1: Mother

Mother and I are walking through the village.

She walks slowly, so I can keep up.

(I am not very fast.)

Mother is a tall person.

My head is just above her waist,

And that's the very top.

My hair goes down. It doesn't give me height.

Mother has hair like sunlight.

It's golden-yellow, like Day-Sun.

My hair is not gold like Mother's.

It is red, like Dawn-Sun

Or maybe like Set-Sun.

(There are so many suns.)

I look up at Mother's face.

She has blue eyes, like the sky.

Mine are sky-blue, too.

Mother does not look happy,

But she does not look sad or angry.

She just is.

I love my mother,

But people look at her like

They are angry.

I do not know why.

Mother will not tell me.

2: Father

Mother sometimes takes me to see Father.

We have to go

Far from our house to meet him.

He lives out in the woods.

Mother says that Father wants

To live with me and her,

But he cannot.

I think it is because

He would not fit through the front door.

Come here, Raven, hurry.

We will have to go back soon.

We never stay for long with Father.

It gets too dark so quickly in the woods.

It is scary then,

But there is light now.

The woods open up into a valley,

And there I see Father!

Father! Father!

I run down the hill

And he hugs me with his wings.

His wings are big and warm

And they're red, red like my hair.

(But Father is not just red.

He is purple, yellow, pink

Around the edges.)

Father looks at me and smiles.

He smiles with his eyes

Because he was a beak

And not a mouth, like Mother.

I smile with my mouth.

Good afternoon, Leia, says Father.

(Leia is Mother. Father is named Mathazar.)

Mother strokes Father's neck.

Her fingers run through his feathers.

She does not talk much around Father.

Come, Raven, Father says.

Let us go to the sky.

Yes, Father, I reply.

He opens his wings

And lets me out.

Mother backs away,

But I am watching Father.

He stands up tall and straight

And holds his wings out wide.

Set your wings free, Raven.

I stretch my arms

And hold them out like Father.

They are just arms,

But I imagine that they are wings.

I look at Father and imagine

That I am a bird, like him.

I feel a rushing breeze through me,

And then I am a bird!

I think that I look just like Father,

Although he still is bigger.

I have my wings.

Come, Raven, says Father,

And we fly.

Our wings take us into the air,

High above the ground.

Mother is a tiny girl,

And the sky so big,

So blue.

I love to fly.

I love my wings.

I love Father.

I want to stay and fly all night,

But Mother calls me down.

3: Monster

I am playing in the village.

I play alone, by our house.

The other children never come to play.

I sit and watch the clouds

Or count the grass.

One, two, three…

I hear footsteps, and I look up

To see a funny creature

Staring back at me.

It has a black face, and long black ears,

But it is white and fluffy on the rest.

It looks so soft,

I want to touch it.

Bah, it says. Bah, bah.

I laugh.

It is so cute and funny.

I get up and walk over,

But it turns to run away.

Don't go, I say. Not yet.

Won't you play with me?

Bah, it says. I grin

And I reach out to stroke it.

It feels softer than the blanket

That Mother made for me to sleep with.

Bah, bah.

I smile

And I wrap my arms around it.

It's so soft…

Monster! someone shouts.

And then people are running,

Running at me and the creature.

One man has a sword.

The creature bahs again

And runs away.

The people chase it from the village.

Monster, I say.

Monster.

What's a monster?

4: Questions

Mother, what's a monster?

Mother stops, puts down her spoon.

What's a monster? she repeats.

Yes, I say. What is it?

She looks very sad.

A monster is a non-human.

Another new word.

Non-human?

I am human, Mother says.

This is a human village.

I think.

The white fluffy creature

Did not look like people in the village,

And people in the village

Are the humans, Mother said.

So the white fluffy creature

Was a monster?

Mother nods.

That monster is called a wooly.

Wooly. Wooly.

The humans yelled Monster!

And chased away the wooly.

Are monsters bad? I ask.

