horror, Uncategorized

I’m not a kid person

WARNING:  This story is about a woman who had suffered a miscarriage and is now possibly having a psychotic break/postpartum psychosis.  While I would never intentionally hurt someone with a creative piece I can see how this story could be traumatic to someone who lost a child.  If you are upset with the idea of miscarriage please don’t read this fic. If you are upset with violence and violence directed at children, please don’t read this.  If you are upset with the death of an infant please don’t read this.  I’ll write more stories about shadows murdering people and zombies working call centers.  You can read those.

 

TAGS:  Dead Dove, Miscarriage, Murder, Child Abuse, Child Murder, Infant Murder, Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism, Dark Eyed Children, Social Work, Divorce, Postpartum Psychosis, Psychotic Break, Violence, Sexual Abuse Implied, Dark fic, original fic

 

It started the day after Macy’s baby shower.  I spotted one of them standing in a busy parking lot that night.  It hadn’t been a good day, in fact it hadn’t been a good week.  Fortunately the Hannafords in Leominster sold all sorts of cheap wine and I just needed to relax and unwind.  She was standing by the carriage return. The lot was dark, the evening light of a dying sun.  Concerned for her, I started to walk over.  She couldn’t have been more than ten; a tiny little thing standing there all alone at night.

 

But then I stopped in my tracks.  Something about her stopped me.  No, that’s not quite right.  Something about me stopped me. Something about her was compelling me towards her.  It was as if she were drawing me in, calling me.  And that’s why I stopped.  That feeling you get when you’re wanted, desired, needed…I hate that feeling.  That’s when I noticed her eyes, large and the deepest black.  My breathing slowed and I swear I felt my heart slowing as well.  She wasn’t moving, but her attention was focused completely on me now.

 

The lot was practically empty.  A few disinterested people were waking heartlessly to their cars.  For a second I took my eyes from the girl and looked around.  A woman carrying three plastic bags fumbled with her keys. She dropped a bag and a monster energy drink rolled out.  Cursing under her breath she went to catch it with her foot only to watch it roll under the car.  She cursed louder.  I could feel her disappointment, not just for the lost drink but in her entire life. To my right a man exited his car, the door squealed in protest as it closed.  He walked close enough for me to catch a whiff.  Pot and body odor were battling each other for dominance.  He caught me looking and scowled, stuffing rough hands into abused pockets.

 

“You think you’re better than me?”  he challenged, shoulders rising in quick jerks.

 

No.  I realized I was just as sad and pathetic and lost as the rest of the thrown away people in this lot at this hour.  We were all tied together in our pathetic lives of late night shopping.  Buying food that we would heat up, partially eat, and toss.  Going home to empty apartments with disinterested pets and dead plants.  Once, I had been one of the respectable five thirty shoppers, people who stopped in on their way home from work at normal hours so they could be there for families.  I was one of those women, and on my way to being a ‘two carriages on Sunday afternoon brood leading’ woman.  Women that worked successful jobs that stopped at designated times because their second shift of wife/mother began promptly thereafter.  Women who went to PTA meetings and complained to managers.  I had my resume typed up for that and everything.  But then…

 

My head snapped back to her.  The girl was gone.  Somehow I was relieved.  A small child in a dark parking lot disappeared and my first reaction was to thank god I didn’t have to do anything.  I didn’t look for her.  Just got in my car and drove off.

 

The baby shower had been a nightmare.  I mean, after your first four do you have a shower?  Who fucking cares?  My sister, Amanda.  That’s who.

 

“She looks amazing.”

 

I smiled over to the voice as it approached me.  Amanda’s friends had once been my friends.  This was Stacy, three kids, who had studied to be a librarian and now just drove in circles all day.  “I know.  Really happy for her.”  I sipped my mimosa and fought the urge to swallow it in one gulp then take three more.

 

Stacy’s smile slowly turned to pity, “We don’t see enough of you these days.”  She shifted her weight the way women do in Hallmark movies to show they are being sincere.

 

Oh fuck me…  “Well, the job, you know.”

 

Stacy jumped at the excuse, “Oh, of course.  I mean.  Wow.  I don’t know how you do it.”  She looked at me expectantly.

 

I froze for a moment, oh shit she wants details?  “I just focus on the kids. Trying to do right by them.  Trying to keep families together.”

 

She smiled, “That’s beautiful.  Something good to battle all the bad you’ve been through.”

 

God I wanted to tell her it was a fucking paycheck that I mostly drank away.

 

Stacy grew emboldened to give me that lecture all women seem to keep in their back pocket for women like me.  “You know, my cousin had a miscarriage on her first try.  But she had three more after.  It’s not too late for you.”

 

My body went cold.  People just can’t leave death alone, can they?  No they have to pick and pick and watch you bleed.  They have to keep reminding you of your fucking catostrophic failure and make you relive it time and time again.  So that after you have successfully wept yourself into the corner you can emerge like a phoenix…but a weakened one.  Duller feathers, limp wings.  You can sometimes put on makeup so people can say how brave you are, but for the most part you have to play the sorrowful example.  A fucking warning to other women.

 

“I don’t mean to pry…”

 

“No, it’s okay.”  I flashed my fake smile because fuck this bitch, I’m NOT crying.  “I should probably find a guy first.  I heard they are part of the process.”

 

Stacy smiled and for an instant I remembered why I liked her, loved her.  Why we would talk for hours on the phone about boys, life, anything so long as it was nonsense.  She was my first kiss.  I wasn’t hers.  ‘Just practicing,’ she said.  “Well, I mean, are you on any dating apps?”

