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Posted on 2007.06.12 at 03:49

My muse brought me a nightmare on the eve of my birthday (the mortality clock chimed on June 11th). Such a nasty gift too, with gruesome intimations of failure and mortality.

I found myself in a vast room with no windows or doors. Enormous, square slabs of steel covered the walls, anchored by screws with heads the size of my fist. The walls rose high above me, fading into a grey singularity. I crouched naked and shivering in the meat-locker climate, on a floor paved with the same steel slabs that lined the walls. Beside me, at the center of the room, a white marble ring enclosed a bubbling pool. The stone ring was a foot high, and if I stood inside the pool and stretched out my arms, my fingertips would just graze the sides. Freezing water filled the pool, boiling as if cooled by dry ice. Light filtered through the fog, and the wisps and bubbles scattered rays like spectral emanations. I wept, crippled by despair, as if I held vigil over the body of a lover. Above the gurgle of the pool I heard a hollow gong, resounding like a mechanical heartbeat. It pulsed through the steel walls and vibrated through my legs.

I leaned over the marble rim and plunged my trembling arm into the pool. The cold made my muscles seize as I fished for an unknown prize. Then I felt something slimy--a greasy bulb attached to a sponge in a crib of spidery limbs. I withdrew the object and sobbed when I saw that I held a stillborn infant, small enough to rest on my palm. Veins riddled the grey-pink flesh, and eyes the size of marbles gaped from the knot of its head. Its intestines grew outside its body, the wormy loops swollen inside a transparent membrane. The fingers were tiny claws, and instead of legs it had a tail like an oversized tadpole. A maggot nub and two peas marked it as a male.

My son!  I realized. Oh, God, my son!

I set the fetus on the floor and stared at the bubbling pool. The fog spilled over the rim, as if trying to shield the malformed child from my gaze. I thought it strange that a pool so large contained so small a body. Then I knew that the dead infant hadn’t slept alone. I reached into the pool again, and after grasping blindly felt another slick body. I pulled out another fetus, this one closer to term. It was perhaps eight inches long, its flipper legs pulled up against its withered torso. A black tongue poked from its mouth and its skull swelled like a boil ready to burst. Its eyes were inky pinpricks on pale rubber skin. Another boy--I kissed his brow and laid him on the floor beside his brother.

Twice more I reached into the pool and retrieved rigid stillborns, each one with less grotesque but lethal deformities. The third and fourth both were girls, the last perhaps six months along. I positioned them around my knees like the hour marks of a clock. I knew I was their father, but who had given birth to them? None of my poor children had survived their miscreation. Worse than a sense of loss, I grieved at my failure.

My stomach clenched as a stab of pain tore through my gut. I doubled over and clutched my hands over my belly, only to discover I was pregnant. Swollen vulva cut a path from my sternum to my pubis. My suddenly bloated stomach all but hid my penis. More muscle contractions followed. I sprawled on my back and gasped in pain. My water broke and I clenched my teeth as my body squeezed a child into the world. The vulva stretched, the head crowned, and I tugged the infant out of my womb. An umbilicus strung into me, tight as a bowstring. I wrenched it out and a flabby placenta plopped onto the floor. The baby kicked and shrieked. His hands clenched into fists. Another boy and this one alive! But his heart beat outside his chest, plastered like a leach over his breastbone. His genitals were abnormally large, less those of an infant than a pubescent boy. As I held him, his limbs went limp and his tiny, exposed heart shuddered and grew still. I massaged it with the ball of my thumb, terrified I’d crush it, but more afraid he would die in my arms. I leaned over and puffed air into his mouth. His cries had stopped, he was turning blue, and his fragile chest rose with my breath. Please, I prayed, let me keep this one alive!

Awake and lying in bed with the first rays of dawn cutting through the vertical blinds, I felt such grief that I can barely express it. I knew these children were my dreams, each one a book I hope to bring into the world. The icy pool is my unconscious, boiling over with the fog of my imagination. Each infant, each book, has emerged less deformed, but in the end goes back into the pool. They are subjects for forensic study, and later, perhaps, a funeral. The last child, the book I labor to bring into the world--how I fight to keep its naked heart beating. Another year has passed, and I ask myself, have I learned enough to keep this child alive? Will he thrive and finally find a home? If I am very lucky, as all parents hope, he will live in other hearts after I am dust.


wicked witch of the west
herkind31 at 2007-06-12 16:44 (UTC) (Link)
happy birthday!

after reading your post i feel a bit disconcerted to wish you happy birthday but i do feel it's in order.

sorry i didn't make it to goth night. i was sick earlier in the day and didn't have the energy to go. take care my sweet dark prince.
josiefiend at 2007-06-12 19:14 (UTC) (Link)
I think you're very close to developing something that's able to thrive on its own. I think one day soon you'll be a very proud parent.

Happy belated birthday, mister. It was great seeing you on Saturday.
C.Rae for Today
rae_too_serious at 2007-06-12 20:56 (UTC) (Link)
Happy Birthday.

There really are few things more intense than a nightmare. Even most real-life tragedies aren't as terrible as a nightmare when you're still inside of it.

I once dreamed that I'd lost my little sister while I was babysitting her - I didn't know where she went. It was her birthday, and my mom and grandmother (who is dead) was out shopping for her. My mom came home with lots of wrapped packages, including one shaped as a small coffin. A coffin wrapped in colorful paper. My mom ripped open the paper, then the coffin, and my little sister was inside, dead. Her heart had exploded. My mother presented my dead sister other birthday gifts, completely blind (in denial?) to the fact my sister was dead. She would unwrap them, explain what the gift was, ask if she liked it, and move on to the next. My grandmother watched proudly. The scene was too much for me. I jerked awake, and sobs wretched out of me. I never cry like that for physical life. It's interesting how stuck in our own brains we are.

Love you, Rob.
(Anonymous) at 2007-06-12 21:32 (UTC) (Link)


thats amazing rob.... you are a man of incredible creativity. a genius in my eyes, and one of the few i know that see the world as it really is. remarkably, i know how you feel. you are a wonderful writer. dont forget it.

love you buddy

Steve Prosapio
no_bull_steve at 2007-07-11 21:48 (UTC) (Link)


Hey Rob - long time no see!

Happy belated. Sorry to hear about your nightmare, but it's great that you're plowing forward through your fear.
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