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By Maggie Barton

(Rev 21:6) He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 'Yes I am coming soon.' (22:20). Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (Rev 1:3 NIV)

Once in a lifetime, and sometimes more, you encounter an enigma. A mystery which plagues your brain and never quite escapes you. No one expected anything like this to happen and no one could prepare for the consequences of the puzzle. For myself this happening occurred at my previous occupation; I was a warden in a women's prison. I was in charge of ladies from all walks of life, all there for different reasons. No one had quite the same story.

Making my rounds one evening I heard a dreadful sound projecting from one of the prisoner's cells. The noise was easily recognized, it was the sound of someone vomiting. I made my way up and down the cell block, searching for the source of the sound. Up one row and down another I looked, in stalls lined up like a barn under lock and key. The sound grew closer and I encountered the origin of the clamor.

It was on the second floor that I found her, lying on the floor next to her stool, passed out and sweaty from the force of her heaving. I called for the officer on the lower level for assistance and she made her way up. I unlocked the cell slowly and made my way over to her still body.

Shining my flashlight into her closed eyes, she stirred a little. The officer I called down kicked her in the knee and said, "Get up, and get back in your cot." I gave her a harsh stare for doing that to a sick woman on the floor. I recognized her face; she was one of our newest inmates, only been there for a few months, six at the most.

I helped her to her feet and dismissed my officer. Walking her over to the cot, she doubled over and fell forward. I did the best I could to get her over to her bed; as soon as she got there she fell asleep without a word. I stayed there for a moment, wondering if she would wake and continue to vomit. The resident just lay there, her face glassy from the sweat.

Just before my night shift was over I contacted the prison nurse. "In the morning would you please check the inmate in cell 777. She's having fits of vomiting and can't even walk over to her cot from her toilet." The nurse replied that the inmate had never been checked out or given a physical at all; one would be performed tomorrow evening. "Yeah, I'm a little worried about this one, she doesn't interact with the other inmates and I've got one of those gut feelings, you know?" She suggested that I stand by during the examination in case the inmate passed out again or began to vomit. I thought it was a reasonable request considering the unfortunate state of the prison budget; the nurse worked alone.

When I got to the prison in the morning, the nurse was waiting for me outside of the cell. She and the inmate were conversing, as I walked up with my cuffs and keys. "Turn around and put your back towards me," I said. Cuffing the inmate before unlocking the door is standard. She placed her hands between the bars and I locked the restraints securely. I looked down at her trembling digits, they were pale and bruised. From my experiences in a women's prison, bruised knuckles are more than what they seem. Discoloration of the knuckles is a result of forcing one's self to throw up. It made sense considering the previous evening.

We brought her to the small white room where the nurse gave all of her examinations. I brought along the inmate's records in case we needed information. Her name was Magdalene Teabs. She had been here for exactly three months, almost to the day. Magdalene was a prostitute. She had been picked up on a sting operation and resisted arrest. Back a cat in a corner and you get clawed.

The physical didn't go as planned. Magdalene wasn't cooperating. "What are those marks on your fingers from?" I asked, knowing the answer. She looked away and fidgeted a bit with her hands. Shame never goes away, not even for those in her profession. I grabbed her hand and asked again, "Where did you get the bruises?" She took a good long look at me that would have broken the heart of a politician. A long sigh passed her lips.

"I put them down my throat, but you already knew that," she said quietly. She looked from the nurse to me. To our surprise she knew her affliction, and even more surprising, it wasn't bulimia. "I'm pregnant." Those two little words were all it took to get my pulse racing; two words, one big problem for an inmate and for myself. As her warden, I felt responsible for a portion of her welfare; it was obvious that she cared very little about her state of being, or the state of her unborn child.

"Why are you doing this if you know you're pregnant?" the nurse asked with a harsh tone.

"I'm going to be in this prison for a long time; it's not exactly the best place to raise a child." She started to cry softly, then louder. "This was a mistake, I'm the wrong one!" With that she collapsed onto the floor. The quivering heap fell silent after some time. The nurse and I didn't know what to do. We looked at each other under the halogen....

Walking back to her cell we spoke nothing, there were many questions but asking at this time was a bad idea. She held her arms across her waist like she was cradling an unborn dilemma. Her eyes were empty and I could say nothing to comfort our pregnant captive. Once she was in her cell I finally asked the burning question, "So how pregnant are you?" She looked at me through the bars with a visible knowledge. She took her time in answering.

"Two months," she finally said, with certainty. I didn't believe her; no women prisoners have any contact to any males. The janitors, other wardens and officers are all either female or have very limited access to the inmates. Her being only two months along was impossible.

"Two months isn't correct, you know that. It has to be at least three or more, you've been here for longer than two months." I thought I was making perfect sense; she, however, disagreed.

"Have the nurse examine me again tomorrow, I'll cooperate this time and you'll see...two months, that's it." With that she walked over to her cot, not looking at me, and fell asleep. The nurse agreed to have another exam, and concurred that she couldn't be less than three months pregnant, it just wasn't possible.

The second exam took place in the same room but without me. For this kind of exam didn't require or permit visitors. A short time after the nurse began in her white room, Magdalene walked out with a smug look on her face. The nurse called me into the room for a conference. "It's just not possible," she began, "the fetus is two months old, there's no way it could be more."

"How is that possible?" I was in disbelief. I walked over to Magdalene with the beginnings of anger in my voice.

"Two months, right?" she said.

"How? Who were you with? Were you raped?" The questions were numerous besides my first rambling. She turned pale and turned away, I wasn't going to back down.

"I wasn't raped, and I haven't even seen a man since you put me here," she said slowly.

"Than how?" I persisted with a force in my voice. I wasn't letting her back in her cell till I got some straight answers.

"Go look in my cell, you won't believe anything I have to say until you see with your own eyes." She left in my handcuffs, and walked down the corridor to her cell on the second floor. With haste, the nurse, I and Magdalene walked. I unlocked the cell which I had been in only a few days earlier, and turned on the light. Nothing was out of order until I looked up at the ceiling.

"Don't ask me to explain it, Gabriel wrote it." She pointed up at the writing, closed her eyes and fell to the floor. We looked up, the nurse and I, and saw Latin words. They were burned into the concrete.

Magdalene lay on the floor in a heap; we came and picked her up. She wouldn't wake from her sleep. We called the local hospital for the sake of her child and she was admitted later that night. The doctors called it a rare form of coma when a woman with child spontaneously becomes a vegetable for who knows how long. The doctors could tell us nothing except that her child was doing just fine and the prognosis was excellent for the time being.

Back at the prison no one besides the nurse and I could figure out what the Latin phrase meant. As far as one of the officers who was raised Catholic could decipher, the burned marks on the ceiling read a simple phrase, "Yes, I am coming soon."

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