ROCKING THE CRADLE • by Swetha Amit

I am not sure how long I have been dead. Perhaps a month. A year. Or maybe even a few days. I can’t tell. My brain has been fuzzy lately.

However, I do recognize my home. I am in my bedroom watching the Angel’s trumpets dangling outside the window—hues of yellow upside-down petals draped against a curtain of green leaves. The blue sky is a shielding sheet behind this picturesque symbol of energy and happiness.

My newborn infant, Sara, lies on the cradle beside my bed. Cozy and snuggling against pink and white pillows. A light purple sheet draped over her. She coos and giggles. Her bright brown eyes stare at the ceiling. Her tiny arms are waggling in the air. Gradually, I watch her face crinkle into a scowl. Then, she wails. I reach out my hand to gently rock the cradle. My hand passes through. I can’t touch it. I long to snuggle her in my arms. Let her lips suck my leaky nipples. Allow her to clutch my heavy and tender breasts while her head bobs up and down when gobbling the milk to satiate her tiny appetite.

“Hush, my baby; mommy loves you,” I whisper.

Of course, she can’t hear me. I am an apparition in a white gown embroidered with tiny red roses. I hear Viv, my husband, shuffling in the kitchen. He was such an extensive support system in my life and would always be the one to make those fluffy egg-white omelets stuffed with mushrooms and bell peppers to kickstart my day. While I’d stir in bed, trying to brush the remnants of insomnia that made my eyelids droopy. Viv must be making one of those omelets now. I can smell the yolk. He makes it a point to separate the yolk from the whites after hearing me complain about how the yolk makes me want to throw up.

I wonder what led to this painful separation from my loved ones. Do they grieve about me? Have they moved on? I glance at my homely attire and realize I couldn’t have died in a horrendous car accident. I couldn’t have drowned. I was bone dry. Was it excessive sleeping pills? A heart attack? I couldn’t tell. No matter how deep I try to delve into the chambers of my reminiscence.

My attention turns towards Sara. She wails. Fat blobs of tears run down her rosy cheeks. I want to take her in my arms and rock her gently.

“Mommy is here, Sara,” I cry.

I try and lift her. My fingers pass through again. I can’t grasp anything, such as why I am caught in this world of the afterlife. It’s like when the rain-induced mist caught me off guard while hiking on the Stanford Dish trail close to home. The trees were eclipsed behind this mysterious wet sheet of white. Everything was a blur. I was lost and stranded ironically in a familiar terrain. Albeit briefly until the sun broke the cloudy barriers and pierced its way to Earth. The sheet of white vapor dissolved into wet droplets. I could make my way home again.

I stare at Sara helplessly and break into a loud sob. A few minutes later, I feel a pair of hands wrapping me into a warm embrace from behind. I am startled. 

Then I hear a familiar voice. Deep and soothing. 

“Easy there, Rachel. Hush now. It’s ok.” 

I turn around to stare into Viv’s coal-black eyes. Eyes that carried the burden of sorrow. Creases of worry traced around the outline of his face. I gasp. Then I point to Sara. Her loud wails make my ears sting in shame. 

“Lift her, please, Viv. She needs Mommy. Tell her Mommy loves her.” 

He shakes his head and clutches my shoulders tightly. Then he speaks. 

“There is no baby there, Rachel. She died as soon as she was born.”

“This can’t be,” I raise my voice. “Sara is right there, crying. Don’t you see?”

“It’s been five months now,” Viv cradles my head against his shoulder. 

“But…” I mumbled. 

“It is your hallucinations. The cradle is empty.” 

“She is not dead,” I sniffle. 

“It’s those medicines, Rachel. The doctors said your head will feel blurred. You need rest.”

The pain slices my heart. My limbs go weak, and I clutch the cradle. It feels numb. Nothing seems to retain its grip within the clasp of my fingers. Yet Viv’s words vaporize the mist that clogged my memory. The day of those contractions, and when my vagina tore open to induce a new life. Instead of the crying noise, the silence of death greeted me. Limp and lifeless, she lay beside me. While the blood oozed out from my vagina, the white sheets were stained with clots of red. I feel the tremors of shock cruising through my body. 

Outside, I see those Angel’s Trumpets withering away. I notice the trees shedding leaves and droplets of rain from the sky. 

“Those flowers,” I mumble. 

“They will grow back,” he says. 

I stand there with an aching feeling in my heart. I wish to dissolve into the rain and let those droplets rinse my pain.  I hope this is all a dream. Maybe I’ll wake up one day to hear the echo of an infant’s cries reverberating through the walls of this house, which now feels empty and hollow.


Swetha Amit is an Indian author based in California and an MFA graduate from the University of San Francisco. She has published works across genres in 60-plus journals, including Atticus Review Had, Door is a Jar. She has received three Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations.


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