“It’s not what you call me, but what I answer to that matters the most.” – African Proverb
The nightclub vomited its occupants onto the cobbled streets. Laughing figures tumbled through the cold, some falling to the pavement while others sought to sate themselves on warmth and food, drawn to kebab vans like chimpanzees to weak, wounded prey. Their shrieks filled the night; wild, simian noises that would not sound out of place in the hot darkness of the jungle. She knew those sounds well, and the mindless acts that followed; cannibal-banquets partaken by those same primates, orange eyes staring from beneath low brows as they licked clean the pink bones of their own.
From the narrow alleyway across the street, Oyotunji watched as one girl, dressed in shiny leopard print, fell to her knees in the road. Bent low she began to heave, a cocktail of stomach lining, sangria and hot digestive juices spewing from her lips. The rank aroma carried through the night.
“What?” shouted the girl, when she finally stopped heaving and could speak again. Her glazed, unseeing eyes challenged the world. “Come on, then!” she screamed, struggling to her feet, “have at it! Come on!”
Stepping back from the street, Oyotunji huddled deeper into her fur shawl. It was an intimate, elderly gesture; the last frail twitch of a small sparrow, but then she was an elderly woman. Her lips pinched as tight as the mouth of the alleyway in which she stood.
“I cold,” she said suddenly.
“You not cold. You don’ feel cold now. Not for many year have you felt it touch.”
Wambua stood a little way behind her. In the darkness her twin brother was almost invisible, except for the fur draped over his shoulders; a matching leopard skin that gave him some substance in the shadows. She did not need to see the aged contours of his face to know how he was feeling. His discontent sang in her heart, her blood, in the jelly of her bones.
“I don’ feel cold like dat. I feel cold for dem. I feel cold for bein’ here, in dis grey place.”
A flicker of lightning, vague and indistinct, flashed overhead, illuminating the slumped, misshapen street. Opening her hand, Oyotunji felt for the rain that would inevitably follow. She knew it was the same rain that fell back home, she knew the air around her was the same air, the clouds the same clouds. And yet they were not. These things were different here. Pollution clogged the sky, saturated the earth and the wind. The city was a watering hole, where once her brother and she would have come to slake their thirst, now tainted; corrupted by twenty-first century carrion.
The first fat drops found her palm, and she realised she was not comforted.
“We have slept too long, sister, and missed many things. De British Empire has grown rotten.”
“Dis is de Empire we once feared?” She gesticulated wildly, arms, little more than bones, thrown to the sky. Lightning flickered again, followed by thunderous discontent. “Dat cannot be. What has happened here?”
“De world is spoiled meat, crawling with flies.”
Even as her brother spoke, Oyotunji smelled again the woman’s sick, heard the mad laughter of the inebriated, felt anger rolling like waves through the night-time city. More screams carried on the wind, and she remembered the troupe of chimpanzees feasting on their own. Inspired by those screams she remembered other things too; man as he forced himself into her on the river bank, the raging faces of the white folk as their weapons spat death into the village, Wambua’s body, limp where she clutched him to her wounded chest. As they had lived as twins, so they had died a twinned death, and were reborn together when the rains next fell; brought back by Africa to slake their desert thirst on the lifeblood of those who had despoiled the land, dealt death beneath the burning sun.
“Do not despair, sister. Dis place look grey, you speak truth. But look deeper, look past stone an’ noise an’ misery an’ you got some’ting more. Some’ting you an’ me both know.”
“An’ what be dat, brother of mine?”
“A jungle,” he said, his eyes shining like discs in the darkness. “A man-made jungle, Oyotunji.”
“Hear de roar of de people as dey struggle to make themself heard, each man an’ woman de hog, de antelope, de buffalo –”
“An’ we de cat.”
He nodded, and in the darkness of the alley a mouth of yellowing teeth appeared. She smelled them as much as she saw them, rotten and real; a sharp, pungent smile in this city where everything else was synthetic and stale. Together their mouths knew more life and death than the rest of the city combined.
