It is often said that a nice, bellyful of supper and a comfortable chair by the mantelpiece is all that is needed for bliss. Well, Victoria would’ve told you that night that nothing was farther than the truth.
She was in an uncared, not-looked-after condition. She had not changed her dress from the past five days, not bathed after that horrible incident five days ago, and was not even in the mood, or consciousness, to even brush her teeth. In fact, she had disconnected herself from the world so much so that apart from her own voice, no, she’d not even heard her own voice from the past five days, she had not heard even a single voice.
But food, no, she would not take a chance there… no, she would not; she thought… maybe there be a glimmer of hope yet…
And then she heard it, the carefree innocent laughter of a child, of a baby. It echoed throughout the house, the laughter.
A moment of bliss came on her face, then of panic, and then she was puzzled. She looked here and there, once at her stomach, searching for her baby, but she could not find it, and then, the laughter slowly died away.
She took a deep breath, and then, let go. She sighed after a moment or two, then stood up and went towards the window.
It was a starless, cloudy night, one of those night imbued with dread and loneliness. May there be a better night in Vietnam tonight, she wished!
She yawned, for the umpteenth time today.
She walked back to her bedroom, passing through that same corridor that had witnessed the horrible scene some days ago. And that drawer.
She opened the door to her bedroom, and it creaked open. Inside was a mess with half-torn posters of babies with their families, and of the US Army on the wall, and spots of red paint, yes, red paint, she insisted, near that suitcase. But everything else, it was in a fine state, yes, it was.
She went in front of the mirror.
The woman looking back at her was skinny and malnourished, with dry lips and blistered skin. Her eyes were red and below them were dark spots. In fact, her eyes pained but to her, anything after what happened to her five days ago would appear to be sweet pain. After that thing five days ago, she had had less than ten hours of sleep.
Her gown was red, due to red paint, she insisted, around her thighs. Her stomach was flat, another thing that was different.
Reluctantly, she went to bed and tried to sleep. But she didn’t want to sleep, no, she didn’t; she didn’t want to dream again.
And then, the laughter of the child came back, sadistic and cruel, but strangely, or maybe not so strangely when considered in the light of recent events, it was like a lullaby to her, and she went to sleep.
But sleep not came alone often, and with it came nightmares. But, ah! Victoria was lucky tonight, indeed very lucky.
Not nightmares, but images of her and her husband came to her mind, those moments of bliss, and then she felt very comfortable.
Now, they were fishing in the lake behind their house, now they were decorating their house for New Year Eve, for New Year only, mind you, not Christmas, and many more such images.
And then, an image came in her sleep that never happened. Against her breast gently she had hugged her baby, and her husband was playing with it.
Then came other images.
In one, her husband was drowning a child; then another in which her husband was throwing a child; and now he was dropping one mercilessly from a great height; and other such grotesque images.
Now the image of her baby and her husband and her came back, but with a difference. Instead of playing with his child, her husband was choking its throat, and the child was crying and wailing in pain, and she was laughing and giggling in pleasure –
– and then she woke up.
The wailing and crying was still there, alternating between that of her baby and her husband.
She didn’t want to hear the cries, no, she didn’t; the cries, they were torturing her, tormenting her, for, for the crime she had done five days ago.
In desperation, she opened the bedside cabinet, searching for cotton… the cries, they were killing her, slowly and surely… and then in the cabinet, she found… a bible…
She flung it across the room with ferocity people save for their bitterest foes. She began crying. She wished her husband and her child would be with her now.
Mind, she wished, only wished, for she never prayed.
From her childhood, she bore a venomous hate for God, since what he gave to others, he always declined her. Then, when she found her husband, or, rather, when he found her, she got a little faith.
But after that incident five days ago, she knew she’d never believe in God again, never.
One can only be good or one can only be powerful, and God was no exception; God could only be good or could only be powerful, and she believed the latter.
God was powerful. And Satan himself.
Cries, the cries never stopped, but only got louder and louder. Ah! It was bliss when she found the cotton; swiftly, she inserted them inside her ears but the cries, the cries never stopped.
In frustration, she started flinging things across the room, she needed to, to control her anger and desolation. She wanted to keep flinging things and never stop, as she knew, the moment she will stop, start will the cries haunting her.
Once, she was even about to fling the suitcase under the bed.
She’d kept it there five days ago.
