Chapter Two: Who am I?
Who am I? You are right to ask. Who is this voice from beyond the ether suddenly trying to address you all? Well, I’m Siba (which means rock in Arawak) I was named after the mountainous terrain that surrounds the lands of my ancestral home. I am one of Christine’s many Ancestors. I am a nine year old girl. Well, I was, when I roamed the earth almost a thousand years ago. And yes, I maybe young but please don’t think me too precocious, I just happen to know a lot more than you right now, with you being tied to the earth. All the same, there are many extraordinary events that take place in the world and Christine’s story is just one them. So, without further ado, let me get on with telling it. Although, every so often, I might make a passing comment here, or a slight reference there, but nothing too taxing for you - I hope. As you will soon gather much of what goes on in the world is none of my business. But, with that said, I guess in a way Christine is very much my business because she is from my bloodline. But that’s by no means the reason why I comment. I do so, not to inform you, as such, but to remind you, rather, of certain things. As really everything that you read from here on in, you already have knowledge of. You just don’t remember that you do…But more on that later…And so I digress, as for now, please understand: I may be a million miles ahead of my time, and often speak in poetry and rhyme (the language of the ethereal) but for the most part you will seldom hear me. For you see, we spirits we could talk about many things, but it’s far more intriguing to listen instead. And right now, I’m being called to talk about Christine’s story. And that’s a bittersweet joy. Bitter, because it’s life - and she’s living it. And a joy, because she’s one of mine - and she fights for it! And we are eternally bound by the blood, which, I am forever grateful for, and now I am equally honoured to share her journey with you all.
So I begin…
Despite being similar in ages, Christine Shore and Lydia Cartwright-Snowden couldn’t be more different as far as people went.
To begin with, Christine is of Afro-Caribbean/Irish descent. She lives in a block of sandy-coloured new builds in north London’s Manor House, and every morning she takes the tube into work.
Lydia, on the other hand, is from the Home Counties and as far back as she is aware she hails from a strong line of Anglo-Saxons. In fact, one of her Ancestors’ portraits takes pride of place in the conservatory of her family home. Although, the link between her – and the said persons in the painting - is highly tenuous, with Lydia’s lineage being underscored with rampant illegitimacies and the ‘odd’ usurper - but that’s a different story, for another time. For the moment, Lydia dwells in a luxury apartment by the Thames - in one of the most enviable postcodes in the city. She is a proud owner of a silver convertible which she drives almost everywhere.
Meanwhile, the first thing people tend to notice about Christine is her stunning head of hair which is chock-full of dark, tiny ringlets. Then, they take in her lovely brown skin which resembles the colour of muscavado sugar. She is neither black nor white, yet, many seem to marvel at the end result. However Christine is prone to shyness and is rather pretty - in a non-threatening way - which, in turn, allows her to blend in well in any particular group she happens to find herself in. Although Lydia, by contrast, will always lack the ability to blend in, especially, when one is widely considered to be a bona fide hottie - as attested by numerous beauty standards. She has piercing hazel-grey eyes, and a mass of auburn hair which shone like it had only been washed moments ago. Lydia also loves to talk, though, she is neither boring nor frivolous with her words. On the contrary, people want to hear what she has to say, just as long as her occasional cutting remarks are not directed at them. Likewise, no sooner than Christine had left university she happily sailed into matrimony with the indisputable love of her life. While, ‘thirty-something’ Lydia had never given marriage any serious consideration. Yet, in spite of their obvious differences, on that fateful evening, in the home of Rupert and Tilda ‘Tilly’ Earnshaw-Burns, their paths finally crossed. And destiny would make them friends. But that’s all much later down the line. First, there’s the story of Christine Shore’s beginning, and many would agree it’s an interesting one to ponder on...
Christine remembered an awful lot about her childhood. But I suppose the same could be said of anyone who took a moment to reflect on their upbringing.
She remembered the day her mother called out to her father. Her mother sounded somewhat distressed...
“Gerry,” she yelled. “Gerald Bartholomew-Shore. Come up this instant or they’ll be hell to pay!”
