The Dead: Book 12 (frag. 2)

The Book of the Story

"YOU MEAN HE REALLY doesn't care one way or the other?"

"If he does, he isn't saying. The point is, he cares more that you be the one to decide. He's got this thing about free will."

"But what if I decide wrong?"

"He said you would ask that. And he was very specific. I'm to tell you that you can't decide wrongly, as long as you really decide. Your decision, if it's really yours, will be the right one."

"But I know even less than I thought I did... About all this, I mean. How am I supposed to even think about it?"

"I'll tell you two stories. I could tell you a thousand, but I'll only tell two. They're both extremes, both possible but unlikely."

His wings settled slowly to his back.

"There was a... a baby, whose mother decided to give birth. His father drank excessively and had a drug abuse problem. His mother would never have married the father if it hadn't been for the baby. They were poor, and immature, and not ready to raise a child—especially an unwanted child who completely ruined any chances they might have had for a better life—I told you this was an extreme."

She nodded.

He went on.

"They grew to blame each other. The child became a kind of pawn that they used to make each other feel guilty. He grew up without experiencing love, and became a dangerous man, angry and depressed. In the end, he killed himself, after having damaged a great many other lives."

He paused.

"Are you ready for the second story?"

"Yes."

"There was another baby, whose mother decided to give birth under exactly the same circumstances. His father drank excessively, had a drug problem, and she would not have married him if it hadn't been for the baby. They were poor, but the responsibility of the baby inspired the mother. She managed to raise the child well, and even managed to love the father so well that he changed. It wasn't easy, and she sacrificed much. The child grew up into a fine and happy young man, who led an exemplary life. His children and his children's children called him blessed."

"But I already told the doctors."

"Most abortions are not performed by doctors. Most abortions are performed by God."

"I don't believe the second story."

"You believe the first one?"

"The priest would say..."

"It's not his place to say."

"What happens to the... If I decide not to have it?"

"I can't tell you that. What I can do is..."

"...tell me two more stories."

"Yes. Once there was a... an embryo. It wasn't a baby yet, or anything like a baby. It had a sort of chemical level of life, but that was all. It could have become a baby, and eventually a person, but at the moment it was just a collection of cells. This embryo, like about a third of all embryos, never became anything more. And that's the entire story."

"And the second story?"

"Once there was a very tiny baby. It didn't look anything like a baby, but had a soul, put there by God at conception. It never got born. Instead, it went directly to be with God, as about a third of all babies do, where it experienced eternal bliss."

"But then why would anyone ever choose..."

"I'm not the one to answer that question. His ways are inscrutable, trust me. And you humans do choose to give birth, much more often than not. If you don't know why, then I certainly don't. You must see some value in it."

"But sometimes..."

"Sometimes you don't. It's your decision."

"It's hard."

"That's probably why so many are willing to let others decide for them. Responsibility isn't easy."

"But you see, the second story, about the boy growing up to be happy, about Glenn changing... I can't see it happening. I know it wouldn't ."

"You're sure?"

"I am."

"Then you've decided?"

She nodded.

The fog returned and became reality. Antiseptic, bedsheets, pain—and a doctor, shaking his head and frowning.

Somewhere distant, in Sam's brain or in heaven, an angel felt the universe move with a great and satisfied sigh.

Whether it was approval of the decision itself, or merely of the making, the angel could never be sure.