“Exactly, sister. We de leopard. We will stalk de street like shadow, invisible, an’ in dis grey, decayin’ place we will have our retribution. Dey dug us from our sleep in de earth and brought us here, to dis place where dere is no earth, where de wild is silenced. So we will speak for de wild again. We will roar –”
“An’ it will be bloody,” whispered Oyotunji. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked, and she cocked her head, eyes closed, savouring the sound as it reverberated in the hollows of her head.
When she opened her eyes again, her brother was standing beside her. He screamed first, and in the flash of answering lightning she saw his face, tortured by the angst of a continent, a land with no outlet for its pain except the voices of the dead things in its soil. Then she joined him, her own voice rising leonine into the night, before brother and sister eschewed their human shapes, wrapping their flesh with real fur, and fled together through the streets in the guise of great cats; Mother Africa awakened, and alive.
~ Thomas Brown
© Copyright 2013 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved.
There were so many dead, the fire pits had been decommissioned. Now they just loaded the bodies on commandeered cruise ships and dumped them in the ocean. I heard that hordes of seagulls, bloated and flying erratically from the never-ending feast, would descend on the floating corpses like flies. If you vomited on deck, they’d eat that, too.
I wasn’t sure if I preferred to be one of the living or the dead on those ships that stank like an open grave in the summer sun. On account of my asthma, it was a good bet I’d never get assigned corpse duty.
“Jeremy, where did you go to now?”
Destiny snapped her black lace-gloved fingers in my face.
“Sorry. I spaced.”
“I figured.” She smiled with purple tinted lips, the corners of her eyes crinkling. Her hot pink hair caught the last filaments of the moon before it tucked itself behind a black, roiling cloud. I remembered when the skies were black with smoke for months on end, until the government realized they had destroyed an entire growing season and had to scale back the fires.
“You want to tell me why we’re here again?” I said. I did a three-sixty scan of the graveyard. A majority of the tombstones were crooked, many of them shattered by vandals. The vegetation had been left to go feral, the grass coming up to our hips. Critters large and small skulked in the weeds.
“So I can be with you forever,” she said, pouting for added effect. I was a geek, she was the hottest girl in my school, at least back when there was a school. Who was I to say no? Plus, there were less and less fish in the sea to choose from for us both.
Well, the sea was teeming with fish because of all the human nutrients we’d been dumping in it, but you get my point.
No one, except the Crazies, ate fish anymore, by the way. The rest of us would rather starve – and many have.
I sighed, taking off my glasses to clean them with the end of my shirt. Destiny gingerly put them back on for me and lit a kiss on my thin, dry lips.
“There’s no proof that it will work,” I said. “You ever hear of an urban legend? I’m pretty sure this qualifies.”
She shook her head. “You’re wrong. I’ve been reading a lot about it. Couples in eastern Europe have been doing it and surviving.”
A blood curdling shriek echoed over the untended cemetery hills. Destiny pressed herself to my back. I could feel the heat of her breath on my neck.
“The internet is practically dead. Whatever’s on there is just Crazies talking crazy shit,” I said.
“But what if they’re right? I mean, it’s not like it can hurt.”
The shriek was met by an angry growl, this time from the other end of the cemetery. We wouldn’t be going home tonight.
“Come on, I picked out a safe one the other day.” Destiny grabbed my hand, leading me to a small, marble mausoleum. She bent by the iron and glass door, taking a pin and paperclip from her pocket. The lock clicked open and she rushed us inside.
Another cry, this one human, made my blood run cold.
There was little room to move Inside the crypt. There was a folding chair, a vase with dried flowers attached to the back wall underneath a stained glass window, and a plastic bag on the floor.
The most glaring aspect of the tiny death house was that the wall had been chipped away. Bits of grit and marble were everywhere.
“Did you do this?” I asked.
She averted her eyes, a clear admission.
Shit, she’s becoming one of the Crazies.
I clicked on my pen light, saw the coffin that had been wedged into the wall space.
