The House of Zane Prologue

Here it is- the prologue to my first NaNo novel.

The House of Zane : In the Beginning 

 By

Zelda Wasser

Prologue: In the Beginning

1680

They were special, they were different, and they were triplets.

There had been whispers behind closed doors between the women inhabitants of the Shtetl, the small Jewish village located deep within the south of the Kingdom of Poland. Most of the dwellers of this small village were kind of heart, pious and humble in nature. However, this was not the case for the girls of her age that hated her and a few of the elder women whose age marked their faces, the women who wished for youth and love. Most of their hate was directed by the fact that the girl was considered the most beautiful of them all; often catching glances from the Polish boys at the town market across the bridge and even marriage proposals regardless of the fact that their family had little wealth from both single and widowed Jewish men. The girl had hair as black as night and green eyes that glowed like the fireflies in the evening throughout the meadows that surrounded their small village. Her skin was pale and devoid of any of the usual marks that come with age. These girls envied her youth and beauty, a grave sin within the Jewish religion but it did not stop them. They wouldn’t believe that she hadn’t been with a man and it was these girls who started the whispers and gave notice to the elder women of the girl’s condition. The women of the small knit community now knew the girl was pregnant, some had known from seeing her on a Sabbath day in the Synagogue or out in the center of town fetching water or meat from the few kosher vendors of the community. However, what drove these women to gossip and become enraged is because they knew nothing of the truth.

Ignorance was not bliss in the community. None knew anything of the father, whom he might be, Jewish or Gentile, single or married. Questions that these women believed were their right to know. According to the Talmud, Jewish law and the very essence of daily Jewish life, the laws state that any gossip, be it true or false cannot be spread from one Jew to another Jew. However, it was the bad habit that none could seem to break, even for some of the most pious and humble. Gossip ruled the community as firmly as the head Rabbi’s fist. The girl was only fifteen; she was not married and in the minds of the women of the community, an extended family of sorts; each began to wonder and whisper the girl had to be a whore or perhaps a victim of rape, G-D forbid. The concept was foreign to them that a young Jewish girl could willingly throw or sell away her virtue to a stranger; a woman’s sexuality did not exist, would never exist in their minds. Neither would any of even the most righteous of women in the Shtetl think to question the possibly that the girl had not been raped nor took a Gentile men into her bed for coin and that it was something else, something dark or evil. Nor could or even would any of them fathom the idea that it could have been one of the local Jewish boys or married men. The consensus was that the only answer to the mystery of her pregnancy involved either the Cossacks or Crimean Khanates, who roamed the land, pillaging villages and savaging women. These men were known to murder for a laugh and bit of entertainment. While hiding behind the curtains of Christianity against their savage and barbaric ways. While the Cossacks and Catholics were especially cruel to the Jews, engaging in pogroms throughout the entire region, it was the Crimean Khanate, descendants of Ghangis Khan and loyal to the Ottoman Empire who were the most vicious of the two, rather than murder and pillage, these brutes would capture and enslave men, woman and children of different faiths into the slave trade of the Ottoman Empire. They saw these people, especially the Jews, as objects to be sold and owned.

Shtetl life was simple; men would rise before sunrise, and leave for the Synagogue or various Houses of Jewish learning, and if they were the lucky ones, the ones with resources; they would remain there until sunset or late into the night when they would return to their wives and many children. Those who were not in the means to do so would still engage in morning, midday and evening prayers, but would fill out their day in their various employments. The new and forced laws of the Kingdom of Poland declared that Jews were unable to own land, and thus most were merchants, butchers, bakers, jewelers or other jobs that didn’t require the use of land. These workers would engage in work from Sunday to Friday afternoon when everything would stop. Only having the Sabbath and Holidays which began at sunset and lasted until the following sunset to give them time to rest and study the Books of Moses and the Laws of the Talmud.

The women of the Shtetl however would stay at home, raising the children who were not yet old enough to learn in Yeshiva or happened to be born a girl. Teaching their daughters from a young age to be able to cook, clean and prepare them to live a life as a pious and respectful wife. Often these women would meet in the market that was near their small village or at each others homes. Under the guise of honest home-makers, these women would engage in gossip, gossip that would then run through a small village as if a wild fire picked up during the summer months. Jewish law and teachings stated that being a gossip monger was a grave sin against G-D and man alike. The law did not differentiate between true or false gossip. Either way one was forbidden from speaking against fellow Jews. However, gossip was rampant in the Shtetl; it was a bad habit that could not be broken, even by some of the most pious members of the community.

