Stillborn

Stillborn

A Story by Graham Swanson
"

Is it possible to perform a reverse-abortion?

"
The driver pulled up to the curb where Cassidy told him to stop, then told her to have a good night. She didn't answer, but dipped her head before getting out in case anyone would see her. The driver had no clue what she would want in the Undergrowth, but understood why a woman like her wouldn't want to be seen in the dank of Angel City. She kept wide plate sunglasses over her face, and wore veils over her head. For once she even kept the jewels and custom tailored clothing kept away for something more humble (to her). A blouse and skirt with a fatigue trench coat concealing her pregnant midriff. She wore ruby red heels that clacked against the wet pavement as she stepped from the car into the misty streets. The driver asked if he should wait outside, his voice shaking as shadows murking among the mist seemed to stop and eat up the sharp black limousine with their eyes. Cassidy leaned back into the car and told him to wait, then shut the door. Part of her wished she had never involved the help. She wanted to keep this secret, and the help liked to gossip. She opened the door once again to tell the driver that if he keeps quiet about this adventure then she would slip him some extra money when the night came to an end. He agreed and she shut the door again. With one hand on her purse and the other on her engorged womb she went down the sidewalk, looking up for street signs.
Being in the Undergrowth made her feel like cold water had been poured over her. The sound and smell of putrid water rushing beneath the gutters, the steam rising from the manholes, the spilling bags of garbage blowing from the alley ways and the dilapidated buildings made her wish she was back in the limo. But there was no turning back. This is the place she had to go. Rain poured down the gutters onto the sidewalk. Only one street light every few blocks shined, and it flickered, causing the yellow haze it created in the fog to remain dim. The sidewalk tilted and broke open. Her heel got caught in a crack, and she would've broke an ankle if her foot hadn't simply slipped out. She knelt over to latch it back, hating herself for being foolish enough to wear heels to a place like this. Under ordinary circumstances she never would have come, but it's where her friend had told her the only Doctor that could solver her problem lived. She had been so relieved so have a solution, but she felt numbness when none of them offered to come down with her. She didn't blame them, but wish they would've given more more accurate description as to where the place was. Cats ran from an alleyway she approached. A man hunched over in rags waited by the corner but made no notion to notice her. He reeked of urine and booze. She felt sick looking at him, but thought better of it.
“Excuse me,” She asked him. A single green eye appeared from a mass of black and gray hair. “I'm looking for Ashgabat's House of Smoke.”
The eyes didn't move or blink from the net of hair, but a long arm stretched from the rags and pointed down the alley. The end of it seemed to fall further and further away, but she she could see his black finger nail on a short stair case leading into a basement. She thanked him and walked away, shuttering away the feeling that his eye remained on her as she turned her back and walked to the stairs. She took hold of the railing and she descended with caution. Each step felt uneven and loose under her feet, though in the dark she couldn't see for certain. A rusted metal door stood at the bottom. A slot cut into the middle covered by a slide. She rapped on the door until the slide opened and a pair of black eyes appeared. She told the pair of eyes that she had business with Ashgabat. The slide closed, four locks hollowly clacked through the door, then it opened. The man didn't look at her, and stepped aside for her to enter.
She kept her chin up as she entered. She walked down a dark hallway towards a mantel with a row of candles burning above another set of stairs. Her heels thudded against the hardwood floor. Chills went up her spine as the door creaked shut and slammed. The cold drift passed her and dissapeared, leaving only dry air and the smell of smoke. Faint fumes rose from the stair case. She took off her sunglasses to see better before she descended. The way down seemed long and black before orange light on layers of stonework.
As she made her way down, the chamber revealed itself. Lit by torches and candles, smoke rose and twirled along the dark corners of the room and fell flat against the floor. A few wooden tables scattered around, each with a candle and sets of pipes. Hooded folk gathered around them, silently smoking. At the far side was a bar and a raghead cleaning glasses. She watched herself in the mirror behind him to make sure she looked like a proud woman, not one confused as to what time period she had got herself lost in. The raghead stopped wiping the glass when she asked for his attention. His dark eyes sunk deep into his head, and the wrinkles and cracks along his face told her the story of a long life.
“I'm looking for Ashgabat.” She told him.
“In the back.” He mumbled to her.
She looked around the chamber, and noticed one man at a table by himself, counting money and smoking. He kept his hood down, revealing a hairless scalp,and a scarred face. She came closer, taking notice of the white marks running down his features. His nose bent inward, and dark rings circled his eyes. He looked up and grinned as if he knew she would be showing up.
