The scream would have not only woken the baby and her husband, but likely drawn attention from anything lurking in the dark outside of the old building known as Homestead. Instead a lifetime of habit, in a world full of things that wanted to eat you or kill you, made Bonnie cover her mouth with her hand and bite down on her tongue as she came awake from the nightmare. The pain brought her quickly to wakefulness and so only a small amount of sound escaped her throat, to be caught by her hand.
The pillow was wet with tears shed in her sleep. Even now the image of a blade slicing through the back of her husband, Johnnie, began to fade. The terror and anger of the dream left her trembling, the fading vision of his body crumpling to the ground and blood flowing freely. A spray of arterial blood splattering the front of a blue jumpsuit, the killer slowly turning towards her. But the face and image fades even as she tries to remember who the killer was.
Still curled in the crook of her arm, in peaceful sleep, lies her baby. A child she has no memory of carrying or bearing, but she has no doubt in the pit of her stomach is hers. The scabs that cover half of the otherwise cherub-like face denote her Retrograde heritage, but her skin has a pink flush that most don't. Flashes of faces she has seen since stumbling from the morgue go through her head, people telling her stories of things she has done, but no full memories.
Slowly she lifts her head towards the door which remains firmly closed and locked. Then turns her eyes to the back facing her in the bed. It isn't Johnnie, he is off with his crew earning his pay and doing good work for the Black Rose for several months, but Zeke James. The name and site makes her heart flutter, but again she has only a flash of a smile, a blade sliding across her palm, tears rolling down his cheeks as he pulls a bundle from behind his shield. All the memories of the building of what became a marriage, between Johnnie, Zeke, and herself, are gone.
As she focuses on the anger of that loss it helps to still the trembling and stop the tears. This time her nightmare didn't wake her other husband from his needed sleep. It had been a hard evening with numerous difficult zombies and a troupe of raiders moving through the area, needing all the armed forces that the tiny community of Cascadia Rendezvous could call up. It hadn't been pretty, but no one had died tonight except in her dreams.
Carefully she resettled the baby Pink in the bed and slid out. Drenched in sweat she was in need of a breath of fresh air, and maybe to splash some water on her face. That meant a quick trot across the hundred or so feet to the tavern. Quietly she slipped her armor on over her night clothes, her thick boots, and belted the machete to her waist. The clink of metal on metal caused Zeke to shift slightly and make to softest groans in his sleep and so Bonnie stilled, waiting to see if he would wake or if he was deep enough asleep for her to slip from the room. Ever since Johnnie had left on duty he had not wanted to let her out of his sight. In some ways she felt the same, but tonight she needed the darkness and cold of winter and to be alone with her thoughts. On silent feet she slipped through the inner door into the rest of Homestead. A pale white glow came from beside the front door and she silently cursed herself for forgetting about the talented guardian known as Thor. Of course he would be watching the door for any trouble after a night like this.
"Evening Bonnie," He whispered among the soft sounds of sleeping coming from those of the Sound Supply who had remained in The Rend while Habib, Maybel, and some others had gone to work trade deals between meets. A loud snort announced Reggie's presence as well as the sound of him rolling over.
"Hello, Thor. I need a breath of air and a trot to the tavern," Bonnie said once the distance between them was but a foot, so as not to wake or attract any undue attention.
"Mmmmm," She didn't like the thoughtful look he gave her as he considered her words, or the glance to the closed door she had left behind her. "Zeke?"
"Asleep and Pink too," The need for fresh air was pressing and the jitters of the nightmare began to press in on her again. "Please, I won't go wandering, but I need to step outside for air. And Zeke is exhausted and needs his rest, and you have to stay here to watch. I'm not helpless," Wheedling had always been a useful skill back home in Shanghai, but she was still trying to get to know (re-know) Thor and the rest.
The young man with white streaks in his long brown-black hair leaned back, frowning faintly in the glow from his arm. "There and back. Ten minutes or I wake Zeke."
Bonnie sighed louder than she meant too and rolled her eyes. "Twenty, I need to deal with...female things," That usually worked on most men and it seemed to have at least a slight effect on Thor, his nose twitching slightly. "All right, go. But I'll be counting and watching," He said, scanning outside the door carefully before opening it for Bonnie.
She almost flew out into the cold bite of winter. The air was moist, but not raining, and a few clouds scuttled across the star spotted sky. Somewhere the moon cast enough light she could easily see her way without the headlamp. Keeping her steps quick she moved away from Homestead, not wanting to draw attention to the outwardly ramshackle building. Then she slowed her steps as she got closer to the tavern, its inside dark but for a candle or two left burning. She slipped around the side to the privies and stood just outside listening to the night, letting the darkness wash over her, staring at the sky and breathing in the cold crisp air.
Try though she might the details of the nightmare, which she was sure was an important memory, kept slipping through her fingers. Dark figures surrounded her and Johnnie, but the attack was sudden amidst talking. A sense of betrayal washed over her and she kept trying to remember the face of his killer. The more she tried the more the dream slipped through her fingers and she growled with frustration. A growl answered hers in return.
As she turned she drew the machete and scanned the darkness around her, searching for the growl that had not been hers. Movement in the bushes a hundred or so feet off, but no moaning, still left too many options to choose from. And a run for Homestead would mean a fight for people who were mostly exhausted and needed sleep, including her husband and the youngest member of The Rend. Slowly she started to back away from the sound, around the back of the tavern, keeping her eyes moving to try and catch a glimpse of the originator. More indistinct movement, at least three vaguely humanoid figures, now seemed to be stalking towards her. "Fuck," She said quietly under her breath and turned to make a run around the tavern. With a steep incline into woods and nettles to her right and the barricaded back door of the Tavern to her left, she was somewhat trapped between the two groups.
Bonnie had never focused on fighting. She had always focused on being able to get away or trick her foes into getting themselves in trouble. Sure she could shout, bring Thor running, but if she could outsmart these raiders it would restore something she knew she had lost in her time being manipulated by the Gravemind. So the battle began and she feinted towards the two with a wide slash, making them jump back. The sound of running feet told her she had only seconds to get a clear path for a run up the hill to Calvinwood and better cover, or towards the Fisher Kings Grotto.
Licking her lips she spat at the two blocking her way on the right, "It's just a jump to the left!" Then she slashed again, from the right this side in an effort to make them leap away...to the left. It worked. "And a step to the right," She said with a little more pep, before using her long legs and taking a large step right and running past the nearest. He managed to bring a swing down on the back of her armor, but it bore the brunt as she kept on running.
Long legs and knowing shadows and the best hiding places along these trails allowed her to get a lead on the small pack of raiders. As she began to head up the incline towards Calvinwood and Castle Timberline, she changed her mind. Leaping over a fallen tree and crashing through the brush, she burst out onto the path leading to the Fisher Kings Grotto. Grumbled gibberish and shouting behind her caused a grim smile to cross her face. The gravel crunched under her feet and she bore sharply right towards the old covered area, with its cracked concrete and rusted metal roof. Water sat in pools on the hard ground and bushes had crept in over generations to partially reclaim in. A path wound around some bushes and towards the Hedons camp and, eventually, to Calvinwood and the trail back down to the Tavern and Homestead.
Despite this she heard the crash and crunch of feet and yelling of awful things to be done to her as she fled. Her breath was beginning to catch now, her heart pounding, and her steps slowing. The trail leading up to the Hedonites seemed much longer than previous times she had walked this way, and that is when the raider in the lead caught her.
He caught her by the long braid she kept her hair in. A breeze or her run had flung it out behind her and he yanked her back with a nasty cackle. Now she did let out a scream, but it was short and sharp, full of pain and not meant to carry far. He tried to bring his blade to her throat but she pushed his arm away, and they rolled on the trail. One hand held tight to her braid, the other to his own weapon while she was free to use one hand and the machete. An elbow to his gut knocked the breath from him and allowed her just enough space to get the machete between his fingers and her head. It slid easily through her red hair, freeing her from his grasp.
With a lurch she was on her feet, and turned to bring her weapon down on his several times as he struggled to try and regain his own footing. As his pack began to catch up she kicked his body back down the trail to tumble on them, and took off again. Already she could hear those who had been sleeping in the wooden shacks near the Hedonites rousing to the noise of her tussle. As she ran past she spat out the words, "Raiders up the back trail!" And kept on going. Her head felt lighter, the wind certainly ruffled her hair but in a very different manner. This time she reached the trail heading back down to the tavern and Homestead and slid into deep shadows where she could catch her breath.
The whole thing hadn't taken more than fifteen minutes or so, she was pretty certain. What wasn't certain was whether she could simply slip back inside and into bed without causing a fuss...she did smell of raider blood and was filthy. If she appeared safe and sound to Thor, peering from the windows of Homestead, she might get another few minutes to wash up in the kitchen of the Tavern.
There was the clash of weapons up the trail as others, more capable warriors, came to take care of the small raider pack on the trail. With a deep breath and keeping herself cloaked in the darkness she let the downward slope of the hill ease her into a loping run down and around the back side of the tavern. No other raiders were in sight and so she slid right back to where she had been standing before by the privies. Quickly she wiped her sword clean with the rag she kept in her armor just for that, then sheathed it. Then she stepped out into full view of the window from which Thor watched. She couldn't see his glow from here, but she knew he could see her.
As she walked towards the front of the tavern, non-nonchalantly, she held up one hand with fingers spread and pointed inside the empty Muddy Foot. Hopefully he would understand and not wake Zeke so she could wash the blood from her hands and face, and get as much off her actual armor before it got gross as she could. She pumped freezing water into the sink of the kitchen and shivered as she washed her hands and face, neck and used the rag to get the worst bits of gore off her armor. Finally she took a moment to run a hand through her hair, testing to see just how much she had lost.
Bonnie wasn't exactly vain, but she did take pride in the long wavy red hair that she could show off when she pleased. Keeping it in a braid kept it from getting all over the place, but now...there wasn't even enough for a tiny pony tail. It would need more careful attention with a pair of sheers in the morning with light and mirrors, and boy would she have some questions to answer.
