a story about an unusual pregnancy and its effects on the unsuspecting mother.
The rain isn’t letting up any, but Adaora doesn’t notice. Outside her house, an apartment on the first floor of a four-storey building she calls home, the world is wet. Umbrellas bob past as people try to find shelter from the rain and splashing cars. Power is still on, and has been on for the past two hours since the rain started, which is unusual. Oblivious to the music blaring from her speakers, Adaora reaches for the biscuit on her plate, pops it into her mouth and chews silently, not tasting it. All food has lost taste in her mouth now; she just needs something to quell the pangs. A sip of juice, then a sandwich. She chews, smacking her lips. Her right hand finds its way to her distended tummy, slipping beneath her T-shirt to rub the smooth skin. The skies mirror her mind; a deluge of images, just like rain. A stranger in her own head, she watches herself fall; a past life; Smiling Adaora, Crying Adaora, at work, with him; three whirlwind weeks of fun, away from everything, from everyone. The doctor’s, where she’d gone to when she’d started getting the cramps, too distracted by work and his sudden disappearance. The doctor, looking up from the test result, his eyes strangely enlarged by his glasses as he says…
The world snapped back into focus and Adaora sat up as she spoke. “Pregnant? Did you say pregnant?” Her voice sounded strange in her ears; was she shouting?
“Yes I did, Miss Adaora. You are not sick; you are carrying a baby.”
“But…” Her mind went blank momentarily, and then she continued. “But I haven’t had any morning sickness yet.”
“Well, for some women, that comes later. However, you are exhibiting all other signs. Fatigue, frequent urination, and-”
“But I just had my period, which is why I came here,” Adaora said, cutting him off.
Dr Tolu’s eyes flashed for a moment, but then he relaxed visibly, smiled with something akin to pity. “That wasn’t your menstruation Miss Adaora. That is a sign that you are at least three weeks pregnant. Pink stains right around when you should have your menses is another sign.”
Adaora tried to speak, but what came out was a weak croak as she fell back into the chair and stared at her shoes. The hospital hummed around her, the antiseptic smell invading her senses.
Dr Tolu watched her for a while, and his heart softened. “What are you afraid of Miss? Won’t the father support you?”
“That’s if I can find him first,” she replied. Her voice sounded hollow, as though the news had just taken everything out of her.
“The father is not in the picture.”
“I see.” Silence. “Break-up?”
“How would I know?”
Silence. Then, “You mean you don’t know where he is?”
A pained expression on her face as she looked up. “I am on the pill, so I still don’t understand how I got pregnant.”
Dr Tolu sighed, and then sat back in his chair. “Sometimes,” he said, “The body wants something so bad, it defies every impossibility.”
Adaora clasped her hands, wringing them nervously.
“Don’t worry,” Dr Tolu said. “You will-”
An insistent scratching sound brings her back, and it takes a while of staring morosely to realize that her hand has been trying to grasp a sandwich that is no longer in the plate; she has finished it without knowing. She traces a finger on her lips and licks it. Maybe this will do for now. The intervals are getting shorter now; she can hold out for another what, thirty minutes? Twenty? It has been getting progressively worse. In the beginning it had been every four hours, and she’d attributed this to the pregnancy. When it changed to every three hours, she’d begun to worry.
She closes her eyes and leans back in her chair. A single tear traces a line down her left cheek.
Memories. So much joy; so much pain. One smile, and she’d been swept away like a leaf in the wind. She known it was something else, something new, something…unique. She’d never felt that way before. His eyes had been the deepest she’d ever seen, and now they haunt the hallways of her mind. Now she needs to-
The pangs pull her back to reality. She gets up. She needs to make some food before the pangs become worse. As she walks past the full-length mirror in her room, she turns involuntarily to look, and then she stops. A wraith stares back at her. She does not recognize this thin woman with the hollow cheeks and sunken eyes. The only that looks healthy is the rapidly growing bump. It is as if she is being sucked hollow from the inside. She turns and looks at an old, framed picture of her on the dresser beside the mirror, just before the madness and its consequences. Silently, she reaches out and turns it face-down.
