Hush

Hush

A Story by ChinAllen

“Are you comfortable, Michael?”

            Michael didn’t reply. He didn’t want to talk to the doctor today. Maybe tomorrow. That would be better. Tomorrow was always better.

            Dr. Isaac Harris leaned forward in his chair. “Michael? Will you tell me about your wife?”

            Michael didn’t reply. He sat in padded wheel chair, dressed in a thin, cotton robe and blue pajamas. His face was pale and gaunt looking, with a dull look set on his face. He still didn’t reply.

            Harris dropped his pencil on his clipboard in exasperation. He had been treating Michael for months now and he hasn’t said a single word to him. Not about his wife or the Robinson’s baby or anything. Usually, Harris was a patient man, patient with his wife who has had more than few late nights lately, patient with his kids who have both smelled a little more than rank lately, and of course, he has been patient with his patients.

            But he was starting to lose it with this one.

            Harris looked up at the orderly who just nodded his head and started for the wheel chair when-

            “She’s dead.”

            Harris jumped, almost knocking over his glass of scotch. “Michael, tell me again about your wife?” He turned on a small recorder and set it on the table.

            “She’s dead, Isaac.”

            Harris swallowed. “You can leave, Kevin.” The orderly left the room. “Water, Michael?” Harris asked, already pouring a glass for him. But Michael just sat there and stared at his hands. “How did she die, Michael?”

            He looked up at Harris. “I think you know the answer to that.” His voice was shaky and Harris saw tears sitting at the edge of his eyelids. “I’m sure you do.”

            “I have read your file.” Harris responded. “And I’ve read the news articles and the doctor reports about everything. I’ve even talked to your family about what happened.” Harris leaned forward, forcing himself to look into Michael’s eyes. They seemed dead. The irises were nearly white and the rest of the eye seemed dry and wrinkled, like a piece of hide left in the sun too long. “But I’m not trying to help them, am I Michael. I’m here to help you. I want to hear your side of the story, what you think happened.”

            Michael face slowly turned from a dull sadness to an aggressive anger. The left side of his upper lip lifted up into a snarl, showing lightly yellow teeth. His left nostril twitched rapidly above it. A fast moving stream of tears broke over the dam that was his eyelids. At this moment, Harris looking at him, he thought that this man was truly crazy, that he could never be helped. It wasn’t the look in his eyes or how his face was set, but it was the early set of white in his hair and the graying white in his eyes.

            Michael looked at Harris. “What I think? “ He leaned closer to Harris. “I THINK MY WIFE IS F*****G DEAD!” His voice cracked, going up and down and back up again. Michael sat still for a moment. “And so is our baby.” He spoke a little quieter this time. “It’s her fault.” Quieter still.

            “You mean the Robinson’s baby?”

            “No.”

            “But you two never conceived, not really.”

            “You weren’t there!”

            Harris swallowed a little. “Will you tell me about it.”

            “No.” He snapped back quickly, his eyes shifted from the left to the right. But then he did. He told Harris everything.

 

 

            “Somebody help me!” Michael Newman half carried and half pushed his wife through the hospital doors. “My wife’s having a baby!” He was smiling a panicky smile. He was excited. Excited beyond excitement! Goddamn what a beautiful day, isn’t it?

            “Not so fast, honey, you’ll push me right over the baby.” She was laughing. Darla’s excitement more than matched her husbands, but f**k was she nervous. She knew it was going to hurt. Why wouldn’t it? The only thing she could compare it to was that time she broke her femur in a car accident back when Kurt Cobain was still alive and she wasn’t even in her training bra.

             A small nurse ran up to Darla and grabbed her right elbow. “Mitch, bring a wheel chair, please. How long since her water broke, Mr?”

            “It’s Mike Newman. And it’s been about twenty or so minutes.”

            They were actually in the middle of a packed movie theater, just barely hitting the twisted climax of the movie when it happened. He remembered hearing a small dripping sound splashing against the cement floor. He glanced behind him out of impulse. Then his wife leaned over and simply said sugar my water broke and then leaned back to her seat. He nodded smiling, as if she had said something funny and then it hit him. His smile dropped into a lax expression and he snapped his head towards his wife and yelled, making her jump. They left the theater as fast as her swollen legs could move her and now they were here having a wholesome, blessed, mother f****n’ baby!

            And right on time, too.

            “Ok, Mr. Newman. We’ll have you fill out some paper work while we get her set up, alright?” the nurse said. Mitch The Man-Nurse strolled up with a wheel chair and helped Darla into it slowly. On the back of it, it said TWO COMIN’ THROUGH.

            “Yeah, sure. Ok.” He walked over to the receiving desk, not taking his eyes off of his wife. He was sweating heavily now and his fingers were tapping in an inconsistent rhythm. Fatherhood, being a parent, oh boy he was excited to meet him.

            “…your doctor?”

            He looked over at the receptionist. “I’m sorry, what?”

            “Who is your doctor? Your gynecologist?”

            “Oh! Uh…” He shook his head and snapped his fingers, trying to catch his name. “Dr… Dr. Ruthers!”

            The receptionist wrote down a few things and then handed Michael a couple of papers. She smiled at him warmly. “I’ll give Dr. Ruthers a call. Congratulations, Mr. Newman.”

            “Thank you so much.” He walked over to a few chairs and sped through the paperwork. His writing was messy and his letters were big, like a kindergartener learning to write.

            Is the patient allergic to anything?

            Just peanuts.

            Does the patient smoke?

            Never in her life, bub.

            Does the patient do any illegal drugs?           

            Not anymore, ha ha.

            Michael finished the papers and ran back up to the desk. “I’m finished, miss,” he said, unable to keep the smile off of his face.

            “Ok.” She smiled and quickly brushed over the forms with her eyes. “If you just head all the way down there and take a right, there with be an elevator half way down the hall. Take it up to the third floor, that’s the paternity ward, and your wife will be in Room 306.”

            Michael was bouncing on his toes, slowly moving towards the lobby as he listened to her directions. “Ok, thank you so much, miss.” He shook her hand impulsively and ran through the lobby. He could barely hear the receptionist yell at him. She said “good luck” or “Jew duck”.

            He ran through empty halls and rode an empty elevator. His mind repeated the word ‘baby’ over and over in his mind, pounding it into his cranium like a woodpecker chipping out a new buffet hole. He could already imagine himself in classic father-son moments. Playing catch, giving him his first beer, talking about babes, oh the future memories!