As the adrenaline began to drain from her system she began to feel tired once again. She drained the water from the sink and left the kitchen, the tavern, and with a careful glance around outside made her way across the hundred or so feet to the front door of Homestead. The door opened and Thor raised a brow, looking her up and down in the pale moonlight. "What did you do?" He asked in a hushed whisper as he stepped aside to let her in. "I told you, I had some female stuff to take care of," She replied quietly, already unbuckling her machete and heading for her families small room. Thor snorted and she was pretty sure he didn't believe her, but for her hair she looked unharmed so she doubted he would push the matter.
Quickly she opened the door, slipped in, and turned to close it quietly behind her. As she turned around to behind stripping off her armor she froze. Zeke was sitting up, pulling on his boots and looking as pleased as when he got interrupted making moonshine. "Heh...hi, honey?"
Written by Veronica Lacquement
A Dystopia Rising Fan Fiction
The junk crested another large wave and went sliding down into the alley between the previous and oncoming one. Lightning flashed in the sky and the rain that fell burned slightly on any exposed flesh. Everyone on deck wore their lifelines and clung grimly to their post, straining to hear orders over the roar of wind and the crashing of the waves. Only essential personnel were allowed on deck as the storm did its best to sink the Black Rose.
Despite the sting of the acidic rain lashing at his face Kuei clung to the main mast with a grip of iron, straining to catch a glimpse of the coast and perhaps a safe place to wait out the storm. The waves kept getting in the way and his eyes were red from the rain water in his eyes. No matter how tight he pulled his hood the wind always whipped it back with a fresh dose of acidic raindrops. He was about to give up the lookout for a lost cause in the dark and storm when a glimmer in the distance caught his eye. The tears and rain made it blurry and he scrubbed quickly with the back of his hand and strained to see if the glimmer was lightning or hope.
Lady Luck was with them for it was both. A bolt lit the sky for several seconds and outlined the coast where a wall rose above the tide line, lanterns lighting the top at regular intervals. No sign of life, beyond those dim lights, but it was enough to guide them away from the damned forty foot waves that kept trying to sucker punch the ship. The urgency and excitement of the find had Kuei scurrying down the rigging just as the ship started another desperate slide into a wave alley. As the wind and boat shifted drastically beneath him, and water made his grip slip, he flew free. His yell of surprise, and horror, wasn’t quite lost in the wind. And though he banged his side good against the hull of the ship, hands began to haul on his lifeline and lift him over the edge within minutes.
“Better have been good to carelessly scamper down like the sea was calm and the sun shining bright,” The man standing over him wasn’t much taller than Kuei himself, but he had the bulk of a fighter where the first mate was slim and spry like the runner he was. The bash with the hull had knocked wind, and likely some sense, from the first mate for his first attempt at speech was weak and gibberish.
“Wall lightning…sand…fires,” Is what he got out the second time along with pointing in the rough direction the lightning had illuminated the stretch of beach and civilization. The Captain pursed his lips and nodded, then turned and bellowed into the storm. Hands and bodies moved; Johnnie and Suture put their backs into getting the ship turning towards land, fighting the sea herself to accomplish the act. Others worked the rigging and turned the sales to catch a cross-wind in an attempt to keep the forty foot waves from crashing down on top of the junk. The crew managed to avoid being smashed to bits and find a sheltered bay not too far from the wall Kuei had spotted.
As the noise of the angry seas and storm cut down, thanks to the nearby conifer forest and small land mass which created the mini-bay, a different noise could be heard. It was the sound of screaming of several different varieties, one of them belonging to a terrified baby. A nod from Captain Han was all Johnnie needed to bolt for below, followed by the limping Kuei and Fawn, the later looking ready to fight whatever might have crept into the ship to cause such a commotion.
Away from the sounds on deck, the sound of the screaming intensified as well as the sound of flesh being struck repeatedly and the hiccuping wail of Pink, a sound rarely heard despite her being a baby. The galley was the center of attention, the doorway crowded with the two guests who booked passage and a sleepy eyed Shot trying to see who was getting the crap beaten out of them. “Move,” Kuei croaked as he shoved weakly at Shot. The guests quickly stepped back and hurried down the hall to where the sleeping quarters were. Shot moved out of the way and non-nonchalantly followed the passengers down the hall.
There was blood on the one table that was folded down for use. Its source was the Lascarian passenger, his lips bloody as if he had taken a bite of something very fresh who lay on the floor with his eyes slowly glazing over. A huge chunk of his shoulder and neck were hanging on by a bare scrap of flesh and other wounds pumped blood onto the galley floor. The sound of flesh striking flesh, however, came from Bonnie striking Opal repeatedly. The slave was curled into a ball, choking on sobs, and a large gash in her head staining her pearly blue hair a dark red. On the table, covered in blood, Pink lay screaming her precious heart out.
Only Johnnie didn't hesitate in the door, shoving past Kuei to scoop up his daughter and start wiping blood off her little face. “Bonnie!” He said sternly as another kick landed with a crunch into Opal’s ribs. The blue haired girl gave a sharp cry and fell all the way over, clutching her side instead of her knees now.
“BONNIE!” Kuei and Johnnie bellowed in unison even as the mother pulled back to strike again. The look on her face was nowhere near sane as her head snapped up. Blood spattered her face and what looked like nail marks tore furrows across her face. The bloody machete in her hand began to rise defensively towards the three in the doorway, eyes focused on Fawn who had her bow drawn and aimed at Bonnie.
Just as it had begun to rise the machete was dropped to the floor and Bonnie sank to her knees in the puddle of red she had made. Opal whimpered at the sound, her sobbing quieter and pained, and slowly uncurled and moved away. “What. The. Fuck. Bonnie?” Kuei asked as his eyes took in the violent scene.
“The FUCK?!?” Johnnie declared as Bonnie’s mouth opened and closed, trying to find words. The expletive was not directed at Bonnie, however, but a more generalized question and irritation. Pink let out a sudden and piercing wail at nearly the same time, Johnnie’s search of their baby having found something he obviously didn’t care for.
“Okay, I need to sit down now. Bonnie, don’t move from that spot. Opal, come sit here. Johnnie…what is it?” Kuei slumped onto the wooden bench next to the deceased Lascarian, rubbing at the side of his head and peering at the father daughter pair.
Johnnie took a deep breath and calmed himself, though when he spoke it was with a growl, “Pink has a bite taken out of her arm.” That statement made Kuei’s headache recede into the background and bring Fawn’s eyes to the infant and away from Bonnie.
“WHAT?!” They both asked in near unison as Bonnie began to sob quietly into her bloody hands. Johnnie, his lips a thin line beneath his mustache, pulls back the cloth he had pressed to the wound. Everyone knew what a bite wound looked like. Any encounter with a shambler could lead to numerous bite wounds and worse. To see such on the small baby, who was still crying but in pain rather than terror, was gruesome even for the hardened first mate and veteran fighter Fawn. “Go get Suture, now,” Kuei said to Fawn, not looking away from Johnnie and child.
“H-h-he d-d-d-did it,” Opal’s soft and shaken voice spoke from Kueis feet. He looked down at the slave with a frown, noting the black eye, split lip, and other obvious signs of the beating she had received from Bonnie. Opal gestured to the glass-eyed corpse nearby, whose blood had stopped flowing with every beat of his faltering heart. “Bonnie…she…she was trying to sleep…I think. She hasn’t been able to sleep…I don’t know why,” Opal’s words faltered and she looked between Johnnie and Kuei, her eyes filled with the fear of someone who thinks they had overstepped some boundary. Johnnie sighed and nodded, gesturing for the slave girl to continue. “The…the passenger…he came asking for something to eat. I had Pink in her sling on my back. I’m so sorry…I didn’t think anything of it when he asked if he could see her. I was trying to keep things from falling and make him a bite,” Here she stops and actually gags a bit, wiping at her mouth and smearing blood across the sleeve. “Then she screamed. Screamed like nothing I’ve ever heard. I had a knife in my hand and bread in the other and all I could do was stare as he…he-“
“That’s enough, Opal,” Kuei said looking a bit green as his mind filled in the scene. “You can…skip that bit. But if Bonnie was napping, how did she come to be in here and beating the shit out of you?”
Opal hung her head, blue and red streaked hair falling to cover her beaten face. “I think she was coming back because she couldn’t sleep. Because I started to scream and she burst through the door. I don’t honestly remember it well…I think he tried threatened to break Pink’s neck if Bonnie didn’t put her machete down. He had a pretty good grip on the baby,” Opal paused to take in a sharp breath of pain, clutching at her side.
“Okay, what’s up? I’m here,” Suture said as he walked through the doorway, Faun behind him. The scene caused him to raise a brow, his head drawing back in surprise, but the ships medic didn’t hesitate to move to Johnnie and the baby. “Oh dear…umm,” He glanced at Bonnie, who had slipped from sobbing into a fugue-like state, staring at her hands and then to Johnnie. “This is best handled away from mama bear, don’t ya think?” Johnnie gave a short nod and followed Suture out, cradling the baby who had worn herself out of tears.
As they left Kuei’s attention shifted to Faun, “Keep her in check in case whatever Suture does makes Pink scream again.” Faun snorted and said, “I’ll do my best.” The machete was retrieved without any resistance from Bonnie, and set on the table next to Kuei. Faun squatted a few feet from the ships top scavenger, speaking quietly, but the words seemed to fall on deaf ears. Despite that road block, Faun kept at it while Kuei returned his own attention to Opal and the rest of the story.
“Bonnie told him if he did that he was worse than dead meat, because then nothing would stop her from ripping his belly open and slowly letting Suture and Buffett eat them like noodles,” Opal shuddered as the stark image of such a scene ran through her brain but continued, “That is when he spit the chunk he bit off, or a piece, or something bloody at Bonnie and set Pink on the table. He put his hands up and demanded to see the Captain. It was about then the ship lurched and everything, especially Pink, went sliding. Bonnie lurched to keep her from falling off the table. He went to bash her upside the head, I think. I still…I couldn’t do anything but stand there and stare. I was so scared and I didn’t know what to do…I couldn’t think,” Opal slowly shook her head and scrubbed at her face with both hands. “Bonnie grabbed Pink and held her under one arm, like a ball, and with the other carved slices off of him. As soon as he struck the floor she hacked at his neck and if I hadn’t thrown up…probably would still be. Instead she turned on me and started screaming things…all of them true. I…I shouldn’t be trusted with a child. I am a waste of flesh. Too stupid to know how to take care of myself let alone anyone else.”
