Queen Dairy
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  • 13

    It only dawns on Lil, as she witnesses the ultrasound on the hospital monitor, the staticy blob which has an eye, that she is going to be a mother. Earlier, she's been vomiting at home, with a queasiness that she's never experienced before.

    "It's a her," the technician goes.

    "Vincent.." she says - he stands beside her laying on the bed, his eyes tearing up while he clasps her hand. "She's already beautiful.."

    For the past months, Vincent has been setting up a new life for Lil's sake. For their child's sake. Running away to a southern tropical town, all the prize money, and the money he's embezzled from Antonioni – it's gone towards a house that overlooks the sea. The home they've bought; Vincent has been able to get for cheap because it's been abandoned for the longest time.

    The floorboards are worn, the wallpaper tearing. But with a bit of elbow grease, Vincent is able to refit the home to a pristine state – Lil spending hours agonizing over the right shade of purple for her room..

    And every day, it's a joy. Under the blue skies, the people here – although they speak mainly in Spanish, they're so friendly, and so very supportive of them. When they've caught the news of their pregnancy, they are showered with gifts: a crib, a doll collection, a set of nursery books..

    And every night, Lil clasps her dear Vincent by her side when she sleeps. Her dreams run wild with fantasies of spending happy moments with her daughter – she'll name her Pino.

    In the mornings, she writes in a journal about her latest dreams. One of which is riding amidst the horses across the valleys – by the time Pino's here, she'll never miss the chance to regret leaving Pino without the best memories. What excites her, besides revealing her inner, private thoughts with Vincent's acceptance, is that she just knows it'll come true, a hundred times over, a re-assuring blanket which bridges over the skies to the stars.

    "Vincent.." she says, wistfully, one night in the fields as they see the streaks in the sky. "Will you take me to see the moon.. and Mars?"

    "I will." His palm is feeling how her heart beats, sliding down to the fertile swelling of her belly. "If not tomorrow, then someday."

    On the cutting board, Lil slices beef – preparing a juicy dinner; Vincent has spent the whole day fashioning a workshop when she begins to feel the contractions.


    The knife clatters, falling to the ground, as Lil keels over, feeling the water spill out between her legs. Vincent's outside – even though he has the buzzsaw on, slicing through 9x4s, he senses Lil's cries.

    "Lil.. Lil!" he goes, running to find her laying, clutching her belly. Her face is contorted with an immensely splitting pain, so he musters all his might to carry her up.


    The drive to the hospital is marked by looming clouds, threatening to form a tornado amidst the hills. Dust crackles over the windshield, and Vincent turns the wipers on – hoping to see the road ahead.

    Hoping for deliverance.

    Although Vincent wouldn't call himself religious – he'd met the grey-haired pastor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Lake, who spews out sermons about accepting life's turns with an open-hearted spirit. Even if our Lady seems like at best an abstract concept, she'll listen to your prayers in times of trouble, for sinners and non-believers alike.

    The energy from the church is unbelievable, with choir singers praising the Lady's faith to the tune of flamenco dance. It's an entertaining watch, but what caught Vincent was the pastor's particular interest in him, and Lil's pregnancy..

    In private, as everyone congretates after the sermon -

    "Praise the Lady!" the pastor Julius went. "She's blessed you with this upcoming child! I just know you'll be starting a wonderful family.. it's another darling light, shining in our community."

    Vincent smiles. "You make me feel right at home, already."

    "Everyone's been talking about it. The talk is unavoidable, even if I plugged bananas up my ears. Might I offer you a little prayer, for your daughter's sake?"

    Vincent finds a respite in that memory. Julius is so earnest, and very eager to please – his energy's infectious.

    As a train stops his way, Vincent repeats that little prayer - Lil wipes the Jaeguar's windows with her feet as she feels her uterus contracting some more, her cries for respite unbearable to hear.


    They arrive; it doesn't take long for the hospital to accept the pregnant patient. In fact, it's as if the staff have already expected their arrival..

    "Please! I have to be there!" Vincent shouts. The hospital staff lift Lil onto a stretcher, while she reaches out for him – an outstretched hand, missing his.


    The big nurse stops him from following Lil into the halls.

    "Nonsense!" Vincent goes, trying to slide his way past her. "I promised I'd be there when Pino's born!"

    "But you are here already. Tranquilo.."

    The nurse shoves Vincent down to one of the waiting seats, with an effortless strength. He hears Lil's cries growing dimmer, and tries getting up; the nurse easily keeps him down by the shoulders.

    "Are you going to let me see them when it's over?" Vincent asks, with baited breath. "Lil and Pino?"

    "You just have to wait," the nurse goes. "Giving birth isn't as simple as holding your loved one through to the end. There's sterilization, placenta disposal.."


    When it comes down to it, Vincent is clueless about how a woman's body is. He's never had sexual education – only that it just feels good, as she's able to bring down the barriers he's erected around his soul to experience the vulnerability and tenderness of loving her.

