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Illustration by Gabrielle Conlon

Trigger Warnings: attempted suicide, abusive family reference

 

Even her beginning was her end. Her elementary school friends never understood why she always smelled of fish but she couldn’t find words in their language to describe how hard she worked to earn that perfume. Once, to make her pay for it, they sent her out in a boat in the middle of a raging storm. In her nightmares, she smells lightning and blood. She smells it now, the sky gray again above her but her fear will not triumph over her resolution. Her father, gone as always, had left his knife unattended. How stupid. She sees in the dull reflection against the serrated blade her mahogany eyes and tan skin. How she hates her skin. It didn’t shield her from the cold. She pushes her long black braids to the side, out of the way of her jugular, and presses.

The world around her melts, as expected. The cold of the tundra leaves her skin and is replaced with tropical heat. Fitting. Her father always said she’d go to hell. But instead of flames, a jungle surrounds her. Large flowers, flat leaves, sweet scents, it was the stuff of her donated children’s books. She recalls now those books, her young face with its trademark Inuit pudge. She recalls much of her life.

Things are going according to plan.

She sees her younger self stand before her, playing in the jungle weeds. There is hope in her iced heart. The blade that was still in her hand falls.

The girl speaks: “You can’t see this if you’re dead.” She has a point. The elder girl nods.

The plan has succeeded. Sometimes it doesn’t.

And the Inuit girl’s world goes cold again, welcoming reality. She is no happier, but she’s been duped into living again.

That’s our job. And it always will be.