 

I nearly dropped my drink.  “No.  I’m still figuring out me.”  Yeah that sounds like some middle aged woman bullshit.

 

She hummed nodding, then noticed my sister waddling to the presents table.  Stacy turned to me, broad smile and moved to the front. She had assigned herself as the wrapping paper collector while another of my ex friends kept a list of who gave what.

 

I watched my sister lower herself to a chair.  “I can’t do this again!”

 

“You said that last time.”  Stacy joked coming up beside her and rubbing her cheek in her hair.  The studio audience, because that’s really what this was right?, laughed and awed.  “And the time before that…”

 

“And the time before that!”  Amanda chorused in.

 

Cue studio audience for a big laugh and applause.

 

My sister opened her gifts, each as thoughtful and wonderful as the last.  Tiny baby clothes.  Tiny baby shoes.  A baby book.  Baby bible of days.  She was glowing by the end.  I can’t lie.  I wish I could.  She was radiant, perfect, expectant.

 

I stood there empty.  Excusing myself to the bathroom I found the bottle of champagne and drank quickly, hoping the feeling would fade into that numb lightness that comes with alcohol.  It did.  I got back to the room just in time for Mom to lead us in a quick prayer.  Lowering my head I felt her words wash over me.  It had always been a comfort to pray.  And I couldn’t be angry at Jesus.  I fucked this all up myself.

 

Two days later I was back at work.  Social work is a kind of hell reserved for those with big hearts or no heart.  Luckily mine had died a few years back, or maybe it left with Jerry, I don’t know.

 

Cases piled up, but that was a combination of being overworked and being an underperformer.  I met some families, called in on others, talked to teachers, and mainly filed paperwork.  Pictures of children with large eyes filled my day, some were scared, some hungry, some angry.  Most of them just looked empty.  Usually by the time they ended up on my desk they were shells of people.

 

The day over, I packed up my desk and went to my car.  The lift in my building quit working and the stairs had me breathing hard when I hit the cold air of the lot.  My breath came out in heavy white clouds screaming to the world how out of shape I was.

 

It was dark in the lot.  Winter light dies quickly.  Somewhere in the shadows I heard the scurrying of rats dragging discarded fast food wrappers around.  Birds congregated in corners, and I walked slowly and softly to avoid startling them.  Reaching my car I heard the tapping of bare feet on the pavement.  I turned, but saw nothing.  My keys were in my pocket and I had to fumble for them before I could get in.  It was dark, shadows crawling up the walls.  Inside my car was no better, no warmer.

 

The hairs on the back of my neck rose slowly.  My chest felt empty.  I looked around, slower and more carefully this time.  My eyes strained to see into the shadows, looking for any movement.  Turning my attention back to the car I saw a puff of white against the inside of my window as if someone were breathing against it.

 

Tripping backwards I screamed, that’s when the patter of bare feet started again.  But it was quickly flooded out by the eruption of birds.  My scream woke the crows who immediately joined in, screeching into the night and flying around only feet from my head.

 

The horror of what might be inside my car was forgotten instantly and I plunged the key into the lock, allowing myself in and slamming the door behind me.  The engine turned over and I pulled out of the spot, driving too fast out onto the street.  A homeless man yelled at me from behind his carriage.

 

At the first red light I stopped to catch my breath…Breath.  My eyes snapped to the rear view mirror.  There was nothing.  I spun around to make sure, even leaning over to see the floor space.  Empty.  The car was empty.  I was safe.

 

I started laughing at myself, a silly shaken woman, but my laughter caught in my throat as I saw the child standing at the bus stop, staring right at me.  Large black eyes calling me to get out of the car.  To walk over to her.  See what is wrong.  Help her.  She had no coat, no shoes.

 

The horn behind me blared, jarring me back to myself.  I turned, gunned it and drove home.

 

“Tina, it’s okay to admit you…”

 

“Mom.  I’m not jealous of Amanda’s baby.  I just don’t want to talk about it.”  Brunch with my parents is always good for a fight.

 

She reached across the table to put a hand over mine.  I noticed how old her hands looked.  “None of us think you are a failure, plenty of women have miscarriages.  You just have to get back on that horse…”

 

“I’ll have to wrangle a dick first.”  That’s when I noticed my own voice.  It was high pitched and very loud.  The restaurant went quiet as forks scraped around on plates.  The stares from other patrons were like shouts.

 

Barren.  Failure.

 

Amanda was on her fifth and mine fell out at three months.  Jerry couldn’t understand.  He figured it hadn’t been long enough for me to grow attached.  They really suck at teaching reproduction in this country.  Babies literally grow, attached.  He wanted to try for another right away.  I couldn’t bear to have him touch me.  He grew distant, I grew distant.  He tried, and I refused to.  And then I started drinking.  I guess you could say I lost two really.

 

“Tina, lower your voice.”  Dad’s rebuke was sharp.  Of course he would take her side.  And why shouldn’t he.  I was a failure.  Not just the baby.  A law degree so I could do meaningless social work.  A costly princess wedding for a marriage that ended with a coffin.  A big house sold and split.

 

I took a long sip of my bloody mary.  Why can’t people just drink bourbon for breakfast and have done with this charade?

 

Mom shot Dad a look that sent him back to the bacon bar. Alone at the table she tried again.  “Honey, we think you could use some help.”

 

“What did you have in mind?”  I couldn’t wait to hear what she had to offer.  New age crystals? All night prayer sessions…

 

“Therapy.”

 

Well shit.  I must be in much worse shape than I think if Mom is offering practical advice.

