(Not sure what this is. I wrote it one night after a strange thing happened in my house when my daughter was just a few months old. I might turn it into something more one day, but for now…it’s a short I wrote in the dark one night, a long time ago.)
by Caitlin Carrigan
“I appreciate your concern, but it’s actually a relief that he’s gone,” Maureen said, assuring her sister.
Karen had been prattling on for near to an hour and Maureen did her best to be patient. Since Kevin had walked out, leaving Maureen alone with her newborn daughter, many of Maureen’s concerned family members had been checking in and dropping by. She had appreciated it at first, but now, she simply wished they’d leave her be.
Maureen finished filling the dishwasher and pulled the phone away from her ear to listen to her daughter’s sudden rustling in the distant baby monitor. As usual, Lucy quickly calmed down.
“Are you there?” Karen called from the receiver. Maureen returned to the ongoing monologue on the phone.
“Yes, I’m here. But I can’t stay on the phone long. I need to get some sleep.”
Karen assured her she wouldn’t be much longer. The echo of Karen’s voice inspired hope as Maureen sat down in a dining room chair.
Let’s hope her cell phone is dying.
“Well, what are you going to do? You know? You need to think about these things. I mean, what happens if you get sick? I know you think about this stuff, but you need help. You can’t be in that big house by yourself with an infant,” Karen said.
“I’ve done alright thus far.” She crossed her fingers quietly on the arm of the chair. Please, go through a tunnel. “Where are you?”
“Lying in bed,” Karen said, her voice amplified by the interference.
“And you’re calling from your cell phone? You must be nuts.”
The crackle of the phone was grating her nerves almost as much as Karen’s voice. She checked the battery reading on the portable; full charge.
What is that noise?
“No. I’m calling on the home phone,” Karen said and started up again. The connection was crisp now and Maureen sighed, her eyes drooping.
“Yes she is. The best thing that ever happened to me,” Maureen said, the same response to any mention of Lucy.
“I was just agreeing with what you said.”
“So, you do miss him?”
“What?” Maureen stopped at the thought, lost to how her sister would have come to such a conclusion. “No. He wasn’t ever really here. Since before she was even born really.”
“Then why do you say he’s the best thing that ever happened to you?”
Maureen chuckled as she fought to keep her eyes open, drowning out the sound of her sister’s voice with thoughts of the Mary Pickford film she’d watched the night before and the billowing white of some clouds overhead in an almost dream. She could hear Karen laughing and realized she’d nearly dozed off.
“Not a thing. Were you even listening?”
“Yes,” Maureen tried to cover. “I’m just very tired.”
“I said What are you going to do if there’s another incident?” Karen asked.
End the call, Mo. Just end it.
“Oh, I probably just imagined that. . . ” Maureen stopped. The laughter returned.
“Did you ever find out what it was?”
Maureen focused on the sound.
“Do you hear that, Karen?”
“The echo. It sounds like someone is talking and laughing over you. She’s . . . ” The sound was low and distant, but with Karen quiet for the first time in an hour Maureen realized her error. The sound wasn’t coming from the phone. She waited for it to return.
“Good baby,” the voice said.
“No, I don’t hear anything.”
“Shut up, Karen!”
Maureen got up and headed across the kitchen to the living room door. The house was quiet. Maureen waited for a moment with the phone now held away from her ear. A low whine rose from the baby monitor, followed by a rustle. Maureen sighed in relief as she returned to the phone.
“Perfect. You bring it up and I start hearing voices,” Maureen said, laughing.
“Do you need me to come over?”
Maureen collapsed against the door jam watching the red lights on the monitor as they rose and fell with her daughter’s tossing. The sounds quickly subsided and the monitor went still.
“No. Look, Karen. I’m about to pass out. Can I talk to you tomorrow?” Maureen finally asked. Karen humored the idea momentarily, then continued to talk. Maureen turned back for the kitchen, still planning to hang up the phone.
Maureen spun around to face the living room, all doubt gone. The only sound was her sister’s voice, muffled in the receiver. She held the phone at her side, waited and watched, listening for another word she hoped wouldn’t come.
The monitor burst into red light.
Maureen took off down the hall. She rounded the stairs with the phone still in hand, her heart pounding in her chest. Someone was in the house, with Lucy. She reached the top of the stairs and heard the voice again, this time from the room above as well as the monitor below.
“Good, good baby.”
She hurled herself into her bedroom door, bursting into the quiet room. A dark figure, silhouetted against the drawn blinds was there, standing over the bassinet. Maureen froze at the sight. The figure began to turn, slowly. She didn’t want to see. Maureen clenched her fist around the portable phone and as the dark face rounded toward her, Maureen threw it at the figure.
“Get out of my house!” Maureen screamed. The room filled with an ear piercing wail. Her body seized in fright as she searched for the source of the sound. Lucy was screaming. The figure was gone.
“Oh sweety, Mummy’s sorry. It’s all right,” Maureen said as she approached the bassinet. The blankets were tucked tightly around the baby. Maureen pulled them away unnerved. She hadn’t tucked Lucy in. She lifted the screaming infant and began to bounce her there in the dark. Lucy gasped over and over, trying to catch her breath. With a low hush, Maureen fought to still her shaking voice and soothe her traumatized daughter. Beneath Lucy’s subsiding wails, Maureen heard a low voice calling her name from the corner of the room. She realized Karen was still on the phone. Maureen leaned down and grabbed the receiver.
“Karen. It happened again.”