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Dissections logo scissors body by Deena Warner


Dissections logo pterodactyl by Deena Warner





Drwaing 21 Squid by Will Jacques

Artwork: 21 Squid by Will Jacques

The Day Dylan Foster Was Born
Yuliia Vereta

The shabby old Buick was riding down Fulton Avenue, where everybody could clearly see two things: the first was that this car didn’t belong to the neighborhood it was in, and the second was that whoever was driving was in a hurry. And she was. Susan Williams was late for her sister-in-law’s dinner and was extremely nervous about it, as this would not elevate her in the eyes of Rachel Williams, who hadn’t liked her from the very first day they met, mainly because of her clumsiness, low income and hairstyle. So being already late, Susan came to the conclusion that the other guests wouldn’t like her either, as they were probably of the same puffed up league.

Everybody on Fulton Avenue knew that Rachel Williams hated imperfections. Especially she hated people who were late, people who had no taste in clothes and people who were treading down her lawn. So Susan at least tried to never step on the lawn. Having parked the car in the driveway, she rushed straight to the front door, carrying two packs of chocolate chip cookies she had bought in the supermarket on the way. From outside she could easily hear people talking and laughing in the house. She rang the bell and started smoothing her skirt. After the sound of a couple of footsteps in the living room, her brother Henry Williams unlocked the door.

“Hey. So glad to finally see you,” he said, hugging her.

“Me too. I hope Rachel is not very mad. I couldn’t leave the meeting earlier. I am so sorry.”

“It’s OK. You are just in time for dessert.”

Her brother led Susan to the dining room. At the centre of it stood a huge table with at least fifteen plates of different sizes, although from the same set, just like everything else in that house. Rachel briefly greeted her and introduced other guests. There were six more of them, all couples. After that everybody left to help with bringing dishes to the kitchen, leaving Susan in the dining room with a pregnant lady, whose name Susan could not remember from that list Rachel snapped out several minutes ago. Probably this matter somehow reflected on Susan’s face when, looking at her with a mild smile, she said:

“It’s Skylar. My name is Skylar.”

Skylar looked less arrogant and sophisticated than the rest of the people she’d just met.

“Oh, right. Seems I was still in a rush after I came in,” Susan felt embarrassed and started blushing.

“It takes them an eternity to bring the dessert, doesn’t it?” she was trying to break the ice, as Susan seemed a nice person, wearing an ugly suit, though.

“I can go and ask them,” Susan started.

“No, it’s OK. They just pretend to be doing that. I know that in fact they are planning my baby shower party and probably discussing the presents, so as not to buy the same ones. Hayden, my husband, is most likely telling them what we have already bought.”

“That’s nice, then. It’s better to let them take their time then. Once I got measuring spoons as a present, but I never cook, so it would be great if people discussed that before gifting,” Susan let out a chuckle. Skylar smiled and raised her eyebrows.

“And how many months pregnant are you?” Susan continued.

“Seven months. I feel like a mini whale.”

“Have you already chosen a name for the baby? Is it a boy or a girl?”

“It’s a boy. We were choosing between Aidan, Dylan and Eric….”

“Eric sounds nice,” Susan interrupted.

“… and decided that we like Dylan best.”

The awkward silence filled the room.

At that time Skylar could not know or even imagine in her worst nightmares that in a couple of hours she would be lying unconscious, tired and covered with sweat, giving birth to the baby that was never meant to be hers.

“They have been there for too long,” continued Skylar, “I had better go and hurry them.”

She put the napkin away and went towards the kitchen taking small slow steps. Halfway to it she suddenly stopped and clutched her belly with one hand and the chest of drawers standing beside her with the other. Susan rushed towards her with a scared look on her face and her eyes wide open, calling everybody from the kitchen. By the time Hayden and the other guests came into the room, Skylar had slid down the wall and was lying in a puddle of blood, moaning from pain. More and more blood was coming every second. Skylar could clearly see her white dress smeared with red, people with shocked faces and her husband looking into her eyes and saying something. Surroundings were blurry and vague; it was hard to focus on anything. She saw people’s mouths moving, but could not hear anything except for empty noise, which was cluttering everything around, filling reality. She tried to say that something was very wrong, struggling to open her lips, but she could not. The faces started twisting and the world began floating away. Her head fell down, unconscious.


