We’re winding down our spring Round Robin exercise, The Ultima Storm, with an installment by yours truly, Kimberly Packard. GFWW member Bryan Grubbs wraps up the story he started in our final installment. Stay tuned!
I run back inside to find Sera on her hands and knees, Caleb beside her, rubbing her back while whispering reassurances. I look over my shoulder, the children are quiet now, thrust back to desolation from the fringes of hope. What cruel world is this baby about to enter where children leave their childhood too early?
Zoe pushed past me, sliding to her knees on Sera’s other side.
“How bad are they Sera, on a scale of one to ten?”
“Twenty,” she answered through gritted teeth.
“Drake, time the contractions,” Zoe ordered. “Sera, I’m a doula. I can help you.”
I glanced at my watch. 5:48.
“A do-what?” Caleb wrapped a protective arm around Sera’s hunched shoulders.
“A birth coach, midwife. I’ve birthed many babies and can help you do this.”
Another scream pinged around the inside of the transport.
“Drake,” Zoe’s voice sung in my ears. The baby was coming. My baby was coming? Suddenly, I wanted the child to be mine. I wanted to see a crown of dark hair snuggled into Sera’s arms, craved looking into my own brown eyes. “Drake! Time!”
I snapped back and looked at my watch. 5:44
“Four minutes,” my voice was husky as I thought about that night with Sera. The unspoken passion as we tumbled to the floor, clothes mingling, legs entwined, bodies one. Shit. That was nine months ago.
Zoe pushed herself off the floor and walked past me, grabbing my arm, leading me to the open door of the transport.
“We’ve got maybe two hours before serious labor starts,” Zoe didn’t meet my eyes. Instead she stared out over the ocean at the gleaming silver launch tower. The purple clouds seemed frozen, not advancing, but not retreating. The eye of the hurricane. “But I don’t know how we move her across ten miles of ocean. It’s too risky …”
I looked down at the inky black water. Most of the world’s ocean life died off when the temperatures first started rising. Most. Not all of it. Rumors of mutant sharks and even larger giant squid scared children to sleep at night.
Without a word, I turned back to the control center of the transport. A compartment to my left proclaimed “Emergency” and I broke open the door. Inside was a small oxygen tank with a respirator and goggles.
Zoe was back at Sera’s side when I emerged. Our eyes locked and she met me at the door, staring at the bounty in my hands.
“You can’t be serious,” she said.
“I had a feeling they must have had some way to breathe in case of a bio-hazard.”
“That tank can’t have enough oxygen to swim ten miles,” her hushed voice was hurried, anger and fear danced together as her words picked up speed. “What about us? What about the storm?”
“I’ll swim on the surface while it’s clear and dive down when a storm comes. They have boats patrolling five miles out from the launch site. I’ll flag one down and come get you.” My hand cupped her cheek. “I’ll make it. I promise.”
“No you won’t.”
We both jumped, not hearing Caleb join us.
“There’s no other choice.” My fist clinched preparing to fight them both.
Caleb nodded as he reached for the tank and mask. “There is. I’ll go. You stay here, protect Sera, the kids and Zoe. Protect our baby.”
His eyes burned into mine. Protect our baby. It was as if he meant that the baby belonged to the three of us. Did she confess our indiscretion to him? A question pursed my lips, but he was gone before the words could push past the lump in my throat. Ripples rocked the water below and Caleb emerged ten feet from the door.
“Just tell her I went for help,” he shouted before swimming towards our future.
Zoe and I laced our fingers together and watched him swim away until another of Sera’s contractions drew us inside.
“Why does it hurt so goddammed much?” she cried.
Zoe helped Sera lay on her back, positioning her for privacy from the kids and me. Lucis and Amara huddled together, his arm around her shoulder and both sets of eyes wide with fear.
“Drake, give me your jacket. I need something to drape over her legs. Lucis and Amara, can you try to find me some cloth or blankets, anything that is clean and we can wrap a baby in?”
The kids sprung to life, a scavenger hunt reawakening their childhood. Sera groaned on the floor, her pale face green and covered in sweat. Once Zoe had my jacket in place, she spread Sera’s legs and ducked out of sight. I looked back at my watch. 5:29. Caleb better swim fast. My eyes squinted in the distance, looking for some sign of Caleb on the watery horizon, but the gray air hid him. Perhaps he already dove under. Perhaps he already perished. I turned back to the women, forbidding myself to think about letting a father sacrifice himself with barely a fight.
Zoe straightened and looked up at the ceiling of the transport before closing her eyes and tucking her chin in to her chest. I watched as her lips moved in a silent prayer. When she opened her eyes, I realized the color was drained from her olive complexion.
“The baby is breech,” her voice trembled. “I can’t turn it around, I tried. We could lose one of them. Or, both.”
About Kimberly Packard