This is the second part of my short story, A New Life, about a baby being born with their full memory intact from their previous life. If you haven't read Part 1 already, please go here:
Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think of it. Thanks. Have a great week. Best wishes, Chris
Baby Asher's first birthday arrived on March 21, 2008, and his speech had improved miraculously over the previous six months. This was partly due to the doctor having recommended a speech therapist specializing in infants. Every second morning for half an hour the speech therapist worked with the baby, always amazed at the progress being made. However, the therapist was told not to ask the baby any questions of a personal nature. The therapist had been informed by the pediatrician of the reasons, and understood the family's need for privacy.
In the meantime Malka and Reuben were getting more and more information from the baby every day. They found out that his name, up until his death only one year ago, was Christopher John Jeffers. He told them in bits and pieces that he had lived on the Gold Coast in Queensland, and was a teacher. He taught Japanese and History. He was married, and had two children, Matthew and Mary. Like most Australians, he was a Christian. That inspired much heated discussion between Malka and Reuben, being a strictly orthodox Jewish couple, until the doctor reminded them both that the baby is no longer responsible for anything that happened in the last life. ‘The baby might remember everything, but this was a new life, a new slate, and only what he did in this life matters.’
"But doctor, how can we teach him about Judaism if he was a Christian?" asked Malka. Through further conversation, she learned that Asher was raised a Catholic in his last life, but had turned away from all forms of religion in his late thirties. He was not a practicing Catholic when he died. That seemed to be the end of that. She breathed a sigh of relief and changed the subject. Reuben later confided to her that he was also relieved at that revelation, but that he was worried about what Asher had meant by 'turning away from all religion'. However, that could be discussed much later they agreed, not now.
Asher was crying again, and unlike usual infants, it wasn't just because he was two years old. Asher was very intelligent, and had the power of speech, so if he had a headache, or felt pain somewhere, he would say so. If he was tired, he knew that his infant body required sleep, and he'd roll over and do so. So Malka was a bit worried.
"What's wrong darling boy?" she asked tenderly. The time had passed when she thought of him as a grown man. Now she regarded him as brilliant gifted toddler, albeit with the memory of the man he used to be, but also the knowledge he was now her son.
"My wife and children. I miss them so much. I loved them dearly, with all my heart,” he cried. Malka didn't know what to say, and just looked at him sympathetically. How horrible it must be for him to know that they were still alive, she thought. They were probably still mourning his loss, while he was here in Sydney, an infant. Would they even believe him if they heard his story?
One day, while she was reading a book, she heard him softly sobbing. She dropped the book and called his name. Asher was half asleep when she crept into where he lay.
“Madison.” He breathed her name so softly that at first Malka thought she had imagined it. Asher said it again, his voice barely audible. Perhaps in a dream, he told Madison he loved her. Then he called her his favorite nickname for her. “Sweetpea.”
Asher was dreaming of his previous life. In his mind, he called out, "Sweetpea". It was something he had come to call Madison soon after they got married, when he had heard the old pop song by Tommy Roe at a game center. She had thought it silly at first, but came to love it; he only used it when they were alone. Then in his dream he saw his family and friends at his funeral, and tears were rolling down Madison’s face.
He had been forty-nine when he died, and his sweet wife would have been just forty-five. They had been married for twenty years, and he missed her so very much. It frustrated him that he was 'stuck' inside this baby's body, unable to do anything but be an infant every day, despite the fact that he had all the knowledge, wisdom and memories that he had built up over a life-time as Christopher John Jeffers.
Waiting for his body to catch up with his mind was almost driving him mad. It had taken so long before his mouth was able to form all the words he wanted to say, and just as long again before his legs could support his body and allow him to walk. He had an adult's knowledge of the world, but was trapped in this infantile body and in this family. Not that he disliked his new family at all. They were extremely kind and understanding of his plight, for which he was very grateful. But he desperately wanted to meet up with his wife, although he was also terrified that she wouldn't be able to accept the situation.
Having explained his feelings many times, Reuben and Malka finally agreed to Asher’s pleas. They would try to contact his wife, and attempt to explain this bizarre situation. Asher listened on as Malka called his wife from his previous life. Reuben stood by for moral support. Asher felt sick in his stomach as he waited.
"Hello? Mrs Jeffers? My name is Malka Ellet. M-a-l-k-a... yes. I am, um... calling you to talk about your late husband, Christopher. No, I didn't know him then, but ah, I know him... now. No! Please don't misunderstand... no, this isn't a joke. Please don't hang up... hello?" Malka's face went white as she turned to little Asher, who promptly sat down hard on his bottom and wailed.
