The Giant Black Crow is yelling again, seeming to get closer and closer with every squark.
Soon it will be inside my head.
I am surrounded by loudness and chattering voices,
but I am alone and in so much pain I can barely breathe.
I am going to die. Like in my dreams.
Outside the world is fire, and inside me is constant flame, trying to escape.
The pain gets sharper and faster, and I realise the loudness is me -
I am the one chattering and screaming.
The final scream, and the mood changes completely, like the flick of a switch.
I am blinded by a bright light.
And my boy is born.
In the agony of ecstasy.
The boy is silent. Everything is silent. Peace.
And cool air washes through the open window onto my sweat-soaked bed.
I thought it was night time but it's not yet - the sun is setting, the sky a brilliant orange.
The boy looks at me. Everything is bright. Colourful.
The sun's rays flow through the cracks in the door. This feeling stays with me for days.
The pain and terror of the past nine months feels like a distant nightmare now.
One that certainly couldn't be real.
Dreams of crows pecking me, dark men chasing me, one ghastly nightmare of my soul being sucked out of my body, while it scrambled to keep a hold with it's fingertips,
my mouth a giant black hole with the most petrifying sound coming out of it.
I was in dread of the baby growing inside me, for I knew these dark demons were coming for him.
And now my baby looks at me, and I know I will protect him from anything and all of it.
I don't know what to call him.
''Boy'' will do for now.
I can't stop looking at him, into his eyes.
He doesn't look away. Most people do. When does it start to become uncomfortable?
At what age do we learn to look away?
Most people don't look at me because they think I'm a witch.
My husband died and they call me ''The Amazon'' - a woman without a man.
But I am an Amazon - my ancestor was Clete, and I am still here, in her city,
and I have nowhere else to go. Nowhere else I want to go.
My ancestor was a warrior woman, who would fight to the death for her family.
I would do the same for my Boy.
I watch him grow. I watch everything.
I don't interfere, I observe, I let him discover everything himself.
He doesn't need much guidance from me, I can see that.
All he needs is to know that I am there, that I am strong, that I've got his back.
My sister comes to visit, and we both observe.
This Boy is surrounded by light, we can both see it.
He sees the world differently than other children.
He cannot stand violence or anger, whereas most children around here are used to it,
or even practice it.
He makes a friend. Rose.
We watch them together and my heart melts. My Boy is so kind and gentle with her.
I glow when I see them together.
My sister is worried. She sees the feminine in him,
and knows this is dangerous for a boy nowadays.
I am not worried. It's his strength, not his weakness.
We are Amazons, and the feminine is what makes us great and fearsome.
My ancestor loved fiercely and with passion.
She founded this most beautiful of cities with this passion of fire flowing through her veins.
I feel that fire when I look at my Boy: my creation.
One day, when Boy is about 6, the men return.
They have been fighting some distant battle in the far-flung stretches of the Empire.
They return with blood on their hands and hatred in their hearts.
Seven years of violence, without the touch of a gentle woman, is enough to drive a man crazy.
The women and children in the town can feel destruction reigning down on them with the return of the men.
The men go straight to the temple, but praying is not enough.
They go home to their wives with violence oozing out of every pore,
and cannot stand the weakness of women.
It is not long before a deathly silence descends on the town, a pregnant,
stagnant air waiting for disaster to strike.
Boy's father comes to me. He knows I don't want him there, but he has nowhere else to go.
His family died when the illness struck, the one that killed my husband.
The man barges into my little house, and I thank the Goddess that Boy is outside playing away.
What follows is the stuff of one of my pregnant nightmares, but it stays that way for weeks.
Boy is petrified of the man.
He can feels his anger, his violence, his indifference to Boy and his dominance over me.
I cannot defend myself, as much as I try.
My shame is a constant shadow: I promised my Boy I would defend him, but I can't.
I promised my Boy I'd be strong, but I'm weak.
And I know my Boy feels every slice of pain that I do, maybe even more keenly than I do.
The men bring something else with them: disease.
It sweeps through the city like a swarm of ants that have found something sweet to taste.
My sister and I use our herbs and prayers to cleanse our little houses,
luckily on the outskirts of town.
But close enough to hear the moans of the dying and the cries of the bereaved.
Rose's parents die, and Boy begs me to let her live with us.
