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Thirteen

October 2, 2012

Original

Rachel Swirsky holds an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers Workshop and graduated from Clarion West in 2005. Her short fiction has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Tor.com, Clarkesworld, and Subterranean Magazine, and been nominated for a number of awards, including the Hugo Award, the Locus Award, and the World Fantasy Award. In 2010, her novella The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window won the Nebula Award. As a kid, she watched too much Fairy Tale Theatre and memorized the score to Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

Jacob’s wife is always screaming: Cheat! Scoundrel! Layabout! Scrooge!
Jacob takes solace in the mausoleum. Girls there are quiet.

He finds a dead woman, worms in her mouth. They court, cavort.
Three dead fetuses swell her dead womb, born blue and silent.

Dead triplets nurse blood from Jacob’s nipples. Their mouths become ruby
studded with dagger-sharp pearls. As they decay,

Jacob fixes them with pieces of mama’s skeleton.
Her finger bones provide baby-sized vertebrae. Her left scapula

replaces a brain pan. Every part of mama is useful:
stomach acid kills maggots, hair sutures flesh. Soon, Mama’s gone.

Jacob packs corpse babies in his truck. His wife comes to the door.
Meet your new step-mother, kids. She stares—outraged, confused, then afraid—

as triplets rush to claim spare parts.

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© Rachel Swirsky

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