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Hanna's born five years after the reactor explosion and minutes after her mother dies. Pulled from a bloody cut in Ludmyila Machnik's belly, she has an indigo birthmark on her breast that refuses to fade, and blonde hair that falls out only to be replaced by coppery curls that outshine the sullen glow of embers.

She's beautiful and kind, but things wither where she goes. Animals die in her shadow even as they crowd to her. She marries a dryad from the Red Forest and creeps away into the glowing woods like a shadow into the night.


Boris is born a four-eyed mute, and none of the doctors expect him to live. He doesn't speak or make a sound for six years until his mother spills some boiling water on her old iron stove.

Then he begins to scream and scream and nothing they can do will silence him. They take him away to a cold, cracking ward of concrete blocks with a strap between his teeth until he quiets, three years later.

When they give him crayons, he sketches a strange metal room full of dials and buttons and a welling, indigo-illumined explosion.


Alla comes two months early with boils all over their skin. Alla is neither he nor she, but simply is, and corrective surgery is simply too expensive for two peasants dying in their stony hut at the wormwood-seasoned edge of the exclusion zone.

The peasants die and pass away, and Alla, slender, strange Alla, grows tall and lovely and bald as a stone. The children say Alla stripped off their clothes and stood naked in the poisoned arm of the river until (heorsheorneither) melted away into the curling, uranium-blessed waters of the Pripyat.

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