Some time after that Skylar opened her eyes. She had an oxygen mask on her face and saw a ceiling in front of her. She was in the ambulance, and it was speeding really hard. She could hear the sullen sound of the siren. Hayden was seated beside her and shouting at someone on the phone so hard that he didn’t see at once that she was conscious again. The paramedic didn’t seem to want to interrupt him. After he hung up the phone he looked at her and saw her giving him a scared and interrogatory look.

“Skylar…. Good, you can hear me now. I’m here, I am right here. You scared all of us so hard,” said Hayden.

She tried to take the mask off, but the paramedic’s hand stopped her.

“You need oxygen to feel better, Missis Foster, please don’t try to remove the mask,” he said.

“Don’t worry about anything, dear. It’s going to be just fine. I called the Mother-and-Child Center, where you were going to give birth, but they told me they are unable to accommodate you right now. They don’t have any vacant rooms right now. We are going to another hospital, where they will see if you are in labor or if we can still wait a bit. They will also provide very good treatment. Don’t worry, try to stay calm. I am here with you,” Hayden’s voice was trembling.

Skylar took his hand and held it till the hospital.


“Missis Foster, you need to stop pushing. Don’t push, OK? It’s too early. Don’t push,” the doctor was trying to calm Skylar as hard as he could, but it was definitely not working.

The ambulance cart carrying Skylar was rushing through the corridor to the elevator to go upstairs to the Obstetric Unit, but everyone around Skylar could clearly see that she was going to give birth before they reached it.

“It … can’t … wait … any more. Take him out of me. I can’t do this any more,” said Skylar out of breath. Her forehead was covered with sweat, eyes wide open.

The labor did not have much in common with what she had read about in books. It was way too real, much more real than what was written. She tried to imagine this day for so many times, but none of those included the feelings she had now. The pain was underestimated by everyone she had talked to and it was definitely too early for her to give birth.

She barely remembered what happened next. She was trying to push as hard as she could. Sweat was pouring into her eyes. Someone was wiping her face. Her husband was holding her hand. The doctors were shouting something, but she couldn’t hear a word. She had some weird ringing in her ears. Time seemed to pass very slowly. Everyone moved like in slow motion. At some point she did not feel any more pain. After some time she saw the doctor’s hands pulling out her baby entirely covered with blood and amniotic fluid. She’d made it. Skylar’s eyes rolled back in her head and she passed out.


When Skylar recovered consciousness she saw Hayden sitting in the armchair in front of her staring into space. He was so concentrated on something that he did not notice that Skylar had come to her senses. She did not see her baby in the room.

“Hayden?” she distracted him from those confused thoughts he had.

“Hey, Skylar. How are you feeling?” he was really glad to see her, though he seemed more sad than happy. Skylar had never seen that expression on her husband’s face before. It seemed to be a mixture of compassion, grief and humility. He was doing his best to smile but his lower lip was trembling so hard that it was the first thing Skylar noticed.

“Better. Where is the baby?”

“They will bring him later. They are now checking his vitals … that kind of thing.”

“I want you to be with him; there’s no need to be here. I will be fine.”

“He’s taken care of. I will stay here. We will see him when you feel better.”

“How long did I sleep?” Skylar saw it was dark outside.

“The sun’s coming up soon. They gave you some sleeping pills.”

“It’s a long time. Can we go and see him now?”

“It’s better for you to sleep more and … maybe … see him in the morning,” Hayden swallowed a lump in his throat.

“Why? Why would we postpone it? I haven’t held him yet, and … oh my God, Hayden, did he … did he die?” Skylar’s eyes filled with tears.

“No, he didn’t. No. No.” Hayden had no idea how to tell his wife what he already knew. He did not know how to tell the horrible truth to the woman he loved more than life, the woman who had already painted the walls in the nursery and bought baby clothes, the woman who started talking to her baby the same day the doctors told her she was pregnant. There was no chance this woman would reject her child and Hayden was aware of that. He was trying to think of reasons to stop her from keeping that child. He was pretty sure they wouldn’t work though.

“Hayden, why don’t you want me to see him now if he’s fine?” Skylar was not going to wait until morning for sure, and it seemed there was no force on earth to prevent her from seeing her son.

“Skylar, dear, I said he didn’t die, I didn’t say he was fine. And I was hoping that it would be easier for you in the morning. The priest promised to come as early as he could.” Hayden was holding her hand, but it barely helped. She looked confused and scared.

