By Luke 16, Dublin
Birth is a wonderful thing, most people dream of starting a family from a young age. But as the world and society ages, that attitude has been evolving into nothing more than a reality you see in media and television. It’s a miracle to see parents with more than two kids these days.
Vicky Price has feared the responsibility of owning a child since she was only six years old, holding a doll for the first time, realising how much power she held over this piece of plastic–which in no way resembled a newborn–and how this toy relied on her for life. That thought was scarred and sewn into her brain, locked in for life, she could never handle that level of responsibility.
A lot of people have a similar mindset, especially since life is changing from what it was hundreds of years ago. As a species, we are forgetting our primal roots, we are a society, not primates, made up of careers, homes, friends, hobbies. Babies start to drop on that list, at least when they are planned. Most families today are formed through the unexpected, and while the traditional family dream fades away to the dust that lays on your windowsill and old game consoles, accidental pregnancies begin to take over the modern family.
Once the parent holds their creation for the first time, they’re sold, they want to keep holding them forever. They have no choice, really. There are no alternatives anymore, once you are pregnant, that’s it.
It’s much harder to think about the negativity which is synonymous with children and family once the soul enters its new shell of flesh, blood and bones. The baby becomes a person at that moment, the moment of childbirth. A phenomenon, really. Souls. That they exist, it came as a shock to most of the world, religion was fading away into oblivion when all of a sudden, Gota Jacob, a Swedish scientist, uncovered the secrets of life itself.
The afterlife exists.
All religions were right in their own way, there is more to life than life itself. But no one expected it to work the way it does.
Vicky found herself alone in her empty apartment, collecting spiders off the walls in a search for company after the recent passing of her father, inspecting each of their hairy brittle little legs, wondering about how that would feel on her tongue, sickening herself. She wasn’t in shambles as she would’ve been if he had died ten years ago before spirituality and science became one. Instead, she was annoyed, she was facing grief that was new, filled with empathy for where her dad was gone. Eternal damnation that was apparently set in stone.
She was in no way rich enough to afford the new tried and tested methods of speaking to the beyond, the afterlife was capitalised upon only months after Gota made her discovery.
But Vicky knew, it was easy to tell where they had gone, where their soul was reaped and tossed away to live an afterlife of luxury or misery. Not because of the choices they made in life, no, that’s not how the afterlife works. But by the way that they died.
This was the shock everyone had to deal with, death was no longer the passageway between the physical and the spiritual world, but it was the deciding factor on where you deserved to go. Nothing you do in life matters, not really. By the time you pass 18, your fate is sealed, but it can quite easily change in life. Taking it into your own hands, or simply making a full 180 on your life choices.
Vicky’s dad died in a house fire, which was a pretty good sign he was going down under. Ever since, she’s been searching for a way to make sure she doesn’t end up like him, but how can she do that when she doesn’t know where he went wrong in life? Her life hasn’t been oozing with positivity and acts of kindness, but it certainly hasn’t been a life of mischief either. There’s no doubt that she’s made her fair share of mistakes, though. Ever since the end of her relationship 7 months ago, it was downhill for her.
Her nights were spent burrowing into her pillow which provided the comfort she lacked in life and didn’t judge her for the tears and yowling she couldn’t bear to hold in anymore. She lost her apartment, she lost her pets, and with the sudden weight gain, she could no longer wear anything she liked to wear. Her life was, to put it lightly, an absolutely gigantic pile of rubbish and mess that was impossible to clean up, especially with her attitude.
But now with her dad gone, she found a new interest. Ultrology, the study of the beyond and everything associated with it. She researched everything she could, she felt it was her
duty with everything that was going on, and the things that were to come in her life. The sunlight passed by her window many times, but her eyes never did so much as blink. Once,
she managed 80 hours straight of research, interacting on the online forums, chatting and theorising with friends. It became an obsession.
Her room was filled with soulcatchers by the end of that week, a new form of dreamcatcher which was the key to learning of the afterlife. Beautifully crafted from shaped jungle woods and zirconium. The zirconium is shaved down and polished, spun into spools of oily metal threads, and then strung up around the jungle wood in a web of darkness that captures the matter which makes up the conscience. That’s the one Gota designed, all the soulcatchers bought in shops are made from shiny fabric and painted woods, nothing that could do anything useful, just another way businesses managed to make money off of this.