            He found 306 easily and suddenly stopped just inside the doorway. His excitement flip-flopped. Darla’s arms were covered in tubes and she looked a little pale.

            Darla looked up and smiled. “Don’t I look like a Playboy bunny?” She flipped her hair and rolled her eyes dramatically.

            He smiled at her. “I think you look more like that time you threw up in my car.” Michael walked over to her and knelt down. He held her hand gently. It felt a little clammy and her grip felt very weak. “You feelin’ ok, babe?”

            “Yeah. It’s the medicine, though. It makes me feel a little sick.”

            “Oh, I’m sorry.”

            “Eh. It’s ok.” She smiled at him and Michael smiled back. “I love you.” Darla puckered her lips.

            “I love you, too” He leaned over and kissed her. He kissed her fully and with a sort of heaviness only two lovers knew. A heaviness that didn’t weigh them down, but it lifted them up.

            The door opened and a tall man with glasses and black hair walked in. Dr. Sherman Ruthers smiled at them, showing them a long row of white teeth. He put out a friendly hand and squeezed Michael’s firmly.

            “Michael. Darla. How are you two? This must be an exciting day!”

            “We’re good, Sherman. Hope we didn’t catch you at a bad time?”

            “Nah! I wouldn’t miss this for the world.” He walked over to Darla. “You look a little peeky, Darla? How’re you feeling?”

            “I feel ok. The medicine is making me feel a little sick.”

            “That’ll go away after a bit. Most women have that reaction to the drips, but its only temporary. I’m going to go and grab the report from the nurse and I’ll be back to just run some preliminary tests and such, make sure everything’s ok.”

            The couple both agreed simultaneously. They watched Ruthers leave and close the door quietly behind him. They could faintly hear a woman screaming. Michael and Darla looked at each other and swallowed. The magic of birth, baby, it’s one of a kind.

            Michael looked over at his wife. She looked paler. A light sweat had broken out on her brow and a little shiver broke through her periodically. “You sure your ok?”

            Darla looked at him and just smiled. “So have we decided on a name?”

            Michael thought for a second, screwing his face into a comical expression that always made Darla laugh. “Yeah, I got nothing.”

            “I don’t think we should name our kid Nothing,” she said through a fit of giggles.

            “Yeah, you’re right.” He looked down, acting like he was frustrated, and the he shifted his eyes to hers, loving her. He held onto her clammy hands and said, “How about Blake?”

            She looked up at him. Her face had a weary sag about it, but her eyes brightened. A small smile started to make the corner of her lips quiver. “You don’t seriously mean-“

            “Oh I’m serious, babe.” He smiled at her.

            She suddenly lunged towards him and wrapped her arms around his neck, planting a large kiss on his lips. She did it again and twice more before sitting up and looking at him. “Thanks, Michael. You don’t know what that means to me.”

            He smiled at her. “Sure I do.”

 

 

            “Who is Blake, Michael?” Harris asked.

            “It was her grandfather’s name. She was really close to him and he died about six months before we found out she was pregnant.” He started rock back and forth. Only a little, though, and very slowly. “So when we were deciding names, she would joke about his. Try to at least, but I knew how serious she was, even if she didn’t.”

            Harris wrote down a small fragmented sentence about Blake and asked, “How did the tests go?’

            “They went well enough. Ruthers said that her blood pressure was a little low, but that was probably from the medication and that the baby’s heart beat seemed a little weaker than it should, but that was probably from the sudden stress of everything.”

            Harris looked at Michael’s lap and saw that his fists were tightly clenched and were shaking bad. A red spot started to appear on his right pant’s leg.

            “Michael, are you ok?”

            He didn’t respond.

            “Michael?”

            “If that f*****g idiot pulled his head out of his a*s, he would have at least offered a C-Section. Should have. But he didn’t and now my wife and my baby are both dead!

            “Darla was in labor for sixteen hours before they decided to induce her. The nurse showed me the monitor that watched the baby’s heartbeat, and that entire time, it just dropped and dropped and dropped and dropped. I was scared. I even mentioned it to Ruthers and he just waved it off, like it was minor infraction that wouldn’t change a damn thing, the b*****d.” He paused for a while. “And we believed him.” He said this more quietly. His hand unclenched and Harris saw little half-moons had been cut into his palm.

            Michael glanced up and saw Harris watching him. “Anyways, he just said that this happened from time to time, but once the baby was out, everything would be ok.”

            “But is wasn’t?”

            Michael looked up at him, his eyes squinting a little in bewilderment, looking at Harris like he was an idiot. “Of course it wasn’t.” He said in a whisper. “Of course it wasn’t.” He started to rock a little more. He started to mutter something that Harris couldn’t hear.

            “Michael? Michael?” He tapped Michael’s knee lightly to get his attention. When he did, he just smiled at him reassuringly and said, “What happened next?”

            Michael said, “She started to deliver,” and rocked a little more.

 

 

            “Ok Mrs. Newman, so what we’re going to do his breath in and out.” The nurse started taking short breaths, breathing in and out, in and out, until Darla was doing the same thing. “Now, every time you feel a contraction coming, I want you to push as hard and as long as you can, ok?” Darla’s color had come back. Her face was a full red that covered her cheeks, forehead, and her chin. Her hands were no longer clammy, but soaked and slippery with sweat.

            Michael had changed into a blue gown, complete with mask and gloves. He was playing in the big leagues now, gripping onto to his wife’s hand for dear life while Ruthers crouched between Darla’s legs, saying things like “Very good, Miss Newman” and “You’re doing just wonderfully, Miss Newman.” No wonder the sick pervert didn’t offer a Cesarean; this was probably the most action he got all week.

            “You’re doing great, baby, you really are.”

            Darla smiled at him, weakly squeezing his hand, “It hurts, honey.” She uttered a small laugh and then started moaning. She could feel everything, the huge burning sensation from the pressure of the baby’s head bearing down on her cervix, sudden stinging sensations from his little elbows poking at her pelvis. She felt it all, slowly sliding along like a glacier carving its path down a mountain.

            The lower part of her spine popped painfully.

            “I see the head, Miss Newman, he’s beginning to crown.” Ruthers said. He held out his hands to catch the baby.

