Part one here
“I don’t know what’s wrong with him.” Doctor Littlefield moved the palm-held heart monitor over Zackary’s thin chest. “He seemed fine when he was born—except for the skin color, of course. But that’s beginning to fade, and still…”
The baby was breathing almost normally now, but earlier Lissa had wondered if he was going to make it this time. The coughing and wheezing and sucking for air, it had tied her stomach in knots. Zackary was only a week old and she was already madly in love with the tiny life she and Gavin had created. She had tried to distance herself, knowing from the moment the doctor placed him in her arms, and she had seen the green tint of his skin, that she would probably lose him. He was one of those who were not-quite-right. But how could she not love him? She had changed his diapers, sang to him, held him as he suckled at her bosom. My God, she had even named him—against everyone’s advice.
Doctor Littlefield smiled down at the infant she held cradled to her breast. Lissa saw the sadness in her eyes. How many babies had she helped into the world? How many babies had she seen depart it?
But not my baby! Lissa held out her arms.
After dropping a kiss on Zackary’s head, the doctor eased him into Lissa’s arms. “I don’t know what’s wrong,” she said. “I even searched the archives, anything relating to his symptoms. The closest match I got was asthma, but—”
Gavin stopped pacing back and forth in front of the window. He turned to Doctor Littlefield. “What’s asthma?”
“An ancient disease, a chronic lung disorder,” she answered. “But your son’s lungs are fine. I just don’t know…”
“You’re a doctor, you’re supposed to know.” Gavin stalked across the room, his eyes pinning the short woman. “You should know what’s wrong with my son.”
Lissa grabbed his arm. “It’s not her fault. No one knows.”
Tears sparkled in Dr. Littlefield’s eyes. “This world we live in, it’s a harsh place. Only the strongest survive.”
“But he was strong,” Gavin said. “When you delivered him, he was kicking and squirming and bawling his head off. He was fine!”
Gavin raked a hand through his hair. “But what?”
The doctor sighed. “His skin was—is—green. I’ve seen it before and…and…”
“And?” Gavin practically snarled.
“Babies like your son, they don’t…” She swallowed. “Make it.”
A grim silence settled over the room, broken only by Zackary’s labored breathing.
Holding her baby close to her heart, Lissa moved to the window. Gavin and Doctor Littlefield were still talking, but she tuned them out as she gazed through the thick glass upon the eternal ocean, letting its ceaseless movement take her to a place of calm, a place of peace, a place where babies didn’t die in their mother’s arms.
She heard the front door slide open, the whoosh of the tube. Then Gavin was behind her, slipping his arms around her and their baby.
And it started again.
Zackary wheezed, then coughed. His little lungs gasped for air as if he were suffocating. Lissa felt helpless; there was nothing she could do to ease her child’s suffering.
She felt tremors running through Gavin’s body, felt the wetness of his tears upon her cheek. He saw it too—the bluish tinge spreading outward from Zackary’s lips, leaching the pale-green from his skin. His tiny chest rose and fell, rose and felt, each breath an enormous effort.
Lissa wanted to cry, wanted to scream, wanted to die. She wanted to give her life to Zackary and take his death.
Gavin’s arms clutched her tighter. “He’ll be resting in God’s arms soon,” he said, his voice a strangled sob in her ears.
Resting in God’s arms? It didn’t make sense. Why would God create a life only to snatch it right back…time after time after time?
There was no God! There couldn’t be a god! All this made no sense! Dead babies, dying babies, green babies.
Lissa’s heart tripped in her chest.
She jerked out of Gavin’s arms. “Suit up. We’re going outside.”
“We’re taking Zackary outside.” Gavin looked at her as if she were crazy. And maybe I am.
Clutching her limp son in one arm, Lissa rushed into the bedroom and came out with her and Gavin’s protective suits and face masks. “Hurry!” She slung Gavin’s suit and mask in his general direction, then gently placed Zackary on the sofa and tugged on her suit. On with the face mask, then she picked up her son and ran for the door. She hit the pad, the door slid open, and she stepped into the tube. She looked back. Gavin stood in the middle of the room, mouth open, his silver suit and mask on the floor near his feet.
Lissa didn’t hesitate. She struck the pad inside the tube, the door slid shut, and she and Zackary plummeted.
In seconds, the opaque tube glided to a gentle stop. Lissa hesitated. She looked out upon the city through the cloudy walls of the cylinder, gray concrete surrounded by the green beast of the jungle. Was she doing the right thing, taking her son outside? What if she was wrong?
She looked down at the still face of her son, his glazed eyes, the almost indiscernible movement of his chest. He was moments away from death.
With a cry of rage, she slammed her fist against the pad. Better he die free out in the open than inside the prisons humanity had built for itself. At least she could give her son that.
She stepped out onto the mid-day street. Behind her, the tube slid closed. Holding Zackary tight to her bosom, she moved out of the shade of the building into the ferocious sunshine. She looked up at the fiery orb, its blinding rays muted by her face mask. “I give you my son.”
She held out Zackary’s still body.
And the sun took him.
His chest hitched. He gasped. He coughed. And then he breathed. He gulped in air that was death and it brought him life.
As Lissa watched in wonder, the green of his skin grew more pronounced. He waved his arms. His little legs kicked. But the most wondrous thing of all was that he began breathing normally.
Lissa laughed in delight.
“How did you know?” Gavin asked.
Lissa had been so wrapped up in Zackary’s transformation that she hadn’t heard Gavin’s approach. Through the visor on his face mask, she saw the wonderment she felt echoed in his eyes. “It was the green,” she answered.
Lissa cuddled their squirming infant. “Remember in school—photosynthesis?”
Gavin nodded. “Chlorophyll, carbon dioxide. He needs that, not oxygen.”
“Yes.” Lissa looked up from her baby to the blazing, scorching, unrelenting sun.
Tomorrow, a new dawn would break over the city by the sea, a new dawn in the history of mankind.
And her son would be a part of it.
Photo from Morguefie