This piece is in response to Chuck Wendig’s FFF challenge. Pick a title and Write.
She came to me in a vision, a tiny spark of dust and light, striking at my heart as hope. We wished her into existence. Many evening prayers followed by pleas for forgiveness. We acted selfish in this way. I prayed carefully as to not rush her arrival. When the time came, I planned to leave on my own, abandon the mountain and walk as far as my legs could take me so she would not enter this place and be tarnished by filth.
Koshe was our home but more so a way of survival. We were expats of important government projects, generations pushed to the side. We were people of practicality not privilege. But while our lives held together by our many hands, I still dreamt of our daughter in brightness, greatness beyond the heaviness of our ways.
Our shanty sat seven structures in from the mountain base, separated by paths carved between overflow that rolled in when the rains came. In my vision, our daughter rose above the mounds of waste and lifted up our community. In my vision, her very first breath, brings an end to the bottomless cycles of blight.
The March rains fell in heavy masses like sheets, then blankets. More rain came then we had experienced in our lifetime. Everything without weight was carried down with the water, spilling into our paths, our homes our lives. Nappies swelled, and broke into pieces, leaving the smell of feces stronger than all else. Shards of glass and plastic washed over our feet and became a sharp fluid carpet as we tried to navigate the base of the landfill.
On this day, my back ached, my feet fattened twice over. A tired day of hunting and sorting left me with little energy and only 4 trade worthy items. A bent trowel, the tripod of a telescope, Adidas, and a picture frame. How foolish I was to miss the signs. Our daughter decided to come at her own time, three weeks before expected. March 11. There was no time to leave as I had planned. She pushed against my insides every half hour and then every quarter hour, sending warm water down my legs. I imagined my fluids seeping deep into the mountain, becoming part of the sump. What could I do? When my legs buckled and my knees sank into the tableland, cut by jagged waste and built up anger, I wept. My husband saw in my eyes, pain, anxiety and faint glimmer of hope. He asked if I could make it to trade. I could not. So we both legged back to the south side of the mountain. As we descended, pain pierced my insides and escaped from my mouth. Our baby wanted out.
At my awful screeching, neighbors arrived in swarms and carried me the rest of the way to our shanty. My sister poured water on my head, my aunt and her friend, laid cloth on the mattress. I heaved impossible breaths and bit on a tough rag that one my neighbors slid into my mouth. My husband, usually a strong and stoic man paced in a rhythmic pattern from one side of the shanty to the other. It did not matter that he could not help. He was there and we became wrapped in the loving cocoon of our community, unbreakable in spirit.
For just a moment, my husband walked out. I barely noticed, given the rapid contractions and panting I was managing from the mattress. When he walked back in, he brought a grave wrinkle across his forehead that spread concern throughout the room. This I noticed but hadn’t the strength to question. The baby was ready.
The women in the shanty spoke quietly with encouragement, holding my legs, wiping my tears, clearing the way for birth. When baby’s head crowned, everyone held hands, smiled and exhaled. Perhaps their breath, collective and gushing at once into the air around us, gave our daughter something extra. Something only she knew to use.
As I gave the push of life, a rumbling came up through the shanty, my legs trembled, the walls, the arms of my sister, my husbands entire body seemed to shiver in a shockwave. He put his hands to me and held up our daughter. Her name stayed on his lips as he put her on my chest and draped his body over ours.
The landslide was over in a matter of minutes. Our community flattened. We lay beneath the rubble, myself, Star and my husband, pressed together between life and death. I felt her warm skin on mine, her rooting to suckle, the faint crackle of a cry told me she was still alive. In what could only have been an act of mercy, my husband’s body was folded upward and a piece of long wood wedged under his neck. He passed instantly. The shape of his body and the angled plank allowed a small pocket of air. I breathed shallow as to not deplete our supply. I slept and woke, listening to the sounds of our baby and then slept again.
We wished for you, my tiny Star. We wished for you to brighten us, to light our way. And here you are. You came as we wished. I am sorry to have brought you, deposited you into this darkness. I am sorry to be leaving you. You will be the brightest of all in the darkest of nights. I love you.
My name is Star. I am 10 years old. I was pulled from the Koshe landslide where many, many lives were lost. I’m one of few survivors and one of few who will make change for my community. I may be small, but I am bright and my words will stretch for miles. I will come to you in tiny sparks of dust and light. I bring with me hope for change and the end of blight.