The mandrake coos. A tendril creeps across the carpet to her, and Kavya watches it curl itself gently around her finger. It makes her smile, and without really thinking about it, she lifts her hand to her mouth to press a quick kiss to that thistle-downed shoot, soft as sap and just as fresh.
The mandrake has no eyes that she can see, only fingernail-shaped indents to suggest closed lids, but she sees its head turn in the dark to look directly at her. It makes a noise she’s never heard it make before, but recognises right away, though it is small, and soft. A laugh.
“The Love Song of M. Religiosa.”
She is sitting on a twig again. She, greenest, to put any leaf to shame. She of the flitting legs and the wet-sheened exoskeleton, the straight neck and enticingly rounded abdomen. She of the globe-eyes with their black-dot pupils and the shining needle arms. Her antennae flutter delicately, and Mantis watches through the glass as She raises her bulbous head.
I marinated nightingale hearts in yogurt and onion juice, pressure-cooking them with cinnamon bark, turmeric and slivers of mandrake root. I sliced fluffy mushrooms patterned like butterfly wings into fillets, and steamed them folded in banana-leaf-squares.
I bit my lip bloody when the urge to taste it myself grew overwhelming—I would not add to the mounting interest—and pulled you complaining from your play to lick spoonfuls and tell me how you liked it, instead.
The new egg was going to be a boy. Cadence had overheard Mother Reed and Mother Piper saying so in the kitchen, last night, after they were done singing to it. She didn't know how they could tell--it looked just like her little sisters' eggs had. Maybe a bit bigger than theirs had been at three days old, but otherwise the same: fat as a pumpkin and ribbed like one, flushed with the faintest hint of venous blue. It looked like the dead jellyfish that would sometimes wash up on the beach, plump and gelatinous, clear near the surface and fibrous white at its heart, making you want to dig your fingers in, or maybe take a bite.
Rainier, Richard. “A Rebuttal of Recent Rumours Heard Among the Populace.” The Times, 24 Apr. 1904, pp. 14.
“[A] rash of imitative new fads in the area of courtship, such as presenting a lover with a hair from one’s head or a clipping of fingernail to consume, perhaps even a shaving of skin, or blood, sucked from a pricked finger […] As to the rumours that the Ratnabari gain shapeshifting powers through the consumption of human flesh, or that they practice a form of virgin birth—I can say with certainty that these are pure exaggeration, and that their proponents are likely muddling real events with the mythological figure of the rakshashi, a female demon from the Orient.”
Robot Dinosaur Fiction, August 2018.
Reprinted in Transcendent 4: The Year’s Best Transgender Fiction.
They rode it every hot, sticky summer, multiple times if they could, huddled together in the boats with their backpacks full of issues of National Geographic and Meccano dinosaurs they’d built together. Over the years, they went from staring awestruck at the animatronic saurians craning over them, to playing spot-the-anatomical-inaccuracies. Ash still remembers, though, that first time, when they were younger—though they’d ridden it so many times already by then—when they rounded the corner where the T-Rex lifted its metal head and roared in the low reddish light, and Mei grabbed his hand, their smaller, warmer fingers tightening in his.
The pigeon is a broken knot of feathers convulsing on the sidewalk. Kat waits for it to fall completely still before reaching forward to scoop it up. She cups it in her small, ten-year-old hands, thumbs pressing into the fragile bone-arch of its breast, and raises it from the dead.
“Wake up, birdie,” she says, and the pigeon jerks. Its jellied red eyes snap open.
His research, he explained to me, concerns itself with the spermaceti organ’s role in producing the unearthly noises that whales issue forth. He proceeded to demonstrate by connecting a number of wires and waxed cotton threads to the sac and tissue, then setting up a number of small drums at various angles to both. From his tools he produced a small instrument that he pressed against the soft swollen side of the wax and glycerine-filled organ and blew on — and lo, a low note echoed and swelled to great size & shivered off all corners of the room in a manner that rose the hairs on my arms.
My search had finally turned up two promising results: a temple in Rajasthan and another in Gujarat. Both still performed exorcisms for the princely sum of five thousand rupees and three boxes of chickpea-flour-and-sugar sweetmeats. The money was supposedly for the priests, and the sweets for the gods, but I had the sneaking suspicion the sweets, too, would end up going down the priests’ gullets the way the pret had gone down mine. I concluded that you couldn’t put a price on a ghost-free digestive system, and pulled up the number for the temple in Rajasthan.