What Gota observed was something extraordinary. She placed it above the deathbed of her sister, connecting the metals to a scanner which could then follow the soul, observing its journey to the afterlife. From there, she gained massive credibility after the publishing of her scientific journals and in months she had the funding which led to the most important discovery in human history, she even went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which was quite negatively received considering her discovery had never been a topic of scientific discovery, much less discussion. So for her to win one of the most prestigious scientific awards was completely insane to major scientists. Alas, she was unbothered with her couple million euro, most of which was put into extensive research.
Vicky wasn’t exactly into science, her spending countless hours researching a scientist was out of her understanding, life didn’t make sense anymore. It wasn’t just her who felt this way, many people felt that life was nothing but a meaningless way to the real journey of the soul, an obstacle that is a step backwards for such a timeless being. The year the human race found out everything we now know, people thought it was in their right to see the afterlife for themselves. Prematurely, before the fate that was set for them would allow. They were more in charge of life and death than they ever had been in their lives, and the uncertainty of whether they would be spending eternity suffering never crossed any minds.
Everyone has a different image of what these two places look like. Hell being a place of fire, scorching red hot magma deep within the earth's core, a life of slavery and working under the devil himself. Vicky thinks of it as a more personal approach, catered to the individual. Your decisions in life being used against you, using your phobias as a way to haunt you as opposed to pain, pain, pain and suffering.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is the utopian land which seems too good to be true for most. In fact, so good that a lot of people were disappointed when it was found out, because who wants immortality without a challenge? But the alternative wasn’t the best.
Vicky saw heaven as whatever the soul was searching for. The peace it needs to rest forever, whether that is in the comfort of your own home, the mountains of the Great Rift Valley, under the northern lights in Iceland, in the hottest and coldest climates of the equator and the poles, your favourite shop or restaurant. Anywhere and anything, not just one defining place of clouds, halos and clear skies. That’s boring, and frankly, it’s not a satisfying beginning to the rest of your time on the immortal plain, nor is it the best place to find happiness.
But knowing about all this wasn’t as perfect as initially perceived. The spike in deaths was certainly one thing, but it was the demographics that were shocking. A high percentage of youngsters succumbed to an early release to the afterlife at the hands of their parents in hopes that they would be better off in heaven, once they are baptised to remove any sin that could lead to them going to hell. Sins aren't proven, just a widely accepted theory, but there is no true list of sins to avoid. People still believed and continue to believe in baptism, though.
As time went on, the problem of the high death rate was thought to be resolved. In turn, there was a lower birth rate. Those unexpected pregnancies now had a way of sending their children to a life that they could never provide, they just had to make sure their life wasn’t ruined in the process. Pregnancies were concealed, no check-ups, no telling anyone, no nothing. If they succeeded in that, home birth was the next step. The pain was like no other for these first-time mothers, without the epidural it was impossible to withstand. And it was made much worse when they couldn’t make any noise to avoid suspicion from the neighbours. It only made the whole process that much harder to go through with, all this work for what? No guarantee that you did the right thing, the possibility your decision could lead to death worse than a house fire for you.
Children come into this world to be nurtured and cared for, innocent and pure, filled with nothing but the bare minimum of emotions which will develop into a string of them, and then into a multifunctional network similar to a soulcatcher, each string interconnected to form the fully developed soul. The soul of a child is only new and not formed correctly, but how are any of these mothers supposed to know that?
The religious sprang out of their graves and church communities were thriving again, but there was one that stood out the most to Vicky: The Jacobinians, following Gota’s word as religious scripture and not as fact. They were set on the idea that newborns shouldn’t be raised in a world of war, famine and poverty, but instead that they should be sent to a better place on their third month on earth. They were quickly viewed as a cult and torn to pieces by the public, Vicky knew they still existed though. Much more underground than they used to be, but still out there. All those videos they posted of them dunking babies into the water for a little too long went viral, viral enough for the Pope to make a speech about how this shouldn’t be accepted across any religion. It was a useless speech, reciting what people already knew, but he was commended for his excellent work during an indecisive time for the human race, deciding whether they and their children should make it through to the next day.
