S2E1 - Baby New Year
It was a frigid morning out here on Calisland. I don’t need to tell you how cold it can get in the winter months. With the breeze going strong and the sea mist spraying up over the island, it’s just cold enough for us to stay inside.
We were all still sleeping through our winter break. It was the kind of existence that comes from going to bed early and sleeping in until the sun comes up. It was just starting to poke it’s head over the ocean, splattering orange, when we heard a knock on the front door.
Julia Sawbone, our resident adventurer and folklorist, is an early riser. She was in the library, which is really just a spare bedroom with books in stacks on the floor, when she heard the knock. She stood, keeping a hot mug of tea between her sweater sleeved hands. She peeped through the peephole and saw nothing.
Perplexed, as we doesn’t normally receive knocks on our vacant, crisp island, she opened the front door. As it swung open, it became apparent why the knock had occurred.
On the front porch of our commune home was a wicker basket, a small one. The kind your grandparents might store blankets in. There was a big arcing handle over the opening. Underneath this handle was a baby, sleepily pawing at the air. Julia shifted her weight from foot to foot as she pondered what to do next. She set her hot mug of tea on the front porch and she grabbed the basket from the base. She brought it inside.
She sat the basket on the kitchen countertop. The movement had woken the baby and now they were crying. Julia asked AI 4-82 to play some calming music. In the shed out back, whirring towers of circuitry and computing technology lit up. The house’s artificial intelligence played a sleepy tune through speakers in the kitchen.
Julia Sawbone’s bare feet slapped up the wooden stairs. She knocked softly on my door, which was just enough to nudge it open in the process.
“I think you should come downstairs,” she told me in a whisper.
Squinting through my glasses I blindly followed to the first floor. I could hear the music as we approached the kitchen.
The baby was there, no longer crying but tossing in the basket. When their body rolled, a crinkle could be heard from the basket. I reached inside and placed a hand beneath the baby’s head as I lifted them out. Julia Sawbone reached inside and grabbed the piece of paper. As she read it out-loud, I bobbed up and down with the babe in my arms because that’s what they do in the movies.
The note read as follows:
It is with a great sadness that I must inform you of Father Time’s passing. He died peacefully of natural causes. He was very old after all. In his will, he asked that Newton’s Dark Room watch over Baby New Year while his successor is determined.
We wish you all the best, you will be kept informed via notes left in wicker baskets on your front porch. If all goes well, there will not be anymore babies in those baskets.
Best of luck,
Saturn, Father Times’ attorney & close friend of Crash, the Cosmic Crackshot.
That day, an astrologist in a cabin in the mountains of southern California wrote “uh oh” next a signal anomaly. We could hear it here on earth too, with our naked ear. It was a low jolting sound. It was the sound of Crash, the Cosmic Crackshot crying. The constels, this ancient and expansive form of life, had invented time in their early years. For Crash, losing Father Time was like losing a son.
Back on Calisland, we had a conundrum. There was a baby in our house. None of us had children, we were eccentric artists living on an island. Julia opened the refrigerator, but our stock was low. A shipment would be arriving in the next couple of days. She grabbed one of the only things we had left: a carton of half and half. She strapped a rubber glove onto the bottom of a funnel and poked a hole in the tip of one of the fingers. After pouring the half and half into the funnel, we had a makeshift bottle. Baby New Year suckled on the contraption from the kitchen sink. We had placed them there on a soft towel in case they spilled.
While the baby slept in the sink, the collective gathered in our meeting room. I stood at the front, just behind a podium. Scattered in various chairs were the rest of the collective. Sophia Rivera was in the corner, shushing the chanting members of the Church of the False Morning Sun. Sumpra and Auggie Pepnia sat near the front, attentive despite the morning hours. The ghost of Jack, A Dull Boy floated through the wall and hovered over an empty seat. Tommy B. woke up from a tight blanket ball in the middle of the floor. He doesn’t have a bed in the house, instead choosing to wander and sleep wherever he likes. The Calisland Caretakers left their brooms in the hallway and sat in the back. Even Tur-Toise, the reclusive founder of Newton’s Dark Room, came out of his quarters for the meeting. S. Owen Sow arrived a little late, his pants covered in paint and rotten food from a morning visit to the tiny civilization of New Artesia. Roombas hummed their way around the floor, bumping into wooden chair legs before darting off in new directions.