Still no answer.
“Ger-reeeeeeey” Her emphasis on the ‘reeeeeee’ made Christine laugh out loud.
Her mother smiled down shaking her head.
“Woman - I said I was coming!” Gerry finally replied. His voice bellowed all the way up from downstairs and left a vibration that continued long after he’d answered.
Her mother was in no mood for jokes. “Look. Your ma’s going to be here any minute now. Just have a look at me will yer’ and tell me how I look?”
Remarkably her significantly raised voice did little to mar her soft Irish accent.
Christine remembered the rapid thuds on the stairs as Gerry took them two at a time. He came bustling into the bedroom. “I said I was coming Yvonne. I just had a quick look at the drinks cabinet.” He strode over to where she was standing and put his arms around her.
“Drinks cabinet?” She turned her head up to get a better look at him. “Are ye daft? It’s your own mother we’re talking about. I’m the one who’s supposed to be nervous here, don’t you know.”
Gerry laughed. “Listen. You’ve got nothing to be nervous about. I know my mother’s going to love you and our little princess, Christine,” he said, as he rocked them both. He began to croon Marvin Gaye’s hit song into her ear. “Let’s get it on. Oooow baby. Let’s get it on”
Yvonne laughed. “Aye. She’ll approve of us alright,” she nodded. “But think her son is a few sandwiches short of a picnic.” As she said this her pale green eyes wandered down to his crotch. He followed her gaze and saw that his flies were wide open and the tail of his red shirt was jutting out as though he were a frisky dog.
At this, they both burst into hysterical laughter. Christine, too, laughed out loud. So much so, her sides began to hurt.
She recalled the day her mother and father argued. He wanted to continue to live in the house they rented in Tulse Hill. It was a semi-detached with a little garden at the front.
“It’s close to where I work,” Gerry contested. “Where else in South London are we going to get better with the salary I’m on?”
It was a bone of contention for many weeks in the ‘O’Reilly-Shore’ household and Christine listened in carefully. There were so many thoughts, feelings, opinions, being expressed. But the ones that mattered the most to her, right then, were the voices of her parents.
She also recalled feeling very poorly after gulping a large portion of boiled swede. She wanted to notify her mother but thought it best not to disturb her, which was by-the-by in the run up to events that followed…
There was a knock on the door. Two police officers were stood outside.
“Good evening Marm. We would like to speak with Yvonne Shore.”
“I am she,” she answered. Her heart dipped. Her pale green eyes began to water from the acrid smell of trouble.
Police officers. The Garda. Even back home in Sligo she didn’t welcome the sight of them then, and they were still not welcome now.
The two officers looked at each other.
“You’re Gerry Shore’s wife?” the shorter and older of the two officers said. He furrowed one of his eyebrows as he posed the question.
“Yes. I said I am. Is there a problem officer?” This time Yvonne was more acute than polite, which made the officer feel like a bumbling fool. A response only an Irish woman could deliver to assured effect.
“Could we come in?”
Yvonne slowly nodded. She led them down the corridor to the living room.
Christine instantly felt a jolt as if someone had kicked her in the stomach. She began to pay closer attention…
“I’m afraid to have to inform you,” the officer began looking around the small, modest room that held plenty of smiling photos of the young interracial couple.
“Mr. Shore was involved in an accident on the site he was working on. He fell 40 feet...” The officer cleared his throat then looked down at his shoes. “I’m sorry to tell you this…He fell 40 feet. They rushed him to the hospital but I’m afraid he didn’t make it...Your husband was pronounced dead at 2.38 p.m.”
Yvonne’s hands flew to her stomach, she felt a peculiar sensation. Something lurched inside of her then free fell to nowhere.
Christine looked up and felt her mothers’ hand caress the top of her head.
The funeral was held a week later.
There were a lot of words, a lot of singing, a lot of weeping, a lot of noise…Christine recalled her mum’s wretched state, still, as severe as the day she had received the news of her husband’s death.
Yvonne could hardly lift her eyes, they ached from the strain of producing so many tears.
