch forest where the small lumps are buried and dig until the soil opens up to me. I wrap the roots around my shoulders as I lay in the shallow grave. Hold me, like I was the wanted one. Hold me, like Mother never could. Who is the lucky one here? I ask. I shiver in the dirt, and all three of us grow cold.

A.D. SUI — A.D. is a Ukrainian-born, queer, and disabled writer, currently living in Canada. She mostly dabbles in science fiction and fantasy but is expanding her horizons to literary fiction. She holds a Ph.D. in Health Promotion from Western University and spends most of her time being a stuffy academic of all things digital. When not writing convoluted papers that nobody will ever read, you can find her on Twitter as @TheSuiWay where she openly critiques academia and gushes over her two dogs. 

Art by ZUZANNA KWIECIEŃ — Zuzanna is an illustrator and print maker. She graduated from Gray’s School of Art with a degree in Illustration. Zuzanna captures the visual narrative of the subject and combines it with a distinct atmosphere. As an artist, she values time and effort put into the construction of a high-quality work of art.