“What’s wrong with him? Please don’t tell me they tied him to some machine and we have nothing left but a few hours. I can’t become another Claire Johnson who lost her child and lost her mind.”

“They don’t use machines, no. And they couldn’t really tell me the reason for … the way he is and … the way he looks.” Hayden was trying to find good words, but they didn’t come out. He was carefully choosing them and placing them together, but they made it even worse.

“What do you want to say? What do you mean by ‘the way he is and looks’? What’s wrong with him? Why aren’t you telling me, Hayden?” her voice got scared and firm at the same time. She jerked the quilt she was covered with and raised herself up. She looked like an alert lion ready to rush at any moment to rescue her cub.

“Well, they used many terms and … they will write everything down by morning so we will…,” he understood that he was not able to keep it inside any more. “Skylar, I am afraid we cannot keep him. It will be better if he is taken care of by someone … who deals with these cases.” Hayden was ready to meet the storm crushing everything on its way, but it did not come. The only thing that Skylar was radiating was fear. She was puzzled by everything she’d heard these last ten minutes. These were the most confusing ten minutes of her life.

“What are you talking about? What cases? What’s wrong with him? What did the doctors say? I don’t….”

“Those findings they made,” he interrupted Skylar, “those findings are abnormal. His body suffers from several anomalies, numerous anomalies. And they assume that the visible ones are not the only ones. They are afraid he might have more anomalies in his organs. And they can’t say for sure how long… how long he can live, and … whether his brain is damaged. It will take some time … to figure out those things. They don’t know what they are dealing with because they have never seen a thing like this.”

With every word Hayden pronounced he saw Skylar’s hopes fade and her eyes fill with despair and grief.

“What kind of anomalies? Can they fix them?”

“I’m not sure. I believe they can’t. Probably it’s possible for some, but…” finally Hayden understood that sooner or later he had to tell her. It was not something she should hear from the doctors and not something she could see herself, and not even something she would ever be able to bear and cope with. There was nothing he could do about it and no way he could fix it. And there was no way to hide from everything happening around them. “He has four fingers of different size on each hand and … two left feet. And they say it’s a hermaphrodite, meaning that the baby has reproductive organs from both male and female sexes so it’s not actually a boy.”

Skylar closed her eyes and gasped. Tears started streaming down her cheeks. That moment seemed too real, too painful to be true, too strange to be happening to her, too strange to be happening to anyone.

“How could this happen? What are we going to do now?” her tears were streaming into her mouth and down her neck. For a second the world seemed to become motionless and silent, unable to process that grief filling her room. Skylar was staring at her husband with her mouth open. She was trying to find more words, but she couldn’t.

“The doctors said it will take time to understand if he can survive and learn some basic actions, but they cannot guarantee anything, and they cannot even tell how long it will live.”

Skylar was staring at the wall; her thoughts went wandering through the corridors of that hospital to other rooms. It was nighttime so it was quiet, but she could still hear the slight sound of a baby crying somewhere far away, just an echo. She thought about all of those women lying in other rooms on the same floor. “Some of them are still pregnant,” she thought, “some are already happy.” She thought of the day she was born and the way her mother held her for the first time and admired her. She thought of her friend Claire who lost her baby, choked by its umbilical cord. She spent a fortune on psychiatric treatment afterwards, but could not become the same Claire again. Skylar thought of all those relatives and friends who would send cards and call her to congratulate her, imagining how they would visit the Fosters and hug the cute angel they were all waiting for, give his cheek a tweak, make funny sounds and rejoice. Then her thoughts switched to why this had happened, jumped to karma, God, sins, her probably being a bad person, because if she was not then how could such a thing happen to her? Then she thought the reason didn’t matter, it had already happened, the only thing that was still….

“Skylar?” said Hayden in a husky voice, interrupting her thoughts.

Skylar covered her eyes with her hands, gulped down and gasped out. It was time to go back to reality.

“We won’t tell anyone for now,” she removed the quilt and her feet touched the cold floor tiles.

“Where are you going?” Hayden could barely look at her. The amount of suffering she’d experienced that day was too big to bear, enormous and heavy, like a drowned submarine. He could not leave her with this alone, even if her decisions were totally different to what he would prefer.

“I want to see my baby. My son needs me,” her voice was firm and calm. She sounded like the kind of person who is totally prepared to see anything and live through more than a regular person can, and absolutely much more than a regular person should.

