Then that tall thing in the darkness interlaced its fingers and flexed them until its joints snapped as loud as firecrackers. It proceeded to crack the others in its overly-articulated fingers one by one. Shadows cast by an unknown source of light on the far wall seemed to show those hands like the legs of an impossible boney spider wrapping itself delightfully around a fly caught in its web.
My feet were gritty and frozen.
That’s how I found out it had taken my shoes.
So many knuckles cracked and reverberated in the quiet cold and my stomach churned into tighter and tighter knots with each explosion. Ten sickening pops. Fifteen. Fifty. An impossible number of knuckles. I hadn’t realized I was hyperventilating until the room pulsed and the colors ran together like smears of acrylic paint. I was gulping fitfully at a breath that wouldn’t stick as the smears turned to candle wax and melted away. The room was monochromatic and every color had been drained by the belly of the dark. Then the outlines of the basement began to melt away too–growing dim; dimmer–the feeling of the cold on my wrists growing more dull and more numb as the room began to fade until there was no feeling at all.
There was no room. I was somewhere else.
I wasn’t naked and shackled to a wall in my unfinished basement. Where had those shackles come from? Rashida and I didn’t have anything like that down there–but it didn’t matter because suddenly, that place was gone. Somewhere far away. I was safe and warm. A consciousness floating bodiless through space.
I’d been down there for at least a few hours at this point. That’s why–well, you know–you know what happened.
Yea, yea. I know. You need me to tell it for your records. For the trial–if there’s going to be one this time. Nobody will believe this and I guess it doesn’t really matter. You know that, don’t you? That nobody will believe this? Third times the charm though, I guess. Last time nobody caught me. This time you did. Next time, you won’t. Hah! I don’t repeat mistakes. I take what I learned and try again.
Boston was a New Years Day baby–not just born Friday, January 1st 2020–he was the first baby born in the new year in Bradenville general–about a minute after midnight. Seems like a long time ago now. Imagine if you had everything you know now on that day. All that info. Do you think you could have made use of it?
Shit. I would have done what needed to be done a lot sooner than I did if I knew.
It was actually a fight about who was gonna be the one to carry him before we even knew that Boston was gonna be his name. Rashida won that of course. We found out I probably couldn’t get pregnant later on. I was with that woman for 10 years, you know. We got married in 2015 a week after it was finally legal. We were talking about kids right from the end of that first year probably. Maybe even before that. Nine or ten years we talked about really starting our family and there we were, finally doing it.
Boston was a strange baby right from the beginning. Rashida could always get him to sleep but at first, whenever I came within a foot of him, no matter how deep and sound his sleep had been, his eyes would just shoot open. That shocking shade of blue–little microcosms–like a whole world’s worth of knowledge swirling around inside. Then he’d fuckin scream his fuckin head off.
At least that’s what happened for about the first month.
He always still woke up whenever I got near him, but after that first month, he stopped screaming. He’d just stare at me after that. Stare right through me. I know you might not understand this, but it’s the only way I can think to describe it…it was like something ancient and dark was shining a spotlight out of his eyes, bright enough to wash out everything but those two little marbles of light. It felt like knives made of ice punching right out of that stare and through me. I’d feel faint and my body would go numb unless I looked away. You don’t know cold unless my fuckin kid is staring at you like he stared at me.
It was like staring at the endless vast knowledge of eternity hanging impotent in the vast emptiness of space. I was insignificant to the universe and that is my Boston saw me as a tool to foster His Becoming.
Of course, Rashida told me I was crazy. I think she was really worried because everything about how she was to me began to change that night we laid staring up at the ceiling fan and I told her about my fears.
“When he looks at you, you know, the way that he does, do you ever feel afraid?” I asked her.