“Destiny,” I sighed. “No.”
“But you have to!” she cried, balling my shirt in her fists. “It’s all easy for you because you know they’ll never touch you! Don’t you want the same for me?”
It was true, but she never understood that I wasn’t too keen on being the last of a dying race.
When the Pollywogs first started pouring out of Mt. Saint Helens, our nation’s embryonic inertia of fear was counteracted by a bloody show of extreme violence. We hit them with everything our military could stuff into a gun or rocket launcher. The Pollywogs, gray skinned creatures twice the size of a man with tapering tails and sperm-like heads with button black eyes, were faster and more resilient than anyone could predict. They were also regenerative. Blow off their legs, and they grew back within hours. Set them on fire and they would secrete a flame-dousing jelly from their pores. Hack them into pieces, and each piece is reborn into a hungry Pollywog.
You absolutely did not want to do that.
While the west coast became a food source for the beasts, the earthquake under Manhattan split the fault line wide enough for the east coast Pollywogs to run free. The hordes met in the center of the country, devouring people like they were Tic Tacs. The same scene happened in every country around the transforming world. I guess the center of the earth wanted some time in the sun.
I shouldn’t say they ate people. Actually, they only preferred their lungs. Healthy lungs. Not lungs like mine. Rapidly, mankind was being whittled down to the weak and the lame.
Destiny tugged at the coffin handle. “Help me get this down and fuck me inside.”
Her eyes were manic, desperate. I knew she didn’t want to be with me forever. She just didn’t want to die. Even now, being asked to have sex with her amidst the rot and ruin of a years old corpse, I couldn’t simply say no.
The coffin crashed onto its side, the latch springing open. The jerkeyed body smelled surprisingly like moldering apples. Shrugging out of her skirt, Destiny wedged herself inside the askew coffin, laying atop its resident. The cries of the Pollywogs were a chorus of hunger.
“Please, Jeremey, please fuck me.”
The legend had it that if you fucked a Craplung, someone like me, atop a corpse, and became impregnated, the Pollywogs would do everything in their power to avoid you. Something about the scent of death and growing a Craplung in your womb. It made no sense and I wondered what Crazy invented it.
Desperate times were fertile ground for insane conjectures.
Seeing Destiny spread her stockinged legs, revealing the brown matchstick legs of the corpse beneath her. I decided it was no use fighting.
Becoming a Crazy or having your lungs devoured by a Pollywog, they were both death in different clothes.
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2013 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.
I sit here sipping from my glass, a fine glass at that; delicate in nature, with spinning hues of barest midnight blue drawn through its perfect surface, creating an undulating wave of confused beauty. Beauty; I look at the cavern around me, the carved seat I rest upon, my enclave, my domain; my perfect world. Things of beauty surround me, but only at my beck and call. True, some have come crawling, but I find I’ve no use for such sniveling. They are no longer amongst us. Is there not one worthy of my attentiveness? This isolation grows tiresome. Ordering one of the grovlings to fetch me a new pet, I wait with little patience.
Finally, she is brought before me. “Kneel.” There is no question she will do as I instruct, they all do. I toss a collar onto the floor, it attaches to a leash fastened to the arm of my perch. “Put it on,” I instruct as she attempts to speak.
“I do not recall telling you to open your lips. When I wish them to perform, I will demand it. Now, put it on, and do so with your mouth shut!” She scrambles to do as ordered, but the idiot grovling has yet to release her from the crude looped choker used to drag her here. I glance at the grovling and he realizes his folly. He apologizes profusely, trying to loosen the choker as she desperately tries to fasten the collar around her bleeding neck with hands that shake. I let him babble, his stupidity is quite amusing, then I bore of hearing it. Standing, I descend the two steps that separate myself from the others. She shivers uncontrollably as I pass by. He drops to a knee while still begging forgiveness for his lack of foresight. Foolish, that. The assumption that he’s been given the right to foreshadow my thoughts or wishes, a mistake I would not have made had I been in his position. Crouching in front of him, my wing tips curl against the stone floor. I order him to lift his chin. As he does so, he pisses himself. I glace down at the growing puddle beneath him and gently tap the edge of the glass against the floor. It fractures magnificently.
