Happy Friday! I feel like this is going to be a great weekend – and I have no idea why. Hope it turns out good for all of us. Here is something to start you out; the first chapter of ‘Fire, Book Three of the Akasha Series’. Word of caution – this gets a little graphic. The second book left off with Kaitlyn in labor, alone on a boat navigation the Southern Ocean. Readers were left with the ultimate cliffhanger, so this first chapter couldn’t disappoint!
The fireball shot out of my hand, straight into one of the cupboards, blowing shards of pressed wood everywhere. Bits of flame flared up around the large captain’s bridge on the boat. I bent over, uncontrollable pain wracking my body. The coaching I received on labor pains did nothing.
Imagine riding on top of the wave of pain, instead of sinking beneath them.
I laughed out loud at the irony. Little did the doctor know I’d be in the middle of the Southern Ocean, on my own, navigating literal waves.
The contraction subsided, and I stumbled to the other side of the room to retrieve the fire extinguisher. The foamy, white goo was probably almost gone. With little hope of being able to reign in my powers, I was digging my own grave.
I paused before aiming the extinguisher over what was left of the cupboard. Most of the windows had blown out, and the cold wind, along with the freezing droplets of ocean, was quickly turning my hands blue; the rest of my body was bound to follow. Fire might be a good thing. But there was no way to control it. I forced my numb hand to squeeze the handle, extinguishing the flames before they could burn the ship right out from under me.
I hobbled over to the Doppler machine, checking to see if anyone was on my tail before another contraction came. I hadn’t blown up that machine, yet. Only one dot on the screen; my boat. Everyone I left behind on Heard and McDonalds Islands would still be there, recovering from the battle. Cato was dead, killed by the traitor Vayu – now also dead.
Susan had a boat, but she was on the opposite end of the island and had no idea I was gone. Alex would be helping Micah out of the crater formed from my earthquake.
Micah. A new wave of pain was mounting, physically and mentally this time. I let the contraction take me, nearly pulling me under and drowning me. This one I deserved. This one was my punishment for leaving Micah, depriving him of his family and the wonderful life he envisioned for us. This one left me in tears.
I am so sorry, Micah. Please forgive me. Please understand.
Even if he should find me, which he wouldn’t, nothing would go back to the way it was. Nothing would be the same.
I wiped my cheeks dry, and crawled over to my makeshift bed – a mattress on the floor. I looked over at the bassinet, ready to receive the life inside me. If only we could survive this; which was looking more doubtful by the minute.
Another contraction. Already? They were practically right on top of each other now, giving me no time to recover. It gripped my entire mid-section, muscles squeezing until I thought they would explode. I moved to my hands and knees, trying to concentrate on something. I looked out the window at the gray sky and sea, which blurred into one, never-ending ocean of nothing. I held my breath through the contraction, and my vision went wavy. The pain dulled slightly, making it a little more manageable. This contraction seemed to last forever, and I hadn’t even crested the wave yet.
The wind picked up outside. I blinked and my vision cleared. A tornado had formed directly in the path of my boat.
I want the fireballs back.
I launched my body toward the wheel and turned it, hard. The boat lurched in response. I considered turning back for the islands. I might be safer fighting Shawn than fighting myself.
My contraction peaked, rendering mind and body useless. The boat stopped its forward momentum, pausing as I rode the waves of pain, then was pulled backward, into the tornado. Although the contraction was subsiding, I couldn’t do anything but watch as I was drawn closer and closer into a vortex of spinning wind and water.
Thank God I did not do this in a hospital or even around other people. I couldn’t imagine the consequences. How did the other Gaias manage?
The doctor told me of two Gaias he helped during labor. For one the baby hadn’t survived, the other, the mother hadn’t.
I looked at the tornado. This would be why.
As the contraction ceased, so did the tornado. I dreaded the ride the next one would bring, and it was only seconds away. I pushed myself off the ground, groaning, and hurried to put the boat back on course for Perth, the largest city in Western Australia.
Confidence that I would ever make it was waning. I collapsed on the floor, too drained to even pull myself back to the mattress. My body temperature spiked, the ice-cold ocean spray hitting me through the shattered windows actually felt good.
As another contraction started, a lump of despair rose up in my throat. I can’t do this. What was I thinking? I need to turn back. But I was closer to my destination than my departure point by now.
The pain quickly rose to new heights. I bit my lower lip and tasted coppery blood. It was not a good enough distraction. Having no other choice, I screamed out loud, my shriek lost among the ocean waves surrounding me. The water grew more and more intense until every last wave was double the size of my boat, threatening to engulf me.