“Are you Cassidy Dawnson, wife of Leland Dawnson the Third?” He asked, his voice rough and metallic, like a winding clock.
“Yes. I came to see Ashgabat.”
“Here he is, my lady. I can't say we've had the pleasure of hosting a woman of your substance before. Please, take a seat.”
“I'll stand, thank you.”
“Fine with me. So Mrs. Dawnson, what can I do for you this evening?”
Her hands wrapped around the bulge in her abdomen.
“I need a doctor. I hear the only one that can... help me knows you.”
“You've come to see Dr. Fairfax?” He blushed with joy some surprise. “First...” He pushed forward an ash tray, and rapped his fingers against the table. Each finger wore a jeweled ring. She reached into her purse, and dug around, picking up every ring and jewel that she had brought. She dropped them into the ashtray, and watched nervously as he picked each one up and inspected them.
“Is that enough?”
“Oh yes, this will do. Now, Mrs. Dawnson, I have to know that we can trust you. After all, there is no turning back once you've made this decision.”
“Please, anything, I need this done.”
“How old are you?”
“I'm twenty three.”
“I love the intrepid deeds of the young.” He laughed. “How old is Mr. Dawnson?”
“Fifty-four.”
“I'm sure his wealth didn't distract your love for him. What happens if you don't get to see my friend Fairfax tonight?”
“He's been trying for so long to have a son. He has no children, and he's already divorced three women.”
“Is it a girl?”
“No, it's a boy... he died this morning.”
“How do you know?”
“A mother knows. Please, if he finds out he'll leave me for another. This is my only choice.”
“I see.” He set the ring in his hands back into the ashtray and dumped the contents into his pocket, then stood up. “Follow me.”
He lead her to farthest corner of the chamber, to a wall of black. He drew out a lynard with dozens of keys, and reached with one into the darkness. A lock clicked, and a thin light cut through the dark and widened as he opened a door to a tunnel. Wind moaned as cold air pushed is way up. Two flickering torches lined the way down a decline. Ashgabat went down first, taking one torch from the wall and not looking back to see if Cassidy followed. She stepped in after him, bending her neck to keep it from sinking into the dark ceiling where she imagined low rafters. Dusty sheets of plywood covered the floor, and strange alien markings labeled the walls. She could hear rats scurry away from Ashgabat's kicking feet, but Cassidy only saw their feces and paw prints in the dancing orange light. She tried to keep her watch on Ashgabat's twisting black robes. He didn't slow down for her. A moment in which she would take to notice the unfamiliar characters or chase a noise, Ashgabat would disappear down into the dark depth of the tunnel. Cold air filled the tunnel, and it grew colder the further she dug. Her heels sank into the soft plywood. Smells of sawdust and raw earth filled the space. Like a grave.
Her steps became heavy. She took slow breathes trying to remain oriented, but she knew that the tunnel extended with a declining angle, slightly but certainly she had sunk beneath the sewers. She held onto the knot of flesh hanging from her body, wondering how these men had managed to dig, how long it took, how they got away with it. She used to hear that the Chinamen in China town had dug a network of tunnels to smuggle drugs through, but nothing like this. Not this deep, not this old. A sprinkle of dirt rained on her. She muzzled her hair trying to get it out, but only more came down. Ashgabat stopped, placing the torch onto the wall. As Cassidy drew closer she saw that he stood before a cellar door, bound in chains and padlocks. Ashgabat reached into his cloak and pulled out the ring of keys, and then bent down to unlock the door. Each one had a different key, and Cassidy began to shiver.
Ashgabat looked back, half his face concealed under the hood, the other in the flickering light of flame.
“Dr. Fairfax is a good man...” he assured her. “I've known him for decades... comes from good blood. He tells me... that his family was among the first to bring slaves to America.... though he's never disclosed how his family accumulated such wealth... he likes to stay down here... he pays his rent so I don't ask questions.”
Once he finished Ashgabat took hold of the handle and pried the door open. The rust creaked as white light, cold wind, and the smell of anesthetic spilled into the tunnel. Cassidy had to hold her hair back so it wouldn't blind her. The screeching of a saw buzzed beneath, paused and muted by the sound of a running engine before the screeching came back as something more was pushed through the blade.
“Follow me,” Ashgabat beckoned as he flew down the stairs into the luminous chamber.
Cassidy took caution as she approached. The sawing stopped, only pipes pumping and water dripping and equipment humming came from the room. From the stairs she saw white tiles, reflecting white orbs of light hanging from the ceiling. She went down, unable to see Ashgabat, but with a scene revealing before her as the steps whined beneath her feet. Lights hung from the black ceiling, slowly swinging to and fro. The white linoleum covered every square of the floor. Stainless and perfect, and reflected the lights so well that each step she was sure would land her foot in a puddle of spilled water only to clack against solid surface. Curtains of fogged plastic divided the chamber into rooms. Stains of red, blue, green smeared across them.