            “Hear that, baby, he’s almost here.” Michael started bouncing on his toes. He couldn’t stop the smile from reaching across his lips. Now he began squeezing his wife’s hand tightly. He felt lightheaded and swooned to his left and rocked back to his right. He looked from Darla’s face, which had become pale and slack again, to her legs. Blood was dripping on the floor.

            Darla let out a scream and felt the baby’s head slide quickly out of her and into Ruthers’s hands. She heard splattering on the floor. Another sickening pop racked her hip joints.

            “The head’s out, Miss Newman, we’re half way there.”

            She let out another loud scream and felt the shoulders and the hips make a final push out of the confines of the womb, splattering the floor with more blood. She fell back onto the reclined gurney, her legs shaking violently. It was over. Darla Newman just gave birth to her first child. A bouncing baby boy, 6 pounds and seven  wonderful ounces, maybe with a full head of hair and a long healthy cry.

            Where’s the cry? Where’s the yell? The little sound they make when they gasp in their first breath of life?

            “Nurse, come over here please.” This was Ruthers.

            The nurse quickly walked over to the doctor and looked down. Her shoulders slumped and she just shook her head. She took a pair of pliers and snipped the umbilical cord. Darla felt something rush through her, vibrate all the way up her spine and knocking something loose in her brain. It felt cold.

            “Why isn’t he crying?” Darla asked. Her voice was weak and sludgy, like she was talking through a smoothie. “Why can’t I hear him?” She watched the nurse take her baby from Ruthers and walk out of the room. One little, blue hand dangled from her arms.

            “Hey, what’s going on? Where is she taking him?” Michael said, standing up. He started walking after the nurse, but Ruthers stopped him with one hand, his eyes looking down at the splattered tile.

            “I’m sorry, Mr. Newman, but-“

            “WHERE IS SHE TAKING MY BABY?! GIVE HIM BACK!” Darla was thrashing in her bed, trying to stand up, but two large nurses came in and held her down. She swiped at one with her nails, tearing his cheek open in three places. The second one lunged over to grab her other arm and he got a swift elbow in the balls. He let out a little scream and fell to the floor, letting three more nurses jump over him to restrain Darla.

            Michael grabbed Ruthers arm, making him let out a little squawk. “What is wrong with my baby?” He looked angry; he had dropped his voice to a guttural snarl and he stopped blinking.

            Ruthers looked up and sighed. “I’m sorry, Mr. Newman,” he said again. He swallowed, “but your baby is stillborn.”

            Darla let out a loud scream, her eyes suddenly streaming with tears.

            Ruthers hung his head and said he was terribly sorry.

            Michael threw up on Ruthers shoulder and passed out

 

 

            “I was only out for a few minutes.” He rubbed his face. “When I woke up, Ruthers and the nurses were all gone, my wife was asleep, and the baby was gone.”

            Harris set down his water glass and leaned back into his chair. “What else happened that day, Michael?”

            “I checked on my wife first, to see if she was ok-“

            “And was she?”

            “Yeah, she was out and cleaned up and everything. She was still really pallid. Her face was all white except for red circles around her eyes. But all of the monitors seemed pretty normal, you know, they weren’t flat lining or anything, so I left the room to see if I could find Ruthers.” He paused for moment, staring at the glass of water. The ice cubes swirled in a slow typhoon. Little drops of water rolled down the sides.

            “Did you find him, Michael?”

            Michael snapped at him. “No, but I wish I did so I could ring the f****r’s neck.” His chest rose and fell in quick arcs. He looked at Harris this time, full in the face. “And I know my f*****g name is Michael, you don’t have to remind me. We’re not god damn buddy chum-chums here!”

            Harris only smiled reproachfully, feeling the sharpness of what Michael said only poke at him. “Ok, Michael, ok.”

            Michael relaxed back in his chair. “I never saw Ruthers again. A nurse took care of Darla.” He paused once again. “But I really, really wish I could see him again.”

            “Please tell me everything else at the hospital. And then we’ll finish up for today.”

            “Ok.”

 

 

 

            Michael left the hospital room. It was almost three in the morning and the hall was practically empty and the rooms were all silent except for one crying baby. He felt exhausted, almost drained of his will to do anything. He kind of wished that one of the nurses had put him out on his a*s instead. Then he wouldn’t have to deal with any of this right now. Got marital problems? Baby problems? Just take a nice dose of Novadril and KA-BAM! On your a*s in seconds!

            He almost laughed.

            He found the nurse’s station pretty easily, it was only a few dozen paces from their room, and asked if he could talk to Dr. Ruthers, please.

            “Dr. Ruthers has gone home. He probably won’t be back ‘til later this afternoon.”

            “Well, then can I at least see my baby?”

            “Of course you can.” She turned towards her computer and double-clicked on the mouse. “Name, please?”

            “Newman.”

            She stopped her fingers from moving before they could get started and looked up at him. “Mr. Newman, I’m sorry, but I really shouldn’t let you.”

            “Please, ma’am.” His voice choked. “I just want to see him once.”

            “Mr. Newman-“

            Please.

            She sighed in exasperation. She started tapping her fingers on the desk. She quickly looked up and down the hall to see if any of the other nurses were around. “Alright, come on.” She picked up a set of keys and started towards the elevator. Michael followed and watched her push the button with a large B on it. That meant the basement. That’s where the morgue is.

He swallowed down what felt like a bag made out of sandpaper filled with pennies. His throat itched all the way down to his stomach. They stood next to each other in silence and watched the number 3 flashing above the door change to a 2, pause for a moment, and then change into a 1.

            “I could get into a lot of trouble, you know.”

            Did you just watch your wife give birth to a dead baby? I didn’t think so, you b***h. “Thank you for your troubles.”

            The digital light changed to a B. The speakers above him made a loud ding! noise. The nurse walked out briskly making her skirt hike up her legs more than they should have. He followed her out of the elevator.

            The whole time he was in that long hallway, he felt like he was confined in some kind of cement tomb that seemed to get smaller as he went. He couldn’t help but think of it as a womb. A cold, dead womb that only ended in a place of death.  The walls and the blood that seemed to pulse through it were dead. Even the air that was drowning his lungs felt plagued by death. He felt it infect his capillaries and seep into his blood.

