Bring Back My Baby

They were heartbreakingly lovely. Each a miniature world, round and complete, bobbing and shimmering against the drain wall. What were they? Despite her heels, Keiko knelt over the pavement. Eight of them, staring like fish eyes. She shuddered, picking them up with her kitchen forceps. People gave her odd looks–that quick, curious glance before the embarrassed head-ducking that follows at the sight of aberration. She flushed, scurrying back to the junk-jammed pocket of space they’d lived in since nuclear radiation had blown everyone west.

They’d been hounding her, more and more lately. Translucent white globules that appeared everywhere, even in her coffee; and any attempt to get rid of them just brought them back with a vengeance. One night she’d woken to that familiar metallic tang; they were all over her bed, in her mouth, between her legs. Those that had been squished oozed a red juice that wouldn’t come off. She’d had to get new sheets.

Now she just kept them in a cup, far back in the kitchen cabinet.

“Keiko.”

She jumped, cabinet door banging shut. Her husband stood by the kitchen entrance. His gaze made her flesh crawl. The forceps twisted, round and round, in her fingers.

“We need to ta–”

Her hand flew up, slamming the cabinet door, which had swung ajar.

“Hey. We were merciful. He wouldn’t’ve been happy, growing up like–”

She believed him, she did. But she felt strangely weak. No strength left, to clutch at his words. A rumbling sound had started up in the cabinet and her fingers floated up–stay shut dammit–but already they were jostling out, splatting on the floor like eggs, and in each was a shadow, something wriggling. She shrieked; she didn’t want to look, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away from that thing in front of her.

It was wailing, its hammered-in face glutted with limbs crushed by the doctor’s forceps and spliced back in perverse places, coated in red-tinged slime. Her baby flopped toward her; tiny fingers, tiny toes. He would’ve been lovely, heartbreakingly lovely. She sobbed, shaking. Sorry, Mummy’s sorry.

Her husband tried to stop her. She’d been staring at something invisible between them, and when her arm rose it was as if something had yanked it. The forceps pierced one eye, then the other. 

Eventually, he left her. Not that he minded a blind wife; he just couldn’t stand the monstrous grimace that had grown on her face, as if she had something to spit out all the time. He didn’t know why, but it made his flesh crawl, too.

(about 400 words, written in response to Laura James’ Horror Bites Challenge #6)

“White Bone” Excerpt

Excerpt from my novelette, “White Bone,” published in the Fantasy short story anthology 9Tales From Elsewhere #7. This is a tale of revenge and romance, inspired by the Chinese myth of Bai Gu Jing, or White Bone Spirit, in which a king storms into the woods to slay a beast, and there encounters a woman whom he falls in love with. But she is dead unless he comes face to face with his troubled past.

He had been nearing the temple, but first he had decided to stop by the river for a quick rinse, to wash the grime off his face and hands before entering his ancestral abode. Now, weary though he was, he felt the familiar stirring in his blood, and was glad he had stopped. There by the river where the wild peony grew, where its thousand-petalled blooms dripped their heavy inflorescences from their arcing branches, there a slender arm lifted languidly and lowered, trickling diamond water; and the shining wet ebony sheet that was her hair rose with it to reveal just the barest sliver of hip, then rose some more to uncover, just for a moment, the perfect, shadowy dent in the small of her back, whispering secrets.

His heart quickened; his blood sang fire. Desire strained his will, shackles of decency ringing a low note against the burn.

Water lapped, black and lustrous, against her hip, indistinguishable from her floating hair. Sinuous curves melted into it, pink-tinted, like the colour of snow under an alpenglow of dawn. His foot crunched on the forest bed.

Startled, she paused, then turned curiously to peer over her shoulder. Dark eyes lifted, uncertain, round shadows cast like clandestine meeting places in an exquisite face that, unveiled of her hair, blossomed out before him like petals of a moonflower, opening one by one.

For a moment, he saw his own reflection in them. Such a powerful, striking figure he cut, in those deep pools silvered like mirrors. Above them, her eyelashes lightly quivered, like the shadows of flickering candle-flames, shivering though untouched by wind. Then the petals lowered again over her eyes, and her moon-washed hair cascaded back over her shoulders; she had not seen him.

He snapped. All at once he was an animal—and like an animal he took her, from the back, just out of sight of the temple by the river where the wild peonies still grow.

She moulded herself meekly to his rough hands, silent and acquiescent as river water shaping itself around the hard, feverish body of a man cutting through it. Forward and speedily he propelled himself, his arms knifing through the waves, crushing with the weight of the world; but the water dispersed around him, and drifted at his touch, so that though he swam through it he could not grasp a single, sliding drop in his hands.

You can get the full story from the Amazon Kindle store. Comments / reviews welcome. 🙂