Who’s Your Daddy?
“Come on, Maria, let’s go… you can do this… Gooo Maria…!“
I mean, what else am I supposed to say? Push? Go… team? I was sure as shit not the one birthing a live human being out of my body. Any words that came out of my mouth at that point in time would have been asinine.
“‘Go Maria’?! Get him out,“” Maria screamed. “Get. This. Smart-ass. Out of the room. Now. Before I break his hand.“
You got it, baby. All you.
I don’t mean to sound insensitive. Lord knows that I have prayed and worked my way through a dozen ‘How to be the Best Dad’ books. At least one of them said to give your wife a little space somewhere in-between her nine hours of labor.
There were no complications at the time. It was a routine thing… all of her previous health checks had come up as expected. Some ladies and some babies just take a little longer longer in the delivery room.
The nurse chuckled and gave my concerned glances a thumbs up as she pushed me towards the door.
There was a vending machine down the hall. It’s funny how so many of life’s big moments, good and bad, usually include a hospital’s vending machine and tiny TV. I thought about this stupid little paradox while munching on Cheetos at 2 AM and watching the remainder of a baseball game I didn’t care about.
After a few minutes, two hushed voices in the hallway piqued my interests more than the Dodgers. The first was unfamiliar. It was gruff, low, and guarded. It’s very nature suggested authority without ever having to raise the volume.
“Has the mother seen the thing?” the voice asked.
The second man coughed. His hollow tone was almost certainly that of our very own Dr. Owen.
“No… not yet. Not exactly. She’s sedated. I told her we had to clean it up.“
The voice mumbled its approval. “Okay. That will make this a little easier…” he sighed. “How did you miss this at your checkups?“
Owen grumbled in reply. “The parents missed the final ultrasound… you mentioned yourself… the disease is difficult to catch before birth. We can’t force them to be responsible parents.“
I started to worry. Were they talking about us? Maria and I had missed appointments. But we had an ultrasound – that first one. Wasn’t one enough?
The other doctor sounded happy with Owen’s answer. “My consultant in Manhattan said ten reported cases this year.“
Owen gasped loudly and slapped his clipboard. “Jesus… is it dangerous..? The nurse passed out, but, she knows not to talk.“
There was a thud against the wall that finally got me out of my seat. “Keep your voice down,” hissed the voice. “They exchange these things for orphans. That’s protocol. The state takes them and put them on the front lines or uses them to clean up mines or something, Hell if I know. The thing is feral. That I do know. It is not fit to go home and be cared for as a normal child.“
I rounded the corner and announced my presence. “Anybody care to tell me what the hell is going on here?“
Dr. Owen looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He didn’t know whether to run or to crap his pants. Instead, he turned to the gray-haired boss man and mumbled “This feels wrong.“
“Sir,” grey-beard said while straightening up his posture. He wore dress pants with a pristine and clean white coat over the top that hid his belly. “I apologize… my name is Dr. Miller. I am the chief surgeon. You should not find out this way. We… we have an issue.“
“Find out what, that my child is a freak?” I asked angrily.
The man hesitated. He removed his glasses and cleaned them gently on his shirt as he walked towards me and put an arm on my shoulder.
“Son… I don’t know how much you heard… but one wrong look, and this child’s strength could kill you on the spot. Do you want it to kill your wife? It could. It has the power and lack of remorse to do it.“
“Is this the sociopath’s definition on how to handle a grieving parent? You were really just going to kill my kid and stick us with another one?”
The man smiled briefly before composing himself. “You are not this boy’s father, either.“
“Excuse me?” I said in a daze. “It’s a boy?“
Dr. Dickhead outright laughed at that as Dr. Owen turned away. “Who can tell? Who cares? It’s a thing. It’s not even yours. You don’t want this thing, and the state does. There are ten orphans born every day in this state, did you know that? Your wife will never even know the difference.“
I was angry.
“So the two of you think you can just play God? Is that it?” I shouted. “This one lives, this one dies… This one gets a mommy and daddy with a white picket fence and this one gets a pile of shit?” I spit in their face. “Fuck you, Doctor. Fuck both of you. We want our kid. I want my kid. Take me to my kid.“
They each gave each other a long, hard look before Miller wiped the liquid from his lips and spoke again calmly.
“Fine. You want to know what kind of demon your wife just gave birth to? Let’s go.” Owen started to protest. “No, Owen, you know what? Screw it. Screw him. We’ve got the bastard sedated in the empty nursery. He can see it for himself.“
Dr. Miller turned angrily and marched down the hall. He pulled open the last door on the left in a hurry as his comrade raced behind him to lock it. Once it was securely set, Owen gave me a guilty look and settled by my side as we gazed through the nursery.
Miller looked around in a frustrated frenzy. The child appeared to be missing. Suddenly, the doctor reached down to grab something, and came up with a howl. When he came back into view, there was a thin scratch across his face.
And then the something was not missing anymore.
Standing in the corner was what I can only describe as a Hobbit-like creature. Dark, matted hair encompassed almost every inch of its tiny, naked, little body. Two perfectly blue eyes stuck out behind it all. Its long nails seemed to grow by the minute. They dragged behind him as he proceeded forward, cautiously, on his knuckles.
Eight pounds, eight ounces, was my guess.
The boy crawled forward on all four legs and hid carefully behind the evenly placed cribs. Owen tapped at the glass nervously to alert Miller of the position. The child turned to hiss. Then he jumped towards towards the window just as a tiny dart launched across the room and caught his furry neck.
Dr. Miller strode across the room and reloaded his tranquilizer gun as my son gasped for tiny breaths on the cold hospital floor. His eyes locked onto mine. His figure was truly horrific, but his eyes looked as innocent as any newborns. In that bizarre moment… I connected with my son for the first time.
“Unlock the door,” I told Owen.
“No,” was all he replied. I hit him in the mouth and took the keys.
Dr. Miller was standing over my son when I finally got into the room. His heavy boot was positioned over the boy’s head as he wiped the sweat forming on his brow and the blood from his lip.
“The beast bit me… even with the sedative… alarmingly strong. We need to take care of this. I don’t think it’s fit for transport. Better to be done with it now, I think. What do you say?“
I delivered a left hook that sent Dr. Miller to the floor. My son leaped to a crouched position. He took one long look at me before he turned and slit an elongated nail alongside the doctor’s throat. Deep red blood gurgled out of Miller’s neck as we exited the nursery and woke up Maria.
We left the state and never looked back.
Some nights since, it has been a little difficult taking care of our little Prince. We shaved his hair and cut his nails. We love him all the same, even with his deformity. He’s a little slower, mentally. A bit more aggressive, sure.
But there’s one last thing Maria needs to explain to me. If I’m not the kid’s father… well then who the hell else could it be?