Fast! Three Questions.
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| Category: || Horror and Thriller Fiction |
Posted:|| October 24, 2016 Views: 392|
Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.
A grieving mother finds a replacement for her lost child.
by pit viper
The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the love of a Mother.
-St. Therese of Lisieux
Rachel checked twice to make sure her car was locked, took a deep breath, and surveyed her dismal, sunstruck surroundings. Cracked asphalt twinkling with broken glass, check. Collection of graffiti-laden three-story cinderblock boxes, check. Dirt courtyard, broken riding toy. Check.
The place was eerily deserted at midday, except for three dark-skinned males of indeterminate age, who perched on the hood of a rusty Chevy Nova, listlessly passing a joint. Rachel clutched her bag tighter. She scanned the buildings in front of her, and finally located number five. She crossed the dusty courtyard and stepped into the building. Once her eyes adjusted to the gloom, she observed that the inside was more heavily graffitied than the outside. The air was hot and stagnant, and smelled faintly of urine. Rachel found the stairwell and began to climb.
Cindy had moved here a couple of years ago, when she was pregnant with Lannie. Rachel had never visited her sister here, but she had visited her previous residences, and they were more or less indistinguishable from this one. After reading about several drug-related shootings in the paper, Mark had forbidden Rachel to go to the housing projects anymore, and had suggested she could just as easily drop a check in the mail. Rachel, pregnant with Kaitlyn at the time and discouraged by her sister's inability to pull her life together, had easily acquiesced. She had regularly mailed checks, but hadn't seen Cindy face to face in over two years, except for briefly at Lannie's funeral, where her sister was so drugged and despondent she did not appear to recognize her.
Rachel and her younger sister had never been close, and she had no desire to see Cindy now. She hadn't told Mark she was coming, nor had she told Kaitlyn's sitter, claiming instead that she was going to a book club meeting and then to lunch with a friend. That is what she should have been doing, and what she would be doing, if not for the phone call she had received the previous night.
She had just gotten Kaitlyn to bed when the phone rang. It was her mother, calling from her retirement community in Houston.
"Have you heard from your sister lately?" she asked, without preamble.
"Hi, Mom." Rachel replied. "Yes, I just gave her two hundred dollars for her overdue electric bill last week. Why?"
"Well, how did she seem to you?"
"She seemed fine, Mom. Why do you ask?" Rachel put the phone on speaker, sank into a chair, and massaged her temples, where an incipient headache pulsed.
She had no clue how her sister was, since she never saw her in person, and merely responded to her half-illiterate texts by mailing her money. What's more, she didn't much care: she had long-since become weary of Cindy's helplessness and drama, her drug dependency and her penchant for bad men, her miserable life choices and her inability to reverse the slow downward spiral of her days. Lannie's death was a terrible thing, and as a mother herself, Rachel had been overcome with pity when her sister lost her only child... but even though it had been ruled an accidental crib death, Rachel couldn't help suspecting that Cindy's wretched lifestyle had probably contributed in some way.
"Well, she called me a few days ago, asking for money for groceries."
Upon hearing this, a pilot light of anger ignited in Rachel's sternum. She had instructed Cindy never to bother their mother for money. She and Mark provided money every time Cindy asked. And they were supporting Rachel's mother as well; Mark's partnership in one of the city's most prestigious law firms paid for her spot in the retirement community, which according to the brochure featured a beauty salon and spa, a four-star restaurant, and ballroom dancing every Friday. Rachel's mother had not wanted to move there, but after surviving breast cancer three years ago only to be rendered wheelchair-bound by a stroke, she was no longer able to live alone, and Mark had wisely decided that the retirement community was a more affordable option than an in-home nurse. Moving her in with them had never even been discussed. Rachel had worked hard to construct a barrier between herself and her childhood, her toxic little family. She didn't even want her mother living in the same city.
"She knows she's not supposed to bother you for money!" Rachel said. "It comes out of Mark's pocket one way or the other, so she might as well ask me."
"She wasn't bothering me. She's my daughter, she can call me if she wants to. Your sister actually cares about me, unlike some people."
Rachel's headache cranked up a notch. "And what is that supposed to mean?"
