Spring 2007 Volume One Issue Two
Ariam hears the woman outside going door to door, begging for an antidote to the curse. She tries to ignore her plea for Ariam can only help a few. The wind rattles the shutters of the tiny cottage. Cold air seeps through a crack in the window, and Ariam shivers. She reads the last part of the note again, this time aloud:
Meet me this morning at nine-thirty by the fountain. Bring the child and the instructions with you. --L. Forrester
Ariam has heard of this man. He is rich and powerful with two young daughters desperately seeking the cure. She bends over the crib, makes cooing noises and soon the babe stirs. She bundles her prize in a red blanket, and in seconds, she is out the door and down the front steps.
At Yosef's flat, she gives the signal, three knocks evenly spaced, and soon, they are on their way, Ariam astride a donkey and Yosef walking at her side, periodically tapping the animal's hindquarters with a stick.
Ariam sees the parade of broken shop windows, the abandoned cafes and imagines the city she once loved. The mosque, its minarets bathed in the orange glow of dawn, the pastel villas, the palm-lined avenues. Everything is gone now, ripped from the earth in a matter of days.
The clock strikes the half-hour as they enter the piazza.
"Do you have the instructions?" the man asks.
"Yes, I have them." Ariam passes the babe to Yosef, then reaches into her purse for a card. "Make sure your daughters follow these steps carefully, and in twelve days, each will have a beautiful child, perfect in every way."
"Please, may I see?" he asks, pointing to the red bundle.
Ariam parts the blanket, and the cherub smiles up at the stranger. "Can you not see his golden hair and blue eyes? Here, take his hand. He has the strength of ten."
The child looks up at the man and takes hold of his finger.
"Yes. He is the most perfect child I have ever seen." From his pocket, he withdraws an envelope and hands it to her. "Thank you," he says, "for my family," then he turns and walks away, his form disappearing in the mist.
"By nightfall," Ariam tells Yosef, "we must leave the city. It is not safe for us to stay here."
Later on foot, they cross over the city limits. With the wind blowing east across the mesa, Ariam opens the blanket and urges her offspring into the street. "Run, love. You need your exercise."
And the thing Ariam calls her babe with the beautiful blue eyes and corn-colored hair flicks the tail on its furry rump and clip-clops joyfully behind them.
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