Between the Hours of Two and Four (in progress)

(Some more in-progress work. Inspired by my Cath Nichols’ poem, Fathom . Originally published in Cake) 

This is how he found them. Two bodies, arranged on a faded mushroom sofa. Legs and arms stuck into any place there is space, like that childhood game with the straws and marbles.

The infant sleeps in the other room, its breath catching in its throat.

It is 2.31am.

The man’s chest is bare, his stomach toned though slightly slack with impending middle age and his desk job. An open-mouthed sleep in the manner of the exhausted, the oblivious. He is handsome in a worn, gentle way. Much like his manner. The woman is curled on one side of the settee, echoing the shape of the baby in the cot in the flat’s narrow second bedroom. A slip of silk and lace, a fleck of baby food staining the stomach, hangs from knotted shoulders. She frowns in sleep.

Artefacts that contrast their paling relationship surround them. Photographs from places of sunshine, a camel, smiling in sunglasses, coiffured cocktails, the wedding, confetti freeze-framed, walls of books. Travel guides and cook books, conservation. These things belong to the both of them. Both the man and the woman are doctors, one of the brain and one for the body. Separate shelves for each of their professions. Analysis and isms, biology and healthcare.

It is this reason, this goodness and direction, that means she will not experience her child develop. He understands the word; ironic.

The light from the dusty blinds is the colour of crab-meat. It soaks in between the gaps where the blinds don’t quite close. Similar to the slatting of the blinds, the alignment of their bodies. He surmises that, although they look quite snug, it is likely their proximity is more likely due to the lack of surface area on the sofa. Because for the man, there is someone else. Or at least the possibility of that. The dilemma sits with him in waking life, festering between meetings and clients, and suggests itself in dream, blocks of warm feeling he experiences guilt over on waking.

A film plays. Something about aliens and far-off planets. A team of astronauts fleeing a flowering, inevitable cloud of dust. The sound is off. Their screams, within helmets, are mute. The pictures reflect on the woman’s folded, foetal legs. Bands of flickering colour, highlighting the place where he will soon touch her. Directly atop the heart.

When the infant was conceived, the woman saw, or her medical brain imagined, a heightened pulse, the plump of red blood cells, streaming. A sound like twisting rope, and a flash of constructing, binding DNA.

And then, a bracket of silence; the anticipated beat of another life.

When he touches her heart, the skin will pink, as the organs she transplants do when they take and the body accepts the alien. Adapting. It will later deepen to aubergine and begin to pain, like a bee sting. She will wake then with a flash, a clot of breath in her throat, hand to her chest. You would think that’s where it ends. She would slump back to sleep where they had fallen after the long day. But the vision will play on. The woman will witness the excision of herself from life, the dissolution of her interior on fast forward. Greying and decaying. Its inevitable crumble.

But then the baby will cry.

The woman will stumble to her feet and tend to the infant. She’ll hold her child to the bruising, stinging heart and soothe it, and breathe. For a while, at least.

Neither of them are religious, but this does not matter.