Ten months earlier we were watching Rayph play on the floor in our living room and Bekah looked at me with sadness on her face and motioned to him.
“He looks lonely,” she said.
I looked at him and in that moment she was right. He did look lonely. I had known he would.
When we brought Rayph home from the hospital he had filled up our lives. But as we moved to Milwaukee and our new life began it had become clearer and clearer that we were not complete. There was a part of the team missing. We were down a man. And I had begun to prepare myself for doing it again.
The morning sickness. The night sickness. The food runs and the hormone tears. The late nights and the early mornings. But more than anything I was ready again for the joy.
With Rayph had come a lot of exhaustion and fear but all of that had been dwarfed by the joy he had given me. I was ready for more.
We started trying to get pregnant right away. And we had always been good at this part.
It was very soon when we had our news the last piece was on its way. Our family was about to be complete.
We went to the doctor for a late term checkup. We were at the point where we were coming for our check up every week and by the midpoint of this one the doctor began to talk options. See in Rayph’s birth, Bekah’s blood pressure had spiked and they had been forced to put her on a drug to treat that. Well during this visit we saw that her blood pressure was rising again and the doctor wanted to induce. She said that she would just get us in the bed and see what happened. A little nudge she would give us and we would see what came of it.
Before they induced the first of the contractions began. They ended up breaking her water but by then we knew this was it.
This was a different experience altogether.
Rayph had come with 18 hours of pain, then hours of sitting in a dark room as Bekah slept and slowly made her progress in labor. Tobin was a different force at once.
For the first few hours she would feel the contractions hard but they were short. She was progressing well but the pain was intense.
We had another doula. A bold woman we will call Valkyrie. She was powerful and funny and she loved what she did. She had a bit of a crass side but that was why we loved her and just like Sheryl we had told her about the alters and prepared her for their coming. We told her that, just like with Rayph, I would be shifting in and out of different alters all through the birth so we needed her to concentrate on Bekah. Valkyrie was ready and she sat with us, gave Bekah different positions and did all the things we needed her to.
When the time came to push, things got hard again.
They pulled her out of the bed and put her in a rolling bed. They brought her out into the middle of the room and the pushing began.
On one side of the bed was Valkyrie, holding Bekah’s hand and speaking encouraging words. The doctor stood at the foot of the bed doing her job and Shade stood beside Bekah, his hand in hers, helping her with her breathing. When the time to push came we trusted Guardian’s voice to call out the power in Bekah. She responded as she had with Rayph and everything was fine.
When Tobin’s head emerged things got scary. Out came his head and Bekah slumped. His body was still inside of her. She did not give the last push and his neck was being squeezed.
“You need to push one more time for me,” the doctor said.
Bekah sighed and looked up at the ceiling.
“One more push. Come on, give me one more,” the doctor said.
“Push, Bekah,” Valkyrie said. “One more big one.”
Shade shook Bekah’s hand. “Come on, baby, you have one more push to go.”
The doctor was holding Bekah open so that she did not crush Tobin’s throat and she looked up at me frantic. “She has to push right now. He can’t stay like this.”
But birthing the head had been such a drain on her that in her mind she was done. Bekah had given up. She was at rest.
Shade pulled back and shoved Guardian out. He looked down at Bekah and with the voice of a field commander he said, “One more push. Give it to me right now!” The room shook with the sternness of that command.
She looked up at him and she looked at Tobin and she grunted one more time and with one mighty push Tobin was in the world.
As soon as the birth was done, they walked off with Tobin, and Shade stumbled back. He pressed his back to the wall and fought for breath.
They sewed Bekah up and sat her up in the bed. She looked at them as if nothing had just happened and she said, “Food. Now.”
They handed her the menu and she began sorting through it.
They gave Tobin to Shade and I will let him tell you what he saw.
Yeah, they handed me this little guy and I looked at him and smiled. “He has red hair,” I said.
