She knew, when he was born, that he was Powered. They’d scanned her baby as soon as they’d pulled him from her womb out of the cut in her stomach, and that little white wand had lit up with a green light. Her child was a Class-1 Powered. They had taken him off and had a machine take a map of his soul shape, and had an expert analyze it in an attempt to determine what her child’s Talents might be.
He had been easy to read, to an extent. He had three of the most common Talents: increased strength, increased durability, and flight. Those were simple for the analyst to identify, because they were well-described, and because they occurred in such a large percentage of Class-1 Powered.
He likely had at least one more Talent, the analyst had said. He’d pointed to a sort of spikey whorl in one section of her son’s soul. He said that the geography of that region normally played a part in determining Talents, and then pointed out, as an example, the shapes that told of her son’s strength and durability. However, the analyst had been unable to tell her what that spikey whorl meant. It hadn’t yet been described.
Well, now she knew.
Yana, trembling, held her child in her arms. One of her breasts was bare. She held tight to her baby boy with both hands, unwilling to reach up and wipe the tears from her face. The warmth was already draining out of his body. What was left was only the heat held in by his blanket, and the heat of Yana’s own body.
“Come on,” she said, her voice shaking. “Come on, my love.”
She pressed his lips to her breast, hoping his hunger would entice him. It had worked, once before, when he’d left his body during his meal. She knew he didn’t know what he was doing. Like any child, he was exploring what he could do in the world. Her only hope was that his hunger, and his memory of what it meant for her to feed him, would pull him back.
“Please,” she said. “Come back to mommy. Mommy needs you.”
Yana had read all she could on how to deal with Talented babies. The durability was easy, and didn’t require much. If anything, it made childcare easier. The increased strength, though, could be dangerous to parents, especially mothers who chose to breast feed. Yana had chosen to do it anyway, for the good of her child, and she hadn’t had any problems yet. With that.
It was the talent the analyst hadn’t been able to identify that made caring for Ando difficult. It was that spikey whorl, and the fact that Ando had discovered it before he grew old enough to understand it, or its consequences.
“Aren’t you hungry?” Yana pleaded. “Come on, my love. Come back to mommy.”
Ando’s body was cold. His lips were parted slightly from the slackness of his jaw, and his eyes, while open, stared at nothing, unfocused. Yana held an empty body. Ando had left it behind in a moment of exploration, unfolding right out of it as he had stretched, like another child rediscovering his toes for the second first time.
“Ando,” Yana said. “Come back to your body. Mommy wants to hold you. Come on, baby boy. Please.”
Ando did not heed her call. He hovered so close, an image of his body cast in white light with a golden tinge, lighting up the dim room. Still, he seemed so far away. Yana reached out toward him with one hand, the other still cradling his empty body. Her fingers passed through him, though he reached out and grasped at them with his ghostly fingers.
Last time, recalling him into his body had been a fluke. She knew that now. He didn’t understand her words well enough yet. He’d come back only because he’d been in the midst of feeding before he left, and the memory of hunger had called to him. She suspected he didn’t feel hunger when outside of his body.
She drew her hand back. Blinking, she wiped the tears from her eyes. Then she brought both hands beneath Ando’s limp body and, as though she were making an offering to some inscrutable deity, held the body outward toward Ando’s glowing form.
“Your body, Ando,” she said. “Come back to it. It’s grown cold.”
Ando turned in the air, upside-down now, with his hands holding onto his toes. He stared at her, and at her body, a smile upon his face. With one hand he reached out, fingers spread, and attempted to touch his body’s face. As her fingers had passed through him, so his fingers passed through his body, to no effect.
“That’s it, my love,” Yana said. “Your body. This is your body. Please come back to it.”
With both hands, now, Ando reached out. His face wrinkled up with concentration. His smile turned into a frown as he flailed uselessly at his body. He floated closer to it. His instinctive command of his glowing form allowed him that, at least, for which Yana was grateful. Unbidden, an image of him floating away forever, unable to control where he went, passed through Yana’s mind.
Now Ando reached out again, with both hands, and they passed into his body’s torso. Something felt different about this time. They stayed within the body for a moment, as though stuck. Yana allowed herself to hope. This was how he had entered his body before. First his hands, and then the rest of him diminishing and sliding inward, before his body had awakened with a smile.
It did not go that way this time. No, instead Ando with drew his hands, and his face contorted not in concentration, but in frustration, or perhaps pain. He began to cry. The echoes of it beat against Yana’s soul. There was no true sound to it, but she felt it regardless, pounding against her and causing her to choke on a sob.
“You can do it, Ando,” Yana said. “I love you. Please, I need you to come back into your body. Mommy needs you.”
Ando floated closer, his fists in tight balls, his legs kicking sporadically. He began to float around his body, attempting to pass it in order to come toward her. Yana shifted his body carefully, not wanting to harm it with sudden motion. She was certain that, without him within it, the body would be as fragile as any regular human child. She put the body between herself and her son.
“Your body, Ando,” she said. “Go into your body. Please do what Mommy says. You have to go into your body.”
He slipped past his body. She couldn’t move it fast enough to put it between them, not without fear of hurting it. It didn’t seem to be able to feel anything, when he was without it, but that didn’t matter. It had to be unharmed for his return.
Yana gasped. Ando pressed against her chest. She felt a pressure there, and a sort of question, as his glowing form seemed to collapse inward toward a point between her breasts. Out of fear, she resisted. Then Ando’s cries shook her, this time with a closeness she had never felt with another human being, and she relented, the answer to that question becoming “yes.”
“Ando,” she gasped.
Then she held Ando’s body in her hands, and Ando’s self within her. She felt his wants and his needs in a way she thought no other mother before her had ever experienced. She cried, because both she and Ando wanted to cry, and because she didn’t know what to do with her child’s body.