Brothel Backstory

The night that the butcher’s wife conceived, a star shot white hot through the May sky and fell into her body. For nine months, the butcher’s wife burned supernova. While the butcher handled knives and the wager of death against life, his wife waged her own intergalactic war, a bet on life against death. The fever almost took mother and child both, but on a frozen day, the heat gave way. The soul of a star born in the body of a girl. A child not meant for this world, she had been on course for elsewhere but due north never worked cross cosmos. The doctor spanked her so she would adjust to the hurt in this place, and so she screamed, but so she breathed, and they called her Lux for the light that came out of her lungs.

They were a simple family, a working family. In the afternoons, Lux played pretend with the rest of the children. She did her best to speak their language, get the cadence and the sighs, the laughter just right. Lux could have played pretend forever. She liked when the other children smiled, when their joy was plain on their faces like flowers growing toward warmth. Something was off, though. Lux didn’t see them smile often. When she bounded after them, her own joy radiant on her face, her eyes shining like new suns, they stared and went silent. Lux learned to be more quiet with her joy.

The townspeople whispered; the teachers talked, echoing the children. Lux was different. They couldn’t ferret out the reason, but they knew beneath her ribbons and lace, beneath her curls, that Lux was different, and people fear difference. Lux withdrew hushed to the hems of her mother’s skirts, opting for someone who understood her fire. So the butcher’s wife taught her babydoll to wield her father’s knives. Lux felt at home in her father’s shop where things had cycles and made sense. Her parents had done it to keep Lux safe, away from prying eyes which asked all the wrong questions. People like answers and the butcher’s family had few. They were simple people.

In time, Lux’s parents passed on and passed to her the butcher shop. Lux never did quite as well for herself. The townspeople avoided offering their patronage. The storefront closed and Lux kept on the last animals, turning the land into a small farm and serving fresh food. But a girl unmarried on her own land—especially one like Lux—well, she was too dangerous unmanned. And so one November night they took to her home with accusations like ‘witch’ to overcome her. They hung her from the white birch tree with a noose as thick as it was tight. Yet when the people came by morning to cut her body down and bury her, they almost mistook her trembling for the wind—but for her eyes, burning star bright.

Unbroken, she took her father’s butcher knives and left that town trailing soot. It took a long time for Lux to find sound again. Constricting silence still roped her. It felt like the echo of how cat-quiet she’d had to become as a child, hiding her joy. What was now if not joy, though? Lux was breathing; having been hanged for something she never was, now she was free to be anything. Freedom brought opportunity. When she coughed up smoke and stardust to let her voice be heard, a door appeared—with a Madame to open it. In the brothel, Lux created whole solar systems with her words. She became not only a source of light, but illuminated others, watching the joy come on them full in the face, meeting their joy with her own.

For a price, you can taste the star that died to make her.

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