Thus it was at one of these gatherings that the women decided something needed to be done about the girl and her situation and it needed to be carried out quickly. Sheina Freida, mother of fourteen children and the Head Rabbi’s wife felt and demanded that she took this task upon herself and promised that swift action must and would be taken. Sheina Freida was a pillar of the entire Shtetl; even some considered and called her the matriarch of the community. She was the only one capable of handling such a delicate and potential scandal, one that needed to be invisible before the men’s eyes and one that would disappear from the entire collective mindset. Her mind was set, now all she needed to do was act.

Sheina Freida knew that if the women of the Shtetl could tell she was carrying a child within her womb just by glancing at her, it would only be a matter of time before the men would see it, as well. Thus, on one crisp winter Friday, hours before the Sabbath was to begin, Sheina Freida finally built up the courage and also knew this was the most appropriate time to confront the girl. It was against Jewish law to embarrass a fellow Jew; the law stated that you weren’t event permitted to make a fellow Jew blush in any kind of manner that could be deemed as embarrassment. However, Sheina Freida decided to overlook these rituals and traditions. She kept reminding herself that this was a fifteen year old girl who had committed many grave sins in regard to her daily life and pregnancy and in doing so, did not deserve the right to be treated as anything, but the whore she presented herself as. Sheina Freida made a decision at the last moment before confronting the girl that perhaps if she spoke with a soft voice, went against the idea that she was a whore for coin to the Gentiles; maybe the girl would tell her the story of what happened and where to find the father. She found the girl gathering water in the center of town, and this was the location that she decided to confront the girl, out of the men’s sight. Thus she began by pleading and begging that the girl confess who the father was; what had happened to her. Had she been forced or was she carrying a bastard conceived from a coin union? The girl remained stone faced, not uttering a sound or even releasing a quiet breath. She could not tell her story; not to Sheina Freida, the Rabbi’s wife, neither her mother nor even her closest friends.

Sheina Freida felt the urge to threaten, knowing that only her husband could levy such punishments, so rather than badger this small, frail girl who was frightened, Sheina Freida explained the girl’s new reality. She spoke those solemn words as the girl stood in the middle of the village holding an empty pail.

“Either way, your days are numbered in the Shtetl. As soon as your child is born; unless you tell me who the father is, I will no longer be able to help you, either will your family. I can promise that you will become an outcast and then banished from our village, and your family will be shamed. Do you know what that means to have your family shamed? It means your brothers will not find adequate marriages, your family will fall into ruins”

With a soft sigh, the girl knew what she had to do. She had to say something. She hadn’t thought of how this would affect her family, but what could she say, what would Sheina Freida understand? With a heavy heart and long sigh she opened her mouth, not knowing what would come out, having trust in G-D that he would help her find the words and what came from her lips even surprised herself. The girl swore upon the Torah, upon the five books of Moses that no man had touched her. Sheina Freida‘s face grew red as the anger boiled within her.

“Insolent child!” She hissed between clenched teeth.

“I swear Rebbetzin, no man has touched me, I have not given away my virtue, I swear to you upon the books of our Forefathers. Please believe me, I am telling you words of truth.” Tears began to fall down the cheeks of the young girl.

Sheina Freida wanted to believe her, but knew how the world worked and how children were created and born unto this world. The idea of the girl claiming an immaculate conception sent a fear into her that without another word, she turned on her heel and stalked away from the girl, leaving her in the village square crying and alone. Sheina Freida went immediately back to her home, where the women of the village waited silently and she spoke of their discussion with the others. One woman, the baker’s wife, Chana Rochel suggested that perhaps this was the work of a Dybbuk, a demon or somehow magically induced. Every elder present turned and just looked at Chana Rochel, wide eyed, not believing the words that just left her mouth. Some even turned their faces and spat on the ground in response, banishing the evil eye from coming into their homes, while others muttered under their breath,

“G-D Forbid.” They did not say a word in reply; instead they remained silent turning their eyes back to Sheina Frieda, their leader. It was the butcher’s wife, Zelda who finally spoke, breaking the silence. Her voice was shaky, not comfortable with stating such a direct and absolute statement.