She put the bathrobe over her patient gown and went out of the room with sure steps. Hayden followed her. He had to hold her hand the first time she saw her baby and probably every time after that.


The door at the end of the small corridor read ‘Postnatal Care Room’. Skylar pushed it open. The first thing she saw was a table with several folders and charts, the phone and a medical journal with a picture of an embryo on the cover.

“Missis Foster if I am not mistaken?” the nurse sitting at the table stood up and was giving the Fosters a sympathetic smile, shifting her glance from Hayden to Skylar and back.

“Yes. Can I see my son?” Skylar was trying to sound calm, but she could clearly hear that her voice trembled, and she did not even want to think how swollen her face was from crying.

“Sure. You need to put the masks on and the coat. This way, please.”

After putting the masks and coats on, and going through another door, the Fosters were standing in a room full of transparent boxes. Almost each of those contained a child, sleeping soundly and peacefully. Hayden noticed two other nurses whispering in the corner of the room, looking at them. Then one of them crossed herself. They were walking to their box, passing other babies. Some of them were tied to machines, some of them not. They saw a woman in her fifties wrapped up in a blanket sitting beside one of the boxes, telling beads in her hand and whispering something. Her baby looked extremely pale and there were numerous sensors stuck to its skin; the monitors showing curved lines and numbers. Skylar had never thought of being one of those women whose kids are born sick or disabled. It was something that happens very seldom and always to someone else. It’s always somebody else’s grief that people sympathize with and they never think that such a thing will ever fall on their own heads and ruin their lives. That woman looked tired and desperate. “She probably hasn’t slept for several nights in a row,” thought Skylar.

They passed by the woman and came to another transparent box; the nurse stopped. This was it. Skylar came closer and prepared to suppress her emotions, but suddenly smiled. She saw her baby sleeping, with his mouth slightly open. He had the cutest face she’d ever seen. Dressed in light blue cotton rompers and a soft hat, he was covered with the quilt up to his neck, looking just as normal as can be.

The nurse removed the lid, which was the only obstacle between Skylar and her child. Skylar stretched her hands out and slowly pulled the quilt, revealing the baby. Where the sleeves finished she saw tiny hands with four tiny fingers each. The feet were also the way Hayden had told her. She pressed her finger to the baby’s palm. The baby immediately clenched his hand and woke up. Two penetrating eyes were now looking at Skylar. She felt Hayden’s hand on her shoulder. She bent closer and whispered, “Good morning, Dylan.” At this moment it seemed to Skylar that time had stopped.

The sun was rising; the ‘Postnatal Care Room’ was getting busy. Medical students were following their supervisors during the duty doctor's round. More parents were coming to see their babies fighting for life and in most cases winning.

“When can we take him home?” Skylar found another nurse at the reception area.

“As soon as we finish registering him; there are still some birth documents to fill. It won’t take long,” said the nurse slightly smiling or at least trying to, and went away holding a big fat plastic folder.

“Skylar, I know it is a very hard decision that we should make now. No one should experience things like this…” started Hayden.

“The decision,” Skylar’s voice sounded as firm as never before, “is that I take my baby and go home.” She made a long pause, looking straight into her husband’s eyes, “And if it’s different from your decision then you either accept it or not.” She pronounced every word slowly and distinctly. Hayden nodded. He did not want his wife to suffer watching their child dying, and he was certain that the baby would not live long, but there was nothing he could do.

Within an hour they got the birth certificate of their firstborn, Dylan Foster, and were ready to take him home.

“What are we waiting for?” Hayden was hoping that Skylar would change her mind. But that didn’t happen.

“The nurse said we need to wait for a doctor, who will give us the rest of the papers and explain some medical terms, whatever they are.” Skylar was impatiently waiting for the doctor to come, standing by the door with her arms crossed.

“Mister and Missis Foster? I am Doctor Mayer,” the doctor who just came in disturbed the silence and interrupted Skylar’s thoughts. The understated handshake was intended to break the ice, but it didn’t.

Doctor Mayer was a middle-aged, slim woman with a meager face and thin lips. Her eyes were slightly squinted. Her hair was scraped into a ponytail and she did not wear any make-up. Her voice was far from being mild and was monotonous. Her regular stature and perfectly even teeth complemented her character. As soon as she saw Skylar she started scanning her from head to toe and back.