“Do you recall when this glass was made for me, grovling?” Desperately, he tries to hold my eye, but cannot. His own orbs flick quickly to the glass; I smile. He opens his mouth to respond and I hush him with a gentle garnet-tipped finger upon his lips. “My question did not require an answer, or did your foresight fail you yet again?” Trembling with indecision, he is unsure if a response is expected. I’m of the opinion it is not, but I’ll allow his inner torment to continue a bit longer. The jingling to my right finally stops; she has managed to fasten the collar around her neck. I hear the slightest tinkling – the sound of the metal chain leading from the collar back to my seat quivering; she is frightened, but doing admirably well. So far.
Waiting is the sweetest torture, one my many eons in this festering shithole has taught me well how to exploit. The grovling on the other hand, is finding the wait – arduous. I can sense his overwhelming desire to speak; I can see the thoughts flick through his feeble little mind. Dragging the now jagged edge of the glass through his own urine, I provoke him. “It must be so difficult kneeling before me, wanting to speak your mind, but knowing you probably should not.” The sound of glass scraping stone must be maddening. “I almost feel compassion for you, honestly, I almost do. Was being obedient and keeping your mouth shut so very hard that you simply found yourself incapable of the task?” His lips part; the bait is taken. If I were a sport fisherman, this is the point at which I would yank the line, one swift hard pull to set my hook. In what is a blink in his world, I ram the piss covered broken glass through his eye socket clean into his brain cavity. The ickor that oozes into the glass is proof enough that his brief squeal will be his final utterance.
With the same finger that earlier sent him into a quaking fit of terror, I push his useless body to the ground. There are other grovlings lurking in the shadows, there always are – putrescent little beasts. With a dismissive nod of my head, several rush forward to dispose of the lifeless meat littering the chamber floor.
I turn to the captive beside me, realizing that the grovling’s piss has spread beneath her knees. She still trembles, but only mildly. Admirable that. Kneeling in a dead thing’s piss and still she does not flinch. I stare at her for a moment, perhaps two, then rise and retrieve the handle of her new life. A grovling attempts to capture my eye, he clearly wishes to tell me that the deceased has been removed. Presuming me too stupid to recognize this fact on my own would be another mistake for his kind this day. Best that he should simply go about his business, leaving me to mine. Somehow, he senses this and begins to back away.
Standing atop the dais from which I have retrieved the leash, I issue an order to all who are lurking. “Leave us.”
Is that a small intake of breath I hear from my new treasure? Oh, and she has been doing so well up to this point. Descending the steps a second time, I bend forward, placing one hand on my knees, the other gouging a fingernail into the flesh below her chin. I force her gaze to meet mine. “Did I frighten you?” I ask with mock patience, patience I have not felt in a decade or more.
She stares back true and steady for several heartbeats, licks her lips – a gesture of fear, or simply to moisten them? Her eyes say the latter. In a whispered voice that carries more strength than I would have imagined, she replies, “No, not frightened. Startled.”
“I don’t frighten you? I find that hard to believe. Please don’t tell me you are some ignorant field peasant the grovlings dragged in here because your curves will suit me.” Exasperation and a growing anger fill me as my fingernail draws blood from the soft hollow where it resides.
This is not the distraction I hoped for; yet another useless mongrel, I look away. Just as I am ready to release her from the burden of breathing, her hand gently wraps around mine, forcing my nail in deeper. I turn back, ready to dispatch the second disrespectful whelp of the day. “No, I was not dragged here by those hideous little creatures. I came of my own accord.” Staring directly into my eyes, she continues, “I have seen you, in the glade. Warming yourself in the sunlight. I have seen you soar above the cliffs that house this cave. I have seen you caress your lover to death near the water’s edge. I have watched you for some time now, and I wish to be like you. To…”
“To be like me?” I snort. “How exactly do you propose to be like me? I am unlike anything your minute mind can comprehend. You say you have watched me soar, shall we take you to the top of the cliff, toss you off, see if you soar as well? I suppose if by some chance of fate you do manage to soar a few feet, you might be like me… until you hit the ground.”
