Yes, a dead chicken. Maria couldn't believe her eyes.
Red ribbons, popcorn, and in the center of the box, there it was a headless bird.
She looked once and stormed to the bathroom to vomit. Chills ran through her body, and for some minutes, she felt captured by an immeasurable terror.
She would ordinarily blame morning sickness and her sensitivity to smells. But her eyes saw something that would make anyone's stomach turn that way.
After washing her face and cleaning the messy bathroom, she had a burst of courage and went back to her door. Inspecting from a distance, she thought: "Who could be so sick to send something like this?". It was a twisted way to start the morning. She took a big bag and put all the content of the box in. Before tossing it away, she examined it and couldn't find any name or address.
It was entirely normal for an expecting woman to receive unexpected gifts from family and friends; for this reason, she didn't doubt for one second her decision to open the package.
Maria was sure that receiving a dead animal at your front door wasn't a good omen. She had heard before about Voodoo, rituals, and black magic. It wasn't common in this neighborhood, but she certainly knew about it.
After reflecting for a while, she determined that the arrival of this gift was a mistake and nothing more.
Maria knew she didn't have enemies. She made numerous efforts all of her life to be cherished and respected. She donated goods, went to Church, respected her husband, and never used God's name in vain. She prayed every night before bed.
That same day, after these recent events, she felt her unborn child unsettled in her womb. She put her hand on her belly and caressed it, calming her baby and singing a Lullaby.
Very shortly, her eyes started getting tired, and she fell asleep for some hours. When she woke up, it was already the afternoon, and the sun had shifted from her living room to her bedroom window.
She was disoriented and soaked in sweat. As she walked to get water from the fridge, unbearable spasms invaded her. They were very sharp, like nothing she had previously felt. Streams of pain traversed her abdomen. Maria inhaled and exhaled deeply and fell on her knees.
A recent and very vivid dream came to her memory, one of those dreams you would like to forget: There it was a faceless woman, holding a beheaded chicken, laughter and drums in the background. In her vision, she stared at the woman straight in the eyes and saw a sinister flame. The whole scene resembled a trip to a slaughterhouse. She could recall seeing darkness and filth, bloody floors and unintelligible sounds, snakes squirming out of the stranger's mouth and within her opened legs.
A contraction brought her back to reality; she was not ready for this. She was only seven months pregnant. Maria needed to call someone, but helpless and unable to move, she screamed her guts out. The time had arrived: her child was coming to this world at this specific moment.
She ached, cursed, and yelled. Unexpectedly, her baby was born on the living room floor.
After her last push, she lost consciousness for some seconds, but immediately a spine-chilling lament seemed to call her. She stretched for her baby and cut the cord herself.
What she saw hurt her eyes and crushed her spirit: A creature. A four-legged being. It was her fault. She spawned a monster: Its hands with long sharp claws, entirely covered in hair from head to toes, an indescribable face, with a demonic expression. No eyes to see his mother's face and a mouth with teeth already shaped.
There was no time to lose. The young woman grabbed the strange creature and ran to the backyard. Taking the heaviest rock, With no repentance, she crushed its head. She perceived it as a curse. She acknowledged this wasn't a coincidence.
Digging without hesitation until she felt exhausted. After pausing a few minutes to catch her breath, she dropped the awful child in the hole and covered it. He was so ugly, not of this world. It wasn't a human soul and didn't deserve a Christian burial.
When she was almost finished, she heard someone shouting her name. Her endeared husband, the father of her only child, was there. He was staring at her. His car keys fell from his hands. With his mouth wide open, he stared at his wife. He knew something wasn't right.
Her dress was drenched in blood and mud, the same as her swollen face. Tears and dirt were running down her cheeks. The womb was gone, and there was a notorious fresh patch of soil next to her feet.
She attempted to explain, but every word spoken seemed senseless. She tried to stop her husband, but he pushed her away.
The man began excavating with his own bare hands. It didn't take long until he discovered what he speculated: It was a precious small boy, so fragile, with his skin bluish-white, soft golden hair covering his head that was fatally wounded. Frantically he tried to clean the body. He looked for a heartbeat. But there was no sound.
So delicate and tender, his grey eyes wide open, his little heart-shaped mouth, such a sweet baby.
He shouted and cried desperately while calling the police.
The ambulance and the officers didn't take too long to appear. They took Maria away. The entire community pointed at her as the murderer. They called her an animal, and they named her witch.
It was her curse, her child's life, and her sanity: they were her loss.
No one ever found the headless chicken or the box, neither did they find anything she described.
The young woman was isolated, enforced loneliness of, it's how they call it. A four-legged beast will come to visit her periodically. She hears claws that scratch on her small window and an inhuman cry calling for her. Night after night, she revives the same nightmare. As the sun goes down, those ghosts will arise.
It was a small town that turned into a big hell. The husband left, and no one ever heard about him again. Some people assume he disappeared in the depths of the big lake. Some others say he wandered the forest until finding his death.
The house remained unoccupied. Not a soul ventured to enter there. One night after a few years, the neighbours let it burn. They watched it in reticence until it was consumed totally by the flame.