Everyone I knew wrote me off as a space case, as if I was insane or some sad eccentric with little grip on reality but none of them, not a single solitary person, bothered to get to know me, to peer beyond this veil of all too fragile flesh in order to witness the infinitude that lay within.
Bitter nausea rises in Sandrine’s throat as the shards of the shattered vanity mirror shoot up from the table and floor in a maelstrom of sharp chaos, pieces binding themselves together in DNA helix fashion, building themselves from inanimate splinters of reflective glass to take on a new, sinister shape, the form of her abusive, late husband.
“Honey, I’m home,” says the mirrored monstrosity in a voice that sounds broken glass edges scraping together.
Researching on her tablet, Mayra discovered the first functional fetal organ to develop was the heart, typically eighteen to nineteen days after fertilization which began to beat and pump blood around day twenty-two. But when it came to ensoulment, the closest thing she found to a specific answer dated back to the time of Aristotle, where it was believed the human soul entered the forming body at forty days for boys and ninety days for girls, which was of exactly zero use in explaining why there had been no sightings of child or baby spirits and if her as yet unborn child currently had a soul.
“How long do you think you’ve been pregnant?” Bethany asked.
“Um, I don’t know,” Mayra said, counting the days back to when she first took the test.
“At least six weeks?”
“Sure, I think. Maybe? Why?”
“Because six weeks is the earliest you can get a dating scan.”
“A what now?”
“An ultrasound to find out how far along you are and detect the presence of a heartbeat. Don’t you want to hear your baby’s heartbeat? I know I do.”
Mayra felt slightly ashamed that Bethany had taken the reins with regard to the clinical aspects for the pregnancy while she was preoccupied with the metaphysics of soul creation and death.
“It’s been over six weeks since I missed my period,” Mayra said.
“So, should I book us an appointment?” Bethany asked, and received no response. “What’s up with you?”
“You’re not going to like this,” Mayra sighed. “But I think Gavin might be right.”
“Maybe it’s not right to bring a child into this new world.”
Bethany sat across from Mayra in complete silence, lost in her thoughts for a long while before saying, “I don’t know how to respond to that. I mean, if that’s Gavin’s voice in your head, I’d tell you to tell it to fuck off. If you’re thinking it because you’re nervous, I can totally understand that but like I’ve told you a hundred times, you are not alone, and I’ll keep telling you until it finally sinks in. But if this is truly how you feel, then I support you and your choice and I’ll be here for you however you need me to be so don’t feel guilty because you have to do what’s right for you.”
“I have to admit, Bethy, I have no idea what’s right anymore.”
It was an odd thing but being in the hospital to get the ultrasound made the situation real. Mayra was going to have a baby, she was going to be a single mom which meant she had some growing up to do. She was afraid the sonographer was going to make assumptions about her since Bethany was at her side instead of Gavin but it was one of those childishly foolish notions that she needed to push out of her head.
“At this point we should be able to see the baby take shape,” the sonographer, whose name was Gloria, smiled. “Your little one is slowly becoming a person and I have to admit this is the point I find the most exciting. Nine months might seem like a long time but it will fly by. Make the most of this experience because once you hold your baby in your arms everything will be different.”
“Do you think this is something I can do alone?” Mayra had no idea why she asked the question. The words just slipped out before she was aware of what she was saying.
“Yes, even though it’s obvious to me you aren’t alone,” Gloria said without missing a beat and nodding a smile at Bethany. “Somehow I can tell there are always going to be people around to help you. Pregnancy can sometimes make you feel like you’re in it by yourself but you’d be surprised at how people will step up to help.”
“That’s a curious bedside manner you’ve got there,” Bethany said.
“So I’ve been told,” Gloria replied and to Mayra she said, “The scan usually takes about twenty minutes.”
“Twenty minutes?” Mayra said.
“I know your bladder’s full but we’ll get through this as quickly as possible,” Gloria held up a squeeze bottle and a small hand-held device. “First I’m going to apply some ultrasound gel to your tummy and move this transducer over your skin to get views of your baby.”
