Lacrimosa dies illa
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicadus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus,
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona es requiem.
Oh how tearful that day
On which the guilty shall rise
From the embers to be judged.
Spare them then, Oh God.
Merciful Lord Jesus,
Grant them rest.
“Lacrimosa” from Requiem
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The only hope or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
Great events often happen with little notice or care, on days so ordinary as to be forgotten by men. I have seen many great things over the course of my long life. Events of great joy and great sadness have unfolded before my eyes and I have watched and waited.
I have lived by many names though my true character remains hidden. I am not a good man but I am not without sympathy and it is with greatest sadness that I relate to you the tragedy that began to unfold on an unremarkable day, in an unremarkable town, affecting seemingly unremarkable people. This day passed without any concern by men and women despite being of import nearly as great as that fateful night when a carpenter’s boy came into the world and changed the history of man. For on this day a child come into the world who would once again change the fate of man. Cursed with power that she neither asked for or wanted, her fate is sealed before she draws her first breath…
A warm breeze stirred blades of grass, carrying upon it newly mown grass, barbecue, hints of gasoline, and new spring blossoms. Dusk had turned to darkness. and a father and son walked together in a field behind their house among the chirrups of the crickets. A father in more than one sense, this man had adopted the boy when he was only six and the two had lived as family ever since.
On this night, they would sleep outside and stargaze as the temperature had finally warmed enough to permit camping. The boy, aged twelve, carried a telescope under his left arm, and walked with purpose. He felt excitement in his chest, for this would be a special night. On this night it would be just him and his Dad.
After walking for a short time father and son stopped to set up camp. After setting his telescope down on the long, deep green grass, the boy turned his face to the sky and smiled as his eyes were greeted by a thousand twinkling stars. In the distance an owl hooted and a coyote answered with a low cry.
Though his eyes remained transfixed by the gorgeous night sky, the boy was aware that his father had begun to set up their tent.
The boy had just begun learning astronomy from his adoptive father and identified many of the visible starts and constellations with ease. One in particular held his attention as it shone brighter than the others and hung directly overhead as if to signal some event of great import.
Nevertheless, this was an ordinary night and could have happened anywhere in America, though father and son were far from ordinary.
Having never seen this particular star, the boy turned to his father to ask. Before he could speak his father suddenly dropped the tent pole he had been muddling with and slowly straightened up. As he did the color drained from his face, leaving behind bleached bone flesh.
In that moment the boy sensed fear from his father and became frightened himself though he had no knowledge of what had so frightened his dad. He knew only that felt..something, a sensation of cold desolation and warm comfort at the same time. His flesh crawling, the boy began to tremble as the first beads of oily sweat rose on his back and chest.
The boy watched his father’s eyes travel from his watch and back to the sky. Fear radiated from Dad in icy waves.
A stiff breeze tugged at the boy’s jacket. It no longer carried the sweet scents of spring but rather the cool, musty scent of night long since fallen. An invisible force soundlessly pulsated in the air.
Purple lightning forked across the still cloudless sky followed a moment later by an angry growl of thunder. The boy starred at this unexpected development with wide-eyed fascination and fear.
What’s happening? How can there be lightning if there are no clouds?
As the boy watched in frightened amazement a second bolt of purple lightning cascaded from the sky and shattered upon the earth in a brilliant white explosion. Now thick ozone choked the air with invisible hands. This time there was no low rumble but rather a deafening roar that the boy would have only imagined possible from a nuclear blast. He turned once again to his father and with trembling lips asked the only question on his mind.
His father did not reply at first but only stood there, still as a statue, eyes fixed upward upon the sky. Then he suddenly turned and met the boy’s frightened glance with an overly jovial smile.
“Oh it’s nothing.” He forced a laugh. “I’ve just never seen a lightning storm on a night this clear before.”
At that exact moment in a hospital far across the country orderlies wheeled a young woman on a gurney down a corridor. She was on her way to the delivery room, about to give birth to her first child. Contractions pulled at her body yet she gave no cries of pain. Her mind, though preoccupied by pain, exhaustion and yes something reminiscent of excitement, noted the sights and smells of the hospital. She detected chlorine, alcohol and that overpowering, medical smell that always seems to permeate hospitals and clinics. Her ears caught the sharp clack of hard soled shoes on tile and the rattle of a loose wheel.
