2nd Place – February 2020



Robert Taylor

The night is dark, moonless, and shrouded by a thick blanket of fog, not a fit night out for man nor beast. A figure moves stealthily through the alley behind Main Street, slumped over, head shifting from left to right as if she fears being seen. In her arms is another figure, bundled up in a badly worn blanket. Hugging the bundle close to her abdomen, she slinks along through the thick, impenetrable fog. She holds it against her for two reasons; to make sure she doesn’t drop it, and the pressure against her abdomen seems to help ease, if only slightly, the almost unbearable pain inside her. The pain is so intense she fears that if she moves the bundle her insides will fall out and plop heavily at her shoeless feet.
A sound from inside the blanket stirs something inside her, a maternal instinct that any new mother would experience upon hearing the whimper of her new-born child. She feels the desire to pull the blanket back and comfort the tiny entity, but resists the urge, knowing that to show weakness now would more than likely render her unable to finish what she has set out to do.
A sudden searing pain shoots through Mary’s vagina, so severe it causes her to drop to her knees on the hard dirt of the alley. She almost drops the bundle, but is able to hold on despite the fact that her head reels, her vision blurs, and the fiery pain brings salty tears to her eyes. She remains on her knees, clutching the bundle, until her head clears and the pain subsides to a bearable, but still intense degree, at which time she pulls herself to her feet and continues on through the fog.
Mary feels a warm sensation moving down her thighs. She doesn’t have to look to know that the warmth is blood. She feels suddenly weaker, the bundle suddenly growing heavier in her arms. Her legs wobble underneath her. “Must rest,” she says, her voice racked with pain. Spying a concrete stoop at the foot of a wooden door, she slumps onto it in a sitting position.
The fog seems to be thickening, and the late November air chills Mary to the bone. She can’t go much further, her strength is sapped, the pain is unbearable. It must be done soon, real soon, before she is rendered too weak to carry on. Staring through the fog, she spots a metal garbage can on the opposite side of the alley. “That will have to do,” she mumbles, her voice even weaker than the last time she spoke. She closes her eyes, and a flood of confusing emotions flow through her being as she recalls the ordeal of natural childbirth; the pain, the humiliation, the sorrow of having to deliver her own child, alone in that filthy service station restroom, reeking of stale urine and other foul odors.
But it had to be that way, there was no other alternative, nowhere else to go. She remembers screaming so loudly she feared someone would hear and come to her aid. But no one came, except the baby that is. She picked up a jagged shard of broken beer bottle from the filthy piss covered floor and cut the cord, then wrapped the blood soaked baby in the dirty blanket she had found behind the station. Then, pulling her pain wracked body to a standing position, she picked up the bundle, exited the restroom and headed down the fog shrouded alley to do what she knew she had to do.
Now she has gone as far as she can go; it has to be now! She forces herself to her feet, wincing as the pain in her abdomen almost topples her over forward. She crosses the alley, and a stream of salty tears streams down her cheeks as she approaches the trash can, which is half filled with garbage. She gently places her bundle into the can, atop the bottles and empty food containers, then steps back a couple of feet. Reaching into the oversized pocket of her dress, she extracts a book of matches and a small can of lighter fluid.
“Virgin Mary, Mother of God, forgive me,” she intones as she opens the can of flammable liquid and aims it at the bundle in the trash can. She prepares to squeeze the can of lighter fluid, but a sound to her left stops her; footsteps! Someone is coming! She turns and peers through the fog, looking frantically for a place to hide. Spotting a doorway in an alcove a few yards ahead, she pulls her pain infested body along until she is out of sight behind the brick wall.
Peering from behind the wall, Mary sees a figure walking through the fog, large, more than seven feet tall, with broad shoulders and a large head with an unnaturally wide, flat brow. “My God! No!” she whispers. “It’s him! Did he see me? Oh dear God in Heaven don’t let him see me!” She stares in horror as the huge monstrosity stops in front of the trash can, leans over, lifts the bundle, and holds it against his broad chest.
Mary prays silently as he slowly turns and stares in her direction. She cringes as the eerie sound emanates from his mouth, at first a high pitched, unintelligible wail, sending goose bumps down her spine, then the sound slowly becomes a word, a long drawn out name; “Maaaaaaaaarrrrrrryyyy! Maaaaaaaaaarrrrryyyy!” She cringes back against the doorway, fearing he will move in her direction, but instead he turns his back to her. “Maaaaaarrryyy!” Hugging the tiny bundle against his enormous chest, he begins walking away from her into the fog.
She breaths a sigh of relief, then the realization hits her like a sledge hammer. “No, it can’t be this way!” she whispers. She steps out of the alcove, steadies herself on her wobbly legs, and speaks, her voice somehow stronger than before. “No! You can’t have him! It can’t be this way!”
The tall figure stops in his tracks, makes a strange groaning sound as he slowly turns and faces her. “Mary,” he says, his now deep resonant voice echoing off the buildings along the alley. She shivers, and not just from the chilly night air. She struggles for the right thing to say, but the monster speaks first. “Blood,” he says, “you’re blood is flowing out of you.” She looks down and discovers the front of her dress soaked dark red.
“Of course I’m bleeding,” she replies. “I just experienced natural childbirth in a filthy restroom!”
The monster looks down at the bundle in his arms, then lifts his head and stares into Mary’s eyes. “Our baby,” he says. “Baby good thing. Me Daddy, you Mommy. We must take baby home. Baby cold. Baby hungry, Daddy hungry.”
Mary feels her head reel as the words sink in. “No,” she says, “the baby is an abomination, a monster, like you. It must be destroyed.”
“Nooooooooo!” the monster wails. “We must raise baby. We name him Victor. Victor would like baby named after him.”
“Victor is dead,” Mary explains. “They killed him, beat him to death and set him on fire, which is what they’ll do to you, eventually, and the baby as well, if you take him away from here.”
“Victor gave you to me, Mary. Remember that night? We laid together and became one flesh, that’s what Victor called it. Monster woke up next morning and Mary gone. Long time ago, but now Mary is here. Baby is here. Family is here. Monster loves baby. monster loves Momma. Come Mary. Come to Daddy. We must feed baby, take him to warm place.”
Mary takes a step forward, grimacing as the intense pain burns within her.
“Okay, I’m coming,” she says, extracting the matches and the lighter fluid from the pocket of her blood soaked dress….

Writers’ workshop and writing group