*THE BLUE FROG 3rd PLACE WINNER*
Sidney stands naked and eleven before her bedroom mirror, her white arms held out in a crucified fashion. She imagines the skin of her underarms stretched down to attach to the skin of her legs. She wonders if there’s enough skin on her brother at eight years old that, if she killed him and shaved it all off, she could turn it into a pair of wings.
There are nearly fifty species of bat living in North America, ten in the state of Maryland, and perhaps only four likely candidates for the trees of Sid’s home in Baltimore: the eastern red bat, the hoary bat, the silver-haired bat, and (Sid’s personal favorite) the evening bat. The evening bat who, at her smallest, weighs the same as a sharpened No. 2 pencil and who, at her largest, weighs little more than a palmful of garlic cloves. Her wingspan is perhaps a few centimeters longer than a straw of dry spaghetti. For her meals, she takes beetles, moths, and flies. To refresh herself, she will glide across a pool or pond, easy as a lady’s finger, and steal little sips of water.
Sid learned from TV about how Sir Walter Raleigh’s widow had his severed head pickled and treasured in a little red velvet sack until she joined him in death nearly thirty years later. When Sid woke up an hour ago covered in blood, she thought first of bats, a thousand glorious bats! and then of Widow Raleigh. She closes her eyes; and her womb is a red velvet sack, her future son’s head floating safely inside it. The brown blood is still smeared on her bared thighs. It smells like old, rusty bike chains. She knows from the internet that it’s more than just blood; there’s bits of her uterus in there, too. Her womb like a snake, writhing around in her guts to shed its skin.
When Sidney’s older and her snake no longer bothers with this ritual, she’ll stand in front of this mirror once more, abruptly in the process of emptying her parents’ house for sale, and she’ll wonder how things would’ve been different if she had killed her brother that night, before he had the opportunity to grow up and kill himself. She will think about her baby who, at their largest, had weighed little more than an evening bat. She will take off her shirt and hold her arms aloft; her skin will stretch lower than before but still not enough to reach her legs.
Things ought to be connected, she will think, she does think. But of course things are connected; her arms are stuck there on her shoulders, her head is seamless with her neck. The many sentences of her life are all organized in the same document. Things ought to be better connected, she will think, and then maybe they’d finally make sense. She’d finally be able to step out from her bedroom window and take flight.
K.C. MEAD-BREWER — K.C. lives in Baltimore, MD. Fun fact: her rowhome used to be part of an orphanage in the early 1900s; no child-ghosts have been encountered yet, but one can hope. She is a graduate of Tin House’s 2018 Winter Workshop for Short Fiction and of the 2018 Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. For more info, visit kcmeadbrewer.com
Art by DAEGAN LUNSFORD — Daegan is a multidisciplinary artist living in Canada. He currently works in gouache and egg tempera, as well as many other unconventional mediums. His artwork focuses on delight, nostalgia and Americana.