Contest #140 winner 🏆

135 comments

Fiction

Can you hear me?


I remember being reborn a thousand times.


In the between-times, and at the very start and end of a life, the memories are strong. I remember the warmth of the sun on my crumpled wings as they unfold for one brilliant bright day of flight. I relive the elation of the chase and the sinking of my teeth into the throat of my prey- what a joy it is to satisfy physical hunger. I recall the agony of being prey, because of course, all things must balance out in the end. My heart has pumped cold blood through sinuous coils and thumped its warm-blooded rhythm from ocean depths.


Like you, I am the sum of a million experiences.


It’s true that the messy, bloody rebirth into the world as a human stuns me every time. The shock of union as soul re-joins body. The violent expulsion through the birth canal. The startling sensation of air on skin, after an age of ethereal floating. The instinctive gasp, that first mortal wail. And so it begins again, and I’m here at the start of a new life.


You and I are not here together by chance. Karma pulls souls with the persistence of a river to the place they belong. For those not yet enriched enough by suffering- well, fate always finds a way to make things fair. I’ve lived my share of troubled lives, and I’ve mostly learned how to transcend them by serving my purpose with patience and compassion. Karma is as undeniable as gravity, and we must exist in harmony with it. This is how the warp and weft of the universe is woven.


When it was time to begin again, I was drawn to my mother over all others. What pattern has been set out for us I can’t yet say. As she grew the miraculous mass of stardust and water that became my body, I surrounded her with my energy until she shone. Then I sunk, as sure as an anchor dropping, into the tiny infant form that will now grow and carry me through this life. I’m only a few days old and I’m waiting to be both teacher and learner. I’m eager to meet the other embodied souls whose lives are entwined with mine.


I sleep a lot. I dream of the coloured currents of bliss in the supernatural soup from which we come. I wake and the ancient sensation of hunger drives my little body into a rage. I'm not yet skilled in exercising the intricate pathways of my brain, and I squirm and grunt with frustration. My body feels cumbersome. These early days are both familiar and vexing, as I remember the restrictions and the pleasures of flesh. My new senses thrill at the smell and sound of my mother as she comforts me, and my immature eyes learn to focus on her face. I wonder at the journey she is taking and the role I will play.


Soon, all the memories from before will fade and I’ll be fully immersed in the point of time and space my body occupies. I’ll only know the world around me through my mortal senses. I’ll forget how sunlight felt on my wings, and will long only for the warmth of my mother’s body. The desire to satisfy hunger will only bring memories of milk, not blood. It will take time to relearn the workings of the natural world. I’ll have a simple, finite sense of self. I’ll no longer know where body becomes soul, and where soul becomes eternity.


Echoes of past lives will emerge, as they always do. Brutal urges to survive at the expense of others, perhaps. Humanity can be as ugly as it is sublime. We’ve all expressed violence and selfishness, especially in early lives. I’ll have no notion of where these forces come from, but I’ll be measured by how I channel them. I wonder if the wisdom I’ve gained will persist strongly enough in my subconsciousness to prevail.


But for now, having just arrived, still settling into this soft seedcase of flesh, I remember everything. I am wiser that my parents could ever comprehend, yet helpless to communicate a word of it to them.


My parents have placed me in your arms, excited to introduce us. They are anxious to check that that the crook of your fragile elbow is supporting my head. Your embrace is stiff and awkward, but it accommodates my weight.


He’s such an easy baby, my mother tells you.


We’re naming him after you, Dad, my father says. Who do you think he takes after?


You peer into my face, pull a doubtful expression. Well, I don’t know, you begin.


We gaze at each other, mutually intrigued, and my parents are struck by how we appear simultaneously serious and serene. They marvel at the beauty of the very old cradling the very young. We are alike, you and I. We have in common the love of my parents, and we hold a symmetry by being at the two opposing ends of life; bookends with a library of experience between us. You lift a sinewed hand and stroke the curve of my cheek.