Hesitation; confusion creeps into her gaze. Her grip weakens. Now we shall see what gumption you truly posses, my little dove. Locked in our repose, she still stares unwaveringly, perhaps not quite as sure, but devout nonetheless. An admirable trait, and quite the beauty at that.
Long wavy chestnut hair, soft supple cinnamon lips, eyes blazing the deepest amber, glittering with crystal specks. Her form does not disappoint either, my eyes lick over her more than adequate body.
“May I speak again?” she inquires.
“I believe you already have. Continue.”
“If I cannot be like you, then allow me to be for you. I have no wish to be tossed off the cliff, but if that is what you will do with me, then so be it.”
She truly has the audacity to mean what she proffers. The scent of the single drop of perspiration mixed with blood beading at the base of her throat is intoxicating. My lip quirks upward; I do intend to enjoy this one immensely.
Rising, I gently coax her to her feet. Her legs run with the dead grovling’s piss, her bare feet and body filthy. Removing the leash from the D-ring attached to her collar, I guide her to the hot spring welling in the far corner of the cavern. “Come, let’s clean you, then we shall figure out what purpose you might serve.”
As we move towards the pool of water, I hear, “Am I still free to speak?”
A ripple of annoyance slams through me. “Clearly, as you are still speaking, and still breathing.” Removing the doeskin sack the grovlings clad her in, my mind flashes with thoughts of the creature whose skin she wears. I mutter under my breath, “No, it is not fair. That much is true.”
As I drop the garment to the floor, she inquires, “Pardon me?”
“Pardon you for what? I gave you permission to speak, I offered no pardon. What is it you are prattling about?” A look of shock and pain crosses her beautiful features. Well, isn’t she in for a surprise? I adjust my tone and address her again. “What is it you would like to say?” She stares at me blankly. Perhaps she is more feeble than I initially thought.
With a sigh, I remove my own garments as well, laying them by the side of the water. Stepping onto the generous ledge three feet below the surface, I see fright in her eyes. I glance downward. She finally speaks what is on her mind. “It is much larger than it seems from the other side of the cavern. Are those eyes I see at the bottom?”
“Yes, they are. The spring is deceptive. Come,” I reach my hand out for her to join me. “The water appears shallow, but step one leg off this ledge and it is an eighty-five foot plummet to the bottom where the creature belonging to those eyes waits. This water offers no buoyancy; the creature bears you no good will. You’ll be safe with me. Come, I won’t tell you again.”
Hesitantly she reaches forward taking my hand and slips into the steaming water. A swarm of Garra rufa immediately begin cleaning her. Terrified, she tries to flee, but breaking my grip is not so easy. “What are they?”
“They will clean you. If you’re to be my pet, I’ll not have you filthy. Lean back, let them wash over your face and comb through your hair.” Doing as she is told, the Garra rufa clean every morsel of foulness from her. She looks magnificent splayed in the water. I imagine the fish will not be the only thing roaming her body this day.
She lifts herself to a seated position, and laughs – a deep-throated chuckle. “They feel oddly wonderful. It tingles all over.” Glancing up from the thinning swarm in the water, she wonders, “Why do they not feast on you as well?”
Looking to the water and waving a hand to send them back to the crevasses they reside in, I consider the truth of my answer. “My taste would poison them. Like most natural creatures, they instinctively know to avoid one such as me. Why is it that you don’t have the same inherent fear?”
Her smile falters for a moment, then, “May I touch them?” She reaches forward, I grasp her wrist, perhaps harder than I meant to, perhaps not. “I only want to touch your wings. They gleam iridescent in this water. May I touch one, please?”
