Before We Woke

by Sierra Donahue

I wonder how face can be so plain with mouth so enticing. Even like this, two rose petal slits part, inviting. Lift eyelids: eyes are flat blue.

Take off mouth, replace with another, more suitable thin lipped pout, and push onto conveyor belt. Body slides out of sight.

Have theories on where creations go. Food: dinner for insatiable beast. Material: piles for skyscrapers or landmasses. Art: wall hangings in opulent estate hall.

Wonder how I know such memories: food, material, art? Somewhere before, I lost backward sight. Remnants drift into my theories like soap too slippery to hold – dinner, skyscrapers, land, wall, estate . . .

Soap?

Clouded light abode banishes all confusion. Wonderings alone busy mind, while hands sort noses, ears, toes, arms, eyes. Building bodies.

Then she wakes up. Cream face, no mouth yet, just body, limbs and eyes – big, like moonlight, and blinking.

Moonlight?

Slap on mouth, open and smiling, then stand back.

“Hello.”

The sound spills from her mouth and my mind twists to meaning once forgotten.

“Hello,” I remember to reply.

She sits up.

“Where am I?”

What to say? This new thing, language, finds answer before thoughts catch up.

“Before,” I say.

She frowns. Eyebrows wrinkle. I remember word: beautiful.

“Before what?”

“Before . . .” What? Language and thoughts both trip, fail. “Don’t know.”

“Oh,” she says.

Pain spasms at her disappointment, surprising me. Somehow, she notices.

“Don’t be sorry,” she says. Then, “Who are you?”

Suddenly remember self and everything – almost – floods back in cruel assault.

“I used to have a name,” I say, more to myself than to her. “But now . . .” I motion to the pieces, the limbs and hair and skins. “This is my job.”

She examines my unfinished men and women.

“You make people.” Statement, not question. Looks at me. “Thank you.”

No one ever thanks me. Do not know what to say. Suddenly, sad.

“You’ll have to go,” I say, reminding myself as well as this woman awoken before her time.

“You must be lonely,” she says.

“Yes.”

She flexes hands, admires skin.

“Take my body,” she says. “Live.”

“My job . . .”

She stands, testing new legs.

“I can do your job.” Moonlit eyes hold me, unblinking. “Take my life.”

And all at once I fear and hurt and envy. Let myself fall to this invitation. Why do I agree so easily?

Wake submerged before agony of first scream takes me, drowning in oxygen. Thrill and terror of new world shoves out all thought as I try, fail, to cling to memory of her face.

Final prayer before drifting into consciousness: someday will die and wake to her again, return her life and take back mine. Life, I learn, is nothing without another soul to share it with.

Sierra’s passion for storytelling spans everything from journalism to science fiction and fantasy. When not writing, Sierra can be found conducting cooking experiments in her home in the Pacific Northwest.

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