“Push, Claudia! Push!!” urged Helen, the midwife who was assisting me in Claudia and Brody’s cramped, almost claustrophobic, bedroom. The cervix was almost fully dilated and I could see the crown of the turnip-shaped head which, I noted with relief, appeared undamaged and was coated in a thatch of wiry black hair quite clearly passed on through Brody’s bloodline. Claudia’s labor had been mercifully brief and the baby’s vitals had remained strong and steady throughout. I was becoming cautiously optimistic.
“I’m so hot,” Claudia moaned. Glancing up, I noticed that her face was glistening under a thick sheen of sweat in the lamplight.
“She’s burning up. Open the window,” I snapped at Brody. He had been loitering uselessly in the corner of the room, too squeamish to watch, his skin having taken on the light-green hue of avocado flesh. Anyone would think he was in the vertiginous throes of acute seasickness.
“Ah, thank Christ,” he mumbled as he strode over to the window and flung it wide open. It was minus 15 degrees centigrade outside and the icy air rushed in like water through a breached dam.
“Not all the way, you fool!” bellowed Helen. “Just a crack for some air! What’s wrong with you?” Her aversion to Brody was so undiluted; I could only conclude that she had heard the same rumour about him that Marylyn had passed on to me.
“Okay, alright… sorry,” he whined like a scolded grade-schooler. He lowered the window to an inch or so from the sill and skulked back grumpily to the corner with his hands thrust deep in his pockets. Helen rolled her eyes at me and we turned our attention back to Claudia.
“Push, Claudia!” I said in the most encouraging and cheerful tone I could muster. “Almost there! Head’s coming and looking good! Push! Push!” She arched her back and balled the bed sheets, soaked in amniotic fluid, in tight fists. Throwing her head forward, slick hair streaked across her face, she screamed so loudly there was an abrupt rush of wings outside the window as a flock of startled birds hastily took flight from the surrounding trees and disappeared in a dark, panicked cloud across the night sky. She relaxed her hips and her eyeballs rolled back behind fluttering eyelids. The wriggling, bloodied mass came squelching out of the birth canal face down into my arms. The two arteries and one bulging vein in the yellowish, jelly-coated umbilical cord pulsated slowly and deliberately, continuing to nourish the newborn, like heavily sleeping serpents.
“Hooray!” cried Helen, beaming. “Brody, get over here!”
“Really?” he said, suddenly energized, as if jolted from a drug-induced stupor by smelling salts. He craned his neck over Helen’s shoulder with bewildered, incredulous eyes. My heart in my mouth, I gently turned the baby on its side, revealing the left side of its face. It was almost cherubic in its perfection.
“Awwwww…” cooed Helen, dotingly, as the infant continued to squirm in my hands, straining to take the first few excruciating breaths that would expel the last of the amniotic fluid from the lungs. I gently rolled the body to face upwards, cradling the back of the soft, fontanelled skull. There was a collective gasp and my hands began to tremble.
“What is it?” asked Claudia urgently. “What’s wrong?!” The right side of the face was collapsed from the temple to the maxillary arch as if something from within the cranium had sucked the flesh and bone inwards. The right eye was sunk so deep within the face it was almost hidden. The pinched and angry-looking purple skin that surrounded the crater stretched back the upper lip into a ghastly, toothless leer.
“It’s a boy,” I said, weakly, and gently placed the gurgling child on Claudia’s chest. She stared at Brody in horror as the placenta slithered out, as if alive, and settled into a black-red puddle of gore between her spread legs.
To be continued…
Part I is available at: https://requiemforthedamned.com/2013/06/30/deep-freeze-part-i/
Part II is available at: https://requiemforthedamned.com/2013/07/11/deep-freeze-part-ii/
Part III is available at: https://requiemforthedamned.com/2013/07/21/deep-freeze-part-iii/
Part IV is available at: https://requiemforthedamned.com/2013/07/23/deep-freeze-part-iv/
Part V is available at: https://requiemforthedamned.com/2013/08/06/deep-freeze-part-v/
Part VI is available at: https://requiemforthedamned.com/2013/08/14/deep-freeze-part-vi/
Part VII is available at: https://requiemforthedamned.com/2013/08/26/deep-freeze-part-vii/