by Matthew E. Reynolds
The night sky was silent. The moon was waning, the stars quiet. It was as if the world had been shut off, paused. The cicadas had turned in for the night, and their ever-present buzzing had created a myserious calm over the small town.
"mother, why are you crying?"
The small child walked up to a woman in her thirties, sitting on a couch in front of a television, showing nothing but static. The woman had passed out, drunk.
"Mother, why are you upset?"
The woman's eyes opened slowly, the hiss of the television bespeckling her face. It was the only sound to be heard.
"Mother, you don't look well."
The woman, groggy, looked over to the child by her side. She put the bottle she was holding on the coffee table and picked up the child, put it in her lap, and held it to her soft, warm busom.
"Mommy, you're shaking".
The woman brushed the child's head. "It's okay, sweetie. Mommy's here.
"Are you alright?"
The woman paused. A tear dripped down her cheek. "No."
"It's the day, isn't it mommy? The day I was born."
The woman looked at her child and switched off the television. She held her child closer and kissed her head, visibly and audibly holding back sobs.
"I'm not upset at you. Mommy, I'm not upset. Please be okay. Please get better, mommy."
The woman held the child and the sobs came. She held her child closer, closer, and the sobs didn't stop. For ten minutes, they didn't stop. She had been holding back, suffering, for far too long. Why did they do it? Why? What was she thinking? It was her child, her only child, her beautiful daughter. She used to spend the days thinking of the life she would have, but then her husband became unemployed. They didn't have the money to support a family. They did what they had to. She...
"Mother, stop! It's okay. Don't hurt. I'm here, see? I'm still here."
The mother looked at her child. Her daughter. She was two years old now, charming and beautiful just like her mother was. The mother stroked her hair in the moonlight and she started to sing. The child was quiet. The child hadn't made a sound. The mother fell asleep, child in her arms, and the night resumed its distant humming.
The next morning, the woman awoke. She looked at the pillow, held close to her, and wiped the tears from her eyes. She stared at it and began to cry.
She fell over, hunched, and cried more. A man walked over to her and held her.
"Honey, it's okay. I'm here."
"I saw her. She was... she was here. In my arms. She said it was okay, that it wasn't my fault..."
The man, her husband, looked at her, quiet, with a look of a man who held the fate of a nation in his breath.
"She was here, Jeff! I saw her, that..."
The husband held her close.
"It's as if she was alive. Born. Like she was supposed to."
"I know. I'm here for you, Susan. It's going to be alright."
Sometimes things happen that you cannot control. Susan's depression had struck Jeff. It was partially his fault she was like this; after all, he was the one that lost his job. Their child was forcibly removed from the womb of her patient mother. Somewhere, out there, his child was watching Susan. He thought that he could stabilize her. But after this, he knew it was out of his control. Tomorrow they would go to the hospital. She would be treated. He had to be strong. He held his wife closer, kissed her, and whispered to her again, the woman sobbing uncontrollably;
"It's going to be alright. I promise. It's going to be alright."
The sun rose. The clouds opened. And somewhere, somehow, there was a child celebrating the day of her predicted birth, surrounded by sunlight, never to be seen again.