“Hello, Mareka,” Mary said, holding the baby against her skin, “Isn’t she wonderful? Sean?”
Sean bent down beside the baby.
“Hello beautiful,” he said. He was trembling. He had taken off his ring.
“Delivered at eight forty-nine,” said Jo, looking at Sean’s phone. “I’d say she was about nine pounds and a couple, twenty inches. I’ll write that down. You’ll need it for the birth certificate. Here comes the placenta! Wow! That was quick.”
The air in the bedroom was cooling; the heat had not cycled since the power outage began. Jo got a towel and covered the baby who was lying on Mary’s body. After a few minutes, Jo tied off and cut the umbilical cord. Mary brought the baby to her breast. Mareka clamped on to Mary’s nipple. Jo put the placenta in a bowl and carefully examined it to be sure that it was intact. Mary could feel her awareness of the infant’s thoughts slip away as the infant suckled.
“It’s good,” Mary said, “Sean? Are you all right?”
Sean was still shaking. During those first few moments before the baby started breathing Sean felt as if he in the presence of Death.
“I’m a little woozy,” he said, “I’m going to get some water. Can I get either of you anything?”
“Water would be fine for me,” said Jo.
“Yes. Water now,” said Mary, “I’ll need to eat in a while.”
When Sean left Mary looked at Jo.
“Thank you,” Mary said, “You knew just what to do.”
“You did it all. I was just there to help out a little.”
“Your dream, about me giving birth, it came true, didn’t it?” said Mary. “We were in the presence of Death, and you defeated it.”
“We’re always in the presence of Death. We can’t defeat it, we can only delay the inevitable,” Jo said, “Let me help you get cleaned up.”
Hilmar and his group had walked about a kilometer when he noticed that the volcano had stopped erupting. The small flow of lava from the top had already begun to change, darkening from a fiery red to a dull glow. The aurora was still a shimmering sheet of green in the sky above the volcano. Hilmar checked his phone and found that he could now get coverage. He called a contact in ICESAR, the Icelandic rescue operation, who made arrangements for a bus to come and pick up the stranded tourists. As they waited, Hilmar mulled over the strange eruption. Snæfellsjokull had been dormant for hundreds of years and had no recent sign of activity. Usually, an eruption took place over many weeks. This one could start up again, of course, but somehow Hilmar thought that this was not a usual geological event. Perhaps Mary’s spells really did work?
Sean came back from the kitchen with a jug of water and glasses for everyone.
“The stove doesn’t work, but I put some chicken on the grill on the patio. If the power is off for more that a day all the food in the freezer will go bad anyway,” said Sean, “How are you doing, Mary?”
“Blissful,” said Mary, “I can’t stop smiling. Jo, what can we do for you?”
“You got me out of Spokane, that’s more than enough,” Jo said with a laugh. “How did the city look when you were out there, Sean?”
“Better. There are still a few fires, but it appears that things are under control now. The traffic has gone down. No sign of a tsunami. It could be worse—as my aunt Tina used to say.”
“There are fixings for a salad sitting out on my kitchen counter, I’ll run down and get them,” said Jo, “Be right back.”
Sean and Mary and little Mareka huddled quietly in the dimly lit bedroom. After the last hectic nine months it felt good to just be together; as a family, naturally. After a time, Sean got up.
“I’d better see to the chicken,” he said.
Mary, with Mareka still at her breast, drifted off for a moment.
The earth is at peace for a moment, the turmoils of the planet have paused. A star is born herald the arrival of the new hope, the goddess incarnate, let this sign be known to those who have the wisdom to see…
As a replacement tour bus pulled up to Hilmar’s group he looked back at the volcano and the night sky. Snæfellsjokull was dormant again, only a few wisps of steam were rising from the peak and the aurora had faded as well. An intense pinpoint of light began to shine in the western sky. In a matter of seconds, it was brilliant—brighter than a dozen Venuses.
“Truly the goddess incarnate has been born!” he said to himself, “This has been quite a night!”
Sean looked out over the sound. Outside of the traffic in the city, it was a peaceful night, a few clouds hovered over Bainbridge Island and the nearly full moon was low on the horizon. Suddenly he saw a bright light emerge, high in the sky, star-like but brighter than any star Sean had ever seen. When it didn’t diminish over several minutes, he knew what it was. He ran into the bedroom where Mary was with Mareka.
“Mary, there’s a supernova!” said Sean.
“I know, Sean,” Mary said, “I know.”