            He felt cold. He became aware that he was more than a little frightened. His legs wanted to go back to the comfort of the elevator and leave this poor nurse down here in this suffocating place, but his mind kept him moving. Or, more or less, it was his will that forced each of his legs to put one foot in front of the other. He couldn’t just leave the baby

            (my baby he’s my baby)

down in this cold place without giving him some kind of warmth, some kind of love that he would never get again.

            The nurse’s keys jingled on and off the walls like a broken record on a fading radio signal. The keys are the song and our footsteps are the static. They came to a door on their left after a hundred paces or so. Above it, the word MORGUE was printed in solid-black dominating letters that were engraved into the cement. Michael’s heart started to pick up the pace, pumping blood in and out of his ventricles at what seemed like pints at a time.

            The nurse opened the door and whispered in, “Hey, Bill?”

            A tall man in a white lab coat and blue gloves turned towards them. He had dried blood up to his elbows. In his left hand, he held a scalpel covered in dark liquid and in his right, he held a large liver. “Yeah?”

            “Could you take five?”

            “Why? I got s**t-“

            “Please? It’s important.”

            The man named Bill made eye contact with Michael. He put down the scalpel and liver and walked through another door, muttering under his breath.

            The nurse looked at Michael. “I think he is in the far end of the refrigerators. Just look for a little abbreviation inf. on the door.”

            “Ok.” He made a very dry and very audible swallow.

            “I’m going to go back up to the maternity ward. Just make sure the door and everything is closed so I don’t get my a*s chewed out too much.”

            “Ok.” He started walking into the morgue when the nurse called him again. He turned and looked at her. His face was completely devoid of the fright he felt. It was slack, like it gave up on holding onto his skull.

            “I’m really sorry.” She blinked away drops of awkward tears. “I really am.”  

            He gave her a weak smile and watched her leave. The morgue door swung in slow horizontal arcs before coming to a stop. He was alone now

            (not alone)

and that seemed to scare him the most. He wished his wife was there, or his mother or brother or some third cousin twice removed on his stepfather’s side. Any one would do!

            The morgue was freezing. His flesh seemed to crawl over his bones. Or maybe that wasn’t the cold at all. He looked around and thought that it might be from the sterility of the place. The immaculate gleam of the stainless steel gave him the creeps. Or maybe it was the white sheet outlining a cadaver with a large, red stain where the stomach would be.

            He felt his stomach roll over.

            The table was littered with a mess of tools. A sharp scalpel that had a bubble of coagulating blood resting on the blade, a pair of pliers with dried crimson, and a large bone saw that still had little white fragments in between its teeth.

            His stomach jumped into his throat.

            Michael walked over to the wall of refrigerators. Starting from his waist, they when all the way to the ceiling. There were twenty-five in all, and each one had a written label on it. A Sherry Wertz here, died of natural causes at the ripe old age of eighty-nine. A Jerry Allen, died of kidney failure at seventeen.

            Charlie Goodsen, struck by a car, twenty-nine.

            Harriet Lawson, stab wounds, twelve.

            Every single cooler had a lifeless Zip-loc bag that use to have a story. That use to have something to say about who they were and what they have seen. That was once full. But now they are all empty bags that have been filling with preservatives, zipped up, and stowed away for the winter.

            He started walking a little further down the coolers, waiting for a label to pop out at him. When it did, it hit him right in the chest.

            Name: Unknown

            b.  1/12/13

            d. 1/12/13

            Cause: Stillborn

            It was what was under the name that did the damage. Unknown… we didn’t tell them what his name was. He felt it spread through his whole body, using his veins to poison his nerves with a deep sadness that only a parent in his shoes can feel, a feeling of depression so heavy, that it seemed like his body was collapsing in on itself.

            It was a feeling he would totally forget within the next couple of months.

            Michael swallowed and placed his hand on the steel handle. He opened the cooler and pulled out the long bed inside. The whole thing was covered in a white sheet. Right in the middle was a little hump in the sheet. He could see the outline of the baby perfectly, the sheet seeming to hug his arms and fingers like liquid. He reached out for the sheet and saw that his hand was shaking.

            He grabbed the sheet between two fingers and pulled it back slowly, revealing the feet first. His tiny toes were hooked around blue feet. Tears started to slide down his cheeks. He would never see his baby suck on his own toes and giggle, not realizing he was tickling himself.

            Michael slid back the sheet some more, rolling it across a gray body and the fingers, little digits that would never grasp on to a welcoming finger or learn to hold a bottle. Michael’s sobs were uncontrollable now. His chest hitched up and down. His moan was bouncing off the walls and coming back to him.

            He slid back the sheet a little more, sliding past the shoulders and the neck, which had a ring of purple bruising from the birth, and finally to the head. His sobs immediately caught in his throat. He would have screamed, but all that came out was a gasp.

            Michael dropped the sheet and ran out, the door slamming behind. He ran through that same tunnel of cement that seemed to get smaller and smaller. But all he could think about were those eyes. All he could see. He could see them floating in the air like little dots you see after you look at welder’s torch from far away. They were transparent and out of focus, but they were there. They were there staring at him no matter where he looked, even when he tried closing his eyes.

            He slid to a stop. A large ball of coppery panic caught in his throat. He had to go back. Oh dear God, he had to go back there. He had left the cooler open.

            Michael Newman, in all of his life, was more terrified than he had ever been. But he realized he moved his legs with liquid ease. But just the idea seeing those eyes again made it hard to breathe. One eye, half lidded and completely white, devoid of any kind of color or life. The eyes were the windows to the soul? Well, this was an open house, ready for someone to sign.

            The other eye, however, had a false look to be full of life. It had stared at Michael, the lid forced open by some sick sense of rigor mortis that opened up the shades to a look of horror. A look of haunting that Michael would dream of for the rest of his life.

            He stood in front of the morgue door, his hand on it, ready to push it open. A thousand images raced through his head like a film reel at some two-buck theater that only showed avant garde films.

            What if he was gone? What if he was sitting up and smiling at me? What if his gray little fingers were reaching out and wiggling for me? What if what if what if-

            What if he was still there?

            He finally swallowed that ball of copper and slowly pushed open the door. He peered in a sigh of relief escaped him. The cooler was closed and the mortician was back to work, digging into to his current victim, whistling a cartoony tune.

            Michael led the door swing shut and straightened himself. His muscles ached from the adrenaline that had seeped into those muscles, tightening them up. He slowly walked back to the safety of the elevator and made his way back to Darla.