Dr Tolu stared at the ultrasound scan, and then looked up. He started to speak, and then looked back at the scan. Dropped it on his table, leaned back, took off his glasses and robbed his eyes. “I don’t understand,” He said to himself.
“What?” Adaora asked, leaning forward.
Ignoring her, he took the scan, got up and said “Just one moment,” leaving her staring at his vacant chair. The closing door sounded too loud. Adaora pinched herself. “Stay focused girl,” she muttered to herself. “Stay focused.” She brought out her phone and idly scrolled through her contacts list. She found his number and tried it for the umpteenth time. It rang continuously and then stopped. Just as she was trying to dial it again, Dr Tolu came back into the room with another doctor in tow, this one a tall, dark, be-spectacled female with soft, beautiful features.
“Miss Adaora,” he said as he walked round his desk, “I want you to meet a colleague of mine, Dr Margaret.”
“Hello,” Dr Margaret said, stretching her hand.
Adaora shook her hand. “Hello. Is anything the matter?”
Dr Tolu glanced at Dr Margaret, who resisted the urge to look back at him. “Nothing serious Miss Adaora,” she said. “I just need to ask you a few questions.”
“Okay…” Adaora glanced inquiringly at Dr Tolu, who focused on Dr Margaret.
“How far along are you now?”
“I meant, how long have you been pregnant?”
“Six weeks now. Found out I was pregnant in my third week, and that was three weeks ago.”
“Good. Any unusual feelings?”
“Apart from the things I was told to expect? I’ve got mood swings.”
“That’s also expected.”
“Okay. I also have a craving to eat a lot these days, and a few of my colleagues at work say that I seem to be losing weight, which cannot be possible given the fact that I am pregnant and I now eat more than before.”
Dr Margaret thought for a while and then asked, “How often do you get these cravings? What kinds of food do you crave?”
“I think it is every four hours, and I crave literally anything edible.” The furrowed brows on Dr Margaret’s face made her ask, “Is that normal?”
“Cravings during pregnancy,” Dr Margaret said, sitting on the chair beside Adaora and leaning forward, “are not unheard of. Some women crave certain kinds of foods for certain periods, and these cravings change. Sometimes a pregnant woman may crave sweet or salty foods, or even water. So your food craving is nothing unusual.”
“Are you sure?”
Dr Margaret smiled. “Positive my dear. Now, I asked you how far along you were earlier on because of something we discovered-”
“Am I sick? Is the baby alright?”
“You are fine. The baby…appears to be alright.”
“But…?” Adaora asked. Her heart thudded within her chest, threatening to drown out all sound.
“I want you to look at something.”
At this, Dr Tolu sat up and spread three pictures on his desk; two colour pictures and one ultrasound. “These are pictures of a foetus at three different stages,” he said. He pointed at the first picture; it looked like an egg divided in two. “This is the foetus at three weeks. The second one ,” the second colour picture, “is the baby at six weeks. And this last one,” -the ultrasound scan- “is the foetus at nine weeks.
Adaora looked at the pictures, and then looked at the doctors. “And?”
“What do you think your baby will look like now?” Dr Tolu asked.
Without hesitation, she reached out and touched the second picture. “Six weeks, so this one. Right?”
Dr Tolu looked at Dr Margaret, who said, “That’s what it is supposed to look like, but you are wrong, which is why I asked you all those questions in the beginning.”
“What do you mean?”
“This,” Dr Margaret said, her finger on the ultrasound scan, “is your baby.”
Adaora stared morosely at the doctors. “I…I don’t understand.”
“It means you are not six weeks pregnant Miss Adaora. You are nine weeks pregnant.”
“How is that possible?” Adaora asked. “Dr Tolu was the one who told me my test results!”
Dr Tolu squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. “I know, and at the time all signs pointed to that. I am sorry about that.”
