For thirteen years the Lacy sisters, thought to have died at birth, perched, twined and vined, under a wire mesh cage. It was Ruby’s small, off-set eyes and Polly’s sharp, beak-y nose that turned their mother’s stomach so instantly she had them sent from the room and down to the cellar to be discarded with the next day’s rubbish. The caretaker could not bring himself to cast off human life as neatly. Instead he wrapped them each in flour sack cloth and tucked them away in an empty kennel, smelling of ammonia and gasoline.
As they grew, fed from table scraps and rat-traps, the girls’ elongated, brittle bones scraped edges from undeveloped muscle, tearing slips of themselves free with the motion of each creaking joint. They soon filled the cage, one body wrapping around the other in turns, so they resembled a pair of knotted mandrake roots, pitch dark with soot.
On the blessed night of the seventh harvest moon, a whole and perfect boy was born to the Lacy estate. His hair and features rang clear of a well-defined and happily-chosen parentage. So grateful was the mother for this healthy birth she sent word of a baptism to be held the following Sunday over the font of St. Peter’s Basilica.
It was then, through the vibrating cheer rattling from the rafters and down through water spouts into the hungry mouths of the sisters, that they too knew of the happy news. Their mandrake limbs and dry, blind eyes throbbed with a contemptible ache only the desperate and discarded can know. The small cage rattled. Their lips parted and mewled as the fiery parchment of their skin fell in sheets, crumbling bloody through the wire bonds.