The Left-Handed Hummingbird

The Left-Handed Hummingbird

by Kate Orman
The Left-Handed Hummingbird
            It was very dark down this end of the house. Jacqui moved slowly, one hand pushed against the wall, the other protectively covering her swollen belly. She had taken off her shoes, to try and move more quietly, but all she'd managed to do was make her feet cold.
            There was a collective shout of laughter from somewhere upstairs. The soldiers were enjoying their Christmas Eve party. Jacqui had gone to a lot of trouble to make sure they had a good time, smuggling bottles of booze into the house in paper bags, holding them tight so they wouldn't clink. The Lieutenant hadn't suspected a thing.
            The last time she'd been down to the pub she'd made a break for it, slipping away from the soldiers and into the women's loo with some crazy plan of climbing out the window. There wasn't a window, anyway, as it turned out; even if there was, she and the baby probably wouldn't have fitted through together.
            In the end the uniforms came in and got her, looking faintly embarrassed as they stomped into the ladies' in their big tough boots.
            There were still guards on all the doors and the gate, but the inside of the house was dead quiet. Only the party sounds and snores from some of the rooms punctuated the winter silence.
            Jacqui's fingers slid over the handle of the door.
            She reached into the pocket of her overalls and took out a single key, deftly removed from the Lieutenant's master set this afternoon after lunch. When she said she wanted to help with the cleaning, they'd thought she was just bored, waiting around for her turn for the tests. But she knew from being in prison that cleaners can get in anywhere. Anywhere they like.
            She pushed open the door and said, 'I heard you screaming.'
            Until now, she'd only glimpsed the inside of the room. She knew there was a bed, and something that went beep. Now she saw that the low electronic sound came from an EEG machine, trailing long wires like the tentacles of an octopus, reaching out to the dark figure in the bed.
            The man turned to look at her, and she could see the curve of his face reflecting the green light of the EEG screen, his eyes startlingly clear in the darkness. Jacqui felt the heat start up in her face. 'Well,' she said. 'I didn't hear you.' She put both of her hands on her belly.
            He didn't say anything, just looked at her. How come he was so quiet? How long'd he been here, a week, two weeks? Jacqui edged into the room. It was even colder inside. 'When I first came here,' she went on, the words spilling out of her in a stage whisper, 'they thought I was the psychic. But it's not me. It's the kid.' She grinned suddenly. 'I picked out his daddy specially, he was working at a petrol station, he had the most beautiful skin. Deep deep brown, and smooth as an apple. I chose him because I wanted my baby to have that skin. But the kid got something more. A little extra. You know?'
            The grin slid off her face under his cloudy stare. 'Can you understand me?' No answer. Maybe they'd put drugs in the food. She'd seen the metal trays they carried in to him, making sure they closed the door before anyone could get a look inside. 'You can trust me. They won't let me go either.'
            She hesitated, squatted with difficulty beside his bed. 'So. Junior, he heard you screaming. He woke me up the first time. I could hear him having nightmares, down there... you know?' No answer. 'It's just... all those soldiers who brought you here, and the locked room, and all the guards. The Lieutenant won't let anyone near you. You must be something pretty special, right? A space alien,' and her voice dropped into a conspiratorial whisper. 'That's what the soldiers say. A real live space alien.'
            Why wouldn't he answer? She patted her stomach for the comforting feel of the firm curve of flesh, wanting to explain. 'I dream what the baby dreams. He sends me messages. Usually it's just darkness and warmth, lovely. This time it was pyramids, and flowers, and a blazing blue sky... and someone with a smile like a stab of light and hair whiter than sand... impossible things, things he's never seen. Is that where you come from? Or is it somewhere you've visited?'
            She realised her voice had fallen into a sing-song, the lilting aimlessness of voices around a campfire, while guitars and joints were passed from hand to hand, pungent smoke drifting up to the stars.
            Maybe he didn't have any friends either, no-one who would come looking for him, to take him away. How long would it be before Jacqui was back outside, under the stars? Maybe they'd never let her go. Maybe they'd keep her baby. And what would they do with their space alien? What would they do with him? She tried to imagine the place he came from, the places he might have been, rocking through the sky in his UFO like a magic carpet ride...
            'Get out,' said the man.
            She was so startled by his voice that it was a moment before she realised the EEG machine was moving, making horrible scratching noises as its needles trailed across the paper. A moment later, Junior kicked, a sharp movement deep inside her.
            'Go,' he said, and his hands had pulled free of the covers of the bed and she saw light glinting on the handcuffs tangled between his wrists.
            It hadn't occurred to her that the reason he was locked away might be that he was dangerous.
            Jacqui felt Junior kicking and kicking at her womb, and she climbed unsteadily to her feet and stumbled across the cold floor, pushed back by the force of his voice as he screamed at her, 'Get out, get away, get out, get out, GET OUT!'
            Oh God! Junior was screaming!
            The lights came slamming on around her, and there were soldiers and men and women in white coats running in. But Jacqui didn't hear it, Jacqui didn't see it, she heard and saw what Junior was hearing and seeing, a great wind exploding out of nothing, a great gush of blue flame -
             - exploding, flooding into the baby, too much for it to hold, too much oh God stop it's too much it's much too much oh God stop -
            - screaming -
            - pyramids that oozed and rained human blood -
            - a terrible face painted blue and black, laughing and laughing, white hair floating around the warrior's head as he let loose his battle cry -
            - they stepped over Jacqui, stepped around the hippie curled on the floor in the hallway, taking no notice of her.
Source: Doctor Who Magazine #207