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   Chapter 0 PROLOGUE – THE LAST GIRL IN THE TOWER

The Taàr (Dystopia #01) By John A. Bonello Characters: 6874

Updated: 2018-02-08 12:02


Ela woke up with a fright. Without thinking, she moved her hands to her big round belly, ensuring it was still there. She wondered what had woken her up.

A flash of light filled the room for just a second. The darkness returned, stronger, complete. Propping herself up on her elbows, Ela looked out of the window to her left. A silent lightning storm was raging outside, the noise completely sealed out by the thick glass. The sky flashed again. For a moment she saw rain drops dotting the glass.

A heartbeat later she felt it. The pain was slight at first, a nuisance. Then it grew stronger and stronger with each breath, until she was certain it was what had disturbed her sleep–a burning pain in her lower back. It was gone as fast as it came. Relieved, she felt a movement inside her and smiled like she did every time she felt those little kicks from within. But the smile was wiped off her face when the pain returned once more, this time stronger than before. A loud, long moan escaped her lips.

Panic overcame her, as she became suddenly aware of what was happening. Tiny cold beads of sweat sprouted on her forehead. How is this possible, she thought. Why so early? The due date was still nearly ten weeks away.

Without getting up, she put out her left hand and touched a part of the wall behind the bedside table. A warm yellowish glow filled the room. It was dim at first, then gradually got stronger. She sat up, slowly. The pain returned and almost made her bend double. She told herself to calm down, but could not.

Her hands found and pressed a button protruding from the wall, beneath the light switch. After a few moments the room's door slid open with a low swooshing noise, like two pieces of cloth rubbing against each other. A young man walked in–Kari, one of the nursing staff on night duty.

Smiling, he asked her if she needed anything. During the past five months she had often called him during the night for a glass of cold water or sometimes just to chat a little when she couldn't sleep. He was a gentle soul and she liked his company.

As soon as he saw her face contort under yet another bout of pain, his smile faded and was replaced by worry. He ran to her side.

Grabbing his left arm she implored him to call Lor, to hurry up, as the baby was coming. Kari didn't understand straight away. He asked if she might be mistaken. It was still early. Ela assured him she knew what she was saying. She was certain. Again, she asked him to call the doctor, her voice brusque, out of breath.

It seemed like ages later when the young nurse reappeared through the door followed by an ageing physician. Lor did not ask any questions. He walked right up to the bed and started feeling Ela's belly with his warm hands, putting pressure in certain areas to ensure the baby's position within the womb. He asked her to lie back down and prop up her legs, so he could examine her better. It took him only a minute, after which he turned on Kari and asked him to go wake up everyone, then head to the delivery room and make it ready, urging him to make haste. The baby was going to be with them soon.

Kari left. The old physician looked at the girl and smiled.

No need to worry, he told her kindly. Gently, he brushed her hair away from her face, telling her everything was going to be fine. Lor joked, saying this was happening because her baby was fed up inside her and wanted to get out in

the light. Had she thought of a name yet?

She laughed nervously. No, she had not. She knew it had to happen, only not this early. She had assumed her child would be born when due.

When months before they had asked her if she would be willing to help in ensuring the survival of their race, she accepted without hesitation, despite her fears. She knew the day would come when they would ask, had been expecting it from when she was old enough to understand how humans reproduced. They wanted her to be the mother of the new generation of tower people, denizens of a most peculiar future. She was young, and knew it. But the doctors encouraged her and assured her repeatedly that her body was ready to bear her children. And her children were destined to be the future of humanity.

Ela was the last girl in the tower, the last glimpse of hope in a world where all hope was lost forever. Harvested by the cruel scythe of nuclear war.

This was her moment of truth. Fear welled up inside her, strong and threatening and she knew Lor was seeing it through her eyes. They moved her to another room on the same floor, a colder room, without any windows, full of strange blinking equipment, tools and strong medicinal odours.

The pain was now nailing her down to the bed and she cried out shamelessly every time the contractions came. The physician was examining her again and saying something to another doctor.

Hold still, he told her. Bear the pain a little longer. It will soon be over. He said this in a low soothing monotone, explaining why he could not give her anything to alleviate the pain. It was too late, and they did not want to risk harming the baby. She would have to give birth the traditional way, as was done in the distant past. Holding her cold hands in his, he told her again to take heart. A woman's body was made to bear children, and the pain was part of the process that helped the birth.

Empty words. She was but a girl. And after all, it was she who felt the pain and no one else. Thoughts raced in her head, chiefly among them a question. Why did I ever agree to this?

More medical staff came in, wearing masks, surgical gloves and long white robes. They went busily around their tasks, mechanical in their movements, concentrating, silent. She knew each and every one of them, but with their masks covering their mouths and the caps on their heads they seemed like total strangers. Lor told her to do as told, to have faith in them. Everything was going to be all right, he repeated.

But Ela's mind was elsewhere, locked up in a world of her own, made of pain and suffering. Nothing else mattered. She felt nothing, was aware of nothing. Nothing but her pain. The people moving around her were like noise. She never heard them urging her to take deep breaths, neither to wait and push only when told.

She couldn't take it any longer, could not wait. She felt the need to push with all her might, and push is what she did. She pushed and pushed, trying to drive the pain away.

And at last she felt herself being emptied. A sense of loss as something drifted out of her. She heard cries, but they were already distant. She felt light as a feather, moving away, soaring, soaring higher, eyes closing in a peaceful dreamless sleep that engulfed her entirely.

Ela, the last girl, the last mother, gave birth to a boy. Just one child. Then it was over. She closed her eyes forever.

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