By Mitch James
She fell a long time in the black, the crooked roots of the world’s trees woven around her, silhouettes slithering, jackknifing, a central nervous system burnt out. She fell until she could no longer feel the falling in her guts, then fell more. There was a bird. She could just make it out. It flew with her, around her, then below her until gone. She fell until the tips of the world’s roots were palsied fingers pointing down at her, then stopped. It was not abrupt, not jarring. It was nothing at all. She hovered. Then, the bird returned from above, placed mud from its beak onto her chest, then flew away. It came back and deposited more. She didn’t know why but felt she must not intervene, so she laid sprawled in the rooted dark, the bird leaving and returning with mud. Then, ducks arrived with mud. They loved it, spit it out and wallowed in it, spread it across her body. Then more birds. The mud piled high. Then came the beavers. They gnawed at the roots and used the carnage of wood to assemble structures atop her. Suddenly, she realized it was too much, but it didn’t matter—too much but there was nothing she could do. All she saw was earth. Still, the animals built, up and up, until their labor touched the roots. She could feel them, burrowing into everything, her body beneath it all.
Then, her alarm. It was only a dream, a dream, then vinyasa, then a shower and black coffee in a white cup, then a commute and an office chair holding a body that no longer felt right. She studied her waist. She could feel her uterus in a way she never had. She knew nothing of anatomy yet felt she could extract it if needed. She was afraid.
It was to the clinic within the day, where the woman said uterus to a doctor more times than she ever had, told her it’s all she could think about. She didn’t tell the doctor about the dream but did joke about it feeling like her uterus had reproduced, a gesture the doctor dismissed until she saw the ultrasound. It was true. The woman had uteruses. They deliberated, decided between the two of them that the growth could harm the woman. Two hours later, the extra uterus was gone.
Then, morning. The doctor, face pale, told the woman she’d grown two more. The woman hurt. She cried, asked what she could do. The doctor would ask her colleagues. She left. A man returned. He smiled, touched the woman’s shoulder, beamed at the images. He wouldn’t stop nodding. He’d remove them, he swore, and did. The next day, she grew three more. The male doctor came back, more men in tow. They reviewed the images and whispered. The woman had never witnessed so much nodding. The doctor asked, “Do you want to give life to hundreds of people?”
She did not. She felt another uterus grow.
The men behind masks left her open for days, extracting uteruses as they came but always leaving the first. One whispered, “Thirty, that’s how many women can now have children because of you.” He was proud of himself because of his work with a woman he did not know.
During extraction the next day, the woman asked if they could remove her uterus, the first. “Why?” one asked. If they did, she hoped no others would grow. They would not. They used words. Miracle. Gift. God. Privilege.
The more they took, the more that grew. New doctors came to extract. The others had to share the findings of her body with the world. Nurses joked they’d never see them again, too famous now. Cameras crowded her room, newscasters speaking the world’s languages, people yanked away, their cell phones pointed at her. Women lined the hall outside her room and wept for her uteruses. Women of all ages stood outside the building and crowed.
The woman felt the earth mounting, taking a deep breath. She could populate the world, give women’s bodies the power to grow life, make eyes, feed two lives with a single mouth. Women could never fail now. She just had to make enough uteruses. She would lie still, making and making and making, latex hands taking and taking and taking, existence up and up.