By: Jack Lee Taylor
She set her tiny baby down on the kitchen table. Her baby still had no face, so she gently pushed in two slits into its clay, purple head with her fingernail until she saw the vestige of a smile. She added two more curved slits above the smile for eyes that appeared shut tight, full of glee.
She moved her baby onto a spot on the table where fading sunlight shone so she could study her work. It didn’t exactly look like a baby; its shape was amorphous, a purple ghost-like thing perched above two crude flattened slabs of clay as a kind of pedestal. Her creation certainly wasn’t anything comparable to the remarkable clay creatures her husband made in his studio down in the basement.
But it’s cute, she thought. And it’s my first work. My first child.
She picked up her baby from the table and then headed down the hallway until she came to a door splotched ornately with intricate designs made of clay. Above the door was a bulbous light bulb protruding out like a threatening fist. Seeing that it did not glow angry red, she opened the door and descended down creaking, boarded steps, cradling her baby in her arms. Her husband’s cursing grew louder with each step down into the cold, dusty basement.
“I did not call for you,” her husband said, not turning from his latest work to look at her. He hunched over a menagerie of several clay animals set across a large flat board full of realistic jungle terrain. Were it not for the pair of spotlights set upon the small animals, they would all blend with the countless clay things scattered around the concrete-bricked room, all of these creatures made from her husband’s previous claymation films.
“I have something to show you,” she said, stepping closer behind him. She held out her baby, cupping it in her hands. Her husband raised a finger, his back to her.
“I’m busy,” he said. “You know this.” She frowned, pulling her baby toward her.
“The light was not on,” she said.
Her husband ignored her. Instead, he stood up and headed over to a camcorder perched on a tripod next to a blazing spotlight. He pushed a button on the camcorder and then crossed his arms, eyeing his miniature stage, his white hair and glasses gleaming next to the spotlight.
The clay animals all sprung simultaneously to life: a lion chasing a gazelle, an elephant herd tromping through the ground, exotic birds flying through the air, giraffes grazing in the distance and many more animals in their own activities. It all looked so random, unorganized. And that’s what made it all look so real.
“Bah,” her husband grumbled. His animals stopped moving, his birds plopping back onto the board.
“That was wonderful,” she said.
“No,” he said. “They are clumsy.” He removed his glasses and pushed a palm into his eyes. He let out an exhausted sigh and said, “I am getting too weak. Too old for this.”
“No dear,” she said, coming closer to him and placing a hand on his shoulder. “You mustn’t say that. You are an amazing man! A brilliant artist!”
He scowled at her, putting his glasses back on. He pointed an accusing finger at her and said, “You would know this. All that I’ve done for you. You know this well!”
He paused, calming himself. “What are you holding?” he asked with annoyance.
She showed her baby to her husband, bringing the purple child just under the spotlights so he could see her first work.
“What is that?”
“It’s our baby.”
Her husband chortled and then laughed hard, his chest heaving.
“That?” he said in between laughs. “You made that?”
She stepped back, confused. She waited for his laughter to die and then said, “I know I could never be as good as you. But… it’s my first work. Our first baby. Would you make our baby move like you do the animals?”
Her husband frowned, shaking his head. “No. Don’t you realize how hard it is to control?” he said.
“Yes,” she said. They stared at each other in silence for a moment, and then her husband turned back to his work.
She moved away back toward the stairs and looked down at her baby’s face. Its smile was still there. I am forbidden to use, she thought. But maybe this one time…
She pulled at the familiar vibration from her husband, the stirring power she could always feel linking him to her. She pushed the vibrations from within her down into her child. The smiling divot on her baby’s mouth began to move.
“Mom-ma,” her baby said. The room began to shake, clay figures falling from shelves.
“NO!” her husband cried. “Stop using!”
“I…” she began and then felt the vibration grow stronger — uncontrollable. She couldn’t stop this. Her husband screamed, staggering toward her, his palms to the sides of his head. “YOU MUST STOP!”
Her baby began to lose its shape. NO! MY BABY!
Something suddenly shifted inside of her and then she felt herself… what? Shrink? He’s taking it away from me!
“I warned you,” her husband said, panting. “You must never use my power.”
Her arms drew into her body, her torso expanding and ripping the buttons from her dress.
“I should never have created you,” he said. “You… you use up too much of the energy.”
She tried to reach out to her husband, but her arms were now just nubs of clay. Her head tucked down into her neck; her legs puddled boneless to the ground.
Darkness formed around her vision, but she spotted her baby, malformed and still on the ground next to her. With a last pull from her husband’s energy, she reached out with a snaking piece of her and bonded with her baby, reeling her child toward her. Into her.
For the moment just before she was unmade, she felt a sense of joy and wonder.
She was a mother.
A mother with child.
© Jack Lee Taylor 2015