22 comments

Fiction Contemporary Drama

A breeze creeps through the attic door like a cautious thief and makes its way to a mobile containing an elephant, two giraffes, a hippo and a posse of three monkeys. The mysterious gust sets the parade of species in gentle motion while the victorian-style nursery decor that surrounded remains ominous and without life. A dreamy realm blanketed by a monochrome facade of shapes that would appear bright and animate whence daybreak came. 

The monkeys are his favorite, even during the unfamiliar hours he often woke. They jump side by side in an alternating synchronism which makes them appear to be the happiest of the animals. The hippo and elephant are both bulky and sluggish while the giraffes seem extraterrestrial and awkward. They breathe through a gust that sets them in slow logarithmic acceleration and the hypnotic familiarity of their dance guides the child beyond this world and into another. 

He watches them with attentive dismissal of dark shadows gathering around a glistening night-light plugged in somewhere beyond the parallel bars stretching upward beyond his feet. The unlit sea beyond the penetrating rays of light is where the horror comes from. In a state of fear he concentrates on the monkeys above, moving with expectant precision. 

The child’s mother lies bull-legged on a recliner downstairs staring into the bottom of a glimmering bottle filled with clear liquid. Through the glass she drowns her woes with jaded visions of television drama, talk shows and soap operas. Sometimes the AM radio would murmur the voices of tent preachers, their voices barely recognizable through oscillating static. The toxic fluid burns as it goes down bringing tears to her eyes and she never remembers what she sees or what she does as the late night hours pass with the tick tock of an old grandfather clock. Time passes absent of her existence and she’s too selfish to care.

An antique framed mirror creaks with an echoing pop when a breeze causes a startling chill to dash through her numb peripheral nervous system. Without prior cognition of danger or awareness, she experiences a sudden panic from the memories before the birth of her son. The apparition of a man’s open hand triggers sudden stress and she takes another swig to forget.

Momma squeezes her eyes shut and feels more than a tickle from the passing breeze starting at her right foot. Next, she perceives the location of a small creature on her leg, tripping and desperately clinging to the skin above her knee cap. Its movements are jagged and unpredictable just like her thoughts. She stares at the small entity making its way up her limb in a drunken haze. The thing is black and glossy and, while she knows nothing of its purpose for taking residence on her aging skin, she experiences a floodgate of authentic terror. 

The bottle drops from her hand and she screams and flails about in the reclining chair. The nightstand is surrounded by shattered glass and she aimlessly falls to the ground slobbering and drooling over newly bloodied hands that were sliced by broken shards. Her wails and moans and cries echo into the nursery and her son feels her pain and begins to cry too. As the monkeys trail behind a plump hippopotamus he helplessly listens to momma. 

She remembers not knowing if she was awake or asleep after his father was sentenced. The abusive man would never again see his son and she was going to make sure of it even if she didn’t know how. The boy would never know what his father had done to her, but he did know when momma was in pain. He knows that he needs her now because he is hurting too. His cries escalate to a cacophony of terror.

Momma crawls his way because she’s too drunk to stand. On any other night she would have passed out in her chair until the depressing sanity of dawn forced her to wake and feed her son. Blood stains the carpet and nearly matches the spilt wine splatters trailing up to her son’s room. Every time she enters the nursery she thinks of that man and what he’d done to her. As she lies beside the crib, unable to pull herself up, it’s as if reality itself pauses.

As he wails at the top of his lungs, thrashing about with every bit of strength he has, time and place dissolve in an aqueous solution of fear. The fragmented recollection combining sharp pain, aberrant fright and helpless trepidation are the last echoing memories of the boy’s father. Now, it is just momma and the pungent vodka breath that any child who has been through hell knows well. 

Momma lies crying but she’s touched by God to rise. Bloody hands grab the wood lattice crib slats and like Noah rising from the trauma of the flood she wobbles on her feet observing her desperate child. Beyond the oblivion of her evocation, somewhere in the abyss, there was a path leading up. At first she’s too shaken by the morbid memories to touch her son, but instantly she’s too awe-struck by his innocence to leave him be.

She wipes her hands on a gnawed pair of pajama pants and picks him up. His cold skin on her arms makes her weep more. She holds him as she wobbles and trembles but he stops crying. Sunlight begins to creep into the haunted house and plants itself like a weed of hope. 

