Day 6 of My 13 Horrifically Silly Days of Halloween – JF GarrardRegan Macaulay
A BIG welcome back to genre author JF Garrard, whom I interviewed a couple years ago for my 13 Horrifically Silly Days of Halloween! We talked a bit about this story…now you have a chance to read it here:
by JF Garrard
originally published in The Sirens Call eZine, No. 37, Women in the Horror issue (2018)
The chip in one of my manicured nails made me frown. Looking at my hands distracted me from the awful stench of blood, waiting for the witch to finish her work. Nausea overwhelmed me when the little old lady slit the throat of a rooster with no warning, spraying some blood onto my expensive designer dress when she collected the red liquid into a white bowl to use as ink to draw on yellow pieces of paper. I felt too petrified to inquire about what was going on.
It was amazing how a two-hundred square foot room could be crammed with so much stuff. Roosters held in multiple cages squawked angrily in my direction, a desk was filled with piles of incense, swords made from ancient coins, long strips of yellow paper, calligraphy brushes and other random crap. A shrine in the corner housed porcelain Chinese gods, honored with burning incense which filled the room with smoke.
My eyes shut for a moment from exhaustion as I sat on a tiny stool. The last few days had not been easy. I went for my five-month ultrasound appointment by myself since my husband was out of town and the doctor told me that the baby’s heart had stopped beating. A corpse was in my body and I freaked out. I called my mother in China who told me not to tell my husband. They didn’t trust him because he was a gwai lo, a white foreign devil. My parents were forever worried he would divorce me and a miscarriage would definitely make him leave me. Instead, my mother spent a day calling relatives all over North America. She made me book a flight to Vancouver which was closer than flying back to China. Now here I was, sitting in a random witch’s house, waiting for her to finish her spell.
“Take this and put it on your friend’s belly. Take this other one and put it on your belly. For a night and day,” the old women rasped in a dialect of Chinese which I understood, but had to think about for a few minutes due to her accent.
“Can you say that again?” I took the two pieces of yellow paper gingerly by their corners with red Chinese calligraphy scribbled on it and some other symbols I didn’t recognize.
The old woman looked at me as if I was an imbecile. “That paper on your friend’s belly, that paper on your belly.”
I held up one of the pieces of paper, “This paper on my belly?”
“No…” The old woman sighed. “You can’t read Chinese can you?”
“Er, no,” a hot blush spread across my cheeks. “I was sent to Toronto when I was very young, so I can only speak Chinese but can’t write.”
“OK, I will mark the corner of this piece of paper. This one with the mark you put on your belly and the other one put on your friend’s belly.”
“How do I put it on?”
“Use tape. Just tell her it’s for good luck,” she let out a soft cackle. “Tell her it must not come off for at least a day and a night, or else you will have to pay a price.”
“Pay what price? I need to give you more money?”
“No, no,” she shook her head as she used a dirty rag to wipe off the desk before she took a drink from the bowl filled with blood. Her lips dripped with red liquid as she gave me her final words. “Good luck and don’t screw up.”
The baby shower was planned months before I got pregnant. I thought it would be fun, I would be a great hostess and impress people in my giant 10,000 square foot home while serving fancy snacks from fancy catering companies. Instead, the baby shower for Lana, my best friend, felt like the longest day in my life as I watched women giggle and fawn over her eight-month-old belly. When people approach me to comment on mine, I just smiled and put my hand protectively over my stomach.
Nervously I waited until Lana needed a break from the festivities. I dragged her into the upstairs washroom and told her I had a surprise for her.
“Oh my gosh, Laura, this is a huge bathroom!” She stared at the marble floor, sauna tub and gold handled faucets enviously.
“This might seem a bit weird, but in the Asian culture we have charms to help bring luck to our children. I got one for your baby and mine!” I pulled out the yellow pieces of paper from a gold box on the bathroom counter.
“Oh, that’s so nice of you!” she gushed. “Is that Chinese writing? I thought you didn’t know Chinese?”
“I flew to Vancouver and got a priestess to make them especially for us,” I gave a tight grin. “She said we have to wear this on our belly for 24 hours and that special luck will fall on our children.”
“Well, I do need some luck,” she lamented. “Will might get laid off soon and just getting unemployment on mat leave isn’t going to pay for much.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll ask Ryan to see if his company has any extra positions to fit Will into,” I opened the medicine cabinet to grab some surgical tape. “Let’s put lots of tape on so the paper doesn’t fall off.”
We helped each other attach the yellow pieces of paper onto our belly and then lowered our clothes on top of it.
“This feels so funny,” Lana giggled. “But thank you! If Ryan does have any positions,
please let me know!”
“Of course!” I hug her. “Why don’t you go back downstairs, I’m feeling a bit nauseous.”
I stare at myself in the mirror, a well-dressed Asian woman with deep bags under her eyes. Pulling out some foundation and blush, I put makeup onto my face to hide my sleepless nights. A few minutes later, I felt it, a great rush of warmth where the yellow piece of paper was. The transfer of chi energy from her baby to mine was starting. My eyes closed for a moment. In my head, I told myself I was doing the right thing. It would be hard for her to raise a third child in her household and I had more than enough money to raise a dozen if I wanted to. She was younger and if she lost this one, she could get pregnant again, while for me, at forty, getting pregnant again was near impossible.
“Mommy! Mommy!” A loud childish voice pierced into my thoughts.
Heading downstairs I spotted Lana’s eldest, a boy of five running around the front of my house. The adults had given up entertaining him and allowed him to wander.
“I have a present for the baby,” he announced.
“What do you have?” I ask.
“I have a kitty; my sister has a kitty and my baby brother has a kitty.” His tiny arms held four tiny matching stuffed toys. “Oh, and I have a kitty for your baby too.” The child carried on, talking gibberish about how much he liked kitties.