Cassidy crossed her chilled arms, wishing that she had worn something warmer. The cold made her body feel frail, as if her bones were glass. She turned, looking in any direction for a sign of Ashgabat so she asked aloud if anyone was down there. Her eyes caught onto something moving a shadow emerging from the curtains. A latex glove reached from a fold in the plastic, and pulled it aside to reveal and older man, his bland scalp and skin white and wrinkled. He wore thick plate glasses that covered his cheek bones, and glared in the fluorescent lights, distracting from the overbite that hid his chin behind a row of teeth. His white jacket fit nicely over him, with a red tie tucked underneath and a clipboard tucked under his arm. He stood up straight, and though age and weariness scarred his face, he carried himself with a comforting professionalism as he approached Cassidy.
“Mrs. Cassidy Dawnson?” He held out his hand for her to shake. She stared as his gloved hand, but didn't move, so he let it drop back to his side. He spoke with a dreamy steadiness, a lullaby rising to its optimal strength to let her know that he meant business. “I am Doctor L.P Fairfax. Ashgabat tells me that you're in need of my services.”
“Yes, I have a problem... my friends, they're the only ones that know, they told me about you... that you might be able to help.”
“I see,” Fairfax examined her. “How long has your child been dead? I know it's painful, but time is of the most crucial essence, if your asking me to do what I think you are.”
“This morning... please, do anything you can.”
“This morning? Good. You exercise? Smoke? Eat balanced meals?”
“I don't smoke. I jogged three miles every day, and I don't eat meat, but have extra servings of vegetables with protein.”
“Very good. Come with me.”
Fairfax turned his back and led Cassidy through a plastic curtain to a small operating room. A mattress strapped onto a table awaited her. Fairfax gestured for her to sit on it as he pulled up a chair. She kept her hands in her lap, as the doctor leaned forward on one leg. She could see the groundwork across his brow, jaw, and smell the must of his age. White hairs dangled from his chin, and once close enough she could see a pair of heavy yellow eyes under the glasses.
“Now, Mrs. Dawnson, please don't be nervous. I am a legitimate medical professional. See those diplomas?” He pointed to three frames and a plaque over a counter hosting rows of glass jars with masses of flesh floating inside. “Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford. That plaque? From Saddam Hussein himself for my work in his research facilities.”
“Did you say Saddam Hussein?”
“I've been all over the world,” He laughed. “I met my good friend Ashgabat while working in Iraq, then we traveled to all corners. Bhutan, Nicaragua, Russia, I've even met your husband. I want you to know, that I too have suffered the loss of a child. The pain that the mother and I felt was unbearable. Since then I've dedicated my life to finding a way to reverse the process of in utero death.”
“How is that possible, doctor?”
“Simple. I have access to tools, methods, and medicines that are prohibited in most countries. Since Ashgabat trusts you, then so do I. First, you will be sedated. Second, I will operate on the fetus while it remains in the womb. Third, I will sew you back shut, apply antibiotics and bandages where necessary, and by morning you will be with Mr. Dawnson with a healthy, living, boy growing inside of you.”
“You have done this before? It works?”
“Yes. I'm so close to uncovering this mystery. I believe I can revive your child. Now as Ashgabat has probably told you, there isn't any going back.”
“Yes, I'm ready.”
“Good.” Fairfax smiled, his teeth caked in plaque. “Just lay back. We'll begin the operation shortly. You're in safe hands.”
Cassidy laid on the bed, her womb slushing down on her organs. The stone inside became colder and colder. A light hung directly over heard. She looked past it into the darkness overheard. The doctor had left. She could hear his feet patter away, then his voice. She couldn't make out the words, but she heard a gargling reply to each pause he took, then- Snap- The lights went off. The glowing ring of the light remained burned in her corneas, slowly fading away as she shivered on the mattress. Her hands gripped the iron of the table as she curled up her toes. Metal clanged against metal, as the squeaking of wheels came closer. She heard heavy breathing, falling harder and harder until the squeaking wheels stopped. Warm, moist breathe fell over her as a leathery hand caressed her neck, her arms, her legs. She tried to speak but a hand took hold of her head to keep it still as another placed a cup over her mouth. The taste of iron filled it, and insulated throughout her body. Her fingers tingled, her toes went numb, then her legs, arms, neck, then she floated on a cloud in this blind world as the leathery hands left her head and tightened belts around her arms and legs. Squishing, she heard. Lots of squishing, mashing, and dripping. Then the gurgling voice,
“The patient is ready, doctor.”
Metal scrapped against whetstone as water ran, and a jar popped open. Cassidy tried to lift her head to peer through the darkness but the drugs did their work. She let her head rest on the mattress.

