- Authors : Donyae Coles and W.B. Yeats
PseudoPod 666: Breaking the Waters & The Second Coming is a PseudoPod original.
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“The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats was first printed in The Dial in November 1920. “Breaking the Waters” is a PseudoPod original released jointly with Nightlight, a horror podcast featuring creepy tales written and performed by Black creatives all over the world.
The Second Coming
by W.B. Yeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Breaking the Waters
by Donyae Coles
Bootsie is what her mother called her, only her mother, ever. She stood on the train platform, the air daggers of ice against her, cutting through her clothes, leaving her skin raw and frozen.
“Bootsie,” the man called, a hint of pleasure curling on the end of her name. She looked up because only her mother used that secret name, and the man, the Man With No Face, said it just right. Just like mother.
The Man With No Face wore a suit, brilliant white with a gray tie and black shoes that slipped and disappeared into inky pools of shadow from time to time. She stared at him as he approached, his steps sounding hollow and too loud, blocking out the howling wind.
“It’s so nice to finally meet you,” he said reaching out his hand to take hers. She gave it without hesitation. He called her as mother had called her, “She said you would be here. She said to call you that.”
“Who?” Bootsie asked pushing back heavy, dark curls of hair that the wind snatched from beneath her hood.
He smiled a sick smile. Bootsie couldn’t see it but she knew by the sound of his voice how his lips curled. “Your mother. She was very helpful. It’s a shame she couldn’t be used for the program. Too old,” he said shaking his head, mimicking regret, squeezing her hand before releasing it.
“And too dead,” she added wiping the gloved palm on her pants. Through the thick knit his touch lingered, crawling on her skin.
The Man With No Face shrugged, “A technicality. If she had been younger we could have worked around it. Then we would have had two. But you’re enough. You’re perfect, Bootsie. You were born for this.”
He smelled like danger. A scent that echoed in the lizard part of her. The part of her that let her see him at all. A Man With No Face who should not be there. Who should not be anywhere at all. The same part of her that told her to stay still, not to run.
“Now, Bootsie, we’ve been watching you. Digging through your trash. This is the perfect time. The perfect time with the perfect girl. This is our proposition. You let us impregnate you. Use your womb and track your dreams. Before the thing sinks its tentacles into you, we will get rid of it. Everything will be taken care of. You just have to open your legs. You can do that, can’t you Bootsie?” his voice sounded like honey. Thick and sweet but under it, the sound of buzzing. The reminder of the bees that made it, their sting.
“The thing? The baby?” she asked.
The Man With No Face rocked his head back and forth, thinking, “It won’t really be a baby. Not really. But we can call it that if you would like. If that makes it easier.”
She shook her head, her train approaching. She could feel it rumbling on the tracks. “What if I say no?”
“You could say no. But the answer is still the same. The asking is a formality. Your train is here,” the Man With No Face said holding his hand out as the train pulled to a stop, the door opening in front of her, the warm air spilling from inside. She stepped in. There were no other options. The Man With No Face followed her.
“Are you,” she started, staring at the empty train car as it pulled sluggishly forward.
He cut her off, “No, here is fine. Here is perfect. Just like you Bootsie.
“Who is going to be the father?” she asked, the question felt stupid on her lips.
“Just me. Just like your father was,” he said, “Unbuckle your pants and bend over that seat there.”
“You said my mama wasn’t part of this,” she said dropping her jeans and bending as told. It was no use to fight.
“Did I? No, we are all part of this. You can touch yourself. It might be better for you if you climax but it is not necessary.”
“I’ve never done this before,” she said as he positioned himself behind her. His hands were cold on her hips. Cold and damp as if they had never felt the sun. As if they had never been dry.
“It doesn’t matter. The act is always the same,” and then he was inside of her. He moved in perfect rhythm, the rocking of the train had no effect. She thought about crying but it wouldn’t have done any good. He finished a few moments later and released her. She stood and pulled up her pants.
