A ReDeus Short: “Starting at the Beginning”

ReDeusLogoThe stars were twinkling in the barren night sky as Gabriella Trotter leisurely drove down Route 90. Her eastward route took her farther and farther away from Seattle. It had been a hasty decision and one she didn’t allow herself to contemplate. Instead, she listened to pop anthems from her youth on the satellite radio, finishing the now-cold and greasy fries that remained in the white paper Sonic bag. Thankfully, the local deities allowed burgers, although the mandate was that they were now all-buffalo—more authentic, it had been declared.

She had lost her job at the newspaper thanks to the gods’ intervention, and she was more than a little tired of being Kunulla’s plaything. Gabbi had no idea what the god wanted with her but he somehow found her lack of faith in any deity appealing or challenging or something. He’d already exposed the unseemly side of the celebrities she’d covered, altering her coverage from fawning to jaundiced. While it might have made her a sharper writer, it had also seemed to piss someone off and now here she was, without income.

Pamela had asked about her prospects and Gabbi had told her there was money in the bank, so when she’d paused for a takeout dinner she’d checked her balance. Her rainy day fund was eighty-five percent funded, so she could live off those resources for a few months before really needing to worry, but she’d also assured her fellow Musketeers she could freelance, and that grew more and more appealing as Seattle receded behind her.

It was late and she would need to stop somewhere for the evening before continuing her sojourn. Summit was up ahead, according to the road signs, so she hoped they had a cheap motel. Already she was mentally preparing a To Do list for the next morning which included notifying her parents and sibling of this decision—then, when the shock wore off, asking them (although it might involve begging) to pack up her belongings. When they were done, she would terminate her lease and cancel all the utilities. Or maybe she’d sublet it, let Rebecca use it for clandestine affairs. Plenty to think about.

She let herself yawn long and loud since there was no one to be bothered. It also reminded her she needed to end her first leg of the journey to nowhere soon.

But all thoughts of comfy beds and free shampoo were erased when she saw the blond man waving his arms frantically along the side of the road. His car was off to the side, its emergency flashers racing up and down one side of the vehicle. As tempted as she was to keep going, there was literally no one else on this desolate stretch of highway and she couldn’t live with herself if she abandoned someone who was truly in need. Maybe he just wanted gas money or a tow truck.

She slowed down without jamming on her brakes and then glided directly behind his distinctly older and darker car. He was maybe thirty, thin, and nervous looking as his arms continued to flap despite her coming to a stop.

“You’re not a doctor, are you?” he asked in a high voice.

“Sorry,” she said from her lowered window, “a writer. What’s wrong?”

“My wife…the baby is coming…like NOW!”

Oh shit. Now she couldn’t leave him alone to his misery. There was not only a woman involved but a new life.

“Where’s the nearest hospital?” she asked, unbuckling her belt and getting out.

“Summit, but we don’t have time,” he said, sounding on the verge of panic.

Gabbi strode past him and decided to look for herself. Sure enough, in the passenger bucket seat was a sweaty female form with a very distinctive bulge between breasts and knees. She was gritting her teeth and clearly enduring a contraction. Gabbi knew as much as the next person about the process but had never trained in emergency births on the side of highways and wasn’t sure what she could do.

“How far apart are the contractions?” Gabbi asked as she entered the car, noting the back seat was filled with luggage, a huge bag of disposable diapers, and assorted detritus.

“Three, four minutes apart,” the woman gasped. “It’s coming.”

“I’ve heard. I’m Gabbi.”


“How can I help? Do you need a ride to the hospital?”

“Yes, but the baby will be here first.”

Crap. “What’s wrong with your car?”

“The battery shorted out,” she said. “Willie can’t get it jumpstarted with the emergency kit.”

“Are you sure we don’t have time to move you to my car? I can be a very fast driver,” Gabbi assured her.

“I was already in labor before we left home, but waited too long and the baby’s really impatient to get out here,” Estella said. Gabbi could see the other woman was younger and prettier, with long brown hair that was currently stringy from sweat but would look terrific when dry and brushed. She was momentarily jealous, then refocused.

“I’ve never done this before,” she said with a smile.

Estella returned it and nodded. “Me either.”

“Boy or girl?”

“Yes. Whatever the gods decree.”

Okay, she was a believer and these days the gods wanted to return some mystery to the world so more and more pantheons had ordered that midwives and doctors keep the gender a secret.

Estella wailed as a fresh contraction arrived and her left hand reached out and found Gabbi’s, squeezing it and causing her to yelp from the surprising strength behind it. She glanced to her left and saw Willie pacing back and forth.

As the contraction passed, Gabbi estimated barely two minutes had elapsed since she arrived. That meant things were speeding up. There was little doubt that she was about to help deliver a baby into this world.

“What’s with Willie? Why isn’t he here holding your hand?”

Estella shook her head. “He’s a wonderful man, and will make a terrific husband, but he panics easily and can’t stay focused.”

Just great. Gabbi shot her a look, asking permission to begin touching Estella in uncomfortably intimate ways. The woman looked exhausted already and the hard part hadn’t arrived yet but she nodded. With some hesitancy, Gabbi reached out and placed a flat palm atop the swollen belly. There was definitely something moving in there but beyond that she had no idea what she was doing. Thankfully, Estella was in a skirt so there were no pants to fuss with. But it did mean looking at lady parts to see if the baby was crowning yet.

“Go ahead,” Estella said, and then gritted her teeth as a fresh wave of pain washed over her.