Kuei tried not to make the sigh sound too annoyed even as he rolled his eyes. “Opal, that is enough.”
All it took was a sharp command and she straightened up, her eyes clearing of tears as she stared intently at Kuei. “Go…get cleaned up by Suture. Then clean up this mess…” He waved a hand at the gore-strewn galley with a wrinkled nose. “Faun, let’s take Bonnie to the Captain.”
The story was relayed two times to Captain Han. Once by Kuei and then by Opal while serving the Captain his dinner. He frowned at the blackened eye and other obvious cuts, pulled the chemise up to look at her bandaged ribs. “That’s enough work for tonight, Opal. You should go rest, I will find out from Suture how long till you are recovered enough to take on your duties,” He said and turned his attention to the three people who sat at his table. Opal hesitated, biting her lower lip, but nodded and moved to lie down in her hammock. “Eh, get in the bed Opal. The hammock will only make your ribs worse.” The red blush that crossed Opals face was only visible to Han, and he covered the smile behind his cup of tea.
Kuei leaned back in his chair, looking disinterested in the discussion while eating a cold meal of smoked meat, bread, and cheese. Johnnie was far more alert as he held Pink, who now slept, his eyes moving from Bonnie to Han and back again. “So…why did this happen?” Han asked as he set down his tea cup, a hand gesturing at Bonnie whose hands were bound and eyes distant in a drugged stupor. Johnnie frowned and Kuei glanced up from checking his cheese for mold.
“Guy bites baby. Mommy goes nuts. Seems pretty simple, Captain,” Kuei replies with a shrug of his shoulder. “Maybe with a bit of the old ultra-violence, but…” He trails off and stuffs a bite of cheese in his mouth to prevent finishing the sentence.
“Having known Bonnie for a few years, I can say I’ve never seen her loose it like that. Even when the Ramens came to escort her home right after the baby was born. I am really hoping you can enlighten us, Johnnie. She destroyed ship property,” Han’s eyes glanced at his bed where Opal was already asleep, “And, while within her right, killed a paying passenger of the ship. At the moment I would be within my right to leave her on shore for the destruction of valuable property alone. So…convince me why I shouldn’t.”
The two men talked well into the night. Kuei excused himself after the seventh sarcastic remark that earned him a glower from Han. Bonnie said nothing and eventually fell into a deep sleep, her chin resting on her chest. Only when Pink awoke, fussing hungrily, did Bonnie stir and to snatch the babe and cradle her closely at that. It was the last piece of the puzzle to the uncharacteristic behavior of the normally outgoing and helpful retrograde.
“I’ve seen it before…You see a lot of things travelling from port to port. I’ve heard it called a variety of things, but it all boils down to the mother’s head goes crazy. They can get delusional, erratic, and almost always violent. Sometimes they cling to the baby, sometimes they believe they have to…kill them and any other young children they may have.” Han’s voice was grave as he spoke and watched Bonnie tune out the rest of the world, stroking Pink’s cheek as the babe nursed. “She’s certainly not fit for ship duty, but I can’t exactly spare you too Johnnie. I know the Rose took some damage from that storm and we’re going to need to find scrap to fix her up. I think Rose may know a brew to keep her calm until we get back to the Rend. Till then…she’s going to have to be in the brig for everyone’s safety, including hers.”
Johnnie put his arm around Bonnie and pulled her close, watching as she mumbled under her breath to Pink. “I don’t have much choice do I?” Johnnie said after a momentary pause.
“No, you don’t. We could leave her on the beach, or leave her in the brig, until we can get her some more advanced help. And even then I don’t see it being good for her to take on ship duties again. The stress is obviously too much for her,” Han said as he leaned forward, hands clasped on the table. A trace of concern entered his voice as he said, “I may have to provide some other form of punishment, but that can wait till she is capable of comprehending what happened better. For now why don’t you go make her cell as comfortable as possible? We all will need some sleep before first light.”
Johnnie stood and guided Bonnie to standing; her arms and feet still manacled together, and turned her towards the door. As they left the indecipherable murmur from her began the clear notes and words, “97 Bonnie and Clyde…me and my daughter…”
One Night in Shanghai…
“YELLOW SUBMARINE! YELLOW! IT’S FUCKING YELLOW!” cried the sad looking young man stumbling between the overturned Greyhound buses that fortified the Ramen family compound. Weapons dropped instantly at the words and his mother and brother hurried forward to catch him before he fell to his knees. Bonnie let out a sigh that was part relief and part agitation, but slipped her shovel back into its strap on her bag, “Well, guess that means we are having two funerals and a wedding now,” She said, not letting the sarcasm be hidden in her voice. Beside her Blitzkrieg snorted as he, too, put away his gun.
“Bonnie, honey, don’t sound so disappointed,” He said as they watched their cousin be led past, sobbing and mumbling about the color yellow over and over. Their aunt, the boy’s mother, glanced their way and rolled her eyes, “Yes, Mickey, we know. It’s yellow. Come on,” She could be heard to say.
“All right, everyone, back to getting this place ready for the big shindig tomorrow!” Hollered a broad shouldered man, half his face showing exposed muscle and tendon, while the other half’s skin was slowly turning flaky and dropping away. This was Bonnie’s uncle , and currently family head, Alabama and was currently the source of much irritation on her part. As she had been doing since getting to Shanghai, she shot him a nasty glare which he either ignored or didn’t see and turned to stalk towards the double-wide where she had been working on Blitz’s newest tattoo. “Come on, Blitz, let’s get that rose finished up,” She snapped, throwing the door open a little too aggressively.
The Ramen compound was a series of converted buses, trailers, and the old USS Blueback submarine. Surrounded on all sides by a wall that consisted of other buses, steel fencing, and various garbage barricades it was one of the most fortified, and well protected, places in Shanghai city. Sitting in the north eastern part of the city, it was only an old-world block or two from the river and even laid claim to a dock of its own.
Members of the family took turns patrolling, always on the lookout for Zed, raiders, or anything else that meant the family harm. What had once started out, four generations or so ago, as a group of high school students, and their chaperones, on a field trip had now become one of Shanghai’s most influential and strongest factions next to the Yakuza. And soon the factions would be making a strong show of their before unspoken alliance.
Bonnie scowled unconsciously as she filled in the lines on Blitzkrieg’s tattoo. “Hey, now, don’t take it out on me. Take out your wrath on the right target,” Her cousin said, a small note of pain in his voice. She realized, as blood oozed down his arm to mingle with shedding skin and other tattoos, that she had been applying a little too much pressure with the gun. Much more gently she wiped at the blood, “Sorry…” She mumbled before resuming the task with a much lighter touch.
“Bonnie, honey, you gotta stop moping. It’s unbe…unbesomething or other of ya,” He said, watching her as she worked. “Unbecoming,” She instantly supplied, totally used to filling in the bigger words he often tried to use but got wrong. “Yeah, that. You shouldn’t keep that anger all bottled up. Later we can go to the Club and you can let it out,” He said, sounding far too cheerful at the prospect of going to the brawler bar. Still, it made her snort a chuckle.
“I don’t think showing up to ones betrothal dinner with a fat lip and black eye is especially becoming either,” Bonnie said as she began the last touches of the black rose tattoo. Blitz looked thoughtful for a minute, before nodding slowly in agreement, “You’re probably right, but it wouldn’t be the first time,” he agreed after a pause, eliciting a dry chuckle from her.
“There we are, let me just see,” Bonnie lifted the gun from his skin and swiped the alcohol-soaked rag across the new tattoo. With a little push she sent her stool rolling back several feet, eyeing the glistening and bloody adornment with a critical eye. “Yep, that is done.” The small glee at a finished piece filled the young woman as she scooted back into place. “You know the drill. It puts the lotion on its skin or it gets…” She recited the phrase with a smile, which was matched by Blitz, who replied, “Beaten with a stick.”
They both laughed as she began to carefully bandage the wound with a cotton dressing and duct tape. “I still don’t see why you are so upset, though…” Trust Blitzkrieg to continue to nudge a sore spot. The smile and lightness of the moment vanished and Bonnie sighed. “It’s not like you and he haven’t fooled around before. Hell, there was that party two years ago where you –,”
“Okay! No need to bring that up!” Bonnie interrupted, throwing her hands up and shaking her head. If the skin on her cheeks wasn’t already raw and red from its three month cycle of shedding skin she would be blushing.
“Heh. All right, but the question is still what’s your damn problem?” Blitzkrieg asked, leaning back in the chair and fixing her with one of his expectant looks. The moment turned tense as Bonnie shifted auncomfortably on the stool. There really was no good reason for her to be unhappy about the upcoming ceremony. They had talked all night after she and Blitzkrieg had arrived in town aboard the Black Rose. Each didn’t want the other getting in the way of a well-established way of life, but something still nagged at her. “I just don’t like being forced into things,” She said, trying to put as much conviction into it as possible. Blitzkrieg would see through it, if anyone would, and as she predicted he snorted.
“Alright…but I still think going to the Club would be fun.” And they both grinned.
The crowd roared wildly as the large Merican was thrown against the chain link fencing surrounding the fighting pit of the Club. Bonnie’s voice was lost in the throng as she, too, cheered Blitzkrieg Bop Ramen on in the pit. He had a cut on his arm and was likely to have several new bruises in the morning, but he was doing well against his opponent. The new tattoo would probably need some touch ups before all was said and done.
