Dreams of the Nautilus, Other: A Woman Named Bethlehem

 

She was a strange creature, this woman standing amidst the detritus and urban decay of a ghetto. Her face wore a beatific expression as she beheld the neglected appendage of the city. Zinc sheet roofs lined the hillside shanty town, the makeshift hovels constructed out of just about anything presented a visual representation of fragility. She walked slowly, with a determined stride, her hips singing a slow song as they swung with each step she took, her voluptuous figure’s curves promising wonders beneath the loose, silken dress. She wore the white garment like a testament to purity, a quality you might associate to her upon seeing her walk alone like some heavenly apparition through the slums.

She was Bethlehem, a Savant, a person with special abilities that are proportionately inverse to their shortcomings and oddities. What oddities might the divine woman walking cooly through a dilapidated area of urban refuse ensconce within her? Ah, well, that is something of wonder.

She bent low as she entered through one of the shanties’ small thresholds, the dusty half-darkness within welcoming here, parting for her in reverence.

Inside the hut was another woman, face marked with dusty rivulets where tears had recently trickled down. In her arms was a small child, not a day older than 2 years of age, and the child breathed shallow breaths, life escaping from her delicate little body. She rocked the child as she looked at the little one’s face, as if simply lulling her to sleep.

Bethlehem addressed the weeping woman with a voice like quicksilver as she lifted her dusty face with the crooked index of her left hand. “Do you know who I am?”

The weeper had ceased her rocking and looked up, beholding the vision-of-a-woman before her. She nodded slowly in answer.

“Cry no further, child, for your little one will live within me,” Bethlehem went on, the smile never leaving her face.

The woman lifted the child proffering her small body like a knave would offer tribute to a king. Bethlehem took the child and walked out of the hut. As soon as she stepped beyond the brittle threshold the woman back inside the hovel broke into loud crying.

Iliana is a good name, Bethlehem thought to herself as she regarded the dying child. Her mother had chosen the name well, as it had been some time since she had taken one named thus into her. She did prefer Davids, naturally, but she, like the city she was named after, welcomed all. Bet Lehem, the house of meat, the house of bread.

In the blink of an eye, the lady in white silk was no longer there, but somewhere else, somewhere hidden. The sands of her home were quite empty, but she herself was ever full.

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