Two days later they tried again. But as soon as Malka had said hello, the signal went dead. A week later they tried once more but there was only a recorded message to say that this number had been disconnected, and that they should call the operator about it. They chose not to do that. Asher had a better idea.
A month later in May, the end of autumn in Australia, it was still relatively warm on the sunny Gold Coast. Reuben, with Malka beside him in the passenger seat, drove the hire car along the Gold Coast highway. Asher directed him from the back seat. Next to him sat Miriam, his sister, who absolutely adored him. He smiled up at her. However his smile disappeared as they drove into the street in which he once lived, when he was still Christopher Jeffers. Tears came to his eyes when he saw his house. He gasped audibly when after half an hour, his ex-wife stepped outside to water some plants.
There was no fence blocking them from approaching her in this quiet cul-de-sac. As Reuben and Malka walked little Asher towards her, she turned and smiled, and then went back to her gardening. She became aware that they were still there, however, and she turned to face them.
"Nice weather today, isn't... it...?" Madison said falteringly. She had noticed the eyes on the child were exactly the same as her late husband’s. She looked up quickly.
"No … you're not... Malka?" she said abruptly, defensively, obviously very afraid.
“Yes, I am, and this is my husband, Reuben. This is Asher,” she said pointing to the boy, “and my daughter Miriam is sitting in the car. We mean you no harm.”
Reuben tried to smile in a manner that would be comforting for her, but she looked extremely frightened. Suddenly she stood and turned to run back inside, but little Asher's words stopped her.
"Madison! Wait!" Madison, the woman who was once his wife, turned around; she looked horrified. Thinking that this was some kind of cruel prank, or maybe even a 'con' of some sort, she turned and opened the door to her house, ran inside quickly and then slammed the door closed behind her. A moment later she opened the door and peered out.
"I'm calling the police. Leave!" An audible click was heard as she locked the door.
"Sweetpea!" Asher cried out. Malka looked at Reuben, who bit his lip and waited. A moment passed, and then they heard a click as Madison unlocked the door.
Exiting cautiously, the raven-haired lady slowly approached them, her wide teary eyes staring at little Asher. She was trembling slightly, and he was sniffling.
"What did you say?" she asked, in a wavering voice. Asher wiped his eyes.
"Sweetpea. It's me," he said in his little child's voice, completely foreign to her. But his words were not. They washed over her and it was too much - she felt herself falling backwards, before being caught by Reuben who lowered her onto the lawn. Reuben swore, something he hadn't done in years. Asher ran over to them but tripped and fell. Malka picked him up as Reuben helped the woman inside her house. Once inside they fetched a glass of water. She came good after a minute, and then panicked.
"Who are you? What d'you want?" these questions directed at Malka and Reuben.
"Please, we want nothing. Try to relax. We’ll leave if you want us to,” Reuben said.
Madison nodded at them, and they started to turn to leave, but Asher pleaded with her.
"Madison, it's me. Only I knew your nickname. And the song we picked it from."
Madison Jeffers tried to speak, but she appeared breathless and speechless.
"Our children are Matthew and Mary,” Asher said. “You thought the names sounded too Catholic, but you agreed to them to please my mother. You have a tattoo of a dolphin on your backside, and you have a mole near your..."
"Okay! Stop. That’s enough," said Madison quickly, her face flushed as Asher began to point toward her crotch. He quickly cut the gesture short, and looked up at Malka and Reuben who seemed confused and embarrassed. Asher saw tears roll down Madison’s cheeks. She looked at him, into him, deep into his very familiar eyes.
"Is it really you?" Madison breathed. Suddenly her face hardened and she asked.
"What's my father's middle name?" she demanded of him, suddenly suspicious.
"Marion. He didn't like it because it sounded too feminine, despite being named after John Wayne, who had the same name at birth." Madison still seemed skeptical.
"You could have found that out from a government register. What did I call you?"
"Aw, c'mon,” said Asher, blushing furiously. “You know I can't say that. It's silly." Madison wasn't convinced. She just looked at him, her eyebrows raised, and waited.
"Oh okay," said the boy, just three years old. "You called me stud-muffin!"
"Asher!" said Reuben. But while the boy looked chastened, his wife from his previous life tittered self-consciously, stopped herself and then broke down in tears.
"Our wedding song was 'Everything I Do' by Bryan Adams, and we honeymooned in Italy," he continued frantically, stopping for breath. Silence filled the room. It was just so hard to fathom. Even Reuben and Malka looked stunned.
