What happened to Marc was my fault.
I was tired from a long night of counseling doubters and arbitrating quarrels, but that’s not the point. On the dawn of the day the Prophet died, he told me that it was my fault. “Here’s why you’re nervous, Ducky,” he had said, his voice thick and wet with the fluid that was collecting in his lungs. “You’re nervous because from now on, everything that happens to these people is your fault. You’re their prophet now. You’re the one in charge of guiding them and protecting them.”
He’d closed his eyes then and drawn a long, wincing breath. “You’re right to be nervous,” he’d said.
What happened to Marc was my fault.
I walked into our tent with my hands braced against my back. It felt like the baby was growing fast all of a sudden. It felt like everything that was happening was all of a sudden. Today, out of nowhere, an ache in my spine. What would it be tomorrow?
When I got into the tent, Marc was kneeling in front of the chest that held the sacred tablets. I didn’t interrupt his prayer. I took off the dripping scarf that I’d had wrapped over my hair to keep the rain off, hung it near the brazier to dry. I rubbed my hands together to warm them, listening to the thunder. After a few minutes, I settled onto our sleeping mat. Marc rose from his prayers and lay beside me, resting his palm on the crest of my belly.
“It’s late,” he said.
“Well, I had a lot to do,” I snapped. I lifted his hand from my belly and kissed his palm in immediate apology, our usual way of acknowledging an unwarranted sharp word. He didn’t kiss my knuckles in response. Instead, he pulled his hand back and frowned.
“You should be resting,” he said, propping himself up on one elbow.
I laughed. “I’ll rest in five months,” I said.
His forehead creased. “But the baby is due in two months.”
“...I’ll rest when we reach the Promised Land,” I said, staring at him. He didn’t meet my eyes. “Marc,” I said, and he shook his head, still not looking at me.
“Fisher,” he said quietly. He returned his hand to my belly. I groaned, rubbing my hands across my face.
“No, Marc, no,” I groaned. “I just spent four hours talking to people who don’t think it’s there. You can’t—”
“Well, I’m sorry that it’s hard to talk to your husband at the end of the day,” he said petulantly. The baby pressed a foot to his palm. I rolled away so that he couldn’t feel her reaching for him. It was petty, but it was satisfying.
“Marc, I can’t do this with you,” I said. “You’re my husband. You are the one person here who is supposed to believe in me no matter what.”
“I just think that we should have a backup plan,” he said. “We’re going to have a baby, Fisher—”
“I’m aware of that,” I said. “I’m the one who’s doing all the work—”
“What, I don’t do enough? Is that what you’re—”
“No,” I said, my voice rising, “I just think that it’s a little funny that you’re telling me that we’re having a baby when I’m the one who—”
“No, it’s fine, I understand,” he said, standing. “I hear you loud and clear, Fisher. I have to be the obedient, silent husband, right? While you’re the big important Prophetess, I have to just—”
“Marc, come back to bed,” I said, sitting up and massaging my temples. He reached for the tent flap, ignoring me. “Marc, don’t go out there, the storm is crazy right now—”
“I can’t be here with you right now,” he said softly. “I can’t have this fight with you.”
“Marc,” I called to him — but he was already outside. I heaved myself upright and ran to the tentflap, peeling it open to look out into the storm. The rain fell in sheets, ran in rivulets across the muddy gravel of the rock flats. He was stalking away from the tent, coatless, with his arms wrapped around his middle. “Marc,” I called again. Thunder bellowed overhead, drowning me out. “Marc,” I called one more time — but then, the lightning.
It was my fault.
The light was beyond blinding. For a blessed, Gods-gifted minute, I floated in a numb haze of silence and darkness, like sleep but panicked. I didn’t realize that I was on my back until after the ringing in my ears faded. Then, my vision and my hearing returned, along with the ache in my spine, and I scrambled upright. “Marc!” I was screaming, and I raced outside. “Marc!”
He was flat on his back between my tent and Hanna’s. His head was tipped...