“That is blood. He still has blood in his hair,” a nurse said.
“It’s red.” I looked up at Bekah. “His hair is red.”
She looked up at me and from across the room said, “How does he look?”
I opened my mouth to say perfect when I was shoved aside. And Teth burst forward. I’m going to let him tell you what he saw.
He was big. Big like the sun. Big like the bull tries to be. Big like the sweep of the moon.
He was wild. I felt his heart in my fists as I gripped him. He was testing me. He was roaring. This beast had yet to cry. But within him I could sense a howl like my own.
I wept. Then I left. Then came Shadow. I’ll let him tell you what he saw.
This little fucker had some cheeks, God damn! They took up his whole face. They were huge and I knew instantly that Bekah had gotten her wish.
As Rayph grew he was looking more and more like us. The hair, the smile, the face. There is a picture upstairs on our wall of me when I was a little fucker and when Rayph saw it for the first time his face screwed up and he said, “I don’t remember that robe.” This little dude was sure he was looking at a picture of himself.
Well Bekah wanted one that looked like her and with those cheeks, man, there was no denying this was her fucking kid.
“Can I see him?” she asked.
I carried him over to her and she looked at him as I handed him to her and she saw it immediately.
“You do look like me.” She burst into tears and stared down at our new little badass.
She made us make her a promise but I was gone. I think it was Assassin she was talking to by then. I’ll let him tell you what they agreed to.
It was not Assassin she was talking to, it was me. It was Guardian.
She looked at me and with stern resolve she stated, “I never want to do this again. We are done.”
“Agreed,” I said.
“If I ever say I want to have another kid, get me a puppy,” she said.
“Done,” I said with a nod. I asked her if she was okay.
She said she was hungry and that she had ordered a cheeseburger.
I grabbed the nearest nurse.
“Where is her burger?” I asked.
“We have sent the order to the kitchen and they will have it up here soon,” the woman said nodding.
“No,” Guardian said. “This woman just went through labor. She brought that baby,” he pointed at his son. “Into this world with a grunt and a scream and she is hungry. Soon is not enough. I hope you can understand that.”
“I’m sure she won’t have to wait for—”
“Ma’am, with as much respect as I can muster, I am going to ask you to please go to the kitchen and get my wife some food. The very first thing she did when she was done giving birth to a child was pick up a menu.” Guardian placed a gentle hand on the woman’s shoulder. “She did not ask to see her baby. She asked for a menu. I will ask you this. Have you ever given birth?”
The woman’s face changed. “I’ll go check on the meal for you.”
“You are appreciated,” I said.
When I looked at Bekah again, she was fine. I stepped aside when she told us to call her parents. I don’t talk to her mother. I am pretty sure Shade made that call.
I knew what I was getting the moment I picked up the phone. There had been a bit of a struggle going on here.
When we talked about having children, we made a deal. Bekah was going to pick all of the girl’s names, I would name the boys. Rayph was named without issue but Tobin was a bit of a thing.
My decision was to name him Tobin Andre Teller. The middle name being the proper name that we have given Guardian. We wanted to name this child after Guardian the way that we had named Rayph after me.
The only issue came when Bekah was talking to her mother about it and her mother spoke up. “Wouldn’t it be great if we named him Tobin Vigil Teller?” she said. “Oh that is so beautiful. Oh my God, I’m in love with it. Isn’t it perfect?”
“It is a pretty name,” Bekah had said. “But I don’t get to pick the name, that is for Jesse to do and I am pretty sure he is set on Tobin Andre Teller.”
When I woke up that afternoon I was hit with it.
“Isn’t Tobin Vigil so beautiful?” Hymnal said. “That is such an amazing name. You have to go with Tobin Vigil.”
“The boy’s name will be Tobin Andre. I have already decided.”
She waved it off. “Well don’t decide now, just think about it and wait until you see him and let us know then what you think.”
“I have made up my mind,” I said.
