The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly - Stephanie Oakes

Chapter 1

I am a blood-soaked girl.

Before me, a body. Pulped. My boots drenched with his blood. I search out his eyes, but they’re gone, hidden away behind pale lids.

My breath comes hard and white in the freezing air. Inside each breath is the understanding that this is how it feels, controlling someone, bending their body to your will.

I wonder if this is how the Prophet felt the moment he ordered my hands ripped from me.

Above, a car races across the bridge with a metal shudder. Fingernail-sized flakes of snow fall through the yellow haze of streetlights, and a few cold stars blink in a dark sky. I want to hold my hand flat to catch the snowflakes like I used to when I was little. But, I remind myself, my hands are gone, and I’m not five anymore. The girl I used to be could almost be dead.

I hunker beside a snowbank, watching the red on the ground slowly ice over. I feel suddenly cold. Colder than even the outside air. Colder than I’ve ever been in my life.

Chapter 2

When the police arrive they are blurry white shapes, like ghosts, stuffed inside tight blue uniforms. My eyes can’t follow their features. One moment, I grasp an eye, a nose, but it slips away just as quickly and all I sense are their voices, scribbling over the light of the new morning. The ruined mess of the boy’s body is shoved inside an ambulance, and it screams down the street.

The cops try handcuffing me around my stumps, but the metal slides off. I bite my lip against the cold steel grating over my newborn pink skin.

“Do we even need to cuff her?” one cop mutters.

“Look at what she did,” the other insists. “You saw the kid, looked like he’d been run over.”

“But, just look at her.”

Look at me. My arms are crossed over my stomach and, at the end of the arms, an absence of hands, of fingers, of fists, of nails. Of any way to fight back. I feel the cops’ eyes inch over the homespun trousers and the disgusting rag of a shirt Jude gave me, the fabric blazoned with blood.

In the end, they squeeze the cuffs around my elbows, the pressure nearly popping my shoulders from the sockets, but I don’t scream. I don’t say anything. I feel like I have said enough for my entire life.

Chapter 3

My first view of the city is from a police car. I stare out the thumbprinted window as the sun peels back over buildings locked in by snowfall.

“You better hope he lives,” one of the cops says, and suddenly the boy is all I can see again—the broken face, teeth chucked in the snow. My veins are still tight from adrenaline.

• • •

At the police station, it’s wood walls and stained ceiling tiles. The smell of charred coffee.

They are discussing the best way to fingerprint me.

“It must be done,” they say. “How will we identify her without fingers?” Just like that, they’ve said something I’ve felt for months but never said aloud. One of them leafs through a police manual, searching for the proper procedure, while the other pushes each stump into a pad of ink and presses them onto paper. Two warped black ovals in a field of white.

“Looks like we only need a DNA sample,” the first one says, glancing up from the manual. He rummages in a drawer and pulls out a small square of cotton, unwraps it, and holds it before me. “Spit.”

“You want my spit?”

“Just do it.”

I gather up all the moisture I can in my mouth and let it fall to the cotton square. He closes it in a small plastic box with a sliding lid and places it on his desk.

The mug shot they take burns half circles into my vision, worse than any firelight. I clamp my arm to my eyes, and they have to lead me with their hands to a sterile examination room. When I crack my eyes open, I see they’ve faced me toward a tight-sheeted bed with stirrups, pushed against a tile wall. Beside the bed, a tray with tongs and a flat white depressor. A dark blond woman takes me by the shoulder and walks me toward the bed. I balk.

“It’s okay,” she says. “It’s procedure in abuse cases.”

She’s got her head turned to the side, and I see myself as she must see me, skinny, filthy, and handless, wearing clothes that smell of blood.

“I—I don’t need that,” I