Card Challenge: Day 15
Hopefully back on track without additional bumps in the road. Fingers crossed! this one was fun, and alludes to a bit of a classic horror story, which is probably pretty obvious by the end. (Again, difficult new keyboard, forgive any weird typos. I tried to catch them all.) Enjoy!
Card Day 15: A white cradle along a path in a dark, overgrown forest. (Missed days: 2)
The cry came again, just as it had every night for the past seven months. Jameson heard it every time. It pierced his dreams like a saber, drawing him to sudden, painful reality. Now, he no longer slept until the cries faded on the wind and he could steal a few moments of suffering peace before the sun rose.
This night, however, he felt his body begin to shake with the resurgence of the cry. Every night, no respite, no mercy. He had revisited that grief-stricken night so often that the figments of it were more real that the emptiness of his current life. The ashes in his fireplace suddenly roared again with life, casting wild shadows to highlight the night’s frenzy. The still trees outside once again whipped ferociously with the memory of the storm that had barreled down on them in their time of need. Jameson stood abruptly, shattering the memory before it could ensnare him yet again. He closed his eyes and covered his ears as if that would block out the thin wail that sounded from the trees. It was a hopeless endeavor, he knew. That sound found him in his deepest sleep and drunkest moments. There was no power or substance that could keep it from echoing through his thoughts when the moon rose high in the sky each night.
He reached to the counter and lifted a bottle of whiskey with his shaking hand. The liquid inside whirled in dark eddies in the shadows of his home, but the familiar chill of the glass bottle in his hand helped to tie him to the reality before him. The cry grew in volume, proclaiming pain in a heart wrenching wail. Jameson let loose a feral scream in response, flinging the bottle—his last savior—at the wall. The glistening liquid rippled in the moonlight, shining among shards of glass and the brittle remains of Jameson’s shattered will.
Seven months he had endured this torture, and his sanity had drawn thin. Each night was a razor pulled across the strands of what had once been a thickly coiled rope. Now, his complete existence hung by a few frayed strands, likely to break with the slightest touch.
The cries rose in response to his scream, bringing with them a renewed vision of that night. Jameson stood in the kitchen, much like he had. The cries from the woods faded, replaced by the primal screams coming from his bedroom. He paced, uncertain of what to do, waiting anxiously on the doctor as the wind whipped and roiled. Rain fell in sheets, and lightning streaked across the sky, giving the night an unholy, tortured feeling that complemented the pure chaos swirling around him. For once in his life, Jameson felt helpless.
He heard Daisy, the neighbor woman who he had, in his initial fear, roused from sleep. She called to him, asking on the doctor. Her words rippled through the air as if swimming through tar, reaching him slowly. He looked through the door again to rain and wind, but no horse or carriage breaking through the tempest.
Suddenly she was there, pulling at him and dragging him towards the room where his wife lay. She was a mess of sheets, sweat, and pain. Jameson felt immeasurably small in that moment, completely helpless but to watch her call out in pain. Daisy was speaking again, moving quickly, propping pillows and lifting the sheets. The words were indecipherable to him, just strings of letters that spilled into the room, staining the floor with uncomprehended commands. She paused in her flurry to stare at him briefly, and then seemed to realize how impossibly far away he was. She shuffled him from the room to watch for the doctor, though the thin line of her lips meant it was the only excuse she could think of.
Jameson kept his watch as the din rose in the room. He remained at his post as tiny, infant screams broke through the night. He did not move as the sounds from the next room grew fainter and fainter, even as Daisy’s own voice grew more frantic. She called for him again and again, asking where the doctor was every few moments. He numbly responded that he was not there, his eyes drilling through the rain as if he could speed the good doctor’s progress.
It was that same numbness that enveloped him when Daisy came to him, tearful and pale. She stuttered, pointing towards the room. There was so much blood in there, so much carnage. The doctor swooped in just in time to check her pulse and declare his lovely wife as dead. The baby, swaddled with care by Daisy, lay in the cradle Jameson had carved, still screaming and wailing from the torture of birth.
The doctor left to contact the town coroner, and Jameson sent Daisy home. The whole night was a blur of a nightmare, and still it was perpetuated by the constant scream and cries. The small child was fragile in his mitts of hands, and nothing he did seemed to soothe it. He paced, he rocked, he hummed. Ultimately, he simply cried, and felt the strands of his reason waste away under the constant onslaught of tragedy. Jameson tried to shush the child, placing his thick hands across its lips to muffle the piercing cries. Feeling his ire rise, his ungainly hands moved across the small thing’s face, slowly quieting the cries until silence snuck into the death-filled cabin.
His tears falling to his hands snapped Jameson from the memory, but the cries remained constant. That damned cry! He railed, stomping across the floor and flinging the door open. Where his eyes had expected the whipping trees and storm of seven months past, he saw only the still, quiet night, desecrated by immortal cries. He set off at a march, tearing his way through the looming trees. It was dangerous to be out this late at night in the woods, what with the wolves and other predators, but Jameson had a mission, and he had to end his suffering.
In the clearing by the stream lay the blanket, still wrapped tightly around its bundle. Jameson recoiled briefly at the sight of the muddy thing, somehow untouched by the scavengers of the forest. He lifted the bundle, feeling it collapse with new vacancy as bones rustled inside. Jameson tore back the layers of cloth, now worn, threadbare, and bleached to pallor by the sun. Inside was some mix of liquid and bone, the rotted remains of flesh hanging onto brittle bones. Jameson looked, staring down into the vacant eye sockets of his son, the lips unmoving even as the scream continued. He slammed the feeble package against the ground, as if through its destruction he would ultimately find piece. The body, mostly decomposed at this point, came even more apart in his hands, littering the ground with shards of bone and tatters of wasted flesh. For a moment, there was peace in the woods, a brief respite of silence as the terrible evidence of his deed was finally destroyed. Yet, as the wind rose through the trees, so again did the brittle sounds of a child’s cry.
Jameson wept, knowing that his guilt would never be absolved.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.