“If indeed she is telling the truth, the Shtetl cannot and will not hide her. We must not allow this to continue. What would the men think? What would the Magistrate think? We have been living in a time of peace with the Goyim for three years. Do you all remember what they can and will do if they find this out?” They could not accept that the girl had an immaculate conception. The Jewish people could not afford another Mary.

The young and somber girl went back to her family’s home, acting each day as if nothing was going on. She did not mention the conversation she had in the village square by the well or the threat she was afforded. She remained a silent and compliant daughter, trying hard to ignore the stares and whispers of the women as they went by each and every day. The small home was near the village square and needed to be passed in order to get to the market or the Synagogues. She really had nowhere to hide and her belly was starting to swell larger. Often the girl would be required to be outside, hanging her family’s laundry, milking their single cow or other house work that demanded her to be out of the house, where she would be left alone in her thoughts. She often wondered if her own mother knew her secret. How could her mother not know? Her own mother had given birth to eight children; seven boys and one girl. Her mother was able to determine if she was with child just from looking at her own reflection in the water. Her mother just needed look at her own daughter’s face to know she was with child and her daughter’s secret would be no more. Knowing this about her mother made her chew these questions over and over again in her mind. Leaving her a sullen and silent girl, rather than the cheerful teenager she had been only seven months prior.

II 

As time crawled on, the girl retreated into an almost complete seclusion; she could no longer hide her swollen belly. She knew her secret could not and would not remain intact that much longer. It worried her that her mother had yet to make even a mention about her eldest and only daughter’s actions and seclusion. The girl could no longer take the silence, the forced smiles and the small talk that took place between her and her mother. She was too tired to lie any longer. With a deep breath she requested to speak with her father, while dressing in her warmest clothes to head out to the Yeshiva to find him. It was her mother who stopped her, grabbing her arm as the girl opened the door and a cold gust of wind and the scent of snow blew into the small frame house.

“You will NOT go to the Yeshiva. You will NOT shame your father. Do you not understand what YOU have already done to this family, how you have embarrassed our family name. This is a dire situation, now shut the door and come inside. We should speak.”

Her mother forced her voice to soften, finally she would speak, she would confess, she had known for some time and would pray every night to the All Mighty that the man who did this would come forward, would ask to marry their daughter, would ask for forgiveness for the shame he had caused upon their family. That day never came and the girl was already eight months into her pregnancy.

“Mamma I promise you, there is no man, there is no husband to be found. I was not sure at first what was happening to my body, but I remembered from watching you and now I know I am with child and I am still with my virtue.”

“Why do you look into my eyes and promise me lies. That is not how the world works. You must have a man and woman to create a child. Maybe you do not understand what it means when you are asked if a man tou…”

“Mamma I know what it means. It has NEVER happened!!”

The girl sat down at the small wooden table and began to pour out her soul to her mother, swearing on her life and the life of her unborn child that she had never been touched by a man; she had not engaged in an illicit relationship with one of the Polish boys in the town over or used magic to create the being inside her. She did not know how it had happened,

“I stopped bleeding and just started to have a bigger and bigger stomach, Mamma” The girl tried to debunk every accusation that was being held against her, and as mother and daughter’s eyes met again, it was as if the sheet had been lifted above their eyes, they both knew the truth and saw the truth, even if they couldn’t understand what had happened or why it had happened to her and her family. No man had done this to her, and she had to go into hiding until her mother could speak to her father and come to some solution, something that would stop the gossip, some way to make it that this unborn child would not grow up a bastard or that mother and child be sent to live with the Gentiles or in the woods nearby, shunned and shamed.

“You will have the child and I will say it is mine. I am still able to bear children”

“Mamma, they know. The women all know.”

“Oy vei. We shall figure something out. We always do.”