Nevertheless the funeral forged ahead. Through the singing, through the tears, through the stories, through the noise…And then suddenly, Christine became aware of a sensation. But this time it was one of complete certainty. It was time for Christine Shore to be present. It was time for Christine Shore… to be born…
“Yvonne, are you alright my love?” someone queried.
“Aye! No!” She winced keeling over to the side, she clasped the top of the chair to break her fall. “I think my water’s just broke. Can somebody call an ambulance?”
Christine Sherry-Ann Shore was born three hours later weighing less than a bag of sugar. The air was so cold it felt like a thousand miniature icicles had pierced into her at the same time.
Christine was many things; sleepy, disoriented, angry, thirsty. However the overwhelming need to eat, eclipsed every startling sensation she was currently experiencing at that moment. And then, in a breath-taking shower of light, her mother peered down and kissed her forehead. Christine fought hard against the crushing desire to sleep but lost. Her mother’s smiling face finally drifted into darkness.
From a young age Christine began to reflect on these events. And later she would realize she was different. Different, because unlike the millions of people before her, and the many that will come after, Christine did not forget her initial journey into this world. Oh no. Christine Shore remembered it all.
As you can see, my descendant was born with a very special gift indeed. She remembered her birth into the world. Me - on the other hand - I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to be human, and what life was like on earth. However, the little bits I do remember, I didn’t particularly like very much. For I found the human experience to be a restrictive one; a bit like being crammed into a jam jar with no connection with nature, or the outer world. And the little space that there was to manoeuvre, was filled with too many questions and not enough answers. It was very suffocating for a nine-year old, I can’t fathom what it would be like for the adults.
However, if you ask me what it feels like to be water? Now, that’s a different story. It’s absolutely amazing! The water and I are one, as we share the same life force. And I can tell you right now, water likes being water. But I don’t know if I can say the same for you humans. Anyway, that’s how I remember life on earth but in truth, that’s not how it always was.
It’s the same with my descendent, Christine. She remembered the first time she heard a baby talking out loud. It was a boy, and his name was Mason. They talked for days and days it seemed. He told her many interesting things and they laughed a lot. And then one day circumstances changed and they had nothing else to talk about. That was how Christine remembered it, but of course, that was not how it was…It was more on the lines of this…
It was a school week and her mother was in the kitchen talking to her next door neighbour and good friend, Ivy.
Meanwhile 12-year old Christine was sat at the kitchen table trying to muster up enough enthusiasm to finish her supper. However that evening Christine did not sit alone. She was joined by their neighbour’s eight-month old son, Mason Wilkie.
Mason was the mini-me of his mother. He had soft-locked brown hair and huge luminescent blue eyes. From the few times she had met him, Mason was usually a well behaved baby. But at that moment his mother was struggling to feed him. He kept squirming around in his high chair and was making a terrible mess of things.
“I give up!” Ivy yelled she dumped the plastic spoon in the bowl. “I swear I would have more luck trying to soothe a rabid dog than getting him to eat properly. Seriously Yvonne. Why do babies act like little devils at times?”
Yvonne laughed and looked over at her daughter. “Oh Ivy, I don’t envy you there. Babies can be extremely hard work at times. My little one was always a good ’un. Isn’t that right Christine?” Her mother teased. “Most especially at mealtimes,” she said narrowing her eyes, she turned back to Ivy. “What exactly are you feeding him anyway?”
Mason’s sudden outbreak of tears disrupted the conversation. He continued to moan as his mother, again, mopped up clumps of orange-coloured mush, which had gathered like radioactive shrubs around his bowl.
Christine was unfazed by the current kerfuffle. She had long since drowned out the noise with thoughts of school when suddenly she heard a voice. It was as distinct as if it were herself who had spoken out loud.
“I’m not hungry mummy. Stop feeding meeeee!”
Christine instantly stopped chewing and turned a quizzical eye on the baby.
“Excuse me” she said, feeling a little anxious and foolish at the same time. “Did you say something?”
The baby gave her a blank expression before imparting another installment of groans.