Is that why they chased it away?

Why does Mother

Look so sad?

Some think so, she says.

Some think so.

I am thinking,

Thinking of humans,

And of woolies,

And also of wings.

Is Father a monster?

Yes, Raven, he is.

Then is Father bad?

Mother frowns.

Hush now, Raven. Quiet.

You ask too many questions.

Eat your dinner.

We pick up our spoons and eat again,

But in my head is one more question.

If Father is a monster,

And Mother is a human,

What is Raven?

Am I a human?

Or am I a monster?

But Mother said to hush,

And so I eat

And do not ask.

5: Nightmare

I dream that people are chasing me

With their fists and swords.

I run away, but they still follow.

Monster! they shout. Monster!

I am not a monster, I cry,

But they do not listen.

I look down and see

That I am a bird,

A bird, like Father.

A non-human.

A monster.

The people grab me, and I scream

And then I wake up.

6: Cursed

I go walk alone

While Mother is inside.

I do not know where to go,

But I need to move.

I do not want Mother to worry,

So I stay inside the village.

I see two other girls,

Sitting by a house

And playing with a ball.

I walk up to them.

Can I play?

They look at me,

And then at each other.

They do not reply.

The door of the house opens,

And then out comes a woman.

She is old and very angry.

Go away! she says.

Don't you come near my granddaughters!

She is scary. I stand there,

Not sure what to do.

Get out of here! she says.

Don't you touch my girls!

Don't you bring

A curse

Upon them, too!

A curse?

What is a curse?

Are you deaf?

Begone, cursed girl!

Begone!

She raises a hand

In which she holds a walking stick.

It looks like she will hit me,

And so I run away.

I want to fly away,

Up to the sky, where there are

No sticks.

No words.

Nothing to hurt me there.

But Mother told me once,

Never use your wings in front of people.

Never transform inside the village.

So I run.

I run home

And hide under my blanket

In my bed.

7: Danger

Father wants you to go away with him,

Mother says to me.

Go where? I ask.

You will go to a new home,

Mother explains.

You will always use your wings

Instead of your legs.

I think.

I would like to always fly.

But how would you come with me?

Mother smiles,

But it is not a happy smile.

She looks sad.

I would not go with you.

Then I don't want to go, I say.

Why go to a new home?

I have both you and Father here.

I don't want just one.

Why can't things stay

The way they are?

Mother opens up her arms

And I sit down on her lap.

She holds me in her arms.

She cradles me, like I'm a baby.

It is dangerous here, Raven.

There is danger for Father,

While he stays so close to the village

And danger for you,

While you are here.

I do not want to lose you, Raven,

But this might be

The only way.

I sink my head

Into her arms.

If I go, can I come back?

Her lips brush my forehead.

No, my dear.

Not here.

Not now.

My fingers grip

The fabric of her dress.

I do not want to go, I say.

I do not want to go.

I know, she says,

And holds me tight.

I know.

8: Murder

Bang, bang, bang!

Someone pounds on the front door.

I wake up.

It's still dark outside.

Mother?

Hush, Raven.

She is walking to the door.

Hide under the bed, Raven, Mother says.

Do not move.

Do not speak.

Do not make a sound.

You must stay hidden, Raven.

Do you understand?

I nod

And I slide under the bed.

Open up! someone shouts.

Open the door!

From under the bed,

I can only see Mother's feet

As she opens the door.

Can't she just keep it closed?

Maybe they'll go away

If she doesn't answer.

I am very afraid.

Can I help you?

Mother sounds calm.

The men outside

Do not.

The child, Leia!

Give us the child.

The child?

Is that me?

What do they want with me?

What child? Mother asks.

Do not play dumb, woman.

We know what fathered that child.

We know what you have done.

It is unnatural.

It is wrong.

The child has been here

Far too long.

It must be destroyed

Before it destroys us.

Why would I destroy the people?

I don't hate them.

