Fetus en Fetu by Mary Kay McBrayer

And Isaac besought the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and he heard him, and made Rebecca to conceive. But the children struggled in her womb, and she said: If it were to be so with me, what need was there to conceive? And she went to consult the Lord. And he answering, said: Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be divided out of thy womb, and one people shall overcome the other, and the elder shall serve the younger. —Genesis 25:21-23, Douay-Rheims Bible

My oldest memory is waking in utero to George saying, Move over, but that is impossible: at that stage of development I would not have had ears, and George would not have had a voice, but still I heard it because he still said it.

He surprised me.

I said back, What?

But I couldn’t make out a response. I thought maybe I imagined it—because it is after all impossible—and I fell back asleep, into the kind of sleep that lets you forget you exist, the kind that makes you a little less human.

The next time, I felt strangled, but that can’t be true either. Since I hadn’t developed lungs, and had never breathed, not-breathing would be normal. Stop, I said, or thought, but it didn’t stop.

When I woke up again, I saw George huge in the blackness, his form magnificent compared to mine. I felt him this time, skin sliding over me, not quite touching, fluid always between us, and I recognized this new sensation just before I again lost consciousness.

The last time I woke is the clearest. There was a noise outside our womb, a crash as if our mother had dropped something metal onto something else metal. George jumped, as a reflex, and I did not jump. He moved me. I could feel his heart beating loud and fast in my ears, as if his blood pumped through me as well. When I looked down, there was George’s back. I realized he was absorbing me. In fact, there was nothing much of me at all—I was his limb, an appendage from his shoulderblade. His body sucked at my roots, pulling me into my twin slow and efficient.

Before long, far before we were born, I was a mere growth on the back of my brother—although growth is the wrong word, because it was he who resorbed me, not I who grew from him. No one noticed my presence until George started to grow hair, and so did I. It was as though I never existed, much less that I still exist.


Mary Kay McBrayer is a belly-dancer, horror enthusiast, sideshow lover, prose writer, Christian, and literature professor from south of Atlanta. Mary Kay is also the creative nonfiction editor for Madcap Review, a semi-annual online journal of art and literature. She is currently working on her first full-length novel about America’s actual first female serial killer, but until then you can read her essays at Prick of the Spindle and The Blueshift Journal.

 

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