I fear that she has the sickness, but she has nowhere else to go.
Already feeling guilty, I look at Boy's beautiful, dark-skinned face,
his sharp grey-blue eyes looking up at me, pleading.
How can I refuse my Boy his best friend?
The man goes crazy at me for letting an orphan of the sickness into our house.
And the abuse gets worse.
He never touches the children, but Boy sees and hears and feels everything.
And he keeps it all in, he doesn't know how to heal his wounds, to let it go, to ignore,
to realise that it's not his suffering.
He suffers as everything suffers, like when he was 3 and saw a bird dying.
He couldn't stop crying for hours.
I try to shield him from what is happening in the town,
but he feels the waves of despair coming off it,
and coming from Rose, who watched her parents die.
I overhear them promise each other that they will never leave each other alone,
no matter what.
It breaks my heart because I know already that Rose has the sickness.
I hear her feverish at night, and that is how it begins.
I give her every herbal remedy that I can cook up.
I give her cold baths, and warm cuddles, and everything I can think of.
Boy is constantly at her beck and call, and does everything he can to make her comfortable.
Food, drink, blankets, animals, anything she asks for, he brings.
And he watches his best friend slowly weakening before his very eyes.
One day, Rose doesn't wake up.
The death triggers the man into a frenzy. I am so badly beaten I think I may die.
And I am unable to comfort boy.
When it is quiet, my sister comes to look after him.
After a few days I recover a little, but by then I am barely sleeping.
My Boy is having the nightmares like I had when I was carrying him.
He tells me there are crows chasing him. Giant black ones.
He wakes up screaming that the crows are in the house and trying to get out of the locked window. I fling open the windows and Boy calms down.
One night I notice that he is feverish, and my heart sinks.
In the morning I venture into town for the first time in a long time,
to see if anyone knows of a cure.
I ask everyone I see. Most barely glance at me,
some approach me with anger as though it was my fault their loved ones died.
But a few approached me with pity,
and told me the best way to cure it is to break the initial fever.
''There is a place, a few days walk from here - they know how to do it.''
I rush back home, calling on my sister on the way. ''I'm going to Velia'' I say.
She helps me pack up my things and makes a sling for my back, for Boy.
He is already to weak to move.
He is nearly seven and I know this walk will break me.
My sister decides to come with me, so she can carry our food and water.
The man is asleep when we leave, he doesn't hear a thing.
The way is long and hot and dusty. My feet are cut and blistered.
My back is agony. But I carry my Boy, barely stopping, for hours.
We reach Velia. A multitude of people are there, the sick and the infirm,
come to get their share of the soothing waters.
I ask someone how to break a fever, and they tell me the method,
using hot and cold water alternately, at certain times of day.
We do the ritual exactly as described, for five days.
There is no improvement, actually it gets worse.
Boy is sleeping and I am in despair.
My Boy, the flame in the darkness, the light of the world,
I cannot protect him and I cannot help him.
I am not worthy of my Amazon ancestors, I am weak and shameful,
I have forgotten who I was meant to be.
I have failed.
I go to the cold spring, where the baths were founded by the Greek settlers.
The cold water is nourishing to the soul, like milk from a Goddesses bosom.
I immerse myself in it completely.
I sit in it and pray to the Goddess, pray to the water and the spring, to save my baby Boy.
I tell the Goddess that the world needs his light.
That his love for everyone is so infinite that he can't possibly be extinguished from this life.
That without him, I simply cannot go on living.
That if he lives I will be stronger, better, I will stand up for myself against the man,
I will do all those things I should have done.
I pray, I beg, I plead, I sit in that cold spring for hours, shivering and crying.
And the Goddess doesn't hear.
I carry him home, the fever too far advanced now to break it.
The man is gone. I know it's his fault my Boy is sick;
he cannot protect himself against disease when he is weakened by bad energy and fear.
I cannot be negative now, or give my Boy any other energy that would make him worse.
I pray and bring myself up to a level of peace and surrender to the situation.
Boy responds, and the last few days of his short life we spend eating together,
I tell him stories, we cuddle for hours.
I massage him and pour light into him.
I send him on his way full of the light and love that I held for him all along.
That love that he was born with, that peace he felt when he came into this world of darkness.
We will meet again, my Boy. Have no doubt about that.