 

“I tried that…”

 

She shook her head, “No Jerry tried that.  You went, and that’s a start but you never took the next step.”

 

I looked up at her.  This was the first time we really discussed my post traumatic disorderly conduct.  “Did you say it was a waste of time and money?”

 

I watched her purse her lips and for the first time ever I noticed little crinkles.  Mom smoked?  “I thought couples’ therapy wasn’t good for you.  It was clear that you and Jerry weren’t working out.”  She sighed, “After the loss it was clear you weren’t going in the same direction.  But I think you need it.  You need to talk to someone.”  I started to shake my head but she stopped me.  “No, you are falling apart, and I don’t mean the job, or the drinking.  Honey, it’s like watching a zombie these days.  You’re here but you’re not.  You’re alive but you’re dead.  We don’t know what to do.”

 

“Okay, okay.”  I could see she was having one of her rare Irish Catholic emotional moments usually reserved for holidays.  I didn’t want to use up the Christmas fund so I put paint to the Ibsen scene before it could start.  “I’ll look into it.”  Doubt sprang all over her face, “No I mean it.  There’s a couple at work we can visit for free.  I’ll talk to one this week.”

 

She pulled hands back, playing with her napkin.  “Will you?  Really?”

 

I took a deep breath in, and lied.  “Yeah.”

 

“Ester.  I was going to name her Ester, like from the bible.”

 

The universe is weird.  I had no intention of talking to the counselor at work and then I met him in the elevator on the one day it decided to work.  He was handsome, and unlike the rest of us he looked like the job hadn’t beaten him to death by Tuesday.  There was something about him that just made you want to talk to him, need to do it.

 

We made small talk in the lift on the way up.  Parting he turned left to his office, I went right to mine.  The caseload was heavy and I had a ton of calls to make and appointments to schedule so I resolved to make myself so busy I couldn’t possibly think of talking to him.  I made it to 10:14.

 

It was a shared kid that brought me to his office.  A boy, twelve, chronic runaway but we couldn’t get him to talk about home.  After five minutes of talking about the boy I mentioned my sister was pregnant, with her fifth.  And after the customary small talk he had my life story staining the carpet of his small office.

 

“I like that name.  Ester.”  He said it like he was test driving it.  “You know she was way more than the beauty queen of the bible.”

 

My ears perked up.  “I do actually.”

 

“That whole story fills me with faith.”  The look on my face must have given away my skepticism because he was laughing softly.  “I know, god’s not present in the story, but there’s all different kinds of faith.  Ester and Mordecai worked together, with their community, to stop a genocide.  They used strategy and planning to outmaneuver a man infinitely more powerful than they and to save their people.”

 

I sat for a moment, thinking that over.  Can people save themselves?  “I like that.”

 

“People can surprise you sometimes.  Strength comes from pulling together as a community.”

 

“And eating ears.”  He laughed again.  It sounded like music.  I suddenly wanted to know who his favorite band was, and did he like pepsi or coke…please be pepsi.

 

“Ear shaped cookies, not actual ears.” His smile was lopsided, and his teeth were a little crooked.  These perfect imperfections.

 

He noticed I was staring.  I noticed that he noticed and jumped up.  “Sorry for taking up so much of your time.  I should get back…”

 

“It was fine.  Please, you know you can talk to me when you need.”  He held out a hand and I took it.  Oh god it was warm and his skin was smooth like silk and I wanted that hand to travel all over me.

 

“Thank you.”  Blushing like a teen I darted out of his office.

 

Amanda called that night.  Just to check.  Just to spy.

 

“Mom told me you were going to talk to a therapist.” It wasn’t judgy but somehow that made me all the more pissed off.

 

“I did actually.  I talked to one at work.”  I wanted to burst into a 90s moment and talk about how cute he was, how the office was decorated with nicknacks to the shows he likes.  How his tie had a spot on it that I learned was from spaghettio.  That he still ate spaghettios!  I wanted to be back in our room as two girls gossiping and laughing and eating cheetos until our fingers were orange.  But I just couldn’t.

 

“That’s great.”  Her voice was warm, sincere.  A pause, waiting for me to fill in gaps.

 

“Well, I mean.  I work with him and he’s just there to support us.”

 

She could tell I was defensive, “No, I didn’t mean…I’m just happy you opened up to someone.”  There it was.  The judgment.  You don’t talk to us.  You pull away from us.  You don’t trust us.

 

“Yeah, I gotta go.”

 

“No Tina, wait.  I want to talk to you…”  I could tell she needed to say something.  There was always that edge in her voice that let me know when it was bullshit and an actual need.  So I waited.  Finally she blew out a breath, “Have a good night.”

 

My mouth opened, the question caught in my throat, the invitation to talk dying on my tongue.  “Night.”

 

Work was work.  It was hard, it beat you down, and the beating didn’t let up.  I was called out to help with a removal from an apartment later that week.  Meeting the cops and the foster pick up there, I knocked.  No answer.  Bad sign.  Turning I looked at the officer but he seemed clueless.  Way too young for this work.

 

“Mr. Welles, you need to open up.”  I knocked harder, my social worker knock.  Knocking is part of the training.  “Mr. Welles, we need to see Andrea.  The police and DCF are here.”

 

There was no sound from within the apartment.  It was a basement walk down tiny thing.  Trash collected at the doorway and the windows were so streaked with smoke and grease you couldn’t see in.  A bay window sat next to the door, two of the three windows were covered but the furthest was unobscured.  Pressing my face to the glass I caught a glimpse of motion.  Two little bare legs ran across the room, darting out from a shadow only to be swallowed by another.


