art by Melissa Mead
A Crown of Woven Nails
by Caroline M. Yoachim
My best friend growing up was a Splitter named Cobalt. She was nicer than the human kids--they called me Stump because my left hand has no fingers, or Puddle-lover because I spent so much time with Cobalt. Splitters are shape-shifters, but they come from a world with low gravity, so on Earth they get squashed flat to the ground, like puddles. Cobalt got her name because no matter what color the rest of her was, her edges were always blue. She was embarrassed about it, but I thought the blue was pretty.
I remember the last time I played with Cobalt. We were hanging out in the debris from a collapsed building. I collected nails and dropped them into her puddle, and she stretched them into thin strands and wove them together to make a crown. We were going to play at being royalty, but my mother called me in for dinner. Cobalt let me take the crown. I wore it to bed that night, and dreamed I was a queen.
While I slept, soldiers rounded up all the Splitters and put them into camps.
Everyone assumed the camps were temporary, but weeks stretched into months, and months stretched into years. I made friends with human kids, and eventually they stopped teasing me about my hand. We talked about Splitters sometimes, and I was surprised at how many kids thought they were dangerous and actually belonged in camps. I felt it was wrong to keep them locked up, especially after all they'd done for us.