After some convincing the two of them, along with three others for the sake of numbers, had left to go to the Club. Most of the people at the place came to watch or participate in the fighting. A smaller portion came to participate in underhanded dealings in the places back rooms. Bonnie, at least tonight, was happy to participate in the more mundane parts. Blitz probably would have wound up in the ring one way or another, but the Merican sneering at her when she pulled her veil aside to take sip from her drink and calling her a dirty Zed-lover had been the perfect excuse. The guy might even have done it just to have an excuse to get in the ring too. Blitz had jumped on him in a heartbeat and the bouncers had each grabbed one of them and hauled them, not unwillingly, to the main ring.
Blood stained the smooth canvas beneath their bare feet. The chain link fencing had seen better days and bore bits and pieces of past matches. A clump of hair here, a spatter of gore there, and other more questionable materials clung like trophies to the metal cage. It stank of sweat and blood and, to a lesser degree, sex. This place was a haven for Hedonites in Shanghai, so the last wasn’t all that surprising.
Blitz roared along with the crowd and charged the Merican as he stumbled to his feet. A series of brutal punches, a knee to the face, and an elbow to his kidneys put the man on the ground where he added his own splatter of blood from lip and nose to the canvas. The crowd went wild and the Ramens in the crowd began to chant Blitzkrieg’s name, which was taken up and passed throughout the Club.
“BLITZ! BLITZ! BLITZ!” Bonnie didn't try to be heard over the rest and just grinned at her cousin as he turned towards her with two thumbs up and a big old grin on his face. One last kick went into the downed man’s side which elicited some hoots and some upset yelling from the Merican’s companions. They would need to watch their backs on the walk home tonight, given the looks Blitz was receiving from the other Mericans.
“Dirty, rotten, zombie fucker,” Bonnie turned to try and catch who had spoken, ready to lay in to them herself if they were in range. The adrenaline of the place over riding her normally restrained nature. Whoever had spoken was gone, though, and there was only a sea of bodies. “Hey Bonnie, what’s with the scowl?” Doomie, Blitz’s younger brother, asked.
“Nothing…thought I heard something that was going to get someone a knee to the nuts,” She said, turning to give Doomie a reassuring smile. “Come on; let’s go give Blitz his mask back.” They began to push through the lessening press of bodies around the cage. A few known faces murmured familiar words of congratulations as they passed to the cage exit and everyone arrived as Blitz stepped from the ring. Bonnie held out his mask with a grin and shake of her head, “That was appropriately bloody. Feeling good?”
“I always feel good after a good beat down, honey.”
“Don’t we all?” The both turned toward the new voice in the conversation, Bonnie with a look of surprise and Blitz still grinning from the adrenaline rush. “Ello there, Akira!” Blitz replied excitedly, “You here to fight?” Bonnie’s buzz from the fight quickly faded as the reminder why they had come in the first place loomed in front of them.
Akira was a half-Genjian from one of Shanghai’s most prominent families. Though he was technically only a half-blood, he acted and was treated just the same as any of his line. He also didn’t vary, except in size, from the look of his brethren. Long salt and pepper hair was tied back in a top-knot. Pale skin was slightly pock marked but otherwise unblemished, except for a purple and red mark that covered his right eye and forehead, one of the only indications of his mixed heritage with Retrogrades. He was old enough to bear a goatee with streaks of silver as well, all told a truly attractive and intimidating presence if Bonnie allowed herself to admit it. “Hello, Hoshiro-san,” She said politely, pulling herself up straight.
The real reason for the urgency in a marriage fluttered in her belly, awakened by music or drink she didn’t know. But the sharp kick into her nethers caused her to grimace and shift uncomfortably, poor timing on her part. Akira raised one silvery brow at her, looking her up and down slowly, “Am I that displeasing, Miss Ramen?” He asked sarcastically. “Oh ! No, no. Just the hooch suddenly disagreeing with me,” She replied with a quick shake of her head, the beads of her veil clattering together with the intensity of it.
“You do look a bit pained, my dear,” Akira said smoothly and with his damned devilish grin. Bonnie did like him; she just didn’t like being forced to be obvious or rushed about it. Plus there were people back at The Rendezvous who had managed to attach strings to her heart. A political marriage would mean having to be much more subtle or perhaps forgoing them all together. The unwanted thoughts must have crossed her face for suddenly he was lifting her chin and smiling gently at her as he whispered, just loud enough to be heard over the noise of the club, “Don’t fret so. It will all be well.” The words, while a bit cryptic, did manage to soothe some of the worry that had been making their stay in Shanghai less than enjoyable.
A cough from Doomie caused them both to turn from contemplating each other to find both their parties starting at them with smirks on their faces. It was a good thing Bonnie was already read in the face or they might have teased her about the blush. “Well then, I need a good fight. Anyone, except you Blitz, up for a tussle?” Akira asked, causing hoots and laughter to break out. Blitz’s own cheering and happiness was always a quick cure and Bonnie smiled to see him giving Akira a sharp, companionable blow upon the back as they headed for the bar.
The crowd folded and moved around them and Bonnie followed the crowd of men, Genjian and Retrograde mixed, watching from a few steps back. Akira already was like family to the Ramen and he didn’t care about her current state and neither did his family. It all could work out well, unless she had to stay in Shanghai for the rest of her life. While her uncle knew the Hoshiros well, she had only met a few of them personally, so she had no idea what they would want from her.
Those kinds of musings, even a few feet away from the protection of a group, are part of why Shanghai has such a high kidnapping and assault rate. Even in well populate areas, it is always best to keep an eye on your friends back lest they be whisked away for ransom or the next slave train. Unfortunately the boys were just slightly too occupied, or so it seemed, and Bonnie’s own focus was inward, so the Merican crew got the drop on her.
A hand clamped around her arm and spun her away into the crowd. Two hulking men blocked her view of the bar and her family. Instinct cause her to let out a scream, “BLI-“ it was cut off as a grimy hand covered her mouth. The foul smell of too much hooch and a lack of regular washing filled her nose as she was pulled up against someone tightly, hard arms pinned behind her back. It all happened in less than a second, as these things do, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t have a struggle to deal with. The hand, despite the foulness of it, had a large chunk taken out of it and elicited a scream of pain from its bearer. Before the tang of iron and who knows what else finished tingling her tongue she spit the hunk of flesh out, into the face of another Merican who was looming over her, a big ol’ knife pressing against her cheek.
The meat hit him on the cheek and stuck for a second, before slowly sliding down and leaving a trail of red on his smooth face. He raised his hand and backhanded her, but she only growled as she tasted blood. When she looked back at him, leering over her with a sneer on his face, she spit her mouthful at him again. “Coward,” She said as he startled back, wiping at his eyes.
The fancy knife flashed up to strike her this time, but was blocked with another blade just as the pressure of hands holding her arms went slack. In fact, the person behind her went completely slack and caused her to stumble slightly forward, managing to stop just before the crossed blades. Her eyes followed the line of the one which had protected her, and it lead up to Akira who was looking deadly in all his Genjian glory.
Bo quickly took a step back, grasping the sharp edged shovel at her hip, as her family stepped up around her. Blitz was looking serious and happily ready for murder and she was inclined to join them. “You okay, Bonnie?” Her cousin asked and she nodded, “Just a bad taste in my mouth,” She replied, spitting on the floor this time. It would likely blend with the other bits of spittle and bodily fluids in the sawdust covering.
“Would you care to explain, gentlemen, why you grabbed my friend’s cousin?” He still held the other Merican’s dagger at bay, for the larger man was trying to turn it to confront Akira. The Genjian simply stood, holding the blade off, and staring daggers of his own into the leather and jeans clad men. “Before the Club’s own security comes and beats you to a bloody pulp might be wise. They dislike drawn weapons unless there are zed to fight off, you know,” His cool, matter of fact voice was obviously unsettling the crew.
The man with the dagger tried to flick Akira’s blade away before putting his back in its sheath, but only managed to almost loose his grip on the weapon. The Ramen and Hoshiro crew chuckled darkly as he fumbled to put the blade away, “That gal looked like a zed! Look’it poor Floyd, she done took a bite outta ‘im!” It took him almost a full minute to sputter out the response. Bonnie thought for a moment that there was a Diesal Jock troop going by, but realized it was Blitz and Doomie growling beside her loud enough to vibrate the air. Akira’s eyes narrowed and the Merican man took a small step back.
“Sadly I do not believe you. I somehow doubt the staff will either, given her face covering. Here in Shanghai we don’t hold with folk attacking Retros just because of their heritage. I recommend you scurry on back to Bravo, before the whole Ramen clan comes head hunting,” Akira spoke slowly, as if the men were slow, which they probably were, and made a shooing gesture with one hand. He never lowered the long, silvery blade with which he had blocked the knife. As the men began to back away from the combined strength of Hoshiro and Ramen they walked right into The Club staff. Bonnie smiled wickedly as they began to mercilessly beat the Mericans for their lack of respect for the establishments Rules.
“Thank you, Akira, for your assistance tonight,” Bonnie said as they stood before the Ramen compound. The Hoshiros milled around in a tight group while the rest of the Ramens went through the complicated, and ever changing, process of entering the main gate. She could hear Blitzkrieg shouting up at White Rabbit, a half-cousin recently migrated to Shanghai, on the wall.
Akira smirked and shook his head, “It wouldn’t do to have you cut up or sent to the Gravemind before things could properly proceed,” He said, reaching out to casually tuck a stray strand of red hair behind her ear. Bonnie simply snorted at the comment, neither agreement nor disagreement.
“Bo, come on now…we’ve played around for some five years now. It isn’t like much will be changing,” The two of them finally had a chance to talk in relative privacy, without relatives hovering close, and now Bonnie found herself unable to speak her worries of earlier in the evening. A dark expression must have come across her face for Akira frowned, and reach out to cup her chin forcing her strange colored eyes to meet his blue ones. “Why does this bother you?”
The sigh was far louder that she had intended and she shook her head, freeing her chin from his hand. “It is complication, Akira. Life has changed very rapidly the last several months. Shanghai isn’t my home anymore, the Black Rose and The Rend are,” She said after a quiet moment of contemplation. “And I don’t think your family would be too thrilled with your new bride running off on a ship a few days after the ceremony. If I recall correctly, your mother has been badgering you for grandchildren for the last two years…what with you having already visited the Gravemind before.”