“Twice more, Bootsie. Tomorrow and the next day. Then we’re done,” the Man With No Face explained brightly.
“Are we?” she asked.
“Well, you and I, yes, but you’ll be hearing from my associates just as soon as that seed starts to grow.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
He chuckled, “Of course it will! We’ve been monitoring you, your morning piss. This is the perfect time. You are the perfect womb.”
She nodded. There was nothing to say.
“This is my stop, Bootsie. Tomorrow night. Same time. Same place.”
She could feel him, still dripping between her thighs, pooling in her underwear, like honey. The train slowed and stopped. He left in his pristine white suit, his shoes stretching into shadow as the car filled with bodies pressing against each other, searching for seats. No one touched her. No one sat next to her.
The next night was the same. He came in his white suit and then in her. The third night he completed the process. Afterwards, he reached down and patted her belly, “I feel we’ve grown so close these last few days. Word of advice, Bootsie. Get rid of it. When it’s done, you’ll get a choice. Kill it.”
He walked out of the open doors and the people filed in as they had for the past two nights. As if nothing had happened.
But it had. Not to them. Only she could see the Man With No Face. She didn’t tell anyone, there was nothing to tell. Instead Bootsie went to work and came home. She ate by herself and by the time the moon ran its course she had almost managed to forget about it. But her body had not because the body does not forget.
Her period didn’t come and she remembered as one missed day turned into two then three on to a full week.
A knock at the door broke her trance and she answered it, revealing the Man With No Face in the hall. Same suit, same tie, same black shoes that stretched into shadows. The shoes that could walk between worlds.
“Congratulations!” he said in his honey voice. A different man. Exactly the same but completely different.
“I’m pregnant,” she said.
“Oh yes. We’ve been monitoring your urine. You’re right on schedule. We are really pleased with you, Bootsie. Much better than your mother,” he said.
“I thought my mother was too old,” she said stepping aside as the Man With No Face bustled into the apartment.
“Did I say that? Oh no, she didn’t work out because she was dead. Age isn’t an issue. We can work around that,” he said.
She nodded and followed behind him as he walked into the bedroom and turned on the TV. The screen came to life with gray and black snow, the sound of static filling the room.
“It’s time for bed, Bootsie,” he said.
She opened her mouth to protest but closed it again. It wouldn’t do any good.
He sat at the foot of the bed and patted the comforter, like the other one had patted her belly.
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
“Watch your dreams. It’s all very boring. You won’t feel a thing.”
“For how long?”
“Until the Beast comes. Until She blesses us with the waters of her birth, the milk of her many tittied chest,” his honey voice light with praise, with worship.
Bootsie closed her eyes, the sound of static filling her ears.
Her feet pounded on the ground as she ran. The barking of the dogs echoing through the branches that pulled at her clothes, ripping at her skin, demanding blood for passage.
Something ran with her, just outside of her vision, the pounding of her feet matched another sound on the frozen ground. Something like horses but not as many hooves. The sound became louder, deafening, blocking out the dogs and shouts from behind her, mingling with the rhythm of her feet. From the corner of her eye she caught it, the thing that ran with her. The Beast that leaped and skipped through the forest.
Blacker than the sky, a void.
She fell frozen ground, thick roots meeting word hardened palms and knees., Her too round belly hovering just above the forest floor, ripping itself to pieces from inside, what lay there, still inside of her, fighting to get out. Skin stretched tight over her middle rippled as her body cramped around what was inside, what had been put there her body finding itself in the prefect position for what it needed to do.
The other, the void also stopped. It watched among the trees, the branches and her horns twisting together, becoming one. She was the forest. She was the sky.
“The baby is coming,” the thing whispered in an old language. A language not of her people, not of the men with no faces that stole her and got the baby on her. Something ancient that no one spoke but everyone understood. A language from a time before time.
“Push,” the thing in the forest commanded as her body demanded the same. On all fours the woman labored while the dogs barked, lost in the thick darkness, their calls a half heard chorus to her labor. While the creature in the forest watched with eyes like stars.
