Chapter 1

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In the few short months that Mark had been a father, he had learned to differentiate between the varying cries of his child.  The soft, rythmic whines of discomfort.  The highs and lows of hunger pangs.  Mark could tell by the sound of his baby's wails almost specifically the emotion the infant was trying to convey. It was a talent that his wife was amazed by, and at times it seemed, jealous of as well.

But the howl that now spewed forth from the tiny, fleshy mass of flailing arms and legs in front of him was a cry Mark had never heard before. It was sharp and shrill and stung the ears. More description about the cry. Though it was a sound completely foreign from the baby's usual cries, it needed no interpretation. Anybody within earshot could tell that this child was in pain.

"Jesus Christ, what did you do now?" Mark's wife, through gritted teeth that held back her anger and panic, called over her shoulder.

The car jumped  as it struck a curb, throwing Mark straight into the ceiling.  In the driver's seat, his wife frantically gripped the steering wheel, trying to get the car back under control.  The car leaped and lurched as it bounced over another curb and back onto the highway at a sharp angle.  The woman jerked the steering wheel to bring the car back to the proper angle, but over corrected, sending it into a fishtail skid on the wet road.  Mark was thrown to first one side of the car, and then another as his wife fought with the steering wheel until miraculously, the jerking stopped and they were safely out of the skid, and back to traveling down the highway.

The woman clutched her chest, her breathing now coming in large labored gasps.  Even the child in the backseat had momentarily stopped crying.  The only sound in the car now was the soft pelting of the rain, the flapping of the windshield wipers, and the hum of the engine. describe the silence.

"Please be careful," Mark whispered from the back seat.  And if as on cue, the baby started screaming again.

He looked down at his child, naked and squirming in agony, and his mind froze. It was Cindy, his wife, who was the thinker, the strong one.  It was Cindy that took charge when the baby had started screaming. It was Cindy who pushed Mark aside, the millions of years of evolution and maternal instincts kicking in and taking over when his own parenting parlor tricks failed him. And it was Cindy who had taken action, gathering up the diaper bag and hastily snatching up the car keys, all while Mark stood in the doorway of the nursery, mouth open, baby bottle dripping warm milk down his hand.

The screaming paused as the baby stopped to fill her lungs, snapping Mark back into focus.  He stared down at the child, still mystified on how to help her.  describe birthmark The skin on her chest and right arm was- and Mark could think of no better word to describe it- boiling. Boiling. He'd never seen anything like it.  He was scared even to touch her, lest he do more harm than good.

"I think I got some cream-" Cindy began, her voice once again that odd mixture of panic and forced calm. She was cut off midsentence, as the child, finally able to gather enough breathe, let loose another volley of high pitched shrieks.

"Jesus!" Cindy cried, her hands clawing at her ears. The car veered to the right, hitting another curb, but the angle was so shallow it only bounced off.  cindy choosing between steering wheel and ears Instinctively Cindy grasped the wheel again, holding it as best she could with one hand.  

 Mark held both of his hands to his temples, pressing his palms hard against his earlobes.  Still, the shrill cries of his child seemed to penetrate directly through his skull.  Mark could feel his brain vibrate, resonating to the same frequency.   describe better His whole head felt as if it were being squeezed, as though he were on a deep underwater dive, the water column trying to force his head to turn inside out.

Blood gushed from Marks nose, the wet sticky fluid flowing down off his lips and dripping steadily describe droplets from his chin.  Through the haze of pain he saw Cindy still in the front seat.  Heroically, she was still trying to control the car, despite the crimson rivulets of blood that seemed to seep out of her ears.

And then the babies sreaming paused again, as it kicked it's little legs, fighting desperately for another lungful of air.  In the front seat his wife was practically hysterical, babbling something about a hospital, it was hard for Mark to make out the exact words.  

The baby beside Mark was going into some kind of fit.  She kicked her legs.  She flailed her arms.  She arched her back. And her mouth remained open, still trying to suck in some air.  A drop of blood fell from Mark's chin, landing on the child's abdomen.  Mark wiped the droplet away with his finger.

The area he had touched seemed to blossom,  the skin first turning a deep red, the area around it inflamed.  Then slowly it began to bubble, large nodules forming under her skin, rising, and then falling back down, only to be replaced by another.  He had little time to ponder what he was seeing, for the baby shattered the silence and his concentration with another round of screams.

Mark raised his arms back to his ears. Cindy raised her arms to hers.  The edges of Mark's vision went black.  Cindy's arms went limp. She slumped to her side on the seat, her seatbelt the only thing keeping her upright. 

The car ran off the road, jumping an embankment.  It cartwheeled through the air, digging a long trench of dirt behind it.  Pieces of metal, glass and plastic flew in all directions, littering the ground for over a hundred yards. 

The car came to rest at the bottom of a hill.  It was badly crushed and on its back.  One wheel continued to spin and smoked poured out of the engine.  The cabin was silent.  And then the baby began to cry again.

A man appeared at the foot of the wreckage.  None of the eyewitnesses, when giving their account later to the police, could quite explain where he had come from.  He climbed into the twisted lump of metal and glass and found the baby.  When the man touched the child, the crying ceased, as though a blanket of calm had been placed over it.  The child was hanging upside down, still strapped to her chair.  The man pressed the quick release button on the car seat and the baby fell into his arms.

Looking back, the child would only remember bits and pieces of the accident.  The smell of gasoline and fire. The shattering of glass.  The feeling of being weightless as she flew through the air.  And the arms, skin torn and cut, reaching for her.  Reaching for her. Oozing not blood, but a warm yellow liquid from their wounds.