The air stood tense between them suddenly as Akira pulled himself up straight, brows drawing down into a frown. “The Rend? Why does that place hold such a fascination for you and your cousin?” She could hear the frustration in his voice. “It is safer here, within our families’ compounds than out there in the wild. Hell, didn’t you say Carver was making war on the place? I know a few of my people have overheard mercenaries in some of the slaver bars talking about it.”
Bonnie shook her head and turned away to look out over the river and into the sparkling lights and silhouetted bridges of Shanghai City. “It’s the people, more than the place. It’s the making of something new, the potential for greatness.”
“You can have greatness right here, in Shanghai!”
“Yes, as the wife to one of the most successful and merciless families' heir. A symbol of unification between the Hoshiro and Ramens, uniting them and creating an ever bigger, badder, family. Thrown into the role of making sure I have plenty of brats so that one will hopefully survive to take our place,” Bonnie hadn’t meant to sound so bitter, but she couldn’t help it. The last few days she had kept it pent up inside, but now it all came spilling out. It was enough of a shock to make Akira take a step back, anger coloring his face.
“I see,” He said, his voice tight. Akira drew in a tight breath, his lips setting into a thin line. “I didn’t realize bearing a child in a pleasant relationship, which I thought we had, would be such a burden to your highness.”
Bonnie turned to him, “That’s not what I-“
“But it is what you said, Bonnie. I think we shall take our leave now. BOYS!”Her didn’t give her a chance to defend herself and the irritation suddenly deflated in the face of the hurt in those blue eyes. As the Hoshiros gathered about Akira, readying to head back to their home, she tried to meet his eyes without success. “Good evening, Miss Ramen,” The change to speaking her so formally didn’t get past his companions who frowned and looked between them as they began to move off.
“What was that about?” Bonnie turned to find Blitzkrieg at her shoulder, scratching at his temple and the pussy wound there. Without answering she turned to walk into the compound, but Blitz caught her arm as she went past. “Nu’uh. Cap’n asked us to come by the ship,” And he turned her around, steering her down the short walk to the dock and the Black Rose.
That was the last thing Bonnie wanted to do at that moment. In fact she would be perfectly happy to go curl up in her bed and ignore the rest of the world. The taste of foot in mouth was one that would be hard to get rid of, no matter how much hooch Captain Han offered them. “I really am not up to it,” She said grumpily as she tried to tug her arm out of Blitz’ grip. It was a futile effort where he was concerned, especially when as he was extremely intent on getting her there despite whatever protests she made. “Well, you can tell that to the Cap’n.”
With a huff as her last protest she began to walk more willingly. Her feet crunched on the rocky shore before hitting the mismatched wood of the dock. The junk was alight and there was sound of laughter and a bit of music coming from it. Bonnie raised a brow and glanced at Blitz, who gave no indication of what was going on. A party was the exact opposite of what she wanted right now, but when it came to the Rose crew, that hardly mattered.
“We’re here, Cap’n!” Blitz called once they were halfway down the dock. “Seriously, Blitz, right now is not the time for a party,” Bo said quietly to Blitz. “Too late,” Was his only answer. They stepped from the dock onto the low deck of the junk and there were some quiet cheers from those on deck. Bonnie was suddenly grateful she had her veil on so they couldn’t see the frown on her face.
From the door leading to the galley emerged Captain Han, dressed for leisure in his black silk wrap. Despite this his katana still hung at his side. The short Genjian walked up, arms thrown wide, and gave Bonnie a hug, “Congratulations, I believe, are in order,” He said to which she mustered a weak laugh.“Though I hope they understand you are still under the Articles and you have a few months still with us.”
The funny thing was that she had forgotten, for the evening, about the articles and that they were a temporary reprieve. “Yes, Captain. They are aware and it won’t interfere with my duties. They are very respectful when it comes to things like that.”
“Of course they would be. Now come and have some hooch!”
The crew knew how to party and Bonnie smiled, enjoying the revelry all around her. Except for maybe Blitz and Scarlette locked at the lips over on the bow. Every now and again she would scowl at the Vegasian, even though she was utterly ignored, just to make a point. The point had, at some point, gotten more rounded and overused but it still had some punch. Once again the negative thoughts began to encroach on Bo and she shook her head as if that alone would make them go away.
“’Ello Bo, what’s got ya frownin’?” The rich, warm, accented voice of Charles William Duprix (The third) washed over her, brightening her thoughts instantly. She turned towards the sound of his voice to find him leaning against the central boat housing, his coat snapping in the wind rising from the gorge. Lit by lamp and moonlight he was quite the striking figure. With an easy smile, blond goatee, and height to match her own six feet and some it was easy to see why she enjoyed his attention and company.
“Hello CW,” She replied the frown flipping to a genuine smile. “Nothing that needs attention, my mind was just wandering. Come and hang with me for a bit?” She slid, a little awkwardly for the growing belly, off the barrel to step up to the tall Merican. He gave her one of his smiles and hooked an arm around her shoulders. The smell of hooch was strong, but not enough to unsettle her stomach.
“What kinda gentleman would ah be if I turned down a lovely lady?” He asked, sounding completely honest in his assessment of Bo’s beauty. That was one of the things she liked about him, he saw past the rot. As his arm settled about her she leaned in, slouching, to rest her head against his shoulder comfortably. For a moment they stood in silence watching the Captain and one of second cousins play an intense speed game of chess. The crew had started betting before the first piece had even been set on the board.
“You always are a gentleman, CW,” She said, letting her arm slide beneath his duster to wrap around his waist. For a moment she closed her eyes and just let the sounds and other senses wash over her; the arm on her shoulder, the smell of hooch and…other things, laughter and cheering, somewhere in the distance a gunshot. A gunshot? Bonnie’s eyes popped open and she looked in the direction she thought it had come from, the frown having returned. And she was not the only one who paused in mid-revelry at the sound. CW, even though he was well into the hooch, straightened a bit and craned his neck around the boathouse. “Well, that didn’ sound too good,” Was his comment to which Bonnie could only nod agreement.
Another shot sounded and another. Now the crew became serious and weapons began appearing. Armor was slung back on and Bonnie watched the party go on hold as cries of combat came nearer. A whistle from the Ramen compound went up, which caught both Blitz and Bonnie’s attention. Eyes wide they instantly turned to stare at one another before springing into action. “Captain Han, sir, you really should stay here,” Blitz told the captain as he surged past towards the gangplanks. “I’ll take a couple people, but this is Ramen business,” The captain paused and gave Blitz a long, dark look.
“I am a Ramen now, remember?” Bonnie bit her lip and tried not to smile at the very frustrated snarl Blitz replied with. What she wasn’t prepared for was him pointing his hammer at her, “Bonnie, stay!” She opened her mouth to object, but was too stunned to come up with anything. Instead she looked like a beached fish, gulping on the deck. CW squeezed her shoulder in reassurance, “Don’worry, Bo. Ah’ll go wit’ ‘em an’ help,” He said, catching her eyes with his blue ones. The interruption snapped her mind back into focus and she glowered.
“All right, but you better not die again or else,” The threat was empty. She felt witless and was literally stranded on the junk as the small group went off. Neko and Jack, along with a few others, stayed behind to watch the boat and, less obviously, her. Bonnie was less than pleased and crossed her arms as Jack casually stood by the gangplank, effectively blocking it for the moment. “Be careful!” She called after the retreating backs as gunfire sounded again and someone began to scream.
What had started as a simple confrontation had turned into deadly violence. The gang of Mericans from the bar had been more than just three of four men looking for trouble. They were a troop from Bravo looking for new opportunities and they had picked the wrong people to use for their initial foothold. The Hoshiro crew drew a protective half circle around their own downed man, who screamed from the three gut wounds his hands wrapped around. The gun shots had hit there mark if one told by the dark puddle spreading around him.
In the darkness between the Ramen compound and Shanghai proper there were many concrete ruins. A graveyard of a city where anything could and often did lurk was the reason people always travelled the area in groups of no less than five. Unfortunately the folks from Bravo outnumbered the Hoshiros by twice and some. Gunshots flew from bolt action guns and rifles, the bursts of light ruining night vision for everyone.
Amongst the half circle one of Akira’s men took aim with a crossbow and sent it flying through the throat of his opponent. The man dropped with a horrible, whistling cry of pain drowned out by the blood rushing into his mouth. “Come and fight us face to face, cowards,” One of the Genjian cried, pointing his katana at the group some fifteen feet off. The two groups continued a slow circling death dance, with the Hoshiros guarding their fallen comrade and the Mericans orbiting them like some sick moon around a bloody planet.
“And get our lovely leather chopped ta bits by your sooshee knives? Ah don’ think so, son!” One of them replied back, followed by another shot from a gun. Another man went down with a gurgled cry to lay by the first. “YEEHAW!”
The Rose crew arrived on the scene as the second Hoshiro man went down. The concrete buildings hid their approach, as well as the constant blaze of gunshots ruining night vision. A rifle cracked loudly, the boom echoing off the nearby buildings and into the sky. “Hhsss,” Blitz hissed as he took in the situation. “They’re going to attract every Zed for miles with that ruckus.” Captain Han’s face was grim and CW was frowning at the Bravo Mericans with great distaste.
“Not only that, but they be givin’ me and mine a bad name. I’m fixin’ to bash in some heads, Cap’n,” The tall Merican said in hushed tones.
“We’re not rushing in. We can circle around behind them and put the old Yellow M building between us. They won’t see us coming,” Blitz counseled, his tactical sense as keen as his captain’s blade. Han nodded agreement and the three of them moved at a fast trot, not needing to cover the noise for the hooting and hollering that was going on in the fire fight.
The old Yellow M building had one collapsed wall and the roof had slid partway into the remains of the street. Its large yellow M, for which it was named, was the only thing still standing fairly upright in its original position. Graffiti scrawled over the wall and bottom parts of the M, the Ramen clan symbol being a primary sign amongst the rest of the scribbles.