The woman screamed as the baby made its way slowly, achingly into the world. Her first, still covered in the waters of its birth, plucked from between its mother’s legs before it had a chance to touch the soil of the world.
The beast in the forest placed the baby on her own breast before turning away, leaving the woman.
Her chest heaving she waited, the mess of birth cooling on her thighs. She was plucked up by the night, carried by many hands, many unseen things. To the river where they plunged her into its cold depths, pulling her against its freezing currents to the other side. The birth washed from her as if it had never been. The sound of the dogs faded and disappeared replaced by the running river, the space they would not cross. Could not cross. The price of her safe passage paid.
Bootsie woke, the morning light on the walls. The TV still played static but The Man With No Face was gone. Everything in her apartment the same except in her. She could still feel it, growing inside of her. Not a baby. Not a fetus. Whatever they had put inside of her, it grew moment by moment, inch by inch stretching its tentacles into her. She could feel it, subtle but there. Real.
She turned off the TV as she pulled on clothes for work. What else was she supposed to do?
She stalked through the aisles of the grocery store aligning cans in perfect symmetry, making order where she could.
After a week her flat belly became bloated with its passenger. After two her shirts no longer fit.
She showed The Man With No Face when he returned. He patted her swollen middle and said, “Don’t worry, Bootsie, as soon as she answers our calls we’ll take that thing and go. It will be like we were never here. Chin up, Bootsie! If your mother did it so can you!”
“You said my mother was too old and too dead for this,” she said wearily, the thing in her womb sapping her energy as she crawled into bed.
“Did I? No, you’re never too old or too dead for this. Now go to sleep. That many titted bitch is closer now,” he said turning on the TV.
The static sounded like waves, it carried her away.
She looked at her hands clasped in front of her as she walked, the people across the street screaming as she moved closer to the door. They knew, everyone knew and she could feel their eyes on her back, heavy enough to make her bend. Their voices following her through the door and into the waiting room, the words replaying over and over again. The clinic was crowded. All these girls and their mistakes. Some were older than her. Women but still girls because only girls were dumb enough to get knocked up by accident. Girls like her.
The nurses did intake in the waiting room. There were so many waiting girls. All waiting with their money in cash. She watched one girl hand the nurse three crisp bills. Wadded in her pocket, hers were crumpled tens and twenties saved up over the weeks. Almost too many weeks, almost too late to have it done. She wondered if the girl with the crisp bills was from town or if she had driven from hours away like her.
It didn’t matter. Here they were all the same, just girls who made bad choices. She darted her eyes over the room. Some of their clothes were nicer but they all had faces in shades of brown. White girls didn’t come here. They just had accidents, oops. This was the clinic for bad choices. __
The nurse took her money, her tens and twenties just as she had with the crisp hundreds. She signed the forms and the nurse led her into the back. It all moved quickly, a well-oiled machine. The doctor was waiting.
They held open her legs and gave her a shot of something, no warning for the pain. She cried and begged them to wait but the doctor shushed her and told her it would do no good. No good to cry or wait. Maybe if she had waited before she wouldn’t be here now.
Then it was over and they moved her to another room, left her in another chair to wait, bleeding. She would have laughed at how alike they were, the doctor and the boy who got this baby on her but it hurt too much to laugh.
She turned, dazed as the shadows from the windows mingled with the setting sun. She could see the Beast watching her. The branches became her horns, the sun, her eyes. The Beast danced as she watched.
She had watched her when she opened her legs for the boy whose name didn’t matter.
She would watch her on her next trip here with her crumpled tens and twenties.
She would watch her when she couldn’t raise the money in time and finally pushed a baby into the world.
“No,” the girl said through her pain, “Please, I don’t want to come back here. Help me.”
The Beast made of shadow and light thought for a moment as the girl called for her, called her by an ancient name. Begging for her.