I see how you are coming to the end of your journey. Your body has become a husk, ready to release you back to the universe. You’re starting to remember the unseen ocean of energy that surrounds us. I can sense your longing to return to it, your desire to be free again. The years went by so quickly, you think, as you almost remember eternity and understand that your brief time is no more than the blink of an eye.


But you’re still so strongly tethered to this life. The jangling currents of pain in your aged nerves serve as kite strings, constantly bringing you back to your body. The unfulfilled wishes and wants of the years weigh heavily in you. You are afraid, because you can’t yet see anything beyond. It makes you bewildered and resistant. You’re stuck.


This will be my first purpose then. To help you remember what happens next, to reassure you that you can let go as soon as you’re ready. I’m here now, and I’ll comfort my mother and father when you’re gone.


Can you hear me?


I don’t know who he takes after, you say. But I see an old soul behind those eyes.

April 03, 2022 14:47

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

135 comments

Riel Rosehill
14:52 Apr 12, 2022

Hi L, This was so beautifully written - such a wholesome story to read, and I like the motion that this old soul is not just one with old human lives behind but lives of other creatures. Is it weird that in the back of my mind I think the next time I look at a baby I will be so creeped out thinking they might be thinking of the taste of blood in a past life? Now that could be a horror story! I'm sorry I knw this is not what you intended, my thoughts are weird, your story is beautiful!

Reply

L. Maddison
17:18 Apr 12, 2022

Hey Riel! Thanks so much for your comments- not too traumatised I hope- the flip side of a vivid imagination, right? 😂

Reply

Riel Rosehill
16:42 Apr 15, 2022

Oh wow, a winner!!! Well done!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Shea West
18:59 Apr 16, 2022

Hello L., I found your story to be incredibly ethereal, with this prose that just made my body feel so safe. It's a testament to the writing when there's a visceral response while I read. I see why this one took the good this week. Welcome to Reedsy, I look forward to reading more of your work😍

Reply

L. Maddison
17:38 Apr 17, 2022

Hi Shea Thanks so much for your thoughts, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed reading it. I couldn’t believe I’d won to be honest! 😂

Reply

Shea West
17:39 Apr 17, 2022

I think we all have that feeling anytime we get recognition as writers🤦🤦🤦 It was a worthy win❤️

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Laura Eliz
15:38 May 03, 2022

Absolutely beautiful.

Reply

L. Maddison
16:57 May 03, 2022

Thank you Laur!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Susan Wilkins
18:19 Apr 26, 2022

Very nice. It is comforting to entertain and embrace the ideas you have presented here about life beginning and ending. I have also thought that babies know way more than we think, but can not express the knowing because they can not speak intelligibly yet. What a clever way to keep secrets.

Reply

Show 0 replies
11:08 Apr 21, 2022

Whilst I disagree with the concept, this story it well-written enough to be engaging nevertheless. And that's high praise I reckon :-)

Reply

L. Maddison
05:51 Apr 24, 2022

Hi Marcus, much appreciated, thank you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Felice Noelle
14:06 Apr 10, 2022

Such a flowing, lyrical story. Sometimes when I read, I get a feeling of resonance, like more than just relating to the story. Your tale really is one of those. Such a unique POV from that of a newborn. Scientists are finding new things about babies all the time, and who knows, maybe they have some sort of cognition. If they do, I think your writing aptly describes what a new "old soul" might be thinking. Thanks for a good read, provocative, too. Maureen

Reply

L. Maddison
18:10 Apr 10, 2022

Hello Maureen, I’m so glad you enjoyed reading this. I’ve often been fascinated by how wise and otherworldly newborns appear. So much to wonder about. Many thanks for reading.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michał Przywara
19:28 Apr 09, 2022

This is a fascinating story. I like the start/end of life duality between the grandchild and the grandparent. I also thought the line "Then I sunk, as sure as an anchor dropping, into the tiny infant form that will now grow and carry me through this life" was neat. Vivid. The spirit drops as an anchor, but the infant also is an anchor, at least for a time. Thanks for sharing!

