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Previously published as 'Milk' by Noct Moll.


Something extraordinary connects Sonje Rapp to Anabelle, her beloved cow. So when Sonje's grandson comes to rob the cow, of course she tries to stop him. One problem: he figured out just what makes their relationship so magical, and is willing to pay a high price...

Release dateJun 13, 2022
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Ithaka O.

To live a thousand lives. https://ithakaonmymind.com/

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    Milk - Ithaka O.


    Sonje wished she had the energy to glare at the lazy farmers in the fields while she ran up the steep hill. But alas, the blazing sun burned the back of her neck and she was supposed to turn ninety tomorrow. When she’d been their age—thirty or fifty, twenty or forty, really, the exact number didn’t matter, what mattered was that all of them were less than half her age—being seen in the vicinity of an old lady panting and struggling like this would’ve been enough to get a kid clobbered to its senses, so it could remember its manners. But kids these days? Kids half her age? Oh, no. No such thing as offering an old lady with snow-white hair some help. To think that she’d given them her precious cow’s precious milk when they were sick and wounded!

    Maybe, to them, Sonje didn’t seem like she was running at all. To them, perhaps her speed wasn’t speedy enough. After all, Sonje had been known for her slowness since childhood. Sonje the heavy-footed. That was what the villagers of times past had called her. Villagers long dead.

    But for heaven’s sake, couldn’t these villagers right here, very much alive and comparatively young, see how hard she tried to effectively heave the air in and out? Couldn’t they hear her? It simply didn’t make sense that the definition of the word run depended on absolute speed. If that’d been the case, anybody except the Olympic gold medalist would be forbidden from using that word because everybody would be too slow in comparison. In Sonje’s carefully gathered opinion of ninety years, the word run depended on how much the person performing the act was straining themselves. Hence it should’ve been abundantly clear to these youngster farmers that Sonje was most definitely running and needed some help, not strolling or ambling and therefore should be left alone.

    She really wished she could have a cup of Anabelle’s milk.

    Ah, but impossible! Also, Sonje should know better than expect anything from humans. For nearly all her life, she’d guarded the village of Eldham against unnecessary sickness and sorrow, together with her dear cow Anabelle. But of course these younglings didn’t know that, just as the villagers of times past hadn’t known just how much literal truth their use of the word heavy-footed carried.

    Only the cicadas kept her company with their steady buzzing. They hid under the thick foliage of the zelkovas. Those trees had been growing all around Eldham decades before there’d been an Eldham. Thinking about the days in which she could’ve covered this short stretch in a heartbeat, Sonje wiped off the sweat stinging her eyes.

    Or at least, that was what she’d wanted to do. But instead, she ended up merely brushing the frayed sleeve of her ancient sweater over her face. Some sweat drops ended up in her mouth. They tasted bitterly salty. Desperate. Like Sonje herself. Too old but too stubborn. Too angry to let go.

    She should’ve carried around some milk. Even if she was too scared of abuse and overuse and uncontrollable greed, she should’ve kept a little bit in a vial…

    A sad mooing sounded from the top of the hill. Sonje gasped. Which one of her cows had mooed? Oh, she wished her hearing was as well-developed as a dog’s, but it wasn’t. She only thought the mooing sounded like Anabelle; she couldn’t be sure.

    She heaved up her old skirt. When she stumbled forward just a bit more, she saw the battered wagon of Tielo the village butcher parked in the front gravel yard. Herrick, her middle-aged grandson, sat on the porch. He stared down at one of those things called smartphones, which cut

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