A Message From Her Feline Self, Unborn, to Her Cousin, Whose Ancestors Were Once Wolves

Illustrated by Jessica McCottrell |  Edited by Aigner Loren Wilson

Copyedited by Chelle Parker

March 2022

433 words — Reading time: around 2 minutes

Our mother tears open the moon to show us futures
when we are still wrapped in her belly, womb-warm,
nursing trust and waiting to be given shape. In sleep,
she builds us dreams, a fractal of possibilities,
a thousand upon a thousand, as branched
as our own lives still yet to be lived,
where we could be anything, anyone.

Without fail, the end of every dream, every story,
finds you waiting with jaws wide, teeth sharp, primed
for the hunt and the chase. Proud criminal, hungry
for more than meat and blood, for more than your fair share.
We have not even met, but it is because of you and yours
that we come into this world with feet already knowing
how to run, our eyes already able to tell what is shelter
and what is safe — these are things worth knowing
truer than our own names.

Yet there is one dream our mother saves, one
she pries free only when she is certain we are alone —
no thieving eyes, no ears to soak up secrets.
In this dreaming, she shows us a forest,
primordial and huge, massive trunks bleeding sap and water
like tears, air spiced with the scent of small things
unaware of how insignificant are their lives, snuffed out
as easily — as inevitably — as stars.
Here, paths are carved from pale light and we follow,
knowing the way is open for us and us alone.
Here we grow to greatness, here we hunt,
catch trembling bodies beneath our claws,
built to rend and water the soil with blood, an offering
from ourselves to ourselves, a gift of flesh and feasting.
Here, we will not hide.

          In that soft dream of her belly,
          still formless and depthless,
          we make her a promise that when we are grown,
          we will dream a new story, plant a new forest,
          one in which the trees do not receive you,
          one in which the moon creates futures
          with eyes and ears only for us.

So, Cousin —
when we are birthed into cold air onto cold stone,
remember, before your legs grow strong enough to give chase,
before you insist upon your inheritance of earth,
wearing your confidence like barding, gaudy in your own self surety —
remember that ancient forest,
the silence of our footfalls and the shape of our claws,
remember how we stripped you down to bare bone and fear.
Remember how we took your moon from you,
hung her in the night sky, remember
how we stole the warmth from her gaze, the fire from her smile.
Remember how we made you howl.

© 2022 Jessica Cho

About the author

Jessica Cho

Jessica is a Rhysling Award–winning SF/F writer of short fiction and poetry. Born in Korea, they currently live in New England, where they balance their aversion to cold with the inability to live anywhere without snow. Previous works have appeared in khōréō, Flash Fiction Online, Fireside Magazine, Apparition Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. They can be found online at semiwellversed.wordpress.com and on Twitter as @wordsbycho.

About the artist

Jessica McCottrell

Jessica McCottrell is a digital and multimedia artist from Phoenix, AZ. Inspired by the art of animation and video games, she decided to make drawing a regular practice. Jessica received her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art from Arizona State University in 2008. Since graduation, Jessica has worked as a freelancer and has contributed to gallery shows in the local scene. Jessica still resides in the Phoenix-Metro area with her husband Alex.