Blitz’s hand rested on that symbol as they peered around the building at the exposed backs of some twelve Mericans. He and Han both drew their own bolt actions and took careful aim at the same target. Without needing to count they fired almost at the same time, sending two and then four rounds into the man’s exposed back. He went down screaming and most of his companions turned, straining to see the Black Roses in the darkness. The Hoshiros took the cue and rushed their attackers silently, their blades swinging down and through flesh and armor, crimson arcs of blood spattering the nearby Yellow M. It was not the first such stain the building had received, nor would it be the last.
Bonnie had run away from tougher situations than Jack standing in front of the gangplank, preventing her from leaving unnoticed. However she was in Shanghai and she had to carefully weigh the pros and cons of doing so, despite knowing how to move in the night. She stared off into the darkness, listening to the cries of pain and the gunshots in the near distance. Another whistle went up and she recognized the call for healing aid that the Ramens and Hoshiros both used. Her frown deepened and her feet itched to start running. “Damnit,” She said and began to pace the length of the junk. They had only been gone a minute, maybe two, but it felt like hours.
Everyone left of the boat was trying to return to the happy celebration, but their hearts weren’t in it knowing some of their own were out in the dangerous night of Shanghai City. Bonnie licked her lips and checked her bag. Two iron rations were tucked in there, along with her water bottle and spare veil. Jack and Neko both watched her curiously, but neither of them expected the obviously pregnant retrograde to make a run for it. They doubly didn’t expect her to make a running leap, grab one of the trailing mast ropes and swing out and onto the land. Jack’s mouth literally fell open and Neko just looked impressed, if stunned. Bonnie glanced back at the ship and shrugged at Jack, before bolting into the darkness and vanishing from sight. “Shit,” Was all Jack could come up with.
Bonnie ran in long, loping steps through the familiar streets of her childhood home. While the rubble sometimes shifted and changed, or was moved, the layout of the roadways stayed mostly the same. Her ears followed the sound of combat and whistles and in her mind’s eye managed to get a rough guess of their location. Her breath was coming harder and faster than she was used too, sharp pains grabbing at her belly. Despite the urge to keep running she came to a stop in the shadows of a collapsed warehouse.
Maybe a block away the fighting continued. There was mostly lots of yelling now with the occasional gunshot was what filled the night. She strained her ears to try and pick out the cries of the wounded, especially the first one. The seconds were ticking by and her chance to help them was slipping through her fingers like their blood which stained the streets. It didn’t matter to her body though, which gasped for air and beat her heart like a frenzied drum. Her vision swam with darkness and a second later found herself on her knees in the dirt, back braced against concrete. “Fuck,” She whispered to herself as stars danced in front of her vision.
The moans of the dying were so close she was sure she could touch them. Then she realized those weren’t the dying, those moans were the dead. Her head snapped up and she pushed herself deeper into the darkness, doing her best to quiet her breath as the walking dead of Shanghai’s upper city began to mass and wander past her. They seemed to be simple shamblers, but Bonnie was all alone and having a hard time seeing beyond the spots in her vision. The moans of the dead began to reverberate in her ears, making her feel queasy. Or maybe it was the running which had done that. Either way her head began to pound, her side ached, and the sparkles in her vision didn’t cease. The dead walked past her jumble of rock and concrete as she bit her lip bloody not to sob in a mixture of fear and pain.
“ZED!” CW’s voice rang clearly in the light and she realized she had been much closer than she previously believed. Bonnie sucked in a shuddering breath through her nose as tears trickled down her cheeks, stinging the open wounds. She didn’t dare call for help yet, she could still see a shambler in direct line of sight. One noise, one call, and she and the baby would be dinner for the restless dead.
The tone of the fighting changed beyond the concrete hideout. Combat went from tactical to survival as they were swarmed by over a dozen zed. The piercing shriek of a Burster shattered the night and Bonnie shut her eyes tight, the sound causing another wave of nausea. She realized they were by the Yellow M and prayed to the Kings and Queens of Rock that Blitz remembered the bolt hole the family had there.
“Move, move, in there!” Blitz’s battle command pierced the night. “We can’t save ‘em, get in there or we’re zed meat. MOVE!” Bonnie’s tears took on relief as her cousin remembered and she felt herself slump into the crevice. Another scream, this one all too alive, pierced the night and jerked her eyes open. Then hers joined it as the zed she had spotted earlier leapt onto her. She hadn’t been hiding so well after all.
The smell of its rotting flesh, so much worse than any retrograde, caused her stomach to heave. The shovel was caught between her and the corpse that now gnawed on her shoulder. She felt teeth tearing through her flesh, gripping into muscle, and ripping tendon with ease. “This is it. I did one stupid thing too many. I can’t even fight it off, I’m too sick. I can barely see for the spots…I’m dead…baby is-“
There was no warning. One moment the zed was gnawing happily at the meaty part where her neck connected to her shoulder, the next that head was rolling a few feet away. Bonnie lays gasping against the concrete staring up at the figure in front of her. For a moment she thought it was Akira and her mouth formed his name, but then the spots began to clear and she saw Neko’s purple robe. “Oh,” Was all she managed before the darkness at the edge of her vision swallowed the remainder and she passed into darkness. “Shit,” Was her last conscious thought.
When Bonnie next gained consciousness she expected any number of crazy visions, like what had been described by friends and family of the Gravemind. Instead she realized her pulse still beat, her shoulder was healed, and that she lay in her small and cramped bunk aboard the Black Rose. She sucked in a deep breath and let it out with a sigh, blinking the sleep out of her eyes. The sleeping quarters were dark except for a lone lantern attached firmly to the hull. Its dim glow showed a single figure, sitting in a chair near her bedside. The purple of his robe told her that, again, it was Neko.
“I see you are awake,” He said in a neutral tone. Bonnie swallowed and laid her head back down on her pillow.
“Yeah. I’m going to assume that I owe you big time,” She said and realized how tired and weak her voice sounded. Then she realized there was a funny taste in her mouth. It was a strange mix of mint and copper and she smacked her lips with a grimace. “Do you have my water bottle by any chance?” She turned her head towards the shadowed Genjian, who stood and came over to the bunk. He bent beside the bed, pulling her old and battered metal bottle into site. One brow was raised curiously at her as she gulped down almost the entire contents in a matter of seconds. “Ugh…my mouth still tastes like I swallowed copper with a mint chaser.”
“That would be the medicine Scarlette gave you,” Neko replied blandly.
“WHAT?!? OW!” Bonnie sat bolt upright in the bunk and hit her head on the top, falling back into her pillow clutching her head. “FUCK,” She spat and kicked the wall of the bunk in frustration. “What did she feed me? Was it something she made or something safe? I bet she’s fucking gloating up top right now!”
“Actually, she seemed rather concerned, though I can’t attest to whether it was something she made up or not. Lady Rose didn’t seem to object to the brew, so I assume it was safe?” Neko had taken a step back at Bonnie’s sudden fit of anger, one brow raised curiously as he watched her.
“Hmph,” Bonnie was not convinced, but right now her head pounded and stars were swimming in her vision again. She wasn’t sure if the stars were from hitting her head or whatever had come over her earlier. So she decided to groan and rolled over on her side, a hand over her eyes. “How long was I out?”
“Well, the Captain and the rest came back about an hour ago. Blitz was rather upset to hear you had passed out while he was away, but we assured him you came to no harm,” Neko tried his best for a soothing voice, reaching out to awkwardly pat her hand. Bo spared him a wan smile and said, “Thanks. I’ sure he and Captain Han will have a few choice words for me when I get up.”
As she watched Neko’s face she realized something was afoot. His eyes cast aside and one shoulder rose in a shrug as he said, “Weeeeeell, we didn’t exactly tell them you ran off after.” A flood of relief filled Bonnie’s belly at his words. That would mean no punishment, no lashes, and that was probably a good thing with the way she felt. She blew a sigh of relief past her lips and let her eyes close. Before she realized it, tears were leaking out and running down her cheeks. They again stung the rot that almost always resided there, which caused her breath to hiccup. “Aww, now don’t go and cry,” He said, beginning to pat her hand again in an attempt to soothe her. “I never know what exactly to do when a woman cries, especially a pregnant one. Give a guy a break.” That caused her to laugh even as the tears continued.
“How about refilling my bottle with more water?” She suggested as she sniffled and wiped her nose on the back of her sleeve. “Now –that- is something I can do and happily,” Neko said, taking the bottle and heading over to the water barrel. As he filled it from the spigot he asked, “Want me to go get Blitz for you?”
She was tempted to have him do so, but she also dreaded the short talk that would follow. It was very likely some of the Hoshiros had met the Gravemind, perhaps even Akira. Would she be able to handle that kind of news, sick as she was still feeling? The baby stirred and kicked hard, adding to her long list of discomforts. Neko mistook her groan for something direr and said, “Or I can say you’re still sleeping?” She was touched by his concern and smiled painfully, eyes peeking open. “No, thank you. I should probably hear whatever news sooner or later.” The haunted look in Neko’s blue eyes made her stomach sink just that much more. He handed her the bottle and turned, walking up the stairs towards the deck.
Bonnie lay in the candle light and sipped the water, listening to the sounds of people moving. Muffled voices sounded from up above and what sounded like CW resounding laugh made her smile just a little bit. A few minutes passed and in them she tried to figure out what to tell her cousin about her little failed escapade. The truth would likely send him into a rage which would last until they got back to The Rendezvous and she really needed his presence right now. Not telling him would save the rage for later, but it would be worse. Perhaps something in between would suffice so he would be angry, but not enough to stop speaking to her.
As she came to her decision the heavy sound of his boots pounded down the narrow flight of steps. She opened her eyes and watched as he pulled the spiked hat and then the face guard off his head. He looked genuinely concerned and not mad in the slightest. Silently she cursed the heightened emotions that her pregnancy caused because those blue eyes, with all the caring of family, caused the tears to start falling again. “At least he didn’t die,” The thought resounded in her head, making her feel happy and guilty at the same time. As she sobbed he slid in to sit beside her in the cramped bunk, gathering her up into his strong arms. “Shhhh. It’s okay, Bonnie honey. It’s okay,” He said and stroked her hair. That just made it worse.