She woke up in the back seat of her car. Groggy, tired, suffering a nightmare hangover, the early morning light causing tremors to roar through her head. She took a look at the driver. A different man then before, but she recognized the neighborhood the car drove through as her own. She wiped her eyes, sitting up with struggle because of the weight in her womb. She paused, shivers tingling her spine.
The driver asked if everything was OK.
She took a hand over her engorged womb, and pressed it softly over where the last morning there had only been ice. She held her breath, a bead of sweat dripped down her face, cleaning her ruined makeup. A tiny heartbeat. She laughed, and told the driver she was OK. She felt again. Another tiny heartbeat. Her abdomen felt sore. Stitches and bandages wrapped the underside of her pregnant womb, and hurt when she moved, but she didn't care. She laughed more and more. When the car came to the front of the house Cassidy promised the driver for a bonus, but he winked and told her it wouldn't be necessary.
Cassidy cuddled up next to Mr. Dawnson as he slept, as if nothing had happened. She felt like the perfect criminal, no one would find out. No one would ever know.
She sat in her circle of book club friends, and talked about her child. The other women gaped at her when she said she would've need a nanny or help. They scoffed, sipping their wine, keeping comments of Cassidy's youth and unemployment to themselves, but she remained convicted of this new appreciation of her child. She painted the nursery herself, she went out and bought the supplies needed herself, and even picked out books that she would read to the child each night.
The months went on. The baby grew. Her womb expanded to the point where she found it difficult to move. The baby kicked, and when it kicked it kicked with precise blows in many different directions. It stomped on her bladder, causing her to pee herself a little bit every now and again. Still she imagined the baby's life, growing up healthy and happy. Going to a prep school as she did, then private college, and finally a career. Maybe he'd become the next great scientist, curing diseases and discovering new technologies. He'd have a beautiful wife, and even have kids of his own.
She would teach him lessons, morality, she would give him a cookie when he was good, but decided not to slap him or spank him, none of that. Nor would she spoil him. The little boy, destined to be named Leland Dawnson IV, would grow up to be hard working, self reliant, and humble. Every night she would sit in the nursery, and sing to her unborn child. Her fantasy the handsome face of a young man vising an old woman on Christmas day warmed her heart. The holidays, she planned, would be the only times when he'd get spoiled. Toys, video games, whatever he asked for Santa would provide. Except for a car. He would have to pay for his own car, when he turned sixteen.
Her womb continued to grow. Nine months crept nearer and nearer. Mr. Dawnson spoke little of his son, but Cassidy could read his thoughts as if they were notes. He worried about their son. He even told her one night that if the boy were weak, he'd still love him, but he'd might as well have died in the womb because the world would eat him alive if that were the case. Cassidy assured him that the boy would be strong enough to take on the world. He laughed at her, but she assured him that under her motherhood the boy would grow up square and able to embrace the complexities of the universe.
It took convincing, but Cassidy persuaded Mr. Dawnson that the best thing for them to do was have the baby born in the house. Old fashioned, the way they both liked it. She wouldn't use drugs or an epidermal. She wanted to know what the pain felt like, how women of old used to have their children, and be able to tell people that she understood the real pain of childbirth. Mr. Dawnson had an old unused room converted into an operating room. He even found a doctor that would come to their home to help deliver the baby.
