The Sheep Called My Name, Kristine Perkins
CW: mention of blood
Sheep's mews turned to words. Slowly at first like ocean waves nudging ships into stormy water.
“Sigrid,” they called. “Help us.”
Over and over again.
“Sigrid, come help us.”
Sigrid placed a pillow over her head then reached to the cane-backed chair she had brought over from Norway many moons ago. Intricately weaved by her father, a master furniture maker she’d left behind to start a new life. There, in the dark, she found her rabbit’s foot. The one she snared as a girl in the fjords of Helle. The foot, now, was worn down to dried sinew and bone. Fur rubbed away, mostly on the ship in the Atlantic where she had been nine months pregnant and chanted as many prayers as there were waves.
She sat up and slipped it down the front of her nightgown. Sliding between deflated breasts. Landing on flabby belly.
“Sigrid, now please,” the ram’s voice came from the window, right by her bed.
Sigrid covered her ears. Closed her eyes. The little summer cabin had no heat. No running water. No indoor plumbing. During the wintertime, Sigrid usually stayed in her daughter’s farm house with all the amenities and moved across the road to the one-room cabin when the geese returned in the spring. But Sigrid’s grandsons said they were scared of her now.
They did not understand her Norwegian. They felt out of control with thick tongues when she gave them homemade dandelion wine. Was she a witch? they asked, so Sigrid took to the cabin.
Sigrid lit a candle. The scent of ash and pig fat danced on the walls. Twirled in the air.
She planted her feet on frigid floorboards. Rats swayed in corners holding edges of her rag rug, nibbling away at Otto’s work shirts, Ingebor’s apron and petticoats, and her own matrimonial gown. All salvaged and braided and stitched together over the course of Sigrid’s life.
Light beams traveled from Sigrid’s eyes and punctured each rat in the heart. Their souls flew about the room in a frenzy, knocking over the wash basin, mugs, candles, and trinkets the grandkids had molded out of mud and let dry.
The floor opened. Sigrid stood up, swatting a rat soul, and slipped through the black opening. She fell down a long, cosmic hole where neon lights flashed on all sides. A whooshing punctured her eardrums. The speed of the fall made Sigrid’s stomach fly out of her mouth, leaving it behind for vermin.
“Come here, Sigrid,” the sheep bleated, louder than ever this time. Sigrid touched the tunnel walls. She leaned forward and swam through the colorful stripes, finding herself in the middle of the snow-covered corn field, surrounded by her herd of sheep. All eighteen sat on haunches. The one her grandchildren named Big Guy, stood up on hind legs and walked over to where Sigrid knelt. She wore only her thin nightdress.
“Good,” Big Guy said. The others in the circle swayed, humming a hymn, like cicadas in late August.
Sigrid looked up at the large, wooly animal. She opened her mouth. A bleat escaped.
“What was that?” Big Guy asked, holding a hoof up to his black ear. “I couldn’t understand.”
Sigrid opened her mouth again and tried to speak. Another bleat, this time louder and frenzied.
“Oh, that’s all right, dear, Sigrid. Now that you’re one of us, you needn’t use your words.”
Sigrid’s eyes grew as large as her dinner plate nipples. She bleated again. Her heart tingled, growing bigger and bigger inside her chest until ribs cracked. It broke through the paper-like skin of her chest and flopped onto the snow, beating bright and red. Big Guy retreated to his place in the circle.
The sheep's humming grew louder. They sang like angels.
Sigrid’s large heart, lying on the snow-covered ground, turned into her little Kirsten’s head. It grew her long, golden, four-year-old hair. Sigrid hadn’t ever cut it. Not once. There were her blue eyes. The delicate smattering of nose freckles.
“Mama!” Kirsten called.
Sigrid’s hands had turned to hooves. Sigrid’s whole body morphed into a sheep. Sigrid bleated and bleated until Kirsten fell apart. Bits of orb-like pieces of blood and skin and rubber and clots oozed out on the ground like cherry flavoring squirted on the top of snow cones.
The sheep angels looked up to the sky. Shooting stars exploded into blue fireworks and rained down on Sigrid’s wool.
Kristine Perkins’ work has appeared in the Same blog, Running Wild Press, and Local Honey | Midwest. She resides in Iowa where she earned her journalism and mass communication degree from Iowa State University. Perkins enjoys running, kayaking, and baking low-fat recipes. Just kidding. She loves donuts and naps.