They spent what seemed hours like that, him making hushing noises and stroking her hair. He let her cry herself out, handing her the snotrag from her bag when her sniffles started getting drippy. Just like every other time she had needed him, he was the strong and silent presence. Her protector from the first time they left the Submarine together as children. Oh sure, they had their fair share of fights and even some brawls, but they were more like siblings than cousins.
Finally the tears slowed and she pulled away, sniffling, to lay back down in her bunk. “Thanks,” She said in a weak voice raw with her tears. “No problem,” He replied, taking her hand and giving it a squeeze. “Neko tell you?” Blitz was always short and to the point when he could be. However, this time she had no idea what it was he was talking about and shook her head. He let out a short sigh and scrubbed at his sweaty hair, causing it to go into a spikey mess.
“It’s bad, Bonnie,” He said after a few minutes. The way he said it brought her attention into very clear focus. Her nausea and pounding headache faded into the background, as did the still-lingering taste of mint and copper that her tongue was trying to reject. “Oh no, what?” Blitz licked his lips and looked away, turning to sit facing out of the bunk now, gripping his hat and mask. “Akira is dead…like…dead dead.”
The sensations of her body came rushing back to her as did a feeling like the world had just dropped out from beneath her feet. For a second she was sure her heart skipped a beat and she managed to choke out, in a raspy whisper, “What?” Tears threatened to fill her eyes and she realized she was trembling. Her cousin let out a long sigh and glanced back at her, apology clear in his blue eyes.
“I’m sorry, honey. We tried, but all that noise drew the local zed mob. The Mericans ran for it while we got bottled up in the Yellow M. When we finally managed to take care of the shamblers, with reinforcements from the family, the Mericans had already camped the morgue. He was on his last breath when we got there,” This much talking was obviously hard on Blitz. She saw the moisture in his eyes, even though it didn’t fall like the silent tears streaming down her face. “No,” Was her very weak denial. Even she knew the word had no power to change what had happened. “He pressed this into my hand and said your name, then sank into the ground,” Blitz shook his head, pulling out an object on a black cord. It was a simple, red glass circle suspended from a silk cord. Her cousin held it in his hands for a moment, silent, before he held it out for her to take.
Slowly and reluctantly her hand rose to take the simple and pretty bauble from his hands. She brought it closer to inspect in the poor light. It was as simple as it seemed. A red circle of crystal or glass, she couldn’t tell, tied with a fancy little knot to secure it. The cord was tied so as to be a necklace, but she couldn’t push herself to put it on. Instead she gripped it in one hand tightly before looking back at her cousin. It was rare for him to show his own upset, and Bonnie was one of the few people who ever got to see it. Akira had been a good friend of his as well, and the blow must have been a hard one. She laid her hand on his back as Blitz took his own silent moments of grief in the privacy of the bunk room.
The day before…
I had slept very poorly and came to realize I was not getting any deep sleep due to discomfort and my temperature being either too hot or too cold despite various blanket changes. I went in to the birth center and had a blood draw to check blood sugars, which had also been being wonky for a few days, and just to check in with my midwife. I left feeling better and came home, got dinner figured out (PIZZA!) and then got the kids in bed.
That night R and I started making plans to tempt Murphy, as I put it. We planned that sometime that week they were going to go out on a date, possibly with my doula watching their little girl so they could get to know another, and I would go on one with Kurtis. It was just left to be decided what day it would be on, but was left for morning to decide. That night when Kurtis came back from his social gathering we had some fun, and I finally went to bed at 1:30am. Unfortunately due to discomfort I didn’t really fall asleep until 3am.
At 5:31am I was awoken by an intense and strong contraction deep in my pelvis. I lay there for a time afterwards waiting. In that time the babies started moving, adjusting themselves into new positions looking back on it. Ten minutes later another contraction hit, just as intense as the first and I was very uncomfortable laying down on my side through it. I rolled on to my stomach with my large body pillow under me, on my knees, and lay there waiting. The next contraction told me I couldn’t stay laying down, so I got up and went to the bathroom. They started coming very close together, but not seeming to last super long though their intensity was increasing.
I decided to get in the shower to see if that helped things at all, but it really only helped a very little. I got out within ten minutes and was sure; at that point, this was it. I called my midwife at 6:04 to let her know. Then I called my doula, and finally I called the dads, “I hope you got some sleep. I’m coming over.”
Over the course of the next 20 minutes I came to realize I wasn’t going to make it out the door, let alone down the street, before a baby was going to be coming. I went to the bathroom again, washed my hands, and checked myself. There was no cervix, just the descending baby! I started having the urge to push at the end of contractions, the burning sensation of the babies descending through my hips had begun, and there was going to be a baby in the next few minutes I knew. I called my midwife saying, “I’m not going to make it.” In the middle of a contraction and found I was grunting at the end with a need to bear down. “Are you pushing?!?” Was the answer on the phone. “Um, at the end of them, yes.” Was my rather weak answer. “I’m on my way!”
Next I called the guys and said, “You need to come here. They won’t wait.” And it was 6:27am at this point. The urge to push was getting unbearable by now. I was in a dress with my sandals on, but nothing else. I had grabbed a towel for the car, but now I threw it on the floor by my bed and got on all knees. Kurtis entered the room and I told him to clean up, we’re not going anywhere. At 6:31 a strong pushing contraction came and out came the amniotic sac, which burst, and…a foot! Kurtis says I sounded mighty indignant when I discovered this stating, “It’s a foot!” And then I had him call my midwife who was on her way. She apparently was trying to not have a heart attack after hearing that the little boy had decided he was going to be born breech after all. I was trying to resist the urge to push and then was told to get into knee/chest position. That was NOT happening! The pain when I tried was too much. The next thing relayed over the phone was to only push when I really had too. I remember thinking, but don’t know if I said, “I –know- that! I’m –doing- that!” In two minutes little Philip was born, Kurtis catching him. I am so proud of him. This is not something he has ever wanted to do, and has vehemently avoided with our own children. But he was there for me when I needed him and didn’t panic or faint or bat a lash.
At this point my Ama (My mother’s partner and my second mother) came in to help Kurtis who was feeling a little flustered. She got down on the floor (and with her arthritis that is hard!) and helped with the little boy since I was told to stay in the all fours position. So there I stayed while they saw to his needs, covered him with a blanket, and made sure he was breathing nicely. It was right around then that my doula and good friend Nichol walked in. She was somewhat, but not really, surprised to see we already had a baby out. I asked someone, at this point, to help me remove my sandals as I had already tossed my dress aside. It had gotten soiled when Philip’s water had broken.
Not ten minutes later but another strong contraction hit and I pushed. I reached down to feel and see if we had a head, a butt, or what coming down. I was relieved to feel a head behind the amniotic sac. With the next contraction I just pushed as felt comfortable and little Tara rode a wave of amniotic fluid of out me into my hand and my Ama’s hand. At that point I was going to turn over. They were both out, both breathing/crying/gurgling and I wanted to assess them myself.
So there I sat, on my bedroom floor, holding these two babies and feeling totally taken by surprise. Philip became much more alert once his sister was near him, though both of them seemed to want to take a nap right after they established their breathing. But for my sanity, I wanted to hear a few more good cries and see Tara pink up.
Looking between them I was amazed to see that Philip had next to no vernix, while his sister was absolutely coated in the stuff! It made it hard to tell if she was really that pale, or just cheesy white. Despite that we got them both wrapped up in blankets and against my skin. Not too far along into this we put the heating pad to use for Tara and found one of our hoodie blankets that was Alaric’s as a baby. That combo perked her up. About 15 minutes after her birth the placentas came and my Ama caught that once again. We put it in a bowl between my legs. I was barely bleeding at all!
Ten minutes or so after the placenta arrived two of the midwives arrived, Jesica being one of them. It was good to see them, but I was also feeling great if a little shocked still by the rapidity of it all. At this point Philip had been making it known he was interested in nursing, and that his hand was not going to cut it much longer. So we got all set up on the floor and I got them both onto the breast with only a minimum of fuss and muss.
Later on we moved to my bed, once the Chux pads arrived with Jesica’s apprentice, and we were all much more comfortable. Jesica checked me for tears and found NONE! I was a little surprised given how Tara had flown out of me all in one fell swoop, but happy as well!
At this point the dads arrived having had trouble getting their Zipcar to work; they had opted to take a cab instead. The cords had been cut by then, but cut long so that the guys could cut them again to an appropriate length. Our reasoning was to make it easier to assess the babies and so the placentas could be examined.
Not too long after this, with everyone gathered around, we sang Happy Birthday to Tara and Philip. We had done this with Eleanor, their big sister, and it is something special and magical for our surrogacy journeys now.
This was my fastest labor and delivery by far, but certainly not my most comfortable. In fact it was very uncomfortable and I think I would have preferred to have had several hours of build up. Waking up in transition with no time for endorphins to build is something that I cannot describe. I am glad it was as fast as it was, because I don’t know if I could have handled it being too much longer. I am calling this birth my Supercalafragalisticexpialadoshus birth.
Unassisted twins born at 38.6 weeks gestation.
Baby A (Philip) was a footling breech born in two minutes. He weighs 7lbs 5oz and is 19” long. Baby B (Tara) was vertex, born 9 minutes after her brother and riding the wave of her amniotic fluid out of me. She weighs 6lbs 10oz and is 19.5” long.
My labor was an hour long total and I bled less than most moms with a singleton baby.
- Current Mood: indescribable
Many women in our society today suffer from Morning Sickness. There are a lot of theories as to its cause, most of them relating to the hormone levels that the body is suddenly producing (namely Human Chorionic Gonadotropin or HCG). Whatever is causing it, however, we suffer from it. Sometimes it is as mild as a mild nausea in the mornings, but no vomiting, in what is considered by many to be classic morning sickness. Unfortunately classic doesn’t mean it is the only form, because it comes in many stages, symptoms, and severity. It also lasts longer for some than for others.
