At first, it was all like this, joy and happiness mixed with awe. They had in front of them a perfect, beautiful child. Made of untouched clay, even more smooth than the clay of the people without the spikes. They felt less alone, less worthless, less powerless.
They saw in their child all they might have been if they had never grown their own spikes, if they didn’t have to avoid touching people, avoid touching themselves, to be closed-off, to be careful.
They were careful to continue wearing their gloves, to handle the baby with care. To take care of it with as much care as they did when they created her.
But soon they had to go back to work, and life started to feel more normal again, as if they had always had this baby, as if it always existed throughout their lives, and just happened to start growing then.
And that’s when the trouble began.
One day, Mother came home after a hard day, her hair a mess, her heart beating against her chest, her leg shaking with anxiety. It was the people at work, they way they looked at her, she could tell they didn’t want to be around her, or it felt that way, or she wasn’t sure really, but she felt like all they could see when they looked at her were her spikes, and she just wanted to hide away, to go back home, but she had to stay there, in so much pain.
Mother saw her baby when she came home. The baby was crying and screaming, the babysitter hadn’t been able to calm her all day. The baby’s first hard teeth were starting to come out of her clay gums and was ripping them apart, and she just cried and cried, nothing consoling her.
Mother was already anxiety-ridden, distracted, when she arrived home, and so to see her baby like this made her want to scream. Now she had to work more? And Father wouldn’t be home for another two hours? No, no, she couldn’t do it.
But she had to, of course, she had to. She put on her gloves and ran to take Baby from the babysitter, determined to console her as quickly as possible so she could put her down and finally get some rest.
But something bizarre happened as she took Baby from the babysitter. Instead of calming down as the baby always did when Mother came home, she started wailing. A deep, dark scream, one that Mother had never heard from her child. As if Baby was in some sort of immense pain. Tears poured out her eyes and started making creases in the clay on her face.
For a moment, Mother was confused, scared, unable to understand how the crying had started. What was she doing wrong? She put baby down in her crib for a moment to think.
And then she saw them. Holes. All over Baby. In the shape of hands.
Mother looked down at her gloved hands and saw, to her horror, that her spikes had grown out of the gloves.
Because she had had a hard day, her spikes had grown out further. Further and further until they were even longer, stronger, and bigger than they were before Baby was born. She turned to the mirror in the room and stared at herself in shock. She didn’t even see any clay anymore. Just spikes everywhere. Like a porcupine, she was unable to touch or help anything near her.
She looked down at her daughter, not sure what to do. Baby was still screaming in pain, covered in holes. No longer the perfectly smooth, perfectly untouched by the spikes of her parents.
Mother ran to grab a wet towel. She ran back to the room and started smoothing out Baby’s holes. They hadn’t gone too deep because of the gloves and because Mother had put her down so quickly. Mother worked and worked to smooth it all out, to make it all disappear.
And although she smoothed them all out, and Baby calmed down, and then shortly after fell asleep, Mother was sure that she could still see marks on her body. From now on, Baby would always be marked. And worse, Mother realized she might not be able to stop it from happening more.
Father came home that night to see Mother on the floor sobbing. He asked her what was wrong.
She looked up at him, deep lines creasing where her tears had cut rivulets into the clay on her face.
But the words wouldn’t come out of her mouth, couldn’t. She just looked back down at the floor and let the tears flow through the crevices on her face, deepening them, her spikes growing out further.
Father started to think, started to wonder. Then it hit him. And his spikes pushed further out of his skin.
He walked away from Mother, towards the bedroom. Mother screamed after him not to go, please not to go, but he was marching there as if moved by the Great Book itself.
And then he was in the bedroom, carefully, delicately, walking so as not to wake Baby.
Baby was peaceful, calm, breathing in and out just as always. So beautiful, Father thought. He took a deep breath. He had been too worried. His spikes went back into his skin.
Then he saw something. A sort of depression, as if someone had pushed down lightly on Baby’s skin. And after a life of trying to hide the holes in him, he immediately understood what he was looking at.
He pushed open the door more so he could see more clearly. The light poured in. He could hear Mother sobbing in the other room.
He walked over to Baby, this time loudly, as if he had forgotten he might wake her. He threw the blanket off of her and immediately saw it all.
The pockmarks. In the shapes of hands. On Baby’s belly.
Father let out a scream of pain as he never had before. As if all of of his spikes had entered his heart. Yelled and yelled and yelled to no one, just in the air, knowing that from now on, his baby would always be marked. That there was no protecting her. That Mother could do it again. That he might.
Visions of Baby full of holes bored into his mind, flashing in and out like a nightmare. He envisioned her crying, screaming as he was.
No. That was happening. Right in front of him. He had woken Baby, and she was wailing in fear, looking at her father as she had never seen him before. The clay had gone from brown to red.
And in the doorway was Mother sobbing, sobbing, afraid to pick up Baby to console her, afraid to further mutilate her.
They looked at each other in pain, in fear. Their eyes wet. The crevices deep in their faces now. The spikes out.
They turned back to Baby, wondering what to do. And then they saw it. Them.
No. It could not be. Already? No.
As Baby wailed, they were emerging. Right out of the pockmarks. Watered by her tears.