The boat made stomach-flipping drops, tilting to one side so much I thought it would tip. Then it leveled out and went to the other side; like a carnival ride. Except this time I wasn’t throwing my hands in the air. My fingers curled into the floor, cracking my nails. Just as I reached the peak of the contraction, I felt something inside drop. There was an unbearable pressure between my legs, accompanied with the urgent need to push. I held out, remembering what I could of movie births. Wait for it, take a breath. Breathe…breathe….it was almost over. I reached down and felt between my legs. Something hard where only soft should be. The head! My baby was almost here!
I waited a few more seconds until the contraction came. Then I pushed. I pushed through my gut, every muscle in my body tensed. My vision went blurry again but a new wave of adrenaline came to me and I used it to focus. Another quick breath, and then more pushing. The contraction came and went, and I had made no more progress.
I started to panic. What if she was suffocating? A million things could go wrong, and my baby was stuck.
One more time, I told myself. She’ll be ok. Give it one more contraction and then you can panic.
Before the thought finished forming, the next contraction came.
“This is it,” I said aloud, my voice rough, foreign-sounding. I pushed, determined to make it work. If she didn’t come out this time, I’d seriously consider putting the scalpel in the first aid kit to good use.
I pushed with everything I had left, not saving one ounce of energy for future contractions. It was now or never.
Everything tensed and strained, except my voice. My vocal chords were paralyzed. Pushing all of that energy out, I felt the elemental magic welling up within me. Shit, shit, shit, I thought. This time it wouldn’t just be a fireball, or a tornado. I could survive both of those, I had proven it. Instead, the elements were intertwining; I felt them knitting together inside me as if they knew exactly what to do.
Please no, please no, I thought. Nothing good would come of this. I couldn’t concentrate on both my labor and my magic. I had to pick one and go with it. At this point, I went with the only one I felt slightly more in control of; the labor.
On my back now, I lifted up my chin, trying to see something over my big, round belly. I put my hands down between my legs, feeling frantically. One quick breath, then I pushed again. I could feel her downward progress within me. It felt like fire. I hoped to God my powers weren’t harming the baby. More burning and finally, I felt her. Her large round head emerged into my hands. I pulled gently, but she didn’t come out further. Frantically, I turned her head, hoping the body would follow, and pushed again. Her shoulders popped out and then the rest of her.
Everything seemed to unleash itself at once. A final wave of energy burst out of the captain’s bridge, spraying bits of glass, laminate, and particle wood out and into the ocean. The atmosphere outside absorbed the mix of elements and then – everything went calm. The wind receded to a light, cool breeze, the waves evened out, and for the first time in hours the boat slowed to a gentle rocking motion.
I looked down at the tiny, pink, wrinkly baby in my hands, still slippery with blood and mucus. I gasped in deep, frantic breaths, laughing and hyperventilating all at the same time. I scooted over to the mattress and bassinette, wrapping a blanket around her, with an awkward twist around the umbilical cord. I worked to get my breathing under control, but tears were now streaming down my face, making it difficult to see.
She was still, eyes closed. And not crying.
She needs to cry; they always cry in the movies. I turned her face down in my arms, and gave her a light pop on the bottom. Still nothing. I took a deep breath. Don’t panic. One more spank and then panic.
The next spank elicited tiny, pathetic mewling. I turned her over, laughing again, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry – but you’re alive! My sweet baby girl!”
A quick check in the blanket confirmed it. The doctor was right – a girl.
Another contraction caused me to take a sharp breath in, and her umbilical cord reminded me. I laid her down on the mattress, still wrapped in her blanket. I brought myself to a sitting position and pushed again.
The afterbirth came out. I avoided looking at it, but glanced at the cord, still attached to the baby. Guess I’d have to make good use of that scalpel after all.
Lying on my side, I washed her as best I could with what water bottles and towels I had with me. Her mewling subsided. Her limbs moved in involuntary jerks as she got used to her body. My cooing was awkward and goofy. Not all motherly instincts came naturally.
A quick glance at her face showed me her eyes were now open, but I looked away. The color of her eyes may reveal who her father is. I had other things to think about. The rest of her was still a mess. Puffy and red from the labor, she resembled what I could only label as demon spawn.
I continued rubbing her down, counting fingers and toes, making sure her ears were clear.
Micah or Shawn?
I suppose in a way, I would feel relieved if she weren’t Micah’s. It would make my running off with her a little more bearable for him, had he learned the truth. But if she were Shawn’s, I’d have to take extra care to make sure she stayed well away from him. And should authorities get involved, they’d insist he’d get parental rights.
Ten fingers and ten toes. Had we been in a hospital, by now she would have been weighed, maybe received a few shots and whatever tests they do in hospitals.
“We don’t need those needles. No we don’t, no we don’t, do we?” I cooed at her.
She calmed a little further at the sound of my voice.
