by Millie Tullis  

When she woke up she carried something in her womb that she had not carried the night before. She woke up and knew that it had been more than a dream. Marie could feel the cells, and they were growing.

She ripped the faded, flowered sheet off of her stomach; it gleamed and shimmered from a layer of sleep sweat. She poked at it with her pointer finger. Her skin was hot. She touched closer to the top band of her lace-tipped panties and held her finger there, pushing it deeper into her tight skin. She could hear something stirring near the bottom of her spine. She absently wondered if she could feel it too, but her finger was too slippery from her sweat to tell anything.

The clock said it was 6:34. She thought that it was a very terrible time to be pregnant.

It was the end of August, and she wished her apartment had air conditioning. She closed her eyes and accidentally fell asleep again, imagining how a fan would feel across her wet stomach.

“You’re twenty years old for the love of God!”Marie’s mother threw the ham out of the oven, yelling and crying all over the Christmas sweater she had worn for as long as Marie could re-member—the one with little energetic Santas on it.

“I know that.”She felt the baby pinch her gleefully.

Marie wandered back into the dining room, and sat down beside her father. She ate candied nuts off the pecan pie top nonchalantly. They listened to her mother thrash around in the kitchen, her father shifted in his chair.

“Hey, Marianne. I found something for you.”As her father slipped something underneath the ta-ble, he avoided touching her hands—perhaps her curse was contagious.

Her fingers recognized it as her childhood blanket; she hadn’t touched it in years. It had little stars dancing across it. He had gone out and bought it for her baptism when she was four weeks old. The underside was furry, and she stuffed it under her chair, so the alien growing behind her stomach couldn’t get to it.

“Huh, thanks.”

The alien—she knew it was an alien—was the size of a passion fruit. It was three inches long. She felt like it might have a tail. Its nails were beginning to grow, and she sometimes woke up at night, panicked, because she had felt it scratching her and laughing like a big, rolling toddler. Sometimes at night she could see it. She knew its glowing skin was covered in a halo of hair.

Marie sweated in the papery hospital clothes, and they tried to get her to walk around, to move the baby along, but she just wanted to lie down and avoid looking at the leering bears painted across the top of the walls. She did her homework in between contractions and wondered if she was glad it was going to come on a Sunday—she wondered if it meant she would miss less school. She wondered if it mattered.

At four o’clock, a practice question for her human anatomy final made her cry and a nurse with poodle hair asked her if there was a boyfriend or parent or friend she wanted to call, “It is Easter Sunday, I know, but do you have anyone close by?”

Marie looked at her, confused for a moment before wiping her eyes, shrugging, and saying, “When will it come out?”

“Maybe just another hour or two; your contractions are close.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Do you have someone to pick both of you up tomorrow morning?”

Marie turned back to her laptop and made a point of starting at it until the nurse left. She wanted to be alone.

The baby was born at 5:43 pm. It felt as inconvenient or convenient as any other time a baby could be born to Marie. They put it in a blanket and handed it to her, and she realized she didn’t know how to hold it. She felt her sweat beginning to dry from her stomach, but the creature was warm. It was baby-sized. It had little arms that flapped when it took its first breath and little legs that swam. Its purple skin was covered in baby-animal hair.

She wondered when they would ask for it back.

Millie Tullis is a junior majoring in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing at Utah State University. She hopes to become a professor someday, but first she wants to go to school forever and ever. She enjoys reading, writing, kittens, and sweet potato fries.