At St. Mary’s Hospital little miracles happen everyday. On this particular night a little miracle was in the process of happening. A child was indeed being born unto the world. What a wonderful world it is to have everything conspire and work successfully toward such a blessed beginning.
The Seraphim, Laila, knew the soon to be born baby long before it was planted in his mother’s womb. The Father had set it apart, and Laila grew to know the unborn child. They had had a millennium to get to know each other. Laila was very fond of him. At the time of the child’s birth there was a great anticipation, but also a certain apprehension. How exciting it was to come full circle once again to a time of birth. And yet there was uncertainty about how things would turn out.
“Ah, but that is the best part,” Laila said to her friend. “The Father made all the delicate, inner parts of your body, and knit you together in your mother’s womb. Be still, for you are His handiwork, and will do good works.” This satisfied Laila’s friend as he was pulled towards the light of the hospital room.
Laila watched the doctor and nurses. Excitement was in the air. The soon to be dad held his wife’s leg and encouraged her breathing. A brief complication made the doctor and nurses demand she stop pushing. A dreadful danger occurred and the doctor worked hard to free the baby’s neck from the umbilical cord. No two births are exactly the same, Laila thought. When the baby began to crown the expectant mother cried out in pain, but the pain of her labor would only be momentary, for her hour had come.
A beautiful baby came into the world. Unseen Laila approached her friend and gently placed her index finger upon the baby’s lips. “Shhhhh!” She whispered. At that instant the baby forgot everything it knew, all the secrets of the cosmos it had learned, of life and death.
“Here.” The doctor placed a pair of scissors into the new dad’s hand.
“What do you want me to do with this?” he said.
“Cut the umbilical cord,” the doctor directed.
Delighted, the new dad took the scissors. He had to press down three times to cut through it. Laila smiled. The couple took the newborn, now wrapped in fresh warm linen, into their arms and breathed together for the first time as a family. All their woes were absent. Only joy was in their hearts as they held each other and their newborn son.
A shadow caught the corner of Laila’s eyes.
“I know you are there,” she said.
The fluorescent lights flickered and a sense of dread filled the room. Laila snapped her fingers and instantly that dread dispersed as quickly as it had come.
“Do not play with me Demon! I know your tricks from time immemorial.”
“Woe to you Angel.” The Demon came forth full of spite and anger. It’s eyes were as embers shrouded in a veil of black soot.
“The child is under my protection, Cambion.”
The Demon recoiled at hearing its name. “We, both, have jurisdiction over the human child. I have come to claim her.”
“It is a boy. And you’ve no right to him, nor any child.”
“I have the right to Inveigle.”
“Your persuasions have no hold upon new Innocence. Do you not think I hadn’t noticed your attempt to usurp the child before it’s delivery?”
“Begone!” Laila commanded.
The Demon stood its ground and grit its teeth. “I will have my prize. If not now, then sometime later. We are patient.”
“I say, Begone! And know this, wherever a worthy child, his angels are close. And the Father stands near!” Laila’s light illuminated and Cambion slunk back into the shadows with a hiss. The new family held each other with love. Never more did a man and woman deserve the happiness a child brought. Surely the child will grow in their good stead, for they have much to teach, and in turn the child will not tarry from their good lessons when he comes of age.
The Demon Cambion sat crouched upon the woman’s chest. She was pregnant and this sent him into a frenzy. He had whispered thoughts into her ears early in her pregnancy, and when this failed to destroy the unborn child he tried her husband. This too fell flat. The insufferable couple were determined to bring about this parasite. He called upon Gyllou, and Abyzou.
“Steal into her room like a snake. Raze the animals. Dry up her milk and strangle the darling,” they said. Their consultations gave Cambion new fire. With some effort he pushed and pulled and manipulated the physical world until he secured the umbilical cord around the child’s neck.
What is born of flesh is flesh. What is born of spirit is spirit. Now Die!
To Cambion’s dismay the doctor was one step ahead of him. The doctor expertly slipped the umbilical cord above the baby’s head and off his neck. The mother cried as he pulled the baby out. Into the shadowy corners of the hospital room Cambion hid. He knew what was coming. The bright light of his adversary, Laila, approached and he withdrew further into the darkness. He watched and plotted, always contriving new plans to disrupt life. Laila placed her finger upon the child’s lips and brought about the philtrum, the little nook above the baby’s top lip.
Cambion twisted and gnashed in his hate, and found that he was repeating the word “No” over and over again in a low searing pitch. To the man holding his bitch’s leg, he thought, What are you begetting? And to the woman giving birth, To what are you giving birth? And then the Angel called him forth.
Summoning all his strength he stepped into the light and demanded the child be given to him. He grinned maliciously when the Angel took note of his dark works. Laila bid him to depart, but Cambion was confident he would get what he sought. Seared by her light he took his leave.
Back in the shadow realm he retreated. Time is nothing. Gyllou and Abyzou, the demonesses of miscarriage, and infant mortality, were as patient as he. Together, they would snuff out the child. What hope. He would continue to whisper in the mother’s ear. He’d make her see the child as grotesque, as if it wasn’t hers. As though the child had been switched with a Changeling. The child would grow not like other children. It would remain small and hairy, and it’s eyes would hold knowledge not of this world.
“I will pierce the child's feet night after night, and make it wail and wail, until the mother comes undone,” Gyllou said.
“Like the dark sea it’s belly will be deep as a bottomless pit. It will not sleep. I shall afflict it with fever to cause deafness, blind it with pins, and make the mothers milk as poison for it to choke on,” Abyzou said.