“No. You may not touch one, and do not be too eager for one to touch you either. For the day they do without my consent, you will draw your last breath.” I consider the defiant stare in her eyes. This answer will not satisfy her. I see the contemplation dancing through their caramel tint as she weighs her odds. From bellow, I hear a chuckle. In my mind, words resonate from the bottom of the spring, ‘I suppose this one will be failing the second trial as well… Gooooood, I’m hungry! And I’ve feed on nothing but those foul little balls of flesh for too long.’
She withdraws her hand; I allow it. She leans backward; one leg slips to dangle over the ledge. I move forward and swiftly pull her leg back onto the submerged rock. Wrapping a hand around her throat, I growl, “What did I tell you about straying over the edge? Are you fool enough to throw your life away so easily?”
Gaining confidence, or unmasking what she had hidden so well, her head snaps up, her hand darts out – she now holds one black feather. Our eyes lock, I think to myself yet another one. The transformation begins. The creature in the spring calls to me.
My pet smiles in triumph and glee, “It’s so soft, so delicate. Holding just this single feather feels as though I am holding a world in my hands!” Her bliss apparent on her face, no doubt the effect of the treasure she has snatched. I allow her the briefest moment to run the feather across her magnificently formed breasts, her closed eyes, her plump lips. Her eyes flick open, still filled with the gleam of childlike ecstasy.
“Yes, it does,” I respond with no mirth. “Imagine hundreds of them carried upon your back.” My smile now cold, though she mistakes it for engaging.
She smiles back, “I wouldn’t know how to begin imagining such a thing.”
Amid her laughter, my talon slashes up from the water and rends her neck useless to her body. “No, you wouldn’t.”
I watch as her form slips over the ledge and is drawn through the barely verdant water into its depths. The creature that resides below feasts on tender flesh that was meant for me. It is not grateful. I haven’t a care to be bothered.
Summoning the grovlings back to the cavern, I wriggle a finger at one and draw it near. “You will wash me, but do not make the mistake of touching my wings. Is that clear?” From the shaking of its hands, I’m fairly certain the spring will be receiving a second course.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2012-2013 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
Trent closed the door and set his brief case down on the console table. He tossed his keys at the wooden bowl like always, but this time they hit the rim and tumbled to the floor, taking the artisan bowl with them. The Aboriginal keepsake from his honeymoon in Australia cracked against the entryway’s stone flooring.
“God Damnit.” He said, cursing, fanning the fires of his already considerable frustration.
Poor Beth’ll be so disappointed! And, wait until she hears that I have to cancel our family backyard camp out. Worst week ever, he thought, grinding his teeth.
For the last five days, Trent’s boss had chastised him in front of his peers over the most menial issues. Issues that were recently considered required procedures. To make matters worse, deadlines were rapidly approaching and his clients weren’t cooperating—another working weekend away from his kids.
As he bent down to pick up the fallen items, his throbbing headache plumed into a full-blown migraine. With flashing light spotting his vision, he staggered and, losing balance, missed the key ring on his first attempt. He paused on one knee, the pain stabbing through his temples cutting deeper, burning hotter. Trent gritted his teeth and weathered the storm. After the intensity spiked, the pain dropped away just as fast.
He paused, processing a few deep breaths—one of them a big sigh of relief—before moving on. He picked up the bowl and keys and climbed to his feet.
A shriek shattered the air.
Arctic spiders of fear crawled up his spine and nested at the base of his skull. His body moved fluid and fast. He dropped the items onto the table as his legs propelled him down the hall.
Trent burst into the room. He found his wife, Beth, kneeling at the edge of the tub, tears rolling down her flushed cheeks, while their two-year-old daughter floated, pale and lifeless in the bath.
“Ahh—” Trent uttered and lunged forward to pull their girl from the water. He wrapped a hand around the toddler’s neck, checking for a pulse.
“Put her down,” his wife moaned, holding out a trembling hand. Crying had made her look like a tragic clown with smeared mascara lines. Her lips quivered. She opened her mouth to speak again, but the thick emotion bubbling in her throat cut it short, “I—”
Zack, their four-year-old, sat at the other end of the bathtub, wailing. His plump face turning more red with each outcry.
