Prompt Day #349: Play a horrifying game of piñata
Back from a week off for my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction residency. I’ll try to catch up quickly here but this is the last long story I’ll be posting. The rest will be snippets of stories because I truly need to focus now on my novel. Fifteen more to go.
Birth Day Party
Why did the car have to break down here in this creepy little town? Jessa thought. Fuck. She’d told Mitch she didn’t want to be driving all that way by herself not to mention she was eight months pregnant; what if something happened and she was by herself? But of course he just couldn’t get out of work and she’d be fine. Now what? Her internal, irrational child-mind hoped something bad did happen to her. That would teach him. He’d have to live with that guilt for a long time.
Well, fuck him anyways. Now she was going to have to deal with it. It was already five and late August, if she didn’t hustle, it would be dark before she was able to get help. She turned on the hazard lights, gathered up all the things she couldn’t bear to have stolen, stuffed them in the oversized purse and headed back towards the tiny little constellation of houses she’d just passed.
The baby, usually subdued this time of day, was squirming like a fish in there. He could probably sense her agitation and it was affecting him too. She needed to try to be calm. The silence though was unnerving. She’d never lived in the country but it seemed like there should be at least some crickets or bird sounds, or something. She quickened her waddling pace and felt the ache in her pelvis reminding her that she was carrying an extra twenty pounds so if she could maybe take it easy, that’d be great.
A staccato scream jumped out from the patch of trees ordering the road. She stopped and held her breath. What was that? Another scream but this one too felt truncated, shortened by something. If the scream itself didn’t have such a pained tonality she would have guessed some girl was getting it hard in the middle of the woods. A nervous laugh escaped her lips. She’d be pregnant for far too long, obviously she was missing the mindless sex of youth before the monotony of marriage turned it into making love.
“Oh God, No! Please”
There was no misconstruing that. Someone was being hurt and badly. Jessa was frozen by indecision. There was no choice that kept her completely safe. She had no service on her cell and her car was not functioning so going back there was pointless. She could continue towards those houses she’d seen, but what if whoever was being hurt lived there or worse the torturer? Plus the town was still a good mile or so away, if she walked that far and the killer (yes, already her mind had made this a killer-murder victim situation) finished, he’d find her completely vulnerable. At least here, she could lock herself in the car until….until what? Until she died like the little boy from Cujo? Or what if she went into labor? Then what?
Thud, Thwack, and a long, drawn out wail echoed this time. She put a hand protectively on her belly. She had to do something. She had an old can of mace in her purse. She dug it out and stepped through the bushes at the edge of the woods.
The soft thuds increased in frequency and volume as she zeroed in on them. Her sweaty hands clutched the mace tighter until her knuckles were white and aching. She’d been hiking once before and distinctly remembered how much she enjoyed the scent of the air in the woods. A cool, earthiness that wrapped itself like vines around you and permeated every pore until you were no longer an outsider but an integral part of the ecosystem. A filter allowing the environment to flow through you. But something about this place was off. The smell was wrong, there was a soured, non-vegetal scent like a veil covering the true air beneath it. As she drew closer to the clearing, the shadows of the trees in the early evening light, stippled across the clearing giving the illusion of prison bars trying to block the evil within from her and her unborn child.
Jessa stayed within the protection of the trees trying to make sense of the scene playing in silhouette in front of her. The most unmistakable outline was that of the woman tied between two trees. Her arms and legs spread between them so that she looked like the beginning of a spider’s web. Her abdomen protruded out just as Jessa’s did and added to the illusion that the spider, with its protuberant abdomen was sitting in the center of its web.
The baby jumped in her belly as if in response to the shock of what its mother was seeing. Jessa ducked down behind a thicket of vines. Youthful shadows surrounded the woman-web, their thin, exuberant outlines gave an impression of adolescence. They were beating her across the middle with some kind of sticks or baseball bats. Each thud elicited that same abbreviated scream of pain. How long she had been enduring it, Jessa couldn’t imagine. Her baby squirmed again, miming its unease.
Jessa flinched each time the blunt object hit into the woman’s belly. Her screams had become moans as she drifted in and out of consciousness. The splash that followed the next thud was unmistakable to a woman who was currently waiting for the same sound. The woman’s water had broken. It woke her up now to such tormented screams the likes of which Jessa had never heard, not even in the YouTube birth videos she’d been watching lately. The smell that wafted over to Jessa on the light breeze rustling the foliage. There was blood in that water, a lot. That irony, metallic smell was unmistakable. Jessa shivered. Another thud broke the silence and this time the splash had a solid component; a thud softer and heavier than the previous ones.
The shadows instantly multiplied. Kids were coming out of the edge of the woods from all around, some ran out of the bushes directly in front of her. Jessa held a hand over her mouth to suppress her own screams and watched helplessly as the savages grabbed and pulled at the baby and the afterbirth that lay on the ground beneath the broken woman. She stood frozen in horror as the children ate the pieces they’d managed to tear away like candy gathered from a piñata.
She ran. She ran without thought to the consequences; hoping that they would be too busy eating the spoils of their twisted party. She didn’t stop or slow to listen for followers. She ran straight to the road and the rest of the remaining mile between her car and the small cluster of houses in the valley below.
The cramps started just as the first house came into view. She tried to ignore them but the pain demanded her attention. She stopped, bent over and breathed through the minute long contraction. As soon as she felt it easing she climbed the porch steps and pounded on the door.
“Hello? Can someone help me please?” she yelled. Another pain hit her and she doubled over again. The popping sound came a split second before the splash of fluid that gushed out of her and down her legs. “Oh God, not now” she whispered.
She slapped both hands now against the door and heard footsteps coming towards it from inside the house. She sobbed with relief. For the first time since her frantic retreat, she turned to look behind her. There was no one coming. They must all still be back there feasting, she thought.
She turned back to the sound of the door opening. The young man standing there could not have been more than fifteen and yet a girl, maybe eighteen came up behind him and put her hands on his shoulders as if posing for a family portrait. They smiled at her and pulled her inside.