“She’s in there.”

 

“Okay, let’s get in.”  The police officer motioned for me to move away.  He pounded on the door one last time, from the corner of my eye I saw the motion again.  I thought it odd that she ran in the same direction as last time.  I hadn’t seen her run back.  Calling out he kicked in the door and immediately turned his head.  “What the fuck!”

 

The stench hit me and I nearly fell over.  You never get used to that smell.

 

The officer took out his side arm and flashlight proceeding in.  I followed him.  It was freezing cold in the tiny apartment, almost worse than outside.  My breath was tiny puffy clouds in front of me.  Seated in the armchair facing a broken television set sat the body of Mr. Welles.  He had taken a gun to himself some days ago from the look of things.

 

Death never surprises me.  It’s the lack of fucks a person must give right before suicide that does.  Mr. Welles was wearing stained pants, no shirt.  His man tits were sagging down his ribcage.  Somehow men are able to be skinny and fat at the same time. Stubble had grown over his face, and his black hair was plaster to what was left of his skull.  The roaches that had scattered at our invasion returned to the food he left at his side.

 

“Find the kid.”  The cop stared at me hard, “Hey! Snap out of it.”

 

I came back to myself.  “Right, sorry.”  Nodding, I moved into the apartment.  “Sarah?”  She had to still be here.  Incredible that no one would have heard her crying.  People would ignore the gun shot, that was the world we lived in, but the nuisance of a crying child disrupting primetime television, that would be reported.

 

Breathing into my hands, I desperately tried to warm my fingers.  The white puffs filling the space around me.  Down a dark hall, I saw the bare feet in a slice of light, “Sarah?”

 

The feet retreated into blackness again.  I followed down the hall to the bedroom.  The door crept open, creaking at every inch.  “Sarah, hon..”  I stopped cold.

 

Sarah Welles was lying face up on the bed, eyes open and unseeing, body cold and stiff.  She had been strangled, days ago. Her legs and feet were bare.

 

“Fucking window is open.”

 

I jumped at the sound of his voice as he brushed past me.

 

“Thought you said you saw her in the living room?”

 

I blinked, I had.  “I was wrong.  Trick of the light, I guess.”

 

“I’m calling for an ambulance.”  He walked out, already speaking into his radio.  From the living room, I could hear him filling in the foster pick up.  She seemed genuinely upset.  But I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

 

That’s when it happened.  A single cloud of white breath rose from her open lips.  I fell backwards into the bureau, upsetting the collection of shit they had.

 

My boss met me at my cubicle the next day.  “Jesus, Tina, you could have taken the day off you know.”  She made a big show of pointing out her concern.

 

It was 2:30 in the afternoon.  She took her sweet time getting concerned.

 

I smiled and played along, “Well maybe I’ll take Friday off and have a three day weekend.”

 

She faked a sympathetic smile, “Friday’s are tough and if you are out then that leaves the work for someone else.  Would you do that to someone else?”  Checkmate.  “But you know what you should do, talk to Dr. Randall.”  She put her hands on my shoulder and I could see the fuzzy pills of her cheap sweater at this angle.  “Come on, I’ll walk you there myself.”

 

Admittedly, this wasn’t hard.  And I could tell she had expected a fight, but when I compliantly walked down the hall to his door she smirked, “Well, just make sure you get back to your desk.  Again, you’re leaving work for others.”

 

“You could take my calls.”

 

I could have sworn she screamed on the inside at the just the thought.  But before she had a chance to be bitch the doctor was rising from his desk.

 

“Hey, I heard about yesterday.”  He moved to his chair and motioned I take the other arm chair in the room.  “Come on in.”

 

I walked in and sat.

 

He looked behind him and smiled to my boss. “Thanks, Sheila,” he said, snapping the door shut in her face.

 

It was everything I could do not to laugh at her expression.  He, on the other hand, let out a soft chuckle.  It sounded like heaven. It was a deep, manly chuckle, but still kind and soft.  That’s when I noticed his cologne.  Woodchips and lavender.

 

We sat quietly for a few minutes.  “It was creepy.  The cops must think I’m nuts.”

 

His face was a calm and open book.  “Tell me about it.”

 

I took in a breath and let it out, rolling my eyes at my own stupidity.  “I thought I saw her running around, but then we found her body.”  Laughing, I waved my hands indicating the humor of it.

 

His calm mask slipped, “That must have been horrifying.”

 

Suddenly I realized how callous I sounded.  Was he judging me?  What did he think?  I could feel my body sweating furiously.  What should I do now?  How do other people respond to finding two dead bodies?

 

“It was.”  I could see from his face my response was too late.  “I just…I swear I saw her…but then there she was on the bed…”  Her face floating in front of my memory.  “She had clearly been dead for a few days.”

 

“You know…this is a little above my paygrade.”  He shifted in his chair.  “I can talk to one of my colleagues and…”

 

I bolted up, “But I saw her.  I swear I saw her running around.”

 

“Yeah, I know you think you saw her…”  He had cleared his chair and was behind his desk, separating us.

 

“I don’t THINK it!”  Suddenly I heard my own voice.  I was screeching at him.  His face was white.  I sucked in a breath.  “I’m sorry.  It was just…”

 

He stood perfectly still.  His hand hovered to the phone, then stilled and went back to his side.  “Are you okay?”

 

“Yes.”  I went to say more but stopped quickly when I saw his hand go up.

 

“Please return to your desk.”

 

I stood still for a moment.  Waiting, praying he would relent and ask me to sit again, I stood there refusing to look away.

