Monday, 23 November 2015

Eight times eighty-three and a quarter.

The night of my youngest son's birth was a long one.

On the day he was due, the very date the doctor had given for his arrival, I arrived home from a shift working behind my father's bar on a bright, autumnal Friday evening to be greeted by my eldest boy.

"Mum says to tell you it's started. She's in the bath. Are we still having a chippy tea?"

"You can have whatever you like, son", I called over my shoulder as I disappeared up the stairs.

The bag had been ready for a week or two, so once I'd got her 'dressed', but before she'd stopped being angry with me for every bad thing that had ever happened in her whole life (To be fair, I probably was responsible for the majority) we set off.

A storm broke as we left the house, lightning flashing across the sky. I laughed and made a joke about the Anti-Christ and she told me she hated me and that I was never to touch her again. Such a special time, the birth of a child.

Having deposited the existing offspring with his grandfather and agreed that "you can have whatever you like, son" meant he could have a kebab, a shandy and a new game for his Nintendo we drove, through driving rain and howling winds, to the local hospital.

The unusually dark, local hospital.

A lightning strike had caused a power cut, but the emergency generators were in operation and so dim lights lit the interior. We were deposited in a delivery room to get comfortable, the general consensus being that the demon's seed gestating within my wife's gizzard was several hours away from unleashing Armageddon upon the world, and I drew her a bath as the thunder crashed outside the little window.

Whilst she soaked in the warm water and moaned about how shit I was at everything, I wandered off to find a phone. Unable to find a payphone I asked at reception, only to be told that the phones had gone the same way as the electricity. A chill ran down my neck as the storm continued to rage. The nurse I was speaking with made a joke about the Anti-Christ and I giggled nervously, interrupted by a blood curdling scream.

He was coming.

I dashed back into the delivery room as a flash of lightning lit the little window revealing a crow, oily and black with beads of rain on his bill, sheltering from the weather on the window ledge. It cawed. I gulped.

Another scream brought me back from my stupor and things began to get busy. I cracked inappropriate jokes whilst my wife gave birth to the second drain upon our resources in what has to be the easiest, most text book of deliveries. He was even clean, just a tiny spot of blood on his pointy head from the probe that had been attached. And he didn't cry. He was breathing, he was moving, everything was fine, but no screaming.

He was placed on the scales and left there, safe in the stainless steel bowl, whilst those people whose names I wish I'd bothered to ask tended to business.

It was dawn. The storm now over and the sun's early rays beginning to cast long shadows outside, birds were warming up their cheeps and chirrups in preparation for a hard day's chirruping and cheeping. I hadn't noticed it cease, the storm. I've no idea at what point during the labour, but given the night we'd just experienced I assume it was the moment he took his first breath.

There was a clunk and the power came back on, the strip lights flickering into life at about the same time a young chap put his head around the door and told me I could use the phone now. Then we were alone.

I looked at my new son in my arms and smiled down at him. I laughed with my wife about how we should call him Damien and I made some joke about how I'd have to execute him on an altar, a comment which thankfully went unheard by anyone but us.

There was another storm, on his first birthday. As ferocious as the one the previous year, surely this must be proof? That child wasn't mine, he was demonic, he was GINGER for Christ's sake! How could there be any doubt? The spawn of Beelzebub born into the perfect hiding place, the home of a devout Atheist. Someone who didn't believe in all that shit, someone that would let the black soul of the cloven one flourish in his care without ever suspecting...

But I was on to him.

As I sat in my armchair watching the future Lord of Flies mash birthday caked into a paste with his fists and wearing a paper hat at a jaunty angle, his brother singing Happy Birthday to him for the umpteenth time, it all became clear. I knew what I must do. If he was the Devil, if he was the one that would bring Hell to Earth...

...then I was on the Devil's side.


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