“I’m afraid about what the world’s gonna be like for him when he’s grown. I’m afraid about things like, will he be happy? I’m afraid that–what if we’re not enough? Is that what you mean?” I turned to face her. The room was dark but I could see that her eyes hadn’t moved from the spot she was staring at on the ceiling. She had the blankets pulled up to her chin, and I knew underneath that her fingers would be interlaced across her stomach. It’s funny how many little habits that don’t seem to register about someone until they’re gone and then those things matter a great deal. She’s only been gone a few hours now but I’ve lost her twice, really. I’ve had time to think about things.
“No. That’s not it.” I whispered. I was scared to tell her about this. Of course I was scared, but there weren’t ever secrets between us so I knew that I had to say it and just see what she thought about it. So I told her about his eyes and how old they were and how much he scared me.
“I’m sorry–but Nora, what? Actually what the fuck. Are you being funny?”
I told her about him waking up from dead sleep and staring at me. She told me I was seeing things that weren’t there. He was only 3 months old at the time–couldn’t think about nothing but taking naps and screaming for food. So I tried to show her, but trying to show her what that little fucker was doing was fuckin impossible. He sabotaged me every fuckin time–pretending to be asleep anytime she checked him with me. He only woke up like that when she wasn’t around.
Soon as I told her, other things started happening, because of course they did. It was like I’d opened Pandora’s Box. As soon as Rashida thought I was losing it, he started playing his little games more and more.
From the day we brought him home from the hospital, he always, always slept through the night. A night or two after I talked to Rashida about all of this, was the first time he woke up wailing in the middle of the night. The sound was deafening, it was like he wasn’t screaming in his crib in the next room. It was like he was screaming right next to my head. I sat up, bolt straight, like I’d been jolted into action by electricity. Rashida was always such a light sleeper–complained about my snoring all the time. She hadn’t moved. She was laying there as sound as can be. The first time, I thought, well maybe she’s just tired. But the third or fourth time it happened that week, she didn’t budge either. One night when Boston started wailing, I decided to wake her up.
“Hey. I been doing this every night this week. It’s your turn.” I said. I was already starting to feel a throbbing behind my eyeballs as Boston screamed right into my ears from the other room, a sustained and breathless baby’s scream. He’d screamed like that for almost 2 minutes now without seeming to even gasp for a breath.
She looked at me in that sleepy way–confused and irritated by awakening.
“Go take care of the baby.” I told her and without thinking about it for too long, she begrudgingly got out of bed, slipped on her robe from the back of the closet door and trudged out of the room. She was back a moment later, now fully awake and fully enraged.
“Why?” She asked, “he’s sound asleep. Why did you wake me up?”
She dropped her robe and let it briefly pool around her ankles before stepping out of it and climbing back beneath the sheets. She was normally a back sleeper, but this time she rearranged her pillow and jerked her head along it until she’d found a comfortable position with her back facing me.
Thing was, Boston was still screaming in the other room and when I went to look, it was just like it’d been every other time that week. I’d open the door to his room and the screaming would stop, like it’d been sucked out of the room as soon as my foot crossed the threshold. What would be left would be the near deafening ring of complete silence.
And that’s when I’d go to the side of his crib and look inside and he’d just be staring up at me and not moving. Not even breathing. He was like a little dead corpse staring out from behind those icey blue irises and I could feel them cutting into me like a hundred icicle javelins.
After that he stopped doing it every night. It became something I would go to bed expecting and it wouldn’t happen for a few nights and I’d let my guard down and start to think that I was maybe imagining all of this; that I was being silly….well, that’s when he’d do it again. Gaslighting me, you see? Making me think maybe I was the crazy one. Sometimes a week of restful sleep and sometimes just two or three days. This whole time he was waking up and screaming only for me–Rashida couldn’t hear him and that’s why she’d slept through it all the nights before.
The way we planned this out, I was working and Rashida was taking her maternity leave from the hospital. Was supposed to be a full four months instead of just the 12 weeks that were covered because she was using some of her PTO. After that I was going to take my sabbatical from the restaurant for six weeks and we’d play it by ear. Sabbatical. Hah. That’s rich. A restaurant GM with vacation time and a once-every-five-years sabbatical. Do you remember shit like that? Insurance? Benefits?