The horned one heard her call and granted the girl’s wish. Blood poured from between the girl’s legs washing away the future she had seen. The Beast’s kindness done she disappeared, searching for something else to nurse, there would be nothing for her there, ever again.
Bootsie’s belly had grown, swollen and huge, the skin so tight it looked like it would rip. Far larger than she should be for three weeks but it was not a baby that she carried.
She could feel it, digging its claws into her, fighting for a way out. It didn’t mean to hurt her but that was its nature. Not a baby, just a channel for the Man With No Face and she just a host.
They were not people, just a means to an end.
The Man With No Face patted her swollen middle. His suit, blinding white in the half darkness, the glow from the static on the set illuminating her belly where something pushed against the walls of her womb.
“Not long now, Bootsie, you’ve done so well! We are really impressed. If you survive this one we may even use you again,” he said nodding in the half darkness.
No, she thought as she shuddered in pain as the thing twisted in her womb. She knew how to ask now, how to keep it from happening.
“It’s time to go to sleep. You have been much better than your mother. You’re perfect but then,” his voice wistful, “she was perfect too.”
Bootsie didn’t question it. The static turned to waves against her mind and she drifted, down, down, down.
No more awake, only that deep dark space that wasn’t sleep anymore than what she carried was a baby but there was not another word for it. She rolled through dreams that were not dreams, tumbling from one memory to the next pain chasing her like howling dogs at her heels. She bore witness to the dark history of her, the Beast, the Goddess and all the poor worshipers sacrificed to her cult, just like Bootsie. Just like her mother.
Bootsie eyes shot open in the light of the TV. Covered in sweat, her body was bare, naked. She felt between her legs, her fingers came back covered in liquid, thick and sticky but not blood. It pooled on her bed. She thrust her palms into it and struggled off the bed. Her belly was pulsing in pain, the contractions steady but distant.
She pressed her birth covered hands to the screen. The static replaced by the soft waves of a river. A dark, impassable body. The Man With No Face needed her because he couldn’t pay the price. The price for passage was a birth. Any birth. Fully formed or not, the Beast saw them all the same. Forced or given its own time. To begin a life or to end one before it started. That was the only price the Beast required.
No ferryman met her. Maybe the Man With No Face is the ferryman she thought numbly as the water rose from the screen and swallowed her whole, splashing over her laboring body, dragging her into the world of the Beast.
The river took her. There were no hands here, only the power of the current that pulled her along from her world into the next one. The Beast wouldn’t come to her, instead she drew Bootsie to her.
The current slowed and she washed onto the shore, coughing black water. She pulled her heavy body up and looked around.
The world on the other side was black and white mingled with gray shadows. Trees grew twisted and tall, their white leafless branches bore strange fruit, pale and heavy as they reached into the pitch black sky.
Bootsie walked to one tree, her body dripping a trail like a snail. She reached, touching the tree’s offering. The flesh of the fruit, soft and warm against her fingers, broke easily, dripping thick, milky juice.
Her feet led her over the twisted roots of the black and white forest. She could feel movement, just outside of what she could see in the fruit heavy branches. The sound of it coming to her in chattering and barks. Something, many things, alive and wild in its depths.
Her body moved forward, following its own path, picking through the trees nimbly despite her awkward shape. Her body knew things that her mind did not. She had only to trust it as it passed through the forest, her belly dully contracting.
The skeleton trees ended as she passed into a clearing, dazzled by the mistress of the forest before her.
Bootsie saw many things as she witnessed the Beast, the Goddess. In the awesome splendor of the Beast Herself, Bootsie’s mind grabbed and held what shapes and forms it could make sense of in the twisting splendor of the Divine. Great horns adorned her head. She was massive with many heavy breasts over an impossibly swollen belly. Her legs were spread, revealing something that seemed close to Bootsie's own sex, red and wet with birth. What could be called her face turned to the ink sky, the terrible gash in it, like a mouth, open and panting as she pushed.
