My Name was Supposed to be Elizabeth Ann

— Stories from the Roads (Not) Taken

Lila starts, awakening on the family room couch, a blanket noosed about her torso and legs. In her nightmare, a monstrous tree leafed in violent red thrust skyward along their yard’s furthermost edge, its roots mounded with freshly turned soil like a grave. Her grave. She’d grabbed a shovel. Advanced, then stopped. Poison ivy, her …

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The day after, Birdie bins and washes, shelves detritus of a home upended. Dust clogs her nose. Tickles her eyes. She sneezes. Blinks. Sneezes yet again. Birdie knows dust is partly skin, that skin sloughs and regenerates each moon cycle while her bones and heart require ten years of cycles to renew. By which math, …

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