Reply

L. Maddison
07:55 Apr 10, 2022

I really appreciate your thoughts- thank you!

Reply

Michał Przywara
17:06 Apr 15, 2022

Congratulations on the win!

Reply

L. Maddison
17:16 Apr 17, 2022

Thanks Michal!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Aida Muturia
16:41 Apr 17, 2022

I should have said exactly what this commentor has said about that anchor part. Whoosh! I pressed rewind! And then some. I mean, I am forever touched and immersed into this journey because of this story. The end was incredible! Thanks again. I'm bedazzled!

Reply

L. Maddison
17:18 Apr 17, 2022

Hello Aida I’m so glad you enjoyed reading this story. Many thanks for your lovely comment!

Reply

Aida Muturia
21:01 Apr 17, 2022

Ofcourse ❤️

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies
L.M. Lydon
13:46 Apr 04, 2022

This story verges on poetic. I like your third paragraph in particular and the end, where the baby/consciousness speculates on purpose is also spectacular.

Reply

L. Maddison
20:56 Apr 04, 2022

Hello L.M, thank you for your lovely feedback! I really appreciate it.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Adalynne Peak
18:10 May 26, 2022

i love this story-it is about trying to figure out who he takes after and they seen the old soul behind his eyes

Reply

L. Maddison
19:54 May 26, 2022

Hello Adalynne, I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for your comment :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Debbie Arnold
13:18 May 25, 2022

I am out here to speed this good news to the entire world on how I got help from Dr. Kachi a great lottery spell caster that will help you cast a lottery spell and give you the rightful numbers to win the lottery, I didn't believe it, at first but as life got harder i decided to take a try, I spend so much money on tickets just to make sure I win. until the day I met Dr KACHI online, which so many people have talking about that he is very great when it comes to casting lottery spell, i wasn't sure about it all but i just gave it a trial, beh...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Desiree Haros
00:28 May 19, 2022

I'm sure this sounds like a broken record to you, but your words flowed beautifully throughout this piece. I look forward to reading more of your work.

Reply

L. Maddison
19:23 May 19, 2022

Hi Desiree, If it’s a broken record I’m truly flattered to hear it- thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Graham Kinross
22:14 May 12, 2022

I see why this won. Great story.

Reply

Show 0 replies
06:12 May 10, 2022

This piece is really beautiful L. <3

Reply

Show 0 replies
19:15 Apr 29, 2022

I liked the tenderness shown and the awareness once again brought about how short time of life we all,creatures, animals or humans have. And the strong bond there is with the mother.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Libby Doe
18:17 Apr 28, 2022

This was brilliant. I love the concept of a newborn carrying such an old and wise soul, of promising to care for the man, then his parents. Beautifully done.

Reply

Show 0 replies
D M G
20:56 Apr 27, 2022

I really enjoyed this, even though I'm not a believer in karma and reincarnation. I liked how you paired birth and end of life with the grandchild/grandparent relationship. Very clever and indeed, very poetic. Well done! Worthy win.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Eliza Cole Smith
14:52 Apr 27, 2022

So beautiful you are great at wat you do!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Harnoor Kaur
22:04 Apr 26, 2022

Hi L! I have a question. How long did it take to know if you won? Thanks!

Reply

L. Maddison
07:39 Apr 27, 2022

Hello Harnoor, The winner is announced the Friday after the contest closes.

Reply

Harnoor Kaur
12:22 Apr 28, 2022

Okay. Thank you so much!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Heather Proft
17:04 Apr 24, 2022

Honestly, fantastic! Unique POV why humans act the way they do. I can’t help but think of the “pandemic” babies… Parents show how advanced their newborns are and how they know so much without guidance. In the cruel world we live in, many, much too young, children lose their lives. Are these “advance newborns” a soul that did not get the chance to forget all the years in between?

Reply

Show 0 replies
Kano Childs
16:10 Apr 21, 2022

This was such a great read! Beautifully done.

Reply

L. Maddison
05:43 Apr 24, 2022

Thank you Kano :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply