By Minenhle Nomalungelo Khumalo
(This story is based on a grand lie)
“I stayed longer than I needed to, even though the air hurt in my throat and I could sense the creature was always near. Still, it was good to be there with our sister again. You know very well that sisters like us cannot stand to be apart for long. I stayed long enough for her to examine my body and to question my birth.”
I have been meaning to write to you for a while now. But every time I think of you I start to feel the strain of a tear forming in my eyes, my temples pulsate in a rhythmic pain, and so do my treasures. I have countless stories I want to share with you; too many of them sickeningly true. But, my time, sister, is nearly up so I have picked one. So here you are, my bizarre beauty, a short story in a long letter for a wonderfully weird woman:
I went back to see our sister. I was not sure it would be safe to go but I went back anyway. It was a last minute decision. When the opportunity to visit her again arose I hesitated a very long while. I watched the day grow long and with the passing time the potential trip grew in its dangers. I imagined all that could go wrong, convinced myself of my insanity for even entertaining the idea, and then got on a train headed West. It did not take very long to get there. I got lost along the way, since it had been a while, but my heart still knew where to find her. She was there, as always, with the non-born girls, just as small and fragile as I remember. They both greeted me warmly, but Phoebe was less excited to see me than Leo. Leo had pissed herself in excitement and jumped into my arms, bottom still dripping with urine. Our sister, as you might imagine, slowly cleaned the piss from the floor with her own hesitant excitement. It was not until she was done that she greeted me. She grabbed me by the hand, led the way into the room we shared when we were younger girls, and told me she had dreams about the day I was born. You must know why I went back, Lulama. We sisters cannot be away from each other for too long.
I stayed longer than I needed to, even though the air hurt in my throat and I could sense the creature was always near. Still, it was good to be there with our sister again. You know very well that sisters like us cannot stand to be apart for long. I stayed long enough for her to examine my body and to question my birth. She separated my hair and served me sour beer. Phoebe and Leo played by my feet counting my toes in a quiet concentration. Our sister told me, as she’s said before, my birth is the question that must always be asked. I believe her now. After everything that has happened, it must be true. I must ask the question for all of us. So I have decided to return to the Regal office to be re-gestated. In fact, I am in pre-gestation, waiting for a receipt notice, as I write to you. However, the story I am really trying to tell is of the events that happened after our sister told me of the question of my birth. The fonder memory of what happened at our sister’s house that day makes it easier to tell, but, I have procrastinated that story enough.
I went back to see our sister and because of that she has been re-covered. She is gone. I should have known better than to let the creature know two sisters were together in one place for that long. I was prepared to defend her, but when it did not arrive while I was with her, I thought it had somehow missed my presence. I was wrong. And The Father has done his job, as he always does.
When I felt I could not possibly safely stay with her any longer, I left for the train station. As I was getting ready to board, I realized I had lost my identification code. I lingered at the station a while, watching the train leave knowing I could not enter the Regal office for re-gestation without my IC yet also knowing how impossibly dangerous returning to our sister would be. Especially so soon. But our sister was clear. Our circumstances have made it clear. The question of my birth must be asked. It must be asked as soon as possible. So I made my way back to her. I went back again! You must know I had to go back. Despite the dangers of the creature and the unloving power of The Father, I have to follow the directives of the sisterhood we have all shared.
I hurried back but the creature had made it to her before I did. I do not know how. Perhaps it was provoked when it sensed my return. Or it was always waiting to pounce once I left. I do not know. I do not accept either. Outside her quiet doorway I stared at the creature. It’s wide white face was focusing it’s grey eyes on yet another one of our sisters. Its metal body covered in the dust that rose as it did it’s painful work. This one looked old, and had an opening on its side that was leaking of our sisters’ blood.
Where her body lay, there grew a strange hairy flower I did not notice before. A soft green stalk, bearded with purple whiskers that were clustered on the flower’s rounded top. The Father had already poured the concrete over her body. A part of me denied that she was even there under it. I knew it was her there but I could no longer sense the familiar animation of her hair. She had been re-covered. The concrete had set. The Father was finished. That was it. The dust had already started to settle over her hard form. I can not make sense of how it happened so quickly. I walked around her body, gave it a bearded flower and took one for myself. The creature placed my identification code on the road near by and in that inexplicable mercy, I was reminded, yet again, that the question of my birth must be asked. Perhaps the answer will also tell me why the creature will never fight me, why it gently lets me pass every time it consumes our sisters. Or why the Father is only ever there to re-cover when he has the power to save our sisters’ lives. At any rate, I gathered my IC and began to make my way to the Regal office once more.
The sight of our disappearing sister was cloudy in my eye as I looked back on her and the creature. Even after I turned my head towards the way ahead and even when I boarded the train, the cloudy spot where the sight of her body caught my eye refused to clear. I had to work hard to ignore my cloudy right eye so I could concentrate on the task at hand. I had to relearn the ability to smile. It took all my energy, but, I had to turn my lips up in favor of the Regal office over our sister or the shaking blur of her body in my vision. I had to be thankful for our sister’s re-covery if I had any hope of re-gestation. I could not betray their ownership of our bodies if I was to use their technology to understand and answer the question of my birth. The question of all our sisters’ deaths. The question of my birth must be asked. As the first sister, I must ask it for all of us. Who are these white creatures? Why do they prey on our bonds of love and why has the Father been helping them?
I must go now. More later.
With the love of our sisterhood,
Minenhle Nomalungelo Khumalo s a South African born Afro-futurist, Marxist Biblical scholar and professional skeptic who is based in the United States. She is currently a teacher-learner in interdisciplinary studies, focusing on the intersections of social-science, fiction/fantasy, scripture, and religion. Her hobbies include smashing patriarchy, challenging racism, and riding bikes