"Look, I didn't call to fight with you," her mother responded in a persecuted tone. "I called to ask if you could check in on your sister and make sure she's okay. I haven't been able to reach her since she called me on Sunday. And she sounded strange."
When does Cindy ever not sound strange, Rachel wondered.
"Strange how?" she asked.
"Just.... unwell. Kind of distracted. She wasn't entirely making sense. There was a baby crying in the background. She said she had to go feed it."
"Huh. Well, maybe she was babysitting."
"I don't know how she could stand to be around babies, so soon after Lannie. Anyway, I'm very worried about her. She hasn't answered her phone since, and just now when I called, there was a recording saying her phone had been disconnected."
Rachel was suddenly exhausted. She wanted nothing more than to get off the phone, take an Advil, and crawl into bed.
"Well, I'm sure she's fine. It's nice talking to you, Mom, but I'm going to have to let you go. I've got a few things to..."
"I want you to go check on your sister!"
"Now...? It's nine o'clock at night."
"Tomorrow, then. And call me as soon as you see her. I need to know that she's alright."
"Tomorrow's a busy day for me, Mom. I've got the library committee, Kaitlyn's playgroup, pilates class... "
"Then I'll come up there and check on her myself. I'll take the Greyhound bus if I have to. She's my daughter! Your sister! Something's wrong with her, and you don't even care!"
"No, you won't, Mom. Look, I'll go. Okay? I'll go see her sometime tomorrow, and I'll call and let you know that she's just fine. Are you happy now?"
"No," her mother replied, like a petulant child. "because you still don't give a damn about her, and you don't care about me either. We're an embarrassment to you. How did I raise such a cold-hearted, selfish bitch of a daughter? Who are you?"
"Good night, Mom." Rachel said firmly, as she hung up the phone.
Now Rachel stood on the second-floor landing, squinting in the gloom, trying to make out the half-eroded numbers on the apartment doors. She felt something under the toe of her Nike, looked down, and saw that it was a used, uncapped syringe. She kicked it away in disgust, and it rattled across the stained concrete floor.
What a place to raise a child, she thought. She pictured Kaitlyn, her antique walnut crib with the pink princess canopy. What sort of life could Lannie have possibly had here, if he'd lived? What sort of mother could her sister have been? Always their mother's favorite, always spoiled, pampered and protected despite their working-class, fatherless upbringing, Cindy had never even been able to care for herself, let alone anyone else. She'd never had to.
"Babydoll!", their mother used to call Cindy, swooping the child into her arms and smothering her with kisses at the end of a long shift waiting tables or cashiering at the drugstore. "Angelface, Sweetheart, Sugarbaby."
She never called Rachel anything but her name. She criticized Rachel's care of her little sister, remarked over the child's tangled hair, snotty nose and popsicle-stained shirt, and demanded to know if Rachel had finished the laundry. She always had.
Rachel finally located the door with her sister's apartment number at the end of the hallway. She knocked and waited. There was no answer.
Relieved, she dug through her purse for her checkbook, planning to slide a check under the door. Then Cindy could pay her phone bill, call their mother, and everyone would be happy. Especially Rachel, who could return to her life.
She located her checkbook and was digging for a pen when she heard a faint rustling on the other side of the door. She paused and listened. The sound came again. Somebody was standing on the other side of the door, probably looking out through the peephole.
Shit, Rachel thought. She was tempted just to leave the check anyway. Cindy obviously had no more desire for a face-to-face meeting than she had. But then she imagined her mother blowing up her phone all night, demanding to know why she hadn't managed to see her sister.
She tucked her checkbook back in her bag and knocked on the door again.
"Cindy, I hear you in there." she called. "Open up, it's me."
After a long moment, the door opened a crack, and a single blue eye peered out below the chain lock.
"Rachel?" Cindy's voice floated through the crack, soft, dazed-sounding. Perhaps she had been asleep.
"Mom sent me." Rachel said briskly. "Open up. She says your phone's disconnected."
The door closed, and Rachel heard the rattle of the chain lock being disengaged. Then the door swung open again, and Rachel stepped inside.