 

“Tina, I want you to leave.  Please.”

 

Tears pricked at my eyes and through them I could see him.  He was beautiful and kind and loving.  And once again I had killed a chance.  I picked up the pieces of my pride and left.

 

That night I drank until I blacked out in my living room.

 

Amanda went into early labor.  Nothing scary or difficult about her birth, the baby just really wanted to move out of her first apartment and into the world.  She called to say it was a girl.  They never did the gender reveal thing, thank god.  8 pounds 7 ounces and 21 inches long.  I said she would be a supermodel if she kept that proportion.

 

“Tina, will you come over?  The kids want to see you, and you have to meet her.”

 

“Her?  You haven’t decided on a name?”

 

Amanda was silent on her end.  “Ester.”

 

I was breathless for a moment.  It wasn’t pain, nor anger.  It was death.  The final nail in a very small coffin.  My hopes, my baby were all finally gone.

 

“Tina?”

 

I sucked in a breath, startled by my own name.  “Yeah, I’m here.”  We paused, silent.  “I love it.”

 

Amanda sobbed, “Really?”

 

And I did.  I really did love it.  And I loved her.  I wanted her to have Ester if I couldn’t.  I could see her as a niece if I couldn’t as a daughter.

 

A few days later mother and daughter were at home.  The boys were staying with my mom to help keep the house quiet for the new arrival.  They had seen her and visited their mother.  It was a perfectly timed sleep over with Gramma and Grampa.  Amanda and I sat in the nursery, Ester’s tiny form swaddled up in a blanket dozing on and off.

 

“My first girl.”  Tina couldn’t take her eyes from her.

 

I couldn’t blame her, Ester was perfect.  Truly a beauty queen.  “You know that story’s more about a community coming together to save itself.”

 

Amanda couldn’t hear me.  No one could hear anything of how divine that baby was.

 

“You want to hold her?”

 

I felt myself grow cold at the offer.  I loved my nephews, and was present in their lives, but we weren’t close.  Not ‘holding a baby’ close. And now it dangled before me like an early Christmas present.  I practically salivated at the thought.

 

“Yes.”  The word croaked out first quickly and appeared in a puff of white between us.  Amanda saw it, I saw it. But she laughed at the oddity of it.  But then my hands were itching to get that baby.

 

Amanda smiled, rising from the rocking chair and we swapped places.  I thanked god I hadn’t started drinking that morning.  My sister was close enough to have smelled it.  She settled the baby in my arms and stood back, “I have to go to the bathroom anyway.  These pads fill up too fast.”

 

I made a face at the grossness of the statement, then realized, it was part of this.  Part of life and creation.  It was the aftermath of making a baby.  Something that I could learn about, something I could undergo.

 

“Will you be okay for a few?” She motioned towards the door.

 

I was struck dumb by the beauty of the baby and could only nod my response.  She left, I heard her scurrying down the hall and the bathroom door close behind her.  I chuckled softly.  Was that something I would have to get used to?  Maybe.  The future was wide open.

 

Alone in the room I was able to really look at her closely.  The tiny scrunched up face moving slightly in a dream. Even her tiny little nose that breathed in and out, tiny puffs of white.  Ten tiny little fingers reflexing and releasing.  Her weight, the gravity of holding the baby, alive in my arms.  I swear I could feel her heart beating, blood pulsing, lungs filling and expelling.  And the smell.  That new baby smell was sublime.  She was perfection.

 

The sob broke from my mouth before I even knew I was crying.  “Hi Ester.  I want to…”

 

But my words were cut off.  My promises of being there, getting sober, opening my future, and making my own path all died.  Suddenly the Hallmark movie film reel turned black and white, slowed and melted in the light.  My body went cold.

 

Ester had opened her eyes, large and black.

 

I breathed out.  The room was freezing and my breath created a cloud of fog through which I could see the baby clearly.  It was one of them.  This demon in my arms.

 

Down the hall I heard the toilet flush, and the tap turn on.  My sister was singing some showtune.  I couldn’t let this thing hurt her.

 

I reached for an empty plastic bag, used to hold diapers, and wrapped it over her head.

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horror, Uncategorized

This Place Is Dead

“Don’t stay out too late, and be…”

 

Careful.

 

I was already halfway down the stairs of our tenement before my mother’s voice finally disappeared.  She’d been screaming the same bullshit at me for years, ever since I grew tits.  Be careful.  Travel in packs. Never be alone.  The boogeyman will get you.

 

Fuck that.

 

Our building was like a lot of the buildings in LA these days.  Shitty.  The walls were falling apart, that cheap drywall people put in way back in the day was crumbling like bad pastry.  The floors groaned under any weight.  The lift gave out before I was even born, and the stairs were like playing hopscotch.  It froze in the winter and stank in the summer.  Not that I would notice.

 

Outside it was dark, finally.  The air was cool on my skin and it smelled like night in the city.  The clubs had been alive all summer.  DJs, booze, and guys.  It was like a feast.

 

Two kids were standing at the curb.  They weren’t moving, and they weren’t looking at me.  That was good.  You couldn’t trust kids these days.  They were all feral.  I just kept my head down and walked past them.

 

“Boogeyman’s out tonight.”  One of them must have caught sight of me and called out.

 

“Should have put it on thicker.”  The other one added in.  I could tell they weren’t following me, but I walked faster anyway.  I fucking hate kids.

 

At the club I saw my girls.  Chacey and Viv.  They waved me over to them in line.  Normally cutting in line would get you fucked up.  But hot chicks always help move the line faster.  And we were fucking hot.