Despite her condition the woman instinctively scanned around noting the two orderlies and one nurse who accompanied her gurney.
“Hold on.” The nurse insisted in what she no doubt intended to be a comforting tone. “We’re almost there.”
A moment later the gurney turned and the woman found herself in the delivery room. For a moment her eyes fixed on a large poster featuring a cutaway of a woman’s uterus.
The nurse had taken her hand and began to squeeze. The woman fought back an urge to break the nurse’s neck. Yet she felt more than an edge of anticipation now. She would soon be a mother despite so many doctors telling her such a thing would be impossible.
“Push!” The nurse urged. It would have been easy to turn this woman into a corpse but that would serve no purpose.
At the woman’s side stood her husband, his expression stoic. Though his eyes fixed intently on hers, he remained silent and betrayed not a hint of emotion. For a moment the woman became aware of the soft, smoky scent of his cologne and his out of place black Armani suit and red silk shirt and tie.
The woman pushed untroubled by the complaints of her fatigued muscles. The doctor, who was crouched between her legs, suddenly popped his head up.
“I can see the head. One more push and she’s out.” The nurse must have intended her tone to be comforting or encouraging or something. In truth it sounded inane. Without a response or sound the woman bore down with all of her strength.
A moment later the doctor eappeared, this time holding a small bundle in his arms. He turned to face her and though a surgical mask covered his mouth the woman detected an unmistakable a smile on his face.
“Congratulations! It’s a girl!”
He turned and handed the child to a nurse who proceeded to clean the blood and birth fluids from her body. When she was finished she carried the small bundle over to the woman and placed it in her arms.
“She is beautiful.” Her husband’s voice was calm and level but she could not help noticing a hint of what had to be…Joy? Can he still feel joy?
The moment she saw her daughter’s face the woman fell in love. The baby girl in her arms looked up at her with placid eyes that pierced to the soul. Her beauty exceeded anything the woman could have imaged prior to that very moment. The child had fair porcelain and rose skin, a small tuft of downy fine blond hair on her head and perfect, sky blue eyes more beautiful than the woman had ever seen before. The child did not cry she merely lay in her mother’s arms looking up with wide, gentle eyes. The child’s soft scent replaced the hospital smells pervading the air.
She felt the afterbirth coming but paid little mind. Pain had never troubled her and she had focused her attention on this tiny girl that should not have been.
Intense joy flooded through her though the woman didn’t so much feel it as she was logically aware of it. She managed a thin smile. “Hello little girl. I am your mother.” The woman’s voice came out hushed, little more than a whisper. She turned to her husband who she saw was also smiling slightly.
“She is beautiful. Do you want to hold her?”
He nodded silently and then took the child from her arms.
“That is your father.” The woman softly explained to her daughter.
As the new mother and father marveled over their baby daughter the doctor pulled his watch from his wrist with a cry of pain. It struck the tiled floor with a -clink- before coming to rest at the foot of the steel counter along the right hand wall.
An unexplained, large and very angry blister had suddenly cropped up on the back of his wrist.
A second degree burn. Huh? The watch body itself had become hot enough to burn it’s leather band. A small tendril of smoke curled from the joint between leather and gold as a faint smell of burning meat filled the doctor’s nostrils.
Rather than being frightened the doctor felt intrigued and annoyed simultaneously. He crossed the room to find that the watch’s second hand had frozen. The minute and hour hands had come to rest at exactly eleven fifty-seven. A wrinkle of annoyance crossed his face. He had just had the damned thing fixed. Now he would probably end up replacing it as the heat would have almost certainly fried the watch’s electronics.
Still feeling aggravated, the doctor quickly filled out the birth certificate, setting the time of birth at eleven fifty-seven, exactly three minutes before midnight.
Close-a-fucking-nuff. Goddamned watch.
As he filled in the day’s date, thunder exploded above bringing the floor to life beneath his feet. A moment later brilliant light flooded the delivery room for a brief instant, followed by a fountain of sparks and flame and then choking smoke filled darkness. The stench of ozone and burned rubber lay heavy on the air. Several dozen screams rang out from neighboring delivery rooms and the hallway together with a number of loud crashes and bangs followed moments later by deathly silence.