When Vicky checked the date on her calendar to see that it was the day of a baptism she was to attend, she sat reevaluating her life, thinking how she managed to waste the past two weeks doing nothing but staring at a screen, letting her vision go blurry and wavy, tear-filled after forgetting to blink, soaking up information that she needed as a form of closure for herself and her father.
The baptism was being held in a church only ten minutes down the road, this thousand-year-old structure that she hated ever since she moved there. It reminded her of everything she couldn’t have; family, weddings, a community. But nothing could take away from its beauty. It stood tall and proud, flaunting its ancient features which are viewed as architectural masterpieces for their time. The gothic details provide much nostalgia in Vicky of a time she wasn’t even part of, but it feels all too familiar for her. Each cobblestone that makes up a part of the wall is distinct and unique, a different colour which might be off by the slightest shade of grey, a separate shape and outline standing out amongst the rest. Some even featuring moss growing from the spaces between, it makes her wonder where nature fits into the afterlife.
Plants have their own lives too, they go through natural biological processes similar to humans, so why is it that only we get the chance of eternity that they don’t. Or do they?
Maybe those dead crispy houseplants make it up there too.
She wears a 1700s style creamy white gown down to her ankles so she can show off the new heels she got of a matching colour. Those she passes on her way to the church are astounded by the way she carries herself when she’s only going to a baptism. People can’t help but look at the cautiously sewn gown, perfectly fitted, making subtle use of various fabric choices in the bows and cross-stitches that make up the dress. A show-stopping dress, just as she intended–to be the star of the show. It was something she loved, showing people up, no matter if it was her event or someone else’s big day, she was going to make it hers.
The baptism was actually fluttering her in excitement after reading all about the many Jacobinian scandals, but also because she could be free from everything.
Not many were in attendance, just a priest and a few guests, and the baby, of course.
Unnamed baby, after three months they still couldn’t be bothered to name him. Some people are unoriginal, but unoriginality for three months seems unrealistic.
A gentle passing of the baby happens as if it was a firearm that you had to hold just right or you’d set it off, and after some nonsense that Vicky couldn’t care less about, the baby is submerged in the water, and comes out dripping and free from sin, the brand new soul remains to be brand new, but to them, the soul has just been cleansed of any wrongdoing.
And then Vicky grabs hold of the baby. Her baby, the baby she birthed at home three months ago, the baby her boyfriend left her over. The child she didn’t want to take care of,
she never did, and never will.
Little baby Price couldn’t stop crying on the walk home, was it the random act of drowning he doesn’t understand or does he know more than he’s supposed to?
During Vicky’s search for the Jacobinians, she was unsuccessful in finding them as a whole, but she did come across one. One who she paid way too much money for advice.
Baby Price is set onto the ironing board, his head weighing him down as he awaits his bottle which Vicky is so generously making for him as he thrashes his arms and legs around in disobedience and impatience.
The crying is driving Vicky insane, stuffing bows from her dress in her ears to shut out the echoing of the baby she never ordered. It’s so annoying that she almost doesn’t want to do anything to him, he doesn’t deserve this wonderful afterlife that her dad didn’t even get.
Once she swallows one of her painkillers for the headache, all she has to do is crush the rest of them up.
As the new soul drinks from his bottle, unsuspecting of anything, Vicky feels a wave of relief come over her. The last three months of her life have been nothing but her own form of hell, wherever this soul goes isn’t her business, and she doesn’t care what happens to it. This baby is a reflection of a life she doesn’t want to remember anymore, a past that seems so
distant, but so close with him still in it.
But deep down, she wants the best for him, it’s her son after all. She wants him to go to the utopian land of another realm that she knows she’ll never make it to, so at least some part of her will get to go there.
What she and the other mothers don’t know, though, is that what they are doing isn’t helping anyone out. With the many methods of sending babies to the afterlife, all it is doing is hurting these good, clean children, and sending them to the same recurring fate. Because what really happens to children is they are reborn. Anyone under 12 is too young to have a fate decided for them, their soul and morals haven’t yet developed to know their worth in the universe.
Little baby Price’s soul moves on to a new body, but with the current climate, he succumbs to a different fate than anyone initially bargained for.
His fate is sealed for a seemingly never-ending cycle of being reborn over and over, never truly making it to heaven, never getting the chance, because no matter what happens, humans will always try to win. Even winning over their sealed fate.