It was almost dawn when the first pain struck, forcing her eyes open and a cry of agony from her lips. Clearly there would be no easing into it, no niggles, no gentle build up, only the sensation that the child in her belly had awoken (or been awoken) and wanted out, as quickly and as forcefully as possible. She shouldn’t have expected it to be any less than this. With every wave of pain that overtook her body over the next unknown period of time, it could have been minutes, it could have been hours; she was no longer entirely aware of reality other than the immediate one, it was as if she was being punished by some unseen Gods or otherwise. And after all, did she really, truly deserve anything less, or more merciful?
“Look at me, little Ana.”
Rainé held her hand firmly and Eyla stroked her belly, her eyeless face cocked at an odd angle staring up at Ana, but the voice belonged to neither one of them. She groaned and squeezed her eyes closed, thrashing her head from side to side. No, not now, Gods please, not now. She wouldn’t look, she wouldn’t listen. She couldn’t. There was work to do. If she did nothing else with this life, she would at least see this through, and deliver her child into the world before she left it with as much strength as she could muster. There was no time left for reminiscing, regrets, sorrow or otherwise. For weeks, months even, she had been completely devoid of energy, even of awareness of her surroundings, of nothing but tiredness. A weariness so deep that she simply felt empty.
“Liar, liar, LIAR!”
Had she imagined the girl screaming? Here she was, now, quite calm, oddly so, in fact, despite the current situation. Had it been real, Eyla should be … there was nothing. No anger, no fear, jealousy, there was simply no energy at all around her and this confused Ana. But no, she couldn’t think about that now. Oh Gods, there was that pain again, and so soon following the first? She thrashed her head around on her pillow, biting her bottom lip so hard that her teeth pierced the dry parched flesh there and she tasted a bitter, warm rush of blood in her mouth.
Minutes passed, and then hours. All she was aware of was the pain, ripping through her body as if it was some kind of independent entity and it would tear her apart, rather than some thing that was happening to her, something she was feeling. There was no control left, barely even consciousness. In fact, so long passed that it wasn’t until the room was dark and she became aware of candle light in her immediate surroundings and not natural sunlight through that window nearby that Ana wondered how much of what was happening was real, if any of it.
Am I dead already?
“Stay with us, Ana. That baby needs to come out. Don’t you give up now, not now, not yet…”
Raine’s voice. No, she wasn’t dead yet, but she shook her head weakly at the words, at her sister’s insistent encouragement, and whimpered. She couldn’t do it. She allowed her eyes to open only long enough to silently plead with her, and if Raine saw the desperation in the other woman’s eyes, she didn’t show it, but only reached to squeeze her hand firmly, nodding stiffly.
“You will do this, Ana. Or so help me, I will follow you to whatever Hell follows this and make your eternity a nightmare, myself!”
A giggle issued forth from Eyla then, the only single other sound that Ana had heard in hours, and she felt the girl lay her cheek on her belly, and all she felt was cold. A cold that was at first skin deep but seeped into her slowly and then spread slowly at first, and then became all encompassing, a small patch of cold turned into something that filled her entire core with an unnatural feeling of almost lifelessness and it was at that moment as the child wrapped her arms around Ana’s belly and the last pain struck that she began to scream.
“Ow! Hurts, huuuuurts, stop!” She started to thrash around, kicking her arms and legs, trying to get away from the hands, the fingers digging into her skin, sinking into her body. “Please, no, please…”
And the last thing Ana saw when she looked down was the manifestation fading, disappearing, and with each second the pain grew. One long, seemingly endless test of her strength as Eyla faded away before her eyes, and it was then that she did lose consciousness, truly.
“Look at me, little Ana. It’s time to remember. We’re almost there. Wake up.”