“Look,” Dr Margaret said, “I know Dr Tolu, and I trust him. I don’t know what’s going on, but I wouldn’t worry about it. Maybe, your body is reacting differently to the pregnancy; maybe it had tried to reject it for a while but after acquiescing, is now trying to make up for lost time.” Dr Tolu turned to look at Dr Margaret, who ignored him. “So, don’t worry. Just come to us if you notice anything unusual. As for your craving, it is not a problem. Just stay healthy for you and the baby, that’s all I can say for now. But don’t for…”
The cold bathroom floor tiles on her bare skin. Sometimes it helps to lie down here; maybe it doesn’t like the cold. The light is off, and she has covered her mirror with a towel. She can’t bear to look at what she has become. The pangs, a little dull now, but she knows that this is only temporary respite; soon they’ll come back, and then the scratching and pulling, the kicking. An angry little baby. Her eyes focus slowly on the plate of rice in front of her. A poke on the left side of her tummy. She closes her eyes. A pinch. A finger, tracing a line on the insides of her womb. She gets up to eat.
Dr Tolu’s eyes widened even further. It was bad enough that Adaora had lost so much weight even while the pregnancy appeared to have grown, but this? “What kind of sick joke is this?” he asked aloud. At 12 weeks, this was looking like a 27 week old pregnancy.
“Huh?” Adaora opened her eyes. She’d been enjoying the coolness of the scanner on her tummy.
“Nothing.” He turned off the machine, turned it on again and started all over. In moments, the baby appeared again on-screen. He stared at the bulge in surprise.
“How-” he started, then movement caught his eye. He turned and stared as the baby turned and…and…was it reaching out to him?
The baby moved towards the screen suddenly, startling Dr Tolu who scrambled backwards, falling off his stool. The scanner swung freely from its cord, but the image remained on the screen. Adaora’s mouth hung open as the baby pressed its palm on the screen. The screen bulged. Dr Tolu tried to speak but only a croak came out. The screen bulged twice, and then a hand came out. It was a translucent pink and it ended in claws. The windows in the room blew out and the lights went off as the screen flickered. The air became too hot, and then too cold. An inhuman keening in the air as Dr Tolu screamed, scrambled to his feet and shuffled backwards, afraid of taking his eyes off the hand that now glowed blue with the light coming from the screen. “No, no, no, no, no” he kept muttering, his mind a slate.
“Doctor? Doctor Tolu?” Adaora’s voice coming from so far away.
He turned and leapt out of the window four storeys off the ground. People, screaming as he flattened a Toyota Camry, dying instantly.
Adaora’s scream brought the whole floor to a standstill.
stop her someone should stop the person screaming someone should-
Adaora abruptly stops screaming. She is now in the tub; she cannot recollect finishing her food-the empty plate mocks her-neither can she remember filling the tub with water. It has stopped raining, but the sky is still dark, and power has been cut. There is nothing left for her now, she knows. Her only option is to get this baby out before it bec-
The pangs again. “No,” she says. “You’ve ruined my life enough. You have to come out. I don’t-”
A tug inside, as if in protest, and then she feels something tear. She screams in anguish as she clutches her stomach. She lapses into a blinding, coughing fit and when her sight clears, she can see the blood on the tiles, on her hand. She can taste the blood as well, she feels it run down her chin. She struggles to her feet as her stomach bulges unnaturally. She looks down to see two small hands pushing out from the inside of her stomach; pin-pricks of blood, rapidly spreading at the fingertips. Stifling a scream, she rummages in her bathroom cabinet for a razor. Ignoring the cuts, she unwraps it and holds it up to the fading light. Her eyes are glassy. A tug, agonizing pain and she almost drops the razor into the water which is rapidly changing colour; she is bleeding from every orifice.
As the razor parts the skin of her stomach, Adaora screams, and the world screams with her. The sky rumbles.
Outside her bathroom window, unseen to the world, yellow, serpentine eyes look in. An impossibly old face cracks in a smile, revealing razor-sharp teeth.
The lips move; the voice is a gravelly whisper.