Evanor sat in her kitchen with Dorka sipping a cup of skagbroth. Dorka had been Evanor’s friend ever since she and Thort moved to their house, if you could call it that, nearly 36 months ago. They’d lost their farm in Sector 87 during the last Big Drought and Thort had heard there was work in the mines to be had, if you had a strong arm and a wide back. Dorka lived down the row of cabins from them with her husband Javid and their infant son, Sangor. Sangor was playing quietly on the kitchen floor beside his mother’s chair. The fire in the hearth warmed the floor and the air. Dorka was probably Evanor’s best friend. She was the only one of the neighborhood ladies who welcomed her when they moved in. Evanor remembered that first day when Dorka knocked on the door, carrying a basket meat pies and fruit and vegetables fresh from their garden.
Evanor was a diminutive woman except for her surprisingly large belly. She was large with a baby that was about to be born any day now. Dorka seemed to have so much more experience with these things, having recently given birth to Sangor. She promised to help Evanor through the hardest times. “There was nothing to it,” Dorka said. “Every woman went through the experience and most survived. The funniest thing about it,” she said wisely, “is that it will be the most excruciating pain you’ll ever experience and then, the next day, you won’t remember the pain at all since you’ll already be thinking about the next baby.”
Maybe it was the power of suggestion. Evanor felt two blunt stabbing pains deep in her uterus. Her hands clutched instinctively at her stomach. She nearly passed out. Then she felt alright again as though there had not been any pain. She looked at Dorka to see whether she had noticed anything out of the ordinary. Dorka was watching Evanor worriedly. Evanor picked up her cup to sip the tea, as though nothing had happened, hoping that if she could persuade her friend that everything was alright, then maybe everything would be alright. The pain thrust into her uterus again. Evanor’s hand shook and the cup fell to the floor, bursting into shards and spilling the tea on the floor. Dorka picked up Sangor quickly from the floor before the hot tea could scald him.
Dorka smiled into Evanor’s frightened eyes and calmly told her friend, “I think we’d better get you into bed…”
“But my baby…” Evanor whimpered, “I think something might be wrong!”
“Just you relax now girl,” Dorka said taking charge of the situation. “A million girls before you have gone through exactly the same thing. It’s perfectly normal… It’s time to get your husband and call for the midwife and the preacher.” Dorka put Sangor in his babycart and then she helped Evanor walk to the bedroom. She undressed her and helped her put on a loose nightgown. Dorka covered her with the quilt and told her she was going to leave Sangor with the neighbor lady and then send word to Thort to come home as quick as he could. Evanor was sweating and kicked off the quilt. “Please hurry Dorka!” she moaned. “I’ll be back before you know it,” Dorka assured her friend and rushed out of the house with Sangor.
After Dorka had deposited her son with one of the neighbors, she hurried off in the direction of the mine where Thort and her husband, Javid, worked. She couldn’t go into the mine itself, of course. The elevator cage was down at the bottom of the shaft where the workers were and they weren’t about to bring it up just for her. She was out of breath when she walked into the mine boss’s office. “What do you want?” the boss asked gruffly when she knocked timidly on the open door. He was chewing on a drac leg bone. The meat was tough but the fat dripped from his clenched fingers.
“I need to get a message down to Thort,” she said urgently. “His wife is about to have a baby!”
“It’ll have to wait until he comes up at the end of his shift,” he said gruffly. “I’m not about to bring that elevator cage up and down and then up and down again just for one miner’s wife. Besides that, he probably wouldn’t come up, if he knew what’s good for him, ‘cause I’d dock his paycheck good!”
“But she’s gonna have his baby and she needs her husband,” she pleaded half-heartedly, already knowing it was a lost cause. What was she thinking?
“Close the door on your way out,” the boss told Dorka coldly.
She went to the entrance of the mine shaft and wrote a note to Thort in big letters that, hopefully, he wouldn’t miss. She pinned the note to the board where the miners came out at the end of their shift. She prayed that Thort would see the note and come home as quickly as he could instead of going to the pub in town with Javid and the rest of his friends.