Mayra looked down at the gel being spread over her stomach. Her body was still in the same shape it had always been, something the baby would soon change and she wasn’t quite sure she was ready for it. When she glanced at Bethany, she saw her friend was staring across the room at a ghost midwife standing nearby, watching the monitor, waiting patiently. It was impossible to pretend she wasn’t there but a strange phenomenon was taking place where people began ignoring the spirits, they had become so commonplace. Exhaling deeply, she turned her attention to the screen. Being able to see her growing child was the whole reason she was there, and she wasn’t about to let the dead spoil this moment.
“Okay, Mayra, this is going to feel weird, but I promise you it’s truly worth it,” Gloria said.
Mayra said a silent prayer that the scan turned out normal and the baby was healthy but the moment the transducer made contact with her belly—everything changed. Her vision filled with starbursts. A million points of light filled her mind and she was overcome with a sensation that was simply too good, too pure to exist in this imperfect world. Her sense of existence expanded beyond the limitations of infinity and for one brief moment the edges of her mind brushed against the minds of every person, living and dead, linking together like a jigsaw puzzle of peace and all was right in the universe for a nanosecond before infinite knowledge avalanched onto her mind sending shards of information into her brain and out through the back of her skull over and over eternally and existence filled her mouth, filled her throat, filled her lungs, suffocating her with its presence and it would not let up, would not let her fight, would not let her scream as she was engulfed by the unending blinding whiteness of everything until she became nothing at all.
The bits and pieces that made her unique no longer existed in this pearlescent void and how could it? The totality of everything had pushed everything she had ever been out of her. She was now a hollow lifeless shell—until she wasn’t. Reality, her reality, the only one she personally experienced, had begun reknitting itself, stitch one, purl two until she was back in the examination room with the sonographer and Bethany. Both women stood stock-still as if they had been turned into stone by a basilisk, mouth agape, staring at the monitor. What they saw on the screen looked nothing like a baby at all. It looked more like a blob, a swirling mass that resembled a distant galaxy viewed through a space telescope.
When Gloria recovered enough to form words, she said, “Let me get one of the doctors in for a second opinion,” and bolted out of the room before Mayra could ask a question.
Mayra turned to Bethany who was gathering their coats and bags in a hurried fashion.
“Bethy, what are you doing?”
“Sweetie, we need to get the fuck out of here, now!”
No one knew her name. She was just that shy girl with the crooked smile and nervous laugh who kept herself to herself and stood apart from the rest of the real world, dancing to a tune that no one else could hear and loving people who only existed in her imagination.
It was a dark and stormy night, the type I was all too familiar with—when all my estranged family and distant friends slept but I couldn’t because all the regrets of my life raged in my mind with an unbearable intensity along with the enduring question—
Rosalinda’s eyes were pitch black perfect and somewhere in their aphotic depths, I spotted the bioluminescence of her pain and gentleness as they came together to form the very art of her beautifully tortured soul.
While Amelia couldn’t quite put her finger on it or explain how the devil it happened, she knew her reality had somehow shifted because the air smelled wrong—not just of engine exhaust but of evaporating destiny and melting fate.
“I met a human after I was granted a second chance via a presidential pardon for violating the first law of robotics and we fell in love but she died unexpectedly and my greatest regret is I had not obtained a lock of her hair to wind it into my broken mecha heart.”
I thought I could handle any trouble that came my way but the murder investigation had gone riotous way too fast and I was caught at ground zero.
I tried to beat a hasty retreat to call for backup but standing between me and the Big Top’s only egress was the Circus Authorities, a bundle of fast-moving, nimble as fuck, acrobatic clowns armed to the teeth with corrosive acid pies and rubber chickens filled with ball bearings.
Driven to desperation by your absence from my life, I traveled to Hades in search of the psychopomp for a solution. Know, beloved, that I would not be afraid to kiss the lips of Death itself if it meant I could bring you back for a day, an hour or even a second.