This morning I woke him and before I could whisper
happy birthday I saw the horns on his head. His eyelids
cracked, like the crust of lava, and I could see the glint
peeking slyly though his lashes that glistened in the lamp-
light like a fiery lake. His body, defiant, not sleepy like
yesterday, squirms under his quilt, a coiled, caged snake.
This morning his arms reach out and I see that his fingers
end in grasping, tearing claws. He flexes those fingers,
those cruel, cruel fingers, stretches his arms, still so short,
so thin and bony, but not delicate like yesterday when
he was proud but never bragged. Now I see his clenched
fists, knuckles calloused and hardened, ready to be dragged.
This morning when he falls from the top bunk and I catch
him and we share an embrace, he squeezes me so tight, like
we're saying goodbye. And before I can blink away the image
of a departing train, I feel the spikes sticking from his knees. I
drop him and he stalks from the bedroom, shoulders square,
spiked elbows angled, a little shark that doesn’t gasp for air.
This morning he thuds down the stairs when just yesterday
he glided on tiny feet. This morning he smells of rot when
just yesterday he was a little of strawberries. And those
dimpled red cheeks won’t fool me today. This morning his
smile, so wide, so toothy and white and bright, and even
though he squeezed me so tight, is a terrible, terrible sight.