No Man from Woman Born

April 30, 2008
By Nicole C.S. Barker, Evanston, IL

There was great joy in the land the day the lord said there was to be an heir. For thirteen years, there had been none, but the joy was now to come in nine months. He proclaimed a great feast in celebration.

After the feast, the lady retired to her chamber. But, just as she was climbing into her bed, an owl's shriek rent the air. She stopped, startled, but resumed her previous task. Soon she fell into a deep sleep.

A bloody red clouded her vision, slowly clearing. A picture began to form; a room brightly lit by many candles as a woman, her face blurred, howled in pain. Her blood poured onto the floor, staining the carpet red. The howls calmed, and the woman's face grew waxen. A glint of metal, and the woman moved no more.
The lady was woken up by her maid.
The same red clouded her vision again. The unearthly cawing of crows was the predominant sound now, instead of the woman's shrieks. Her body's stomach lay open now, something slowly being drawn out of it with bloody hands. A small, writhing child emerged, but there was one thing very strange: its eyes were wide open. They turned to her.

The lady woke up screaming.

Now, it was a black that clouded her vision. The image of three grimy, disgusting beings, vaguely resembling humans, materialized. A low, cyclic chanting pervaded the air. She could just barely make out the diabolical chorus.

"Double, double, toil and trouble

Fire burn and cauldron bubble!"

As they chanted, they added things to a pot that would make the strongest man sick; raw liver, bloody entrails, fingers, shriveled, moldy roots, and many other things unmentionable. The view changed to just above the pot... A bloody child rose from it, and began to speak to someone to the left of her. It was a man, with a crown, his face contorted in horror...

A crow's caw awoke her. She emptied her stomach's contents into the bedpan.

The first thing she saw was fire. Fire consumed the room, the whole castle; it was her room, but she and her things were nowhere to be seen. A man drew his sword, and plunged it through the body of a boy, no older than twelve. He did so also with the other two children, throwing their bodies into the fireplace. Next, he turned to the woman, shrieking, who held the last child. He mercilessly plunged the sword through them both, then cutting off the woman's head. The man flew out the door.

She awakened, crying for the woman and her children, but she had no idea who the woman could be. Who would be in her room, if not her?
The first thing she sensed was the clanging of swords upon each other, then swords upon armor. The image came sharply into focus as two swords slid across each other, shrieking like a man burned. A man in armor fought one in armor and a crown. The first man, who looked strikingly like the lady's husband, took a final swing. The crowned man's neck poured blood onto the surrounding stone. His head bounced down the stone steps, as his body soon followed him.
When she woke up this time, she did not cry, she did not heave; she felt oddly satisfied, even though she was disgusted.

The nine months passed, these dreams repeating themselves every night, in the same order; first the screaming woman, then the bloody child, the cauldron, the burning massacre, and the fight, troubling the lady throughout her pregnancy. What did they mean? She would never live to know.
Everything was going wrong. She was supposed to have a peaceful, quiet birthing, like all the other women she had known but she had begun to bleed in torrents. The blood stained the tiger pelt rug dark crimson, the cat fleeing from its now-soaked bed. Unearthly shrieks filled the air, not only from the woman, but also from the crows at the window. A sob broke from the midwife as the color drained from the Lady's cheeks, slowly becoming waxen.

"Is there anything we can do?"

"Not for her, my Lord," said the doctor, "But we might be able to save the child."

"How must it be done?"

"We must cut the child out of her stomach."

"....Let it be done."

A glint of metal, and the deed was done. The midwife drew the child out of the corpse's abdomen. The child, a boy, opened his eyes, and looked straight at the lord.

"Welcome, heir of the house of Macduff."

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