 

 

 

              “Darla stayed in the hospital for two more days before they let us go.” Michael finished up and let out a long sigh.

            “Did your wife say anything about the birth?”

            “No. She slept most of the time and when she was awake, she would just sit there.” He let out a chuckle that seemed empty. “Her mom got her these little baby boots about a month before the due date. They had little bananas on the sides and they were green and yellow and so little.” He shook his head a little. “She would just sit there and tie the shoes up, untie them, and then do it again.

            “The nurse said it was just shock. That all women when through this when their baby didn’t make it.” Michael dropped his voice into a slurring baritone. “She said Darla would get over it.”

            “But she didn’t?” Harris asked.

            “No. She didn’t.” Michael answered.

            Harris sat there in silence and just looked at Michael. He was looking down at his knees like a shameful child that had been caught peeking into the girl’s room. “Ok, Michael. We’ll stop there for today.” He stood up and walked over to his desk. “Kevin, you can come back in now.”

            Kevin the Orderly walked in and unlocked the wheels to Michael’s wheelchair.

            “Let’s continue this tomorrow, ok?’

            Michael nodded.

            Harris walked over to Michael and kneeled down. What he said next, he said in that tone you use when you’re trying to show how proud you are with a five year old.

            It made Michael want to strangle him.

            “I’m very, very glad you told me all of this. It really helps with our progress.” He smiled at Michael and stood up. Kevin started wheeling Michael out of the door. “Oh! Michael. You wouldn’t happen to know what Ruthers is doing these days, do you?”

            Michael frowned and shook his head. “No. Why?”

            Harris shook his in return. “No reason. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

            Kevin and Michael left the room to Harris and his papers.

            Harris let out a large, puffy sigh and dropped into his desk chair. He started shuffling through his notes on Michael Newman, Darla Newman, and the Robinson’s baby. He dropped them into a folder and picked up a newspaper article. The headline was GYNEOCOLOGIST FOUND DEAD, SUICIDE. There was a picture of Ruthers on the front. He had a large smile on his face and an even larger bowtie under his chin. The article was dated three days after the Newman’s baby was delivered.

            The man was found by a neighbor that said she noticed his car hadn’t left the driveway in a while. She walked over to check on him and when she knocked on his door, she noticed a smell. None of the windows were open, but the smell was there. A thick smell of decay that felt like moisture being sucked up through her nostrils.

So she did the only sensible thing a good neighbor would do. She gently pushed the door open.

            The thick smell became thicker and warmer. She felt like she was standing in front of a fan at a garbage incinerator. She could faintly hear the heater running.

            She didn’t have to go far to find Ruthers.  She just walked through the hall, holding back the gagging reflex she felt hopping in her throat. She turned into the living room and there he was. She was a short lady, so she saw his feet first. But her eyes slowly crawled up his naked legs and up to his vomit stained t-shirt. She screamed when she saw the holes in his eyes had become squirming maggot traps and she fainted. She stewed in there for three hours before coming to and calling 911.

            Or at least that’s probably what happened. The newspaper didn’t dwell in any greasy specifics, but that sounds about right. What the Little Hollow Herald did say about it was that Ruthers had a note attached to the rope around his neck.

            He dropped the clipping into a folder and now picked up that note. It had three words on it. I’m sorry, Michael.

 

 

            “Hello, Michael.”

            “Hello, Harris.”

            “Thank you, Kevin. How are you feeling today?”

            “About the same. I didn’t have any dreams last night.”

            Harris filled up a couple of glasses with water. “Is that a good thing?”

            “I’d say so.” Michael said. Harris could have sworn he saw a small smile reach his lips.

            “Good! I’m glad.” He shuffled his notes and relaxed in his chair. “So, we left off after you left the hospital, am I right?”

            Michael nodded.

            “Then lets talk about the funeral.” Harris heard an audible swallow coming from Michael. “Is that ok, Michael?”

            “Yeah, of course it is.” He shifted uncomfortably in his wheelchair. “It was a small funeral. Small viewing, small attendance, and small coffin.”

           

 

            Michael shook hands with Darla’s father and gave her mother a strong hug. “Thanks for coming, you guys.”

            “Oh well of course we came. Why wouldn’t we?” Nora patted Michael on the cheek.

            “Yeah, I know, but still. It means a lot.” Michael tried to smile and it came off weak and uncomfortable.

            “Where’s Darla?”

            “She’s in the chapel.” He pointed to his left.

            “Thank you, Michael. And I’m so sorry, honey.”  She gave him a peck on the cheek and walked towards the chapel. Her husband followed her after lightly patting Michael on the arm. Other than those two, the only attendees were Michael’s parents, his grandparents, Darla’s grandmother, and three or four close relatives.

            Michael slowly followed Darla’s parents into the chapel. He stopped in the doorway and looked towards the front. Darla sat in the front row, completely alone until her parents walked up. Just ahead of her, there were two large hearts made out of roses and daisies. Sitting between them on a red velvet table cover was a small black box. From here, Michael could see that the inside of it was lined with white silk and lace. And although he couldn’t see it, but his baby was in laying in there, all dressed in a tiny suit with pasty white skin. His little fingers were clasped together and his eyes were shut.

            His eyes were shut.

            Elder Brown walked up to the alter and set down a Bible. “Everyone, please take a seat and we’ll begin.”

            He began with a hymn, Again We Meet Around The Board. Darla’s favorite. It was followed by very few words from Elder Brown about how the Lord will take the child graciously into His hands and hold it under His light. A small organ played, followed by a few more words from Darla’s father. Elder Brown came up and asked everyone to stand up and join him in prayer.

            The prayer finished. There were no tears at this funeral. No sobs or facial tissues and no hands being squeezed together. It was an empty glass full of sorrow. The pallbearers were Michael’s brother and Darla’s father. They closed the tiny box and carried it out to a hearse that would be waiting for it. It would leave towards the Little Hollow Cemetery, being followed by only four cars, all of them would have their headlights on and everyone would let them pass in a solid line.

            Elder Brown would already be waiting for them at the burial site, which would basically be a hole in the ground dug next Darla’s grandfather, Blake Hutchins. The grave had golden bars around it with velvet rope to lower down the coffin.

