When the Elders Brought You to Me I Thought You Were a Gift From God

I wept as I bathed you, dusty from the plain and scraped from the mountains. I fashioned you a doll from sackcloth and a hank of straw, and held you when your terrors shook you awake. I was alone too, barren and most likely widowed. You were still mute after three months, although your stick arms had filled a little and you’d granted me a first cautious smile. When the men came and wanted to take you to your own people, I told them I was your mother. They said they’d come back with papers. They came back with guns.

Chris Cottom lives in the north of England and was once an insurance copywriter. He won the 2021 Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize and was the people’s choice winner of the 2022 LoveReading Very Short Story Award. He’s had further stories published by Anansi Archive, Apricot Press, The Bournemouth Writing Prize, Cranked Anvil, London Lit Lab, National Flash Fiction Day, On The Premises, The Parracombe Prize, Shooter Flash, Story Nook, and Streetcake; and broadcast on BBC Radio Leeds. Twitter: @chris_cottom1.