Everything was normal the moment before the ultrasound wand touched Mayra’s stomach. Upon contact, reality lurched suddenly and normal no longer existed. Bethany couldn’t move, couldn’t even breathe. She was frozen to the spot, feeling her heart pounding in her chest, the hairs on her arms and the nape of her neck stood at attention, as a wave of chills washed over her body. A knowledge whispered in her mind, a knowledge older than her years, older than the earth, older than time or the universe itself. And it kept getting louder and louder, this cacophonous thrumming rhythm of knowledge and although it made no noise, the sound was intolerable and just as it reached the point at which her mind would have splintered, it stopped, leaving in its wake an undeniable truth.
Although she had not physically moved, for as long as it took the foreign thought to implant itself within her mind, Bethany was elsewhere and then her consciousness suddenly snapped back to her body in the hospital room and it took a moment to reorient herself. Electric shock sensations danced along her brain, similar to when she abruptly stopped taking sertraline once her depression was manageable. Her ears popped, she felt a slight wooziness, and her breath hitched once she found she was once again able to take in air. What happened to her? Was it some sort of panic attack? She had felt something else in the room with them in that frozen instant, something inside her body, inside her mind, she was sure of it. It couldn’t have been her imagination.
Before she could contemplate it any further, Bethany’s eyes focused on the ultrasound monitor. What she saw looked nothing like a baby. It looked more like a swirling blob, and she was sure that wasn’t meant to happen. She glanced around, trying to read the faces of the others, hoping someone would have said something, anything, to clear matters up but Mayra looked shocked and the sonographer stared at the screen with narrowing eyes. Whatever they were looking at was far from normal.
“Let me get one of the doctors in for a second opinion,” the sonographer said before dropping the wand and rushing out of the room and that was when the undeniable truth flooded her mind.
Bethany began snatching up both her and Mayra’s coats and bags in a hurried fashion.
“Bethy, what are you doing?” Mayra said sluggishly as if she had been awakened from a deep sleep.
“Sweetie, we need to get the fuck out of here, now!” Bethany said, hooking her arm around Mayra’s elbow and yanking her to her feet.
Bethany peeked her head out of the room and looked both ways to check that the coast was clear. No sonographer in sight, she led Mayra into the corridor, scanning the dazed faces of hospital personnel as they hurried past. Eyes tracked them as they made their way to the exit, mouths opened to speak and closed again as though people weren’t sure what they wanted to say.
Pulling out her phone, Bethany started to order an Uber but that nagging little voice in the back of her mind made her put the phone away and hail a taxi instead. When they climbed inside she gave the driver a wrong address, an address that was close to but far enough away from their apartment and shushed Mayra before she could offer a correction.
For a few seconds, Bethany thought the getaway, the putting distance between them and the hospital wasn’t going to work, by the way the taxi driver stared at Mayra in the rearview mirror, as if he knew her. Out the window, down the block she saw the sonographer and a man she assumed to be a doctor rush from the hospital, heads on a swivel checking the streets.
Bethany banged on the plexiglass partition to get the driver’s attention. “Hey! Is there a problem here? If you’re not going to drive we can get out and catch another cab.”
The sonographer and her companion started down the block in their direction and Bethany had one hand around Mayra’s wrist and the other on the car door handle, ready to bolt but the driver pulled the cab away from the curb and into traffic.
The ride felt longer than it actually was with Bethany continually looking out of the rear window, checking if they were being followed, not that she would have had the first idea how to spot a tail. During the drive, she had to stop Mayra from talking twice, eyeing the cabbie who was taking sneaky peeks at her friend every so often. And he wasn’t the only one. Whenever the taxi stopped at a red light, the heads of pedestrians and drivers alike would turn in their direction. Their eyes seemed to be drawn to Mayra if by some magnetic force. It was hands down the creepiest thing Bethany had ever witnessed in real life. People stopped dead in their tracks and just stared, their mouths opening and closing mouthing words she couldn’t make out.
When they eventually stepped out of the cab, Bethany regretted giving the cabbie a fake address because it was raining bullets. She threw her coat over Mayra’s head and refused to get under herself when Mayra offered to share. They stood under a store awning until the cab pulled away before making their way to the apartment.
Once inside, Bethany started to peel off Mayra’s wet layers.
“Okay, that’s enough!” Mayra pushed Bethany’s hands away. “I can get out of my wet things by myself. What’s gotten into you, anyway, dragging me around like a little kid, stopping me from talking—”
Mayra’s outburst caught Bethany by surprise. “I—I’m just trying to protect you.”
“I don’t know. Everybody. Everything.”
From Mayra’s expression she could tell her friend wasn’t on the same page, so she tried again, “Sweetie, I know how crazy this is going to sound but it’s no less crazy than what’s been going on lately. Something happened at the hospital. I felt it and I know you felt it, too, hell, everybody did. Don’t ask me how I know it, I just do. And that something made me—I don’t know—super protective of you.”
“Yeah, you know, like when people say they’ve found their calling and it sounds like bullshit? Well, I think—no, I’m sure—that I’ve found my calling and it’s not bullshit. There’s something deep inside of me that’s urging me to keep you safe at all costs. You and your fake pregnancy.”
“Fake? You think I’m pretending to be pregnant?”
“No, that’s not what I mean. Of course, you’re pregnant, but not really, you know?”
“Bethy, you’re not making sense.”
“I’m the one not making sense here? That’s not a baby, Mayra! That thing inside you. I don’t know what it is.”
“You know exactly what it is,” Mayra said in a low, confident voice that was so unlike her that it spooked Bethany.
“Of course, I do! I don’t think there’s a living or dead soul on the planet who doesn’t know what it is.”
“Then say it.”
“Because that would take something that I heart and soul don’t believe in and make it real.”
“But what if I need to hear it? A confirmation outside my own head from someone I trust? Can you make it real for me?”
Bethany hung her head low, inhaled deeply and let the breath out slowly. “It’s heaven, Mayra,” she said. “You’re carrying the new heaven.”
To Be Continued…
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