            After a short prayer from Elder Brown and everyone said amen, the casket was lowered and the rest of the day was spared with any more sorrow. Throughout the entire funeral, Michael felt sad, but not depression. It was more like sympathy you felt when a friends uncle died or a distant relative that you saw once a year at family reunions and never talked to. It was that kind of sadness. Not debilitating, but there.

            For Darla, it was different. She didn’t say anything to anyone, not even her parents. She didn’t look at the casket either. She sat in the chapel in silence. She sat in silence on the car ride over to the burial. She stood by the grave in equally scary silence. Darla Newman, throughout the entire funeral, held her baby’s little boot in her hands and she tied and untied the shoes endlessly.

            The funeral was over and everyone left immediately.

 

 

            “Is that when you noticed something was wrong with your wife?” Harris asked. He set the glass of water back on the table.

            Michael shook his head. “I thought it was just the funeral. And you know, I didn’t really feel it at the time.”

            “Feel what?”

            “What you’re supposed to feel at funerals. I didn’t really feel sad or empty about it. It just felt like another funeral to go to.”

            “So how long was it before you did realize something was wrong with her?”

            Michael shrugged one shoulder. “It was about a month, maybe less.”

            Harris nodded. He felt a small smile try and creep up his cheeks, but he held it back. He was impressed with how quickly Michael opened up. He seemed more energetic already, and just from talking. Maybe he was getting better. Knock on wood, huh?

            “What was going on during that time?” Harris asked.

            “Not much. She sat around the house. After about a week, she quit her job. Not formally, but I think some kind of understanding between her and her boss told them both that she wasn’t going to work anymore.” He picked up the glass and took a drink. Harris almost smiled again. “She was depressed. I could see that. She woke up around noon, tried eating but never could get more than toast and milk down. Then she would sit in a chair in the corner of the room and just play with that f*****g boot!” His anger was sudden and sharp. His hand trembled and spilled water all over his gown. His eyes reverted to that reclusive look it had two days ago.

            “Did you get her to see a doctor?” Harris asked.

            “No, I couldn’t get her to leave the house.”

            “What did you do?”

            Michael shrugged and his voice came out choked. “I cried. But I kept working. To keep the house, to pay for the funeral and the birth.” He stopped a moment. He looked like he was trying to write out a difficult math problem. “Three weeks and four days.”

            “What was that?”

            “It’s when things started to get weird.”

 

 

            Michael walked in through the door and threw his keys on the table. He stopped his hand in mid-air and he listened to the clang of the keys bounce of the table and echo in the silence.

            But it wasn’t silent. He could hear talking. It was coming from the spare bedroom that was supposed to be the baby’s room. He walked down the hall and saw the door was cracked open. It was so weird to hear Darla’s voice again. It had been over three weeks since he heard her voice. It was almost eerie to him now. And the way she was talking scared him. It sounded sweet. And what was she saying?  It sounded like “go to sleep now, baby.”

            He made it to the door and stopped to listen. It was definitely Darla and she was talking to someone. The soothing sound reached his ears. He pushed the door open and looked in on his wife. She was standing over the crib and her hand was inside of it, making a slow back and forth motion, like she was petting something.

            She turned to Michael and put her finger to her lips. “I finally got him to sleep.” She smiled and looked back into the crib. Michael had gone a pasty white. Not quite pale, but a papery look with a tan undertone. He backed out and went to living room and waited.

            After a moment, Darla walked briskly through the living room and into the kitchen. “Such a fussy baby. I swear he gets more and more energy every time he wakes up.” She started washing a pile of moldy dishes while whistling a tune. Her voice was cheery and her movements were happily fluid, like she was performing a dance.

            Michael quietly stood up and walked into the spare bedroom. Something was wrong with his wife. He thought for a moment that she might have snapped. And when he looked into the crib, he thought it again, but he wasn’t sure. A plastic doll lay in the crib. It had black plastic hair and one of its eyes was missing. It stared up at him with one staring eye and he almost screamed. He rushed out of the room and out onto the front porch. For a moment the spare bedroom had transformed into the cement grave that was the morgue. The changing table changed into a bloody gurney and the crib became a foggy Coleman cooler. The doll was dead, with a half-lidded eye and one staring up into Michael’s head. He could almost feel the cold.

            Later that night, he had been watching the television in the dark when Darla came over and sat next to him with that plastic doll cradled carefully in her arms. She turned the lamp on and stuck her hand in her shirt. “Baby’s dinner time!” Her eyes went wide and Michael immediately wished he had a bottle of vodka. She pulled out her breast and gently put it on the dolls mouth. To Michaels disgust, she started lactating, dripping bits of milk on the doll and her pajama bottoms. “Oh yes, baby was hungry! Isn’t he such a good baby?” She shook her head and just smiled down at Blake.

            Michael blinked and he just saw the doll. Not Blake. Blake was dead. He didn’t see him sucking on his mother’s tit with gray lips and bloated fingers. He got up and went to the bathroom to throw up his dinner. But after he went to bed, he found himself thinking of her breasts and her waist and her thighs. He woke Darla up and made love to her. But to him it wasn’t love; it was a manic f*****g that made him realize how scared he was of her and how dangerously tight his fingers were around her throat. When they came together, she fell down on the bed, sweating and moaning, and he got up to vomit again.

            The next few days, Darla had become more and more attached to the doll, carrying him around with her, feeding it, and even trying to teach it to talk and walk. She didn’t become obsessed, but she fell into a dark hole that had become her world. One where Blake had survived the birth and everything seemed all right. But every night she would give him one last feeding from her breast and Michael would see Blake sucking down some calcium, a dark ring around his neck and his stomach blue and bloated.

            One night, rain pelted the windows with a fury that Little Hollow only saw once every year or two. Michael had taken a late shower. A warming one to release tension in his muscles and it had worked.

            When he walked out of the bathroom, still wet from the shower, he saw his wife standing at the window. Her nose was nearly touching the glass.  She was muttering under her breath, but Michael couldn’t make it out. He stepped closer and he noticed that the room was completely dark. “Darla? Darla, what’s wrong?” He stepped a bit closer, tasting that coppery ball of adrenaline. “Darla, what’s-“

            He looked in her hands and she saw the doll. It was twisted into grotesque positions, one arm bent backwards, a leg  bent up to its shoulders, and its head was detached  and resting in her right hand. But when Michael saw it through the dark veil, he saw Blake in her hands. Blake, twisted and broken. He was bleeding from his half-lidded eye.