Cambion danced. He’d use poverty to make them feel the child a burden. He would have the nipple plucked from the toothless gums and the brains dashed to the floor.
“What of the father?” Gyllou asked.
“What of him? He will work. Every time he comes home the little tyke will drive him away. There will be no respite for him at his homestead. He will turn to drink. Every time he leaves it will be for longer periods of time. The wife will feel abandoned.” Cambion laughed.
“Yes, isolate her. Make her feel alone,” Abyzou said.
“Every time he comes home he will have the stink of inebriation. The wife will make demands as a harpy. Her mood swings will annoy him and she will cry at odd times. Moreover, she will forget simple tasks like turning off the stove, or accidentally leave the faucet on. If the child should grow to four or five years the demands will only grow more. It will never be enough.” Cambion sat down with the others in a circle. He smiled at his musings. “At last their lack of intimacy will push him to the brink. Rest assured he will not stay with a shrieking child and a nagging wife.” The others applauded. “When the time is ripe, the mother will stand in her kitchen, look at her little goblin, and then put it into the oven.”
On the day of her delivery Maya sat on her hardwood floors, like a Buddha meditating, when her water broke. This easy yoga pose was supposedly good for her hips. The promise of yoga, she learned, was stress relief, increased energy, and a safe way to prepare her body for the birth. Honestly, though, she just felt tired. Working call centers while finishing her college degree was draining in itself. Try doing it while pregnant. She was eager to have this child and get it done. The yoga classes had been a gift from her friend Adelphie, who seemed more excited than she did about the whole pregnancy thing. She guessed she should be grateful though. Adelphie was a great support.
Everyone gave her advice. They told her things about their own pregnancies, their complications, their weird cravings, their crazy libido. And the Internet made it worse. Everything just made Maya more apprehensive. The pain of course worried her most. It didn’t matter what they said, how the pain is momentary and that you forget about it as soon as the baby is out. Pain is pain. And the best pain is none.
“I think it’s because when they put the baby immediately on your chest, and you get to hold it for the first time, it creates a Halo effect. It outweighs the pain,” her husband said.
A Halo effect, I like that, she thought. Her husband, Abraham, or Abe as he preferred, never knew how comforting his words were. This off hand remark was one of the many surprises about him that made her constantly interested and curious. He was no stranger to hard work, and was pulling in a lot of hours (For the baby, he said) when she was brought to hospital.
About 7 weeks into the pregnancy they were having drinks on their balcony when she told him the news. This is when Maya started having doubts about Abe and the pregnancy. He stood there silently looking out over the evening sky. Nothing could penetrate his stoic resignation.
“I guess I should marry you, then,” Abe said, finally breaking the silence.
Maya burst into tears. It was the last thing she had wanted, to entrap a man in this manner. She said as much and Abe just shook his head.
“You didn’t do this by yourself, now did you. I played a big part in it too. And I have to admit, it was very nice by the way.”
“I thought you’d be mad,” she said, and they embraced.
Three weeks later they got married, but Maya barely saw Abe at all during that time. He worked long hours at the plant, came home exhausted, and slept all weekend. A couple of times the boys took him out for drinks and he’d come home and pass out. One afternoon after her college class she ran into a student protest. Students were always fighting for one cause or another. On this particular afternoon they marched holding signs that read: Keep Abortion Legal; My Mind, My Body, My Power. The one that struck her was the one that said, Never Again, with a symbol of a wire clothes hanger.
Maya shuddered. But the thought lingered. An abortion. This could be the answer. She wouldn’t have to put her college degree on hold, and Abe would be off the hook. A day later the thought festered. She found herself at a clinic feeling lost, as she perused some pamphlets. A couple of girls were seated in the waiting room talking. God, they must be only 14 years old.
“You gotta use protection,” one of the girls said.
“Tommy say it don’t feel as good.”
“Christ, Tricia! It’s your second time here. How many times are you gonna do this?”
The secretary asked if she could help her, but Maya quickly fled out the door as another girl, who looked twelve, entered with a hard looking woman.
At home, she waited until Abe arrived and confided in him about what she was feeling, and what she saw. Abe listened pragmatically.
“I’ll admit,” he said, “I thought about it too. But knowing that I’d never taken the time to discover who this little person is would destroy me.” He touched her belly.
“I feel so ashamed,” she said, and wept.
“Don’t be. I think the real trial is only just starting.”
From then on Maya and Abe discussed everything. All the ‘what ifs’ they explored together. The wedding came. Adelphie hit it off with one of Abe’s friends. Abe looked like a real gentleman in his tuxedo.
The first pangs of contractions had started before they arrived at St. Mary’s.
“Where is he? He needs to be here.” Maya said. ‘He’s the father.”
Adelphie pulled out her cellphone and immediately sent Abe a text: Baby on the way. St Mary’s hospital. Get here now!
“I don’t know if I can do this.” Maya cried as Adelphie helped her into one of the hospital wheelchairs.
“Well it’s too late for that now. You are going to have this baby whether you want to or not.”
“Text him again, text him.”
Despite the fatigue at having worked a double shift Abe finally showed up just in time.
“I’m here. I’m here,” he said, hands held up in the air with his cellphone riddled with text messages. The doctor and nurses worked very hard. When the child uttered its first cry of life, and when Maya held her baby boy for the first time, the Halo effect took place. All the pain was gone. She could have stayed there forever with her baby in her arms, and her husband and dearest friend by her side.