It’s Christmas, Baby, Please Come Home
by Sean Taylor
This story originally appeared in Cyber Age Adventures Magazine and is collected in my short story collection Show Me A Hero by New Babel Books.
woman across the table from me wasn’t really a woman at all. She had no
real skin to speak of or any kind of humanity other than the feminine
shape she had forced her new body of light and energy to look like. Her
arms and legs may have been covered up with regular clothes like the
rest of us wore, but the way I could see through the parts of her shiny,
twinkling form that weren’t covered by clothing reminded me all over
again how she was no longer human.
She was something else.
Just like my baby.
name was Nancy Elliot, but most of the world knew her as Starlight. A
superhero. A woman who had lost her body years ago and had become a
“We love our little girl, Ms. Starlight,” said
my husband, Chris. “It’s not like we don’t want her.” He sat beside me,
his hands gripped together in one tight fist, his muscles as tense as
his mind had to be. Putting words into the air for both of us. Trying
not to make us sound like monsters. “It’s just that I don’t think
anymore that staying with us is what’s best for Mackenzie. I think she
needs parents who can understand her situation and deal with it better.”
takes one to know one, huh?” asked the Elliot’s attorney, a tall man
with dark hair that had introduced himself as either Tom or Thomas or
Nancy placed her hand on his shoulder. “I’m
sure that’s not the way Mr. Brown meant it.” Her fake face looked calm
and compassionate. Like a mother’s face. “I’m sure this can’t be easy
for them either.”
Her husband sat beside her, wearing a
dark blue suit with white pinstripes. He looked like a lawyer himself,
but he kept quiet, saying everything he needed to by saying nothing at
“I only mean that Deidra and I aren’t really
capable of taking care of someone like little Mackenzie. We’re just just
not physically or emotionally prepared to cope with the
responsibilities of having a child that can burst into flame at a
“No parents are ever prepared for their children, Mr. Brown,” Nancy said.
wanted to tell her that, although she was right, this went far beyond
that. That a few months of sleepless nights or constantly having to
clean wet bedsheets were quite a different matter than never being able
to touch a child without wearing asbestos gloves and being turned down
for every homeowners’ insurance policy we applied for when they
discovered our daughter’s unique talent for setting herself and her
surroundings on fire whenever the mood struck her.
didn’t. I couldn’t. She had lost a son only a few years ago. A normal
son. One born to her before she became a freak. And MacKensie Elizabeth
Brown, born December 17, 2003, had been my first and was my only, so
what right did I have to correct a mother who had been through far more
than I had?
So I merely shuffled my hands in my lap and nodded, then I smiled at her and her husband, then glanced back down into my lap.
attorney, or more correctly, the attorney we had hired just to take
care of the adoption process, rifled through the stack of papers in
front of him and cleared his throat. “If you are ready, we can sign the
papers now,” he said, reaching into his pocket for a pen. He pulled out
four and handed one to me, one to Chris, and one each to Nancy and her
husband. “I’ve gone through the trouble of highlighting the areas to
sign in yellow and marking them with an ‘X’ as well. A little overkill
in preparation never hurts, I always say.”
I took a pen
and looked at Chris. He forced a smile and looked back at me, then
looked away toward the corner of the ceiling. I dropped the pen onto
“Mrs. Elliot,” I asked, trying to sound sincere.
“Yes?” she answered.
wished then and there that some—What do they call them?
Supervillains?—that some supervillain would begin a rampage downtown and
Starlight would get a beep on her pager or special phone, or whatever
people in authority used to contact super types, and she’d have to leave
and allow me a few more moments of motherhood, a few more minutes of
being a parent of a child I didn’t need and couldn’t raise.
a few seconds more of living without the guilt of giving up on a child I
didn’t want to accept the responsibility of raising.
there was no beep, no call, no interruption. Only her calm,
understanding smile that she drew in the air with light in an attempt to
make us all feel at ease around her.
“Nothing,” I said. “I thought there was something I wanted to tell you, but I guess there really wasn’t.”
reached across the table for my hand, and I let her take it, if just to
know what her artificial touch felt like. “It’s okay,” she said. “I
know this has to be difficult for you.”
Her hand felt
somehow cool and warm at the same time, like a weird combination of thin
metal and a light bulb. I said, “Thank you,” and let go, then settled
back into my chair.
Our attorney distributed sets of
documents to each of us, indicating where to sign and what parts of the
page we might most like to read over before agreeing to, and I signed as
I was instructed, barely listening and centering my gaze on the
highlighted ‘X’s on the back page of each form.
few minutes, he stopped passing around papers and instead gathered them
all in front of him and began to sort them into three stacks. The
center stack, the largest of them, for him to file with various agencies
and in his off-site storage should Mackenzie ever decide to look us up
once she grew up. The two smaller stacks were for us and the Elliots to
keep or burn or lose or file away.
There was a lot more
talk, all friendly and agreeable and tending to go along the lines of
how this decision was really best for all of us, and how Chris couldn’t
think of a better couple to raise our daughter, and how much Nancy and
her husband had been looking forward to having another child after their
youngest boy had died of luekemia. We stood up and hugged each other
and cried, and the attorneys shook hands and exchanged a second set of
And it was over.
the way outside, I followed a few yards behind the Elliots, watching as
they walked to their SUV, like a normal couple. Nancy’s husband opened
her door, then closed it after she stepped inside, then made his way
around to the driver’s side and got in. I wondered why she didn’t just
fly to pick up Mackenzie. After all, that was how they got around,
Chris came up behind me and put his arm around my shoulders. I pulled in close to him.
“She’ll be better off. You’ll see,” he said.
“Her hand,” I said.
“Her hand. It was like nothing I’ve ever felt before.”
And the world seemed suddenly normal again.
(C) Sean Taylor