Authors: Nadia Scrieva
“I’m so sorry,” I tell him.
“My dad and my sister blamed me for her stroke,” he says, “and later they blamed me for her death. They never said it outright, but they both hated me. They felt that my life was only made possible at the cost of my mother’s.”
“All life comes with a price.” My heart is breaking for the young boy that he was—I can see that this is the sort of thing from which he could never recover.
“I never heard her voice like this,” Kieran says as he stares up at the woman on the ladder. “When I was a kid she was shrunken and her face was twisted. She didn’t look so alive. I’ve never heard her laugh. This is the best thing I could possibly see before my death. Thanks for showing me this, Kayla.”
A phone rings somewhere in the distance, and Kieran’s mother turns her head to look for the source.
“Can you get the phone for me? Chloe?”
She puts her paintbrush back in the tray but she accidentally knocks the tray over. She tries to catch the falling tray, but this causes her to lose balance. She panics and tries to grasp at something, but she cannot prevent herself from toppling off the ladder.
“Mom!” Kieran shouts, reaching out to catch the woman.
Her body passes directly through his hands. She lands on the ground with a loud
as her belly hits the ground. Gasping out in pain, fear is evident on her face as she frantically rubs her hands over her stomach. She lifts herself from the ground and notices a bit of blood staining her white dress. She begins to sob.
she calls out.
“Chloe, you need to call the doctor. I think I hurt your little brother.”
The woman dissolves into uncontrollable tears.
Kieran turns to me in shock and horror. “Kayla! What is this?”
“This is what you wished for. This is the moment where something changed in the flow of time—because of
accident your mother will miscarry and you will never be born.”
“It’s horrible,” he says, crouching to his mother’s side helplessly. “I don’t want her to be in pain like this. She’s so sad.”
Indeed, the woman was beyond distraught as she cried brokenly to herself.
“I can’t lose my baby. Please, please let him be okay. Chloe!”
Kieran looks up at me with sudden resolve. “If this means I won’t be born, then she won’t have the stroke?”
“That’s correct,” I tell him, trying my hardest to be devoid of emotion. The woman’s cries are very upsetting and I can feel how much love she has for her unborn son.
“Then this is for the best,” Kieran tells me firmly. “This is exactly what I wanted. If it’s better for my mom, and my family, then it’s best that I was never born.”
Chloe runs into the room then, and her eyes widen when she sees her mother’s state.
she whispers, dropping an old cordless phone.
“Mommy, you’re bleeding…”
“I’m okay, sweetie,”
the woman says between sobs,
“but I fell on my tummy. I hurt the baby.”
The little girl ran to her mother’s side in fear.
“Is my little brother okay?”
“I don’t know, Chloe. I think he’s gone. This is all my fault.”
Kieran’s mother put her head in her hands and released a mournful wail.
“How am I going to tell your dad?”
Kieran turned away, shutting his eyes tightly. “It looks painful now, Kayla, but trust me. Both of them are better off this way. My mom will live a long and happy life, and my family won’t struggle as much as they did with her hospital bills. Chloe will grow up with a mother and a father, and they’ll be comfortable and peaceful. Things will be good.”
“Are you sure about that?” I ask him softly. “It seems to me like your mother can’t bear the thought of losing you.”
“She doesn’t know that giving birth to me will cause her to lose the life she had,” he answers stubbornly.
I stare at him skeptically. “But look at her, Kieran. She is crying her heart out over losing you and she has never even met you yet. She’s your mother, and she chose to have a baby. She wanted you, and even if it cost her some of her health, don’t you think she was willing to pay that price for your life?”
“I don’t care!” he shouts. “Everyone’s been telling me things like that my whole life, thinking it would make me feel better to know that all mothers sacrifice everything for their children. Well, I don’t want that. I want my mom to be alive and well. I want to sacrifice
“Fair enough,” I say softly. “That’s very noble of you, Kieran. But I don’t think it works that way.”
“What do you mean?” he asks.
I extend my hand down to where he’s sitting. “Come with me and I’ll show you.”
He takes my hand and we are both instantly submerged in darkness.
“Kayla? Kayla!” His voice rises in volume and echoes in the emptiness. “Where are we?”
“In the same place as before.”
A soft feminine sob comes from the corner of the room. Our heads both swivel to the source of the sound, and our eyes begin to adjust to the dark lighting. There is a gentle glow of moonlight filtering in through the glass; just enough to illuminate the silhouette of a woman in a nightgown. She is sitting in a rocking chair, so slender and feeble that she is unable to rock back and forth.
“We’re in the nursery,” Kieran says in confusion.
“Yes. Just a few weeks after your mother’s miscarriage,” I tell him. I am not sure how I know, but I am sure that I know. When I am in time, the stardust infuses me with more wisdom than I usually have. I am not wholly myself, but I am more myself than I ever was. It’s hard to explain.