    "Oh, yes," the nurse goes, as she holds his hands, examining them, brushing some residual sawdust off. "These hands.. they're so roughened.. you've done a lot of things with them. Wait. You are Vincent Law, aren't you? The poker player?"

    "Formerly one. I've won enough prizes for a while.."

    "That's why you look so familiar. I see some of your games on television, during the night shifts – you play soo bueno..ah, si, this reminds me. I need you to fill out this sheet."

    Vincent fills out the complicated mumbo-jumbo, which basically asks for his legal information. By the part which asks their relationship status, Vincent realises he hasn't even thought of wedding her yet, after all these months. Isn't loving her enough? If he attends the church and asks to officialy join them in holy matrimony, the gospel dancers can throw fabulous moves for their sake.

    He puts down 'common partner.'

    "Muoy bien," the nurse says, as she takes the form. Then someone radios to her in the romance language which Vincent has yet to grasp (besides bits and pieces: i.e. chinga tu madre). "Vincent, your daughter Pino, she's just waiting for you.."

    Argounova shows Daedalus the seer's observation abilities – this panoramic sphere which charts everyone in her realms. The sensations of many people breeze by in the hazy clouds: voices, actions, varying emotions and shades of colour, all congealing together in vortical harmony, while she and Daedalus are a focal point of the storm.

    For her, it's a ripe moment. In her lifetime, she's only let one other venture in this place of intimate voyeurism, early on. That almost killed her; the man rushed to place his family ahead into riches and nigh-immortality, and spread misfortune over the people he disliked.. the result was plunging 70% of the population into psychosis. Years of reversing the damage wasn't fun.

    The difference with Daedalus, although he's a flawed boy with an unrequited obsession over Lil, is that she knows his weakness.. for now, he'll have read-only access.

    "It's.. I can't make sense of it," Daedalus goes, as his eyes psychotically dart fro and to. "It's too much. It's like my focus is pulled upon a thousand things, and it's slipping past what I can comprehend. Where do I even begin?"

    Tetiana ponders – even with his tier of intelligence, she knows he doesn't have her processing ability, at least not yet. He is a formerly blind boy who could now see, so this'll take time. Soon, he'll accompany her in making her world more lively.

    It doesn't mean she can't lend him a shoulder up in the process, though. She rests her fingers over his skull, offering him some of her mental composure.

    "When you were in the school halls," she goes, "how were you able to pick Lil out from the other girls?"

    "I.. see her." Daedalus shivers from the way Tetiana lifts the example from his earlier days. It's hard to deny the lopsided intimacy: she knows him, but he still doesn't know much about her.

    "And when you see her, it's because she is not everyone else.."

    Daedalus peers at the tenuous panorama. He is beginning to recognize how the swirling chaos possesses an order. Whatever he sets his attention upon, the seer answers to his desire in kind. With faith in that, he closes his eyes.

    Vividly picturing when he was lucky enough to have kissed her. Her face.. how it feels to comprehend Lil in his awareness. His heart swirls with the innocence of those times; the seer is gliding past landscapes now, past oceans and dancing stars and whirling comets – he is narrowing upon a coastal town -

    (is this where you are, Lil)

    (she's giving birth)

    (you ungrateful cunt)

    And with delight, the jealousy also comes like a familiar venomous bite; the aching after tasting deliciously poisoned honey. The pain re-surging again in his heart, as if in anticipation of what he's going to see. Daedalus keels over, his arms clasping at his chest while stormy, demonic clouds form in on the town, from the edges..

    "I can't bring myself to look upon her," he goes, tearing up. "Even from this distance, I can already feel her childbirth pain. Vincent's hope and anxiety, the life they'll be cherishing.. he's driving her to the hospital, isn't he?"

    She nods. "You're getting a knack for this."

    The seer is paralyzed, hovering over the singular vision of the Jaeguar – a train that interrupts its way on the road.

    Daedalus reels from his bout of shameful yearning, too used to hiding his emotions. If he'd ended up crying while on medical duty, he'd be sent over to the psychologist, where his frailties would inevitably be laid bare before review (well, it's already happening). But in her world, when he's around Tetiana, an acceptance he'll never have in reality – yet he knows Romdeau's Security Bureau will soon strip away his connection to the dome.. and it'll be over.

    His precious few moments of being alive, chasing after a dream.

    "It's pathetic, isn't it?" he whispers. "I'm trapped in my obsession with a woman who, in reality, wouldn't give me the time of day. Anyone else would have moved on." He scoffs, drawing upon his scientific rationality which is supposedly deaf to emotion. "So you toss them away.. just like they did to you – that's what a model citizen does. That's how I'll let go.. I must not love her anymore."

    He slumps like a shriveled flower, rooted in a place barren of sunlight.

    "Tetiana," he goes, with a desperation leeching out from his voice. "I'm not any better than those countless lovers you've seen over the years.. please, help me take this pain away, for once. You can change memories at will - I don't want to remember her anymore!"

    She kneels down by him. "No, I won't do that."