Do you think I could get some more water? And one of those cigarettes you’ve got on you? Don’t look so surprised Officer Bennet.
Oh I’m sorry, Officer Barret. My mistake.
I’ve been craving one of them since you walked in the room. Smelled it on you. Do you think I could get one of them? Well I mean, I’m sure that’s just a thing they do on TV and there’s no smoking allowed in here. Make an exception. There’s more of this fuckin shit. I know I probably should have a lawyer here, but I don’t because I know what’s going to happen to me. I’m not gonna be in this room for much longer. A lawyer would take too long to get here and I gotta tell you what happened pretty fuckin fast, you see? I’m getting off from this. That’s what I think. And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe, like I said before, maybe things don’t happen the way I think they will and maybe there’ll be a trial. If that happens instead, whether I’ve got a lawyer or not doesn’t matter. They’ll lock me up forever. Throw away the key. You can break a smoking rule for this. I’m sitting here making you famous because I’m telling you all of this and all of this is the fuckin truth and I’ll live with the consequences of it after nobody fuckin believes me that I’m not crazy. That’s if I’m wrong anyway. I don’t think this is ever gonna see a trial, if I’m honest with you. So can I have one?
Thank you. Yea, I can wait for you to get back with the water to light me up.
Alright. Thank you. So what happened next? Oh I remember. Benefits. Cushy jobs. Hah! That’s fuckin rich now isn’t it? Like I said before, if you could go back with all the info you’ve got right now, right back to the beginning of this year, could you make use of it?
When the shutdown happened, my restaurant switched to To-Go’s. Who’s ordering a five-star steak dinner Officer Barret? Nobody, that’s who. This whole time, I’ve got all this stress at home and I’m worried about my business. It’s gonna fail like this and I don’t own the place. I’m the GM but I’m an employee. Good benefits, but it was a small business. Those guys own like 6 restaurants and they’re not chains. They’re all different. Ours was the only one not seeing any traffic. They start talking about laying me and my whole management team off for a little bit, having us go on unemployment and wait this out…but before they get a chance to make a final decision about that, about three or four weeks into trying to keep the place open and running…well… Well that’s when my wife comes to me and says she’d like it if I moved into the guest room downstairs. She says I’m acting real strange these past few months and she doesn’t know if she wants to keep being married. 10 fuckin years and suddenly she doesn’t know if she wants to keep being married? That’s insane. I’m fine. I was fine.
So I mean, everyone should have understood I was in the middle of going through some shit. I should have kept that job. My baby’s some kind of horrible netherbeast from the galaxy of Hell and my wife wants me to move downstairs so she doesn’t have to occupy the same space as me because she thinks I’ve lost my mind. So when the owner, Tom, comes in and starts asking me about the numbers, I lost it.
“What is happening here? All of the other restaurants are making all their bills fine. They’ve even brought a few hourlies back because they’re so busy. You guys did $300 yesterday. We’ve got to figure this out.” Tom says to me, right, and I’m just kind of looking at him with my jaw kind of slack because, of course… Who. The. Fuck. Is. Ordering. A $150 steak dinner for two. And coming across town to pick that shit up? Who is coming all the way across town to pick up lukewarm Wagyu Filets that have been sitting ready and waiting for 10 minutes, then taking that steak across town to their house to eat it cold?
He starts talking about shutting down and the layoffs. I was making $1400 every week. Unemployment is great to have but it’s not $1400. So I start suggesting any other thing I can think of and I’m trying to think of solutions but the only thoughts I’ve got is my fuckin demon child waking me up–even downstairs now, he sounds like he’s screaming directly into my skull. I’m thinking about how my wife made me move downstairs.
What comes out of my mouth is:
“We could run a deal–advertise or maybe cut back on some of the expenses. Like, for instance little things here and there, the water usage for the landscaping. Stuff like that..” I said. You’ll have what happens next in my record. The previous arrest.
