As I rushed to the cot, I looked down at what my mother had thrust into my hands, unable to tell what exactly it was. But then, as I set it down on the bed, its four legs unfurled and I gasped.
It was a tiny, miniature version of our own creature, with soft, downy, black fur and skinny, trembling legs. It, too, had a belly that opened into a mouth, but it was missing the sharp teeth I knew it would grow eventually. Once I set it down, it rolled over onto its torso and stretched before snuggling into the bed. It didn’t cry, it didn’t shriek for its mother – it simply hunkered down and waited for its siblings to be born.
That was when we learned our creature wasn’t an ‘it,’ but a ‘she.’
And she was having babies.
There were ten babies in all.
It seemed impossible that so many babies could fit inside anyone, even our hulking guardian, but then again, our guardian had fattened up quite a bit to carry the babies. By the time my mother pulled the tenth out – the runt of the litter, its legs remaining wrapped around itself in terror even as I placed it with its siblings – her body had deflated back to its normal size.
For a few moments, my mother and I were silent, alternately staring at our creature and her children.