A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. September's Theme: "Seeds Of Inspiration"
Volume 2 Issue 6 ISSN# 1708-3265
|Index Meet Our Staff Free Subscription Donations Come Shopping Advertising Archived Issues|
by Jennifer Monaghan
There is a legend in this town. It is said that if you stand at the very edge of the forest and wait for the moon to reach its zenith you can see them. Even in the warmth of bed, far from the forest walls, you can hear them. You can hear her. Her cry is piercing, monstrous. Her singing is majestic and haunting, her voice a skillfully tuned harp. Her laughter is reminiscent of the distant ring of church bells from the abbey. Her whisper tickles like rain on the cheek.
It is said that she was cursed from birth, although by who is a question few agree upon. Some say it was her grandmother, cursing the infidelities that created the child. Others say it was the midwife, my mother, who was rumoured to dabble in witchcraft (evidence to support this claim is lacking, although my mother did believe in the supernatural). And yet others say it was a mystical force, a sublime accident of sorts. My mother claimed it to be the shape-shifter, whose face can be seen lurking outside the window from time to time. How it happened matters not, for it is the simple fact that it happened, and the events that transpired afterward, which make up the story I am about to tell.
I wasn't the barest inkling when she came into the world. I learned of her beginnings from my mother who was in attendance at the birth. The child's father paced outside of the room, listening to the horrific screams that ripped through the air. Sweat poured from his brow, his face was red as blood. He wrung his hands anxiously as he paced. My mother saw him this way when she reached the household. She had heard the screams from our house a mile away, dreadful cries carried on the wind. As she approached the man he turned to her, grabbed her fiercely and tried to choke out an intelligible sentence. He was unsuccessful. My mother pried his fingers away from her arms and without a word she entered the house. The woman was on the floor in the middle of the kitchen. Blood poured from her groin, soaking her garments and the dusty floor. "Get her to the birthing room," my mother ordered the tending women, tersely. "But she refused, Ma'am," the youngest one said timidly, long strings of hair hanging down in her face and hiding her eyes. My mother lifted her chin, brushed the hair from her face and said firmly but kindly, "A kitchen is no place for a babe to be born, child. Carry her if you need to. She is in no position to refuse." The girl nodded. She recruited the aid of the two other women, maidservants, and they half-carried half-dragged the screaming and thrashing woman into a room at the back of the house. My mother rummaged throughout the house, gathering herbs and boiled water and as many towels as she could find.
"It's not human!" the woman screamed, grasping my mother's hair and pulling her face close. "I can feel its claws," she hissed. My mother met her gaze and could not help but feel afraid. "Get it out of me, please, it's tearing me apart!" "Hush," my mother said, placing her own fear aside and forcing an herb concoction into the woman's gaping mouth." This will ease your pain and help you to breathe." She dipped a cloth in warm water and laid it on the woman's head, soothing her with whispered words. The woman's screams died down to a whimpering. She reached up and grasped my mother's hand. "Please, just get it out, get it out of me." "I will, I promise. I will."
It was hours before the babe was born. The woman died halfway through from loss of blood and my mother was forced to go in with her bare hands and pull the squirming new life from the dead loins of it's mother. As she reached in her eyes widened with horror, for instead of feeling the soft flesh of a human infant she felt something entirely different, hard and inhuman, scaled, reptilian. Something pierced her finger and she bit her lip so as not to cry out in pain. For a moment she considered leaving the creature inside of the womb to die like its mother, but something compelled her otherwise and she reached in farther, grasping what felt like a limb, and pulled. As she extracted the creature from the womb, she felt the flesh grow soft and what emerged was no monster. Whatever had been inside of the woman before birth had transformed. Her skin was like alabaster, her hair the colour of night and thick upon her tiny head. Her mouth opened to cry and no sound came out. My mother cleared out the nostrils and mouth and waited, dangling the infant by a single foot, until finally her cry pierced the thick air of the room. It was a baby's cry and yet there was something vaguely inhuman about it, bringing a shiver to my mother's spine. She handed the newborn off to a maidservant with orders to swaddle it and find a wet nurse. She exited quickly. "Your wife is dead, your daughter is born," she told the man outside the door. Not waiting for a reply, she hurried home, the cries of a grieving widower haunting her dreams that night.
It was rumoured that he did not touch his infant daughter for the first three weeks following his wife's death. He did not look at her, did not acknowledge her. The maidservant had found a wet nurse immediately, but soon after found herself looking for another. "She bit me!" the wet nurse had claimed, and yet when the babe was examined for teeth, none were found. When the second and third wet nurses made the same claim, the maidservant took it upon herself to feed the child, as she was still nursing her own. Nursing the nameless babe resulted in bite marks that bled and stung, but the maidservant refused to let the child die. She kept quiet about it, telling only my mother, confiding that she thought there was something strange about the child, something unnatural. My mother examined the child on more than one occasion, finding nothing conclusive and yet always was left with a cold feeling in the pit of her stomach.
On the three-week anniversary of the child's birth and her mother's subsequent death, the widower crept into the room where his little daughter slept peacefully, with the intent to smother her with a pillow. He tiptoed over to the place where she slept and held the pillow above her. His eyes remained averted, he was afraid to look at her face. He knew that if he did, he would lose the willpower that had guided him to attempt this act. He started to lower the pillow, fists clenched tightly at either end. His breath was ragged and tears spilled from his eyes. "Ah, I cannot do it!" he exclaimed, collapsing against the cradle and weeping. He let go of the pillow; let it fall onto the sleeping infant, causing her to wake. A tiny cry escaped her lips and at this sound the man looked up and gasped. Swiping the pillow away, he scooped the infant up into his arms and held her tightly, gazing at her with a mixture of grief and wonder, pain and love. "What did I almost do?" he whispered, still weeping. "Will you ever forgive me, can I ever redeem myself to you, my precious child?" And on the wind was borne an answer, a soft and gentle whisper, "Yeeess." The maidservant, who had witnessed this event from the dark corner of the room, heard it, and she could see in the eyes of the widowed father that he had heard it too.
Please return next issue for Part Two of Jennifer's "Dragon's Daughter".
Jennifer is a writer and poet who has had a passion for the written word since childhood. Jennifer's poetry has been featured in The Prologue, an annual publication of the University of WI, River Falls, Body Mind Spirit Magazine and here at TSM. In addition to writing, Jennifer is currently pursuing pre-veterinary studies.
Copyright (c) 2005 by Timeless Spirit Magazine. All articles are the copyright of the particular writers and cannot be reprinted without their expressed permission. All rights reserved. International copyright laws prohibit reproduction of or distribution of this page by any means whatsoever, electronic or otherwise, without first obtaining the written permission of the copyright holder. We retain legal counsel to protect our copyrights.
Any advice given is for informational purposes only.
Any advice given is for informational purposes only.