“You want to kill my fuckin trees outside? The flowers? Do you have any idea how much the landscaping here costs? That big pine tree out front? That had to be brought in on a crane–fully grown. You’re talking about saving a couple hundred dollars a month and killing my goddamn trees? Jesus Fuckin Christ Nora, why don’t I just take $20,000 out of my checking account and light it on fire?”
That was when I punched him right in his face. Right in his nose. We’re both sitting in the office in a couple of rolling chairs having this discussion and I didn’t even stand up. I just slugged him right in his nose and his chair rocked back like it was going to flip him out of it. He just looked at me in shock for a moment, so I hit him again. I don’t really remember much after that second punch because I was seeing pure red. I didn’t quit until Chef Michael pulled me off of him. Rashida bailed me out after a few hours.
My life was unraveling and they were so flip about it that they called me the next morning and fired me over the phone, only it wasn’t Tom that called me–it was his husband John. I should have known really. Lesbians and Gays are like cats and dogs. We don’t really get along, but if we’re in the same house we’ll tolerate each other. I should have known before I ever started working for them that it was gonna come around to bite me.
After that, Rashida went back to work at her security job at the hospital and things began to get a lot worse.
She’d work overnight and I’d climb into the bed we used to share and cry myself to sleep. Then the baby would start screaming and I’d wake up. This had been going on for months pretty regularly of course, but when Rashida went back to work, the little monster started ramping things up. Making a whole stage production out of it.
We never closed the door to the nursery before, but I started to after he started doing the theatrical shit. I was over it.
I’d wake up to him screaming like usual, whether I was in my bed or hers, it didn’t matter. I’d find myself in the hallway upstairs and the floor would be swirling with mist. A slow pulsing redness illuminating it like some kind of deadly toxin rolling across the upstairs carpet. I’d look in on Boston and he’d stop crying as I entered the room. His eyes would cut into me like I was burning up and freezing at once and his whole body would be pulsing with red light, like a heartbeat.
It kept getting worse. One time he got the furnace going. Oh yea. I don’t know how, but he did. It’s the middle of summer, he’s screaming bloody murder and the house is 100 degrees. Sometimes he’d make the phones ring. Sometimes he still did that even after I’d unplugged all of them and turned off my cellphone too. I’d wake up and the call would be from ‘Unknown’ and I’d go to answer it but as soon as I swiped accept, the screen would go right to black, because I’d left the phone off.
That baby is the reason I’ve had such a bad year.
My grandmother had an unfinished basement too, you know. That’s how I knew you had to keep the dirt down there oiled. She used to do that. Keeps it from drying out and getting all dusty. You’ll find Rashida down there if your guys haven’t found her already. Northwest corner of the room.
I didn’t kill her. I found her. I just put her there after.
She started taking Boston into the bedroom with her when she came in from her overnight shifts. I thought it was weird of her. She’d worked a full 10, sometimes 12 hours and come home and take the baby into the bedroom with her at 7 am, knowing full well, he should be waking up in an hour or two. Of course he never did because by November he was back to screaming me awake every night and probably that fog coming out of his mouth and the pulsing and the dead ice stares really tired the poor guy out. Fuckin little shit.
I know why you guys showed up when you did. Her boss probably knew we were having trouble at home. When she didn’t come into work for the 4th day in a row, he called you for a wellness check or something? Am I right?
He killed her the morning after Christmas, which by the way was fuckin miserable. Rashida worked Christmas night and came home the next morning and took him to the bedroom with her. I was finally going to lay down and get some rest myself when he started screaming again.
I walked into the bedroom and he stopped right away like he always did, except this time he started laughing when I came in–it wasn’t a fuckin baby giggle neither. It was a full throated adult’s laugh. A man’s laugh.
The bed was wrapped in a layer of fog that was slowly pouring out of his throat and pooling on the sheets. I couldn’t see her through it but I knew she was there. Even before I made it to the side of the bed, I knew she’d be dead.
I had to part the mist away with my hands, like pulling back layers and layers of paper inside a gift bag.
