Is This The Future? By: Stephen C. Ormsby
Is This The Future?
By: Stephen C. Ormsby
He asked himself the question. Husband and wife. Mother and father.
A cacophony of silences surrounded them these days, almost more alive than the baby, silent, next door. The deafening, unspoken words beat them around the ears, triggering a slip into submissiveness. All they did now was eat, work, breathe and feed the child.
The child. A daughter.
What type of world could she look forward to? Was that really an issue? Too late not to take that into consideration. Too late to take it all back. Much too late to say, ‘Sorry love, but I’ve got to get up early tomorrow’.
They had agreed that a child, offspring, would be a great step in their lives. They had agreed. So how did it turn out so wrong so very quickly? Was there a way to fix it without running away?
A soft, almost non-existent, cry drifted into the lounge room, over the voice of Mike Munro, disturbing their take-away dinner. He looked at her as she glanced at him. Whose turn was it this time? Had he changed the last nappy or was it the one before that? Did she feed the baby last time or was it me?
It all became a vindictive game, keeping score, trying to get bonus points to miss the next round. Who was ahead anyway? Was it worth getting up now and scoring another point? Would that save him from the midnight feed? Would it get him anywhere? Would it lead to sex? Please no! That’s what got us here in the first place.
Another cry. Emily.
“Oh Christ, what now?” He climbed to his feet, grumbling. No choice now. Dropping his fork onto his plate caused a splash of food and a rattle of cheap china.
Another glare. This time he returned it with added venom. Bending over, he grabbed his beer and took a quick guzzle.
“Haven’t you gone yet? The ad’s almost over!” she growled.
“So?” he retorted, as he opened the door to the hall, which led directly to the baby’s nursery. God, it’s cold, he thought as he moved out of the range of the old gas heater. One day I’ll get a new one put in when we have some spare cash.
One day I’ll be rich enough not to have to worry about it! How did that old song go? “One day I’ll have money. Money isn’t easy to come by…”
I have money, shiploads of the stuff. It just disappears. On what?
The list was endless and after all that, there wasn’t that much left.
The deliberations lasted long enough to see him to his daughter’s door. Through the crack, he could see the bedside light casting a dull shadow over everything. There, in the middle of the over-sized cot, lay the little bundle of humanity that he had helped to create. He stared and could see his nose and his wife’s eyes built into the make-up of this minute creature even from this distance.
Silently opening the door, he moved towards her. Emily flashed a smile at him.
A smile. A memory.
It reminded him of the first toothless grin he ever received from her. She had only been hours old, but she seemed to recognise him already. He had forgotten all about that. How do you forget such an important event? Simple, really. You let work take you over, worrying too much about money. You let silly things build up until they threaten to overwhelm you. You get stressed and forget.
You miss out on the tiny bundle in front of you becoming a person.
“Hi baby. What’s wrong?” he mumbled, dragging her from the sheets. “Daughter.” He tried the word on for size and found it fit very well. “Daughter.”
“Ga,” murmured Emily.
His daughter. Our daughter.
This is what it was all about. Watching this miniature person grow into someone that will make us proud. Maybe a doctor? No, a lawyer? It doesn’t matter really. She’s ours.
It dawned on him there and then. “I have it all wrong,” he whispered to her.
“Ga,” replied Emily.
Lifting the top blanket from the mash of blankets, he wrapped his daughter up. “Don’t want you getting cold now, do we?” She smiled at him again in the way that only a baby can, melting his heart. A couple of quick strides found him back in the lounge room.
He saw the silent accusation from his wife. “Why did you get her up?”
“Don’t you get it? We are doing this all wrong,” he retaliated, upset with his own reflective anger. “This should be a pleasure. We wanted this. She is the next generation.”
His wife just stared.
“This is your little girl, Emily. My daughter. Your daughter. Our daughter.