The apartment was so dim that Rachel wondered whether her sister had paid the electric bill after all, or whether she'd snorted Rachel's latest check up her nose instead. Or shot it into her arm. Then she heard the faint hum of the air conditioner clicking on. She flipped the light switch next to the door, but nothing happened.
"The bulb's burned out," Cindy's voice eminated from the shadows. "They all burned out. I need to go to the store, but it's hard..."
Hard to go to the store and buy lightbulbs? Rachel wondered. Easier to sit in the dark. Her sister was a hot mess, a total space case. And this apartment smelled disgusting, like rotting meat. She couldn't wait to write a check and get out of here.
"I'll give you some money so you can get your phone turned back on, and then I want you to call mom and tell her you're okay." Rachel said.
She couldn't see a thing in here. She felt along the wall until she reached the kitchen, and flipped the light switch. Thankfully, that one worked. Rachel's nose wrinkled as she looked around. The sink was full of moldering dishes, the trash can was overflowing onto the floor, and plates of rotting food and cigarette butts covered every surface. None of this surprised her very much. She cleared a spot on the sticky counter and reached for her checkbook again, knocking several empty beer cans to the floor.
Suddenly a loud thump came from behind the closed door of the bedroom.
Terrific, thought Rachel. She should've realized Cindy wasn't alone. This made her even more eager to write the check and be on her way, before her sister's latest loser boyfriend came sauntering out of the bedroom, probably drunk and half-naked.
"Shh," her sister said, sidling up behind her. "You'll wake him up."
"Sorry," Rachel snapped, mentally formulating some comment about what sort of man sleeps at three o'clock in the afternoon, but when she turned and actually saw her sister for the first time, in the merciless light of the kitchen's bare 60 watt bulb, the words dried up in her mouth. Because Cindy was not okay. Clearly not okay. Rachel was used to her sister looking bad, she'd looked half-dead at the funeral. But now she looked much worse than that.
Her face was gaunt, her cheeks so hollow that Rachel wondered if she was missing some of her back teeth. Her eyes were sunken deep into their sockets, and there was a yellowish, faded bruise high on one cheekbone. Her skin had a grayish cast. Her chest, throat, and forearms were stippled with scabs and scratches. Cindy wore a cheap red kimono-type robe made of some shiny synthetic material, and her collarbones jutted like pencils. Below the hem, her legs looked like pitiful bruised twigs. Her sister could not weigh more than ninety pounds.
Rachel dropped her pen, momentarily overcome with genuine concern.
"Cindy..." she breathed, and fell silent, not knowing how to continue.
"What? What's wrong?" her sister looked confused, self-consciously brushing at the material of her robe, adjusting the neckline.
"You... you're very thin. You don't look well. Have you been sick?"
What drugs are you doing now, Rachel wondered.
"Oh, I'm fine." Cindy grinned, stretching the scant flesh of her cheeks and exposing several empty slots where teeth used to be. "I mean, I was really depressed after Lannie died, but I'm fine now. Better than fine. I'm..."
Two more sharp thumps from the bedroom cut Cindy off- was that asshole actually pounding on the wall? Rachel wondered- and she twitched, casting a furtive glance toward the door. In her sister's eyes, Rachel saw an unmistakable glint of fear.
"Look, let's get out of here and go somewhere we can talk." Rachel said in a low voice. "Can I take you to lunch?"
"No, I really can't leave. He might... need something. I can't. But thanks. You should probably just go."
"Cindy." Rachel looked at her younger sister, perplexed. "I really am concerned about you. Tell me what I can do to help you."
"Nothing. I'm fine. Look, tell me how you're doing." Cindy placed a bony hand on Rachel's shoulder and began guiding her gently in the direction of the door. "How's Mark? And Kaitlyn, she must be, what, like over a year old now?"
"Yes, she's fourteen months. I have a picture. Would you like to see it?" Rachel planted her feet, refusing to be led.
"Sure," Cindy sighed, dropping her hand.
Rachel pulled out her wallet and held out a recent picture of her daughter, encased in plastic. Cindy reluctantly glanced at it.
"Cute." she remarked.
"I think she looks like you," Rachel said. "When you were little."
She hadn't meant to say this, had never even thought about it; but now that it was out, she realized that it was true. With her blonde hair and delicate features, her daughter resembled a young Cindy much more than she did her own mother.