“Sorry dear. Did you say something?” her mother enquired briefly stopping her conversation with Ivy to look over at her daughter.
“Errrr. No. I wasn’t talking to you.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“No. It’s errrrr…It’s nothing.” Christine turned her attention back to her half-eaten baked potato.
The baby again shrieked. “Mummy! Enough! If you don’t stop feeding me I’m going to be sick. I mean it. I really am.”
Christine jerked up. She looked straight at the baby who was also staring back at her in the same astonishment. “You can hear me?” he said, or gurgled rather.
Christine’s mouth fell open. “You’re talking to me?” she gasped clapping her hands over her mouth.
The baby dodged another spoonful of food but answered her. “Yes. I am talking to you. I can hear you and understand you - all of you, clearly.”
This time neither her mother nor Ivy broke from their conversation. They naturally assumed Christine was just teasing the baby.
“Please, could you tell mummy I’m going to be sick if she makes me eat another spoonful.”
Christine just stood there gawping at the baby. She remained that way for almost a minute before eventually turning to Ivy, who, in the meantime, had managed to scoop another mound of creamy, orange-y, mush onto the baby’s spoon.
“Auntie Ivy. I think the baby’s had enough,” she said with as much composure as she could muster.
“Enough?” Ivy quickly replied. “Oh no my dear - we’ve just started. My Mason usually clears the plate, and we all know babies won’t grow unless you feed them well,” she counselled. She turned back to face her son. “Open up now sweetie. Just one more spoonful…”
Christine began to edge back and good thing too. In less than a minute the table, the floor, and Ivy’s face was covered in bright orange-yellow gunk as Mason made good on his promise.
“Aaaaarrgggh! Help me! – Quick! Get me a cloth!” Ivy screeched looking upwards, straining to escape from the noxious whiff of rotten fruit and eggs, which had now ungraciously lodged itself onto her face. And like a slow moving avalanche, the orange coloured vomit gradually slid off Ivy’s nose and cheeks and eventually made a puddle in her collar bone.
Christine was oblivious to the mad dashes being made around her. Instead she slowly approached the baby.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
“Yes. I am.” Mason said with a giggle. “I didn’t mean to cause such a disruption. I might be small but I’m not stupid. I know when I’ve had enough, and I’ve definitely had enough of eating that slop,” he said wagging his chubby finger at the bowl. “I have absolutely no idea what that is, but I can tell you right now, it is not roast beef and fresh vegetables.”
Christine stared at him. “It isn’t?”
“No. I don’t think it is. It’s more like something the cows have left behind on the ground.”
“The cows? The ground?” Christine was again reduced to stupefaction. “I-I can’t believe you’re talking to me right now!” she stammered. “Why are you talking? What do you know about cows, beef – carrots for that matter? How do you know these things?”
“How do I know these things?” Mason gurgled back. Now it was his turn to look bemused. “Why? Are there things that I don’t know?”
Before Christine could answer, Mason was heaved over his mother’s shoulder. “Listen. Christine. There’s no time to explain now,” he quickly babbled. “But please come and see me - this is great! We can talk some more. There’s so many things we can talk about…”
And indeed in the following weeks, they did just that.
Much to the delight of her next door neighbour, Christine volunteered to babysit Mason on the weekends. There, she asked him a litany of questions:
Why do babies cry?
How well did they understand the ways of the world?
Are they afraid of animals?
Do they like the smell of their own poo?
What did they like to eat?
And… (Most notably)
What do babies dream about?
For some reason the answer he gave to her last question never left Christine’s mind.
“I can’t speak for all babies,” Mason replied, “But I for one dream of foooood!” He squealed looking up at his babysitter. “Sometimes I’m sat overlooking a wide open space but instead of hill tops, there are hundreds of bosoms. I have no idea which one belongs to my mummy, and, quite, frankly, it doesn’t really matter to me,” he laughed, “All I do is race from one nipple to the next, trying to fill myself up with as much milk as I can. Whenever I have that dream I usually wake up totally famished! I...what’s the matter with you?” Mason said eyeing Christine.