“We made this. We decided that that is what we wanted and we did it. We made a human being. This human being,” he continued, as he extricated Emily from the bundle of blanket and handed her to his wife.
“”Look at that face,”" he implored. “”Your features. My features. Your mother here, my dad there. All together. My nose, your eyes. Isn’t she a magnificent specimen? And the best part… The best part is that she is ours.”
“Yours and mine,” finished his wife, as realisation ran across her face. “We are doing this all wrong, aren’t we?”
“Yep. This is what we wanted. And I am proud of what we have created. We wanted a baby and we got this lovely angel.” He sighed and regretfully started again. “”We need to talk…”"
His wife looked up at him and replied, “”Yes, I know…”"
The future was theirs now. It was now time to do something proper with it.”
Ego Inside by: Sean McCormick
“We got hemorrhaging here! Get me the oxytocin now!”
Shadows flutter across my vision, obscuring the steady light bathing me. I have long since ceased to recognize any coherent shapes or images. The pain, once sharp and immediate, now seems dulled and distant.
Flecks of darkness dance before me, ballerinas elegantly pirouetting for my amusement. I remember wanting to be a ballerina once, a long time ago when I was a little girl without a care in the world. Its funny how life seems to come around full circle. The weight of the world was on my shoulders mere hours ago and now I swim in an ocean of apathy.
Why is the light getting darker? Are they moving me to another room?
Soothing droplets of water envelop my body while knives tear into my flesh. Pain erupts in bloodied ridges along my skin and my pelvis feels like its broken. I lie crumpled on a concrete stairway descending into an abandoned subway station.
I’m too numb to cry. The feeling of violation is so incredibly horrible, its like a mirror shattered inside my skull leaving a non-reflective blackness. All I want is to curl up inside the void of my mind and disappear.
My entire world has changed. Nothing is the same as it once was. A feeling of naivete adds to the increasing despondence. What happened to the reality I knew? Every care I had before seems so trivial now. My life is nothing if not the event that just happened. Everything has been thrown into a different perspective.
A train echoes in the distance, the sound of metal grating against steel reverberates off of the walls around me. It won’t find anything in the empty station besides ghosts of the terrors that have befallen its halls, hallowed by the footprints of those who came before.
I slowly raise my head to the sky and focus on an old gaslight lamp peeking over the corner of the stairs. A vicious crack rips open the dirtied glass emitting a harsh orange glow that washes over me. The light becomes brighter and brighter until it devours me.
Orange transfigures into white and I’m left staring at a fluorescent beam that radiates the white appointment room in its glare. Monotonous buzzing assaults my ears and leaves me reeling from the news I’ve just received.
As if what happened wasn’t enough, now I have a souvenir. A grim reminder of the horror I was put through. A trophy of terror. How could I ever love something like that?
Its cruel and unfair. I’m not ready to be a mother. I wouldn’t be ready even if it was the result of some loving union with my boyfriend.
Oh right… I don’t have one of those now either. Its not like I had much of a choice. As much as my heart might’ve loved him, my body recoiled at the slightest touch. He was a good man. I couldn’t rob him of a chance to be happy. And how could I have asked him to take me on as his responsibility?
His pleading was what killed me. He wanted to stay with me. Even after I did almost everything I could to cut him out of my life. But that didn’t stop him. As if it wasn’t hard enough. How do you convince someone of something when you’re not convinced yourself?
It doesn’t matter now. Even if I could tolerate his embrace, I couldn’t foist this thing on him now. I have no right to force fatherhood upon him. Neither of us are ready. At least I don’t think he is. I know I’m not.
I don’t know what I’m going to do. I remember the stories my mom used to tell me when she had my brother and me. How overjoyed she was. Like she was floating on a cloud. Her two angels.
But she had a stable relationship with my dad. Someone who cared about her and was ready to be there for their children, a guardian. Where was my guardian? My situation doesn’t provides no comparison.
