Having Heaven 13 – The Undeniable Truth

BETHANY

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.”

“From what?”

“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.”

“It did?”

“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.”

“I—I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“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…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Having Heaven 8 – The Discussion

The pregnancy test had been burning a hole in Mayra’s handbag since day one despite the best efforts of the fall of Heaven and the spirits of the dead returning to earth. She found herself wishing she had told Gavin as soon as she had gotten the results so that this part, the hard part, the having the discussion part would have been in the past. How easier it would have been to simply slide this card into the deck of the events of the last week to minimize the impact of her boyfriend’s possible response. She meant to practice breaking the news to Bethany but the sudden reappearance of her dead mother put the stick in the spokes of that plan.

Now, here she was standing in the living room doorway, pregnancy test in a white-knuckle death grip behind her back, heart pounding as she watched Gavin type away on his computer keyboard. That was how he spent his time recently, in online forums chatting and debating theories and wading through propaganda with complete strangers about the almost hourly updates that contained more opinions from unqualified experts than facts. The only person he had not had these conversations with was her. Their relationship was changing, partly because she had changed but in his own way, Gavin had changed, as well.

Nothing to it but to do it, Mayra thought and mustering her courage, she cleared her throat, “Gavin?”

“Yeah, babe?” her boyfriend said over his shoulder.

“We need to talk.”

That got Gavin’s attention away from the keyboard. He swiveled in his chair to face Mayra and said, “Uh-oh. We need to talk never ends well.”

“That’s not necessarily true.”

“Okay, prove me wrong. What do we need to talk about?”

“First, I need you not to freak out or get mad at me for not telling you sooner but with all the craziness going on there never seemed to be a right time,” Mayra pulled the pregnancy test from behind her back and held it out to him. “But, congratulations, you’re going to be a dad.”

Gavin stared at the test for a long moment and exhaled slowly.

“It’s wrong, a false positive, because you got the implant—” he said.

“It isn’t one hundred percent foolproof.”

“But we barely—”

“I know, but it doesn’t only happen based on quantity, sometimes it’s just the quality and you’ve got powerful swimmers,” Mayra said, hoping for a laugh to lighten the moment but all she received for her effort was a stone-faced glare. “Well, aren’t you going to say something?”

“How long have you been sitting on this?” Gavin asked.

“Just before the Heaven thing.”

“So, you’ve had time to process but you left-field me and expect me to have a prepared response for something like this?”

“No, I expect you to tell me how you feel, what you’re thinking, anything! Just say something.”

“You want to know what I’m thinking?”

“Of course, I do.”

“You won’t believe me.”

“Try me.”

“At that exact moment I was thinking, I love you.”

He was right, Mayra wasn’t buying it, but decided to test the waters, asking, “Does that mean you’re happy about the news?”

“I’d want nothing more than to bring a baby into the world with you. But I was also thinking about us.”

“What about us?”

“You’ll be going back in school in a little bit and I’m trying to launch my career so what kind of life could we provide for a baby?”

“We’d make do like everyone else,” Mayra said with far more aggression than she planned.

“I don’t want to be like everyone else. I don’t want to squeak by and live paycheck to paycheck. And look at this place—”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s a dump! I don’t want our child living in a place like this. I know it sounds old-fashioned but our child should be living in a house with a swing in the backyard. We should be married, and have money in the bank and a college fund for an ivy league school.”

“We could get all those things,” Mayra said.

“When? With what? Forget your gap year, you’ll have to put school on hold indefinitely, and the little bit of money I’ll be making will be stretched so thin we might as well be on Welfare.”

“So, what are you saying?”

“Maybe, you know, we should, I don’t know, get it fixed?”

“Fixed?” Without realizing it, Mayra’s hand rested on her stomach. Was it too soon to be experiencing a strong maternal instinct?

“Wait, before you fly off the handle, I need you to hear me out,” Gavin rose from his seat, took the pregnancy test out of Mayra’s hand and placed it on the coffee table before leading her to the couch. “Think about what’s going on in the world at the moment. No more Heaven, ghosts are popping up everywhere and who knows what else is waiting around the corner. For all we know the worst may be yet to come. Normally, I’d never consider asking you to do something so drastic but everything is different now and it’s changed my view on a lot of things, one of them being I’m not certain I want to bring new life into this world if when they eventually die they’re just going to wander the earth endlessly. Watching videos of people losing their shit after encountering loved ones they’ve laid to rest is heartbreaking and I can’t do that. I don’t want our child living with our ghosts and god forbid something happened to our son or daughter I wouldn’t be strong enough to deal with the daily reminder of his or her spirit.”

Mayra had never seen Gavin’s eyes so full of fear and pain. “But what if that doesn’t happen?” she offered weakly.

“You mean if things get better? If we discover a solution? Then we try again but we plan for it this time. We start on the right path, get married, finish school, put some money aside for a college fund, build a line of credit, buy a house for our new family.”

