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The babe within Elysta stirred. She rubbed the little heel that thrust against the womb while peering out the Interdomiary vessel cargo door. Ten camouflaged men had stepped through those doors on their scouting mission. She ducked out and scurried in the opposite direction.

Elysta’s heart skipped at leaving the nest her lover had stowed her in, her home for the three month journey to this new planet. For all its ability to voyage between colonies in scattered galaxies, the vessel lacked sensors to detect her hidden in the cargo bay.

The babe kicked again as she slipped into the surrounding forest. For three months she had grieved leaving her family while stitching clothes for the little one. She didn’t know what her lover, a powerful man in court had said to explain her absence, but she knew her father would believe it.

She stuffed away memories of her lover’s caress. Over many months he visited her father and always found time to visit her room. He touched her hand, then her face awakening love in her like she never knew existed. When he learned she was pregnant he created a space for her on the vessel with food and warm blankets. He dressed her in rich clothes and jewels that he said would suit her status in the new world.

“Make yourself known to the pilot when this food runs out,” he instructed. “He is kind and will establish you in your new home. I will come to you there.”


Elysta’s feet caught on roots. Another contraction seized her. Ancient trees stretched branches up to the generated Dome and down to embrace her. Her long gown trailed leaf debris behind her.

She had put off revealing herself to the pilot. Something in her said she was wrong to leave her family, perhaps even wrong to bear her lover’s child. By careful rationing, she made the food last.

Every part of her home was covered in human settlement. She expected the same on this planet. She expected to find a house in the forest and be welcomed. But in three days of wandering she had not met a single sign of habitation.

She hadn’t eaten since leaving the vessel. The babe lay dangerously quiet within her. More contractions build in crescendo like her lover’s passion. The babe spilled onto the forest floor.

Elysta rubbed him with her skirt and dressed him in the nightgown she had sewed. He squawked and moved his mouth. She stuck her finger in and he sucked, but she had never seen a baby before. What could she do for him?

The life trickled out of her as she sought a place for him. She knew she would not live to see her lover arrive, but if the babe could live she felt her purpose would be fulfilled. She had to find someone among the everlasting trees.

She tripped over a pile of logs. Surely a human had done this! She laid the babe on the wood pile and staggered a few steps behind a tree. She could not bear to watch him die, but accepted the release for herself.

* * *


Delivago heard the squalling through the trees. She maintained piles of wood away from her home, secret stashes far from tormenting villagers. Her status as a barren woman invited theft, beatings, harsh words, and loneliness.

Following the sound, she came to the wood. She stared at the tiny white bundle lying on the logs.

Her heart leapt with joy and she ran forward, gathering the red faced newborn into her arms. She looked up, expressing her astonishment and gratitude to whatever had delivered this gift to her. No matter the consequences, the curses of her people, the privation from sharing her meager supplies, no matter the added torment, she would nurse this child. No one would believe she found it on her wood pile. They would assume she gave birth and that was not a welcome event for a secondary woman.

The man who shared himself between his child bearing wife and Delivago might cast her off. She must be sure her bed was especially warm for him when he came.

She unwrapped the baby and found she had a son. She let the babe suck her breast. Even though it was empty now, she believed with new life and hope that she could provide for him. She laughed. He sure knew what to do with her!

He was hers, but how had he come? Her practical side hunted around. She found the wasted body of a girl dressed in white with sparkly jewels in her hair, around her neck, and on her fingers. Was she a heavenly being? No, she was dust and Delivago buried her after stripping her off her fine adornments. She heaved the pile of wood over the grave. No one would know.

Copyright 2023 - SFS Publishing LLC

The Foster

The babe stirred within her

Nicola MacCameron





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