(New novel. Will inch it’s way onto here chapter by chapter. Comments welcome, naturally. Blatant vindictiveness punishable by chainsaw).
As the surgeons sliced into the round mass of her belly it became apparent the girl wouldn’t survive the birth. Clamping open the flesh, swabs and suction liberally employed, they discovered a foetus of gross proportion, a monster baby that had long outgrown the comfort zones of its mother’s womb. Acting swiftly, with a casual precision befitting god’s gatekeepers, they worked at disengaging the baby’s misshapen head from the crush of the cervix. With grim effort the strong arms of the medical team prised the little man free. A blank, stretched face emerged, breaking through the wash of bloody fluid, eyes already open to the light, a raw and smear-stained warrior dragged blinking into life.
The boy cut out of her, the young girl’s blood pressure dropped and she arrested, her heart too worn and broken to struggle through the remaining surgery. Despite prolonged resuscitation she was pronounced dead within the hour, leaving little option but to close her up and deactivate the life support.
‘These things have a way of evening out,’ the resident surgeon shrugged, scrubbing down.
‘And to think I never once had you down as a Buddhist,’ the anaesthetist replied.
They laughed. The operation had been a calculated risk, yielding at least partial success. Later that night they ran a sweepstake as to the weight of the baby. The anaesthetist triumphed at around 19lbs 4oz, although many of the nurses suspected a fix. In the next-door ward, separated from his mother by a transparent PVC screen, the little man let his oversized head loll to the right, stark green eyes focussed unwaveringly on the lifeless girl who lay stretched out and covered by a blue surgical bib. Sensing movement, a young nurse reached down and hauled him up to the soft warmth of her chest, rocking and cooing with heavy breath in his face. The lifeless girl disappeared from view, suddenly hidden by the crook of the nurse’s arm, and the little man let his head roll back in place, his mouth a rounded O from which, as yet, no sound escaped.
During the next few weeks Lupa remained in the hospital for observation. The staff had named him Lupa on a whim, a muddled approximation of Lucinda and Pauletta, two young nurses who administered the majority of his care. The name, while initially ridiculed, was eventually accepted as an apt and quite inspired choice. Something in the soft oval breathiness of the word suited Lupa’s flat face and bowed tubular limbs. Even his eyes seemed in keeping with the new name, unmoving pools of green light, empty of need or desire, moist but never crying and very rarely closed. It was these luminescent orbs and not the bulbous head or sprawling body which most unnerved hospital staff. A cold unquestioning stare, never glassy but penetrative, as if with the ability to dissect or disintegrate at will.
Lupa’s accelerated growth in the womb had created a plethora of health problems and hitherto unanswered questions. With scant medical records of the girl and no further knowledge as to the baby’s father, the doctors estimated that Lupa was in fact 2 months premature, and yet nothing in either the tissue samples or those taken from the reproductive organs of the mother suggested anything extraordinary. Even the DNA failed to offer an insight as to the enormity of this 7-month foetus, or how such a slight, malnourished girl of only 12 or 13 had managed to carry this burden for so long. Despite extensive inquiries, neither the hospital or social services found any trace of the father, nor did any friend or relative volunteer to claim the girl’s body. It was sad, everybody agreed, but it wasn’t unusual and those involved were heedful of maintaining a professional detachment. A state burial was arranged with minimum fuss and expense, and while there was no one to attend the funeral, the hospital directors and chaplain saw to it that the ceremony wasn’t too desperate in its brevity.
Following the requisite hymn and reading the sense of emptiness was tangible, a heavy silence eked from the smooth worn stone of the knave ceiling, the air absent of familiar sniffles and murmur. Given the paucity of space in the crematorium and the strict guidelines of those in neighbouring boroughs, there was no corner available for any mark of remembrance. The vicar, approaching retirement and ever more prone to acts of benevolence, arranged for the girl’s ashes to be scattered around the foot of an old diseased apple tree which, despite its dank patch of shade, still struggled into annual flower at the rear of the chapel. Alone one afternoon, plagued by a strange ache of relief and guilt, he hastily trod the young girl into the soil, ensuring that any subsequent dust disappeared beneath the mush of blossom fall.
Two months into treatment, Lupa’s health and breathing had improved sufficiently to consider moving him from the hospital. While the doctors succeeded in stabilising his weak heart and overblown lungs, he still possessed an overall reediness from his confines in the womb, warped sections of bone and muscle stretched or bent beyond function. The nurses fed him from a bottle which he somehow managed to grip between his own balled fists, but his appetite was small and he seemed disinterested in any form of sustenance or play. It was hoped that he would eventually grow into his body, nurture the natural strength of his size, but for now he was still a twisted weakling, his flat round head flopping hazardously side to side, independent in its weight. As Lupa was delivered into the jurisdiction of social security, the various hospital staff gathered for a brief goodbye. Some remarked that the boy was mute, yet to cry out or giggle, others pointed to the fact that they had never seen him blink. What remained of his mother – clothes, jewellery, a torn, smudged passport photo of her staring moodily skyward – they packed into a small holdall, labelling it LUPA, and handed it to the community nurse. Thus bag and baby jolted down the concourse, beyond the car park and out of view, both past and present gripped in the arms of yet another chlorinated stranger.
(copyright © crushedegg 2009)