Rhaya’s Arrival (as told by the apprentice guardian)

Chapter One of the novelette ¿Who Will Help Sonia? 

I met Rhaya in the institutional green delivery room. I’m not complaining, it was a very decent hospital in the seventies. I was supposed to be there upon arrival when that baby’s body was finally forced out into the dry, temperature controlled atmosphere. I didn’t know what to expect, this being my very first job as a guardian.

As soon as she shot out of the liquid medium and fell into the doctor’s hands, Rhaya felt horrible. A sudden heaviness pulled down bluntly, as if a heavy blanket had been folded and placed on top of an upright needle. That was her welcoming sensation for taking up the new abode called Rhaya, as agreed by her parents three months earlier. That odd feeling came back to mind every time the infant had a fever. I hated the sensation too, but it couldn’t be helped. A glistening ivory thread extended from me to her body, since that very morning at the hospital.

Yes, I had been told she was chosen for me, but none of the elders had mentioned the conductor between us, this extension capable of transmitting stuff. At the time I sort of considered that a breach of trust. That was then, of course. Now I see it differently.

Unfortunately for her mother, the baby had an upset gut just a few weeks into babyhood. She wouldn’t stop crying. I had no idea what had to be done, or if in fact I was expected to come up with some kind of solution. This was her first time around this earth location on the one hand, and on the other, I didn’t know anything about babies, let alone colic and incessant crying

So, I decided to let things run their course for the most part. There were a few exceptions though. One particular night the baby seemed more alert than usual. Her belly was calm. A good time for me to try and make a more formal introduction. As she gazed from her crib, she correctly recognized every piece of furniture, even the ceramic piggy bank on the dressing table to the left. She didn’t seem sleepy at all. I thought it a good idea to make an entertaining entrance, something unexpected, fun.

Well, it flunked. I flunked. Big time.

I turned myself into a miniature astronaut, floating in space above her crib and then slowly gliding down toward her. I made the white thread between us look silvery, like an astronaut’s lifeline. Staring intently at me, she stopped flinging her little arms and legs, seemingly amused. Couldn’t tell if this was actually a good sign or not but I risked it and went on anyway, coming closer, hoping she would catch on. When I came up to her, I tickled her warm belly. “Tickle, tickle, tickle” I went, staring behind my golden visor.

The baby screamed with all her might. It was terrible. In five seconds more or less, Mom flung open the door to the room. She turned on the light and scooped up the child, cradling Rhaya in her arms. I felt horrid. I definitely kept a low profile for a good while after that. I believe I had much to learn about human babies.

On another other occasion when I tried to cheer her up, she was seven years old, beginning elementary.  Her new school felt unfriendly, the buildings too large and serious. Rhaya was having some anxiety, she didn’t understand what she was doing there, or what an earth school was. Something was plain off. Soon, a grayish dread began looming over the child. I sensed it wanted to install itself over her head, permanently. It emanated precisely from the school, ebbing and flowing, growing steadily with the passing weeks. It had a face and I did not like it.

I tried to chase it away, again and again. At times, helping Rhaya was like trying to eliminate static cling from every single load of laundry, fresh from the dryer. Some loads especially got almost impossible. I was exhausted. The doom loved her so much.

I don’t know what came over me when I decided to appear as an orange ghost, outlined in neon light, very eighties. Yeah, I was ahead of the times that way ( I’ve always been into glam). The girl was resting on her side, staring vacantly at the wooden ladder of her bunk bed, dreading school the next morning. So I used that as my window. I peeped between the steps, a big smile on my face. Then I expanded myself towards the front of the ladder, so she could appreciate the brightness of my candy orange neon.

Big flunk, again. The girl screamed “mom, mooooom!” shaking, crying.

This time I was told to stay put and observe, really observe, because, as the elders said, I had a tendency to jump to conclusions. They suggested I learn how to do detailed observations in order to learn how to help.

But enough about my flunks, maybe some other time. I rather tell you about the older Rhaya, about Sonia and a few others I watched through her. And yes, I did stay put for most of the time anyway, although I never took well to doom and shadow, depression, stuff like that. It was difficult to contain my impulse to cheer her up!  But I learned to observe for real and eventually got my bachelor’s guardian diploma. By the way, my name is Jupe, at your service.