Michael had truly loved Emma, so that the product of their union had been born a skinless mewling thing with a haphazardly arranged crown of spikey bone outgrowths was, to him, an even greater tragedy. Nonetheless his distress was, as much as such things are quantifiable, outstripped by Emma’s; a prior, though ostensibly lapsed, religious conviction renewed through sheer horror and the child’s gruesome evocation of a raw, bloody and sexless Christ-figure such that her mind simply shut down. With this protective and prophylactic fugue holding fast the hospital’s chief psychiatrist, herself an expert in the presence and effect of religious iconography in dissociative psychological disorders, ordered that mother and child be kept apart while a regime of treatment (which, said course, tacitly assumed the imminent death of the malformed and medically unfeasible baby) could be brought into effect. As days passed and the baby, still unnamed even by a staff whose shorthand sobriquets for patients were generally known to cut mercilessly close to the knuckle, held determined to its hard won half-life, Emma’s condition remained unchanged. Michael, by this point cast in the role of doomsayer, foreswore the visits of both doting and dutiful friends and family alike, keeping a constant vigil beside the oxygen enriched but otherwise undisturbed airs in which the baby cried, almost incessantly, in a pitch which cleaved close to the phlegmatic rumble of boulders grinding together, with occasional breaks to splutter and cough from the ruinous slit which vaguely occupied the place of a mouth. It took no food, and no vein could be found by which to administer even the most basic sustenance, but it persisted in its raucous distress, perhaps in an entirely reasonable protest to whichever such force or entity had seen fit, consciously or unconsciously, to allow its birth. On the eighth such day, with Emma no better and the baby still shrieking with an unflagging commitment to communicating and thereby sharing its pain, Michael tore the incubator apart and snapped the baby’s neck.
It was some months later, spent wandering aimless and anonymous, before Michael, now divorced from his real surname and all ties to a life which had ended with the crunch and crack of a twisted spinal column being broken, came to something resembling his senses. Resembling, that is, in much the same way as one’s reflection in a battered brass mirror, seen through dents and nicks and the patina of passing years, would resemble oneself. In practicality the change amounted to a resurgence of agency just sufficient to understand and deny culpability for the fate that had befallen his family, enough will to obsess. His hand-to-mouth itinerancy, cribbed from stories written when the prospects for such subsistence survivalists were apparently far better, adapted to his new resolve, took in larger towns, edged the outskirts of cities with public libraries which could be raided for “materials”. This ever-growing horde, torn-out pages from books too cumbersome to steal and complete copies of less-lucky works, had begun as work of questionable scientific integrity; the more current works on genetics, heredity and consanguinity mingled with redundant or wrong-headed works, but was soon further diluted by prophecies and paranormal texts which ranged from mainstream manias to even more outré and insubstantial gibberish. He began to construct a new ontology around those specifics which would absolve him, building in justifications upon justifications until the tangled knots of irrational rationalising were unintelligible to their creator and sole purveyor, until the arguments he ran through catechistically were changing on a weekly, a daily, an hourly basis. Eventually Michael could argue not only that the baby was provably from genetic stock which did not taint his familial line in an ad hoc genealogy which extended to a prelapsarian paradise, but that the murder was the predetermined and inevitable conclusion of some formula written in the quantum mechanics of the physical universe, and that he had not, in fact, been there or seen anything at all.