A mother's love

This story began life as a fun exercise designed around taking three writing prompts — sentences from different books — and turning them into a coherent story. I don’t think it turned out too badly.

One night at a drunken party, someone you would loosely and incorrectly describe as a friend told someone we were talking to that he thought I was evil. Not evil like a death camp guard, or evil like the kind of MP who wants to cut free school meals while feasting on pressed grouse for £5 in the House of Commons, but he said “banal”.

Of course, he didn’t know how right he was. I showed him later, on the way home, just how banal I could be.

I did it quickly, as I always did. I watched his eyes mist over, his mouth slightly open like he wanted to say one last thing. I imagined his last words were, “thank you”.

There’s no devil on my shoulder telling me to do this. No sudden urge takes over and turns me into a different person. It’s a constant hum, like the golden glow aftermath of really good sex, but with me all the time. Some people feel a mother’s love like that. I feel evil, a constant presence of it in my head, my body.

It’s very physical, evil. Ignore anyone who tells you it’s some trick of personality, a disorder of the mind. I feel it in my skin, muscles, and bones, where it’s a warm, reassuring tingle. I’ve never doubted it, never wanted it gone. I can’t imagine anything worse than losing it. I think I would die, not like my children die, but permanently, in agony forever.

I imagine that the people I end see it too. Perhaps that’s their last vision, the memory they take to whatever is beyond this life. The light of my evil and love was revealed to them; the holiest mystery made apparent. I hope they appreciate this gift I give them.

I think they do, in their last moment. I think they know I’m giving them something precious. Like the best Christmas gift they ever wanted, the one their parents never gave them, all wrapped up in the best paper, with string, balloons, everything to make it perfect for them.

I am a new mother to them all. Just as their first mother brought them into this world, I bring them to the next. They didn’t have a choice about who they were born to, so why should they choose who gets to move them on?

I love them all with everything in my heart. I will keep them all there forever. They’re all my children, and I am their mother.

I couldn’t take my hands off the controls. The heat had blistered my skin so much I felt I couldn’t move them. Then the blisters burst, the plasma sizzling against the metal of the yoke. I was part of the aircraft, and whatever happened to it was going to happen to me.

I’d like to say we had completed the mission, taken down the German building and more than a few Nazis with it. But we didn’t. We missed the target. Maybe we didn’t even bomb the right place. It was a mess, and now we were a mess too.

We weren’t the first to be hit. I saw the engine of the B17 on our port side explode as something tore it apart. Then they were veering and beginning to spin down, and their speed dropped below stall, swooping underneath us like a bird of prey descending on some poor unfortunate rabbit.

Then it was our turn. A bang as our wing was hit, the fuel tanks bursting and unloading 100 octane gasoline all over the hot engine. A wall of flame that broke like a vicious, spitting wave over the back of the fuselage.

I fought to keep the plane level. Told the rest of the crew to bail out before the heat and flame made the exits unusable. What was left of the crew, anyway. I don’t know what happened to the tail gunner or bombardier.

I saw the navigator go, watching him spiral down as the wind caught him and took him safely away from the flames. I saw him pulling at the cord, parachute flying out, only for it to fail. I watched him spinning down as I lost control of the plane like we were racing them to meet the ground. I was sorry for him, but I was more sorry for me. I suffered and burned all the way down till the whole thing hit the ground. The last thing I thought of was my mother, praying she would never know I died in pain.

Awake. Am I awake? I feel the pressure of the water around me, the warmth through the skin-tight suit that embraces me gently all over. No sounds other than those my body makes, heart beating, the rush of blood pressure in my head. No light other than the visions which slide into my view, the ones which I know can’t be real.

When you swim like this, your mind creates a new world for you. Your eyes, retina, and Occipital lobe, all the way at the back of your brain, conspire to show you something you could never see. They are bored at having nothing to do, no sensation to work with, so they seize on to the stray particles that hit your retina even in the dark and build castles from them. Castles, unicorns, or demons. Whatever they feel like showing you.

She told me it would be fun. “We’ll be wearing skin-tight outfits and swimming together.” The first part was true: the suits we had to wear were skin tight, designed to stop us from feeling anything other than their touch, to shut off our senses. We weren’t together, though. Separate tanks for each individual, large enough for you to float freely and not bump into the sides.

We asked if there was one we could share. The answer was no, the bearded guy in his t-shirt and flip-flops insistent that each tank could only take one, and it would “ruin it for everyone” if we were bumping around each other. His accent was Californian brutalist, a contrast with the Northern English town outside.

It’s strange what goes through your mind and what emerges. At one point, I was at a party, telling someone they were evil and banal. They murdered me later on. Then I was the navigator of a World War II aircraft, bailing out only to find my ‘chute wasn’t working, revelling in a minute of falling and fear as the ground grew larger and large and then BANG.

Eventually, everything faded, and there was nothing.

The tanks felt warm to the touch. Each Dreamer, gently cradled inside, was bringing into being worlds, their bodies slowly dissolving into proteins, energy, and nutrients to power the Dream. He turned and smiled, shedding his clothes, hair, and skin. Everything was safe for another day. And tomorrow, another set of Dreamers would do their part and gently birth their world-children into reality.