Boy With Antlers – Sean Duffield

I turned and that night I ate the moon in full, it cut my throat as I swallowed it whole. I remember that my eyes swelled with a golden syrup, a honey; a nectar that was pulled from the chords of the stars as they made shapes of music when the lunar belly fell into my belly and it was like tears–but they were not. Tears come with sadness or joy and nothing was like being pregnant with the sky.

How could I cry such gold if nothing was like being pregnant with the sky.

Many empty nights followed and I remember feeling hungry at the beginning of the month and then being saturated in minerals by the twenty eighth day. By the time six moons would have turned I was an animal in the way an animal would be with child and I hid and ate little and mostly slept in those hidden, hungry places.

When I was warm by a fire one night, the stars came to me in a dream and asked if I knew what would come of me? I answered that the swollen tadpole in my stomach didn’t know either and the stars laughed. Not laughing at me or finding things funny, just laughing because they were stars and they didn’t understand anything but a slow diminishing light. Also they were very far away and probably already dead. Also, they were stars and had no voice and I was just crazy with exhaustion beneath the stump of a hollowed out tree frozen. Icicles. Frost.

On the tenth turn, where the moon would have appeared in full again but instead exploded like sky candy in my stomach, I wondered where the child was that was making me waddle and hold my bladder in the dewy mornings. When I searched for answers, I found that my eyes were too little in the coal so I stole a telescope from an Italian man’s study. As I ran through the forest behind his home, my huge belly getting in the way of my knees, my knees swaying from the weight, my weight all baby up front, I could hear him recite philosophy at my rear.

“Crazy woman!” He called. “The constellations cannot be seen when one is so luminous with God!”

On the steep of a cliff I set up the telescope and looked through its eyes and found that the man was right. My belly was glowing too bright and I could not see the map left by older hands. So I took a sharpened stick and the beast in me howled and the animal and the human in me roared as I tore across the tundra in search of elk.

When I found one, standing back from the herd under a new moon with old fur and a rack of bone above its head, I threw my stick and I pierced its heart. It fell there and a thousand trees fell with it. From its slow heaving body, a river of silver bled from where the wound and the weapon was, and the elk, upon close inspection, was made of gold.

I praised it there, under the moon as I cried and it bled and it breathed its breath into me, the last of the forest for my very heart. And after a time of mourning, I returned to looking at stars.

With the pelt covering my belly and white reminders crawling up my spine, the bulb in my belly lay so many mattresses beneath my clothes that I could see the night sky. “There!” I pointed and shook my finger from beneath the telescope. There between the north star and Jupiter I saw my reason.

A turtle.

With thirteen scales on its shell.

Patience, migratory swell.

In the spring, one month after I had engulfed silver and more than a year since I imbibed the suckle sweet bee drippings of another moon, I felt a shaking in my knees like the tide. I went to a hill top where the water could not reach me and I gave birth and it was bloody. My body split in two and I found the ley-lines of the spirit realm. I magnetized in them as I was every mineral. As I screamed, I became the absolute centre and my son, the fulcrum, born unto the world, was gore and violent.

As I lay in the shape of glass, spitting blood and swearing at the presence of the moon, my son rested on the grass between my legs, laying like a puddle of melted metal. When I finally stopped coughing and leaned over to inspect him, sweat trimming the hard angles of my face, body protruding from places it shouldn’t have, I found my son was already a man and when he placed his fist down, he stood.

His body, in the skin of moonlit baths, was lithe and fit. His feet were hooves and his hands with cartography compasses. He looked on me with clean cuts, hard lines and smooth eyes and behind him was a yellow circle. In front of that, were his antlers. The forest god. Spirit background, nature spawn.

As he stared at me, I made a sigil in the dirt without taking my eyes from his green, prescient sight.

When the sigil was done, he left, returning to the sky.

All that remained was a single hoof print, a sign that my son had been where there was a line in the dirt, pointing towards the moon, when it was highest in the sky.