There are women who suffer from nausea throughout the day, but are free of the vomiting their sisters wind up doing. Others, as said, find themselves at the throne of porcelain at least once a day. And then there are others who, sadly, cannot stop throwing up and find themselves living in the bathroom attempting to eat crackers and keep some liquids down to abate the dry heaves. All of these are types of morning sickness, with only the latter having a name to differentiate itself from the rest.
It is known as Hypermesis Gravidarum and thankfully, is not common. Unfortunately, women do suffer from it and usually if they do they have also likely tried almost everything out there. The first thing they will have tried is crackers first thing on waking up, so probably best to just skip suggesting that. One of the most important things everyone needs to understand that this isn’t just someone who can’t handle nausea. This is a true problem that can arise, and usually leads to being hospitalized to be rehydrated because they cannot keep anything down. It’s important for us to learn more about this, and not just wave someone’s grave complaints of nausea in pregnancy off as nothing. A woman can become dehydrated and malnourished, and many do because friends and family members simply don’t believe it is ‘That Bad’.
So what can we do about it? What can we do about all kinds of morning sickness? There are quite a few remedies and suggestions out there. I’ve listed them below, but as always with anything in pregnancy check with your doctor first. Most of them may seem or even be harmless, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
* Drink plenty of liquids
* Keep electrolytes up: EmergenC or similar products are great for this
* Small and frequent meals
* Preggie Pops: These are new and work well for some people, not at all for others. But they are cheap and worth
checking to see if they do.
* Ginger in a variety of forms: Ginger ale with real ginger, ginger tea, candied ginger, etc
* Homeopathics: Nux Vomica, Chamomilla, Belladonna
* Acupuncture/Pressure: There are points on the wrists and elsewhere that can be utilized. You can get what are
known as Seabands that rest over the points on the wrists.
* Herbs: Chamomile helps some as does mint. Try to drink with honey rather than sugar. The honey provides a little bit
of protein and a healthier blood sugar boost than refined sugar.
* Hypnosis: There are a variety of techniques. Hypnobabies offers a cd for Nausea.
* B6: You can get this in a variety of forms. It comes as a pill, a liquid, and even an injection. Some people respond
only to one kind of B6 infusion.
* Medication: For over the counter stuff Unisom and B6 is often combined and effective. Benadryl has also been known
to work…though whether simply by knocking you out so you are not longer aware you are sick or not I can’t
* Prescription: There are a variety of prescription medications for nausea. The most common are: Phenergan, Zofran
Sometimes nothing you do will help. If it is severe try and gather friends and family to help you around the house, especially if you have younger children. While meal trains usually only happen after a baby is born, this is another time they can be very useful. Often in pregnancy our sense of smell is heightened, which can make cooking nigh on impossible.
Lastly are some foods I would avoid eating until the vomiting has passed…I’ve learned the hard way.
Spaghetti or tomato bases
Vegetable soups (beef broth seems to be especially harsh)
Flavored rice (This is a texture thing more than anything)
Pasta (Trust me, spaghetti noodles are no fun. This is a texture thing again.)
Blue cheese (And probably other similar kinds of cheese)
If you’re reading this post because you are suffering from morning sickness in whatever variety, I wish you well soon!
Here are some resources for morning sickness and HG.
The HER Foundation, A Hyperemesis Education & Research Foundation provides education & support for mothers suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum and those who care for them.
American Pregnancy Association article on HG
Morning Sickness Help
A recent article on The Fword, a contemporary UK online site, really hit home. Here is the link if you are curious: http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2008/0
When I had my son I was very lucky. I had a midwife who had done homebirths for years in her native country. She was revered for her knowledge and ability by both homebirth midwives in the area and other CNMs. Not only that but she trusted me and my body. I believe it is that trust that is lacking in many of the providers in modern day hospitals that lends greatly to Birth Trauma. All too often a woman cannot just be left to labor on her own, to let her body move, stretch, dilate, efface, and more on it’s own time. In a hospital everything has to be routine, has to be on the nose, ‘has to’ this and that. But birth doesn’t follow any hard and fast rule except that for most every birth, the baby comes out of the mother’s vagina eventually.
One way to avoid birth trauma is to hire a doula. For many a doula is not exactly a guardian, but a witness outside the family and the medical community who can speak up. They are a voice and eyes that belongs to neither patient, nor provider, who can put a pause in the machinery of hospital birth. That isn’t to say that birth trauma can’t still happen with a doula. I know that it can because some providers actually despise doulas and will kick them from the room if they get the chance. Or the doula will be utterly ignored as well as the mother. But thankfully, those providers are not common and most women who hire a doula find themselves with providers who are more trusting.
Still there are women out there who don’t have the resources or don’t even know about doulas who have horrible things happen to them on a daily basis. I’ve seen people say Birth Rape does not exist, how can it? There’s no sexual intent involved. But as the article linked about lays out, it doesn’t have to be about sex. Usually it is about power. And our providers, especially in a hospital, hold a lot of power…or at least that is what we have grown up thinking, feeling, and believing. And for many, that is all it takes to give in to order after order; “Hold your legs, don’t push like that!”, “You’re not dilating, I’m going to have to dilate you. Lay back now. Oh stop being a big baby.”, “This is what you get for trying to have a natural birth.”.
Food for thought…
When I was pregnant with my son I first heard someone question the safety of Ultrasound. At that time I didn’t exactly ignore the words, but put them to the back of my mind. With my second pregnancy I fell into the excitement that was the 3D ultrasound, but at that time any warnings I had heard were far away echoes. Today as I face a pregnancy filled with ultrasounds due to it’s nature (IVF) the old words come back to me.
In the past few months I’ve seen quite a few blog posts, reports, and studies being published about Ultrasound. About it’s potential for danger, and how health experts are warning against it’s over use in pregnancy. As a result I’ve embarked on a dig for more information to both educate myself, and to have the information for future and current clients. What I have found does make me pause to wonder if having those ‘cute’ first photos are really worth it.
There are many articles out now about the possible dangers of Ultrasound, how its use and safety have not really been studied. Something similar happened in the 1930s for antenatal care and that was X-rays. It only later came out that they were linked to childhood cancer. We all know the dangers of x-rays. We encounter their careful use of lead aprons when we go to the dentist, or are worried our child has broken a bone. But what about ultrasounds? What danger could they pose to a develloping fetus?
Ultrasound is exactly as it name would imply. Ultra sound waves. They create various echoes against different kinds of tissue and this is what allows us to see our babies as they grow and develop. But at the same time, though high frequency sound waves could be doing damage and we wouldn’t even know it. If you think about it, people out on the airways dealing with jets have to wear protective coverings for their ears. Why? Because the sound is so intense and so loud that it can be damaging. Sound is vibrational and vibrations can cause damage. Could that high ultra sonic sound in utero cause problems with cells as they grow and develop? Certainly it is something to think about and that every parent should research more. Oh sure, we all love seeing numerous pictures of our babies as they grow and develop…but what if?
Below you will find a collection of informative and thought provoking links on the subject of ultrasounds. They are all worth reading and can help you form an opinion on whether going for that extra U/S at your doctor’s office, just to see how chubby baby is this month, is worth taking a chance.
So many times I have heard variations on these words, “I would have a homebirth, but my insurance won’t cover it and I can’t afford one.” In our day and age money has become the only thing we think of using in exchange for goods and services. However money wasn’t always the only thing used. Historically speaking a village would have a local woman, usually one past childbearing age, who served the village and surrounding areas as midwife and herbal wise woman. She helped treat ailments that afflicted all, welcomed in new life, and helped soothe the old as they passed on. Usually this woman was supplied with all she needed by the village; Food, wood, furniture, seeds and plants, etc. For the midwifes services the village traded her all she needed.
Today where money prevails and pays for our gas, our electric, our rent, and everything else the idea of trade has lost it’s value for many. However I am here to say that you should not discount the power of trade! While most midwives these days won’t take the total of a birth in trade, they still have to pay the rent, they are open to other arrangements. Cold hard cash doesn’t have to be the sole basis for getting the births we want.
While we are pregnant and before baby comes is often a good time to think about what we have to offer these amazing women who help us through one of the most important parts of our lives. Can you sew? Do you clean houses for a living? Maybe you’re an interior designer or website designer? Does your husband or partner have any special skills? Carpenters, masons, landscapers and more! Most everyone has a skill that is worth something and it NEVER hurts to ask. At worst the midwife will not have a use for your skill, but she may know someone who does or better yet have another solution to your issue coming up with the money to pay her.
Now of course it is important to note that most midwives won’t do solely trade and barter for their services. We all have rent and utilities to pay, and if we have gardens and livestock we can only give so much of that up and still have some for ourselves. So if even this is daunting to you consider the fact that you may still be able to raise that money. Small sacrifices can add up very quickly. If you drink a latte from Starbucks every day, that’s $3.50 times 30 or 31 which equals $105.00 a month. A garage sale of things you no longer use will generally bring in $100. If you ask friends and family to donate things and advertise well, you can make upwards of even $500 as a recent group Garage sale I was a part of made. You could even ask every friend and family member if they will help you in your wish for the best birth possible for you and your baby. Most people have a lot of friends, and even in this tough economic time most folks can come up with $5 to spare and some maybe more. The important thing to remember is that there is more possibilities than just your job and/or your partners job and insurance to pay for the birth you truly want.
In the Portland area there are at least a few who are open and willing to do trade for part of their services. Many more have payment plans and will work with a woman to make sure she gets the birth she wants. Being a midwife is a service of compassion and worth every cent you can raise, save, and barter for.
Midwives in the Portland Metro and Salem areas who are open to different arangements:
Pamela Hines-Powell – Circle of Life Midwifery http://www.midwifemama.com/
A Woman’s Point of View Midwifery and Woman’s Health, http://www.mydwyf.com/
Margy Porter – Sprouting Hope Midwifery, http://www.sproutinghope.com/
Lucina Armstrong – By Her Side Midwifery, www.byhersidemidwifery.com
These women were kind enough to share their insights and experience in trade with me. There are likely more who are open and willing to this, so don’t hesitate to ask if coming up with cash is hard for you.