“Just wait until you see him.” She looked at Bekah. “He can wait until he sees him, can’t he?”
I would not let that question be answered by Bekah. Would not let Hymnal use Bekah as leverage so, I agreed. I would not tell her his name until I had seen my son.
But I knew that Tobin’s name was Tobin Andre Teller.
I picked up the phone and she answered on the first ring.
“You have a new grandson,” I told her.
“And what is his name?” Hymnal asked.
“His name is Tobin Andre Teller,” Shade said. I don’t remember anything after that. Because when I said that, out came Assassin.
I stepped forward ready for a fight. I had six words that I was going to say to her if she complained about the name Shade had chosen for our son. Six words. She did not make me say them.
“Okay, that is fine,” was all she said. “How is Bekah?”
Then I was gone. Hymnal and I have never really seen eye to eye. She doesn’t understand why I am necessary. I think her Christian heart has trouble coming to terms with the murderer inside her son-in-law. I did not want to taint the experience she was having so I stepped away.
Out came Shadow. He always loves to shit on perfect moments.
I did not shit on this perfect moment. She asked how Bekah was and I very politely told her that Bekah was a badass. She cannot be stopped; she is a fucking juggernaut. After I had said that, I pulled back. I was done. My fun was had. I had worked a curse word or two into the conversation.
But it was not for her. I was not shitting on Hymnal. This moment was not about Hymnal. I was saying it so that Bekah could hear me say it. I was looking her in the eye when I said it. I wanted Bekah to know that I thought she was a badass juggernaut. She needed to hear that more than Hymnal needed to hear pristine words spoken by a golden tongue.
So, my deed done, I winked at Bekah as her mother asked if she could talk to her. I handed things over to Shade and I took off. Hospitals make me nervous.
I handed the phone to Bekah and she talked to her mother for about two minutes before Guardian’s favorite nurse walked in with Bekah’s dinner, maybe breakfast. I took the phone and talked to Hymnal but as the first words were being spoken Guardian came out real fast. Just real fast.
I pressed the phone to my chest and tapped the nurse on the shoulder. “Thank you so much for your service. It will not be forgotten.”
Back on the phone I talked to Hymnal about the arrangements. When she would be flying in, if she would need me to pick her up. We coordinated the entire thing and then I let her go.
By the time I was done, Bekah was done with her meal. She had inhaled the burger and the fries. We asked her if she wanted more. I think it was Guardian who asked her. She said she was fine.
We stayed in the afterglow of the birth until the weight of sleep dropped on her, then she told me to go home. Get some sleep and come back strong.
Valkyrie gave me a ride home. When I got home, I wrote a note for Mentor begging him to wake me in eight hours and please take me to the hospital.
I dropped into the bed and fell asleep instantly.
When Mentor woke us up, he infuriated Assassin. I’ll step aside and let him rant a bit.
That is a great man. Mentor is a friend and if I could love a person outside of this family, I’m sure he would be on that short list. However, he enraged me when he woke me up. I got out of bed and I let them dress me. I stepped out ready to tell him how I felt but Shadow had already stepped forward.
He did not want me to yell at Mentor for waking us up ten minutes early.
Yeah, me and Mentor jumped in his truck and I asked him to stop to get a Thick Burger from Hardees on our way to the hospital.
Assassin always tells me that those things have more than a thousand calories but fuck if they are not so damn good and worth the weight. I think that after this book is done, I am going to have one. We will see.
Mentor was excited. Him and Marigold had been talking about the labor and the birth all day. Shade had not only asked in his note for a ride and help getting up but had also given a brief written account of the birth.
Mentor had lots of questions and I answered them all. I ate Shadow’s burger, which he is still pissed about, then we got back to the hospital.
Now that is about the gist of it but I wanted to let Artist tell you what he saw the next day when Mentor and Marigold came to visit. It is kinda breathtaking and it is totally insane.
