Lithopedion by Christina Ladd - 206 Word Stories - Bag of Bones Press
by Christina Ladd
Long ago, a woman gave birth to twins. Sort of.
The first child she pushed out squalled with usual vigor. The second she thought was the afterbirth, except that the midwife frowned when she saw it, and took it to the washing pail.
“A son and a stone,” she declared to the waiting father, and showed him one swaddled bundle while his wife nursed the other. He took it with trembling hands. It was too light for a rock. Pale and twisted, it was a bone.
When he could walk, the boy was given his brother to wear in a pouch around his neck and told never to open it. When he was old enough to wield a sword, he disobeyed.
His blisters were not yet callouses, and when he drew out the bone, they burst and wept blood into its hollows.
Two divots blinked like eyes. Vertebral juts unfurled, and teeth erupted. And bit into his hand.
The lithopedion gnawed the flesh from his brother’s bones, and when he was done he cracked them open and slurped down the marrow.
Then he scooped what remained into the pouch.
“You’ll have another turn,” he whispered to his brother’s bones, which hung still warm around his neck.
Christina Ladd (she/her) is a writer, reviewer, and librarian who lives in Boston. She will eventually die crushed under a pile of books, but until then she survives on a worrisome amount of tea and pizza. You can find more of her work in Vastarien, A Coup of Owls, Strange Horizons and more, or on Twitter @OLaddieGirl.
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