Mars hangs closer to the Earth than it has in six thousand years. It appears as a bright orange star in the sky. Like the light that led men from the east to a child in a manger it could well be a sign of things to come.
Sheets of rain flood the roads leading to the small town of Bethel, and the storm has just begun. What should be the brightest night of the year has become one of its darkest.
The doors of Bethel Memorial Hospital swing open and a very pregnant nineteen-year-old girl staggers into the emergency room. Her hair is matted from the fierce rain and droplets of water trickle off her to the floor. A large, wet, white tee shirt clings to her protruding belly and her teeth chatter. She holds her stomach with one hand while bracing herself against the wall with the other.
“Some one… some one… please… please help me,” she gasps before her legs give way and she falls to the floor.
“We need help here,” yells Lance, a young emergency technician. He charges to her side.
The lights in the hospital flicker. The storm outside breaks the electrical current and forces the generators to take over.
“This girl needs help!” Lance yells, again. He cradles her head in his lap. Her scared eyes flutter until they meet his.
“It’s happening,” her voice is barely audible and distressed.
“Does anyone hear me? We need help!”
She grabs Lance’s arm tight. Her hand feels like hot coals to his skin.
A crack of lightning rips through the sky, it startles Lance as the sound of it thunders around them. He flinches just as the young girl loses consciousness.
“Help… We need help!” His screams are more urgent. Her body goes limp in his arms. Nurses and aides swarm the area.
“We’ll take it from here,” an ER nurse assures.
“On the count of three,” they prepare to lift her onto a gurney.
“One… Two… Three!”
In a fluid motion, she is whisked up and away.
Lance stands alone. He is dazed as they rush her to a delivery room. His arm burns where the girl grabbed him. He shakes it frantically but the pain persists. He pulls back his sleeve. “What the-” his eyes widen in horror.
A glowing imprint of the girl’s hand pulses brilliantly on his forearm. He grabs the bottom of his shirt and scrubs the area feverishly until the natural color returns. Now, out of breath, the room circles him. He feels sick.
“What did she do to me?” He whimpers as he runs out of the hospital into the darkness of the raging storm outside.
“Make way,” someone shouts as the emergency room team crashes through the delivery room doors.
“Where do you want her?” one nurse asks.
“Right here,” Nancy points. She is a heavyset, African American, Nurse with a distinct southern accent. “OB is on the way.” She grabs a freshly laundered sheet from the warmer.
They rush the girl into position.
Nancy leans in to tighten the cuff around her arm and adjusts the fetal monitor belt to record contractions. Her eyes are red, as if she has been up for hours or has recently cried.
“Can you hear me, Sweetie? Can you hear me?” Nancy looks concerned. “Did anyone get her name?”
She looks curiously from one to another. The group nods a collective no. Nancy takes a deep breath and shakes her head. She leans on the table and thinks what to do next.
“Are you sure you’re up for this Nancy?”
“I’m fine!” Nancy snaps and the mysterious girl revives.
“Where, where am I?” she asks fearfully.
“You’re safe honey… You are about to have a baby… Now you have to listen very carefully… Do not push! Whatever you do… don’t push, not till we tell you.”
The two lock eyes, “My name is Sophia,” she says timidly. “Sophia James”
“Sophia is there anyone we need to call, the father of the child or your parents?”
She closes her eyes and shakes her head from side to side. “I… I don’t know who the father is.”
Everyone pauses to wonder why the girl would confess to such a thing. Even though the times are more liberal than ever before, those in the town of Bethel still frown upon a pregnant woman out of wedlock.
“That doesn’t matter now Sophia,” Nancy declares. She takes the girls hand and tosses a look of caution to the others. “All that matters right now is that baby.”
Nancy smiles sweetly and turns to the clock on the wall. “Will someone page OB again?”
“You don’t understand…” Sophia whispers.
“I don’t understand what, Sweetheart?”
Nervous tears flow from her eyes, “I’m scared… I’m not ready… I’m not-” She swallows her words as labor pains attack her back and legs. “It hurts, it hurts too much!” She cries.
“Just breathe baby, just breathe!”
Sophia reaches up and grabs Nancy’s scrubs, “He’s coming! He’s coming!” She screams writhing in pain.
Nancy takes her place at the foot of the table. “Where’s that damn doctor?”
“I can’t do this,” Sophia cries, bearing down as the pain drives her to push. The baby begins to crown.
“Yes you can. You can!”
The aide mops Sophia’s brow. Her cheeks inflate, and then deflate as she huffs, puffs, grunts, and groans.
“The head is almost out… All right Sophia we are going to do this together. Now push, two, three, four, five, good… now breathe.”
The baby’s nose and mouth becomes visible. Nancy guides the head out gently and Sophia’s breathing begins to slow.
“You did it Mom… okay now take a second to relax and were going to…” Nancy stops speaking as she notices the color drain from the young girl's face. She looks at the monitor. Her blood pressure is falling.
