#31 Night Terror

by Rachael Dunlop

The child is having a night terror again. He sits, he rocks, half-rises, falls back again. He calls out, Mummy, Mummy, Mama. He stands up in his bed. The woman, who has been watching from the far side of the room, comes and puts her hands on his shoulders. Lie down, she says, go back to sleep. He looks at her, but he doesn’t see her. Mummy, Mummy, Mama, he says, his face twisted as if he were crying, though his eyes are dry. He cheeks are damp with sweat, damp and pink. Lie down, the woman says. She looks at her hands where they are holding the child and she sees her mother’s hands. The skin is loose, the veins bulging blue, the pads of her fingers worn smooth by living. How did that happen? she wonders. How did time pass through my fingers so?

The child shrieks and wriggles out of her grasp. The woman sighs and retreats. Nothing to worry about, the doctor said, he’ll grow out of it. Maybe, she thinks, but still . . . a child that screams and kicks and looks through you with eyes full of rage. Rage he must have been born with, for where else would it come from?

Spent, at last, the child sleeps and the woman leaves him be. The man is waiting for her outside the room. Another one? he asks. The woman nods, then shakes her head. Sending this one back, she says. Send him back.

8 comments:

conboyhillfiction said...

So much foreboding in this, and her dull detachment is made more real, for me, by the lack of speech marks. That is a touch of sophistication that makes complexity deceptively simple.

Sam Knight said...

I was caught off guard by the last line. Up to that point I was right there with the mother, feeling that detachment we don't want to feel when dealing with something we have to. Then, I found her detachment was different than mine...

Jennifer S. Morris said...

It made me curious. Want to read more. Like the voice, the pace. Lascaux Flash...why this name?
Definately worth my time to read.

Jen Harvey said...

Funny I didn't read it as a mother watchingover her child. I thouhgt perhaps the childs was in an orphanage or was in foster care. Traumatised crying out for a mother that isn't there.

Quite ahaunting little tale this.

Shirley Golden said...

I agree, this is a haunting story. I like that it's not fully explained and left to the reader to decide the relationship. I thought it was perhaps an adopted child because of the comment that she didn't know where the rage had come from.

Rachael Dunlop said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

The story is deliberately ambiguous, although I had a certain interpretation in mind as I wrote it. I'm interested to see what people make of it!

Van demal said...

I like the way you don't stipulate any of the relationships in this. It poses more questions than it answers, which unsettles us and adds to the nervy tension

Teresa Stenson said...

Oof, very unsettling. Something supernatural about it.

Love the part about hands: 'Hiow did time pass through my fingers so?'

Is he an alien? Just the part about he must have been born with the rage, as if he doesn't have any parents. Alien or creation of some kind...

Great work.