Screams filled the tiny cabin as winter’s first snow blanketed the surrounding forest.
The contractions were coming on top of each other now, each wave stronger than the last, as Meredith struggled to keep Agatha calm.
An almost inhuman cry escaped Agatha’s throat as she writhed on the bed, pain biting at her abdomen.
Wiping the young woman’s brow with a damp cloth, Meredith spoke in the low, hushed tone of a midwife. “Dr. Thompson will be here soon, Agatha.”
Meredith placed her experienced hands on Agatha’s swollen belly, feeling the child roll beneath the relentless waves of uterine contractions. “Your baby’s breech. You must wait until the doctor arrives before pushing.”
The request fell upon deaf ears as searing pain radiated through the young girl’s malnourished body and she shivered on the bed, her fever raging out of control.
The door blew open and frigid winter air ransacked the space, extinguishing all but one of the flickering candles and knocking tiny heirlooms from their perches. A strange man shoved the door closed with his shoulder, set his bag on the floor and removed his coat as Agatha screamed out with an intensity that shocked both the midwife and the stranger before succumbing to unconsciousness.
“Who are you?” Meredith asked.
Confusion swept over Meredith. “But where’s Dr. Thompson?”
Dr. Brennan only rolled up his sleeves, ignoring the inquiry. “How long has she been in labor?”
Though he had not answered her question, the urgency of the situation gave Meredith no time to gauge the stranger’s true intentions. “At least four hours. I came to check on her and it had already started.”
He placed his hands on the girl’s abdomen and glanced at Meredith. “The baby’s breech and post-term. Where’s the husband?”
Meredith simply shook her head.
“The father then, where is he?”
“She does not know the name of the father.”
Meredith dabbed the young girl’s forehead as the doctor lowered accusing eyes to Agatha.
“And her parents?”
“They died two years ago, when she was sixteen. She’s been alone since.”
“Obviously not completely alone, my dear.” He motioned toward Agatha as she lay on her back, her knees bent and legs splayed open.
Meredith sensed a sharp edge to his tone, which made her uneasy. “I’ll ask you again, where is Dr. Thompson?”
The doctor looked up, his eyes narrowed atop a hooked nose. “He’s unavailable this evening. He sent me in his place.”
Dr. Brennan was a slight man, yet his demeanor was anything but. With his coat removed and sleeves rolled up, his gangly frame became quite apparent. Meredith’s eyes studied his skin, fair and paper thin, bluish-green veins mapping his forehead.
The door had been closed for several minutes, plenty of time for the fire in the corner of the room to bring the temperature of the small room up again, yet it somehow seemed to have grown colder.
Suddenly, Agatha became coherent again, just in time for another crack of pain. The baby’s appendages pressed against her abdomen, causing her taut skin to ripple. More primal screams forced Meredith to cover her ears and the doctor to pause.
Brennan placed his medical bag at the foot of the bed, shouting over Agatha’s cries. “The baby’s in danger, we have to take it through cesarean. Boil as much water as you can.”
Meredith hesitated for a moment. She’d never assisted with the surgical procedure, but Agatha’s screams, still echoing in the small cabin, were enough to command her obedience and she rushed to the stove.
Brennan reached into his bag, removed a thick roll of material and placed it on the bed. The instruments clanged as he unrolled the fabric, revealing an archaic assortment of surgical instruments, many of them scarred with badges of rust. Agatha remained still, though her breaths were short and ragged, while the doctor pulled back the blanket that had covered her from the waist down. Dr. Brennan donned a pair of gloves and proceeded to examine the girl.
Meredith returned to the room with a pot of boiling water and nearly dropped it when she saw Brennan. Surely he would discover Agatha’s secret. She cleared her throat, hoping to draw his attention away. He looked up, yet continued his work, a malevolent grin etched into his features.
Meredith’s skin crawled at the sight of Brennan as he probed the young girl. The look on his face was not one of a physician examining a patient; it was the expression of someone enjoying something he clearly should not.
After a few prolonged seconds, he removed the gloves, stood up from between the girl’s legs and motioned to the nightstand beside the bed. “Set the water there.”
Grabbing several straps from his bag, he proceeded to secure the girl’s wrists and ankles to the bedposts. Meredith stood near the head of the bed, again tending to the girl’s sweat-laden brow with a moist rag.
Meredith hadn’t noticed before, but a persistent, uncomfortable scent now hung in the air, a putrid combination of mildew and scorched hair.
Writhing in agony, Agatha thrashed against the bindings as Meredith watched the doctor prepare his instruments. Using a colander-like apparatus, he lowered a handful of instruments into the water. “Boil this for 5 minutes,” he said, handing the pot to Meredith.
Meredith scurried to the stove with the heavy load.
Brennan lowered his gaze to the wailing girl sprawled out before him. The blanket had fallen to the floor, leaving Agatha naked and exposed. Each new contraction brought her pain to a crescendo, the thick veins of her neck bulging like ropes buried beneath her skin as she cried out.
