“Make a wish, tie your string.”
The world fell silent, empty, echoing back only the thump, thump, thump of her pounding heart.
The smells of blood and birthing slowly curled away, leaving their metallic flavour in the air, coiling, entwining with the rising sense of panicked activity. It had not been a good birth.
“My baby, my boy – is he alright?” They ignored her, oblivious to her cries, the midwives creating a small whirlwind of terrified activity at the foot of her bed. Bundled in blankets they took him away – to show his Father.
“Is he big, healthy?”
They ignored her.
“Why can’t I hear him cry?”
It was too late.
Her blood stained her legs, the flow now just a trickle – they had done what they could.
Sent for the priest.
She lay on the straw mattress, too far gone for even the priest’s useless intervention.
“Will you hold my baby? Just for a moment…” the stranger paused, hesitant, reluctant to get involved.
Eventually he nodded, and the woman in the red skirt passed her child to him.
Oddly silent, the little boy in swaddling clothes.
Damned heavy too.
Written as part of my series on Under-represented Monsters, for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. The Ubume are the ghosts of women who die during childbirth. They wait on bridges and ask strangers to hold their babies before disappearing. The strangers wait and wait, or take pity on the now abandoned child and carry them on to a nearby village – or plan to, anyway. The child gradually gets heavier and heavier, and then you find you cannot set it down – until you collapse under the weight of it. The child has become a statue of Jingu, who is worshipped (kind of, the Japanese traditional religions are confusing) as the guardian of children, especially those who died before their parents (irony!) You will find these statuettes almost everywhere, from hospitals to rough tracks through the mountains. These little stone children, in red knitted cloaks to keep them warm in winter. Heartbreaking, they are. Anyway, comments and criticism always welcome!