What neither the mother nor the girl knew was that her father was coming home, he had heard the news, the whispers in the Yeshiva and became outraged. He had left his studies, trying to hide the fear, anger and shame upon his bearded face, his deep brown eyes showing the rage that was boiling inside him, ready to explode at the very mention that these lies and gossip could be correct. He was a tall and slender man, his hands soft and smooth from living a life of learning and not of hardship. His beard had begun to show streaks of white within his thick black bush that grew until the middle of his chest and the edges of his hair line had also began to turn white against the blackness upon his head. He was one of the most well respected men in the Shtetl, spending his hours next to the Rabbi studying the secrets of the Torah and arguing the laws of the Talmud. The very idea or thought that a scandal of this magnitude could and had occurred within his family was an unbearable thought, especially something against his only daughter, his first born. The head Rabbi a slender older man with head and beard full of silver walked in stride with him, yet both were silent; both arguing in their minds that it couldn’t be true, it had to be another girl, nothing like this has ever happened. There hadn’t been a pogrom against the Shtetl in over three years, forcing them both to toss aside a rape explanation that would have easily washed away this stamp of shame.

It would not have been a sin against herself and G-D had it been rape. The situation would have been cleared cleanly with a swift marriage to one of the older widowers who would care for the child as if it was his own and would have made the young girl a woman in the community that wouldn’t be whispered about behind anyone’s back.

The Rabbi had known the girl since the day she had been born, and she was nothing like the whispers that had finally come to their attention. She was a good girl; she was a soft spoken girl who would never bring shame upon her family. She was a girl who held to all of the laws of Judaism both from G-D and the Rabbinate. The Rabbi remained silent as they approached the home, to bear witness to what in his heart he prayed was nothing more than gossip mongering and a lie. As mother and daughter whispered softly before the warm hearth, the door to their small home opened with a crash. Her father’s eyes looked from mother to daughter. The soft spoken man who had always had a warmth in his voice that could make any situation better ordered his daughter to stand up, his voice held no warmth this time; instead it was replaced with that of a stranger, a voice was that filled with hate and ice.

“Stand-up” Her father practically shouted.

His wife quickly rose to her feet before her daughter could make a move and put her hand upon her husband’s chest. This was something that the girl was not used to seeing. She had never seen her parents touch or show any sort of affection towards each other. The more she thought, the more she realized she had never seen any of her friend’s parents or any betrothed couples touch. She held back a smile for the briefest of moments before returning back to the situation at hand.

“Husband, please calm down.” She spoke softly and slowly, trying to defuse the situation before anything could arise. She looked into the same eyes that she had looked into for the past seventeen years with love and kindness, but his eyes reflected back something different, something she had never seen before. His eyes reflected the fire and rage heightened by the reflections of the small cooking fire. He eventually turned his burning gaze upon his daughter and there it would continue until they knew the truth. His daughter followed his command, slowly rising to her feet, her hand instinctively slipping to her back to help maintain her balance and ease the heavy weight against her frail frame. She was all bone and pregnancy, not fattening up like the married women would when with child.

At this point in her pregnancy, he didn’t know how he could have missed it, how anyone could have missed how bulbous her stomach had become. The Rabbi had seen his very own wife along with many women stand up this way long enough to know, but he needed to be sure; there could be no doubt in his mind, a community in which he was their spiritual leader and upheld all the laws of the Jewish people. This was not something he could just ignore. The Rabbi saw the interaction between Husband and Wife and knew his place in this ordeal.

“There has been allegations brought against you girl. Allegations that you are with child. Is this true?”

The girl trembled before the wrath of both her father and the Rabbi but remained silent, looking from her mother to the Rabbi and back.

“Remove your clothing, so we may know the truth.” The Rabbi became steadfast, raising his voice and forcing the sadness from his eyes because he already knew the answers and a part of him did not want this interrogation to continue.

“NO!” The mother protested, stating that this was a woman’s matter, that it wasn’t appropriate for the Rabbi or her father to see the girl’s naked body. She was trying to stall the inevitable; she knew the moment they saw her daughter’s bulging belly that she would be cast out of the village. For a brief moment, the girl knew true fear, an emotion she had never experienced before. The Rabbi turned and looked to her father. An unspoken agreement was made between them, for a moment later, they both walked out of the small house. The girl’s mother knew they were going to get the elder women. This was how they worked; a Jewish man did not see the naked body of any women except his own, and both men being pious and G-D fearing, they went to fetch the women who would answer their fears.

