1578 c/o Belle Crawford

The Whispers

It’s an old memory.

You know the feeling that rises up from time to time? The one that comes on like a cold and last hours, sometimes days, seeping in through the tiny holes in your skin and swelling up, clogging the brain with the unshakable impulse to do things?

That’s what it is.

That’s what it was.

There were no white faces before. The humid stretch from here to the Atlantic was only Ashepoos and Kiawahs. Wandos, Combahees. Edistos and Westos. We spoke Muskogean. She didn’t understand them, Francisco de Vaca and his fraternity, their thin lips, tongues moving inside like fish struggling, dancing holy O’s squawking murder chants. Or maybe it was prayers, who could be sure? And the hair! The way it moved on their faces and around their eyes when they made demands. It was enough to make you want to laugh.

She liked looking at them. (We all did.) She made her body like a hotel. She gave gifts. (Our gifts. Our things.) Pearls, arrowheads, corn cakes. Then she gave more. (Her gifts. Her things.) One by one, they shared her, their sweet milk-fed stink coming in from everywhere, disguised as nothing. Their sounds like tortured animals, but also like babies. She couldn’t not, if you know what I mean. She was under their hypnotics, their creamy pull to destruction. But when they found out she didn’t have what they were really looking for (fat money nuggets they could sink into their pockets like extra dicks), they exploded and ate up everything we loved. They took her as a prisoner (Did I see her smile?) as they went to search other tribes, other troves, other flesh hotels.

When she came back she was alone. Thin and empty-eyed as a dead raccoon. Pregnant as a hot September rain cloud. And she’d forgotten how to speak.

"The Whispers" we called it, her new kind of talk. They’d replaced her tongue with one of theirs, defunct. (A goldfish bloated, upside down.)

The Whispers threw her off balance, turning her footprints into drag marks in the sand. (Dizzying, really. But kind of pretty, if you forgot what they were.) She circled and circled all night, The Whispers working their way into our rooms like a breeze, making us dream fucked-up dreams. Horses with human faces where their teeth should have been. Ravens with pussy-bows round their wings. Fucked up.

It was autumn when they found her body on the shore of the Savannah, her stomach ripped open like one of their berry pies, the breathless baby curled in her hand. "The Whispers" we explained to ourselves. "That feeling that rises up from time to time. That fills your head like a fever and last hours, sometimes days, clogging your brain with the unshakable impulse to do things."

That’s what it was.

That’s what it is.