A Heart of Diamond by Rachel Nussbaum
They say long ago when this land was still barren and dry, there was a girl who was born with a heart made of diamond. Her skin was like that of frosted glass, and as her mother gazed down at her daughter, she could see it clear as day. A diamond heart, shimmering as it pumped liquid gem blood throughout the newborn's body. The midwives and the clerics who assisted with the birth were awed by the sight, and word quickly spread. Soon, people all across the land knew about the little baby girl with a diamond heart.
But word travels across all circles, good and bad. When bad men heard the stories, many of them spoke of finding the girl and cutting out her valuable heart. Whispers carried back to the child’s mother and father, who were very worried for their daughter. They prayed to the Gods in the Sun and the Moon to protect their baby girl. The gods heard the parent’s prayers, but gods have a reputation for being merciless and absolute, and the Gods in the Sun and the Moon were no exception.
Gods are powerful, and although they could not take away or change the girl's heart because it was a part of her, they could give her the power to defend herself. They came down to the baby girl one night and they filled her with poison.
“Her diamond heart is far too pure for her to ever willingly use this, even against those who wish to harm her.” The God in the Sun said.
“Then we will give her sharp nails and teeth that will excrete the poison, and we will turn her skin into poison as well. And anyone who will touch her will die a horrible, painful death,” the God in the Moon nodded.
So the little girl grew up, but as she grew, she changed. Her fingers split open into poisonous barbs, and her teeth grew into long fangs that dripped venom. Her skin became like sandpaper, coarse and sharp, every inch of it poison to the touch.
The tears that poured from the girl's eyes when her mother could no longer hold her were poison. And the cold sweat that dripped from her pores as she rocked herself to sleep alone at night were poison. And she looked up at the sky at night and begged the God in the Moon to take the poison away, and she’d look up during the day and beg the God in the Sun the same, but the Gods couldn’t take away or change her poison because it was a part of her now. They turned their backs on the girl, content that if nothing else, she was now safe from the bad men who wanted to steal her heart.
The bad men who came for her died, but so did her friends that reached out to comfort her, and her lovers who were desperate to hold her. She lived a life of sadness and longing, and she cursed the gods for afflicting her with a poison that took everything from her.
One day when the loneliness was too much, the girl threw herself down into a stony creek, and she broke her neck on the rocks. And all that poison she was filled with trickled out of her eyes along with her tears.
Yet even after death, even after rot, her tears still trickled out. And when they evaporated in the light of day and weighed heavy in the clouds above, those same tears rained back down to the lands, harder than any storm we’d ever seen.
Finally free of the poison that plagued her tears in life, in death, the girl’s tears hit the earth far too pure to cause any harm. Instead they quenched the barren soil and breathed life into it. Soon grass grew, and then trees. Then forests, stretching for hundreds of miles, tall and full of life.
They say it’s the girl's spirit in her tears that makes the towering trees of this land twist to block out the Sun and the Moon, the Gods that cursed her and turned their backs on her. And they say that somewhere at the bottom of the swamp, her poisonless body still cries, cradling a heart of diamond no one ever knew.