by Reda Ansar

First, they scraped off our tongues. Replaced them with the tangy, slightly bitter taste of their own. It’s the most obvious sign, the one every child can recognize - it’s easy to spot the people with tongues tinged blue - but it's the most artificial. Tongues can’t be replaced, not really. There will always be a distinct twang to them that will keep us tied to our own soil. The true change came when they pulled us apart, limb by limb, picked out all of the pieces that were shiny, and then discarded our carcasses. Of course, we attempted to stitch ourselves back together but couldn’t quite recall where all the pieces fit. Sometimes, we only recognized the missing pieces when we spotted them beneath the aliens’ tongues. For me, it was when I noticed that haldi has a smell that the aliens don’t like, but turmeric is a beneficial spice. Or a hijab is a sign of savaged oppression but a headscarf is a fashion trend. Tan is dusty on our skin but beautiful on theirs. By the time we would realize, it would be too late and we would be swallowed alive before the realization could even settle. The aliens are good at that. Their thumbs are stronger than our backbones and they know how to crush our spirit before it becomes too significant. That’s why our grandparents stopped reading. They didn’t write the folklore down for them to burn, they let those memories swim, right beneath the surface. Where the aliens can never see. They wanted us to swim, too, when we were ready, to relearn our history from where they had hidden it. But they miscalculated. They never expected that the aliens would let us read feverishly, but at the cost of our brains. That’s how they like us. Quiet. With our tongues tinged blue.

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