 

“I love the eyes.”  Viv had gone all out tonight.  Full Cleopatra eye, vibrant colors that pulsed in the light.  Her white skin only helped the orange and pink hues glow out more.  The contacts she wore gave her pupils purple halos.  But it was always her mouth that men were drawn to.  She had two pouty lips, a small mouth, but the lips were plump, full.  Combined that with a thin face, huge eyes, she looked like a fucking doll.  And she was.  A fucking doll.

 

We moved up a few spaces quickly.  The music from inside was pulsing out and the line had a good attitude tonight.  Thank god.  LA had too much shit to deal with already.

 

“I love that top.”  Chacey eyed me, then flicked her eyes to the side.  We were being watched.

 

I glanced up, the bouncer was licking his lips.  I nodded to her.  She felt the fabric.  It was a simple halter, red satiny material that moved easily, showing exactly how much I wanted when needed.  And it was needed at the moment.  Her fingers danced over the trim around my breast.  Our eyes locked.  Her long black fingers ran over my pink nipple just as our eyes met the bouncer’s.  He smiled and gestured for us.  And we were inside.

 

Inside perfect bodies sweated through their vibrant clothing.  Nobody wore black.  That was fucking done.  It was an explosion of color, of light.  The music ran through us, almost painful but we moved to the beat, the pulse.  It was a chance to feel alive in a dead city.

 

Behind me a boy ran his hands down my sides.  I spun around and licked his neck.  He smiled, gorgeous white pearls gleaming off the lights of the club.  His lips were fuller than mine and I couldn’t wait to feel them against mine.     His hands moved over the flat of my stomach and under my shirt.  Fingers caressed and pinched my nipples.  Moaning, I rubbed my chest against his.  People around us like the show and performances of their own started soon.  It was like that now.  Everybody fucked everybody else.  It was okay.  We just needed to feel alive.

 

Later we were at the bar when I got to hear the gossip.  “I heard he got two girls last night.”

 

My ears shot up.  As much as I pretended I didn’t care, I was obsessed with the boogeyman.  He thrilled me.  And nothing thrilled anyone anymore.

 

Three girls were talking, Viv had jumped into their conversation and that allowed me to listen in.  One of the girls, drunk, was holding court because she was the only one that had even heard of the murder.  “Did anyone know them?”

 

A man turned, addressing the girl who had been talking, “It was the club on West Elm, The Mansion.  One of the girls had gone out and just didn’t come back in. I don’t know anything about the other.”

 

“Shit.” Viv whistled.

 

I was looking at the guy.  He was hot.  Incredibly hot.  Black hair, not short but not long. Covering his ears.  Messy, but not curly.  He had tight fitted pants on, showing his muscles.  That was nothing new, everybody had incredible bodies now.  But he was wearing a shirt and jacket.  It was disgusting in the club, the bodies grinding into an orgiastic fever, and there he stood looking so cool.

 

“Hey, we’ve gotta bounce.”  Viv leaned into me.

 

We walked home together.  Viv lived with her aunt in a building down the block from me.  I was happy to have her.  The kids only bother you if you’re alone.  Most of the time you can’t even see them if you’re with someone else.

 

LA the war zone.  LA the dead place.  It lured people in with glitz and the promise of stardom and fame.  It turned you into whores and corpses fast.  Eat and chewing and spitting.  Bodies were in the cement, bodies were the building blocks to this whole city.  It was a dead place.

 

“So, tomorrow?”  Viv looked up at my building.  The sun was threatening to come up in the east.  The sky was graying up and birds were flying away from it.

 

“Yeah. Sure.”

 

She smiled, beautiful perfect teeth, white and sharp.  Then she was gone.

 

I went in.  The hallway was dark, I could hear the sounds of life from the apartments as I walked past each.  Some were families talking, children crying, parents fighting, lovers fucking.  It was all the same sounds.  Nothing had really changed.  Just got shittier.  That’s all.

 

I collapsed onto my bed and slept.

 

At one point I got up as I heard my mother leave.  She worked as a nurse in one of the few hospitals left.  She couldn’t get good shifts, but it paid well.  Kept us inside at least.  I felt guilty.  I knew I was a burden.  But what could I do?

 

The living room held our television.  It was one of those old tube ones.  The kind that still worked and picked up the tv that came through the air.  Old shit just worked better I guess.  I turned on the news.

 

“More bodies found today as the infamous Boogeyman stalker strikes again.”  I watched, wide eyed and enraptured.

 

Last night, while I was fucking a guy in the bathroom, a girl across town had been led out to a parking lot and stabbed.  She was gorgeous, too.  The picture on the screen showed her.  Sexy mouth and eyes, great body, she looked like the rest of us.  Perfect.  And now she was a heap out in some lot rotting out under the sun that poisoned the earth.

 

“One of the victims had an unidentified substance on their skin.”  The camera showed the third girl, fuck that middle girl I guess, her legs looked…orange.  Something was painted on her skin, and she wasn’t dressed for the club.

 

“Katherine Horne had been walking home from work when she was attacked. This is the first attack outside the club circuit.  City security is encouraging women to walk in groups of threes or more.  If viewers have any…”

 

I snapped it off.  No one has any information to offer. This guy isn’t one of us. He’s an outsider.

 

Time moved slower. The sun stayed up longer.  It must be summer.  I hate summer.  The city cooked under the sky. Sometimes I would wake up in the early afternoon, after a night of clubbing, only to watch the heat vapors rise from the streets.  Homeless people wandered around the alleys of apartments, looking for shadows to hide in.  You could see how their skin wept as the rays licked it dry.  Birds couldn’t even fly on days like that, not that there were many of those things left.