            But the next moment, it became the doll again. He could make out what Darla was muttering.

            “Such a good baby. Such… good… baby.” She whispered. Michael glanced out the window and saw she was staring at the Robinson’s next door. He could faintly hear a baby crying. He thought about calling a doctor, finally, but he didn’t. He never figured out why. It was the smart thing to do, the obvious thing, but he just didn’t do it.

            The next day went by like it use to. Darla sat in the corner, tying and untying the little boot. She never left the chair. She just sat there and looked at the Robinson’s house. It was a sunny day with that thick smell of after-rain still floating in the air like the cotton that floated around this time of year.

            But the doll was gone and Michael wasn’t sure if he should feel relieved or if he should be worried. The doll was gone, but Darla was back in her chair. And the laces on the little boot looked frayed and used. They looked like they had been tied a million times since last night. Darla’s face looked ragged and worn. She had dark, dark circles around her eyes and her hair had long, gray strands in it. Her fingers looked red and swollen, like she had smashed them all in the car door.

            “Do you want anything to eat?” Michael asked. He stood in the kitchen doorway. She started to look at him, but her eyes dropped to his feet. They seemed to be struggling with each other. One wanted desperately to looked up at him and tell him yes, I would love something to eat. But the other seemed stronger and kept their gaze at his feet. There was a dark inside of that eye. A kind of dark with a secret that blinded the cones and rods with an infectious idea that ate its way through the mind.

            “No. No, I think I’ll just go to bed.” She stood up and started for the hall, her eyes slowly leaving Michael’s feet. She suddenly stopped in the hall and placed a hand against the wall to steady her. The baby next door was crying again.

            After watching her stumble through the hall, Michael went back to the kitchen and started cooking a few eggs. He cracked them over the counter and dropped the yolk into the skillet. It sizzled and popped immediately. He absently turned the egg over and over. Something was deeply wrong with his wife, his love. They had been together for almost ten years and he had never been worried like this about her. He had been scared when she found a small lump under her breast, but it amounted to nothing. He had been terrified when she called him from a car wreck off the interstate saying she was headed to the hospital.

            But this. This was so much different.

            He could feel her tearing at the seams. It was like watching a very disturbed and very meticulous man tear a piece of paper into tiny, perfect strips until there was nothing to tear. Darla was the paper and who was the man? Blake? Ruthers? Maybe that crying s**t next door?

            Maybe it was all of them, but he didn’t know. He was exhausted and completely drained and his eggs were burning.

            He looked back down at the skillet in irritated surprise. The eggs were brown and nearly smoking. He scooped the brown scramble out of the pan, muttering famous cursed he picked up from his uncle

            (s**t-weasel a*s-hat f**k-balls)

and dropped the pan into the sink. He stood over it a moment. I’ll get her to a doctor tomorrow. I’ll do that and everything will be all right. He sighed and walked over to the counter. He ate his eggs with a heavy dose of ketchup and went to bed. Darla was fast asleep, her back turned to him.

            He dreamt of Blake that night, but it wasn’t bad. He was crying and crying and Michael stood over him with a warm bottle, soothing his son. He felt genuinely happy to be a father, to be able to take care of a living thing, a living human, was something he never even dreamt of doing. And the feeling was impeccable! It was a warmth that stretched over him and hugged his body perfectly. Just looking at those big, brown eyes and seeing those little digits work their way around the bottle made him feel like he had fallen into a hot tub of every kind of good feeling inside of him. Joy and pride and happiness and complacency! He felt it all and boy did he feel it hard.

            He felt something else. He felt it just passed the warm membrane that covered his skin. Passed Blake and passed the false walls that held him to his dream. He looked up at the walls and they started to crumble. The paint cracked and the plaster came down in large clumps. He swallowed in dawning horror. A sick revelation shook through his body. The red paint gave way to a cold gray. A familiar gray.

            He looked back at Blake and he was gone. Only a bed made of steel and an empty bottle remained. That softness reached him again. He felt it in his ears. It was a soft melody, a friendly one.

            …little baby…gonna buy…

            Where was it coming from? He looked and saw the cement walls around him start to crack and then split all together. Huge fissures opened up to nothing. The whole room shook violently, tearing those fissures into large holes that slowly replaced the walls altogether.

            Michael continued to tremble long after the room stopped shaking. The blackness was worse then those cement walls. Much, much worse…

            Eyes began to open up in the blackness; all of them were staring at Michael, staring into Michael. All of them swirled with horrible colors that seemed to scratch at his eyes. Mouths opened on the walls as well. Some had perfect teeth and others were decayed and bleeding. The singing was more prominent now, but a crying was there, too. A loud, painful crying. It pierced and burned his ears while the melody soothed him at the same time. It was like getting jabbed in the ears too hard with cotton swabs and then dunking your head into a bucket of cold water.

            Huuusssshhhh… lliiittlllee… BAAAYYYBEEE…

            The crying stopped. The eyes and the mouths were gone. But the blackness was still there. So was the singing.

            His eyes came into focus and he was staring at the lamp on his nightstand. He reached over and turned it on. Darla was gone. The window and the door were both open. The wind felt cool against his sweaty skin. The singing he had heard in his dream was coming from the hallway.

            Michael slowly got up off the bed, the sheet sticking to his back fell off without a fight. He slowly felt his way to the door, brushing off the grogginess of sleep like you would to an annoying fly. He stuck his head out into the hallway. “Darla?” He only heard humming in the dark. A sweet, sweet sound making him wish for sleep, replaying the same melody over and over. ”Darla, is that you, sweetie?” He still got no answer. The heavy sleep he felt had faded into a seemingly heavier feeling.

            Fear.

            Pure, irrational fear.

            The humming was coming from the baby’s room. There was no light coming our from under the crack in the door. All of the lights in the house were off, save for the lamp that drew his shadow grotesquely up the wall in front of him. He stepped out of his bedroom and into the hall. He walked down it with incredible caution, like when teenagers are sneaking out for the night. His feet stuck to the floor with each step and came up with a sucking feeling that tickled him. Halfway there now, he called for his wife again. But he the only answer he got was his echo bouncing off the walls between his ears.

            His feet stuck to the ground some more and salty perspiration stung the corners of his eyes. His hand was on the doorknob now and when he turn it, he could almost hear to metal grinding on the bronze. His adrenaline valve was turned to full blast. He thought that if he didn’t hurry, his heart would burst through his chest.

