“I can smell blood.”

I was only ten when I saw war. I was just budding into young yi-ness, my feather-crest turning the red of the moon. My family fled war and fled to the mountains of rocks where we hid. We fed on the calcium in the stones and hid even more.

War came, roaring up the hills. War hunted. She always does. She is not yi. She is not ya. Not from my tribe, not from my world. She came like a disease, a sickness.

This time, she hunted for us.

We tried to flee. War was hateful, relentless. We flew, we crawled. Our tails turned red with our blood. And yet she still hunted for us.

I was furious. I stopped my flight. My arm-muscles shivered. I was tired. I was tired of running.

I stopped in front of war.

I could smell war.

She was covered with wounds, sores, lumps of pus and cuts so deep I saw bone. She was flesh. She was not flesh. She was war. She had no feather-crest, but a mass of dark writhing worms that had sharp teeth, like the borrowers in the rocks. I just knew that she was she. Simply was.

“Stop,” I said. “Stop what you are doing.”

War looked at me like I was just dust and tears and fears. I was nothing. “Why,” she said. Her voice was a purr, a roar, a snarl, a hiss.

“You are killing us,” I replied and held my spear. I was not yet fully yi. But I had a yi’s courage.

Then I hurled the spear.


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