“Withered branch, you have cut yourself off from all humanity. So let it be.”

And so they marked her, the kiss of iron seared into the nape of her neck; marked her and cast her out, out of all human sympathy and society. She could own nothing beyond the use of it, receive no charity, forge no friendships. They filed her teeth down to dull stumps and mittened her clever, deadly fingers.

“May no one eat of your fruit! Fill your mouth with thistles and with glass.”

Worst of all they pried into her word-hoard, the work of centuries, and stripped her down to bare earth. This, this was painless; a bright light and the moist smell of cotton, but when the light faded and they spoke it was garbage, all garbage, a babel of words she recognized, but could not place.

Here she breaks, screams defiance, heaps invective high upon them, but they just laugh and toss her aside. She cowers before the day’s commute, the ceaseless labyrinth of transit. The maps are scrambled, the signs are nonsense, the comforting hum of a busy life an insectile drone. She eats garbage, speaks nonsense, her tongue heavy as iron boots. They do not see her, just now and then her eyes, flashing, from deep within some greasy dumpster, or crossing the mouth of an alley they, by chance, glance down.