She moved, shifting, and squatted on cloven feet, growling and panting, staring at the ground as her young poured from her, its head dropping and then the rest of it sliding from her, still wrapped in its sack, a bloody pile.
She stepped back delicately, her belly still swollen, her tits dripping a sea of milk. The sack moved, twisting as the thing inside pushed against it.
Bootsie stepped forward to help, but stopped. Her body knew that it was wrong and in this place, the body ruled.
The thing on the dry, gray grass pressed against the sides of its prison and gripping it in sharp teeth broke through, devouring its birth, swallowing its cord. The thing the Beast had birthed was many eyed, six legged, with wet fur matted from the waters of the womb. It paid no attention to its mother. Her work done, she sat back with her knees up, her sex exposed still wet and red from the last, ready for the next.
The creature she had pushed into the world stood and dashed into the woods that would protect him, raise him wild. He would mate with his sisters but it wouldn’t matter. Only the Beast could birth in these woods. Only the Beast and those aspects of herself that had wandered back. Paid the price and returned.
Bootsie called her name, the Beast’s true name that scratched and itched at the back of her mind from some ancient genetic memory.
“They’re looking for you,” Bootsie said as the deity took her in, her eyes like stars set in a face too like Bootsie’s own. “The Man With No Face. Them. They’re looking for you.”
The Beast with an ancient name laughed, the sound shot through with the pain of the coming birth. Close, but not time yet.
Her words were the whisper of dry leaves on the wind, “They cannot come here. They cannot pay the price.”
“I left a trail,” Bootsie said shaken, awed before the goddess.
“A trail of leaving. The water only flows one way. You have come to pay alms,” the Beast said running her hands over her breasts and sex, “You’ve come to worship my glory with your sacrifice.”
Bootsie nodded as her womb tightened, the pain closer. Time now. The dance she had started with the Man With No Face would be complete.
Her belly rippled with the coming birth. The thing that was not a baby fighting to get out. She squatted as the goddess had done. Her face drenched in sweat, her breast dripping the pre-milk, full of fat, running rivers from her nipples.
Her womb contracted on its own, there was only the need to push. Her body moved of its own volition, dropping to all fours. She pushed as her uterus tightened, trying to force out the thing they had got on her.
She reached between her legs, feeling herself open and stretch, the soft pate of the thing coming through. She had no breath to scream, only to labor, to bear down, to push it from her body.
It, the thing that was not a baby was dropping from her. Its head filling her palm, she moved her hand away and pushed again, her strength failing. Then there was a release as it fell from her, a wet plop on the dry grass. She fell back, her knees up, no grace in her movements. She did not dance in pain and joy.
The work not done, the thing still connected to her by the pulsing white cord that lead back to the part that fed it, housed it, grew it from seed to this thing, red and thrashing on the ground.
She bore down again and birthed the organ that had grown around the thing. Its job done, it sat on the grass, useless.
Bootsie breathed hard, relieved to still be alive, her purpose served. The thing struggled in its sack. Not like the one the deity had dropped. She could feel the ancient eyes on her as she moved to pick up the thing on the ground that wasn’t a baby.
She poked it, pressing her nail through the membrane, breaking it and digging in her fingers to reveal its face, like her own. It let out a cry, piercing the world with its sound, its tongue small and pink in its toothless mouth.
She shushed it and pulled the membrane back further until its body, a mass of tentacles that reached for her body, spilled free. Baby strong and needy, they wrapped around her arms as it screamed and cried for her.
Bootsie lifted it to her breast, what else could she do?
The thing latched on to her, sucking and swallowing great gulps of the liquid that dripped like tears from her nipples. It filled its toothless mouth with her offering, cooing softly.
She looked up at the Beast, the Goddess, the Greater Part Of Herself, holding the thing that was not a baby but, she realized slowly, was hers, not theirs. The goddess tilted her great horned head to the side and smiled, her pleasure terrible and frightening.
