I. Phoenix From the Ashes
In the depths of space, a giant alien thrashed her legs. Pouring into the cold vacuum, her blood formed tiny spheres as it rushed from her wound. She had been injured. This much was true.
Placing a claw to her wound, trying to stop the flow, she realized it was futile for her. She would have to find a safe locale. She would have to find a safe harbor to lay her egg. Her life was over, but a new life still had a chance.
Looking over her shoulder, she saw a blue/green planet. It was inviting, and not too far away. She would be able to make it if she tried. Moving her array of limbs, she flew closer to the planet.
Soon she felt the pull of the world surround her. She eased back on her accelerating, allowing gravity to do the work. Looking at the largely proportioned moon associated with this planet, she saw a large glob of her blood eclipse this satellite. This was her last bit of blood. She was going to die soon. Her dying regret was that the egg had not been allowed to properly form. Her child would not have quite as many legs as her, and would most likely be a runt.
This was her last thought as her body incinerated, passing through the atmosphere. A roasted husk of a formerly graceful and elegant creature, fairly insectoid in nature, crashed to the terrain. With a slow gasp from the slightly convulsing body, an egg, spotted and navy green, emerged from the alien corpse. The body of the mother crumbled under the strain. Lifeless eyes reflected the egg as it sat there, surrounded by smoking remains of its mother.
The egg shook slightly, showing signs of life within.
A few days earlier, a farmer and his wife sat in their kitchen. They ate their breakfast quietly as the radio murmured the morning’s news. From the size of the wife’s stomach, she looked very pregnant.
The farmer took another bit of his toast. He heard a coffee cup clatter to its saucer. Looking up, his wife’s stern face stared back at him.
“It’s time, John.”
Grabbing some luggage and his hat, he led his wife to the truck. Hastily, he loaded luggage in the bed. He helped his wife climb into the truck. She squeezed in next to a child’s car seat. John rushed around the car, sticking the keys in the ignition while clicking his seatbelt into place. The engine revved as the truck rolled out onto the street, headed for the hospital.
The doctors, nurses and orderlies were all ready to help Martha, John’s wife. She rode into the hospital on a wheelchair. John filled out paperwork as the staff took her to a room.
He finished the paperwork, making his way towards her room. En route, he was encountered by the doctor who would perform the delivery. This doctor performed his birth not too many years ago (according to the doctor), and was ready to bring another Drost into the world. Doctor McKinnie went on about how wonderful it was that John and Martha were about to have a son. He asked what they were planning on naming him.
“Sal, Solomon Nelson Drost.”
“What a nice, Biblical name,” Doctor McKinnie said.
“That’s what we thought.”
They entered the room, seeing Martha, ready to give birth. Her eyes brightened when she saw John, though this was only temporary, as she was overcome with contractions. John offered his hand, allowing her to hold it. He leaned over to her ear and whispered a quick “I love you,” giving her hand a light squeeze.
She smiled, but soon was in pain, ready to deliver a child. Doctor McKinnie, the nurse and John all offered her bits of encouragement through the process.
Martha felt somewhat liberated as the baby emerged into the world. Tears streamed down her face, blurring her vision.
John looked up to the doctor to see a very strange look on the doctor’s face. He looked sad, disappointed. The nurse shook her head, muttering things.
John swallowed the massive lump forming in his throat.
Martha wiped the tears from her eyes.
“When do I get to hold my baby? When can I see my little Sally?”
Doctor McKinnie was not a brave man by any means, but he stood steady on shaky ground. Never before in his life had something like this happened.
He began to speak, his voice cracking as if at any moment he would break out in tears. “There was a slight complication,” he said, as the nurse left the room, holding a small bundle.
For the next few days, Martha refused to eat or drink. It was suggested she stay in the hospital a few days longer, as this was a particularly difficult thing to have happened. The nurses put her on a saline IV, for fear of dehydration. John sat by her side as much as he could, letting his farmhands know he would be out for a few days, and that they should work without him. He said that he would even pay them extra.