“She’s upset,” Kieran says as he moves over to the crying woman. He kneels before her rocking chair, frowning. “She doesn’t look as healthy and happy as she did before.”
“Of course not. She lost a child.”
“But if I was never born, how can she be so saddened?” he asks.
“It doesn’t matter whether you were two weeks old, two months, two years, twelve, or twenty. Your mother loved you all the same. A mother doesn’t grow to love a child more the older he gets or the longer she knows him. It is instant and infinite.”
Kieran narrows his eyes at me, and I can see his frustration even in the darkness. “So my death—or my not-coming-into-existence—made her unhappy for a little while. I still believe it will be better for her in the end.”
I smile at him sadly, gesturing to his mother in the rocking chair. “Kieran, this is the end.”
“What do you—no!
He stares in disbelief as his mother reaches to her side and picks up a glass of water from a table. With shaking hands, the woman tosses several pills into her mouth that she has been holding for a while, unknown to her son. She gulps the pills down and places the glass of water back on her table. She returns to barely rocking in her rocking chair. “Mom! Mom, what on earth? Kayla—what is she—what did she just do?” Kieran asks in a whisper.
“She took an overdose of her medication. The miscarriage sent her into a deep depression.”
He tries to grasp the woman’s knees to shake her, but his hands pass through her body. He reaches for her shoulders, but he cannot get her attention. “Mom! Mom, don’t do this! Please, don’t throw everything away over me. I’m worthless! Spit them out. Spit those pills out
Even though he knows that she cannot hear him, he tries desperately to stop her suicide. He slams his hands on the ground violently, trying to create a noise. He lifts himself off the ground and tries to kick the furniture and the walls to get her to notice him. “Mom.
he screams. “Go to the bathroom
and throw them up. I don’t
to be born. The miscarriage was a good thing!”
I watch as Kieran grows more and more agitated, trying to save his mother’s life. Eventually, he gives up and falls to the floor in front of the rocking chair, spent and weary. He smashes his fist into the ground one last time before sobbing and putting his hands in his hair.
“It seems a bit hypocritical that you defend your decision to take your own life, but won’t respect your mother’s decision to do the same,” I tell him.
He shakes his head. “I didn’t know. I didn’t expect this would happen. What if I was never conceived? Can I change my wish to say that I wish I was never conceived?”
I smile sadly at this change of phrasing. “It doesn’t matter. It all ends up the same way. Your mother was meant to die young, just like you were meant to live. If you don’t live, it gives her life less meaning. It means her sacrifice was for nothing.”
Kieran closes his eyes tightly. “I thought things would be better for her if she didn’t have the stroke. Better for everyone.”
“Mommy?” Chloe walks into the room, holding a doll. “I can’t sleep.”
I gesture down at the little girl. “It’s not exactly better for everyone.”
Kieran stands up abruptly. “I can’t watch this anymore, Kayla. You’ve proved your point. You’ve convinced me. Let’s get out of here.”
I nod and reach out to touch his shoulder. With a gust of air, we are returned to the fresh-smelling garden maze, standing close to the beautiful fountain.
“That was upsetting,” Kieran told me, “but I understand now.”
“So you won’t take your own life?” I ask him hopefully.
“I meant that I understand that it wouldn’t make a difference whether I was born or not. It wouldn’t have made things better for my mother or my family.” He takes a deep breath. “But you can’t convince me that being alive now is worth anything to anyone! What about Madison? She was the closest person to me, and I ignored her to focus on my studies. Now I’ve lost both my school and Madison. Maybe I can’t change the past—but I can do something about my miserable present and bleak future.”
“Then you don’t understand yet,” I tell him softly. “Will you allow me to take you into another moment of your life?”
He seems like he intends to protest, but then he sighs. His hands fall loosely to his sides. “Sure, Kayla. I appreciate that you are trying to help, but can the next vision be a little less painful?”
“I’ll try my best,” I tell him earnestly, “but I don’t control what you see. I am only your tour guide through time. I pinpoint the most important moments, and I take you there. I can’t change any of the moments.”
He nods slowly. “Thanks for trying to help me, Kayla. I understand that this is just your job—whatever this is. I want you to know that it means a lot to me. Even if you don’t change my mind, I am thankful that you cared enough to try—and I am thankful for the company. It’s nice to have someone to talk to right now. I couldn’t bear being alone today.”
I stare at him in surprise. Even though I have done this countless times, it feels different somehow. Kieran is addressing me personally, and we do have some kind of palpable connection between us. Usually I feel distant and removed from the person I am helping, but I feel like everything that has happened in Kieran’s life, and everything that will or could happen matters to me personally. I genuinely want the best for him. “I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else,” I tell him earnestly.
Having navigated through the maze again, we find ourselves at another marble fountain. This one is even larger than the first; it depicts a woman who is perched atop a pedestal and wielding a sword.
“Where will this take us?” Kieran asks me as he stares at the sculpture.