Christine was laughing so hard she thought she was going to pee herself. “Oh. My. God!” she howled backing away from the baby “Do you know how that sounds? Just as well no one can hear what you’re saying…Hundreds of bosoms.” She chuckled for a few moments more before wiping her face, “Ok Mason. I’m done. You can carry on,” she said suppressing her laughter whilst trying to convey an air of seriousness. “I’m still listening to you - carry on.”
He looked at her. “I do have bad dreams too, you know,” he said, suddenly looking all mawkish like a meerkat - albeit - in a dark-blue onesie. Mason grew more sombre as he spoke. “It’s the dream where I appear to be all on my own, there’s not a soul around me. I’m crying out for my parents but nobody comes to get me – nobody. I’m just left on my own to cry and cry and cry. I’m crying so hard, I begin to tremble with frustration. Yet, still, nobody comes to get me. And then it suddenly dawns on me…that…nobody will…” Mason’s blue eyes spoke of a horror he could not articulate. He shivered. “To be left all alone. Without help. Without hope. It’s punishment! And I fear it’s even worse than death,” he blinked up at Christine. “You see death is only perceived as a nightmare since nobody knows the end, but I can tell you right now isolation is the nightmare that has no end. To be shut out. Without love…without hope…” His little body quivered as he drew in breath. “I-I don’t think we were made for it Christine…I don’t think we were made for it...” Mason stopped talking. He continued to stare down at the carpet. He was sad.
At times, Christine got so caught up in what Mason was saying she sometimes forgot that she was conversing with an eight-month old baby. But in spite of Mason’s often long-winded monologues, Mason was still only a baby just the same.
She gathered him up in her arms and gave him a gentle squeeze. “I’m here now Mason,” she said softly in the hope of erasing the fear that had suddenly crept over him. “I’m here. You’re safe with me.”
It seemed the gesture was enough to soothe his jangled nerves. He lavished her with a gappy grin before making a grab for one of his toys.
“Any more - dreams?” Christine asked, casually rolling back the ball he just passed to her.
Mason stopped what he was doing and gave Christine a lingering look. “As a matter of fact - yes. There is another dream…Actually…it’s not a dream,” he said abruptly before falling silent. She gave him a curious look. “Go on Mason,” she urged. “I’m listening.”
Mason sighed. “Well…it’s not a dream Christine,” he hesitated, “…because…I’m not asleep.” Mason then spoke so quietly Christine had to lean in to hear what he had to say. “You see Christine, I might appear to be sleeping, but the fact is, I’ve only just gone to another world. And I’m afraid to say, its beauty goes far beyond your imagination and any apt description that I could ever give it…It’s…It’s…” He let out a long sigh. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but it’s a very precarious time for the newborns. A very strange and precarious time…For you see, although we are here - in the physical world - we babies are kind of suspended between two planes.”
“Two planes” Christine frowned.
“Yes two planes.” Mason smiled up at his big companion who he was beginning to suspect didn’t know much at all. “When we close our eyes we are not always asleep as some of you are led to believe. We’ve only just gone back to the place that we came from…”
Mason was no longer looking at Christine and neither were his thoughts of the here and now. His sparkling blue eyes were fully immersed in whatever wonderland he was trying to describe. “And this world,” he continued, “is a magical paradise filled with unbelievable things! A place where LOVE is not a word – it’s ALIVE! And it moves around in a swirl of colourful sprinkles - through everything: In the air, the plants, the trees, the waters - in all creation. And yet, at the same time, it is also ‘The Creator’ of all these magnificent things.”
Mason began to motion with his little hands as he set about explaining this unique new world to Christine. “And - there are many of us,” he gushed. “Us - as in babies like me! And we are all having the time of our lives. We are able to run through this paradise free from fear, violence and disease.
