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It was the 99th year since the last natural rainfall was reported on Earth.
Seeded rain, as was the day’s standard, came into existence some 70 years ago. Nobody knew exactly how long it had been. Days did not make sense. Each human had his own date and quarrelled with his neighbour over it. Paper couldn’t be wasted for writing dates, and so, only memory was employed.
India, once a country of a billion people, had a population of 13,785 according to the latest census, taken only a decade ago. The population expansion of 13 births/month could make a billion strong nation only in forty million years, taking into account the death rate of 11/month.
Suzane breathed heavily in her Human Psychology class.
She wore an oxygen mask and was given a bottle of glacier water that had a proven 79% purity.
She was definitely special. She carried a baby, that too, when she was just 15.
A lot of women lost their sanity trying to procreate, starting from the time they reached puberty, if at all they reached it. A pregnant women was held in the highest regard wherever she went. Sick people got out of her way, a lot of potentially harmful humans were evacuated to at least a mile from her and so on.
Suzane was impregnated by the third guy, a feat considered almost impossible. She had no records to prove that it was only the third guy, but she did not care. She loved the attention. She wished to get pregnant again and again till she died.
She tried recollecting the face of the child’s father, not that it mattered, but because she had nothing to think of.
“The end of the internet was the most lethal blow to us humans and our psychologies. It demoralized and threw back to reality millions of people. It was, as beautifully put by Karzark, a doom of facts and the birth of uncertainty. People believe, pollutition was actually called pollution in the olden day. Same goes for populition. Nobody knows where words diverged or where discrepancies arose. The internet took with it human integrity as it fell” The Professor stopped for a cough.
Before he began again, Suzane yelled in excruciating pain. Fortunately, the class was very well prepared for things that were to happen. The representative ran as fast as his lungs could allow him and brought back a doctor.
The doctor’s assistants rushed behind him, bringing supplies of hot water, syringes, a C-cup and a battery. There was a lack of cotton in the area and its usage had to be neglected in the procedure. The doctor yelled, “Leave the room, everybody, especially the sicklings”
No one moved. No one wanted to miss the opportunity of seeing the birth of a life.
The doctor could sense hatred in the room. He did not dare to ask them leave again.
Labour was divine, and birth carried cosmic significance.
After about an hour of painful shrieking, from the birth canal of a bleeding Suzane came the head of the baby. Some in the room started crying. Some came dangerously close to pull the child out themselves.
Before the doctor could pull further, landed something an entire century of Earth hadn’t experienced– the flash of lightning, the phenomenon that did not accompany seeded rain.
Then came the crying of the child, a boy-human, in a healthy and nourished body.
The class lay flat on the floor as the deafening thunder filled the air.
“Fools! Wake up! These are the lightning! Heralds of good times, demons leaving the planet. THE ONE IS BORN!” The Doctor yelled as loud as the thunder itself.
TWO DAYS LATER:
Suzane leaned on the wall of her house, waiting for sleep. The neighbourhood had been forced into vacancy by the authorities.
The house, commonly called a shelter, was the least amount of space a human could live half-comfortable in.
Her house seemed messier than ever. Suzane tried to clean things up, but her son did not allow her one second of time. He either kept crying, or drinking from his mother. She did not know how to make him quiet. She tried talking to him, knowing he wouldn’t understand what she was saying.
Back at school, post her delivery, everyone at least a year elder to her, half of whom had never seen a new-born before, gave her parenting tips. The doctor had advised to keep the baby warm, fed and safe. Only that stayed in her mind.
‘The holy mother-instinct, as they say,’ she thought proudly. ‘That’s how I found such a safe place for my baby boy’.
A lot of people had been warning her of the Hale ever since she started gestating. People told her of the atrocious ways the Hale adopted to grab healthy children. She’d asked, “Why would they need healthy, innocent and beautiful children like mine?” They did not know the answer. Some said it was to cultivate them for a cause that wasn’t yet known to people outside the Hale.
Suzane caught a faint glimpse of a dream when the knocking woke her.
Three quick knocks followed. She froze pale in terror, not coming to think of opening the door.
The door was just a formality, a metaphor for the agreement of the people on privacy, and so, wasn’t made of anything that could withstand more than a gentle push.
It wasn’t long before the door fell crashing to the floor.
Suzane held her belly protectively, out of instinct.
Before the dust settled, six huge people stood right before her, two of them holding another smaller, heavy man whose visage was masked in blood. They put him down on the floor. He did not seem alive.
“Isn’t he the third guy?” one of them said in a monstrous voice.
Suzane did not open her mouth.
He shouted much louder again.
“I don’t remember. All I recall is that he had a round face,” Suzane answered, trembling in fear.
“Then he is,” the only other woman in the room said. She was the tallest woman Suzane had seen.
She walked towards Suzane and bent to face her.
“Where’s the child?” she asked, her voice as calm as midnight.
“No. Don’t… Don’t take him away. He is my life” Tears ran down to her neck.
“No harm shall come. Just tell me where he is” The woman’s tone wasn’t friendly anymore.
Suzane shut her mouth with her hands.
The woman smacked Suzane with her clenched fist. Suzane did not bleed yet. She slapped her to the floor, “Tell me!”
The woman signalled the two men who had stepped forward to stop. She held Suzane by her hair and hit her head to the ground. “You sold her? Speak up. I don’t want to kill you. Don’t make me.”
Suzane’s nose was blood red by then.
Suzane pointed to her right.
She pointed again, this time emphasising.
The woman moved in the direction she pointed. It ended in a narrow cupboard that almost hid in its surroundings.
The woman thrust it open. She found the baby lying motionless on a towel.
“What on Earth!” She picked the baby up in a flash and opened his mouth to blow.
The baby opened his eyes and soon started giggling. The woman checked his hearing and eyesight. They were good.
The boy started pulling the woman’s red cheeks, cackling as he did it.
“Why did you keep him here?” the woman asked, her voice the fury of an erupting volcano.
The boy fell silent, ready to break into tears anytime.
“To keep him safe,” Suzane answered.
“God hasn’t given you the holy mother-instinct? Bless Him that we arrived.” She kept the voice low.
“He doesn’t like it outside. He keeps crying,” Suzane replied.
“So you chose to suffocate him to death on a cupboard?”
“I cut a hole for air”
The woman looked for the hole on the cupboard. When she found one a feet from the ground, she sent her little finger in. It wouldn’t go.
“FOOL! Don’t do that ever again. Am I understood? Are you feeding him properly?”
“Yes. Yes. Whenever he cries,” Suzane managed to say.
The woman turned to her men, “We need to teach them things. Or…”
One of the heavy men took the earthen pot near the door and emptied its water on the bleeding man on the floor.
“Wake up, husband of the Healthy Woman and father of the One,” he said in a sarcastic tone.
“Quite a title for a vagabond,” the woman said dryly.
The cold of the water woke the guy. He seemed starving and shocked to death.
“Please! Please!” Suzane could hear him murmur. She rushed to him and supported his head on her lap.
“That is the family of the old times for you,” the woman said.
“Now listen, couple! Listen closely or you might lose the opportunity to raise your baby,” the man said, looking down.
The six loomed tall over the two. The woman sat herself beside Suzane, baby on her lap. The men sat around them in a circle.
The next hour saw the six explain them the nuances of parenting. Suzane felt like being in a family after a long time. She could periodically hear pleas of mercy from the guy on her lap.
Unmindful, she listened to the Hale, teaching her how to raise her child.