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Ananke

Avra Margariti is a queer author, Greek sea monster, and Pushcart-nominated poet with a fondness for the dark and the darling. Avra's work haunts publications such as Vastarien, Asimov's, Liminality, Arsenika, The Future Fire, Space and Time, Eye to the Telescope, and Glittership. The Saint of Witches, Avra's debut collection of horror poetry, is forthcoming from Weasel Press. You can find Avra on twitter (@avramargariti).

In these forms our minds are bird nests of broken, tangled thoughts: leaves and twigs and mud, run and jump and survive. We can't fly but we use the wind to our advantage, arms spread, membranes catching drifts as we hop from tree to lichen-covered tree, always above ground.
Something is coming for our kind and for everyone else. We beg the trees to rustle a warning to our caves, and we dash through the tree cover to avoid predators and trick time. But somehow we know--us and the trees--that it won't be enough. Too late, too late.
Right from the beginning we could see the jungle for what it is, and for what it will become. We saw the dusty stone trodden by triceratopses, and we see the serrated edges of tools that will be fashioned out of that same stone. Our vision is a circular, looping stream, but now it's just red. Ablaze. There was always a ravenous black hole in the back of our heads, an amorphous blob that we were too afraid to probe and find out what it was made of. We couldn't even draw it with red pigment on the cave walls like we did with every other thing that frightened us.
And now we know. The black hole cleared like mist after a rain and revealed to us that it was red, red all along. We were foraging for food when it happened, looking for berries, herbs, and fruits to bring back to the caves or share with the primates, those future marvels of evolution we could see with our hidden vision.
The moment we burst through the cave's mouth, we are aware of two things: we are, of course, too late, and She knew all along about the thing inside our visions' sinkholes.
Grandma is wiser than earth's soil and older than the rest of us. We don't know when She appeared, only that She was always here in our cave, kneeling on an elevated mineral bed, serenely gazing into the distance with eyes like flecks of mica.
"Why," we cry, "why does the end have to happen? Why watch everything we've come to love disappear in magma and flame?"
Grandma touches Her hands to our faces and cradles our chins, but also our slippery fish-scales, and the air around our single-cell bodies. Everything we were and everything we will become, all at once. She, too, views events in a circle, Her vision of past-present-future so much brighter than ours can ever hope to be.
"Ours is not to know the will of the universe." Stars reflect in Her eyes, ant tunnels of untarnished light writhe against Her pupils.
We only cry harder. "Nonsense. Utter nonsense."
"Perhaps," She intones, Her smile turning melancholy as She wipes away our overflow of tears.
Holding hands and tails and pseudopods, Grandma leads us up up up into the sky, far above the treetops and the Earth's atmosphere. We flap wings we might have had in different lives--insect or bird, or both--and allow Her vast strength to keep us afloat.
We perch up on the sky in a lightless pocket of universe. But through Grandma's eyes we can see everything down below in our green and blue planet shrouded in mourning white.
When the first balls of fire hurtle through the cosmos, we scream and we cry, but Her gentle-firm grip around us holds us in place. "We are not to interfere. Our job it to watch. To witness."
The blaze blooms, reflected in one another's eyes. The asteroids make no sound, but to us they are as deafening as their fire is blinding. Everything gone. Everything smoking.
"And everything fertile," Grandma Necessity says, shining as if the entire universe is flowing through Her being.
She kisses us one by one. And one by one we fall down down down toward our planet, gray now with ash and craters after the fire has gone out, taking everything with it. We don't fall like asteroids, but like infant stars.
We are back to ground zero. Single-cell organisms, elemental and sublime in our simplicity, with manifold eyes which have witnessed tragedy, but no mouths to speak the words. We remember, though. We understand.
We may be small now, but we have seen all that we can be and more. We lie in wait, cradled into loam and ash, ready to build ourselves anew.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022
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