The doctor prepared a cleansing solution and applied it to Agatha’s abdomen, covering the stretched skin of her belly. The fire still burned in the corner of the room, yet the temperature in the cabin continued to drop.
Meredith returned with the instruments to find Dr. Brennan feeling Agatha’s abdomen, calculating his plan for the procedure.
“Put them there.” He motioned to the bedside table.
Brennan held up a syringe in the candlelight and applied pressure on the plunger to clear the air from the contents. A drop of medicine escaped the tip and traced its way toward the hub.
The doctor plunged the needle into the girl’s thigh and within seconds, the writhing ceased and Agatha lay still, vacant eyes fixed on the orange light as it danced across the ceiling.
“How long will she be out?” Meredith asked.
“Long enough for me to remove the baby. Now, gather all the towels and blankets we have.”
Meredith left the bedside, returning seconds later with several blankets and towels.
Brennan readied the scalpel and pressed it to Agatha’s flesh, her fair skin splitting to reveal a thin layer of glistening, yellow fat. Blood pooled in the wound before running in streams down the girl’s sides, pitter-pattering to the floor. Meredith’s knees nearly unhinged but she managed to lock them tight. Bile rose in her gullet and she swallowed it, droplets of sweat sprouting on her brow. She’d never seen so much blood. She moved to Agatha’s head, focusing on the dilated pupils of the mother-to-be, dabbing sweat as it beaded on her skin.
Brennan worked fastidiously to expose the girl’s uterus, stuffing towels into the wound as he progressed, attempting to ebb the flow of crimson fluid as it seeped from the girl’s sedate body.
“Who else knows of the girl’s pregnancy?” Brennan broke the palpable tension as plumes of his breath escaped into the ever-colder room.
Caught off guard by the question, Meredith hesitated before answering. “No one. She has no family and very few friends, none of whom have seen her since she began to show.”
“Very good.” He brought another blanket onto the bed next to where he was working. “You’ve examined her, have you not?”
“Of course.” Meredith turned to face the doctor.
“Then you and I both know this is a rather unusual pregnancy.”
Meredith’s mind whirled, searching for a response. “I’m not sure I…”
“Don’t lie to me. You know as well as I, this girl has never been with a man. She’s as pure as the newly fallen snow.” Brennan waved a bloodied hand towards the window.
Brennan peered up from the task at hand, snaring Meredith’s gaze with his own. The doctor raised a blood soaked finger to the tip of his tongue. His eyes closed and he exhaled a devious breath, sending Meredith’s pulse pounding. Brennan’s mouth twisted into a wicked smile, as if it had been etched into his skin with a knife, and he opened his eyes, now inky black pools of malicious intent. “There’s nothing so sweet as the blood of a virgin.”
Meredith sprang to her feet and grabbed one of the sharp implements from the bed. “Who are you?”
Brennan set his instrument down and cocked his head to one side. Agatha continued to bleed as the doctor ceased his efforts to stem the copious amounts of blood from hitting the floor, shimmering silhouettes of spilled life pooled on the wood.
“I am a friend of the baby’s father.” He stood and drew a finger through Agatha’s blood covered abdomen leaving an S-like pattern in its wake. “He has sent me here to deliver his son.”
Meredith backed away, keeping the instrument between Brennan and herself. “He? What are you doing here?” Her body trembled from the cold and adrenaline coursing through her veins.
Agatha convulsed on the bed, thrashing in the bindings, blood more free flowing than ever.
“Help her! She’s going to die!”
Brennan looked over his shoulder. “Oh yes, she is going to die. It’s too late to help her even if I wanted to. And besides, that was never the plan.”
In the corner of the room, the fire matured, heat finally radiating through the space, as the stench settled into the room, even more rancid than before.
On the bed, Agatha ripped an arm free from the bindings and clawed at her protruding womb. Amniotic fluid gushed from her abdomen as her other hand broke free and dug at the gaping wound.
Meredith screamed and darted for the door but Brennan lurched at her and grabbed her by the hair, pulling her to him while her hands whirled in the air. His other arm wrapped around her chest and squeezed until she struggled to breathe. Brennan nuzzled his nose behind her ear and inhaled, holding it for a few seconds before releasing it in a deep, noxious breath.
The front door burst open and a silhouette loomed in the opening. “Enough, Abaddon,” a calm, yet booming voice spoke from the doorway. “Let me see her face.”
Abaddon or Brennan, whoever he was, obeyed as Meredith’s legs nearly gave out at the sight of the ominous figure that whirled into view, her head swimming in confusion.
Stepping into the light, revealing his true self, the towering intruder strode towards the bed, cloven hooves pressing into the age-marred floors. Agatha, reeling in shock, looked into the malevolent face of the father of her child. Reaching his massive hands into the yawning belly of the young girl, he tore into the exposed womb and retrieved his son, hoisting the newborn into the air, admiring him from all angles. “You are your father’s son, seedling, and you shall carry out my every desire as your own.”
With those words, the devil left the cabin with his son and vanished into the surrounding snow-covered woods, leaving Abaddon alone with the women.
Screams filled the tiny cabin.
~ Craig McGray
© Copyright 2014 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.