The Beast’s children slid from the confines of the forest for a closer look at what Bootsie held cradled in her arms. The air smelled of blood and those milk-fed things, raised on the tit-soft fruit that hung from the skeleton branches of the forest were reminded that they had teeth. The smell pulled their focus back from the wonder of the thing in her arms, it whispered to them that they were hungry.
Between Bootsie’s legs the mess of the birth waited, still attached to the nursing baby in her arms. She popped it from her breast, the small creature complaining. She shushed it, rocking it slowly in her arms as any good mother would as she shifted it, bringing it closer to her mouth to grip the cord between her own teeth. Biting down she severed it from the useless organ that lay on the ground
She moved the baby-thing to her other breast, still heavy with milk. The Beast's young were coming closer but she had teeth too. She showed them and they stilled as she scooped up her own placenta and brought it to her mouth, tearing into the thick, veiny meat of it, ripping away large chunks.
The thing in her arms sucked on her, pulling at her painlessly but needy with long tentacles that spilled from her arms and wrapped around her waist, growing by inches with each pull of its baby mouth at her breast.
She pushed the tentacles away, finding its body in the mass. Arms and legs, nipples over a baby round belly. She smiled, tickling the tiny feet, kissing small hands before checking between its legs to find both sets of organs, male and female, nestled perfectly. The baby-thing was so beautiful that it hurt Bootsie to look at them, but she couldn’t turn her gaze away. She burned their image in her mind.
They were almost finished. Her breasts delivered droplets instead of gulps. Not enough for them, not for how big they would grow. She was never meant to be enough and the baby was already huge, barely held in her arms but grown strong on its mother’s milk.
Bootsie pulled her tit from their hungry mouth. Still so hungry they began to cry softly, mewling to her as they pulled at her, trying to bring her back but Bootsie’s role was done.
She shushed them again, rocking them gently. They clung tighter to the mother- creature that Bootsie had become in birthing it.
She bent to their ear and whispered their name to them. Low and secret so that only they would hear it, only they would know it. The secret name that their mother gave them as her mother had given her. No matter what happened, no matter what songs people sang in praise and terror of her baby-thing, they would also know this name and she would only call them by it. A gift, the only gift they could keep from her.
She handed her creation to the Greater Part Of Herself. Her baby that was not a baby who was got on her by the Man With No Face and birthed in a forest of milk-fed things with teeth was accepted by the deity before her.
The Greater Part Of Herself placed the baby-thing on her own giant breast and it began to nurse. Bootsie knew, in the way that mothers know, that her baby would grow and become great. She knew in the way that sacrifices know that she had helped usher in a new age, that the baby-thing would not be a baby much longer.
They will mate with my sons and daughters, the Beast spoke, her voice like a whisper deep in Bootsie’s mind. They will create an army , she said as she shifted to birth the next, much stronger than these pitiful ones. This one will grow until it can swallow stars.
Bootsie nodded, recognizing that the words were meant to comfort her but she had nothing in her left to comfort, there had been so much taken. Her purpose served, the Beast had forgotten her, her one small kindness paid, leaving her to the children that lived in the forest. Bootsie's body moved before her brain, still half lost in the fog of birthing, could respond.
Run, her feet screamed as they moved, pulling her legs and body along back down the path she came. The branches pulled at her while the creatures slipped between them, snapping at her heels. Occasionally reaching out as if to grab her arms but slowing at the last moment, willing the chase to last longer.
The wet path she had left rose up to meet her and her feet made slapping sounds as the water became deeper. It spilled over her feet and ankles, swallowing her shins and then knees touching that sore space that had given way to her sacrifice until finally it pulled at her hips, dragging her under, pulling her back to the world she came from.
The paramedics were called by her neighbors. They found her drenched in sweat tangled in her bed linens. Her sheets soaked in blood that stretched out making a pattern of branches in the folds. Her throat was ruined by the time they arrived.
Later, at the hospital when they asked why she had been screaming she said only that she was not.
“I was singing them a lullaby,” she said and never spoke again.
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