Rashida lay in the bed next to our son, who’s laughter had completely subsided now. The room was filled with silence as thick as the fog that was slowly waterfalling down from the bedspread and swirling at my feet. I didn’t do anything for a little while. I just looked down at her. The blood was everywhere. I didn’t know there could be that much blood. The gash on her throat was so deep that you could see her windpipe. When you dig her up you’ll know it wasn’t me. Babies fingernails are sharp. He left a lot of marks on her. You’ll be able to match that up…took those little hands and just dug them right into her neck…but it doesn’t matter anyway. It’s all going to work out because I know what I did wrong and I’m going to own up to it.
I took her down to the cellar and buried her in the northwest corner. I had no idea what to do after that so I just went back upstairs and stood there looking at Boston as the mist swirled around him for a little while. Might have been five minutes. Might have been an hour. Neither of us moved for a long time. Just stared at each other.
The fog just kept pouring out of its mouth until the groaning started and the hands came out. Two fingers at first. Long and spindly like a pair of black twigs growing out from him. Then a whole hand. Then a second one–both with too many fingers crawling out of him like a set of tarantulas. The mouth wasn’t wide enough so the hands settled on his face–one on his skull and one on his jaw–and started to pull the lips wider and wider apart. There was a sound like something ripping through soggy cardboard. A sickening wet noise. Those arms came out further and ripped the rest of Boston’s head completely off and that thing started to climb out of the hole. Impossibly large. The arms. Then a head. Then a torso. Squeezing itself out of the baby like toothpaste from a tube. A little tube with arms and legs and no head. Boston’s jaw was completely disarticulated and laying on his tiny chest. It was still hanging on by the skin of his neck as it continued to rise and fall.
It was a dark shape with no defined features. When it had gotten itself out from what was left of the child completely, It filled the space between the ceiling and the floor–so tall it had to slope its head. That’s when I snapped out of it. I ran at it. I went to hit it. To kill it.
That’s why my knuckles are all bloody…
But I don’t remember hitting it at all. I must have. All I remember is waking up in the basement and chained to the wall. But that chain didn’t belong there. There was nothing like that down in our basement.
I remember I saw it down there in the dark just before you all came in and rescued me.
< It is worth noting at this time that this was not, in fact, the way that police found Nora Wallace at 9:23PM on December 31st 2020. Police had been called to perform a wellness check and when nobody answered the door, they began to do a cursory inspection of the perimeter of the property before leaving and returning to do a second visit the following morning. Nora Wallace was seen, unclearly, a shadow moving through a mist of red fog through a basement window. The officer who spotted her claimed that the fog seemed to be pouring out of her mouth as she moved in the darkness. She was found tamping the upturned earth down above where she’d buried her wife. When Rashida Brown was exhumed it was determined that she had begun decomposition several days earlier in a secondary location. The soil surrounding her body reflected very little of this decomposition suggesting that she had only been buried in the basement for a few hours, a day at most. >
< The child, Boston Wayne Brown-Wallace has not been found. >
If you had it all to do again, Officer Barret, the whole year–would you do it? Take everything you knew about 2020 back with you and start over. Would you do it?
I thought so. Me too.
Third time’s a charm I guess.
Is it midnight yet?
< Nora Wallace stops suddenly. A shocked look crosses her face and she begins to smile. She slowly lays her head down on the table and her mouth yawns open. A red mist begins pouring out from her and like a cautious animal, it slowly moves around the room until the floor is pooling with fog. The red light seems to pulse out from her chest. Seems to pulse through the fog as though it is something that has come to life. Officer Barret looks terrified but he can’t take his eyes away from her and he can’t move. >
< The fog reaches the table and slowly covers Nora. Every officer watching this through the two-way glass is understandably shocked and nobody moves until finally someone does. He moves so quickly it’s as though he’s been spurred into action by the starting gun of a race. >
< He throws the door of the interrogation room open and the fog drifts slowly out. >
< When it has cleared, Nora Wallace is gone. The shackles that bound her to the table lay empty. >
< The tape ends. >