“What happened?” Trent asked. He stared at Beth through a haze of forming tears, his mouth hanging open.
She didn’t respond.
“Beth, what happened?!”
“I… I couldn’t stop myself,” she said, mumbling as if trying to explain it to herself.
“Wha— You did this?” Trent squinted at her. He couldn’t have heard her correctly! No, it had to be an accident.
He looked down at the little girl in his arms, cold, limp, peaceful. The sweet, clean smell of baby shampoo still strong on her wet hair. Anguish swelled in Trent’s sinuses, spreading—gaining ground with hot needled claws—and threatening to burst out of him. He bit hard on his trembling lower lip and managed to keep it all contained, for now.
Gently placing the little corpse on the floor, he swaddled the girl in a towel and kissed her forehead. Then in a green blur, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed 9-1-1.
“I had to do it,” Beth said with a voice made eerie by its sudden serenity.
Trent, already providing details to the operator, turned to look at his wife.
His body went numb and the phone slid from his fingers, hitting the hard tile in a tiny explosion of plastic and glass. It was more the expression on her upturned face than her words that stalled his brain.
Beth was smiling at him. Smiling!
Through her lunatic grin, a litany of prayers spewed forth in an impossible array of voices. Their harsh consonants ricocheted off the walls, adding sharp edges to the bombardment on Trent’s sanity.
His legs buckled and he dropped to his knees.
Eye to eye with his troubled wife, he watched in disbelief as her grin contorted with the rest of her face into a mask of pure rage. Her skin seemed to prune and wither before him, and her eyes clouded over like a steamed mirror. She spat and cursed at him.
“Your blood is cursed,” she shouted. “Your spawn must die!”
“Die! Die! Die!”
“Beth.” Trent, gently holding her head, pleaded with her. “Honey, come back to me. You’re sick, having a…a spell or something. We’ll get you some help.”
The woman’s virulent expression fell away at once, leaving a pale, terrified shell in its place. “I don’t know what’s happening. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t in control.”
“We’ll find the problem and get it treated.”
“Oh, God!” she sobbed. “My little girl is dead. Our baby’s gone!”
“Let’s just take care of Zack, and wait for—”
Beth shrieked and bent over, clutching at her head as if something was gnawing on her brain. She shifted back to the venomous woman ruined by hate-etched lines and the milky eyes of morgue residents.
“Beth!” Trent shouted, shaking her by the shoulders.
She blinked and the demonic change left as quickly as it came.
“Trent, it’s going to happen again,” she said, her posture slumping between his grip. She sat for a moment, victimized and deflated before a realization took over. She jolted forward, clutched at his work shirt.
“You have to stop me!”
“What?” He said, startled. “Help is on the way.”
“No, stop me before I do it again. You’re not safe, Zack’s not safe.”
“The police will—”
Beth twitched, corroding again into an evil form. She jerked away from Trent, grabbed the boy, both of them screaming—one in terror, the other in hate—and forced the child under water.
“No!” Trent cried out. He clutched at her, but an unexpected strength pulsed through her sylphlike body as if she was cemented in place. He pulled and pleaded, but she continued to drown their son.
“Stop! Please!” he begged, tugging feebly at her arms as tears dripped from his stubbled chin.
She laughed—cackling like a fairytale witch.
Unable to pull his child to safety or break his wife’s hold, Trent did the only thing he could. He locked his arms around her neck and started to squeeze.
“Don’t make me do this!” he said, sobbing in her ear.
The monster controlling his true love, his soul mate, only laughed again.
“Beth. You have to stop. You’re killing him!” Trent shouted amid the frothy sounds of thrashing water.
Her expression changed enough for Trent to sense his wife in there. Despite the continued physical struggle, Beth’s voice rang out. “Do it. Stop me. Save our child.”
“Do it!” she screamed in a banshee’s wail that echoed painfully in the small room.
