By Kendra Marie Pintor
They – the Elders – are looking for The Prophet in the bellies of all the village’s pregnant women. They gut one open every few months, looking for a baby gilded in gold. When they don’t find what they are looking for, they drop both bodies down the well. Our water comes back to us sparkling, and so, the butchering continues, excused by its mysterious power of purification. How many nights have I spent dreaming that my mother served me a glass of blood, or that my bath water grew mud-caked hands that dragged me down with all the discarded fetus’ and their mothers? And yet, the Elders persist, our water is drawn from the well, clear as glass, and every woman fears the day her belly begins to swell, catching the eye of the old men who wear the hats embroidered with golden thread. The butchering happens in full view, on the Sanctum’s alter, with great ceremony and always hope. This time The Prophet will be pulled shining and splendorous from the woman, she will survive and finally the butchering will stop. And every time, it is the same; screaming, and then silence. “Why do they keep having babies?” I asked my mother. “They cannot help it,” she said. “It is in the water we drink,” she went on. “What is?” I asked. “Them,” she said, “the babies who want to be born again.” This was enough to make me abstain from water for months, until my mother and grandmother admonished me for being foolish and made me drink two full glasses while they watched. When I was older, the question changed; “Why do the Elders insist on carving us open?” But my mother had no answer, and my grandmother was buried in the backyard, her grave grazed by bovines and billy-goats. Better, that she had died of time and not from old men searching her womb for a savior. Sure enough, my time came. The water made my stomach swell, the sight made my mother weep, and it was so hard not to shake her. What did you think was going to happen? As soon as I thought the words, I regretted them; what mother wants to watch their daughter die of dehydration? It wasn’t her fault, anyways. It was theirs. The Elders. I stole my mother’s carving knife. I went to the Sanctum, and one by one, I emptied them of their throats, and then I gave them unto the well, to the water. Dawn rose over our village, waking me from where I slept against the cool stone. I was exhausted from the previous day’s work, and so I lowered the bucket into the well and drew blood. My son was born later, beneath the solar eclipse. He came out glistening. It wasn’t until I held him that I understood; the Elders had not been searching for The Prophet out of zeal, but out of fear. I gave my child a sip of blood, and he smiled.
Kendra Marie Pintor (she/her) is an emerging author from Southern California with poetry appearing in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, and stories in Lunch Ticket Magazine’s “Amuse-Bouche” series, Fast Flesh Literary Journal, FOLIO Literary Journal, LEVITATE Magazine, and CRAFT Literary. Her story "THE SLUAGH" is featured in the Best Small Fictions 2023 anthology and is a Best American Science Fiction/Fantasy 2023 nominee.
Kendra studied creative writing at the University of La Verne, and is a graduate of the 2022 UMass Amherst Juniper Summer Writing Institute. Blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, Kendra’s writing style favors eerie, atmospheric language that seeks to combine the mundane with the magical until both worlds are irrevocably intertwined.