Controlling her natural instinct, she stopped. Yes, she stopped, and when she did look at the suitcase, motherly feelings began to envelop her.
And just then, the cries of her baby sounded louder and nearer.
Her hands shaking and tears escaping, she pushed the suitcase back under the bed. The suitcase was smeared with red paint, only red paint, yes, red paint, she insisted.
She started looking about again looking for anything that she could throw, she needed to. Her hands found a photo-frame, one of her husband.
She looked at the photo-frame and smiled, and caressed it, as if she was caressing her husband, and then she remembered his sin, and then his words came back, “I can’t tell you, Victoria! Because of me, many children, even little babies have died and many more will die in the future generations. And even more will be stillborn…“
…she screamed, “Don’t say that word, don’t! You killed our child, you killed our baby! Or maybe I killed our baby, maybe I did! Yes, maybe, I did!” She screamed, in confusion, not even realizing it were the first words she had spoken in the last five days, “Who killed our baby, who killed?”
She flung the photo-frame across the room, and in the process, she cut herself. Drops of that thing fell, no, not that; yes, drops of red paint fell, yes, red paint, she insisted.
A look of satisfaction came on her face when she realized that the cries had gradually died away. And then she felt cold, very cold. The fire in the living room must have burned out.
She took the lantern hanging in the room, now the only light in the entire house, and went to the living room, trying not to see the drawer in the corridor and remember that incident.
She opened the door and went towards the mantelpiece. She looked around in the back of the living room, but there was no firewood left. She will have to pass the night like this, she realized.
She turned back towards the door, but her feet fell on some paper. She bent to look at the paper –
– and horrified, she stood up, stiff.
It was that newspaper of five days ago.
The headline was “US SOLDIERS DIED AGAIN: A LIST OF OUR PATRIOTS” and the sub-heading was “US Army Chemically Defoliates Vietnam Again”.
Someone apparently had wiped their hands with it, hands dipped in red paint, yes, red paint, she insisted.
The cries of her baby started again, asking for mercy.. She ran from the room, from the cries. But the cries followed her too. She ran through the corridor, stumbling at that drawer, and then she opened the door to her bedroom, but her eyes fell on the suitcase, and she pulled the door close.
But the voices, they were coming nearer, very near. She wanted to escape, escape from the cries.
She entered the bathroom and pushed the door shut.
For a minute or two, she just stood there patiently, waiting for the cries to come haunt her. But they came not.
By the shower, she hanged the lantern. It made a very gloomy environment, casting in the bathroom dim light and dark shadows.
Drip! Drip! Drip!
Water fell from the tap into the bathtub and the sound scared her, making her remember the fourteen hours of hearing in silence the tick-tock of the clock.
She went and closed the tap, and then, drained the bathtub.
Suddenly, the lantern started flickering, without any wind or other kind of disturbances. She went towards the lantern, but just as she arrived near it, it turned back normal.
And then she heard…
… Drip! Drip! Drip!
She turned around and she saw that the tap was not fully closed. But then, the bathtub was full, nearly to the brink.
Slowly, the water started turning red, and soon, it was red, red like that thing, like red paint, she insisted.
And then came bubbles, and out came from inside, a baby. A dead, dipped in red paint, yes, red paint, she insisted, baby. It floated in the water.
There was also something cylindrical, red and long inside the bathtub, and then, she noticed, it was connected to the baby. And then, she realized, it was the umbilical cord.
And it was not a baby. It was a foetus, an unborn baby.
Her unborn baby.
She went forward to pick it up and hold it against her breast, but just as her hands were about to reach her baby, there came a voice, “This is your baby, isn’t it? Ah! So cute it is! My baby also was, at least five days ago.”
In the darkest corner of the bathroom, legs against her body and arms spread around them, maybe to conceal her stomach, sat a woman.
The woman looking back at her was skinny and malnourished, with dry lips and blistered skin. Her eyes were red and below them were dark spots. Her gown was red around her thighs.
Her stomach kept transitioning, now it was flat, then it turned round and now again, it was flat, and on and on it went. Whenever her stomach was flat, her foetus cried and whenever it was round, her baby laughed. Now it was round, and the baby laughed.
Victoria was terrified; she tried, in a desperate attempt, to run away from the bathroom, but the open wouldn’t open; it wouldn’t.
“Don’t go away, please don’t!” She pleaded. “Please, talk to me, please! I haven’t heard a single voice from five days; I need to talk to someone!” She wept, “Please don’t go!”