“Sophia? … Sophia?” her words trail off in an echo as darkness crowds the young mother’s sight.
Her pupils dilate and she relaxes into the table as if asleep.
The sound of those in the room turns into the sound of waves rolling in and out on the seashore.
Sophia’s eyes open to a crystal clear sea. “Where am I?” she whispers in a voice that barely sounds like her own. She stands in its ankle deep water. The sand on the shore behind her shimmers like a million diamonds in the light. Sophia’s hair dances from the cool breeze caressing her.
“What is this place?”
“Blessed are you above all women,” an angel, crowned with twelve stars says as he descends from a scarlet colored cloud.
Sophia falls to her knees.
The angel’s feet rest on the sea, but they never quite touch it. He walks above its rippling waves toward her.
“A leader your child will be… one who will clear the way for others to see.”
“What do you mean?” Sophia asks in terror.
The angel smiles, “Thomas James will be his name and the world will change because of him.”
“I don’t understand.”
A rainbow glows in his eyes and a soft light surrounds him as he tilts his head, almost bowing to her. “Prophets and kings have desired to hear the words your son will speak. A writer he will be, one that will make way for those in darkness to see.”
The Angel extends his jeweled hand, which Sophia takes cautiously. He leads her to the pink and blue sand of the new seashore. The corners of his mouth point down, as his eyes fill with thought.
“Dark days lay ahead for the chosen child,” he says sadly.
“What are you saying?” she pleads.
“This world lives in confusion. But the truth will rise and those who have scattered will draw near to us again.”
Thunder roars and her breath catches, as the heavens open to steal the angel away in its blinding light.
Sophia trembles as she rests her hands on her pregnancy to weep for her unborn child. She closes her eyes, “God help us,” and once again the sounds around her change.
“Sophia? S-o-p-h-i-a, can you hear me?”
Sophia’s eyes shutter open in response. “Where… am… I?” She struggles to ask.
“In your hospital room Sweetheart,” Nancy answers.
Sophia squints as the morning sun catches her eye through the window.
“I don’t understand.”
“You had a rough spell. But you’re okay now.” The dark bags hang heavy under Nancy’s eyes. “I’ve been waiting for you to wake up, twenty-four hours actually… I could have been home cleaning. Could have gotten myself some sleep, too.” She chuckles.
“Sorry? Do not be silly. I was just joking, Sweetheart. Besides, it’s been twenty years and I still can’t pass up a young mother in need,” She presses the intercom, “Miss James is awake.”
“Mother,” Sophia’s eyes widen.
“Yes. You scared us for a bit… but you did real well.” Nancy takes her hand. “You have a beautiful baby boy.”
“Boy? I have a boy?” Tears of joy fill her eyes.
“I just let them know you’re awake. They should bring him any minute.” Nancy gently pushes back some of Sophia’s hair behind her ear. “Before you know it he’ll be in those pretty young arms and it will feel like everything is right in the world.”
“No need to thank me child. It took more than I could do to keep the two of you in this world,” she blinks nervously as she lets go of Sophia’s hand.
“What do you mean?”
“Never mind that now,” Nancy says evasively. “That baby is so beautiful. If I didn’t know any better I would say he was smiling when he was born.”
“Here we are,” another nurse wheels the baby into the room. She spies Nancy sitting in chair next to Sophia, a look of concern takes over her face. “Nancy shouldn’t you be home taking care of things?” the other nurse asks compassionately.
Nancy shoots her an angry look, one she hides from the patient. “I’m fine.”
Sophia sits up in excitement. “Thank you, thank you so much.” She reaches for her new born, but is not strong enough to lift the child on her own. Wrapped in a pure white blanket, the baby almost seems to glow.
“Oh my God, you are so beautiful,” tears slide down her cheek.
Nancy lifts the baby from his bassinet and lays him gently in Sophia’s arms.
“Hi there,” Sophia draws the child close to her heart and kisses the top of his head.
“Do you have a name yet?” Nancy asks.
She looks up from her baby curiously.
“His name will be Thomas… Thomas James.” She pauses to recall her strange dream. “Thomas means twin... an Angel told me to name him that.”
“Thomas?” Nancy looks stricken. Her heart pounds as she continues, “An angel told you to name him… Thomas?” She holds her breath.
“Yes, he did.”
Nancy takes a few steps back as her head shakes nervously. Sophia stares at her making this strange retreat.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” Nancy gulps down the lump in her throat. “I’ll leave you two to get to know each other,” with one hand on the door handle, she turns slightly, feigns a smile and quickly exits.
The other Nurse pulls back the window curtain even more. Sunlight floods the room and it seems the suns ray rest on the Mother and her child alone.
“You’re going to be a writer, Thomas,” Sophia declares as she gently taps his nose with her index finger. “You’re going to make a way for others to see… aren’t you?”