“You want to get married?”

Gavin slid off the couch onto the carpet on one knee, dug into his pocket, produced his set of keys and systematically began removing keys from the keyring one at a time. “I’ve been mulling this over in my head since all this craziness began and the only thing I’m certain about is no matter what lies in store for us, I want to face it together with you.”

“Gavin—”

“I haven’t had the chance to pick up a ring, so this will have to do,” Gavin held up the empty keyring between his thumb and forefinger. “Mayra Critchlow, will you marry me?”

Mayra looked down at the carpet, trying to work out how to sort through all the thoughts buzzing in her head. “I-I don’t know,” she muttered.

Gavin gently place his hand beneath Mayra’s chin and brought her head up until she met his gaze. Was it her imagination or was there a light shining in his eyes, eyes now moist with tears?

“If you make an honest man of me, we can start again and get it all right this time around,” Gavin said. “I’ll be the man you need me to be. I’ll be the husband that will make you proud, I swear.”

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Having Heaven 1 – The Test

Some believed that existence itself was an ever-expanding canvas and human lives were merely tiny splashes of colors within a much larger, universal painting, while others saw it as a tapestry with human lives being bits of thread woven to make patterns undecipherable by mortal eyes with limited vision who were only allowed to view the tiniest of portions of the tapestry’s back side. Mayra Critchlow, however, thought of existence as a great tome and a person’s life merely an anthology of stories, not always sequential, that when bound together told a coherent narrative. And her life was about to embark on a new chapter that began with her period being late.

It wasn’t earth-shattering news or even that big a surprise since Mayra had always been what her mother called a natural born stresser. Even before she knew how to communicate effectively, she made a habit of sweating the small stuff and when she hit puberty stress carried in tow a condition known as secondary amenorrhea. Her reproductive system was affected by high levels of anxiety which caused her monthlies to temporarily stop. This time, though, it felt one hundred and fifty percent completely different and she suspected something wasn’t quite right after her friend (what a stupid term of endearment for menstruation) was two weeks late. The lead up remained the same, days before her mood soured, she turned grumpy, her chin broke out and her stomach ached constantly but Mayra became concerned when it stopped as quickly as it began. All the symptoms simply vanished. The next logical solution was pregnancy but she couldn’t have been pregnant because of the Nexplanon implant and her boyfriend Gavin wore condoms for extra protection every single time they had been together, which was less often in the past few months.

A Google search of Why is my period so late? inevitably led her to six other reasons her cycle might be a bit wonky. Among the options were major weight loss or excessive exercise—neither of which were the case, a thyroid irregularity, Polycystic ovary symptom, Chronic diseases like Celiac, low dose birth control, and premature menopause. Needless to say, she was not a fan of any of those choices.

Another website suggested waiting ten days after her cycle and taking a pregnancy test even if conception was used. So, Mayra tamped down the panic of possibly having a chronic disease, hormone imbalance, or failing ovaries and snuck out of work the following day before her lunch break and bought a pregnancy test. She decided not to grab one at home because Gavin was there and if she popped out to the store after they had just gone shopping, it would have raised a red flag. And then there would have been the sneaking of the test into the house and bald-faced lying to him if he inquired what she went to the store to pick up. It all seemed silly but she decided to go the easy route and not make a thing out of something that didn’t need to be a thing.

Mayra was tempted to take the test in the restroom at work but as she stepped into the stall she considered if that was the memory she wanted to keep if the result was somehow positive? Would it have been disrespectful to Gavin and even more so to the baby? Besides, if the test was positive, there was no way she could have concentrated on work and she would waste most of the afternoon on the phone with Bethany, doing the whole talking in code thing, which might have been fun but it would have been frustrating as well.

Exhausting just about every last drop of self-control she had, Mayra managed to wait until she arrived home and made a beeline to the bathroom, pecking Gavin on the cheek as she sped past. She never experienced a longer five minutes in her entire life and after the stick delivered its answer she paced the tiny bathroom space in a daze not quite able to handle it. There was a part of her that was tempted to go back to the pharmacy and buy one of each different test brand they had, as if she could get some cosmic do over.

She stuffed the pregnancy test and packaging in her purse—no sense in him spotting it in the trash before she had the chance to tell him—and opened the bathroom door. Gavin was right there in the doorway, rushing past her, undoing his belt buckle.

“What the hell were you doing in here so long” he asked, shoving his boxers and pants around his ankles before plopping down on the toilet. “I need to take a killer dump!”

She stared into his eyes, searching for what she did not know, but she knew she hadn’t found it and all of the courage suddenly drained from her.

“Uh… a little privacy here?” Gavin gestured for her to shut the door. “Unless you’ve developed a scat fetish?”

There was no way they would be having the pregnancy discussion today.

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys