Listen to this story, narrated by C.S.E. Cooney:
The Dissy strutted on the unkempt lawn, folding and unfolding an intricate fan, eyes blazing. She was alone this time, her sisters hidden inside the manor’s darkness, her halo hair stark against shreds of sky, the broken weather. The other did not wait for me to speak. He opened his huge wings and turned his head to face me. From his beak, cruel talons, I feared nothing made of iron nor any metal could keep him. There I was in my cage like a great wound split open, like an eye put out, like space where a tree was born and died. Wind sang in that empty place, and I wanted to sing but my tongue sprouted roots and leaves. They wrapped around my throat until I could not breathe.
Later, when I woke, the ceiling was lit in the same shade of jigsawed blue, the Dissy’s forever night sky. I vowed to stay awake and marched through the house, opening and closing doors. The door I opened revealed a gaping hole in myself. Hunger filled me but I refused to eat. I ignored the tables piled high with fresh fruit and sweet cakes. Instead I peered through bricked windows, flipped through flesh-bound recipe books crowded on the dusty shelves until sleep crept up on me again and stole me away.
The next night I dreamed of the Weeping Dissy. Unlike her fire-eyed sister, her tears spilled over like fountains. Green and shining everywhere, she grieved until the waves broke over barbwire. She carried a broken doll and held it like a small child. She held it and wept, her hands great claws that covered its tiny head. The Weeping Dissy grieved until the water around my feet was a shimmering pool of blue-green tears. She grieved, licking her lips, then dropped the doll child into the rushing waters. It sank in the cauldron of tears as her bright hooks faded out of sight.
“Eat,” she said to me. “The world is round, the night is long, and you are not plump yet.”
That night I slept in the great cavernous bed. Hunger bit the inside of my cheek. I lay there, shivering, as the portraits of the Dissies rattled and shrieked overhead.
“Eat,” they cried.
“Feast,” they sang.
I heard the ebon-feathered sistren calling my name as curses passed over my head like thistle and weeds.