Dorka rushed to the midwife’s cabin and banged on the door with her clenched fists. She shouted the woman’s name and banged on the door. One of the neighbor ladies leaned out her window and said the midwife is out delivering a baby, that new couple that just moved here from Sector 88. “When did she leave?” Dorka asked the older woman, seeing the disaster looming in front of her.
“About an hour ago,” the woman drawled.
Dorka didn’t really have all that much experience. All she had was the fact of recently giving birth and she’d done that lying on her back and pushing. She’d never delivered a baby herself and never really watched how it was done. There was no use going to the preacher’s house since he’d probably be with the midwife at the new couple’s cabin on the outskirts of the village. What was she going to do?
Dorka debated with herself while she rushed back to Evanor’s cabin. By the time she got to the door, she’d decided what she was going to do, God help her. It wasn’t like there was anything else to be done.
Dorka hurried breathlessly into the bedroom. “Where’s Thort?” Evanor cried, her eyes uncomprehending. Dorka sat down on the bed beside Evanor and said as calmly as she could, “I told his boss to let Thort know he had to come home as soon as possible. He should be here any moment now… Right now it’s just you and me girl.” She rubbed Evanor’s trembling leg.
“It hurts so badly,” Evanor said, pain accenting her words strangely.
Dorka shushed her. “Don’t you worry girl,” she said, “It’s perfectly normal and before you know it it’ll all be over.”
“Where’s the midwife?” Evanor asked Dorka suspiciously.
“I left word with her neighbor to come over as soon as she can,” Dorka lied. “What’re you worrying about? I’ve been through it myself and, if she doesn’t come in time, I’ll do it myself. How difficult can it be?” Dorka looked under the quilt and sheet like she saw the midwife do when she delivered Sangor. She put her hand near Evanor’s private parts without touching to measure the opening. Two fingers. It’s starting! ”Don’t you dare push girl,” she ordered. “Just you relax between your pains … we’ve got lots of time yet.” Dorka looked at the clock on the table beside the bed. Come on somebody, rescue me! She held Evanor’s hands. She squeezed Dorka’s hands with inhuman strength, smiling in the concentration of her pain.
The pains were coming closer together. Evanor was grunting now. “Don’t push yet!” Dorka tried to raise her voice above Evanor’s grunting. “Wait as long as you can …”
Evanor wasn’t acknowledging Dorka’s command. She was just letting the roar of pain come through her mouth. An animal was taking over Evanor’s body and soul. There was nothing Dorka could say to talk sense into it.
Time slowed down almost to stopping.
Dorka looked under the sheet again. Oh God, nine fingers! I see the baby’s head. Oh God, what’ll I do?
Evanor let out a scream as long as a drac’s tail. The baby’s head as all the way out. Dorka saw the shoulders. The baby … oh God! It’s – The baby was all the way out and in her arms, the afterbirth hanging like a grotesque bridge between the infant and Evanor’s uterus. Dorka’s brain froze. “It’s dead!” Dorka moved her dry lips incomprehensibly. “God save his …”
“Nooooooooooo!” Evanor keened. Thort burst through the bedroom door wrested the infant from Dorka’s arms, almost knocking her over in the process. “It’s an abomination!” Dorka mumbled incoherently. “That’s what the preacher says … It’s the devil’s spawn. See, it’s not even breathing … It’s limp.”
Suddenly the baby’s eyes opened widely, deep pools of blue. He shook a small fist in the air and grasped at Thort’s cheek. His small blue hand opened and closed. Thort put his thick coarse finger in his tiny palm and the blue fingers closed around it and squeezed for all they were worth.
Evanor saw that Thort’s eyes were shining. She was still whimpering when Thort bent over her placing the infant in her hungry arms, gently withdrawing his finger from his little son’s grip. Evanor cooed and soothed the tiny impossibly blue life. He was perfect except for the fact that he was … No, God damn it! He was just plain perfect and that was all there was to it.
Nobody paid attention to Dorka standing in the corner of their bedroom mumbling to herself and gesticulating.
Thus Lem was born.