The Universe Is Shaped Exactly Like the Earth

"Cradle" by Jill Lavetsky
“Cradle” by Jill Lavetsky

By: Nicholas Reali

Mother lay beside Father. He leaned against the headboard, flickering candle in hand. Flame’s pale light dervishing around the room’s shadowed walls. Mother gritted her teeth and breathed in, breathed out, breathed in, breathed out. As her contractions increased in intensity and duration, the doctor crouched at the foot of the bed, lubricating a pair of forceps with goose grease. Scissored episiotomy performed seconds earlier. Stagnant scent of blood, urine, amniotic fluid, and sweat soaked in the sheets.

Dawn broke across the morning cloud shelf as her labor continued. The sunrays surged through the window, smothering the candles’ light. Outside, the couple’s willow tree stood in the distance, sentry to the farm’s verdant cornfield. The tangled strands of leaves hanging from the branches matched the color of the undulating stalks littered among the acres of black soil.

Mother moaned as the doctor cried, “Push.”   Father squeezed tight to her curled fingers while the metal tongs probed inside. She pushed. Pushed. Pushed again. A weight released. A gasp of air. Silence.

“Why isn’t my baby crying?” Mother asked.

The doctor removed his mask. He stared at the couple.

“Is it a boy or a girl?” Father asked.

“It’s a carbonaceous chondrite,” said the doctor.

“A what?”

“A meteorite.”

The doctor rose, approached Mother. In his palms he held a peach-sized rock. The dark surface pitted and porous. It quietly vibrated in his slimy hands as he presented it to Mother. Father shook his head and apologized.

Mother smiled and said, “He’s beautiful.”

Mother named the child Allende. Swaddled him in a white handkerchief as she held his petrified body against her chest. Rocky flesh scraping her skin while he suckled.

She hummed an ancient melody her mother hummed to her as a baby. A melody she’d never hummed before, and was never aware she knew. As she rocked the feeding meteor, a stiff summer breeze wafted through the bedroom window. The willow’s leaves swayed. The corn stalks rustled. Father was hidden somewhere deep in the field, erecting scarecrows constructed of straw, denim, and bleached goat skulls. He’d called the child an abomination. Mother called him son.

Allende was growing. In the first few hours of his life, he’d already expanded to the size of a harvested pumpkin. He quivered uncontrollably, but the wind seemed to soothe him. His trembling became less severe whenever a gust bathed across his body. Mother decided to carry him outside. She sat on the porch’s rocking chair and continued to feed him. His appetite was insatiable. She worried she’d be drained dry, but the milk didn’t stop flowing, and Allende didn’t stop feeding. Morning blossomed into midday, midday faded into afternoon. Still he fed. He grew larger and larger. Grew too large to fit through the home’s door, so Mother simply sat on the rocking chair, Allende in her lap.

Dusk crept across the land. A violet mist consumed the swaths of dying pink light as a mute firefly chorus stippled the shadows with effervescent sparks. Allende, now the size of a boulder, stopped feeding. His quivering returned. He seized with more and more violence. Mother feared he was too cold, but there was no fabric in the home large enough to drape over his immense frame. She bear-hugged him, arms scraping against his petrous flesh, hoping her body could keep him warm. The tremors grew in intensity and duration til she could no longer hold him. Allende fell from Mother’s embrace, rolled and rumbled across the lawn, stopping beside the willow. He throbbed so turbulently the ground shook. And when it seemed as if he was on the verge of crumbling to dust, a blinding flash. A thunderous boom. Allende shot into the sky. His body transformed into a fireball streaking across the darkness and fading into the heavens.

Mother sat in her rocking chair. Watched the flickering cosmos til dawn’s sallow haze seeped into the night sky. Father still lost in the field. An indigo halo vibrated above the horizon’s threadthin silhouette. In the distance, a small light twinkled brilliant gold in the brightening east. Its luminous glow grew larger and larger till a shooting star screeched toward the earth. Crashed through the willow’s canopy with locomotive force, exploded in the yard, mushroomed bits of dirt and root that rained down on Mother and the house.

After the dust settled, and the ringing in Mother’s ears subsided, she saw the willow nearly incinerated. A few gnarled branches were still standing, scorched and in flames. A deep pit, deep enough to bury an elephant, smoldered beside the tree. Mother approached the impact crater, peered through the rising smoke wisps. At the bottom of the pit lay Allende, weathered to his birthed peach size.

She crouched along the rim, pushed herself into the crater. Bits of pebble and rock, scalded into shards of black glass, cut her legs as she slid down the steaming soil. Mother dug her hands beneath Allende’s quivering body and raised him from the ash, his fiery flesh burning her palms. She didn’t let go. Held him to her breast. Her nipples blistered as he suckled. Sweet milk sizzling against his lips. She continued to feed him. Would feed him all day. Feed him till he grew back into a trembling boulder by dusk and released him into the heavens once again.


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