The child has broken the window with an orange.
I heard its music from the parlour below. The child has spelled my name with his sharp little stars and hide- bound sun and I need only glance to know it, for the pattern is the same: six long shards encircling something other. That is how I spelled my name under the trees with the bones from sparrows’ wings and the magpie’s skull. I have closed the door, but it will not stop its seeping. I am not certain it is the child I have been calling to. I have broken the parlour window, from the inside, with an orange. What it spelled on the flowerbed is not clear to me. It did not spell the child’s name as I had expected. It spelled my own with too many pieces.
I heard the child’s voice in the night. I heard him at my window as I lay in my bed and I heard his scuttling on the roof. I heard his snicker swim down the chimney and dance about my ears. He spoke the words, but they were disordered. This morning I took his whispers away from the house, to the bottom of the valley. There I made a hole in the earth and laid my head beside it, my mouth over its edge. I spoke his words in reverse and let them fall into the hole and I covered them with a rosebush soon to flower. I expected white blooms, which would protect me. The rose bloomed yellow.
They believe they know my mind, the people in the village. Not so many years have passed since they ate from my gardens and I offer to feed them still, but they think it is a trick. My trees bear fruit, but I do not. The women bear, but their fields are empty. Where did the little one go, they ask. It is under the hearth, they say; she has sold it for crops.
This morning the child left a rabbit’s head on my step. They have fed him the rabbit’s flesh and broken its meaning and they have spoiled its white pelt with a crust of blood. They have made a mistake. It is not the sign I expected.
It was complicated to respond. I took the largest hen from my coop and drained its blood. I removed the egg from its body and in its place I stitched a wriggling toad. I boiled them. I have pinned them to the lintel with an iron nail and buried the egg below the step, beneath the rabbit’s head. I will use the door to the garden.
I remember when they burnt my field, the counterpoint of their voices when they surrounded the crackling barn. I had carried for eleven months before the fullness of my belly began to fade. They demanded to see the child. I could not show them and they set the fire. They did not know my child had been made elsewhere and I had simply to call him to me with the names and words.
I have been crying. I uncovered the egg beneath the step and the shell, though intact, was empty.
It is not my child.
He has been in the cellar with the animals. He has torn feathers from the goose and wrung her neck. He has crushed the apples with his feet and spilled the ale. He has drowned the hare in oil. He has entered the belly of my house and made it barren. It is a mockery.
I must be well when my child comes to me and if I am to be well, the boy must be made unwell. There is ice in the field tonight. I have made a bath of the animals and the apples and the ale and I will warm myself in it by the fire until my skin reddens and burns. I will run into the field and press my flesh onto the ice. I will break the pond’s winter skin and cool myself blue in its water.
There is a sweating sickness in the village. The crow tells me the people are cold and beset with pains. The sparrow says they fear hellfire, for they grow ever hotter and cry in agony and die. The magpie tells me the boy is dead. His mother wails for him, but not I; he is not mine.
I am waiting.