“I owe you my life and I will repay your kindness."
A voice rang out in the suffocating darkness. I couldn't even tell if it was the girl's voice or a line from a movie I watched a few weeks ago.
The voice was distorted by something. As I was about to look for the source, a blinding light came to fill my entire field of view and forced me to squint.
When my gaze adjusted, I found a blonde woman looking at me with a smile. Her face was so beautiful that it surprised me. Next to her was a dark-haired man who flashed the same smile.
I didn't understand. Hadn't my body been pierced by a ball of lightning? I should have died with such a severe wound! Was medical technology this advanced?
Then who were these two? A doctor and a nurse? But, their clothes didn't resemble the image in my head.
Question after question kept filling my mind. Suddenly, my body relaxed as the woman caressed my head. The comfort I felt made me ignore the questions.
The man patted my head and I felt the same comfort. What was this feeling? I was usually reluctant to have my head touched by strangers. Because I felt disrespected by them.
However, not with these two. They looked at me attentively and didn't exude an aura of intimidation. In fact, I felt so comfortable with their actions.
She then started talking to me. Her words sounded strange. I didn't know if it was a foreign language I'd never heard. But no matter how much I listened to her, I still had no clue.
The woman kept speaking until tears stopped her. She immediately kissed my forehead. I could feel a warmth flowing from the point where my skin met her lips. I had never felt this comfort and warmth other than with my own mother. It was a feeling I longed for.
As I tried to look back at them, my field of vision became blurry. I tried to get rid of something blocking my eyes. My fingers swiped at it and felt a wet sensation.
Something from deep within my soul exploded. Like a flood that washed over me. My body, unable to contain this huge wave, was forced to release it from the slit of my eyes.
I cried out. My screams grew louder. I couldn't help but let all the pent-up emotions out.
For the first time, I cried over my mother's death.***
Two months passed.
It seemed like I was reborn. A new reality, I was a baby.
I came to this conclusion when the blonde woman carefully picked me up. There was no way that I, a grown man, could be picked up that easily by her. Also, the physical appearance reflected from the surface of the puddle in the barrel revealed a different figure.
My hair was black and my eyes were brown. It was quite different from my former body.
I had to accept the fact that I had been reborn. To be honest, I wished that my mother had also been reborn. But, that was impossible. Being reborn might be luck or mercy from God so that I could live normally this time.
When I grew up and became independent, I would visit my mother's grave to thank her for everything she gave me.
Anyway, I had a new body. Unlike my old one, the current body seemed to be able to feel all the emotions like a normal human. This was something that I had always wanted.
Yet somehow, I became too whiny. Every time my butt felt wet, the urge to cry was unstoppable. Every time a strange insect landed on my bed, I would cry too. There were too many things that could make me cry. I was ashamed of myself.
But, every time I cried, my new mom would come and calm me down. Either by giving me breast milk or warm stroking from her fingers. When that happened, I would soon fall asleep.
I wanted to thank my current mom. She gave me the opportunity to be born into this world in good health. She took care of me as much as she could and gave me plenty of attention. I admired her.
Then my new guy came to see me often as well. Unfortunately, most of the things he did were make silly faces and I almost threw up. He looked confused every time he saw my reaction. However, I realized that this man had no idea he was doing something pointless.
Please, stop making that silly face.
Half a year passed after I was born.
Finally, I was able to move or rather, crawl. After six months of being stuck in bed with nowhere to go, this was the moment of freedom I had been waiting for.
Crawling with my little legs and hands felt so great. I never thought that crawling could be a nice moment in my life. Perhaps I felt the same way in my previous life?
Again, memories of the past began to fill my mind. And it was common for me to cry and then mom would come to calm me down.
By the way, my parents called me Damna. Although I could not pronounce my own name, at least this new name should be engraved in every cell of my body.
I was no longer Phil. I am Damna.
Then, my attention was distracted by the sound of a man laughing. Of course, I recognized the laugh. He was the man who became my dad, somehow. A man with a strange sense of humor.
He came closer and then put me on his shoulder. In a way, it was like I was riding a horse. This was quite embarrassing. I struggled and hit his head with all my might. Yet, he laughed.
I realized that the force I expelled from this tiny hand was too small to cause injury. Just wait, O man who seemed to be my dad, I would avenge you.
Although there was a love-hate relationship between me and this man, of course, I didn't hate him. I just couldn't stand him. Maybe because I hadn't found at least one reason to really like him.
This man, who carried me on his shoulder, walked around like a horse. The route was so short because our house was not big. There was only one living room, one dining room attached to the kitchen, two bedrooms, and one bathroom.
All the furniture and walls were made of wood. The floor was covered with neatly arranged stones and the roof was made of straw-like material. On the table was a thick candle that was used at night. It was a tool for providing light at night when there was no firewood to light a fire in the stove.
The more I observed, the more I understood. This place was far from the contact of technology. But, it didn't make sense. Could it be that I was born in an area that wasn't on the world map?
A knock on the door made this man stop having fun. He walked and opened it.
The man with the bushy beard came again.
Whenever that man came, Rosch put me back into the exclusive bed. I dislike it. I couldn't get off from this place because it was about a meter high and had sturdy wooden bars. Again, I was caged.
They talked about something, then Rosch's face became serious. Afterwards, the bearded man left.