Her mother turned to look at her daughter. Her prayers that a widower would come along and take her out of pity; was a prayer that would remain unanswered. Her mother placed her hands on her daughter’s stomach, feeling the baby within kick against her touch. At that moment, her heart which she had forced to harden melted for the love of her very first unborn grandchild and she said a silent prayer. With a deep breath and the knowledge that time was against them she began to whisper in a hurried voice,

“You must leave now madalah. I can only do so much to help you at this moment. You are to takes these things with you and run as fast as you can out of our village and towards the forest. You must go into the forest and head for those caves you found when you were very young. Do you remember where they are?”

“Yes Mamma. Please… I cannot leave you!”

“Go into the forest, find those caves, make haste and I will come find you”

The mother stood and swiftly moved throughout the only home the girl had ever known, grabbing some small items of value and shoving them into an old leather satchel before filling it with the little bit of challah bread and food that they had left from the Sabbath meal. She also took the small water jug from the mantle and placed it upon the table, filling it immediately with water that had been brought back from the well only hours before. Looking around quickly, her mother felt a cold chill run down her spine. She took her own shawl from her body and wrapped it around her daughter. She took one last look at her only daughter; then with a heavy hand she pushed the bag and jug at her daughter before embracing her.

“May G-D watch over you” She whispered into her daughter’s ear. She felt a bit of dread when releasing her, was it a premonition that just came over her? Why did she feel that this would be the last time she would see her when she planned to leave the home and go find her daughter once the men and women of the village settled down? Her daughter knew nothing of this world beside what happened in their home and village. Would she know to fetch wood and make a fire? Would she understand the dangers of the forest and be able to overcome them until she was able to be at her side? She did not know these answers that wracked her mind while watching the small figure of her daughter fade into the distance. She returned into the home, not even bothering to close the door. She could hear them coming, the women, sounding like nothing more than a gaggle of squawking geese.

Moments later a small group of women huddled in the door frame, pushing to enter the house without knocking. But the girl was gone. Then Zelda, the butcher’s wife was the first to speak.

“Where is she?” Her mother had had her back to them, looking down at the small dwindling fire. She could not hold back the tiny smile that spread across her thin pale lips; these women, the wives of the leaders of the village with prying eyes had not seen her daughter’s dash for freedom. Her prayer had been somewhat answered. Now she just needed her to survive alone until she could go to her.

 III

The girl had not looked back; her fear drove her to move. She had heard their voices faintly when she reached the edge of their village and broke free into the open meadow. She could see the tree line before her, and it filled her with trepidation. It was only once she knew she could not be spotted that she stopped for a brief moment, her lung’s burning and head throbbing. She could not see her home, but only the shadow of the only place she had ever known. A place she wondered if she would ever see again. The thought stunned her. As if G-D himself needed to push her, the setting sun broke through the oncoming winter clouds and began to burn the back of her neck. It was then that her reality slapped her, gasping for breath she began to run again, the dark looming forest rising higher and higher before her. She had run as quickly as she could to the edge of the forest. She stopped a few feet before she would become engulfed within the darkness of the forest and once again she turned and looked back from where she had come. She couldn’t see the village, only the slow slope of the meadow and the trees in various and brilliant colors. Winter had come early this year, and the trees had not had a moment to catch up. She could smell the incoming snow; she shivered, her body covered in a cold sweat from running so hard. Turning she looked back into the darkness that loomed within the forest and again she felt this deep seeded fear.

She steadied herself against a tree, looking around before taking her first steps into the shadowy forest, disappearing from the ones who gathered to see her humiliated by the elders, to see her banished. Her eyes began to scan every surface, every brush. She knew the dangers of the forest, having grown up hearing threats and misfortunes befalling those who ventured into the forest alone. It was not the animals that she feared, but the bandits and thieves that lived outside of the law. She had to keep her wits about her she kept telling herself. She stumbled over a rock, catching herself before falling, clutching her stomach while her heart began to slow from the sudden and almost deadly mistake.

