Wednesday, September 24, 2014


It was a dark and stormy night and in a damp little hospital a very long way from honor and decency a young woman was having a baby. She was alone in the room for some reason, a stainless steel room with a high window like in a prison, where the sharp dead light of the flickering fluorescent tubes competed with the lightning flashing and shining in.

The woman, little more than a child herself, cried for help, unable to hear anyone or anything past the thunder. She laid on a cold steel slab usually reserved for autopsies, and they had neglected to give her as much as a blanket, and she was bleeding and she was lonely and she wondered where the doctor was. The father was dead as Hell, in the same car crash that had brought her to this sorry excuse for a house of healing, and there was likely no one else in the vicinity, let alone anyone who could need medical attention, let along anyone who could need it more than her.

She thought of the father, briefly, and her heart ached as she remembered his warm laugh, his strong hands, his chest tearing like a ripe pumpkin when the steering wheel dug into it. Had she been hurt at all? Maybe she had hit her head. She couldn't remember, and she couldn't feel anything other than the life trying to be born from her. Something torn between her legs, and she could feel warm blood pooling under her back, and she screamed and wriggled, trying to free herself from the stupid fucking stirrups holding her feet up.

Precisely at the moment of her lowest despair, the doctor came through the door, dressed in immaculate scrubs and attended by two nurses and a seasoned, heavyset midwife. She cried in relief, but it was short-lived.

Due to her youth, the doctor told her, the delivery was going to be difficult. The girl drifted out of time and space, lost in a haze of red hot pain, people pushing and pulling her every which way, screams, cold metal burrowing deep inside her, and great big splashes of blood up the walls.

Eventually, she came to her senses in complete darkness and utter quiet. She was resting on soft comforters, in deep layers of blankets, and for a long, suspended moment she laid still, exhausted but content; weak but safe. And she had her baby!

"Where is my baby?" she wondered, aloud, and was answered by a sudden bolt of lightning. In its deafening boom the room was illuminated, and she saw one of the nurses standing under the window, with the baby in her arms.

For no particular reason, the lights in the ceiling came back on.

"Hey, give me my baby", said the woman, softly. The nurse said nothing, and did not move.

"Did you hear me? is my baby alright? Let me see her. Or him?' She tried to sound strong, confident and eager but she could barely hold her head up, let alone raise her voice.

"It's a boy", said the nurse, as another bolt of lightning struck. "Come and get him."

"Come again?"

"I said, come and get your boy."

"What, what do you mean?" the woman asked, her voice cracking. "I can't get, I can't stand up."

"Come over here and take your boy", said the nurse, carefully pronouncing each word as her voice slowly climbed to a cruel peak, "or I will break every bone in his body."

A newborn baby has over three hundred soft, cartilageous bones. Its tiny femur broke with a wet crunching sound as the nurse bent it in her strong hands. The baby was quiet, much too quiet, unlike the mother.

The mother howled madly and twisted herself so violently that she fell off the slab, onto the plain concrete floor. The many blankets around her softened the impact somewhat, but still a thick lance of pain shot through the length of her body and she clutched her belly and tried to scream, unable to make a sound. Already her hands were covered in blood, and they left a pair of tracks on the floor as she turned over to face the nurse.

"You evil, crazy, shifty-eyed whore", the woman said, brilliant in her fury, "you worthless piece of shit excuse for a girl, give me my baby before I tear your intestines out with my teeth and feed them to you till you choke on your shit." She crawled, as she spoke, an endlessly slow journey across the floor, every movement a new, unexplored continent of pain as the trail of blood flowing from the ruin of her womb grew wider.

And for every two or three steps the woman took, the nurse would break another of the boy's bones. His finger bones went easily, crushed beyond all hope of repair. The nurse touched the soft spot in his skull, ever so lightly, with her tongue, and twisted his nose and his arms and his jaw. Every one of the horrible sounds drove into the woman's heart like an iron nail, drove into her mind until all the arguments against insanity fell away and she started babbling, blubbering, whining then like a dog and then like a baby, and on occasion she would spit the blood out of her mouth and unload a string of curses so searing, so filthy, so unimaginably obscene that the nurse, even in her madness, almost turned and ran away.

And eventually, after a thousand years and a thousand thousand miles, the woman grabbed the legs of the nurse and hoisted herself up on her knees. In a voice perfectly balanced between desperate begging and godlike command, between clenched teeth she said, "give me my baby."

And the nurse threw the ragdoll shape in her face and shouted, bright and brittle and bubbling with laughter, "Psych! He was stillborn!"

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