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Relentless you survive

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Tell everyone, the Candyman says, as if she could ever do anything different. As if she could risk abandoning him to the shadows when she could blind the world with his light instead.

She tells. She tells Anne-Marie, and they weep together. Annie Marie is reluctant at first, but Bri tells her that this is how they keep Anthony alive, and she agrees. It stings her, Bri knows, that the legend refused to stay buried, but forging it in a newer, brighter form offers her some hope.

Bri posts the story online. She tells friends, even the ones that don't believe her. She tells Troy, even though she catches him anxiously whispering about her with Grady later on.

She finds people from the old neighborhood. She talks to a man named Jake, who was a child at the time of the events, but still remembers Helen Lyle emerging from the fire with a baby in her arms, still remembers dropping the hook onto her coffin. She writes the stories down, leaves copies in random places. She's thinking about writing a book.

At work, Bri scrapes and schemes and, in desperation, floats the resurrection of her father's pictures to get the story told. Anthony's art draws a massive amount of attention, which means a massive amount of money, and pretty soon Bri's got her claws buried deep in the board.

It doesn't stop there. She invites artists who want to speak about rage and pain and brokenness, memories passed down through the generations or earned on street corners not too long ago.

The gallery is filled with blood and salt, with fires and flowers, with dark swells and hungry swirls of color. It's filled with mirrors, with people who are allowed to reflect themselves onto the world as brightly and painfully as they please.

I want to see myself, she'd said to that cop, and she hadn't lied, not really. She needs to see herself, needs to know that her story matters, that all the stories matter. Or what is the point of it all, really?

Not long after 'the events', she helps organize a puppet show. Dark figures dance across the stage, painting moments of unspeakable cruelty that come together in the moment of resurrection. Bri weeps when she sees the outlines of all the Black men in their long coats, shaken by interlocked waves of pain and joy.

Their horrible, beautiful story spreads, flowing between apartments and across internet highways like a river. She feels so proud and so frightened she thinks she might burst.

Soon enough, Bri's collecting pictures of graffiti on the street. A flame-engulfed offering baby Anthony to Anne-Marie like a sacrifice. A collection of dark bodies curled in on themselves, each composing one of the bumpy cells of a honeycomb. A particularly ludicrous image of Anthony in a white suit and herself in a black wedding gown a la Frances Barrison, hook-hands linked.

The last one makes her laugh, then cry, then rush home to throw up. Bri kneels over the toilet and tries to remember whether she's been feeling more nauseous lately.

See, she's been having dreams of giving birth to a swarm. Of honey on her tongue, sweet as doomed love and chocolate-coated razors. Of a buzzing in her gut that spills out between her legs, fierce and wild as a heartbeat. She dreams of hands on her stomach, a voice telling her not to be afraid, and she isn't, even though she probably should be.

She does her best to count the days since her last period. She's never been the most regular person in the world, and with the incredible amount of shit she's been through recently, it's hard to tell how much of it is just stress.

When was the last time you slept with Anthony? she asks herself. More importantly, when was the last time since she slept with an Anthony who was Anthony, fully and completely?

Bri starts waking up in the kitchen with the honey jar open and a spoon in her mouth. And again, she's not nearly as frightened as she probably should be.

Although she has to admit, she is conflicted. She's not sure how she feels about motherhood when there's so much work to be done. Not to mention all the dangers still bubbling in the world around her, the kind that can snap a Black child up and devour them whole in the time it takes to snap your fingers.

But a chance to keep a piece of him , to breathe new life into her own story instead of just retelling their old one...it's intoxicating. She's not ashamed to admit that.

So one day she goes into a store and gets a test. She talks on her phone as she navigates the aisles, organizing expansions of the Candyman puppet show. The artists working on the exhibit are geniuses, and the art world is noticing. There's talk going around of getting it filmed.

She acts as casual as she can when she makes her purchase, pretending to both the clerk and herself that it doesn't really matter. An attitude that fools no one, of course, but it makes her feel better somehow.

Bri goes into the bathroom (where she used to screw Anthony in the shower, where they used to brush each other's teeth for shits and giggles, where she still does her makeup as she plots new exhibits) and gets to work. Afterward, too nervous to actually look at the thing, she flees to the living room and watches TV, mindlessly watching jet skis fall off roofs.

What would it be like, she wonders, to raise a child born of the honeybees? Could she bear it? Could the world bear it?

The TV is suddenly unbearable, so she flicks it off with a grunt of annoyance. Bri stares at her reflection in the screen and waits for the timer to ring.