American Chimera – 19.2

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I was layin’ down on a blanket. The grass beneath it was thinner than what I remembered from when I was little, but it’s hard for me to tell whether it’s nostalgia or environmental decay. Either way, I reached my arm around Dani’s middle. I pointed up to the sky, and she moved her eyes to follow it.

“That’s the big dipper,” I said. “Way back, long time ago, they’d keep a big spoon next to the sink or the water barrel and they’d take a swig from it when they was thirsty. They thought that constellation looked like the big spoon.”

She squinted her eyes the way she does when she doesn’t quite believe you. She pursed her mouth, wiggled her chelicerae, and stared at the constellation. “I don’t see a spoon in the sky.”

“It’s like a connect the dot,” I answered. I hugged her close and, pointing from her face, traced the outline of the dipper. “See?”

“I guess.” She rolled onto her back, forcing me to remove my arm from around her.

I gave her a few moments to breathe, then asked, “Somethin’ wrong, chickadee?”

She nodded.

“Somethin’ from school?”

“Grammy,” she said. “When I was visitin’ Grammy, she started tryin’ to make me learn to knife fight.”

“I tole and tole her not to do that!”

“But what if she’s right?” Dani asked. Her eyes turned to stare at me. “She says the Yanks are gonna come down here and get me. She says I gotta be ready to defend myself and my land, or they’ll…they’ll cut me open. Kill me to get my insides.”

I ran my fingertips over her side, touching the smooth exoskeleton, noticing the warmth emitted from her body. It was heat like none of the bugs that chirped and wiggled in the background could generate. Though I couldn’t feel it through her hard carapace, I knew blood pulsed ’neath the skin. “Are you afraid?”

She nodded. “It’s gonna happen, ain’t it?”

“I dunno.”

“Am I gonna have to kill people?”

I put my hand around her and pulled her tight. “No. For the love of God, no.” I squeezed her to me. “You saw the war. You know what chimeras were built for. Well, Grammy does too, and she…well, she loves you, sweetie. She saw what the Korean chimeras could do, and she knows that you’re even more impressive. No one’s seen another chimera like you, so she’s assumin’ the Yanks won’t either. She’s assumin’ you’ll want to fight ’em off when they figger you out.”

“Why? Will they really wanna cut me apart?”

“I cain’t tell you what they want. But Grammy’s right that they probly won’t like you runnin’ round loose out here.”

“So should I learn to knife fight?”

I buried my head into the corner between her brain encasement and the rest of her cephalothorax. “Let’s ’magine you do learn to knife fight. Even if the Yanks get through Mama and Daddy and anyone else that’ll defend you to the death, you’re just one person. You fight, but they’ll keep comin.’ They got the money, so they got the people to throw away tryin’ to get you. ’Ventually, they’ll win, and there ain’t nothin’ you or I can do to stop it. So the question ain’t really whether or not it’ll save you – the question is will you have fun mowin’ down as many Yanks as you can. And, if not, then you gotta ask yerself if you’ll have fun learnin’ to knife fight.”

She shivered. “I know I like volleyball.”

“Then do that. Forgit ’bout this knife fighting crap.” I let go of her a little and tilted her head up so she could see me better. “Daddy was worried ’bout you last year when the war ended and we figgered out what you were. And we’re still scared, because we know that the danger ain’t over. And yeah, it looks bad, but that’s why you gotta have as much fun as you can now.”

“But what will happen when they get me?”

“You’ll respond with honor. You will hold your head high and know that you ain’t done nothin’ wrong, and you will realize that it’s the Yanks in the wrong. And you will do whatever it takes to survive, ’cause I’ll want to see you again, to free you.”

Dani curled up into herself. “I’m scared, Mama.”

“I know. So we’ll prepare. We’ll go see Dr. Worthington, and hopefully she can help us learn mindfulness and stuff. And you’ll be able to handle it, ok?”

She nodded. “Tell me ’bout the animals. Tell me ’bout cows, how they looked and how they used to live here.”

And so I did. I told her about animals, about fur and fuzz, and she lazily nodded off to bed before I took her into the tent for the night.

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