 

Nights were better, cooler and thankfully dark.  At night the city crawled into a different life. It was like there were two kinds of people, the day suffers and the night revelers.  And neither really liked or hated the other.  We lived side by side in the dying city because we had to. It was no one’s fault and everyone’s fault.

 

We didn’t make holidays any longer and we didn’t keep calendars.  Days and nights just happened.  You worked on the days you were assigned and you didn’t on the others.  No one needed to know what that day was called or any of that other shit. What did it matter?

 

Viv swung in early that evening.  “Girl, it’s fucking crazy out there.”

 

“Why?”  I closed the door to my mom’s room.  She was sleeping already.

 

“You didn’t hear?”  Viv’s eyes went wide.  She sat down on the couch, the coils inside screaming at the bounce she gave.  I sat next to her.  “He broke into a house today.”

 

“What!”

 

“Yup, walked right in and slaughtered a whole family.”  She announced it like she was proud.  Not of him, but of her knowing it.  Proud to be the one to tell.

 

I was jealous.  “Fucking hell. That’s bold.”

 

The Boogeyman didn’t have a start, it’s not like in the old days when people said ‘oh such and such happened on this or that date.’  It was just that you knew about him.  People were dead and he did it and we slowly crept into knowing about it.  Like we had to catch up to him.

 

I caught up when he had already been trending in gossip.  He was already the Boogeyman, but he wasn’t a legend yet.  Just a creep with a scary name.  Girls would go missing from clubs, and their bodies would turn up in parking lots, or dumpsters, or beaches.  They would be stabbed, just once, and then laid out so the sun would suck them dry the next day.

 

There wasn’t a calling card or even a motive.  He would hit a club, then a house party, wherever people were and lure them to where they weren’t.  He wouldn’t rob from them, or rape them.  He just stabbed them and that was it.  Game over.

 

“Yeah, city security will have to do something now.”  She pulled out a cigarette, “I mean first it was that fucking girl from last night, the electrician, and now a family in their own home.”

 

She went to light the cigarette but I stopped her.  “My mom.”

 

Her eyes flicked to the bedroom, “Oh, right. Sorry.”  Her eyes dropped, “my aunt reminds me but…”

 

“It’s okay.  She can smell things, still.”

 

The corner of Viv’s mouth lifted.  “That must suck.”

 

I chuckled a little, then a hysterical laugh broke out of me.  “It does.”  I thought of my mother, the faces she would make when the city was like this.  Or if her food spoiled.  Or sometimes when I got too close.

 

Most days I avoided her eyes.  She started getting sick years ago, when it first happened.  I remember as I changed and she didn’t.  Her body crinkled and little snapping noises happened from her knees and shoulders.  Her hair grew wiry and her eyes watery.  It wasn’t until I saw her avoiding me when I asked. Her answer was simple, “your smell.”  We didn’t notice it.  Our bodies were rocks, perfection carved in mahogany, beautiful and lifeless.  But we made everything around us, that wasn’t us, sick.

 

Viv broke me from that thought, “Come on.”

 

Tonight was a new club.  Chacey was out with a guy she picked up a few days back, leaving me and Viv to ourselves.  It was on the outskirts of the city, in one of those old grand houses that weren’t grand anymore.

 

New club demanded extra.  I had a vinyl miniskirt that reflected light in all colors, paired it with a bright green tube top.  My skin was glowing, I had done up my makeup like a warrior, three little dots under my left eye and over my right brow, a direct line under my left jawline.  Viv’s gorgeous eyes were decorated with color, fake lashes fanning out like a rainbow around her black eyes.  Tight leopard leather pants, held together with a corsetted seam and a camel halter flutter around her.  She was stunning.  We both were.  Everyone was.

 

The house was a mess.  It looked like something from a horror movie my mom used to watch when the world was alive.  But to me it was just another place to meet up, fuck, drink, and dance.  The music could be heard a block away.  It was an actual mansion.  The grounds were surrounded by what had been an ironwork fence.  I could see that it had been beautiful back in the day.  Now, it looked like twisted metal, long broken fingers that had reached out for help only to be bitten off one by one.  The lawn was dead in most places and overgrown to shit in the few remaining.  We walked up the long driveway. People were outside, drinking and talking.

 

Viv looked over at me, “This place is cool, right?”

 

I wondered why someone that beautiful would ever need reassurance. “Yeah.”

 

She smiled, confident.  “Okay, let’s go in, get a drink and figure it out from there.”

 

We entered.  In its day this house would have been magnificent.  The front door opened up to a room that was bigger than the entire floor of my apartment building, there were two staircases on either side that lead up to another floor.  The floors were weird, Viv and I looked down, it wasn’t wood but some weird stone…

 

“Marble.” A familiar voice from behind me answered.  “The floors are marble.”

 

It was the hot guy from last night, and he was even hotter tonight.  Tight jeans, white shirt open at the throat.  “The man in the cool shirt.”  I smiled at him.

 

“Shit, that’s way better name than Greg.”  He laughed, flashing his brilliant teeth and smile.

 

Viv picked up the hint.  She tapped me on the shoulder and mouthed ‘later’.  I smiled back.  I watched her walk into a dark room to the side, following the throbbing music.

 

“So, have you been here before?”

 

I looked up at him, “No.  Give me the tour.”