“We get to roam with animals and converse with nature and meet our great Ancestors from time passed. We are always learning new things; knowledgeable things, exciting things - things, of real value to us all. And somehow, ‘joy’ is laced in everything we consume. I can literally spend all day eating and drinking all the yummy delights that have been prepared for us. But, there’s just too much to do in one day, and probably too many delights, for a hundred lifetimes. And to add to this, I’m surrounded by so many loving people. I’m just left with a feeling of joy - unspeakable joy! I didn’t know peace could be this blissful! It is the best feeling in the world and the best place in the universe.”
“Wow,” Christine mouthed taking in Mason’s beaming face. “Sounds like you really love it there.” Now it was her turn to fall silent as she tried to imagine a world where there was no sadness, disappointment or pain. A world, it seemed, where only babies lived.
She turned to Mason again. “This place you describe sounds too good to be true, and it’s heaps better than where you are now. Seriously why on earth do you come back here?”
“It’s funny you should say that. I don’t know why? And by all means I really do want to stay there…But…there’s always something that calls me back. Or should I say someone…”
Mason was a flurry of smiles again. To Christine, he looked like how she felt every Christmas morning: happy and hopeful.
“For some reason Christine, I’m always drawn back to the warm being with the wonderful light,” he answered her. “And I kind of like the feeling of being drawn in, it’s like… not wanting to move until your favourite song has ended. And then no sooner as I run into its embrace - I wake up! I’m back here again! I’m back in the world and back in my little cot.”
“What a strange dream.” Christine said with mixed-feelings. She didn’t know why but she shuddered before adding. “I wonder what it means?”
“I don’t really know,” Mason replied. “Only that, I feel as though I actually have a choice in this matter - whether to live in this paradise or return back to earth. But I always come back to the world as my eyes are always drawn to the warm being. The beautiful warm being with the amazing light…”
The warm being Christine pondered.
Indeed, it was a very strange revelation. But of course, Christine was not to know that years from now she would experience its full meaning, and its very context would crush her...
But that was all much further down Christine’s lifeline. For now, she busied herself with more pressing queries…
“Very well, Mason. But you still haven’t given me a reason why I can hear you?” she asked one rainy afternoon whilst baby-sitting her little friend.
“I think…you have a special ability that allows you to hear my deepest thoughts,” he said in between mouthfuls of biscuit. “And then, somehow you’re able to translate what you’ve heard into language - or something to that effect.” He stopped masticating. “I suppose, when you think about it I won’t be the only baby you can hear. If you concentrate you should be able to hear other babies talking - no matter their mother tongue. And who knows?” He added in a chorus of gurgles, “You may even possess the ability to communicate with other life forms. How cool would that be?”
Christine was not amused. That was the last thing she wanted to do, communicate with something that wasn’t human. In fact, come to think about it, she wasn’t quite sure she wanted to be talking to babies either…
“You know we babies come from a very peaceful world.” Mason said interrupting her thoughts, “But there is also a strange kind of battle taking place there.”
“Yes, a battle. But don’t worry Christine it’s not what you think,” he said producing the biggest smile she’s seen all day “- it’s harmless! It’s more like a battle for our attention. For you see, our Ancestors, they want to be present again. Through us, through me, through you. And they do this by imprinting their mark upon us.” He beamed up at Christine “And some of them are able to leave quite deep ones in a variety of forms such as; physical likeness, idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. In fact a whole host of things. We can adopt our Ancestor’s characteristics as naturally as plants absorb sunlight. And it’s not just the physical traits we take on,” he further explained, “or, the so-called good ones,” he muttered quickly under his breath. “We babies are free to choose whatever aspects of our Ancestors’ personalities which appeals, or is of interest to us. So, as such, no two people are the same, but all of us are a stunning mixture of humanity.” Mason smiled. “I suppose, it is that which makes us individuals, and that which makes us interesting. Well, some of us,” he said descending into a fit of giggles. “Some of us turn out to be just plain odd!”
Christine laughed too, instantly thinking of all the weird and wonderful people she had come across in her life, so far. Who knows? Maybe she was one of them too.
She peered down at Mason again, who was now happily sucking on a soft toy. Although Christine did enjoy her little chats with him, she also found it a bit unnerving. And she knew why…
She put the question to him again. “But Mason. How is it you sound so…so..?”