"Let me see it again." Cindy took the photo and looked at it more closely, squinting in the gloom.
"She's beautiful." Cindy said, somewhat plaintively. "Did you breastfeed her?"
That question seemed a little off the wall, but Rachel responded, "I'm just weaning her now. I still give her a feeding before her nap, and at bedtime."
Suddenly there was a noise from the bedroom, ka-thunk, as if a body had rolled off the bed. Then a strange slithering sound, as if someone were pulling themselves along the wall.
What the fuck...? Rachel thought, and almost said aloud. Her sister dropped the photo of Kaitlyn on the floor. She looked terrified.
"I have to check on him. You should go." she said.
"Cindy, I want to talk to you some more. Can we please... can we go somewhere, get out of here just for a little while?"
Cindy sighed, staring blankly into the gloom for a moment.
"Wait here." she said finally. "I'll be back."
She disappeared into the bedroom and closed the door.
Rachel sat down on the threadbare couch, bewildered and dismayed. She felt strongly that Cindy was in some sort of danger, and as little as she wished to be involved in the situation, she couldn't just walk away and ignore it. Cindy was her sister, after all, and as irritating as she was, she'd never really hurt anyone but herself. Whatever had happened to her, whatever was still happening, she didn't deserve it.
Two more thuds eminated from the other side of the wall, then silence. A moment later, Rachel heard her sister's voice speaking in a soft, soothing tone, but she could not make out the words.
She glanced around idly. There was a stained armchair, a scarred end table with a lamp on top, a television on a milk crate in the corner, gathering dust. Above it, a framed photo on the wall. Rachel got up and approached it. It was a cheap studio portrait of Cindy in happier days, her blonde hair in a loose braid, her teeth still present and accounted for. In her lap was her son Landon, Lannie, about eight months old, judging from his size. As she studied the picture, Rachel's breath suddenly caught in her throat. Someone had scribbled out Lannie's face with black ink. Shocked, Rachel backed away.
Cindy emerged from the bedroom, a radiant smile on her face.
"He's okay, everything's fine." she said cheerfully.
Rachel's eyes involuntarily returned to the picture on the wall, and Cindy followed her gaze. "Oh," she said quietly, and nothing more.
"Who did that?" Rachel asked. "Did you do that?"
"I... yeah. I did it." Cindy looked down. She nervously chewed on the inside of her cheek, fiddled with her robe.
"I had to. He didn't like it. I think he was jealous. I don't know, he just... it upset him, so I covered up Lannie's face."
"Who was jealous?" demanded Rachel. "Are you talking about...?" She cast her eyes toward the bedroom.
"Yeah, him. Sugarbaby." Cindy nodded.
Rachel snorted involuntarily.
"You call that asshole Sugarbaby?" she hissed under her breath. "Is he the one who did this to you?"
She motioned to her sister's bruised face, her scratched and scabbed arms and chest, her missing teeth: all of her. Cindy frowned and wrapped her robe more tightly around herself.
"He doesn't mean to..." she began.
"Oh yeah, I've heard that one before." Rachel interrupted, suddenly furious. "He didn't mean it, he really loves you, he'll stop eventually. Right?"
"He does love me!" Cindy raised her voice for the first time, setting off a barrage of thumping from the bedroom, as if someone was kicking the wall. "And he needs me, and I love him more than anything! You don't understand, you don't know how it is for us, but you come over here and try to take me away from him! You try to force me to leave him! Fuck you, Rachel!"
"Fuck you, Cindy." Rachel replied in a low voice, turning away from the pathetic sight of her sister clutching her robe as tears rolled down her face. "I'm out of here."
She leaned over and grabbed her purse off the couch. "When you decide you've had enough of being terrorized and used as a human punching bag, you can give me a..."
There was a loud crack as her sister brought the lamp down hard on the back of Rachel's head, and everything went black.
The first thing Rachel was aware of was a deep, throbbing headache, beyond anything she'd ever experienced, accompanied by a horrible dry sensation in her throat. God, she was so thirsty. She tried to move her arms and found that she could not. Nor could she move her legs. What the...? She looked around, trying to orient herself.
