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Umbilical

Lisa Beebe

At first it was just a stub. Barely noticeable.

"Can a person turn from an innie to an outie?" she asked herself. She'd heard of it happening to pregnant women. She knew she wasn't pregnant, so she wondered if she might be gaining weight. Maybe that could have the same effect. She started walking more, and tried to eat a little less.

Although her weight stayed the same, the lump continued to grow. It no longer even looked like an outie. It was about three inches long, and still growing. Maybe her umbilical cord was regenerating. Could that happen? If it could, she knew it wasn't normal, so she made an effort to hide it. She bought some medical tape and taped the lump to one side, but it was still visible beneath her tighter shirts. She began to dress in loose layers, always keeping her stomach covered.

Anyone else would've gone to the doctor, but this woman was afraid of injections and terrified of surgery. She worried they'd want to sedate her and operate to remove the cord.

When the cord continued to grow, she started wearing two sets of Spanx under all of her clothes. Combined with the medical tape, she could live a normal life, as long as she never undressed in front of anyone else. She stopped swimming. She avoided communal fitting rooms. She let her gym membership lapse and bought a Zumba DVD.

The cord grew and grew. As it developed, it seemed to have a mind of its own. At times, the cord pushed against the tape and the layers of elastic shapewear, as if it wanted to reach out to people. Not everyone. Just certain people. Each time the cord moved, she felt a twinge in her belly. It didn't hurt, exactly, but it felt deep and personal, as if something were tugging on her soul.

The woman's secret was too big for her to keep. One night, she made dinner for a friend and had a few glasses of wine. Without even meaning to, she told her friend about the cord and its movements. The friend commiserated. She didn't have any advice for the woman, but opened up about her own problems. She was having a tough time at work, and felt like her life was falling apart.

When the cord pushed itself toward her friend a few minutes later, the woman lifted her shirt so her friend could see. The friend lifted her shirt, too, as if to check that her own belly button was still normal. The cord reached for the friend's belly button and connected with it.

As soon as the friends were joined, a sense of peace and calm came over both of them. After a moment of wonder, the woman realized the strangeness of the situation. She reached over and yanked the cord free.

"I'm sorry," she whispered to her friend. "I don't know what just happened."

"I don't either," said her friend, "but it's okay. It made me feel a little better somehow. Like maybe my life isn't so bad."

After talking it over, they realized that the cord's efforts to connect could be a healing thing, and that the woman might have a special ability. They tried to figure out how the woman could use it to help others.

The woman felt a responsibility to go out into the world and connect with people. She couldn’t keep the cord a secret any longer.

She organized small meet-ups at first, which became so popular that they grew into massive conferences. At each one, the cord guided her to people who most needed her help. The rest of the audience got to witness the connection, to see something flowing from her into the other person. They watched the cord swell—pink and full of fluid—and admired the way it pulsed with energy and life.


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