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Excerpt from Monsters

The Delivery

The Delivery illustration

Illustration by Cherise Clark

Here’s how it started: I got the order about nine months ago, and didn’t think much about it. The parents were an older couple, remarkably old, in fact. But other than that there was nothing noteworthy about it. So I forgot about it until about a month before delivery.

Most of us try to check on our charges before the big jump, as we call it. It reassures them, and reassures us, too, that things are progressing well. Once in a while we get a bad seed, so to speak, and it’s always helpful to know we’ve got trouble coming down the pike. When I checked on this human baby eight months after the order was submitted I saw right away that he had a haunted look, like the one carried by animals destined for a lab, and by vegetables marked for intensive farming. We see it, too, among humans born to the poorest of the poor, especially little girls. I try not to think about that, and because of my seniority I’ve been allowed to excuse myself from those deliveries.

On pick up day he was no better. He still looked spooked. I picked him up—the phrase ‘picked up’ being something of a euphemism.

It’s hard to explain what it is exactly that we carry. The babies’ bodies are already inside the bodies of the mothers. What we bring is the babies’ psychic energy, made by the Woman in Charge. We carry it in the deep pockets of our coats. When we’re making several deliveries in the same neighborhood, such as a many bunches of baby songbirds, we put them in different pockets. Sometimes for fun we put them all in one pocket and let them have a final pre-birthday bash.

I carried the baby boy in his own pocket. He didn’t talk much. Sometimes I talk with the babies about their dreams. I might ask, “What are you going to do as a child? What’s it going to be like to grow up?” In the case of those whose futures will be unspeakably bleak, I usually respect the unspeakable part, and keep my mouth shut. Sometimes I’ll stroke them to let them know someone cares at least a little bit.

I asked the baby a few questions. No matter what I asked, he remained huddled in the corner of my pocket. Eventually I stopped talking and stayed quiet for the rest of the journey.

We approached the delivery site. It was a cold night, and the neighborhood was unwelcoming. I found the right building, and then I, too, began to feel a little spooked. It was one of those downtown hotels that crowd every major city, hotels with names like “The Merlin,” or “The St. Charles,” hotels that have one bathroom at the end of the hall, and greenish wallpaper peeling from the walls, halls that always seem to stink of urine, alcohol, and illness.  

But I composed myself and said, “How bad can it be? Your momma loves you.”