Author : J.R. Blackwell, Staff Writer

We drank poison to prove that we were real. My mother fed me the poison herself, holding me in six of her twelve arms, cooing to me while I sipped the foul liquid. She had fed me things I thought were awful before, but I was obedient – ever a good child. Her last living child.

The rebels watched her feed me poison and admired her for it. She was the bravest among them, a symbol of their willingness to sacrifice for freedom. Her darkened eyes and shredded wings told her story for her. After we drank the poison in that dark hole, we spent days fighting the illness that followed, nausea and pain. After it was over, only two of my legs remained, the rest, shriveled husks.

Before the invasion, my mother used to say how pretty my wings were, how perfect. She was so sad now, and I would flutter my wings at her, pushing myself to lie at her feet. “Mama. Mama.” I would say, and she would touch my head, soothing me. I felt beautiful, even then.

Of course, they came for us. The worst of it was that when they came, they looked like us. It would have been better had they looked alien, but they were all too familiar, sculpting themselves to look friendly, like young adults or trustworthy mamas holding out their arms and legs and murmuring sweetness.

When they found us, my mother ran. She strapped me to her underside, pressed against her carapace, white cloth binding us together. I curled the legs I could move into my body shell and snuggled against her, afraid.

Even after weeks of struggling through poison, my mother was fast, burrowing into ground and then springing, nearly flying over the rubble of the city where we lived, through and over and under. She was glorious, then, in her moment of freedom. Then the aliens caught her and pinned her to the ground. She was a fast runner, but they could fly.

“Mother,” they said, so respectfully. She spat at them, the poison from her glands. It landed on them but it did not sizzle their exposed carapace -that’s how you could tell they were aliens, they were unaffected by poison. That and they could fly.

“Mother, you have a child – let us help you.” She kicked them and wounded herself.

“You are hurting yourself,” said one who looked like a young mother, “and your baby is ill. Please let us help you.”

My mother put her pincers around my spinal corridor. “I will kill her before you take her. She will die free.”

They looked at one another, and then they moved faster than I thought possible, breaking off my mother’s arms. She cried out and fought them, but they cut me from her in moments, and carried me away. I couldn’t move to look behind, where I heard my mother’s cries.

Two of them converted me, in that wonderful and compelling process I cannot forget. The pain in the conversion was of growth and change. I am no longer wounded; I no longer suffer from lost limbs and poison. I am one of them. Alien. Whole.

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