I was at the birth. I had winged beasts flying around my head. I heard voices on the wind from the world in awe of his might. I saw colors no man or woman has ever seen before. And over all of it the blare of trumpets as the arrival of the final stone was in place. But none of that is what matters.
What I want to talk about is the next day, when Rayph was brought to meet his younger brother. I will not call Tobin his baby brother.
Koh flew around the corner before Rayph got there. Her green hair was a flurry around her plump face and she laughed as she entered the room. “He is so excited,” she said.
Koh is the name of my traveler friend. The green one with the green hair. Since Rayph was born she had begun to follow him everywhere. She hounded his steps and had quite fallen in love with him. She fluttered to my side as Rayph walked in and she stopped at my shoulder.
“Is he here yet?” she asked me. We had talked at length about the one who would follow Tobin and though I had been against it, Koh was right. She was right from the start. There was one soul and only one who would work for this young man.
As Rayph walked around the corner he slowed way down. He almost stopped and he looked scared. He had been looking forward to meeting his brother for so long but now the moment had come and he was nervous. Koh fluttered to his side and gave him a bit of a nudge. He giggled to the thing she whispered at him and he came forward.
Marigold picked him up and set him on the bed before Bekah. Bekah held Tobin where Rayph could see him and Mentor looked at Shade and smiled.
“Get in there. Let me get a picture,” he said.
Shade sat on a stool on the far side of the bed and they all gathered together. I stood back with Koh.
“What will he look like?” I asked.
“His mother. Look at those cheeks, they are like little butt cheeks on his sweet little face,” Koh said.
“Who will he take after?” I asked.
“His father,” Koh said. “He will need his mother more than Rayph, just as his father before him. Tobin will only be happy when serving and entertaining others. He is Servant’s son through and through.”
“Teth calls him The Might,” I said.
“Oh yes, this one is very strong. He is mighty, beast like in his intensity. He has Teth’s heart for sure.” She smacked me with her staff. Koh is so small that her staff is a daffodil. She smacked me with it and she laughed. “He is talented like you though. He is a creator.”
When I looked up, I saw the Wolf Mother standing behind Bekah. Her snout snorted at me, her strong arm resting around Bekah’s shoulders. She wore her hair in braids. Her dress was blue and silk. Made of scarves. She carried the knife I had given her. She looked stern but when does she not?
Cackle the Piper finally arrived a few minutes later.
His horns had been polished. His leg hair combed. His hooves clicked on the linoleum as he walked and he pulled at the coat that Wolf Mother had made him wear. She would not have him come to see Tobin the first time naked. She said he would get plenty of shirtless time with the boy.
He walked around the bed to the crib on wheels. This was before the jaundice had set in bad and they put Tobin under the lights.
Cackle looked down at Tobin and grinned. He poked him with his hairy finger and Tobin giggled.
His body didn’t. But he did.
I was doing the rewrite of this chapter when I took a break to get some air. I walked out onto the driveway and out came Artist. He scowled when he looked up to see Cackle the Piper standing at the end of the driveway in the blue coat that Wolf Mother had made for him.
Artist looked at him and pointed, “Blue Poppy?”
Cackle laughed. “Finally figured it out, huh?”
See when Tobin was about four, there was a week when he stopped listening to his father at all. When Adam told him to do something, Tobin would look to his right or to his left for a breath. He would look back up at me and say, “Blue Poppy says no. Blue Poppy said not to.”
For a week Adam struggled with the figure that Tobin called Blue Poppy. See Cackle was tired of Adam. Artist had not shifted out in years and Cackle was sick of watching one alter run our entire life. He knew that his friend Smear Lord of Ire had worked hard for our life and all of it had been taken away.
We will get to that.
Smear and Cackle talked at the end of the driveway for a while before Smear came back in to work. It had been a while since the two of them had talked. They laughed and The Piper told Smear a few crass jokes, then Cackle walked behind a tree and was gone.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 2: Normal Street.