He did all he could to get Martha to eat a little food or drink a little water. Every time, it seemed she couldn’t keep it down. He cried when she cried, holding her hand for comfort. The staff hadn’t the heart to force him to leave after visiting hours. They simply passed by, shaking their heads as they did so.
“John,” she weakly said to her husband.
“We’re still a family. You know that?”
“I do. And I appreciate that.”
“Ashes to ashes,” said the priest over a tiny grave. John and Martha wore black for the occasion. The extended family of the two, as well as a few friends and associates, some from the churches, attended. John’s pastor was there, too, not looking at all insulted that he was not asked to officiate at the funeral for Solomon Nelson Drost. He understood that Martha, being raised Catholic, would prefer it this way.
John had removed the child’s car seat from the truck and placed it in the now-unnecessary nursery. Some day, they would tend to this room, removing that which they did not need.
From the cemetery, he helped his wife into the truck. They drove back to the house. The crickets chirped lightly as he opened the door for his wife. She collapsed on the couch, drained of energy. He made some coffee for the two of them, bringing it to her. She did not drink any. He sipped at his, trying to remain cool-headed.
At last, he gave up. He set the cup down next to hers. She took this as a sign to snuggle closely to him. Nuzzled in his chest, she mumbled that she was glad that she had found him, and that he had decided to marry him. Her words after that were lost as she passed the fine line between the dreaming and the waking. He hugged her tightly, too drifting asleep. As his eyes closed and he lost consciousness, he thought he saw something fiery drop from the sky.
The next morning, John awoke to a pounding on his front door. Opening the door, he saw Carlos, one of his farmhands, frantically trying to get his attention. Carlos, Mexican-born, moved his family to America in hopes of finding a better work situation. John took him in, needing help. Thanks to the hospitality of John, Carlos was able to provide for his family.
He spoke with a somewhat thick accent: “Jefe, you need to come out here and see something!”
“What is it, Carlos?”
“You must see it. Follow me.”
They came across a circle of ashes. Within the middle was a large egg. It rocked slightly, as if of its own accord.
Carlos signed the cross as he backed away.
John grabbed Carlos’ wrist. “Come, help me carry this inside.”
Soon, they had lugged the sizable egg into the house. John set it on the chair next to the couch upon which Martha still slept.
John and Carlos stood on the porch. “Do you know what that is, Carlos?”
“No, sir. It looks nothing like any egg I have seen before.”
“You’re right. I’ll check up on it.”
“I am sorry to hear about what has happened with you and your wife.”
“Thank you, Carlos. I appreciate that. I hope you have a little better luck with your wife. I hear she is expecting soon?”
“Yes, sir. Next month we should have another nino running around, getting into things.”
John choked back slightly. “Carlos, it seems like we won’t get much done today. Why don’t you and the boys take the rest of the day off. I’ll even pay you.”
Carlos didn’t know what to say, “Okay. Thank you, sir.”
John dug through a collection of books in a box. He thought he knew which one he was looking for. He picked up an old, dusty Asimov novel, revealing a book with a color image of a chicken on the cover as he heard a scream. Quickly, he grabbed the book, rushing to the sound of the scream.
His wife was sitting erect on the couch, staring at the large egg. She was screaming, backing away from it, into the corner of the couch. John rushed beside her.
“Honey, shh. It’s okay. I put that there. It’s nothing to be afraid of,” he said between her screams, getting quieter, and slightly more controlled.
“What is it?” she stammered.
“It is an egg.”
“What kind of egg?”
“I have no idea, but I intend to find out.”
John held up his book. The title, in big bold letters, read: How to Hatch Eggs, A Junior Guide.
The next few hours consisted of setting up a modified version of an incubator based on the schematic in the book, designed for chicken eggs. Soon, it was ready. Martha helped John ease the egg into the incubator. He powered the device by plugging it into the wall.
“Now, Martha, my dear, we wait.”