“You don’t have to give any to me, these are your toys.”
“But mommy said your baby will be like a sister to me, so I have to be a big brother to everyone!” His little face looked serious. “Mommy said that you are her bestest friend and we have to take care of you and the baby, no matter what happens!”
Squatting down to his level, I took one of the little cats which looked at me with tearful eyes. Crying animals were the latest thing in the toy market and looking at this sad object in combination with this cheerful blithering child set off something in my hormonal body.
“Can I show you something?”
“Hm?” He stopped talking and looked at me with wide eyes.
I lifted up my shirt to reveal the yellow piece of paper taped to my stomach. “This is a magical piece of paper. If you take it, hold it in your hands and make a wish, your dream will come true.”
“Oh…” he looked astonished. “Can I go to Disneyland if I have that?”
“I’m sure you can! Your mommy has one, just ask her to show you!”
“OK!” The little creature ran off.
A few moments later I heard a scream, a crash and then he triumphantly ran towards me holding the yellow piece of paper.
“I got it! I got it! Can I go to Disneyland?”
An angry Lana appeared. “No, you cannot! You just destroyed our family’s luck!” Tears were streaming down her red cheeks and her hands were aggressively reaching out.
The little boy hid behind me and whimpered.
“It’s ok Lana, I knew this was going to happen so I got extras.” I walk over to my closet near the front door and pulled out my gigantic designer leather purse. Opening my wallet, I removed a small cloth pouch with embroidered Japanese characters. “I picked this up at an omamori booth in Tokyo from a temple. It’s said that a piece of Buddhist text is inside this amulet and will bring the person luck. This one you just carry around and you don’t have to tape it to anything.”
“I’m so sorry,” she sighed. “I’m like the worst friend in the world.”
“Please, you are not, you really are not!” I put the amulet into her hand and hugged her, sobbing into her shoulder.
My husband is the world’s loudest snorer. It was no surprise that when I woke up in the middle of the night with a searing pain which made my body go into shakes and spasms, he didn’t notice at all. Every month I had period cramps which made me faint, but this pain was ten times worse than that. When I moved my head up higher on the pillow to see what was going on, I froze when I saw a tiny hand stretch the skin of my belly upwards. A moment later it looked like a tiny foot was stretching.
People think when pain hits, the natural reaction is to scream. But I couldn’t make a sound. I was overwhelmed by horror. The baby stopped pushing upwards on my belly and eventually made its way downwards towards my vagina. I covered my mouth with my hand and bit down on my knuckles, drawing blood. The curtains of our open window on this hot summer night billowed in and out. I tried to distract myself by concentrating on the memory of where we had gotten the curtains, the price and what arguments I had with my husband over the color.
After an eternity, with a sick ripping sound, the baby freed itself from my vagina, made its way out from my nightgown and crawled onto my belly, exhausted from the journey. Information I read from various pregnancy websites whirled in my head as I studied the tiny figure whose chest was heaving in and out as it inhaled deep jagged breaths of air. “At five months, the baby is approximately 27 cm from crown to feet…” “The baby can hear conversations…” “It weighs close to a pound…”
When the pain lessened, I cupped the baby against my belly which was still attached to me via a thick purple umbilical cord and hobbled into the bathroom. Warm blood dripped down my legs onto the floor and I absently thought about asking the housekeeper to clean it up in the morning.
I turned on the bathroom light, startling the baby who buried its head into my belly. Though tiny, it was fully formed with a face, ears, hands, fingers, feet and toes. I used my nightgown to wipe away most of the blood, revealing deep pink wrinkly delicate skin. Its tiny eyes were gray in color and I wondered if it could see me. Opening my medicine cabinet, I grabbed a pair of small scissors to cut the umbilical cord which took several minutes before I made any progress. Sitting down on the cold marble floor, I could not help but marvel at the tiny sleeping human and as the mother of this thing, I was intrigued. My cell phone was charging on the counter, so I took a few snapshots of it in various positions. The pictures didn’t turn out very well and the baby just looked like a blob. Taking a hand towel, I wrapped it in a swaddle hold and put it on top of my chest. Tired from the night’s events, I laid my head on the small bath mat on the floor and fell asleep.
The sounds of dogs howling in the distance woke me up. This was the latest problem in the neighborhood, stray dogs prowling the streets at night. No matter how many dog catchers we called, there were always more of them.
“Laura? Where are you?” From under the crack of the bathroom door, lights to the bedroom turned on. The knob of the bathroom turned and my husband stepped in. “ARGH!”
The screaming jolted me to a sitting position and the baby rolled off my body. The baby sat up and shook its head, as if in shock from leaving the warmth of my body.
“Darling, I’m in here,” I offered weakly.
My husband stared at me, his mouth agape at the sight of dried blood splattered on my nightgown and the baby which had crawled into a position on all fours and was hissing at him. Its large mouth stretched unnaturally wide, displaying rows of large pointy teeth and the baby’s eyes enlarged, displaying swirling black and red colors. My mouth gaped open as I looked at my baby which now resembled some sort of wild, shapeshifting creature.
For a moment I thought about throwing myself in front of my husband before the baby launched itself at its father. A silence fell over us and I could hear the fast pounding of my heart in my ears as I wondered what to do next.
A dog howled again. In a flash, the baby was gone, crawling on all fours past my husband and out the window, ripping part of a curtain in haste.
“That’s my girl,” I giggled as I collapsed into fits of laughter. My husband was not amused and left me in the bathroom. I could hear him explaining the situation to someone on his phone.
When the sirens and paramedic staff arrived, I was still in a manic state.
“The next one will be different! The next one will be different!” I chanted until a tiny sharp pain pierced my arm and filled me with calmness, sinking me into a sea of darkness.