The Aterland Chronicles

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Chapter 53: Epilogue - Full Circle

All around was cold, dark and wet. Beneath her, a concrete floor - in place of a bed. Above, the arched canopy of Waterloo Bridge hovered like the wings of a great bird protecting its young from the terrifying storm.

It was four in the morning, her waters had broken almost an hour ago, soaking the only dry clothing she possessed. Now, it felt as if giant fists were pummelling her abdomen with all of their might. They pressed her into the wet ground, crushing her, forcing her to cry out in pain. Holding her breath, she rubbed her belly in a futile attempt to lessen the agony.

“Eh, you okay?” A shaven-headed youth with a swastika tattooed on his forehead shouted over the deafening clamour of the torrential rain and thunder.

“You look like shit,” he added, taking a drag of his cigarette as he leant against the wall beside her.

The girl let out a long moan that rapidly morphed into a blood-chilling scream. The pain seemed to pass as quickly as it began. She looked up at him, her expression a strange mixture of bravado and fear.

“Of course I’m not okay you freaking moron!” She took another deep breath, panting heavily as she screamed at him, “I’m having a baby under a bloody bridge for fu… Oh, oh please do something, something’s wrong. I’ve got to get this out of me!”

The girl shrieked out once more as another wave of pain washed over her. The top of her denims gaped open, barely accommodating her expanded abdomen - the original fastening replaced by a strip of elastic threaded through the buttonhole. She grabbed the waistband, pulling her jeans down as she pushed her body back against the wall of the bridge.

“Hey, what you doin’?” Said the youth, nervously flicking the remaining inch of his cigarette onto the wet ground. The stub landed in a puddle at his feet, releasing a wisp of smoke that curled upwards briefly, before disappearing into the damp air.

“You crazy or something?” He said, his eyes gaping as he watched her remove her underwear, “you can’t do that here.”

“I ain’t got no choice mate,” she said, “the little bugger’s intent on coming tonight.”

“Bloody hell,” his jaw dropped open.

He shouted towards a group of vagrants in the centre of the archway. They were huddled around a flaming dustbin, passing around two-litre bottles of cider.

“Hey, we need some help over here,” Putting two fingers into his mouth, the youth let out a long whistle, “Sal, you need to come here, quick. ”

Seeming to sense the urgency of his request, an old woman turned her head towards them. She was small and round, sporting a frizzy halo of white hair. The woman wore a heavily stained, ragged overcoat tied at the waist with frayed blue string.

“Is it worth losing me seat for?” Her voice, hoarse with age, was virtually swallowed up by the sound of the storm.

“There’s a girl here havin’ a kid,” the youth waved his arms urgently, “you need to come quick she…“

The remainder of his reply was incoherent, smothered by a guttural, straining cry from the girl.

“Sal, for fuck’s sake get over here!”

There came another sound then. Rising above the rattle of the wind and rain, - the unmistakable shrill, warbling, cries of an infant.

Sal scuttled towards them, the sole of one of her boots flapping as she went.

As she reached them she fished into the pocket of her coat, bringing out a small torch. She flicked it on and the flashlight illuminated the tiny white body of a newborn baby girl. The infant lay on the ground, its tiny body squirming in a steadily growing pool of crimson blood. The young mother’s pale body quivered silently for a few seconds until, finally, her trembling limbs stilled.

Sal knelt down, feeling for the girl’s pulse. Shaking her head, the old woman pulled a worn piece of blanket from beneath her coat and gently wrapped the baby within its grimy folds.

Tears brimmed Sal’s eyes as she gazed down at the motherless little bundle in her arms.

“Liam, you need to go get some help, now,” she nodded towards the small bundle, “or she will die too - like her mum.”

Unquestioningly, Liam turned and ran out into the rain.

Sal stared down into the child’s bright, violet-blue eyes. Then, taking a wad of paper tissues from the pocket of her overcoat, she wiped away the blood from the infant’s tiny body.

It was then she noticed the pale blotch on the skin of the child’s neck - a white birthmark, in the form of a five-petalled Rose.

“Looks like Mother Nature provided you with a name,” she said, as the infant gripped tightly onto one of Sal’s stubby, grimy fingers, “and it’s a beautiful one at that. Welcome to the world Rose…”

The End

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