With one quick jerk, he pivoted and snapped her neck. She collapsed to the cold tile floor. Trent moved fast, pulling the boy out of the tub and laying him out on the mat.
Sirens howled in the distance.
The boy wasn’t breathing. There was no heartbeat.
Trent began CPR.
A moment later the Police rushed in the front door and down the hall toward them, guns drawn.
“Back away from the child, now!” The lead officer yelled.
Without stopping, Trent responded. “He’s dying, I’m trying to—”
The gunshot was deafening.
Trent was thrown backward, his head slamming against the hard porcelain tub as he fell. The hole in his shoulder burned with an intense fire that sent rivulets of electric pain throughout his chest.
The cops rushed in and forced his wrists into handcuffs. Trent lifted his head to plead for help in resuscitating his son but paused, noticing Zack was conscious, coughing and crying as an EMT tended to him.
His boy was going to be okay.
A sigh of relief filled his lungs but died there—it clung, burning, unreleased, as the sights Trent now witnessed struck a chord of confusion and utter disruption within.
His son was clothed and dry. How could that be? Was this an illusion? Were his eyes betraying him?
It all seeming like a bad dream, but the pain was real. The cold steel of the handcuffs was real. The carpet, not title, beneath him felt real. Things were suddenly different from what he previously knew. His reality had shifted. Maybe the pain had cleared his head, sharpening his attention like a splash of ice water to the face.
His son was not a child pulled from bath water, dripping and cold. The boy looked flushed in the face and was still wearing his school clothes. And yet, Trent could distinctly remember the feel of his child’s clammy skin when he began CPR.
What’s going on? Trent wondered amid the torrent of confusion. His mind whirled and he struggled against the urge to vomit. Two conflicting streams of memories battled for dominance. As each quivering breath cycled through him, his mind stabilized with one set of memories taking hold as the vivid truth. Trent relived the moments, seeing them for the first time, as they cycled past his mind’s eye.
He hadn’t been working at chest compressions to save Zack’s life a moment ago. He’d worked to take the boy’s life—squeezing it out of him with an unforgiving grip around his little neck. But, why? He couldn’t believe it, but he saw that it happened. He could recall the way his son’s little hands feebly gripped at his as he clenched harder and harder. And the haunting sight of Zack’s bulging eyes looking back at him in terror and confusion and pain. How are these memories possible?
Why would he try to kill his only remaining son after his wife had… Beth! Her body lay on the floor at a distinctly different angle than her head—the bulging skin of her neck already blooming with blotches of purple.
Trent searched for the memory of breaking her neck to save one child after she’d already drowned the other, but the vision that surfaced told a different tale. There was no splashing of bath water. No smells of baby soap and laundered towels. He watched as his wife pleaded with him, begging for him to stop, that they’ll get help, and to please put their daughter down. Trent searched the room with wide, frantic eyes until he found the little bundle on the floor.
The toddler was not swaddled in a towel as he expected. She was fully dressed and completely dry like her brother. Her face flushed in a familiar shade of purple. She lay motionless on the sky blue carpet of the nursery, not the white shag rug of their bathroom.
Realization ripped through him without mercy.
“Oh, God.” Trent mumbled and turned his head. The room spun beneath him. The heavy oak crib loomed over him and his dead family like a massive tombstone. The pain of Trent’s injuries were made imperceptible by his emotional agony.
“Beth wasn’t… it was me. I killed—” Trent’s lamentation was cut off by a violent stomach upheaval as nausea overwhelmed him.
An officer bent down next to Trent and picked up an object encased in pink plastic. He held the undamaged cell phone to his ear. His voice was flat and somber when he spoke. “This is Officer James. The situation is now under control.”
He paused, listening to a voice on the other end. Then, “No, Ma’am. We were too late for the others.”
The policeman looked down at Trent. The cuffed man was now slamming his head on the floor and chanting, “Sick in the head. Sick in the head. Sick in the head.”
Frowning, the officer added, “Looks like he snapped.”
~ Tyr Kieran
© Copyright 2013 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.