Wind blew in through gaping holes in the captain’s bridge, covering us both in the open artic chill. I moved her back to my chest, letting skin-to-skin contact heat us both. She started mewling again, now rooting with her mouth.
Oh shit, I thought. Does she need to eat already?
I shrugged. She was my daughter, after all.
Wholly unprepared, I took in a deep breath and guided her mouth to my nipple. A painful pinch, and I quickly pushed her away. She started crying now, with gusto.
Glad one of us found our voice.
I tried again, this time using one hand to position my nipple while my other arm pushed her into me. The pain wasn’t quite as intense, or I was better prepared; one of the two.
I felt her feather-light tongue against me as she sucked. I had no idea if anything was coming out, but she seemed happy enough. Almost right away, I had another contraction.
“What the hell; is there another one in there?” I tried breathing through it. It wasn’t nearly as intense, but plenty painful, especially after everything I had just been through.
The baby’s position was disturbed by my tensing arms. She popped off my breast, and cried again.
“Oh, sorry baby.” I moved her to the other side, “Gotta keep them even.”
This time was easier, and definitely less painful as she latched on, but again, another contraction. “Are you kidding me?” I bent over, careful not to disturb her feeding.
After the contraction subsided, I leaned back into the wall, utterly exhausted. The baby fell asleep in my arms. I swaddled her again using what blankets were left, nestled her in the crook of my arm and lay over on my side; sleep catching up with me faster than I cared to admit.
Stay tuned – next post I’ve decided to release the first chapter of the final book of the Akasha Series, ‘Earth’. In the meantime, if you haven’t started yet, you can get ‘Water, Book One’ as an ebook for free, ‘Air, Book Two’ at the special price of $2.99 and ‘Fire, Book Three’ for $4.99. Happy reading!
A few weeks ago, my kids and I were wasting time waiting for a movie to start (Brave – it was great; you should see it), and we came across a small, used bookstore. The experience was, to say the least, awesome. We each found our place in the store, lost among the shelves and shelves of books.
The kids picked a book to buy, and as we checked out the owner commended each of their choices and told them, “great job – keep on reading.”
I’ll say it again, it was a great experience. Compare that with the experience surrounding my e-reader. My Nook is a prized possession. It stays hidden, sometimes even while I’m reading. There is no way I will share it with my kids and their clumsy, dirty hands.
Now, I could choose to get them each their own. But something tells me they will get loaded with game apps, lost, or broken in no time at all. With three kids, it would be an expensive endeavor.
Granted, I would never give up my Nook – and do think it is the future of reading, but why do we have to choose one or the other? We don’t – it’s all about balance. We can incorporate both into our lives:
But to do so, technology – and people – have a long way to go. We need to make content more ‘shareable’: Here’s how, specifically:
1. Allow users to gift their entire libraries. According to one article from SmartMoney Blog, “Someone who owned 10,000 hardcover books and the same number of vinyl records could bequeath them to descendants, but legal experts say passing on iTunes and Kindle libraries would be much more complicated.” Already, my iTunes library has turned out to be quite the investment, at least for my modest salary, so it is definitely something I want to see passed on.
2. Better E-book systems in our public libraries. Along the same lines of sharing, public libraries have lendable e-books, but not a whole lot are available and there are long waiting lists. It is a system worth making the investment to improve.
3. Donate used e-books: When I buy an e-book and am finished reading, it stays put in my e-reader. Why can’t I donate it to a bookstore, school, or a friend? Limited lending programs (two weeks or so) by Amazon and B&N don’t cut it. I don’t own digital rights to the material, so there isn’t a form of transfer that isn’t considered piracy.
Shareable ebook sites are starting to make their debut, but so is the legal department of Amazon. Amazon briefly revoked Lendle’s access, which proves the industry has a ways to go as far as shareable content. Furthermore, most sharing sites are only available in the US.
DRM (digital rights management) is something authors establish with their ebooks when they first publish. No piracy? Sounds great to me. Wrong! My books can still be pirated, and it just makes ‘sharing’ all that more difficult for the reader. Unfortunately, once DRM is selected for a book, the author cannot go back and change it.
So what can we do about it? The e-book industry is largely a customer-driven operation, much more so than the print industry ever was. Let’s use that to our advantage. Give feedback, and lots of it, anywhere you can. Ask for Demand for more shareable content!
I acknowledge shareable digital content may be a difficult thing to accomplish, seeing as how the industry finally has a pseudo-way to control content. I mean, by sharing and donating hard copy books, were we just committing ‘analog piracy’ all along? Keep in mind, though (and maybe this is something we should remind publishers), they’ve still managed to sell books, despite all the ‘sharing’. The same would apply to e-books.
On that note, have a great labor day weekend everyone!