Part I/Part II/Part III/Part IV/Part V/Part VI/Part VII/Part VIII
The family’s plans for Halloween were somewhat spurious this year. Given the option of a night in my mother-in-law’s or a weekend at my cousin’s house in Mullingar, I chose option C; (I had to fake a rather good breakdown for this option to be plausible) a weekend away on my own. Not being entirely flushed with cash, I did an inter-net search using the words ‘Guesthouse, cheap, remote, Ireland’. The search engine asked me if I was feeling lucky, and it just so happened that I was…
I browsed the comments, of which there were only two.
The first said: ‘My sister had to be booked into the clinic after she stayed here’, the second: ‘This house tested the limits of my humanity! To be avoided.’ Sheer curiosity made me book a room right there and then.
The baby in my arms is screaming fitfully, its jaws look dis-jointed, much like those of a snake as it attempts to swallow something five times its size. Its hands… no, its claws grab at my hair and pull it out in fistfuls, but all I can do is cuddle it in the hope it could be pacified. Its eyes bulge, grow larger and larger… they turn into balloons filled with a noxious fluid which sloshes around inside, threatening to drown me when the child’s eyeballs inevitably pop. The eyeballs don’t pop… the image dissappears as I wake, sweating. Shouting.
“Please don’t!!! He didn’t mean it, please don’t do it!!!”
It’s all gone away and I am extrmely grateful.
My stomach curdles in remembrance of the nightmare, it’ll take a while for those images to abate. I look around, lost for a second until I remember where I am. A strange smell wafts that wasn’t there when I had fallen asleep, and a peculiar scraping noise can be heard from above. I slide out of bed and look up, searching for form in the dusky light. Holes. There are holes peppered into the ceiling plaster. Ugh. I put my tracksuit on and distinctly hear a disappointed groan.
That can’t be good.
A baby screams. My blood curdles and suddenly changes direction rending my extremities cold and the hairs on my body prickly like a million thorns… the memory of my nightmare returns and threatens to stupefy me. If intuition came in neon lights, mine would be putting a serious energy scourge on this godforsaken grid in this moment, for it is screaming to me that madness is standing right behind my bedroom door. The benign piece of wood seems to throb as I stare at it and against all my wishes, the doorknob begins to turn.
“Hey!” My voice squeaks in a panicked cadence that isn’t my own. “How about an old-fashioned knock first?!”
The door swings slowly open and light oozes into my room like a puddle of radioactive waste. A woman stands on the threshold holding a bundle. Her hair is long and straw-like and her eyes… her eyes are bearing right into my core, into my past. I can tell she knows my worst fears immediately. I freeze as she holds the bundle towards me. This is too surreal for me.
“The baby hassssssssh to go. We don’ wannishh. You wannisssh? Can’ take’n no more!!” her accent is masked by her stumbling speech pattern.
I pull my adrenaline together into a virtual wrecking ball and slam my body against the back of the door in an effort to close it. Fuck the baby. Its cries are all wrong, just like in the dream… I don’t care if I hurt it. My shoulder crashes against the outer edge of the door, but it goes nowhere. A dart of pain storms through my shoulder and neck and I fall back towards the bed, now in full view of the occupants of the doorway. I screw my eyes shut in horror and tell myself it isn’t real. Even foulness has its limits in everyday society.
The blond lady with the crazy eyes is not alone – she drops the bundle she has been carrying to reveal that it had been a decoy. The moth-eaten material falls pathetically around the heels of the man who stands beside her… a man whose features are wrong, all wrong, in the manner of a person who is borne from genes too closely linked. His stumpy fingers hold a rope, and attached to the other end is a rotting mass of child. The suggestion of bone beneath the mess is indescribable, the smell unbelievable. The baby. Oh, this is too evil. Too wrong. I beg with my sanity to stay with me.
Through the darkness of my eyelids I sense movement and realise that blackness is an even worse enemy than the truth, so my eyes snap open to welcome the horror. The baby is being held at arm’s length, as though it was being offered to me.
“She seen it now, that be th’end of tha’ gird’le!!” His nostrils flare as he laughs with mania, a flash of silver crosses his palm as the door is all too suddenly slammed shut, defying the laws of physics.
Darkness, but not silence.
Snakes? A jar of insects? What the hell is the noise? The answer reaches me before I have a chance to search for a light switch.
I gag. The air is suddenly scarce and filled with a billion microscopic razor blades. When it fills my lungs I retch as I feel it try to turn me inside-out. My eyes burn, fluid streams not from my tear ducts, but from my eyes themselves, like they are melting and are trickling down my cheeks in scalding rivers of putrid pus. My nose is occluded by two red-hot pokers and is frantically trying to extinguish the heat itself with a torrent of mucus… it oozes into my mouth and onto the carpet as I bend forward and gag helplessly. Even my ears are suffering from an unruly hell. What the hell is this stuff? This clogging, fogging gas that makes me want to shove my head down the unsavoury toilet and flush?
Death perhaps seems a welcome escape, but not before I notice the old cracked window frame through the noxious fug. I drag my body to an almost upright position, and sneeze the poison out violently. Liquid gushes from my head as though I am a possessed hobo and I frantically wipe and claw at my face to clear my view.
I hurl myself at the window and cherish the sweet sound of shattering glass and cool clean Irish air as I plunge to my death.
I land on the porch roof and roll… THUD… onto the leafy ground below. The last of the poisoned CS gas leaves my lungs with the blow and I gasp. Oxygen floods my brain, enough to fuel the last remnants of adrenaline I have left and I run.
See Kate run. Run Kate run.
I am almost at the gaping maw of the front gate when I hear it… the all-too realistic human plea.