I don’t even have my own place anymore. If it wasn’t for my parents I’d probably be in some rundown apartment in the middle of Dorchester this time of year. I wouldn’t be able to take care of this thing if I wanted to, and I can’t force my parents to take care of it.
My parents. What are they going to think? I can just imagine. My mom will want me to keep it, I know that much. She’d adopt it if I’d let her. But how could I let her do that? It can’t be a part of my family. I didn’t want it. It was forced on me. Besides, its my body and I can do whatever I want with it.
Shivers run down my spine. Bone chilling coldness buffets my skin sending shockwaves of frigid tendrils across my body. This office is colder than it was before.
A knock on the door. Some voice rings out from behind that I can’t make out.
“Come in,” I call.
The door opens slowly, a creak shrieking through the air. My mom walks in and sits on the bed next to me. Curtains flutter in the wind from the bay window. I’m curled up on my bed at home, a floral pattern bedecked upon it trumpeting its colors.
Mom caresses my forehead and I feel a twinge in my chest. “How are you feeling, honey?”
I really don’t want to talk. I just want to shut out the world. “Fine,” I manage to croak out.
“If you don’t want to say anything, I understand.” Typical. My mom’s always been the first one to try to relate to something she has no clue about.
“Okay,” I respond. I wish I could just hide under the covers. Whenever I’m around other people I feel exposed, vulnerable.
Deep sadness reflects in her eyes as my mom bends over to kiss me briefly before she straightens up and walks out of the room. Now I feel worse. My own callousness has been frightening me lately. If I could just force myself to hold out some inkling of kindness or thankfulness, I’m sure that I would feel better.
But I can’t. That part of me that could feel for others was severed four months ago. I look down. My belly bulges in front of me, skin pulled taut into what seems an unimaginable tightness. The only person I can feel for is myself now and I’ve been feeling strange. Its almost as though fish are swimming around in my stomach, brushing their tails against my insides.
I close my eyes. The tails have been beating slightly more rapidly lately; its as though the fish were contending with one another in some bizarre tail swishing competition.
A hammer pounds.
What the hell was that? That wasn’t a tail. That was a club bashing against the inside of my stomach.
I uncurl and sit with my legs splayed out in front of me and slowly touch my stomach.
Was that kicking? Was my baby kicking?
It wasn’t a thing and it wasn’t just a part of me. It was a separate entity, something entirely its own. Its my angel. And I’m its guardian.
Light blinds me again. I wake up in a hospital bed, completely drained of energy. Something doesn’t feel right. I don’t feel right. I feel empty.
I look around frantically, or at least as frantically as I can. Weakness besets every bone and muscle in my body. I feel like I’m on the threshold between reality and something else. And it scares me.
“Where’s my baby?!” I scream. Any remaining energy I had left rushes out of my body and my eyelids start to quiver.
A nurse runs into the room and starts saying something I can’t make out before a doctor enters the room.
I look at him pleadingly, “Please, give me my baby.”
His lips move, but no words seem to come out. Then he motions to the nurse and she leaves the room. He sits on a stool next to the bed and keeps speaking nonexistent words. Before long the nurse comes in.
And my angel is in her arms.
He’s so beautiful. The world melts around me while tears stream out of my eyes. “Let me hold him.”
The nurse gently lays him in my arms and my baby looks up at me.
“I love you so so much. Please don’t forget that. And I’m sorry for everything.”
My head lulls and I can feel the nurse take the baby from my me. A white light shines in my eyes before my world turns to darkness.
About Stephen Ormsby
I was an IT professional for twenty years before deciding to lead a more creative life. I have always loved the idea of writing novels and had written four when Long Lost Song came along, demanding to be published.
This is my first but will not be my last.
I live in South Gippsland with my wife, two children and a mad cat named Smudge. I have travelled extensively, am an avid reader and enjoy listening to a wide range of music. I also play guitar really badly.
See the rest of the Pregnancy and Children Short Stories