Estimated reading time — 4 minutes
Simza stumbled through the dark forest, tripping over indiscernible tree roots in the darkness. She sensed that something was wrong with the baby, and was afraid, but she had no one to confide in. She had wandered away from the camp when she started feeling the sharp pains in her abdomen. Surely, it was not time yet. As far as she could tell, she was only about six months along.
Pitiko, the voivode of their band, had hastily declared her baby to be the bastard of Satan. None of the men in her kompania had confessed to fathering it, and she was not willing to admit who the real father was: an outsider that she had met in a town they had camped near during the summer. She had been fifteen at the time, and she could not even imagine what led her to be intimate with the stranger. He did not force himself upon her, but she felt strangely enchanted by him, as if he had cast a spell on her. This is, in fact, what she believed. Perhaps he was a witch or demon, and Pitiko had been correct.
Vadoma, the phuri dai, was the old woman who looked after the welfare of the group’s women and children. Simza had gone to her first, and she was willing to help; but once Pitiko proclaimed that Simza was the Devil’s consort, Vadoma would have nothing to do with her. Simza had gone to her earlier that evening when the strange feelings began, but the old woman shunned her.
Now, Simza was alone in the cold. It had started to rain also, but she did not care. The pain was so intense now that nothing else in the world seemed to matter. She was certain that she was losing the baby. Perhaps it had died already, and her body was rejecting it. She had seen other girls who had miscarried or delivered stillborn babies. One of them had even died. She was sure that she was dying now. She had never felt a pain so severe.
She collapsed under a shelf of rock that overhung the trail. She was out of the rain, but soaking wet and chilled to the bone. Her hair hung in strings and dripped water into her eyes, making them sting.
She quickly uttered prayers to Saint Sarah and the Virgin Mary, promising to devote her life to them if they would intercede and beg God for mercy on her behalf.
“Yov sasti Mari, pherdi dey,” Hail Mary, full of Grace. “Devel tusa; punidi tu mashkir jul’ende; I punido tire and’ako phel – Isos.” Blessed art thou among women, and the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
“San Mari, Isoseskiri day; mang Devles vash amenge papanenge; akana i ade amare meripaskiri hor.” Saint Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at our hour of death.
Over and over, she repeated the Ave Maria; but the pain increased. It finally became so intense that she could no longer speak. She did not even have the strength to scream. The rest of her body went numb, and she could not feel anything except the sting in her belly. Even the cold washed away.
Then, she felt as if something was pressing at her abdomen from the inside. Not the baby kicking. It did not feel like that. More as if it were straining against the walls of its prison. She lifted her blouse and looked at her stomach. Sure enough, there were protrusions that looked like tiny hands pushing from the inside. She had never seen or heard of anything like this before.
Without warning, she felt a gush of warm liquid between her legs and sluicing down her bottom. Her bag of waters had broken. The baby was coming. Was this what labor felt like? It was too soon. Panic and despair overtook her as she realized that she was alone in the forest and had no idea what to do, whether the baby was stillborn or not.
She fell back into the mud, no longer concerned about staying clean or dry. She was pushing and pushing, but it felt like the baby was trying to resist. It continued to push at her abdomen with its miniature hands, which were now pressing harder and forming more pronounced shapes on her belly.
A new feeling inside surprised her – as if something were tearing. Only, it felt like it was moving upwards, out of her abdomen and into her chest cavity. It was! She could now feel one of its tiny hands reaching up into her rib cage. It became hard to breathe, and her pulse began to pound – a deafening sound in her ears. Her vision began to fade, everything becoming bright white. Without warning, all her pain subsided. Her feelings of fear and dread died away. She stopped writhing and struggling and lay peacefully on the forest floor, the rain falling more lightly now, tickling her face.
Her movements weakened, muscles went slack, and her eyelids opened wider. The last thing she felt was peace. Her mind registered that everything had stopped, even her pulse. Her body was completely at rest. Everything had shut down; save for the creature that still struggled inside her, now desperate to escape. Seconds later, she was dead.
Simza’s body lay still on the forest floor, growing cold, skin drained of color. Something in her belly still struggled, its movements growing frantic. When Simza’s heart stopped beating, the creature’s supply of oxygen had been cut off. It was now asphyxiating. Like its mother, its movements grew weaker and weaker until they ceased altogether.
Simza’s blouse, now soaked through with rain and streaked with mud, was still pulled up, exposing her abdomen. A hole opened near her belly button, small at first. Just a pinprick of blood appeared as a needle-like spike lanced through the skin. A second tiny spike poked through inches away from the first. As the holes widened, more tiny claws came through, spreading the widening holes apart like pairs of lips parting, until both holes joined and split into one large mouth. The claws withdrew, and the movement in Simza’s belly waned. Then, slowly, a tiny hand thrust its way through the hole, reaching toward the weeping sky. The mamzer was finally free from its prison.
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