            So he opened the door to that sweet song.

            Hush little baaybee, don’t say a word. Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.”

            “Darla? What are you-?” He turned on the light switch.

            Darla was wearing her nightgown and it was covered in dirt. “And if that mockingbird won’t sing, Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.”

            Michael saw that her hands were inside of the crib.

            “And if that diamond ring turns brass…”

            His eyes widened in horror.

            “… Mama’s gonna buy you a lookin’ glass.”

            Her entire fore arms were covered in blood.

            “What did you do!” Michael got next to her side in three large strides and pulled her away from the crib, making her utter a large hiccup sound in her throat. He looked down and he felt stomach acid jump up his esophagus. He only looked down for half a second, but what he saw was scratched into his mind forever. What he saw was a bloody mess. The cotton bedding was covered in chunks and stained red. All he could really distinguish was the torn arms, the frayed legs, and the eyes. Above his slacked-open mouth, two eyes looked up at him. One was half-lidded and white and the other was wide open, staring at him. Through him.

            He turned away immediately and started dry heaving. The face was flashing in front of his eyes. It was Blake’s face. He could have sworn it was Blake’s face in that crib and when he glanced back into that mess, he was absolutely sure.

            Michael Newman turned sharply towards his wife, his lips were glazed with spit and stomach acid. His eyes were wide and crazed, his pupils fully dilated. “What did you do?” He said this more calmly.

            Darla was just standing in front of him, her bloody hands clasped in front of her and her eyes were glazed over with a distant look. But her mouth is what pushed him that inch over the edge. She had a little smile on her face.

            Michael took step forward. “What did you do!” He shoved her into the wall. Her head cracked the plaster, leaving a small splatter of blood on the wall. She bounced back and she was on him, her bloody claws scratching at his eyes. They both stumbled backwards, like a bad waltz couple. Michael’s hip knocked against the crib and it tipped over in slow motion. He heard a series of sickening thumps bounce off the carpet.

            Darla was on top of Michael, her nails were digging into his cheeks. Her eyes were wild and filled with sadness at the same time. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. Her lips were twitching. She started muttering something. Michael could only hear air swooshing out of her mouth but it looked like she was muttering, “dead…dead…dead,” over and over again.

            Michael looked over and saw a hand just passed the crib.

            He groaned and rocked his hips up and to the left, knocking her onto her back. He rolled with her and pinned his right knee into the soft spot above her pelvis. He looked down at her face, dirty with clean strips running down cheeks. She was sobbing and swatting at Michael’s face.

            He licked his lips and wrapped his fingers around her throat and started to squeeze. His eyes grew wide with excitement. You killed him. You did it! He thought it over again. He could feel all of the cords and arteries and the esophagus grinding together under his  fingers. Her face turned blue and her eyes bulged with blood.            

            He squeezed tighter.

            She made horrible choking sounds that made her throat click. Her swats got weaker and weaker against his face. Her tears stopped and he licked his lips a little more. He realized he was humming that sweet melody under his breath. Michael Newman looked into his wife’s eyes.

            And he squeezed tighter and tighter and tighter.

 

 

            “Michael? Michael?” Harris leaned forward and tapped Michael on the knee. Michael shuddered and looked up and Harris.

            “Sorry, I got a little lost.”

            “It’s ok, Michael. So after all of that, the fire happened next, right?” He flipped through a couple of notes and found a news clipping. He dropped it on the table and slid it across the table. He noticed a small carving in his table.

            Michael picked it up with shaking hands. He shook his head slowly. “I don’t remember this.” He looked at a picture of his house. Flames licked the roofs and escaped through the weekend. There were two long fire trucks, an ambulance, and half dozen police cruisers. “I don’t.”

            “A lady at a Maverick a few miles from your house said you came in, you looked drunk, and you paid for fifteen gallons of gas, a pack of cigarettes, and a lighter.”

            “I don’t-“

            Harris interrupted. “She said you filled up three gas cans and left without saying a word.”

            “But I-“

            “The police report said the walls and the bodies were covered in gasoline residue and a cigarette was found next to them. You went back home and burnt the whole place down. You-“

            “She killed my baby…”

            “That wasn’t your baby, that was the Robinson’s baby next door.” Harris’s voice was rising, as was Michael’s.

            “She killed my baby.” He was shaking uncontrollably. The news clip started to tear in his hands.

            “Michael, that wasn’t your baby.”

            Michael suddenly stood up. His face was red and veins were sticking out in his neck. His eyes were rolling left and right in a fluid motion. “SHE KILLED MY BABY! SHE KILLED MY BABY!”

            Kevin burst in and started pulling Michael down in his chair. A second came to help and a third came in with a sedative in his hand.  A large needle was stuck into Michael’s neck and he went down almost immediately. They wheeled him out of the room. He was still trying to yell at Harris, but it was weak and slurred.

            Harris started rubbing his eyes. All of that work… all that progress. Gone.

           

 

            It was dark. Harris was just putting away a few things and putting on his coat when he found the autopsy report to Blake Newman. He picked it up and read the cause of death: severe stress on neck, vertebrae stretched and broken.

            Harris shook his head. Maybe I’ll try to lay it on him tomorrow. He dropped it into Michael’s file and locked it up. He dropped the key into his pocket, picked up his brief case, and started for the door thinking-

            He looked down at the table and saw the carving in the table. He immediately saw what he carved it with. A little pen was lying on the table. Harris rubbed his fingers lightly over the words and it sent a small chill up his spine. He quickly turned the lights off and left his office to the dark.

            The carving said: SWEETEST BABY IN TOWN

© 2013 ChinAllen


Author's Note

ChinAllen
I can't remember where I got this idea from. I just remember that it started out with putting together images that are written in the latter part of the story. I think I was at work. Anyways, I hope you enjoy. Please leave any comments and criticism you have.

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

204 Views
Added on February 6, 2013
Last Updated on February 6, 2013
Tags: horror, short stories, stories, tales, psychiatry, murder

Author

ChinAllen
ChinAllen

UT



About
Hello! My name is Christian. I am married to a beautiful woman and I have one son. I work as a butcher, I have been cutting meat for over 3 years now. I will probably continue for the rest of my l.. more..

Writing
The Watcher The Watcher

A Story by ChinAllen