It started with the kittens. Sassy birthed a litter of eight, all mewling and puckered, their eyes gummed shut. They nursed my fingertips, batted my dangling hair. The baby kept his distance, refusing to touch the moleish things. Their curled claws and razor teeth marked my arms. I gave them cardboard, but instead of dulling their fangs, it somehow made them more adept at drawing blood.
I didn’t much mind until Sassy swiped my calf, leaving four red lines. Then later, while I tied his shoe, the baby bit my shoulder, hard. He clamped down and I had to pry him off. David wasn’t there to witness my shock, but its taint set in deep so that when, that evening, he took the lobe of my ear between his parted lips, I shrunk inside, wondering for the first time if this was what I should expect in life from now on.
A woman at the park told us of her immaculate conception – a tumor that had grown to the size of a cantaloupe in her abdomen, pushing her stomach out like a pregnancy. John was enthralled. He couldn’t get over the fact that she was gay, had never slept with a man, and that, when they removed the tumor, they found inside it recognizable parts – hair and skin and teeth rather than just a mass of useless cells.
“A virgin birth!” he declared, and I didn’t feel like arguing again about his limited definition of sex.
After we broke up and I left Los Angeles, I continued to palpate my own stomach, well after the potential for pregnancy had passed. I felt lighter without him, but also bereft – like a part of me had been removed. I’d sit at my new desk in this new city and idly prod my guts, searching for homunculi, wondering if I had it in me make something all my own.
Mika Taylor‘s short stories and have appeared in Granta, Ninth Letter, The Kenyon Review, Tin House Open Bar, and others. She was the 2015-2016 Carol Houck Smith Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin and earned an MFA from the University of Arizona.