"You're still here." Her sister's voice said, from behind her and to her left. Rachel tried to turn and look at her, but once again found that she could not move. She took a deep breath and looked down at herself, assessing the situation.
She was seated in the armchair, which had been moved to the center of her sister's living room. Her wrists and ankles were bound tightly with what appeared to be nylon stockings, and secured to the legs of the chair. Strangely, her shirt had been removed, and she was clad in only her bra, yoga pants, and sneakers. Between the nauseating dizziness and the pounding pain in her skull, Rachel couldn't make any sense out of this at all. The best explanation her muddled brain could formulate was that someone must have broken in and attacked them both. Mark had been right; she never should've come here. She wondered if Cindy was okay.
Licking her dry lips, Rachel tentatively tried to speak her sister's name, but no sound came out. She cleared her throat and tried again. Her voice sounded hoarse and faraway, like a stranger's.
"Shut up." her sister said briskly, moving into view. "Don't make any noise, or things will be worse for you."
"What happened?" Rachel asked. "Are you okay? Why am I...?"
"Look, I'm really sorry about this, but there's no other way." Cindy replied. "I'll tell you what I can, but if you scream, if you make any noise, you'll be sorry."
"Cindy, can you... can you please help me get out of this? It's hurting my hands." Rachel flexed her fingers experimentally. They were already turning numb and purple from lack of circulation.
"Of course I can't. I'm the one who tied you up in the first place. I need you right there."
"You... what? Why?"
"What what what what why?" her sister snapped, in an uncharacteristically nasty tone. "Just shut up. I said I'd try to explain. I at least owe you that. Just keep your mouth shut, or I'll make you shut it."
Rachel couldn't believe any of this was happening. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes for a moment, battling the nausea rising in her throat. She wanted to be home, she wanted to hold Kaitlyn in her arms. At the same time, she couldn't credit the idea that Cindy would actually hurt her. This was Cindy, after all. Her baby sister. The helpless child it had been Rachel's burden to care for all of her life. Cindy would never hurt a fly. She was too weak to be much of a threat to anyone. True, this situation was beyond Rachel's experience or comprehension, but surely there was some explanation. Her sister was having some sort of mental breakdown. In a few moments, she'd break down sobbing hysterically, and let Rachel go. And Rachel would go, straight to the cops. After 32 years, her sympathy for Cindy had finally been exhausted. She would see the crazy-ass bitch rot in jail for this latest stunt.
Cindy paced back and forth in front of Rachel, avoiding her eyes, her cheap kimono flapping around her stick-like frame. She gnawed nervously on her cuticles, clearly at a loss as to how to begin.
Finally she said, "When Lannie died, I lost the only thing that ever mattered in my life. I couldn't go on. I stopped eating, sleeping, going out. My neighbor would bring me food, and I'd try to eat but I'd just throw it back up. One day she told me about an old lady in the next building, a curandera who she said could help me. I think the lady was her great-aunt or something, some relative of hers. I didn't expect anyone to be able to help, but I had nothing to lose, and I thought, maybe she can at least give me something to help me sleep. I was so tired."
Cindy's narrative was suddenly interrupted by a muffled thump from the bedroom.
Rachel had entirely forgotten they weren't alone in the apartment. Cindy's scumbag boyfriend was there, sleeping (or hiding) in the other room. She wondered if she made enough noise to attract his attention, if he'd come out and put a stop to this craziness. Or possibly- probably- he was already aware of what was going on, and had decided not to interfere. In that case, though, why was he still here? Why hadn't he left? He must know he'd be charged as an accessory, when Rachel finally got out of here and went to the police. She decided to remain quiet and bide her time. Cindy, on the other hand, cast a nervous glance toward the bedroom and picked up the pace of her story, talking faster, pacing frantically, as if he might come out and interrupt her before she had finished with what she needed to say.
