Psychopomp Magazine Spring 2016 - Page 48

“I was very sorry to hear about Jonas,” the Director says.

“The virologist,” Salomea corrects. “You had a virologist, and then you didn’t, and now you do again.”

He seems taken aback by her perfunctory tone, which was her intent. She expects him to profess his deep personal concern for the future kids, to insist that he cares for each of them and doesn’t at all see them as occupations but as individuals, that she, Salomea, is a person to him and not the problem that she was brought to fix.

Instead, he says only, “Come with me.”

The Director drives her to an ivy-covered brick church on Connecticut Avenue.

“Where are we?” Salomea asks.

“The Saint Andrews convent,” the Director says. “Or used to be. It’s an orphanage now.”

At the black gates, a sister comes to greet them. The Director announces they are here to visit the children.

“This is Salomea,” he says. In the sister’s eyes Salomea sees recognition, and beyond it something else. Joy, she thinks.

The sister leads them inside the church to a large room where children sit on the floor and play with various toys. Salomea watches as the children handle the toys in what seems to be an elaborate ritual of gentle and methodical touch. As their hands move, their heads remain still, staring out at nothing with clouded white eyes.

“They call them milk babies,” the director says and taps a finger to his face, beneath his right eye.

Salomea looks at the orphans in the room. Their ages vary, from toddlers to children who seem to be just a few years younger than she.

“Babies?”

“The illness begins in infancy,” the Director says. “Ten years ago we got

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