Despite the mass of people in the room, it was rather quiet. Something about the cold winter months, the dim early morning, and sleeping New Year left them with little to say. I broke the silence.
“For those who have not heard, Father Time has passed away. He was very close friends with Crash, The Cosmic Crackshot. Because of their relationship, Father Time felt that he could trust Crash and his collective with looking over Baby New Year. As we speak, the baby is in the kitchen, sleeping. Does anyone here have any experience raising a child?”
Everyone looked around to see if anyone would speak up. No one did.
“Alright then. Well, we’re all about to learn.”
I asked Julia to grab an encyclopedia from the library, A to BG. Upon her return, we flipped to the b-a section and found the baby entry. I read the paragraph out loud.
“Babies are the larval form of the human species. Like their adult form, they are squishy, soft, and would probably lose in a fight against a lion. If found in the wild, it is important to remember to stay calm. Their vision is based largely on movement and is entirely useless unless you are within very close proximity. You can easily escape their grasp by staying at arms distance and slowly backing away.”
The entry left us confused, and people were bubbling amongst themselves with little questions and perplexions. Are we supposed to run from babies? Are they dangerous? I didn’t think they were supposed to be dangerous. With a soft handed gesture I was able to quiet them down. This was when someone raised their hand to comment.
It was Harlod, one of the two Calisland Caretakers. They had grown up on the island and spend most of their time spritzing down counters, feeding the roombas, and repairing AI 4-82. Although they have also become welcome members of the collective. Harlod suggested they construct some sort of being to look over the baby.
“We could probably do it. Obviously everyone would still need to help care for the child, but this would give us some consistency,” Harold clarified.
We all let out grunts of approval.
After the meeting, The Calisland Caretakers scoured through the cellars of our house for some old materials. Amongst the barrels of marbles, old cat supplies, and the demonic pinball machine, they found an old grandfather clock.
“This is perfect,” is what they said when they saw it. The two of them rocked it up the cellar stairs and took it to the workshop. For hours the sounds of hammering, drilling, and chin scratching could be heard from inside the room. When they were done, they stepped into the hallway wiping the sweat from their forehead with their forearms. The Roombas flooded into the room to eat up the sawdust.
They made their way down into the kitchen, where Baby New Year was sitting on the floor, laughing. A roomba was bumping up into their foot and the little swooping brushes made the baby giggle. The Calisland Caretakers smiled, bent over, and carried the baby in their arms to workshop. They set them down in front of the Grandfather Clock.
Baby New Year was immediately transfixed. The large pendulum swung back and forth, filling the room with it’s hushed ticks and tocks. The baby sat, mouth lax and drooling. The clock hit 4:15 and the music started. It was a nice melody, played with old pricked parts. Baby New Year beamed, reaching for the clock face. The Calisland Caretakers beamed reaching for the baby.
They opened up the Grandfather Clock and placed the baby in a crib inside. The pendulum swung above Baby New Year who reached up to touch it. Their short stubby arms were too short, and they stretched in vain attempts. As the music continued, the baby’s movements slowed until they stopped altogether, leaving the babe in a peaceful slumber beneath the watchful face of the Grandfather Clock.
You just listened to Baby New Year, from Newton’s Dark Room Presents. The story was written, produced, and narrated by myself, Talon Stradley. The music was written by A Mighty Rabbit and Seth Augerrie. Each episode this year features original music. We’ve also added more to these songs and released them as a 3 track EP called Grandfather by A Mighty Rabbit. You can stream Grandfather on Spotify, iTunes, and wherever else you get your music. You can also purchase the EP bundled alongside this episode pressed onto cassette at AMightyRabbit.bandcamp.com
Patrons will be receiving a mini-zine in the mail with additional art and musings inspired by this episode. Find out how you can get your own Zine, handmade linocuts, and limited edition cassettes mailed straight to your door every month by visiting patreon.com/newtonsdarkroom
This has been a production of Newton’s Dark Room. For more information on NDR, our other shows, transcripts, extras, and more, visit newtonsdarkroom.com or follow us on social media @newtonsdarkroom.
Thanks and we’ll see you next month for our episode The Goddess of Rain.