WARNING!! Possible triggers: child loss, genetic/fetal illness, miscarriage, spousal loss.
This 11th-century statue is held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is called Shiva as Lord of Dance (Nataraja), and melds in one image Shiva’s role as “creator, preserver, and destroyer of the universe and conveys the Indian conception of the never-ending cycle of time.”
Sometime before the anesthetic began to swaddle her in silence, Reena Estling let her eyes travel up the wall to what should have been a benign painting of the sun skimming across still water. Instead, she saw flaming arrows. A mortal struggle of two elements—light and liquid, each comfortable in its skin of confirmed and utter puissance.
I am become death radiated from her core, impaling the air and the hospital bed equally and shooting shafts through the room. As she felt herself being lifted, she wondered how the thought did not maim her halcyon attendants. The thought became a chant, reminded her of Daddy’s horse cantering amid the snow at Christmastime. Quarterhorse snorts and bells bit through layers of memory, and she felt herself nickering.
An unbroken line of lights and currents from opened doors caressed her mind, and the rock-a-byeing sent her deeper into herself.
To where David still was. He wouldn’t mind the gown hanging gauntly on her frame. “My lovely girl” he’d called her well until the AARP offers began to pile up under the roll-top of the secretary desk they shared.
And then she relived the settling in. It was a plush sofa of a married life.
Has it been that long, my love? he beckoned. She couldn’t remember for her life when she first began to notice him changing. First it was innocuous: the keys with the Cardinals bat, his brown leather gardener’s gloves that were worn through, from use, at the fingertips. It evolved to eclipse memories of their honeymoon 51 years earlier on Key West.
Come with me. She heard David’s urgings mingling with sea sounds as if both were imprisoned in a conch shell. Walk with me, my lovely girl.
He was barefoot, but the beach bore no prints.
I can’t. She hoped he understood. She had to put this right.
Reena didn’t even have time to let her neighbor and best friend, Maryanna, know that Dr. Roberts had prepared her for an emergency procedure.
How can you truly explain such an extraordinarity? A stone baby. Reena made Dr. Roberts repeat it five times. He’d used the medical term, lithopedion, to name her little mystery. “You have a calcified fetus in your abdomen, and we’ve got to excise, uhm, it to give you some pain relief.”
O, god! My immune system has mummified my own child!
David should have been with her for this. She needed him there, for he had wanted a child so fiercely.
She wasn’t sure if the memories were balkanizing, each clawing to come to the top of her mind, or if the medication was making hashish of her mind. Now David’s fingers were ash, laced tightly around her right wrist. He was almost pleading, pulling her toward the noise. The next moment, the nurse was doing her best to fix a mask of calm across her own hovering face.
David, we have a child. He needs me. I cannot leave with you today.
Reena wondered if she’d feel it when their son was taken. She’d known David was gone before Sandy, the Memory Care nurse, had called her. That morning she’d woken to a chill nestled in her chest, some forlorn egg. Such sorrow had not surfaced since they’d miscarried a child 46 years ago.
Son, my body has been a shrine to the promise of you, praying for you. And now I learn I am a mausoleum. Please forgive me for letting you go. She flung the thought out like shaking a bib free of cracker crumbs, hoping it would catch some cloud, some thing in the process of going-away-forever.
This is a fiction piece, or flash fiction if you prefer, that I wrote for a particular prompt, but it didn’t catch fire (so to speak). I hope you took something beneficial away from reading this story and will consider sharing or reading this blog again sometime; I typically post new fiction (or occasionally poetry) at least once a week. And I always welcome your feedback to improve my writing; I hope I can offer you likewise if you’re a writer. My best regards to you.