I am Grandchild
I am Grandchild.
Grandmother was known as Sonora. Grandfather was Inocencio. They were both Davilas.
But I am only Grandchild.
I lived with Grandmother and Grandfather during The Great Snowfall, while the world went cold and bitter. We survived within our Alpine cabin while cities were swallowed up, oceans froze over, and all but the tallest mountains disappeared. The snow was corrosive despite its pure white. Biting, but gleamingly beautiful, suffused with the poison humans had burned up into the heavens and plowed down into the land.
Grandmother and Grandfather blamed the snow for making me what I am. Their daughter, heavy with pregnancy after a night with a drifting man, was caught outside when the blizzard began. They told me she weathered two days and nights of The Snowfall before staggering onto their front steps. She fainted from fright when I was born. She did not wake for days. Then she left while my grandparents slept, went out into the snow to die.
Her name was Esperanza.
I do not know if Grandmother and Grandfather wanted to throw me out into the snow too. I only know they did not. Grandmother wove me a coat, hat, and gloves. Grandfather carved me a mask. I wore these things every day so they did not need to know my face or body. But I grew quickly and they could not keep pace. My feet peeked from beneath woven hems. My broad back undid stitched seams. Grandfather had to carve three larger masks because I kept making the wood crack.
Yet, despite their attempts to hide me, my grandparents and I shared many things. We cooked, read, and played together. We wrote, sang, and dreamt. We watched The Snowfall together, tallied the days together, huddled around a static-filled radio, and waited for clear skies together. And when The Snowfall lessened four weeks after its inception, I was ready for when we wanted to navigate the new world together.
But Grandmother and Grandfather discovered they could not wander beyond the cabin door. Their heavy bodies sank into snowdrifts and their brown skins blistered into rashes and sores. Illness went undeterred by outerwear and balm, poultice or compress. And despite how resourceful Grandmother and Grandfather were, they soon learned the world was no longer theirs.
I am the only one who could leave the cabin floors. My body is light. It does not sink. My skin is hard. It does not welt.
I remember how my grandparents’ wrinkles creased deeper, creating crannies and shadows in which they tried to hide their fear. But I could still read it. They were afraid of themselves, of how trapped they were, of how every plan and preparation had failed. They tried for months, clung desperately to hope. But every venture into the snow wounded them. They could not live. They could not thrive.
There were only grave wounds.
Grandmother died first. The toxic snow made her body spasm and thrash until her heart stopped. Then Grandfather changed. The light within him went out and nothing I did renewed his flame.
“Grandchild,” he said. “I will teach you how to let Grandmother’s soul pass on.” Grandfather led me down into the cellar. He pulled a key from his pocket. Past the bountiful food stores and supplies lay a large, carved trunk that had always been locked. On this day, Grandfather opened it, and from its bowels he hefted yards of aromatic linens, oils, candles, and incense, boughs of cedar and juniper.
I helped Grandfather carry these things into the light.
We burned incense and candles together. Perfumed Grandmother’s body together. We wrapped her tightly, over and around each leg, covering each arm, finger and toe. She became swathed in white, just like the Earth, just like the future. After Grandfather braided Grandmother’s hair, he kissed her lips, and I knew when he covered her face that I had lost both of them forever.
“Lay these down upon the ground,” Grandfather told me as he opened the cabin door. He pulled a sack of porous stones from the closet, rested the cedar and juniper boughs upon my back. I followed his directions, packing snow with my legs. I took the light rocks from his fingers, one by one, arranging them into an altar. Then I lay down the boughs, nesting them carefully so that Grandmother could rest.
Then Grandfather brought her out. He stumbled. His arms were bare as he carried her and I heard snow sizzle upon his skin. When he lay Grandmother down, he sank to his knees beside her, and with the matches he held, he lit the dry boughs and linen.
Grandmother burned. Grandfather watched.
It was nightfall when he and I returned to the cabin. Grandmother was ash and Grandfather’s skin was rash, broken and bleeding. Grandfather did not leave Grandmother until her last flames blew out. And now he stood winded and pained at the countertops, preparing medicine he said was for us both. I feared Grandfather’s trembling fingers, his ragged breath, the grief riding his back, and the tears he wept into pots. The foul-smelling mash he cooked was different than any before. And when he held it to my mouth, I did not want to eat.
“I am not sick,” I told Grandfather. “I have never been sick.”
“This is not medicine for illness. It is medicine for grief. Let us both have peace.”
I quivered. “Tengo miedo, Abuelo.”
“Lo se. But look.” Grandfather took off one of my gloves. He pressed in close. I felt his heart pounding, his chest heaving. “I am afraid too.”
My breath caught. My eyes watered. This was the first and last time Grandfather touched me. And as my own breath trembled, Grandfather pushed back my mask and smiled into my face. He held the spoon to my mouth, a silver tear falling from his eye. “Here, bebé,” Grandfather said. “Te amo.”
I could not reject his wishes. He fed me half the bowl, then ate the rest. The poison was quick, burning as it sank into my abdomen. But as I fell over, I held onto Grandfather. And Grandfather held onto me.
His hands still clutched me when I awoke. His skin was gray. His eyes clouded white. And Grandfather’s body smelled strangely sweet as I roused from black-out sleep.
My grandparents had not wanted to leave me alone. But still they were gone. And although I wanted to help Grandfather’s soul pass on, I could not bring myself to oil and perfume him. I could not wrap him up or place him upon an altar. Because if I did, there would be no body beside me.
I removed my coat, gloves, and mask, and sat naked in mourning. I wept for many moons. Yet, on a day when the sun shone brightly, two men burst through my door. They were dressed in white as sparkling as the snow, limbs hissing with each move they made. The men sounded of wind and machine, of whistles, gears, and wheezing. They were graceless, clattering about my home, looting what they chose. They did not see me. They did not hear me.
And then they lay their hands on Grandfather.
I fought back.
I chirped my wings. I stamped my feet. When the men looked around in confusion, I realized my naked skin had changed to hide me. I flew and trampled them. My hard skin absorbed the men’s blows when I threw them against the walls. I felt them bleed onto my body, heard them scream, shout and cry. I thrust forth my thorax, and when I whipped round one final kick, the men crumpled under my anger.
I threw them out into the snow and they sank out of sight.
I, Grandchild, then packed a bundle of supplies and tied it across my chest. I lit incense and candles, spilled oil upon Grandfather and the floors. I went outside and lined the cabin with the porous stones. I lay down cedar and juniper boughs. I wrapped the walls, windows and roof.
The linen swathed everything in white, just like the Earth, just like the past. And I stood beside as it burned, until everything was rendered ash.
The corrosive snow still falls today, though slowly and not so heavily. It drifts through gray skies, settling upon whatever I let it smother. This world belongs to me and it, both of us bleak and stark white. But as I fly, the seas thaw. The sun shines brighter. And a copse of trees grows from nothing. I, Grandchild, survive. She, Earth, does too. And we, together, embrace the new.
About the Author
D.L. Cordero is a Puerto Rican, nonbinary author working in Denver, Colorado. They reside with their wife, Sophia, and Sophia’s Spawn of Satan cat, Lunesta. Outside of creative writing, D.L. is a licensed professional counselor specializing in military populations and LGBTQ issues.