When they turn on her it is not like how they hunt. She hears their paws scuttling, their breath heavy in the close darkness of the den. It is not winter and they are not starving. But still: her mother is first, wet snout against the girl’s temple, hot exhale, while her brothers lick her nose, her ears, her wriggling fingers like stranded worms. Her flesh yields to their jaws. They shrink back when she cries, so loud she startles herself. Her largest sister nips at her throat like a feinting pup. It could be just a game. But here they are, grown strong while she is still as helpless as the day she first opened her eyes. Her smallest brother locks his jaws around her leg and she scrabbles at the ground with the useless blunt tips of her hands. She has dreamed of going with them on the hunt, learning to run with grace, becoming the fastest or fiercest or most clever – but she knows it is the weakest caribou that makes the meal. And so. A brother rounds her head and she lunges at him, snagging the edge of his ear with her flat clumsy teeth. He whines and wheels away. A piece of his body rests on her tongue. This, the last thing they have in common: when you rend them, they will bleed.
Tess’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Pleiades, Black Warrior Review, Barnstorm, and Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading. Her short story, “The World Holds What It Remembers Most”, was chosen as the fiction winner in Black Warrior Review’s 2017 contest.
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