It was a dark and stormy dawn, with a sky of wet slate. Rain poured down the window, as it had for the last six hours. The clock on the wall said 7:04. Salah hadn’t slept since that time yesterday.
That cursed clock. It couldn’t be digital, something modern and sensible. No, it had to have a pendulum, swinging back and forth with a loud tick…tock…tick…tock.
He sat in the little waiting room with his arms resting on his knees, holding a half-filled Styrofoam cup of tepid coffee. A half-eaten doughnut lay on the table next to him, near a stack of old Time magazines.
When he had prayed fajir that morning, he had felt nothing. Just as he had every morning since he had seen the Voice. Nothing but a resounding hollowness in his soul as he went through the motions. God was gone. He had watched the Voice be destroyed, and he had been helpless to do anything.
Was there any point anymore? Was the Initiative doing more harm than good? Why didn’t they realize what they were doing? Why couldn’t he have done something?
Why was it allowed to happen?
He had spoken with Mary-Ann about it, as soon as he had come home. She had been through her own dark night of the soul. “Nobody else can do it for you, but they can help. You helped me.” That was what she had ended with. He knew it was true, and he knew she would be right there…and yet he didn't feel like he knew much of anything anymore.
Salah truly wanted to speak to Adnan but…that was easier said than done. He was a ghost, here at one moment and gone the next, and contacting him was a nightmare in and of itself.
Salah half-expected to see a hook on his hand.
“Hey. Are you okay?”
Salah looked up to see Di standing there, arms full of books, as usual.
“Did she kick you out of the room or something?”
“She threatened to make me eat the placenta if I didn’t get some sleep.”
Di sat down next to him.
“And you haven’t slept, have you?”
“Not a wink.”
“You probably should. You look awful.”
“Haven’t been sleeping well lately anyway.”
“Because of what happened with the Wolves?”
“Have you talked to Mary-Ann about it?”
“Yeah. She cursed up a storm when I told her.”
“I don’t doubt it.”
“I know she believes me, but…I knew. I knew what it was. And they destroyed it. I might be the only person alive who knows the truth, the actual truth…and I can’t prove any of it. Maybe I’m going mad.” He sighed. “What do you do, when you can’t see a point in it all?”
Di held up a book.
Di put a hand on his shoulder.
“Salah, you’re going to be a father. If you've got anything right now, it's a point."
So he did. So he did. The little gears of celestial happenings clicked into place then, as a doctor now stood at the entrance to the waiting room.
“You can come in now,” he said.
Wordlessly, Salah stood up and walked down the hall, as if in a dream. Here was the hall, here was the door. Here was Mary-Ann, sitting in her bed: smiling, exhausted. And there in her arms, a bundle of white cloth.
“Morning, sunshine. Sleep well?” Her voice was a pure, tired joy.
“Not at all.” Salah stepped over to the bedside.
Mary-Ann gave him an “are you kidding me I specifically told you to go do that” face.
“You’re lucky I donated it already,” she snarked. “Come on, you can hold her: She’s your daughter as much as mine.” Mary-Ann offered the bundle to Salah.
In an instant, Salah’s world became compressed around the little bundle now in his arms. His daughter, with her little balled fists and clenched-shut eyes and the little tuft of dirty straw hair. His daughter, whom he would watch go through diapers and scraped knees and homework and first dates and college and jobs and marriage and children of her own. A whole life in his hands, and all the more precious for how small it was. For a moment, the evils of the world seemed insignificant in the face of the smallest of goods.
His daughter. A little match in the darkness.
“Hey there, sweet pea. I’m your abbi.”
And so Naomi Ibtisam Zairi-Lewitt was welcomed into the world.