She knew she was giving birth when her water broke as she made breakfast for herself. The help rushed her into the operating room while Mr. Dawnson called the doctor. Cassidy was taken into the room on the upper floor, where she stripped her jeans and shirt for a nice free flowing dress. She lay on the mattress, doing the breathing exercises that she had read about, and preparing herself. She had read all about giving birth, she didn't even think she needed a doctors help at this point. The lights dimmed as Mr. Dawnson came in, and took hold of her hand as three masked men came in. Two in blue scrubs. Their eyes glowed like fireflies. The other wore a white apron over a checkered suit. His black hair mushed under a cap. People swarmed the room, watching and cheering on the house's lady. Cassidy pushed and squeezed. The pain caused her head to ring. Her legs went numb, and she could feel the veins pressing against her forehead. This was nothing like she had read about. The baby wasn't just spreading her birth canal and hips apart, it ripped them open. Yet she pushed, and pushed until at last a great relief came as the baby came from her body into the arms of the doctor. The child was quickly wrapped in a towel. People seemed to come and go. She heard so many voices that she couldn't distinguish a single one. The pain in her body didn't dissipate. Moisture pooled beneath her. She figured that she mustn't urinated, but as she drew fingers over the wetness and back to her, Cassidy saw the blood on her hand.
“Let me see my baby,” She said over and over.
“He's so beautiful... so perfect..,” Mr. Dawnson took the bundle of baby over to his lady. “Here Cassidy, isn't he perfect?”
Cassidy head still rang, her body remained numb and fatigued beyond anything she had experienced. Still, a smile cut across her lips as she raised the bloody hand to the blanket in her husband's arms. Something small gripped her fingers, and pulled them into a pulsating hole where rough flesh bit them over and over. She pulled her hand away, blood from her hand trickling down her arm. A twin pair of black claws stuck from the blankets, as the baby kawed like a crow, over and over.
“Congratulations, everyone.” The doctor said, patting his assistants on the back. Only then did she notice the fur sticking from behind their masks, the pus weeping from their eyes, and the hooves where there should be hands. Two men stood in the dark corners of the room, their heads down and hands patiently folded.
Mr. Dawnson got on one knee to show Cassidy. She saw the wet fur and sharp needle teeth above a single pus-glazed eye.
“What happened to my baby?” She pleaded
“Cassidy, this is exactly what I wanted. I couldn't be prouder right now.”
Mr. Dawnson, the doctors, and all the people that seemed to watch in the door way and in the darkness filed out and left her alone, bleeding, legs spread out on the mattress, sweat cooling as everything became fainter and fainter. The two dark men stepped into the light. Both wore matching suits. One man, white scars and brown skin, Ashgabat. The other, thick glasses and red tie, Fairfax. He held another jar containing what looked like a fish with the head of a horned raccoon suspended in green fluid.


 “Fear not, Mrs. Dawnson, about the bleeding. I wouldn't let the perfect host body die just yet. Ashgabat, the lights please.”

© 2015 Graham Swanson


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Added on October 31, 2015
Last Updated on October 31, 2015
Tags: horror, gothic, mystery, suspense, female lead

Author

Graham Swanson
Graham Swanson

Lincoln, NE



About
I'm going to school at University of Nebraska. I like to write horror, and I've recently been looking into Gothic Fiction, and music because I find it kindling, but I also have an interest in mysticis.. more..

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