"So I went to her. She was very old, and didn't speak any English, and I hardly speak any Spanish, so I'm not sure if she knew about Lannie or why I was there. Maybe my neighbor told her, I'm not sure. I gave her twenty bucks, and she read my palm, and then she read my cards. La baraja espanol, it's like tarot cards but different. It was dark in there, and she had a lot of candles with saints on them and some kind of nasty-smelling incense burning. After awhile, I just wanted to get away from there, because I couldn't breathe. So after she did my cards, I started to stand up to go, but she walked over to me, and she took my face in her hands and made me look at her. And she said something I didn't understand then. She said, Cada acto de la creación comienza con un acto de destrucción. And then she went to the other room and was gone a long time, but I knew she meant for me to wait, so I did. When she came back, she had a little velvet bag with something in it, and she gave it to me. I didn't open it until I got home."
Cindy stopped talking and paused in front of the picture of Lannie, gazing at it for so long that Rachel finally prompted her. "What was in the bag?"
"Cada acto de la creación comienza con un acto de destrucción." Cindy sighed, her eyes never leaving the portrait. "I found out later what it meant. My neighbor told me. It means that every act of creation starts with an act of destruction."
She turned back to Rachel, her eyes blank and unreadable.
"Inside the bag was a bulb. Like the tulip bulbs mom used to plant in the windowbox, remember? Only this one was black, and it smelled weird. There was also a folded-up piece of paper with writing on it, but the writing was in Spanish and I couldn't read it, so I had to get my neighbor Gloria to translate. It said I had to plant the bulb on Lannie's grave at midnight, on the night of a full moon. And then I had to go there every night and water it with one part blood, one part breast milk, and one part tears. And desde el dolor de una madre, amor crecerá. From a mother's sorrow, love grows."
Cindy smiled wistfully, as if at some pleasant memory.
"Luckily my milk hadn't completely dried up from nursing Lannie. So I did what she said. I climbed the gate at midnight, and I planted the bulb in the graveyard dirt. I forgot to bring anything to dig with, and the ground was dry and hard, so I dug the hole with my hands. By the time it was deep enough, my fingernails were all broken, and my fingers were bleeding. But I planted it. And the next night, I went back and watered it just like she said. And every night after that. And after awhile, I hardly thought about Lannie when I went there. I thought about the bulb, and I wondered what was growing under the ground. I imagined it was a new baby, like Lannie only stronger and healthier. A baby that would live, one that I could keep and love. One who would love me forever and never leave me. Every night when I watered the bulb, I imagined my new baby under there, drinking my milk and blood and tears and growing bigger and stronger, uncurling from that bulb and stretching his limbs. Then one night, I went to the cemetery and he was gone. Sugarbaby was gone. The ground was dug up where I had planted him, and he wasn't there."
Sugarbaby. The name sounded an alarm in Rachel's muddled brain, which had been half-numbed as she listened to this lunatic story. Adrenalin suddenly slammed through her veins like a drug, and she began to struggle against her restraints.
"Stop it, Rachel! Stop! You're not going to be able to get loose. I tied you really good." Cindy wrung her hands, seemingly at a loss as to what to do.
"Let me go, you crazy fuck!" Rachel screamed. "Let me go! I need to get home to my baby! Let me..."
There was a barrage of thumping and scrabbling from behind the bedroom door, and Cindy sprinted across the room, snatched an empty wine bottle from the kitchen counter, and hit Rachel on the side of the head with it. The pain was terrible, gut-deep. Nevertheless, Rachel opened her mouth and drew in a deep breath, hoping to alert the neighbors, anyone, hoping that someone would hear and call the police. But before she could scream again, Cindy shoved a dirty sock into her mouth, and tied another one around her head to secure it in place.
"There." she said. "Now you'll shut up. Jesus, Rachel, I said I was sorry about all this. I'm trying to be nice and explain to you why I had to do it. You'd understand everything if you'd just shut up and listen."
Panicked, Rachel continued to struggle and make muffled sounds from behind her gag, until her sister picked up the wine bottle from the floor and held it aloft.
"It would be so much easier just to knock you out. It would be easier if you were unconscious. I'm trying to do the right thing here, Rachel. I'm not a bad person. I don't want to hurt you, you're forcing me to do it."
Rachel looked at the bottle in her sister's hand, and stopped struggling. She hoped someone had heard her screams and that help was on the way.
Cindy eyed her warily for a moment, then lowered the bottle, her face impassive.
Then she lowered herself to the floor in front of Rachel, tucked her robe around her legs, and resumed her story as if nothing had happened.
