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Excerpt from Monsters



Illustration by Anita Zotkina

The first sound you heard in your life, long before you broke through your egg, long before you felt the sun or the wind or anything else, long before you knew there was color, long before you knew there was anything in the world but a long ceaseless dreaming, was the sound of singing. It was the most beautiful thing you could imagine. That sound, the soft inviting sound of your mother’s voice, gave you all the courage it took when it came time to break the shell and find out that the world was larger than your curled up body.

You think often of the last thing your mother said to you before your first migration, something that her mother said to her, and her mother to her, for as long as your family can remember, which was that the journey of a hundred days begins with a single beat of your wings. With that she leapt into the air and was off. Of course you joined her, as did the rest of your family.

What she didn’t emphasize—and this was undoubtedly wise on her part, or you might have been too scared to take that first beat on the long journey—is that after the first wing beat there is another, and then another, and then another, until there are too many to count, and that there are times when the only thing you know is fatigue.

There are, you have learned, many flavors of fatigue. There is the delicious fatigue at the end of a long day, when your muscles and bones and brain and heart seep into sleep the moment your feet find a branch. And there is the dry and deadened taste of fatigue at the end of the whole hundred day journey, when every part of you aches and the only things that keep you going are the knowledge that you can do one more wing beat, and then one more, and then one more, but you don’t know after that; and the knowledge that soon you will be sitting on the branch you love so much in the tree you love so much in the place you love so much, the place you first felt the sun and felt a breeze on your face.

That’s the fatigue you feel now. One more wing beat, you tell yourself, and then one more.