Herbs, Moult, Amputation

The poultice stings as it presses against her splitting flesh, as the cool liquids inside seep out into the painful heat radiating from her back. She does her best not to scream, not to wince, and her failure is rewarded with a Look, disappointment more potent than any fist.

She buries her face in the bed, hides her tears as the second poultice presses against her shame, against the burning red streaks stretching and tearing her skin as they swell and throb inside the small of her back, as lances of Wrongness skewer her to her bed.

It goes on easier than the first, spreading numbness stealing its bite; no new tears mar her eyes, though they are already red and bitter, her carefully formed mask ruined by the knowledge of what she is.

She whimpers as she hears the knife snick against the whetstone.

It will all be over soon, she tells herself, she desperately tries to remember.

Soon her shame will be excised, blood and bone and feather cast off into the hungry furnace, fuel for the warmth that will keep them safe through the winter.

Soon everything will be just like it was before, before her shame started to grow, before she knew what she was–

But even desperate thoughts hazed with numbness cannot hide the truth, even denial cannot stave it off forever.

As her mother makes the first incision, as her mouth fills with the agonized screams of something that cannot be allowed to be born lest it bring all they have to ruin and hellfire, her mind bubbles and splits and speaks.

She feels the weight of prophecy filling her, the last death throes of the thing she will never be allowed to become; the echoing bell telling her that it will never be the same.

That everyone around her will know her shame.

And she feels her escape die beneath the knife.