On steady ground the girl cried out, the shrill sound echoing within the dense brush, birds’ squawking in response as they flew from their roosts. It was then that she doubled over in pain. She knew this pain; it was the baby kicking. However, something was slightly different, it seemed sharper, lasting longer and caused her to catch her breath. She took a shallow breath and began to quicken her steps, trying to desperately remember where the caves were located. Forcing herself to forget all the whispers, the lies, and instead, she focused on her body, her sounds, her aches and the pain that began to gather in strength. This pain was drastically different; it no longer felt like a kick as it had all the other times. This was something deeper and darker within her body. She saw a strange rock formation covered in dense moss that triggered her memory; the caves were not that much farther ahead. She stumbled as she crossed a thin stream, her leather boots becoming saturated with cold mud and icy water. The caves were only a couple hundred feet away, and it took all of her power to make it to the nearest one, her body was now covered in a heavy sweat, she was panting as she dropped to the damp earth in the gloomy cave.

Her father had stormed back into the home, looking at his wife; he demanded to know where his daughter had gone. She had never lied to her husband in the seventeen years that they had been married, but tonight she had no other choice, she would always lie on the subject, holding her daughter’s secret until her dying day. He lifted a bushy salt and peppered eyebrow, knowing that she was lying and not understanding why. However, the deed had been done, and he knew what he had to do. With the Rabbi beside him, he ripped the lapel of his black jacket before reciting Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.

“Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.”

“STOP, MORDECHAI!” She screamed, pulling at his arms, trying desperately to engage the only man she had ever loved, a love that become a stranger to her.

“May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.” He began to shuffle back and forth in the traditional manner in which Jews prayed. He kept his eyes closed, focusing on each word as a single tear fell down along the ridge of his nose.

“Please! PLEASE! PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS TO OUR DAUGHTER, TO OUR FAMILY”. She screamed while the Rabbi responded to the prayer being said. He did not stop or look at the screeching woman. His eyes were closed tight; his aged and wrinkled face lifted toward the heavens. This was the best thing to do. It was the best outcome for the entire community at large.

“Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.”

“Amen” replied the Rabbi in a soft voice. By now the woman were staring wide eyed. Could this really be happening? The girl deserved this; she had sinned before G-D and could not repent from a sin of this magnitude.

“May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.”

“Amen” Her mother had fallen to the ground sobbing freely for the loss she would now be commanded to obey.

“He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.”

“Amen” Each man took three steps backwards before bowing low to the right, left and then center. The prayer was made; the deed could not be undone no matter how much pain it caused him or his family.

His wife was lying on the cold in complete hysterics. She had begged, attempted to prevent him from uttering the entire prayer, though, it had been to no avail. As he finished the words of the ancient prayer, he sat down on the ground, putting ash from the hearth on his face. His daughter was now dead to him; he would sit shiva for seven days and mourn her, and no matter what happened in the future, she would never be alive to him again. His face grew stern in the wake of his wife’s bewildered expression. He would under no circumstances speak of his daughter ever again.

The girl pulled herself up slowly from the cool stone floor of the cave, letting only her shoulder blades touch the damp rock wall.

IV

“We can do this. Mother will be here soon. She will not abandon us” She held her bulging stomach as she whispered to the baby within her, reassuring herself in the process. A gasp escaped from her lips when she felt a wetness seep from her body and a strong pain racked her body leading her to scream into the darkness that overtook her. She had to calm down. She had helped her mother and the midwife deliver her brothers, remembering how the midwife would order her mother to remain calm, to hold back the screams. She pulled her heavy skirts up and ran her fingers across her inner thigh, feeling a sticky warm substance and in the darkness she knew it to be blood. She took a deep breath; she needed fire, and she needed water. Tonight she was going to become a mother, whether she wanted it or not. She forgot all the accusations against her as she leaned back against the wall and screamed in pain. Her eyes had been closed so tightly, the skin around them began to hurt. She sunk back to the ground, forgetting what she needed to survive this ordeal. It had felt like hours that she sat back against the cold stone, waiting for the sun, waiting for death, waiting for someone to come and save her. She wanted her mother, but she was not sure if that would even be an option. She was running out of time, and her head was beginning to feel heavy.

She felt a darkness descending over her entire being like a heavy wool blanket, when she felt the presence of someone, or something within her cave. She became afraid that it was a wild animal, having smelled the blood, coming to look for its next meal. She slowly opened her bright green eyes which had finally become accustomed to the dark, not knowing what to expect. She saw the shadow of a tall being standing over her. Without saying a word, the being crouched down and began to light a fire between them with a small bundle of wood that she couldn’t see.

