In Serein

3-6-5 Alone With A Mewling Child

The child is cold and mewling. It is soiled and uncomfortable and my lady lies as she has lain all along, silently white and breathing deeply in her dissolution.

I am alone with a mewling child.

In the end, I go to the bathroom and fill the tub with water. I turn it warm, bring the child, holding it carefully by outstretched arms and drop it into the warm water, keeping its head so it may breathe, and undo the filthy rags that stain the water with their yellow green swirlings.

I disintegrate the rag, kneel by the side of the bath and look at the child with attention to detail for the first time.

I cannot say that I feel any particular bond to it although I recognise the patterns that construct it clearly enough; it is indeed, part of her and part of me.

It stops its noise and opens and shuts its pink mouth, opens its eyes and looks at me.

I do not know what it sees and it yawns and moves erratically which is helpful in the context of dislodging its dirt from around its legs, buttocks and strangely shaped genitals.

It seems to have no hair but on closer inspection, it does only it is so thin, so fine and pale as well as short that it is hardly recognisable. The same holds for its eyebrows. Its eyes are dark, slate grey diffused and it occurs to me to make a small light and move it about above us. The child tracks the light and I discern a level of satisfaction that it functions as one must presume such a one would.

I pull it from the water and tuck it under my arm. It starts to squirm and protest but I ignore it as I find a suitable drying cloth and hover it in midair to be able to wrap it up.

Then I take it back to her.

I lay it on the bed and gently turn her so she is on her side. Her heavy breasts fall onto each other and two pillows in her back and one behind the child accomplish a re-connection between the source and that which feeds off it.

I cover them both with the tapestry which is stiff and will allow the child to breathe beneath it yet keep it warm then I sit down again by her side and give her body strength and support and some of my energy in the absence of her being able to feed herself.

I am feeding her and she is feeding the child. It is a strange position to find myself in this day, to be sure.

Two hours or more away, on the road I can sense Catena and a whole gaggle of minds. I raise my eyebrows but I am too weary to even shake my head at the fact that he has brought the Serein children as well, deeming them unfit to take care of themselves and remain on their own in the ruin of her house.

I go to the study and sit quietly behind the desk until they arrive and become visible as a shambling procession on the drive.

I track each one and note with a degree of interest the presence of the woman who I had kept on the island. Catena is still wondering how she would volunteer for a task that had every village street fall deserted in the instant it was announced and shutters and curtains drawn to the daylight.

Perhaps it was fortuitous that I chose to set her free rather than dispense with her entirely.