“So what Christine?”
“So wise!” She exclaimed somewhat irritably. “Something’s not right about this! You’re just a baby for crying out loud!”
Mason was quiet for moment. “I suppose I am only a baby to you,” he said shaking his soft locked-head, “But before I arrived here, I could hear over six thousand languages. Now, I can just about manage six. Nevertheless, we babies are special. Not because we are cute and cuddly and sometimes smell nice – ok, sometimes,” he retracted with a fiendish laugh. “But I think we are special because we’ve been handed the best of both worlds.”
“The best of both worlds? What do you mean?”
“What do I mean?” Mason shot back. “Well, to begin with, contrary to what you’ve been told, we babies do not get distracted by the various colours of this world. We - unlike you lot - are able to see the best in things because our untainted sight allows us to do so.” He smiled. “Don’t you see? You grown-ups are a strange breed, your hearts’ cry out for many things but you do not know what you ask for - and worse still – you do not see it when you receive it. That is why I say we babies have the best of both worlds,” he shrugged, “we have so much because we can see what we have…”
Christine balked at his comment. “Honestly Mason. All you do is talk in riddles.” She responded with derision.
‘We have so much because we can see what we have...What does he mean by that?’
She snorted. ‘What can I see?...or what am I not seeing…?’
Christine didn’t quite understand Mason’s meaning, but ten years into the future, the wisdom in his words would never fail to make her smile...
“Although Christine,” Mason said in a tiny voice. “I am little confused at the moment. It seems all we babies do is cry, when we’re hurting, play when we’re bored, and laugh insanely at life’s many oddities. It all seems a bit simplistic to me, even I’m forced to contend that this level of ignorance is of no use to you grownups!” Mason fell silent and turned away. “Although,” he continued with some deliberation. “In order for you adults to experience any real joy in this lifetime – I guess there’s no way around it!” He gave a short laugh, “you’ll probably need to start thinking more like us…”
“More like you lot?” Christine said with a snigger, “really Mason?” But then she stopped to mull over what the baby had just said.
However, Mason was no longer smiling. In fact he looked a little perplexed. “I think there might be a problem with our growth,” he said suddenly, “something is not adding up. From the moment I was born I knew that stairs were there to be climbed, but physically I am unable to do so. I know when someone means me harm, but I am unable to run away. I know fire burns, and why the world is getting warmer. I also know why music is good for the soul,” he continued. “I guess, what I’m trying to say is that none of this is new to us babies. We understand so many things, much more than I can explain to you right now. But somehow between now and entering into childhood something is lost, or forgotten, and something else takes over…I don’t know what that thing is and why it happens but something impedes our growth…” He shook his head. “You might struggle to believe this, but as I sit here I can tell you on great authority that I have the ability to achieve whatever I want in this lifetime.”
Christine didn’t say anything, she just raised a cynical brow.
“No - really I do!” He protested, “All of us do. It’s part of our general make-up. For you see we are like gods,” he rushed on, “we were deliberately made this way. We too have the ability to make, break and create, and there’s much power in our words. But even with this apparent knowledge so many of us will leave the world not having accomplished even an iota of the good we set out to do. It’s not supposed to be this way, Christine. Somewhere...something goes horribly wrong.”
Mason said no more but silently looked to his baby-sitter.
On seeing Mason Christine was immediately reminded of advertisements on neglected toddlers. Just like those little ones, Mason looked rueful; it was a look that didn’t sit well on any baby’s face.
There was a moment of silence. It appeared Mason was sadly ruing over the downward trajectory of humanity. Christine, meanwhile, just wanted more answers. “Mason,” she said in a child-like moan, “why can I hear you? How is all this even possible?”
“I don’t know!” Mason said in exasperation “And, in any case - does it even matter?” Then he gave Christine a cheeky smile. “Although, I think you might be able to help us.”
“Help? As in how?”
“The world we’re born into. I think it’s doing something to the babies. A lot of us might actually need saving from ourselves.” He paused. “Maybe that’s where you can help?”
“And just how exactly can I do that?”