“It is not fair. I am all alone.”

“You are no longer alone, Devorah. I have come back for you”

“I am afraid. I have been abandoned by my family, my friends. Everyone” Her words were becoming nonsensical, she was starting to babble. She wasn’t hearing the words he spoke; she did not even try to understand his meaning by coming back for her. It no longer mattered. He placed a single finger against her lips to quiet her; he needed the silence and not the distractions of a panic-stricken near death young girl.

Her body became softer, soaking up the warmth from the fire; she looked over at the stranger. He was like no man she had ever seen. His hair was the color of fire, his eyes the color of fresh grass in the spring. He was taller than the average boys in her Shtetl and she knew by his clothing that he was not from the Polish town that was across the bridge. His skin seemed to glow in the dark and shined against the fire. Still no words were spoken as he lifted her skirts up to rest under her enormous belly. He could smell the blood spreading across her smooth skin and tentatively he reached out, his fingertips brushing over her upper thighs. A gasp slipped past her thin lips from the cold of his touch. This was the first time a man had touched her, and it was then that she felt afraid, afraid for herself and her baby. Her mind had turned on a switch, her motherly instincts kicking in for the very first time. The man on the other hand kept his face hidden in the orange hue. She pulled herself up into a sitting position; her back pressed back against the stone. All she could do at this moment was stare at his hands, try to see his face clearly, attempt to rise and flee; things she could not do. He used his hands to slowly push her thighs apart, there was more blood then he expected. It was then that their eyes met, and she experienced a sense of déjà vu.

“Help him.” These would be Devorah’s last words; she took a deep breath and closed her eyes, her head falling to the side. Her last memories were not of pain or loss for the baby, but of this man. She had known him but could not place from where or how. She was tired, and with her last breath she slipped into darkness, a deep sleep like nothing she had ever experienced before. The girl slept through the entire labor, not uttering a single sound. To anyone watching, they might have thought Devorah was under a spell. She had gone into labor quietly, and little effort was needed to pull the baby from her now unconscious form. Her breathing became almost nonexistent, and all the man could do was finishing the task at hand. He needed to save these babies lives.

Devorah had not known she had been carrying more than one child, yet he had known. He had known all along. His hands and arms were stained red from the blood of Devorah. Each child had been pulled from their mother as if she was nothing more than a vessel that held them captive. The red headed man cleaned and swaddled the three tiny infants in clean, crisp white linen cloth and held them close to his chest. Each child let out a shrill cry before falling into a sweet and dark sleep against his cold body. He took one last look at Devorah while her life slipped away and only then did he leave the cave into the cool night air. Her mother would come to find her daughter’s corpse later in the evening, fear gripping her that the child had been taken away by an animal. She held her daughter’s dead body close to hers and she screamed up at the heavens’. At that moment, Devorah’s mother vowed to her only daughter that justice would be done.

Two boys and one girl, a set of triplets as the prophecies had said would come to pass. The red headed man with glowing green eyes watched the mother from a distance, he knew that a part of her had died along with her daughter, but he needed her. Not now, but soon he would come back and find her. One minute he was hidden in the shadows of the cave, the next he was gone, as if he had never been there before, as if the children had never been born. Each child had a destiny to fulfill, and for the moment he would be their guardian until he delivered two of the children, the boys. For himself, he kept the smallest and youngest of the three and the only one with a head of blazing red hair. Looking down at the baby’s small sleeping face, her little fingers curled around his long bony index finger; he whispered as his lips pressed against the baby’s forehead.

“Zillah…Zillah Zane”

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About zeldawasser

Zelda Wasser was raised in a Chasidic ultra orthodox Jewish home in Brooklyn, NY, and relocated to Rochester to marry her long term partner and get away from the city. She took time off from college to volunteer in the Israeli Army and upon her return went to Brooklyn College where she joined Sigma Delta Tau and dove into Judaic Studies. After 9/11, the loss of five friends was too much for her to handle and she was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder, PTSD, and social anxiety. A rat attack left her partially disabled in her right arm and shoulder, but did not stop her pursuit of a better life. Ten years later Zelda finally received a dual degree in Compartitive Religion and Mixed Media Arts. She lives at home with her partner and their dog Wicked.
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