This is a story about life.

Her lover binds her hands together in a length of cloth - truly together now, laying one atop the other like a saint's plaintive prayer, no longer separated by lengths of bone in arm and shoulder. Two small, formerly deft hands like children gently curled against each other as they're flung into the dark and clammy bowl of earth.

This is a story about birth.

Her lover wraps each of her feet separately, hiding them in thick muslin and drops them thoughtlessly from his fingers down the slight slope of the pit he's dug. He rolls the length of her limbs down into the deep ground. Arms, legs turn into pliable and pale logs, slender and graceful in life and now thick and cumbersome in death.

Her lover stands, then, glancing out of the corner of his eye as he shifts from foot to foot. His stomach has been strong up to this point, his movements slow and sure. But the solid torso of a woman he knew and knew and knew sits in the moonlight next to the dark chasm of dirt and cold he made - the only home he ever built for her - and her skin is radiant in the light from the night sky. Her eyes, open and dull and shining all at once, bare breasts reflecting the white of the stars, and the vast reflected moon of her quickened belly rising from the bone structure of a beauty. The child would have been born in mere weeks.

This is a story about family.

He had run out of time, he told himself. He couldn't give them the life he wished, and he would have no other way than his. If it wasn't the life he gave them, he would take what life they had.

This is a story about love.

Still, as he lowered her torso into the ground, he was gentle. He did not jar the risen and taut skin surrounding his first child. He was slow. He was sure. He softly - deliberately - lay his family to rest.

He used his bare hands to dig the hole, and now he used his bare hands to fill it, packing it down upon his lover and their child with only his body. It began to rain, and he worked quickly, running far from this piece of land when his work was done.

The rain continued to beat down in the darkness, drumming upon the earth with millions of tiny silver fists, demanding and shouting and intruding, slipping between the cracks in the earth and flooding, violently pushing all underground to the surface.

Deep in the dark no-longer-void, something stirred.

Curled in a small seedling, insulated by earth and watered by heaven, it began to grow. Surrounded by the nourishing plans of the mother that came before the seed, the time came to crack from the shell, reaching for light and air and the warmth of the sun.

It peeked out, flashes of green from the earth.

The baby's eyes flashed green like her mother's, her sweet mother's eyes lying open underground, only the long lid of the earth to let her rest. The baby's eyes looked around with preternatural awareness, expression changing with unsettling precision. The baby's head crested the opening of Mother Earth, a dusty gold of corn shining dully in the sunlight. The baby's face turned to the sun as she pulled her arms from the ground. The baby's skin glowed nut-brown, tiny fingernails already filled with the dark black rings of dirt. She let out a happy gurgle, all joy and giggles and gums.

She was born. She had passed through two wombs to reach this world. She had lived in her mother's belly, she had passed to her Mother's cradle, she had looked into the eye of the Sun.

She would crawl as far as she could. A couple would collect her from their garden, a muddy and smiling newborn who never wept nor wailed. They would keep her, uncertainly, for a few days. Eventually, the nervous days would pass into weary weeks, before becoming affectionate months, loving seasons, inseparable and heart-wrenchingly adoring years. She would grow into a glowing little thing, always smiling, and always squinting at the sun and sleeping out in the garden during heavy rains. Sick for weeks after, she would simply smile and wait out the fever.

When the girl became a young woman, she held hands with a farmer's daughter to and from church. They glowed together, skin always warm and nut-brown together, laughs always bubbling together, gazes holding green and brown as they spoke.

When the town began to murmur a breeze of disapproval, then a gust, then a gale, they left and lived far into the land behind the woman's parents' house, in a small house in a small grove with a patch of deep green grass in the front yard.

Years passed, and the two still glowed together, still sat warm and brown together, and every so often, the two shades of brown that were their skin pressed gently together like branches brushing.

Twenty-seven years since the storm, the dark inside the woman gave a strange spark to her, and the round of her belly one day matched the round of the earth. Her lover felt no jealousy, no confusion. And when the water rushed from the woman to the earth one day, and a beautiful, rusty-color child lay on the damp ground soon after - a girl - they smiled at each other. One's was a tired, sweat-dampened grimace of joy, the other a bright gleam of ecstasy.

The ecstasy faded when the light in the other's eyes went out. Her lover's smile faded. The baby's face peered at her from the ground, squinting into the light and dry of tears.

This is a story about life.

The woman was buried in a shallow grave under the greenest patch of grass, seeds scattered into the ground along with her. Her lover held the child and whispered to her that they were her sisters, and they walked slowly back to the baby's grandparents.

This is a story about birth.

Her mother fashioned a cradle out of wood and lined it with thick muslin and soft cotton. The baby lay in it, ill, for three days, coughing the heartbreaking hiccup of infants, but never weeping nor wailing. When she woke the morning of the fourth day clear-headed and bright eyed, her mother and her grandmother walked with her into the garden and lay her belly-down in the grass.

This is a story about family.

The child rolled onto her back, green eyes flashing up from the earth. The baby's eyes flashed green like her mother's, her sweet mother's eyes closed beneath the earth.

She was born. She had passed through two wombs to reach this world. She had lived in her mother's belly, she had passed to her mother's cradle, she had looked into the eye of the Sun.

This is a story about love.