“It’s okay, Dante. Shhhhh. There, there, now. Momma is here.” The child has his same eyes. She swallows the fear. “I’m trying son, I’m really trying. But. I. Don’t. Know. How. To,” she says as if the wind is knocked out of her. “…to make this okay.” His bright eyes shed innocence upon her guilt and shame. “If you remember this as bad, at least you won’t remember him.” 

Blood leaks on his chubby arms as she squeezes him tight. The night passes like a glitch in the fabric of time. He lays back in his crib as the animals turn above him on an angelic halo that bounces and moves around and around. He will always remember momma’s pain. In the sobering hours that follow, momma prays he never remembers like she will. 

November 14, 2021 19:37

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22 comments

Olivia Jackson
17:42 Dec 28, 2021

Love the contrast of the characters...innocence versus experience...beautiful pain. Excellent writing...

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Dustin Gillham
21:02 Dec 28, 2021

Thank you so much Olivia. I'm grateful you took the time to read and comment on my work. Please read future submissions. I'm doing all I can to stretch myself and improve little by little. Blessings. Happy New Year.

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Howard Seeley
04:49 Nov 27, 2021

Great effort. Keep up the good work!

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Dustin Gillham
19:23 Nov 28, 2021

Thank you so much for your encouragement Howard.

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Howard Seeley
21:30 Nov 28, 2021

Too few comments for the work we put in. I, for one, am trying to remedy the problem. I appreciate all of what you do, to include all the other participators on this site.

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Dustin Gillham
23:01 Nov 28, 2021

And I so much appreciate you as well. Being a writer where we are I believe is a thankless job. We labor to paint stories with words looking to the greats that paved the way before us. If I only wrote as much as I read I might make a career of it, I often think. Howard, I want you to know that you are an amazing writer. From your first submission the Mask you kindly describe much of life and the struggle in between. Thank you for being such an amazing painter of words.

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Mary Fitzgerald
13:07 Nov 26, 2021

I couldn't stop reading this story. I loved your vivid descriptions of "momma" and I loved how you showed her thought processes and the pure agony she is going through. Very descriptive and riveting!

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Dustin Gillham
19:24 Nov 28, 2021

Thank you so much Mary! I am honored by your compliment and grateful for your encouragement.

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Lin Macredie
13:06 Nov 26, 2021

I love that you didn't go for the Hollywood ending of "She runs to the nearest AA meeting and her son was elected president. " The struggle continues and years of damage don't get fixed in Dr. Phil time. Nicely done.

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Dustin Gillham
19:26 Nov 28, 2021

Thank you so much Lin. Your comment is spot on! Thank you for reading my story. It means a lot to me. Blessings, Dustin

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Jessie Hartness
04:04 Nov 24, 2021

"The toxic fluid burns as it goes down bringing tears to her eyes and she never remembers what she sees or what she does as the late night hours pass with the tick tock of an old grandfather clock." I really enjoyed this sentence, among many others. This story was heart-wrenching and beautiful. Very well done!

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Mariah Cheng
19:22 Nov 20, 2021

You really paint quite a picture, Dustin. Well done!

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Dustin Gillham
20:17 Nov 20, 2021

Mariah, Thank you for taking the time to read my story. It means a lot to me what you said.

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Graham Kinross
10:53 Nov 17, 2021

That was a sad window into too many realities. Had me gripped like a horror movie, I was worried glass in her hands would cut the baby.

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Dustin Gillham
00:30 Nov 18, 2021

Thank you so much Graham for reading 'Momma's Pain'. I know it sat a little heavy. Maybe my mood when I wrote it! Anyways, going to have to work on something lighter for my next prompt. I'm humbled you took the time to read it. Blessings, Dustin

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Francis Daisy
11:21 Nov 16, 2021

Chilling, yet so realistic.

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Dustin Gillham
19:21 Nov 16, 2021

Thank you Francis.

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Francis Daisy
22:25 Nov 16, 2021

You're welcome

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Curt O'neill
12:21 Nov 15, 2021

Very evocative portrayal of lingering trauma. "Beyond the oblivion of her evocation" is a delightful phrasing!

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Dustin Gillham
23:35 Nov 15, 2021

Thank you Curt for reading my work. I'm humbled anytime someone takes the time. I hope to hear more from you soon. Blessings, Dustin

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Kevin B
19:47 Nov 23, 2021

Your comment on my story reminded me to come look at this one and I'm so glad I did! This is so vivid and exquisite. Beautiful job.

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