Rosch sighed. He went into the room while taking off his clothes. His muscular muscles and six-pack abs were visible to me.
Never been a fan of muscular men, but my mom's husband's muscles look buffed. I'd never seen him do any special exercise. Or maybe because I was the one who never left the house.
Every morning, I heard my mom's husband shouting in a certain rhythm. I guess that was when he was practicing something.
This man wore tight and thick clothes covered with a cloak. He took something from the chest. A sword! I didn't understand. It was impossible to have a real one in this world, right? Unless this guy was a high-class cosplayer. Maybe that was the reason. Still, it didn't make sense for a cosplayer to live in the countryside like this.
Before I realized it, he came over, picked me up and kissed my forehead. After flashing a smile, he put me back in the cage. He waved his hand and I waved back. The door closed and I heard the sound of his steps fade away.
Normally, he would wait until mom came home before going out. But, it seems that something urgent happened. Although I didn't understand what exactly happened in this village.
Thinking too hard made my baby's eyes sleepy. I laid down and hoped mom would be home by the time I woke up.
6 months passed again.
During these six months, I tried hard to listen to my parents' every conversation. As a result, I began to acquire some words with the correct pronunciation and meaning.
The language used here has similarities to English. In terms of pronunciation and some of the rules. Yet, the alphabet was completely different. I'd never seen an alphabet like this.
To be honest, I didn't expect to be this fast in learning a language. I had absolutely no guidance other than the fairy tale books my parents read to me every night. Perhaps it was because my body and brain were still developing, so it was easy for me to remember.
From my small observations, I was currently in a remote village in Europe. Of course, this was only a rough analysis. Until I explored this place, I could never know the truth.
"Damna! Damna sweetheart! Where are you?" Mom yelled out my name.
Mom was looking for me. She looked in the cupboards, under the dining table, and in the equipment room. She still couldn't find me.
She let out a long sigh then gave up and went out of my sight.
I was currently hiding under a pile of clothes next to the door. I had no ill intentions towards her. Every time I hid and she managed to find me, her face looked happy.
I wanted to see her smile and how she pampered me afterwards. I didn’t think that was too much for a baby like me right now.
As I stayed silent and kept peeking, my nose picked up a delicious scent. The smell was so appealing that I unconsciously went outside and crawled in the direction it came from.
I arrived at the kitchen and mom looked at me with a proud smile.
Ah, I was tricked.
Mom finished cooking and picked up my little body. Then she kissed my chubby cheeks.
"I finally found you, Damna." She chuckled. "You must be hungry, right? I cooked something sweet for you."
She stroked my head gently. It made me comfortable. Every day, I felt fulfilled.
I wanted to repay her kindness. Yet, I didn't know how.
Of all the things I remembered, there was one that came to mind. It was an action that I thought would make her happy. Actually, I had already trained myself for it.
I clenched my fingers and extended my hand to gain her attention.
She looked at me.
"Ma... Ma... Mama."
Mom froze. Her lips trembled. Then the tears came. "What did you say, sweetheart?"
I repeated my words. "Mama! Mama!"
Mom hugged me again and kissed my whole face like a wild animal. Then she ran out of the house.
What I saw was so beautiful. A rural atmosphere with a cool breeze that I'd never felt living in the city. Not far ahead, there were two golden-coloured wheat fields. Between them was a straight path that led to other small houses.
On the path, a shirtless man stood and held a hoe in his right hand.
"My dear! Damna can talk! He is talking!"
The man stopped his activities and ran to us. He was dripping with sweat and his body was glistening in the twilight.
"Say it again, Damna," my mother's husband pleaded.
Suddenly, the enthusiastic face of this grown man turned into the face of a child whose toy was taken away. Yes, he burst into tears and babbled incoherently. At that instant, he kissed my mother deeply.
After kissing his wife, his attention returned to me.
"Say 'Daddy'," he pleaded.
He looked awkward. He asked once again to call him Daddy. Of course, I wasn't going to call him that. Think of it as a form of revenge for teasing and tickling me to the point of almost fainting. He did it almost every day when he had the chance!
"Rosch, maybe if we teach him every day, Damna will be able to call you Daddy."
Rosch looked at my mother and tried to stay strong. "You're right, Sonja."
His lost motivation returned. But it was pointless. No matter how hard he tried, I would try my hardest not to call him Daddy.
The man stroked my head and then said in a soft voice, "I'm worried if Damna can't talk. Most babies around his age already speak one or two words. But my boy only let out a sound when he cried. I thought he would be cursed because he was born on New Year's Eve."
Honestly, I didn't understand what Rosch meant. But, my mother's tears continued to flow. It seemed that I was the only one who didn't understand the situation. The superstition in this village was still quite strong.
Rosch wiped away Mom's tears. They exchanged smiles for a moment and later kissed my cheeks.
"I am truly grateful," he said.
This man's face showed sincerity. It made me melt. Unconsciously, my lips opened on their own.
His eyes widened.
"Eh? You said Daddy, right?"
I shook my head. "Mama!"
This man kept insisting on admitting that I had called him daddy. Of course, I wasn't going to confess. It was a coincidence!
A chuckle slipped out of mom's lips. She really seemed to be holding back her laughter. Unfortunately, she failed to do so. She let out a loud sound that surprised me.
I didn't expect my mom could laugh so hard like a gorilla.