 

He smiled back.  Leading me around the house, we were astonished at the shit we found.  For a rich guy he was a dumb fuck. There was a room full of gym equipment, a spa for meditation, these rooms were full of glass and you could see the night sky out of them at every turn.  The center of the house had a glass elevator, it didn’t run any longer.  There was a movie theater, the screen had been torn down long ago.  There was a popcorn machine overturned.  The chairs were occupied by couples fucking away and making out.  Pretending like they were really at a movie.

 

In the cellar we found cars, all torn to shit and destroyed by age.  I hopped in one and felt the wheel.  “Have you ever driven?”

 

Greg laughed, “Fuck no. You?”

 

I shook my head, “My mom did, back in the day.”

 

Greg offered me a hand out of the car, “Well they all did, back in the day.”

 

“I suppose.”  I ran a hand over the hood of the car, the license plate was familiar.  “Misery.”

 

Greg looked down and laughed softly.  “Yeah, the guy who lived here liked those stories I guess.”

 

I just hummed.

 

“You know he had a shelter in this place, it was the first thing raided.”  Greg led me over to the back wall, there was a section torn out.  A series of small rooms containing only a few boxes knocked over and ripped up furniture.  “His boyfriend and he broke up right before.  And to get revenge the boyfriend posted pics of everything so people knew to steal it all.”

 

“Shit.”  I walked into the room, it was dark, that wasn’t a problem.  But it had a weird vibe to it.  I picked up a few items, touching them, feeling them.  “Did he die here?”

 

Greg smiled, and I was happy I impressed him.  “Shot by his own security guards.”

 

“No loyalty when there’s money involved.”  I threw a can of spaghetti-os at a rat in the corner and watched it run.

 

“Let’s get out of here.”

 

I followed him back upstairs. The party was wild.  It had to be.  The boredom everyone felt was reaching hysteria.  This was the pressure point, the boiling over point.  The night to feel alive.  We walked out back to a pool, drained of water and filled with graffiti.  There was a sound coming from somewhere beyond where we were.  It was slow and rhythmic.  It sounded like…

 

“You’re so fucking hot.”  His hands were cool and smooth.  They snaked their way up my legs and under my skirt.  They touched and grabbed inches of me when I wanted to give miles.  He was teasing, playing me like prey.  I sunk down, pulling him with me.  The grass underneath our bodies was sharp, like little knife blades.  It was intense, the sensation of the painful grass at my back and his cold skin against mine on top.  I rolled him over, straddling him, when I noticed the smudge marks around his eyes.  I took a finger rubbing it against his skin, lifting it I saw the white foundation, traces of glitter.

 

“What the…”  I didn’t get to finish.  He was on top of me again.  Much more aggressive.  Kissing me, tongue reaching in.  I started to push him off.  But he was pushing me down, into the stabbing grass, pushing me into the earth.  I kicked out, pushed, tried to fight.

 

My mouth got free from his and I screamed out, but the party drowned me out.  The party and that noise from beyond, the back and forth.  I kept screaming.

 

“Shut the fuck up!”  He put a hand over my mouth.  “I’ve heard you things fuck like animals so what does it matter?”  He was fumbling with his pants and my clothes.

 

“Get the fuck off me.  I’ll do it!”  I knew I had only one weapon left…

 

“Hey, get the fuck off her!”  Greg was ripped off me by a man from above.  This guy was older, not as old as my mom but still.  He pulled Greg up like he weighed nothing, and pushed him away.  Greg made like he was going to fight but the man stood his ground.

 

“Fucking cunt!”  He spat at me and walked back in.

 

I laid there for a moment, terrified, breathless. What the fuck had happened?

 

“Are you okay?”

 

Am I?  Fucking I don’t know anymore.  I shook my head at him.  The man looked nervous, like he didn’t want to touch me, but then held out his hand. I grabbed it, he pulled me up.  His palm was hot and his grip was crazy.  He was strong, but it wasn’t crushing, just…I don’t know.  Alive.

 

We stood there, not talking for a few minutes when it finally dawned on me I should say something.  “Thank you.”

 

He took a step back.  He seemed confused.  His face flushed like my mom’s did sometimes.  It was cute.  There were little hairs on his face, they were greyer than his head.  I raised my hand to touch them but he pulled back.

 

“Sorry.”  I wanted to say more, but what would I say?

 

“Have you seen the ocean?”  He asked.  His voice sounded small, like he was a child and I was his grandmother.  It made me smile.

 

“No.”  The pieces fell together.  “Is that what that noise is?”

 

“Yeah, it’s the surf.  The tide pulls the water back and forth.  That noise is the surf breaking on the shore.”

 

My lips parted.  I had never given a shit about the ocean, but suddenly that night, standing there with this stranger I wanted to see it more than anything.  I wanted to see that sound.

 

“Can we go?”

 

He nodded and led the way down to a small cliff that looked out over the ocean.  The moon was casting enough light to see the black waves moving back and forth against the sandy beach.  A few times the water broke white with violence on top and the noise was louder.  It sounded like my mother’s breathing, and her heart.  I remembered years ago I would put my ear to her chest to listen to them, like the pulse at the club, how I chased that sound all my life.

 

I never saw the stake in his hand.  Just one minute he was helping me, showing me the ocean, where the sun would appear, then bam, stake in my chest.  Like all the other girls.

 

My blood was seeping out of me. It was a lazy march, nothing pulsed out of me, out of anyone anymore.  It was like a slow drain, pull the plug of the bath, watch it all slowly empty.  Soon I’ll be an empty bathtub.

 

“You’re the boogeyman.”

 

He looked confused and perhaps…offended?, “I’m not the boogeyman, you are.”

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