Obsidian Command

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Posted on 06 Mar 2024 @ 7:13am by Chief Petty Officer Ibis Xeri

Mission: M4 - Falling Out
Location: Obsidian Command, Wallace Residence
Timeline: following "Family Strife"
1125 words - 2.3 OF Standard Post Measure

Leaves sticking in her hair, Ibis sat up in a familiar old forest glade. She was wet with dewdrops. They sparkled everywhere in the morning light of the Shawangunks. Nearby, the brambles shook although there was no wind to shake them. Out of them lumbered a spring bear, his coat light and ragged and his empty skin sagging from his arms and belly.

Ibis regarded the bear. The bear regarded her. She could sense it, just as she remembered sensing creatures. In her dreams at least, she was often still telepathic.

It was hungry. But that was no special divination. Ibis suggested fish and the brook. At this the bear stood on his hind legs, had a belly scratch and looked over his shoulder before getting back on all fours to go to the stream.

Without any noise of her coming, Ibis’ camp counselor from that one summer camp she had attended in the summer of her sixteenth year was standing there beside her, watching the bear go. Ibis wasn’t shocked at her just being there. She belonged to this place in her memory, just as she always recalled her, with her worn down and discolored camp coveralls and all the sewn on patches and badges, her assortment of eclectic tattoos, her clipboard, and her pin on counselor badge that read ‘Fanna’.

“You wanted to show me something?” the counselor asked between blowing and popping bubble gum and slapping at a mosquito.

Ibis walked after the bear, towards the water and through a veil of vines and brush. Hot sea air hit her face and she squinted against a brutal afternoon sun, holding up her arm. She was back on Korix. On the island. She walked through the camp, half empty— most of the Sunrise survivors who remained at the time were huddled outside of the infirmary. Apart from the rest, Wallace sat tensely over the fire, keeping the coals going, the water boiling. Helpless.

Ibis walked through them like a ghost, and walked through the infirmary door the same way.

Inside was the scene. The same scene that she always replayed. It wasn’t looping, it just never ended. It happened all at once. The intense low conversation, the urging to push, the wailing, the sobbing, and the shrieking. Laura was repositioning Rachel. Trying labor in other postures. Trying to counter push as Rachel tired, bracing against Rachel’s feet. And Laura was calling out for tools and supplies, all of them, all at once. A blur of Many Lauras, Many Rachels, Many Jimohs at many moments in the memory. Ibis, standing in the midst. Standing with the knife.

It was a thin blade. She’d gotten a razor from the lab. That had been easy enough to secret out unnoticed. They had welded it onto a thin rod of metal. Ibis had boiled it in clean water.

What was the sense in sterilizing a killing knife?

But she hadn’t known when she sterilized it what its purpose would be. The only purpose she could think of might be to cut the baby’s cord. Maybe to make a small incision to be resewn later, allowing the baby to fit through the birth canal. There was no way, after all, that they could perform a C-section in the shack, and with no anesthetic.

Laura was reaching, hand out for the knife, standing resolutely over Rachel. It had to be done. They were losing them both. Ibis couldn’t hear Laura saying it, but she could see the ghost form of Laura’s lips moving as Laura was superimposed everywhere Ibis had seen her in the room, simultaneously. Jimoh was circling the head of the bed, then kneeling, pleading, begging, stroking Rachel’s face. Pushing, straining, resting, crying— Rachel was on the birthing table. On her death bed.

“Is this what you wanted to show me?” Fanna blew and popped her bubble gum again. “We’ve seen all this before.”

Ibis began to move to give Laura the killing knife, and then… She stopped, raising it to look at the blade more closely, the thin edge breaking through a narrow definition in her mind.

The knife… it hadn’t killed Rachel. Rachel was already dying. The knife. It had saved Ikemba.

Drawing the knife back from Laura, Ibis turned and tried to give the implement to Fanna, suddenly resolute. “Cut me open instead!”

Fanna quirked an eyebrow at her, her arms crossed. “You’re not pregnant. Ikemba doesn’t get born if you’re cut open.”

“I’ll do it!” She turned the knife on herself, raising it in her fist. “Let it be me! I’ll do it! Ikemba needs his mother!” Ibis screamed, piercing herself in the abdomen and drawing the knife down.

It felt like a zipper.

Her belly was empty. She felt at it, reached her hand inside even. There was nothing inside. Not a baby, not guts. No organs or blood. Looking down at her own stomach, she saw she was just hollowed out, like a squirrel's abandoned nest in a tree. Ibis let the knife drop as she fell on her knees, holding Rachel’s cold hand to her cheek. “Ikemba needs his Mother!” She begged, trying to warm the hand back to life. “I’ll trade!”

Fanna sighed. “That’s not how it works. There’s nothing in you. You can’t trade. And you aren’t a mother.”

Ibis felt slapping on her face and body.

“Bibi.” Ikemba’s voice broke through the suspended dream. “Bibi.”

Ibis opened her eyes, crusted over with dried tears. The apartment on Obsidian Command was the same. Through the windows, the early daylight settings of the Environmental deck were painting the room softly. She vaguely recalled her numbness and the guests they had had the night before, although she couldn’t remember when they had left, and she didn’t recall getting herself a blanket either, though there was one over her.

“Bibi. Up!” Ikemba tried to prompt her. He was an early riser. He’d always been one of the first. Wallace and Jimoh would start the morning fire before the rest and Ikemba had the first light of a Marine clock built into him even as a babe on his father’s back.

Reaching out, Ibis pulled Ikemba to her on the sofa, wrapping the blanket around them both. He snuggled his face into her neck and continued to slap-pat her on the cheek.

“I love you, Ikemba,” she said, nuzzling her nose to his.

“Love Bibi.”

Ibis cried into his thick black curls, smiling and feeling speechless. Her womb may have always been empty, but in that moment her heart was full.


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