“You have this ability for a reason,” he cried. “Maybe this might be the reason; to act as some kind of mediator between the babies and the adults. Between us and our grown-up selves. Somehow that link; that fiery reminder at the start of our lives to never forget the purpose of it. That all important link has been broken. Maybe you can fix it?”
She looked at Mason as though he had just grown a second head.
“Fix it? Fix it?” She laughed sardonically. “Have you seen me at craftwork? I struggle to stick bits of paper together! I can’t fix this thing, I’m just me – Christine!” she snapped dismissing his comments with an angry wave. “I’m just Christine, ok.”
God knows she didn’t need this right now! All this talk of ancestors, ambitions, abilities - was doing her head in! She didn’t need any of this right now.
For some reason she suddenly thought of her own culturally rich heritage: She was black and white, Irish and West Indian, Celtic and African. With her imagination for the dramatics she envisioned a large gathering containing a multitude of people from all over the world; coming from different races and tribes, all shouting to be heard. They were stirring a gaping cauldron and what was being stirred was the making of her…
Christine sighed. “I don’t think I can do this,” she mumbled looking down at her hands; feeling awful about what she was going to do next. “I don’t think I can hear anymore…”
“What? You can’t hear me?” Mason said in surprise; his innocent eyes quickly scanned her face. “How about now?” He waited for an answer. “Can you hear me now?” Christine didn’t make a sound but continued to stare blankly at Mason.
“What about now…?”
That was the last time she babysat for the Willkie’s.
Whenever Ivy popped over with Mason, Christine quickly made her excuses and left. To say she had developed a slight aversion to babies was putting it mildly. Her mother noted the change in her behaviour but said nothing.
Christine fled back to her old life of netball, pop magazines and fantasizing over her latest crushes, which went no further than her overactive imagination. But this was normal to her and normal felt great!
It was almost a year later before she mustered the courage to pay baby Mason a visit. She didn’t outright admit it, but curiosity had finally got the better of her.
“How is little Mason doing?” Christine asked Ivy who was in the kitchen seasoning lamb chops.
“Oh Christine darling. He’s a dear. An absolute dear,” she said wiping her hands on her apron. “It’s so nice of you to come and see him,” she smiled. “I know how busy it must be with homework and the rest. Go on in. He’s in the living room crawling around in his playpen.”
With much trepidation Christine approached the ocean-themed apparatus.
Mason had grown a lot. His hair was thicker, his limbs longer and he was thoroughly enjoying his game of heaping multi-coloured blocks on top of each other; oblivious to the fact that others had entered the room.
“Mason,” his mother called. “Look who’s here to see you darling. We haven’t seen Christine in a long while.”
Mason instantly looked up at the mention of his name. Instinctively, he lifted himself off his bottom and stretched out his arms. “Mummy,” he babbled with glee. He only had eyes for his mother. “Mummy, carry me. Caw me. Mummy, carry me.”
His mother picked him up and kissed his little nose. He gurgled. “Look who’s here, Mason,”
she cooed at him. “Go and play with Christine. You remember Christine don’t you?”
It was then Mason smiled at Christine.
“Hello Mason,” Christine said softly, she edged closer. “How are you little one?”
“Bah!” He answered, and then what he said next was unintelligible…
“I’ve got to get back to the chops,” Ivy said as she handed Mason over to her. “I won’t be long.”
Christine stared back at eyes that didn’t seem to recognise her. Although, he did continue to smile sweetly up at her. Then he again said, “Bah…Bah…BAAAAAAAH!”
A few years later, Christine would learn that once babies uttered their first word they lost the ability to communicate with her. Or was it she who lost the ability to communicate with them? She wasn’t quite sure which. But with the utterance of the first words, there was most definitely a breaking of a bond, and a connection lost forever. Although, more importantly, she noted whilst watching Mason struggling to reach for some bricks in the playpen, as babies matured, they forgot...They forgot an awful lot...
‘Mason was right!’ Christine warily observed. ‘Something does happen to the babies, and whatever that thing was, it had happened to them all…’