    "Why?! How could you give Lil and Vincent their happiness, but not me?"

    "They may look happy to you, but it's merely simulacra that keeps the nervous system pre-occupied in the end. An illusion – surely you haven't forgotten that?" She is sardonic.

    ".. even a good stage play still makes people cry in the end," Daedalus says.

    A faint smile crosses her lips.

    "In your case, you're asking me to wipe out a person's entire existance from memory so you can be happy again. But it's beneath you, Daedalus. How weak-spirited must you be to let go of her, just like that, when your devotion is tested – when once, you went all the way to save the woman you've loved from death.

    "Without her – without love,for the rest of your days, you'll slave away as a cog for a society which cares only what you can do for it. Your inner life.. forever glossed over, while your God-given soul is left to rot, slowly and inevitably within your mortal shell.. there awaits your happiness, Daedalus. Okay?"

    She is offering with her outstretched hand. Mist emerges around her fingers – he tentatively goes for it, before cowering away.

    "I.. God!" he cries, realising what he's going to surrender. "I can't do it.."

    "You little fool."

    Daedalus looks at the sphere – at Lil who is laying on the hospital bed, surrounded by doctors, screaming and unrecognizable from the sweat and pain of childbirth. There had been a wall; a glass wall that's kept her separated from him these last few years, and now he gets to look at her from the one-way mirror. The apotheosis of how he's felt.

    "I want to be able to see her live happily," he whispers. "Let me love her once more.. like how I did, when my heart wasn't tarnished by weariness."

    In the sphere, Tetiana has found a kindred spirit at last.

    As Lil makes one final push, the baby's cries echo out in the ward, and she feels all the tension she's held in her belly finally giving way – to relief, to euphoric joy.

    "I want to hold her.." she says, as the doctor cuts the umbilical cord.

    When little Pino is in her embrace, Lil looks upon the beautiful face who is at her breast and she rocks the baby to and fro, her eyes tearing up.

    Daedalus feels his heart pouring through all those walls he's put up, the sinews of feigned indifference breaking apart – until he's crying also with Lil. If he's there with her, he'd protect her happiness always like an angel lurking in the shadows. His heart is still caving in..

    The doctors begin to kneel.

    "Wait.." Daedalus goes. "What's happening.. why are they kneeling."


    The pastor Julius bursts into the ward, with his bishops. He sees Lil with the child, and knows that the holy event that he's long been waiting for – it has now come to pass. "It's.. a miracle.. Pino, our saviour is born!"

    "Hail, Pino!"

    Lil looks around confusedly. "What-? I don't-"

    "You've carried the child to term," Julius says, attending by her side, "but we didn't tell you out of fear you'd panic and do something rash. Our bible proclaims that a saviour, borne out of unexpected passion, would come from a couple who'd wander into our town, looking for sanctuary.. let me anoint her, please."

    Lil shakes her head, pulling Pino away from the eager Julius. "She's not yours. She's mine and Vincent's. I never asked to be part of your religious folktale."

    The bishops murmur into Julius's ear, and he smiles with an undeterred delight. "Nobody ever asks to be born, let alone be a part of the grand tapestry life weaves. But we will never mean your family any harm. If there's anything you need – if your child is wanting or hungry, we will be there to provide.. only please.. let us come adore her, with you."

    Lil sees the bishops, in their violet robes, carrying incense lanterns which replace the stench of the hospital's sterile ammonia with a warm, white musk..

    As she holds Pino, it's as if a strange halo is surrounding her, while time comes to a standstill.

    "What's going to happen to Lil?" Daedalus asks. "Is Pino going to grow up alright?"

    Tetiana remains tight-lipped.

    "Please, tell me," he goes, pleading to know about their fate. "This is your world, Tetiana, and you know down to the last atom what'll happen. I've trusted you since we've first met .. won't you trust me back?"

    "They'll be fine, for now," she says. "In her first months of life, Pino will get to experience all the joys that's humanly possible. But then, the Antonioni family will seek vengeance upon Vincent – as they believe he's double-crossed them. A loose end who's humiliated the family, first on the botched poker game, and the failed attempt on Bonanno's life.."

    "I thought Bonanno had died with the heart attack," Daedalus goes.

    "No. He recovered in the hospital and found out about how Lil and Vincent were used like pawns against him. Vincent will die to save Lil and Pino, leaving her widowed – and Pino fatherless.."

    "How could you.."

    Daedalus sees his vision scramble; the signal to Zaporizhzhia is finally starting to terminate. He fights with all his will just to stay, as he sees the painting of Lil and Pino filling with a tragic doom.

    "Tetiana – you whore!" he screams, as he finds reality's sensations returning. "I won't let you do this to them!"

    "It's already happening," she says. "You wanted it from the start; so that you could hop in and steal the role of lover from Vincent.."

    He is shaken with absolute horror when Tetiana and the sphere fades away – to be met by the security bureau's guards, who have barged into the sanctity of his room.

    Kristeva yanks the patch from his forehead. "Dream's over, kiddo."