But, right now,

I want them to go away.

The child is gone, Mother says.

She left with her father.

You will never find them.

If they think that I am gone,

Will they leave?

The men laugh.

You lie, woman.

The child is not with its father.

We killed the monster.

It is gone.

The child was not there.

Killed?

They killed Father?

No…

Mother gasps.

You…

You killed Mathazar?

You killed him?

The men laugh

And one hands something to Mother

That makes her scream.

You killed him!

The child, woman!

Where is the child?

Mother falls to her knees.

Do not hurt Raven!

Please, do not hurt my daughter!

You daughter is a freak,

An abnormality,

And you are an abomination

For letting a monster touch you

In this way!

Our village shall be rid

Of this curse you've brought upon us!

You shall also die, tonight!

My heart makes a funny jump

And starts to beat so loudly,

They must hear it.

Mother begins to sob,

And I want to run to her,

And have her hold me in her arms

And promise me that it will be all right,

And that we shall go tomorrow

To visit Father.

But she told me to stay hidden,

So I don't move.

The men grab Mother

And she screams as they take her

Out of the house.

Her screams are so loud,

They fill my ears.

Then, suddenly,

They stop.

She doesn't scream anymore.

She must have hidden the child, a man says.

We must find it.

We should burn the house, he says.

Leave no trace of this curse behind.

I peek out from under the bed

And I see on the floor

What they gave to Mother

That made her scream.

It is Father's head.

I want to scream, too,

But Mother told me

Not to make a sound

And I am still so very scared.

Someone shouts

And they throw a torch through the window.

It hits the floor

And flares.

The fire spreads

Until it burns the walls and roof

And sets the bed alight.

There is fire all around me,

But I stay hidden.

Do not move.

Stay hidden.

Father's head is still lying there.

It does not burn.

The flames do not burn me, either,

But I am too scared to wonder why.

The house creaks and sags.

Will it all fall down on me?

Something big is thrown

Through the door.

I see it.

It is Mother.

She is limp and covered in blood,

But her face looks at me.

It stares

And I stare

As it burns.

The fire strips her face away.

It consumes her hair, her skin.

I cannot look away.

But I close my eyes

And when I open them again,

Mother is gone.

There is a skill lying there,

The flames licking it,

Still staring at me,

Still staring through

Its empty eyeholes.

Now I scream,

But it is not the scream of a human.

It is the scream of a bird.

And now I know why

The fire does not burn me.

Because I transformed.

Because of my wings.

Because

I am a monster.

My wings unfold, and I rise upward

Smashing through the roof

As the house collapses around me

Into flames.

There are people running around.

These are the people

Who killed Father,

Who killed Mother.

They see me and scream.

I scream louder

And fly into the air

Over the village.

And I make fire fall down from me,

Down onto the village.

The houses burn.

The people burn.

I still do not burn.

I fly away.

I fly far away

From the flames and the screams,

Far from the home

That is no longer home.

I just want to get away.

I fly until my wings give out,

And I fall to the ground as a human,

A human.

A cursed girl,

Who cries herself to sleep.

9: Memory

When the boy who was a wooly

Asked her about family,

The girl who was a phoenix

Said she never had one.

She said that she

Does not remember parents.

She does not remember home.

And it was true.

When she looks back,

She does not see

The mother and the father.

She only sees the skull.

But sometimes…

Sometimes,

When she flies above the trees,

She hears the father

Teaching her to use her wings.

Sometimes,

When she strokes the golden wooly,

She feels another wooly,

Or she sees the mother

Stroking the father's neck.

Sometimes,

When she holds her daughter close,

She feels like the mother

Who once did the same to her.

And sometimes,

When she's with her family:

The wooly husband,

The laughing daughter,

The iron father,

The backwards sister,

The other, sleepy sister,

And herself, the phoenix wife,

She can remember the first family:

The monster father,

The loving mother,

And herself, the phoenix child,

And she can forget the skull.