when my husband dies,
the thing that leaps from his chest cavity
forgets its voice.
other markers of beasthood are easier to remember:
it pricks up gut-covered fur like needles,
bares bloody gums and teeth as it crouches low,
nipping the air around my ankles.
some would prefer a quiet houseguest,
but when the sound finally comes,
when the shriek bubbles up from its distended belly
and tears at the living room wallpaper,
i find some small relief.
born things may scream.
i can’t let the thing walk around my house dripping,
so i’m still shaking when i have to rinse it off.
the gore of him sluices down the bathtub drain
and parts of me go with it.
of course it riots at being wrangled.
of course i’m losing parts too.
the thing won’t eat the dog food i borrow from the neighbor
or the lasagnas people are bringing,
but it seems happy enough chewing
bits of me and anyone
who’s taking tissues.
it takes weeks to get back in that bed,
but when i do it comes with me and
takes up space.
i wake up shivering.
see it curled in the covers.
one morning i find it cleaning itself on the front porch.
with all that musk licked away
it smells like breakfast.
i sit in his chair
and it brings its prickly chin to my lap,
blinking watery eyes the colour of coffee beans
like it wants something from me.
my hand is hesitant
but i find its furless head is pocked like a strawberry, flecked through
with sesame seeds.
i go back inside for something to eat.
the thing and i have been living together for months.
it has found its places:
little spots it likes to hide and rest in
or else scream until the both of us
are again bloodied.
my husband’s corpse is long gone
but the thing has learned tricks like play dead
and it remembers where it was born.
the thing and i have been living.
we have both learned new tricks.
the best is when it puts a rotted hoof in mine
and when i close my eyes all i feel is the
weight of a palm,
warm and large and soft.
it’s this weight that reminds me
of how a born thing might grow.
Elis Montgomery is a speculative fiction writer from Vancouver, Canada. She is a member of SFWA and Codex. When she’s not writing, she’s usually hanging upside down in an aerial arts class or a murky cave. Find her there or on Twitter @elismontgomery.