"I didn't know what to think, when I saw that Sugarbaby was gone. I thought maybe someone saw me sneaking into the cemetery and followed me, maybe someone dug him up and took him. I was so scared, I didn't know what to do. Finally I just went home and waited. And right around the time the sun came up, Sugarbaby finally made his way home to me."
She smiled then, a smile full of awe and wonder, the expression of one who has witnessed a miracle, of a mother whose lost or stolen child has inexplicably returned.
"I picked him up and I held him so tight. I sang to him and rocked him. I gave him a bath, and washed away all the graveyard dirt. Then I took him to bed, and I fed him and we went to sleep. And that's pretty much... what I've been doing ever since. Just taking care of Sugarbaby. I love him so much, and I'm so happy. He's beautiful, Rachel! He's so perfect. I don't even think about Lannie anymore, I can't even remember his face, or how his voice sounded, or how he smelled. It's like Sugarbaby is the only baby I ever had. But... we ran out of food and other things awhile back, and I can't really go out to get more. I can't leave him alone, because he might need me. And I can't take him out in public, because... people wouldn't understand. But the worst thing is, I'm having trouble feeding him. I think my milk is drying up or something, and I'm worried about him. He's so hungry."
In one fluid motion, Cindy rose to her feet and opened her robe. Behind her gag, Rachel screamed. On Cindy's chest were two open wounds where her breasts used to be. The wounds were clearly infected, gangrenous; inflamed red tissue edged in black, oozing fat drops of greenish pus. Red streaks ran up and down her sister's wasted, skeletal body. Rachel wanted to look away but was frozen in shock. Maggots squirmed and fed at the edge of one of the wounds. She could see her sister's ribs peeking through the decomposed flesh. The smell was horrible, like rancid meat. Behind her gag, Rachel felt vomit rising in her throat, and she tore her eyes away, terrified she would strangle.
"So you see," Cindy said, in a soft, resigned voice, "why I need your help."
She closed her robe, wrapping it tightly around herself, and then she lowered her head and closed her eyes.
Rachel began to struggle at the restraints with every ounce of her strength, making involuntary grunts of effort behind her gag. Despite everything that had happened, part of her mind had refused to accept until this moment that her sister would truly harm her, that she would not eventually walk out of here and return to her life. Now, she understood this: her sister was dying. And she had no intention of allowing Rachel to walk out of here.
"Stop." Cindy sighed. "Just stop. I needed to explain this to you, and I did. If you still don't understand, I'm sorry. There's really nothing else I can say."
She picked up a dirty steak knife from the kitchen counter, crossed the room with it, and pressed it against Rachel's sternum. Rachel froze, afraid to even breathe. But her sister did not cut her. Instead, she sliced through the elastic at the front of Rachel's bra, which fell away to either side, exposing her breasts. Rachel shook her head mutely, her eyes wide with terror.
"I love you," said Cindy, leaning over to kiss Rachel on the forehead. The smell of rotting flesh wafted into Rachel's face. "But not as much as I love him. You're a mother. You understand."
Cindy moved toward the bedroom, out of Rachel's line of vision. She heard the bedroom door open. Sugarbaby shot from the room so fast he was merely a blur. Rachel's eyes saw him, but her mind could not assimilate what she was seeing. He was all razor claws and teeth, bristling black fur, incipient leathery wings. The nubs of horns sprouted from his forehead, above a face that appeared half simian, half bat. Only his blue eyes were human. The last coherent thought Rachel's mind had time to register before Sugarbaby was upon her, clawing the fabric of her pants and the flesh of her legs to shreds as he climbed into her lap, was this: he had his mother's eyes.
Rachel struggled against her bonds as Sugarbaby nuzzled frantically at her chest, drooling and making inhuman gurgling sounds. He opened his mouth, exposing several rows of needle-like teeth, and Rachel screamed behind her gag- then screamed again, and again, and again- as those teeth sunk into her flesh and Sugarbaby began to feed.
Horror Story Writing Contest contest entry
I think of this as the ultimate antichrist origin story. Maybe someday, I'll write another, featuring Sugarbaby, come of age. This is creepy, but I hope you enjoy it. - PV
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