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The Diamond Factory

by Helen Rye

Everything in the diamond factory is real except for the diamonds. They turn on invisible currents in seawater vats like diamond wombs, strings of them, fossils of light trapped and hardened by the diamond factory workers, all of whom are old, old women or goddesses—it is always hard to tell the one from the other.

           We steal in through unfastened doorways and unguarded windowsills and we watch from the back and we see the glitter of our old selves in the shoals of light on the walls. We’ve read that diamonds are made under pressure and pressure is something we know all about, but this is hunting, this is alchemy, if alchemy were a thing of nurture and sea herbs and tetrahedral atomic lattices stacked perfect and tight as bean cans.

           We walk through the vats and we trail our fingers in brine and nobody stops us, so we gather them into our hands and we drape ourselves with diamond threads as we go, and we plan how we will do this, how we will braid them over our bodies, let them cover us, move with us, speak for us. We will wear them like a shell, our skin will blind you. We will blaze in the noonday sun like a supernova kissed us.

           We don’t care that the diamond factory diamonds are artificial. All of the things we are tired of are real. Our diamond factory diamond skins will be nineteen times harder than titanium, eighteen thousand times harder than a human heart and nothing will scratch it, not words or weapons or poverty, not you with your dragon heart, thinking we should belong to you because we shine.

           The diamond factory doesn’t pay taxes. The diamond factory thinks the government has enough stuff already. The diamond factory prefers to distribute its bounty among the poor and the tired and the women who spend too much time waiting at bus stops and the women who do not get to spend enough time singing or looking through telescopes at the passages of stars and the women who have escaped from the caves of dragons with barely the clothes that will cover their diamond skins.

           Because of us, the diamond factory is thinking of branching into armor. Their armor will be like our diamond skins but with also a helmet to cover the head for the times when we have to go back to the caves to take back our belongings and tell you, You cannot beat into shape another human heart like it is a thing you own, you cannot hoard it away from the world and mold it into something different from itself until it feels itself too small and weak to leave, just because the shaping of things in the way that you want makes you feel like a real dragon. You have so much to learn about hearts.

           In our diamond factory armor, we will not hear you roar and threaten. We will take back what is ours and will not hear you tell us how fragile we are, how actually, it is we who are broiling, how actually, it is we who brought about our own hammering. Our diamond factory armor will cover our ears with the hardest of light from the hands of old, old women, whom secretly we think of as goddesses, whose voices will whisper to us all of the way out of the mouth of the cave, thousands of them, saying, Look how strong we are, all of us together and always. Look how hard we shine.

Author's Note

I saw a postcard from someone who’d visited a diamond factory and I wondered what they made there, so I wrote about it til I knew. Turned out it was armor.

Helen Rye lives in Norwich, UK. She has won the Bath Flash Fiction Award, the Reflex Fiction contest and third place in the 2018 Bristol Short Story Prize. Her stories have been nominated for Best Small Fictions and the Pushcart Prize, and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. She is a submissions editor for SmokeLong Quarterly and a prose editor for Lighthouse Literary Journal, and she helps out from time to time at Ellipsis Zine and TSS Publishing.

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