"It is you!” Madison said. “But what... why? How did this happen, baby?" He laughed at that and she smiled when she realized her unintentional pun.
However, she didn't give him a chance to reply as she flung herself down onto the floor before Asher, scooped him up, and hugged him so hard that Asher had all his breath pushed from his lungs. Malka alerted her to the fact, and she released him again, before Asher leaped onto her and wrapped his tiny arms around her neck. They sat like that for a long time, only stopping when Reuben softly coughed.
“Oh, please forgive me. I totally lost myself there. I’m sorry – I’ve been such a terrible host. Please, bring your daughter in from the car and let’s all sit down together.”
Ten minutes later, Madison Jeffer's trembling hands placed a cup of tea each in front of Reuben and Malka, handed a glass of fruit juice to Miriam, and gave a plastic mug of warm chocolate milk to Asher, who was now sitting in Miriam’s lap. She breathed deeply to try and calm herself down. Her head was still spinning from the stunning revelation. They explained everything to her, Asher letting his new parents do most of the talking. His little body felt weak and tired after all the emotion and exertion. Despite this, a sudden thought occurred to him and he interrupted their conversation.
“How many years did my attacker get, Madison?” Asher asked. Madison gasped.
“I’m so sorry, darling, …” she said, fresh tears appearing in her eyes. “They got away. The police saw their faces but couldn’t identify them at the time,” she added.
“What? But didn’t you recognize the one who kicked me?” he asked, horrified. “It was Jack Halloran, the bully from school. You remember him, don’t you?”
“Oh my God, you may be right! I thought he looked vaguely familiar but I didn’t get a good look at him that night, and the police didn’t have any mugshots of him.”
“You have to go to the police straight away. It’s a murder case so it will still be open. Tell them that you remember who it was. They’ll have to follow it up.”
Madison agreed to do that, but there had been too much drama and emotion for one day, and it was obvious that ‘baby Asher’ was fatigued. They took him to a quiet room.
Asher fell quickly asleep and Madison’s children who had returned home from school early that afternoon took Miriam to the park and played. When they came back, they took Miriam upstairs and all played computer games together. The three adults continued talking well into the night. There were many things to consider and discuss, and then there was the future to talk about.
However even after so many hours of conversation no decisions had been made, and nobody could explain how to prove to anyone else that Asher really was the late Christopher John Jeffers. But it was obvious to Madison, Malka and Reuben that Asher had been reborn with all the knowledge and memories from his last life intact. They just didn’t know what to do in the future or how to proceed from there. It was late at night, and Madison invited them to stay. Malka helped her to prepare fresh beds. They could talk more the next day, and besides, Madison needed time to think about the ramifications of this phenomenal event.
On a more personal level, she had to try and accept that her beloved husband was now just a three-year-old boy, despite him having the same mental capacity as when he was married to her. The only difference was physical, and perhaps legal and social. She knew she would get very little sleep that night as all these issue swirled around in her weary mind.
The next day, Madison went to the police station and spoke to the same detective who had handled the case of her murdered husband. She told him that she remembered the attacker’s name. The detective looked at her with a skeptical expression.
“Now?” he asked. “It’s a bit odd, isn’t it? Why couldn’t you recall it at the time?”
“It was dark. I thought that I may have seen him before, but I couldn’t remember.”
“Mrs Jeffers, I showed you dozens of mugshots and you knew none of them.”
“That’s because the guy who killed my husband hadn’t been arrested before.”
“And so how did you realize who it was all of a sudden?” he asked her.
“I was going through an old school yearbook yesterday,” she said, taking the school photo album out of her bag and placing it on the desk before the detective. “That’s him!” she said, opening to the class photos and pointing to boy standing in the row behind her husband. “I was in a different grade, but I knew the boy. His name was Jack Halloran.”
One Year Later
Asher woke in the middle of the night and stared up at the ceiling. He could hear the soft gentle breathing of his sister Miriam nearby in the other makeshift bed. In some ways, he felt as though life had dealt him a cruel blow. He could not continue life as a husband to Madison, and father to their two children. That had been taken away from him. But he could stay in touch with them for the rest of his new life as a close friend.
There were many other positives to consider as well. Jack Halloran had confessed and was put behind bars for twenty years, with the option of parole after fifteen. Furthermore, Asher realized, school was certainly going to be extremely easy. And although he was only four, with his previous lifetime of knowledge, the possibilities were endless. The things he could do! The things he would do! He smiled then, rolled over, and went back to sleep.