When we saw the banners outside the museum trumpeting the mammoth display, I was not expecting this.
Bones, perhaps. Dioramas, certainly, and artists' renditions. Many thousands of interesting and educational words, of course. But not this. Not her.
I've read about her, of course- the perfectly preserved baby mammoth discovered in Russia almost a decade ago- but it's different from seeing her in the desiccated flesh. Different, too, now that I'm a mother, with my own baby sleeping soundly against my chest.
My eyes prick with tears as I press my fingers to the glass that encases her. I cannot help it. She's almost as big as I am, but all I can think of is her mother, unable to rescue her. Elephants grieve: it stands to reason that mammoths did, as well. My brain begins to spin out a story to comfort my heart.
My daughter enters the world in a spray of blood beneath a deadly sharp tusk moon. I wonder, fearful, if this means she will be a warrior for our people, destined to die in battle- but when the Oldest Aunties come they shake their heads at my trepidation.
Not this one. She is meant to be a great teacher of many peoples, and she will remain when all the rest of our descendants have turned to dust.
What better could a mother wish for her child? An important destiny twined with a long life. I nurse my daughter and dream of her bright future.
The moon is dark when my daughter leaves this world, pulled down, down into the mud that is darker still. There is nothing I or any of the Aunties can do to aid her, but I cry out in rage and anguish, hoping that the strength of my love can somehow bring her back to me.
But death has no fear of love.
You have lied to me!
I am screaming. I should not scream at the Oldest Aunties- I should show them respect in all things, lest I be shown my place.
But love has no fear of death.
You told me my daughter would outlive us all! That she would be a great teacher! But she did not live long enough to see her second full moon- what good are your portents, your signs, if they cannot prevent the death of an innocent? Why should we follow powerless liars?
I am not struck down. They are mournful. They try to comfort me. They have lost mothers, sisters, daughters of their own, they know grief and they forgive me my sacrilege.
I wish they would strike me down.
We did not lie. Not understanding a truth does not make it a falsehood. There is more to this world than what we may know, and your daughter has gone to fulfill her destiny.