Things to do When You Believe You Have Been Cursed: A Checklist

- by Maya Chhabra -

1. Go into quarantine.
After all, you don’t want it spreading.
The village shuns plague-bearers,
So shun yourself first.

1a. But don’t flee without a few necessities:
Food and water, or you’ll have to come back,
A bow, in case you meet wild beasts,
And a knife is always handy.

2. Hide in the woods.
No one will bother you there,
Where the hunted creatures go.
No one human, anyway.

3. Lose yourself.
Unlearn language, forget custom,
Obliterate your name.
Who will call you by it, here?
Only those who would lure you forth,
Gentling you like a broken-legged horse.
You don’t want to go with them.
And if you see the shadow-webbed dead,
Say nothing.
They might just ignore you.

4. Consider who might have done it.
Call back your blurring loves and hates.
Deliriously sift through your deeds
Until only the worst of you remains.
Of course it was them. Who else
Have you hurt so irrevocably?

5. Evaluate your options.
What resources are left?
The food is down to crumbs, the water dry,
And your bowstring snapped long ago.
You can feel the dead now,
Brushing your parched lips as you squirm away.
You are out of time.

5a. You do, however, still have the knife.

© 2019 by Maya Chhabra

Maya Chhabra is a graduate of the Alpha Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Workshop for Young Writers. Her poetry has appeared in Abyss & Apex, Liminality, Mythic Delirium, Through the Gate, Star*Line, and The Cascadia Subduction Zone, and is forthcoming from Mezzo Cammin. Her novella Toxic Bloom is forthcoming from Falstaff Books, and her novelette Walking on Knives, a queer retelling of “The Little Mermaid,” is available from Less Than Three Press. Her short fiction has been published by Anathema. Visit her online at Maya Reads Books or on Twitter as @mayachhabra.