“She is probably the strictest on the floor, or even in the whole building. Poor students. Hopefully she does not eat them for breakfast before drinking some organic tonic green tea without sugar,” thought Hayden, averting her stare.

“Nice to meet you,” replied Skylar.

Doctor Mayer was holding several papers and a pen.

“You need to sign these, and I am here to make sure you understand everything written there … and how serious the situation is. I also need to know if you understand that there will be consequences from his current condition.”

“Sure,” Skylar was ready to sign anything to get rid of the doctors, who were gathering around Dylan’s box at least twice an hour, making notes and photographs. And every time they were different doctors. One of them told her that he was going to describe her son’s ‘case’ in a medical journal and was shouted at so hard that probably the whole hospital could hear. However, after that incident doctors stopped coming. The personnel left them alone as well.

The woman with beads brought Skylar a cup of coffee. “You will handle this, one day,” she said. That was the only thing she said, then she left to go to her child again. While the Fosters were waiting for Doctor Mayer, Skylar was watching that woman. She was still telling the beads and whispering prayers, patiently. Her baby had not woken up in the morning for almost a fortnight. Her baby never opened its eyes to see the brave world. Nobody knew how long it would take that baby to recover and even whether recovery were possible. That woman did not know and could not imagine how many more days she would watch the sun rise and set through the hospital windows and how many more prayers she had to offer until they worked. But her faith was indestructible, solid and unassailable. “It can always be worse,” thought Skylar, looking at her for the umpteenth time.

“The document for discharge is only three pages long. It mainly focuses on pathological findings and characteristics, as they are anomalies,” Doctor Mayer was looking through the document and from time to time raising her eyes to meet with Skylar’s eyes. “You need to confirm that you understand the probable difficulties in your child’s further development. Those tests that we conducted showed that there is no visible brain damage and there is no reason to think that Dylan will have any issues with mental development or abilities. But taking into consideration those abnormities he has, including his feet and fingers, it will be extremely difficult and maybe even impossible for him to walk properly, write or perform any manual tasks. Later, if you wish, you can consult with surgeons on how to improve his characteristics in the future. It also states that Dylan was born a hermaphrodite, that is, with reproductive organs from both sexes. In future you can also surgically change him to being male only, as you previously told us.” When she came to the end of the document she gave the Fosters a questioning look.

“We understand,” Skylar said.

“I need signatures from both of you. And the last thing …. We always say it to every parent whose baby is born with some kind of … differences,” Doctor Mayer was looking straight into Skylar’s eyes, “If one day you feel like it’s too hard for you to manage to raise this boy, you can call any of the numbers given here and these social workers will find a nice place for the child, where people will take good care of him.”

“Where do we need to sign?” Skylar was full of determination to take her son out of the hospital walls and do her best to keep him away from places where strangers would take care of him. She sounded irritated and impatient.

When the last signature was on the paper the Fosters took their son and all the papers and left that hospital forever. Doctor Mayer was looking at them from the window of her office as they got in the car and slowly drove away. During the years she’d worked at St. Mary’s Hospital she’d seen many happy families leaving with their babies and they all looked more or less the same. She also saw some unhappy families leaving with sick or disabled kids, and every one of those had a different problem. But she had never seen anything like Dylan Foster before. She stood leaning against the plastic windowsill, staring at the black hatchback. “That child would better have died and not tortured those grief-stricken parents,” she thought, following the car with her eyes. Suddenly she noticed a red spot on the white plastic. It was a perfectly round spot of blood. She touched her nose and smeared her fingers with a warm, red substance. All of a sudden she felt dizzy, her eyes concentrated on the tips of her fingers, but they were blurry. In a few seconds she lost her balance and dropped, unconscious, to the floor.

Her relatives, who came as soon as they got the phone call from the hospital, were told that she had had a stroke so huge that one of her cerebral hemispheres was totally filled with blood. It was so bad that there were no live nerve endings in that part of the brain, and it didn’t show on her MRT scan; it just looked like a big black spot. Doctor Mayer’s body, though, was totally fine and healthy, and promised to live on machines for at least a dozen years. Doctor Mayer was going to spend all of them in the facility where she had worked her whole life, performing deliveries and introducing new lives to the world, sending them off home to walk their paths. Dylan Foster became the last child she discharged.


Dissections logo pterodactyl by Deena Warner
Website maintained by Michelle Bernard - Contact michelle.bernard64@gmail.com - last updated April 1, 2020