Regretting taking I-90, Gabbi reached under the skirt and worked to slide off the panties off the writhing figure. Sure enough, there was something moist and messy-looking peeking out from between her legs. This baby was on its way out and Gabbi needed to act.

“Willie!” she shouted above Estella’s own wail of pain. Within seconds, the distraught husband was at the door. “No one’s coming; it’s just us, so I need your help.”

He stared at her, wide-eyed. She decided it was time to finally sound like her mother, firm and commanding. “Get me blankets. Or something to wrap the baby in.”

That he understood and opened the rear door and began rummaging. Estella once more reached out to grasp her hand.

“Is there something with a blade in your emergency kit?”

“Yeah,” he finally replied.

“Good. We’ll need that to cut the cord. It’s going to be messy; I don’t suppose you have towels around here?”


“Then you better plan on hosing this out and detailing it before she gets home from the hospital,” Gabbi said, receiving the offered baby blankets. There were three, each a different pastel shade, and all about to be baptized in blood.

“The cliché says I should be sending you to boil water, but I don’t think that will work,” Gabbi said to Willie, who remained in the backseat, peering over to watch his wife give birth.

“Where were you that this happened?”

“Estella’s not due for two weeks, we thought we could have a final day trip to Seattle, you know, together.”

“Sounds nice,” she said, positioning one of the blankets under the other woman’s butt, keeping one over her shoulder for the baby itself.

“We visited the Temple of the Colville and Estella was bled by their resident shaman.” Willie said.

Inwardly, Gabbi grimaced at the mention of Indian deities. She was trying to get away from them, Kunula in particular. “Do you worship the Colville gods?”

He let out a sigh at the same time Estella wailed. Gabbi saw she was now obeying her body’s own instructions and was actively pushing the baby out.

“Okay, Estella, it’s time, I guess,” Gabbi said in her most reassuring voice. She winced at what the other woman was enduring, uncertain if she’d ever want to subject herself to this. It was some vague notion in the back of her mind, never consistent with wanting her own child or not.

“No,” Willie said, and at first Gabbi thought he was rejecting what was before his terrified eyes, but the voice sounded different.


“I’m Scandinavian and Estella is such a mutt she has no real pantheon,” he said by way of explanation. Then, in a guilty voice, he added, “We were going to go to Europe after the baby was born.”

“Better start planning that itinerary because here it comes,” Gabbi said. The head had now come completely into view so she placed her hands underneath, cupping them as if she could catch it. The head was a gooey mess of white, red, and dark stuff and Gabbi wished she had paid better attention in health class.

There came shoulders, then arms, and as Estella’s grunts and groans were traded in for shrieks and screams the baby inexorably left the birth canal, entering a new, colder world. Gabbi kept her blanket-covered hands in position as the small human form emerged. The tiny mouth opened and she somehow heard that first breath of air.

A tiny piercing cry cut through Estella’s own war chant and suddenly silenced her. The baby was now completely out and Gabbi wrapped it as gently as she could in the blanket, patting and rubbing to get the icky placenta material off the newly pink skin. When she thought she had done the best she could, she noted the umbilical cord stretched back into the womb.

“Willie,” she commanded. “Get yourself over her with that blade—come cut your daughter’s cord.”

“A girl,” Estella said between gasps.

“A girl,” Gabbi confirmed with a broad smile.

Willie came out with a utility knife, which she hoped was clean enough, and she cocked her head toward it.

“Where should I cut it?” he asked.

“Unless there’s a dotted line somewhere, just guess,” she said.

He reached out with a shaky hand as the baby continued to cry in Gabbi’s trembling hands, and sliced through the cord, added fresh ick to the mess in the car. With the baby now free, Gabbi used the last clean blanket to swaddle the squirming, crying form. Once done, she handed the baby to the girl’s mother.

Estella held the baby, gazing in exhausted wonderment. Then, after several moments, she used her free hand to begin unbuttoning her blouse so she could nurse her daughter for the first time. While a wonderful moment, it was now one Gabbi could easily pass on witnessing. It was actually time for the family to bond so she eased herself from the car.

“Go to them, Willie. I’ll call 911 for help,” she said in a soft voice.

He took a step toward the dimly lit interior, then stopped and turned toward her. “I suck at this sort of stuff,” he said. “I lost it when she needed me. I felt like such a jerk for not being able to fix the battery and having no other car out here. We had just been to the temple so I prayed to the Colville, prayed for help, and then you showed up.”

That made Gabbi feel uncomfortable. ”I was already on the road when all this started, it’s not like I got a summons.”

“Maybe not, but I prayed and you arrived. Thank you.”

She nodded in tired bewilderment.

“You have to have faith in people,” he said and finally went to join his wife and child.

Gabbi called and made the report, assuring the concerned operator on the other end of the call that mother and child seemed fine for now. Her chore done and exceedingly tired, she took one last look at the new family and smile wearily. She got behind the wheel, now desiring a hot shower before a comfortable bed, and thought about Willie’s last words.

Kunula had challenged her lack of belief, which had resulted in her rejecting him and his fellow gods. She’d hit the road and suddenly came across this. Turning over the engine, Gabbi thought she’d start small then. She’d believe in the decency of her fellow man and see what happened next.

Summit, a motel, a shower, and a bed awaited her.

Gabriella Trotter’s earlier appearances can be found in ReDeus: Divine Tales and ReDeus: Native Lands.

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