“Well? What’s wrong?” Corina asked her husband. She rocked her swaddled, new daughter in her arms. She kissed the baby’s wispy strands of purple hair. Her husband gawked at the child with wide, nervous eyes. “You weren’t expecting anything other than ‘1’, were you?” she asked.
“One thousand and three,” he said. His normally smooth voice sounded dry and raspy.
“One thousand and three what?” she asked. She knew the answer; it would explain the cracks in his voice. Justin’s mouth always went dry when he was nervous. She held out hope that he was not freaking out about their daughter’s power level.
When Justin first explained his power he told Corina ‘6’ was the highest number he’d seen. It was the world heavyweight boxing champion in his prime. Corina did not believe him at first but he convinced her over time. It wasn’t something that he got to use often, but it had come in handy on a few occasions.
“Majesty,” he said their daughter’s name. Somehow that small, deliberate action helped Corina relax slightly. “Her level is 1003.” A sudden knock at the door interrupted their thoughts. They turned to see a greying nurse walk in without waiting for a response. She wore dark green scrubs with a white apron; a sprig of mint leaves was pinned to the apron. The woman smiled at them with sparkling eyes.
“Hello! I’m Nurse Mundo. I came to see if there was anything you needed or maybe answer any questions you might have?”
“No!” Corina and Justin both answered her at the same time. “I mean, we’re fine,” Justin added. Nurse Mundo raised her left eyebrow.
“Is that so?” she asked. Both parents nodded vigorously. “So you know why your daughter is strong enough to break the Earth and all that? Good, good,” she said.
“You can the number?!” Justin asked. “What does it mean?”
“Is it a 42?” the nurse asked and offered her hand to the father. He was unsure but accepted the hand and shook it; a faint green glow passed between their hands. It happened so fast Justin was not sure it happened at all.
“It’s 1003,” he said. She nodded.
“This means you don’t know what you are either, right?” she asked.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“You and your daughter…,” she paused and looked at Corina, then she turned back to Justin. “…not your wife, are what’s known as Unique Souls. You’re #51, La Palma, and your daughter is #42, La Calavera. You can see some aspect of a person represented as a statistic and your daughter will be strong enough to crack the Earth in two.” Corina and Justin looked at their sleeping child, then at each other. Nurse Mundo had watched that silent conversation happen dozens of times between parents, not all of them Unique children. They were ready to welcome a child to their home, not a walking atom bomb. Neither of them wanted to admit that neither of them felt comfortable. The nurse let the parents stay silent until she felt one of them was close to saying something.
“I do know someone,” she said quickly. The statement was vague enough that Corina and Justin each thought she was answering their unasked question. “As parents, you have to make hard decisions. Do you raise the child as best you can knowing it’s not good enough, or do have someone that knows what they’re doing give her a safer life than you ever could? Your daughter can literally, accidentally destroy the Earth. A Calavera’s terrible-twos are quite apocalyptic.”
“What? Are we just supposed to give her over to you?” Corina asked; her decision already made. Nurse Mundo shook her head then pointed at the far corner of the hospital room. A tall, lean man with neatly parted white hair and a full, groomed white beard smiled at Corina and Justin. He held a black briefcase in one hand and a bundle of blankets was cradled in the other. The new stranger wore an elegant forest-green suit with a white vest and white bow-tie. A ’37’ was tattooed on his cheek directly under his right eye. Instead of an eyeball, he had a glass eye painted like the Earth. It spun slowly in its socket. Neither of the parents had an idea where he came from. There were no doors near that corner.
“Of course not,” the stranger said and stepped forward. “It’s a trade. Majesty for a more manageable baby girl and a briefcase full of cash. Deal?”