The moon hangs low and full, her silvery light reflecting in the facets of black choppy water.
Blue and I sit in the cockpit of a sailboat. My eyes scan the open ocean while female Peshmerga fighters sleep all around me—below deck, across benches on the bow, and one curled up on the stern.
I cup my pregnant belly, allowing myself room to grieve in this peaceful moment. Rida saved my life… and I got her killed.
My old story starts to ride its rails: Everyone I love dies.
Tears thicken my throat. My dog, Blue, sitting by my feet, leans more heavily against my leg. I sink my fingers into the thick ruff across his broad shoulders, finding some peace in the warmth there. Blue doesn't die.
Rida did, though. Shot in the back. Killed in an instant.
The faces of others I've lost crowd my mind's eye. My brother, James, grins at me like he knows all my secrets. Malina winks, her eyes sparkling with joy. I got them killed too…
I spawned the lies Rida used to start a revolution. Right before she died, Rida told me my lies were truth, that she was a messenger from God, and so was I. Because we are all divine. Bunch of nonsense.
But Rida's lies lent strength to women, offering them the opportunity to recognize their worth.
Her words freed women who'd believed other lies about our gender. That we are dangerous and in danger. More nonsense.
But women believed Rida's new story instead of the old ones…fascinating how much power belief lends reality.
Rida claimed to be a prophet, to have heard the voice of God, and that He said women were equal and should rise up and claim their rightful positions next to men. But it wasn't God, it was a very brain-damaged me.
The lies took on a life of their own, as they so often do. Fueled by enough belief, a well told lie—fiction—can change the world.
The boat rocks gently, the sail filled by a fresh gust of wind.
We are in international waters off the coast of France, fleeing. This is how my life as Sydney Rye began. Blue and I in a boat, escaping New York City. But it’s no longer just us two. My son shifts inside me as if he can sense my thoughts of him…and maybe he can.
The connection I feel to my son is not something I can articulate. Maybe because I’m afraid of what it sounds like. It sounds like a bunch of nonsense.
I've always insisted that faith in a God, in a deity outside myself is dangerous. I always held myself responsible. Insisted that I choose to save lives, often by taking others. I made those choices. No God told me what to do, or absolved me of my actions.
Those beliefs brought me here, to this boat, to this life growing inside of me. To a grief as deep as the sea beneath me.
Is there a way forward without bloodshed? Can I break this curse and hold onto the ones I love without giving up and just letting the world spin on without me? It's all the trying that gets people killed. But every time I stop… they suck me back in.
Lightning flashes in the distance and I look at Blue, he doesn't react to the storm I see hovering on the horizon. It lives in my damaged brain. A lie I'm telling myself.
I smile, humor in the absurd thinning the blanket of grief cloaking me.
Thunder rumbles and a voice whispers within it. Burn it all down.
Images spring to life inside my mind's eye. A web of lies suspends humanity in a constant struggle, each of us flies buzzing against the spider's perfectly designed snare—the more we fight, the stronger the web holds. Each of us entangling ourselves further, twisting the silk tighter, holding us in our singular perspective.
But even if we don't fight, the web still holds—it does not release when we surrender.
There is no escape…except to destroy the web. To burn it down.