Delayed Birth: A Warning

This story was based on an archetypal dream and published in the literary journal for horror and magical realism, Mama Grande Press, all the way back in 2012.

It can still be viewed online here: Mama Grande Issue 2

The moon that night was larger than she had ever seen it before; it shone through her bedroom window like a nightlight in the darkness, this smooth and luminous pearl of a moon.

She lay in bed, lulled into a half-sleep by the sibilant hush of the trees tossing their leaves in the wind outside. All the while this young woman with dark hair strewn loosely across her face and her arms wrapped gently round her belly,

was thinking of the child she carried inside her.

My baby, my sweet- child of my womb; you who carry my hopes and dreams: you will never know suffering like mine, I promise you that.

You will not make the same mistakes that I did, no- you are far too strong; I can tell by the force of your kicks. I dampened my own fire, held it back when it would have burned me free-

I held my fire back for others, and so in time, it went out.

But yours will never go out. It will burn with the light of a million stars.

How wonderful it must be to have a heart as pure as yours, one that can trust and love so boldly, without knowledge of pain. My own is so bruised it hurts to the touch, and my mind

is heavy, foggy with darkness and fear. I am weary, and no longer young.

But you- you will come into the world with fresh eyes full of wonder, seeing only magic and beauty around you. All the beautiful things that I ever felt, thought or believed- that is you, and so much more. You will live the life I would have lived if only the world had let me. My child, you are the person I was meant to be.

As soon as she thought this she knew that it was time. A few minutes later her water


It all rushed together; the blazing red streetlights whizzing by in the drive over, the wailing of the ambulance, the stark white of the hospital walls and doctors’ coats- everything coloured by sharp, shocking pain.

Then she was being wheeled through double doors and before she knew it, she was screaming in a hospital bed surrounded by doctors and nurses, and pushing with all her might. It felt as if someone were ripping her apart from the inside with a knife.

“Don’t push! Don’t push!” The doctor cried.

“Relax, please! Let the baby come out by itself. She wants to come out, she’s ready. Don’t push her.”

But she couldn’t relax. How long had this baby been growing inside her? God only knew. It was high time for her to get out already. So she pushed as if there was a ticking time bomb between her legs.

And then she stopped. Fear, irrational, began to wash over her.

What if she’s not ready? What if I’m not ready?

The expectant eyes of the doctor and the nurses were on her, waiting. She felt herself


And, ever so slowly, she felt the baby begin to retreat back up inside her, back up to the womb where it was safe.

“Miss Falter, what are you doing? Whatever it is, you must stop it immediately,” the doctor warned. But it was too late; she couldn’t stop the thoughts from rolling in now.

What if my baby is only half-grown? What if she’s ugly? What if she’s so monstrously hideous that it makes people sick just to look at her?

She felt the baby retreat even further.

What will become of me when the baby is born? What if I don’t survive this and only my baby does? What if she’s not strong enough to make it on her own in the world?

– No

We’re not ready. We need more time.

The doctor sighed heavily and began to stand up. The energy went out of the room as in a deflated balloon. One of the nurses smiled sympathetically at her, while another gazed blankly into the distance.

“Well I’m not sure what just happened, Miss Falter, but it looks like yet again there will be no delivery today. I can’t help but feel that you interfered with the process to your own detriment- but not to worry; your baby is ready to come out, and she will do so when the time is right. In the meantime, go home, get plenty of rest, and we will no doubt see you back here again shortly.”

She gave him a weary, apologetic smile, and he patted her kindly on the shoulder as he left the room.


Miss Falter went home that night and waited… and waited. But the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into years, and eventually she forgot what she was waiting for.

Her once swollen bump became a much more inconspicuous little potbelly. The kicking, which had been so fervent in the earlier stages of her pregnancy, gradually grew weaker and weaker until she no longer noticed it.

She carried on living her ordinary life, all the while knowing that she was waiting for something, but she could not for the life of her remember what it was.

Soon she fell in love with a man named Jim and felt that this, this must be what she had been waiting for. But even after they were married, she could not help but think that there was something else that needed to happen, something she needed to find in order to make her life, herself, complete.

Her career took off and in the course of it she received many promotions and accolades, but there was something missing.

Most of the time it didn’t bother her, though; she had become Comfortable Enough. Comfortable Enough with her life, and Comfortable Enough with the waiting.

And then one day she was lying down in her bedroom at night once more, her eyes brimful of moon.

A beautiful, tender melody was playing from somewhere downstairs; Jim must have been listening to classical music again with his nightcap glass of Single Malt Whiskey. The music rushed up in her, vibrant and colourful, kind and forgiving. For a brief moment she remembered that she was a soul, here, alive, for reasons mysterious and unknown. She had a duty to fulfil, but what was it?

Her spirit rose for an instant and she felt it, something both ancient and young stirring within her, something that ached and called for Life.

She sat up in bed and focused intently on it, but though she tried she just couldn’t make sense of the stirring, the rumbling in her gut.

I must be starving, she decided, finally. Better go make myself a sandwich.

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