Insular Gigantism

by Dana Blatte

      Lina first tasted moonlight when she was small enough to fit in her mother’s palm like a present. She had been born the size of a pinky nail, and as rounded and peach-pink as one too. To her family, this was no surprise; Lina’s aunt had emerged folded like an origami swan, her limbs fanned like sheets of paper. Lina’s grandfather had fallen from his mother’s body like a wrinkled fruit, and the doctors had had to peel his skin for days to find his pit. (They never did.)

      Lina’s scream did not match her face. She could unzip the flaps of her mouth and stretch her jaw like a newborn snake. Her mother tried to plug the hole with a pacifier, but Lina shrunk and shrunk around it until she looked malnourished, as if the momentary lack of air had sucked her dry. Wearily, her mother set her down for the night, leaving the window cracked open like an eggshell. She didn’t think anything of it. The moon was swollen then, enough to be pregnant with thousands of Linas. Already, Lina loved the moon, and it loved her back. Its light curled around Lina’s crib, as docile as a house cat. Lina immediately sprouted two rows of pearls in her gums. When she pressed her lips into a line, she bit the moonbeam perfectly in half. That night Lina grew to the shape of a plum.

      Lina’s mother was confused, then horrified, then proud of her daughter when she walked in to wake her up the next morning. But though Lina had grown and grown from eating the moonlight, it was clear her hunger was outgrowing her. So, her mother locked the window, which only caused Lina to scream again, this time without needing any air. Stop that, Lina’s mother said harshly but warily. She could think of nothing to do. For days Lina wailed until finally her grandmother took her away.

      Her grandmother’s house was in a field. If Lina closed her eyes, she could imagine the horizon through her lids, the sun deepening into the sky like the crease between her mother’s eyebrows. But the moon had made sure Lina wasn’t fit for the daytime. It made her skin pale, her eyes dull, her veins as thin and as slippery as snakes. Some days she tried helping her grandfather, who was no longer the size of a fruit but much more wrinkled, even the rows of switchgrass. It was pointless work; every morning the stalks climbed twice as high until Lina and her grandparents lived in a gulp of shade. For a little while it was peaceful, as if the world had forgotten they existed. But without the moon, Lina sickened. First a tooth popped into her palm, then a vein peeled from her wrist, then a freckle flaked onto the ground. Her grandmother fretted endlessly. She spent hours on the old corded phone, pleading with her daughter. But neither of them could think of anything to do.

      Only Lina’s grandfather understood. He had seen how Lina’s face swiveled toward the sky, how she bloomed outward under full moons. Despite the pain in his shoulders and his back and his arms, he hacked at the neat walls of grass for a week until a hole formed. Come here, he said gently, descending his ladder to pick Lina up and pull her to his chest. He forced her jaw apart and let the light dart into her tongue. That night Lina grew to her grandfather’s knees.

      Suddenly Lina’s mother decided it was time for Lina to come home. Say goodbye to the grass, her mother said sternly, packing up their belongings. She had to carry her daughter upside-down through the hole because Lina kept trying to bite her. Say goodbye to your grandparents too, her mother insisted. Lina wanted to scream, but she had left that behind. What was there to love now?

      Back home, Lina discovered she had a new love: a sister, Tulla. Tulla had been born the size of a potato and just as earthen. The girls got along as much as they could, which is to say they were like wild animals, fighting over the same territory yet always circling back to each other. During the days Lina pictured herself as a teacup, a fingernail, a budded fist. Under the moon she stretched, sometimes as wide as the bed and as tall as the ceiling. One night the moon fed her too much, and Lina had to step outside to unfurl her back. She reached up, up, up, her head lodged so close to the moon she wanted to swallow it. For a moment, she could feel the soft pulse of it in her throat like a second heartbeat. Then Tulla burst into tears so Lina shrunk and shrunk until she could hold her sister’s head and rock her back and forth. Come here, she said softly, understanding that as long as she loved Tulla, she could not outgrow her.

      Their grandparents visited. Lina now rose to her grandfather’s collarbone, Tulla to his hip. Lina did not know what their grandparents discussed behind their mother’s closed door, only that she stormed out afterward with swears stuck between her teeth. Go live with them if you hate me so much, she spat. But Lina had learned a thing or two about hunger, and it always came in pairs. When Lina and Tulla woke up the next morning, it was still dark. It stayed that way for a week, as black as the back of someone’s throat, until they had to learn to navigate by voice. I’m over here, their mother would call, and Lina and Tulla would not answer.

      When the light returned, their grandparents were dead. Their mother told them as soon as she heard on the phone, but it wasn’t enough. I’m sorry you can’t live with them, she said. I’m sorry all you have is me. Tulla spent the day in bed, her mouth opened toward the window. She was hungry. But by then the moon had already given birth a thousand times, and it was too tired to help any more girls. This is the last time. That night Tulla grew to the size of a tree.

      Are we full yet? Tulla asked as they stood by their grandparents’ fresh graves. Are we full yet? she asked years later when she and Lina had raised their own fruit-children, little girls with heads like walnuts and pomegranates. Are we full yet? she asked when their mother died and they could no longer remember why she’d seemed so hungry too. Lina shook her head, feeling the pit shifting in her stomach. We’re girls, she shrugged. What do we know of fullness?