Victoria stopped, but in fear, she sat against the door only, not venturing any further. Her stomach was now flat and the baby cried.
The woman kept requesting, “Let us talk, let us! Please! Say something to me! Say something!”
Victoria tried to speak but not a single word came out of her mouth.
She shuddered with fear.
The woman shouted, “Say something!” Her stomach turned round, and her dead unborn baby started laughing.
Victoria started crying, those silent tears she had lately become so familiar with, but still not a word came out. It was like she had lost her ability to speak.
“You won’t speak, won’t you? But we have another option: See, there is red paint on your baby, write with it on the wall! Yes, do it! We will talk like this!” She screamed, “Now do it!” Her stomach turned flat, and the baby started crying.
Victoria at first daren’t move, but when the woman stared at her, she knew she really had no other option.
Slowly, Victoria stood up. Her legs felt numb but she kept walking.
Her hands shuddering, she touched her baby and the red paint, yes, red paint, she insisted, on it.
“Mother!” It spoke, without moving its mouth and then it started crying again.
Victoria broke down. Her child! It called her “Mother!” Yes, it did! Or maybe it didn’t, and its dead, and she is thinking all this!
Victoria felt weak and very, very vulnerable.
“Do it!” The woman shouted.
Her hands shaking, Victoria scribbled on the wall a question she thought she already knew:
**WHO ARE YOU?**
The woman laughed, a bitter note in her voice. “I am a woman, never-a-daughter, once-a-wife, surely-a-widow and half-a-mother. Now ask me more,” she shouted, “ask me!”
She touched the baby again. It spoke “Mother!” and cried. Victoria scribbled, the words barely recognizable by her shuddering hands:
**TELL ME ABOUT YOUR LIFE.**
“My life! Really?” She mused, “Well, nobody has asked me about my life before!” She was lost for words, “Well, I… I was an… an orphan, one of those pests who unnecessarily crowd the world, a begot of World War II… and as expected, I lived a downtrodden life… people, they used for their pleasure whenever they wanted, gave me a penny or two and then moved on… that was, that was until he found me… a victim during one of those operations… he cared for me and saved me… and foolishly… foolishly fell in love with me… we married, and, and then we bought a home in the woods, a place amongst nature… and then, we lived, happily thereafter… soon, we were expecting a child… that, that was my life… after that, everything was a nightmare…”
She went quiet.
The baby cried. Victoria noticed, it had her nose and ears, but apart from that, every feature of it was like her husband.
The woman started again, “the nightmare, it reached its climax five days ago. It truly did.” Her stomach turned round, and the baby started laughing.
“My stomach, yes, it was round then, and I remember, I wore the same gown then also. The time, it was morning, and I was reading the newspaper. And then, there came a knocking at the house-door, so taking the newspaper with me, I went and opened the door.
“The postman was there, and he told me I had a letter from Vietnam, and apologized that the letter was stuck in the international exchange office for nearly eight months. I took the letter and seeing that it was from my husband, I excitedly began reading it in the corridor only.”
The woman sighed, and her stomach turned flat, and the cries ensued.
“I still remember every single word of that letter.
*I hope you are well, and our baby as well. You two are the reason I everyday go on with the brutal killings.*
*Victoria, I wanted not to divulge it to you, but I felt that I needed it. It’s the only day I will feel free of guilt.
We are killing children.*
*Yes, this is war, I know. But killing children? And it even looks like this war will never end! And the killings too! War, hah! You know, war never changes but those who are at war do! There are hundreds of hundreds people here but I feel desolate, broken, as if, as if I’m just a machine, or maybe, after thinking again, a pig to be butchered. It is dreadful here, Victoria, dreadful. Okay, so I will not drift off the confession:*
*I can’t tell you, Victoria! Because of me, many children, even little babies have died and many more will die in the future generations. And even more will be stillborn and many will be born with deformities beyond our imagination.*
*It is a sin we are doing here, Victoria, a sin! Many a times I have faced death-like situations thinking that my sin is about to be paid for! But I now realize that it will not be that simple.*
*Oh, Victoria! Those children I have killed, I hope nothing happens to our child! May it will not have to pay for my sins. And…*
“Well, I was so emotionally drained by this letter that I wanted to read it not any further. In fear, I dropped the newspaper and hugged my child. My child, my sweet, innocent baby, may nothing happen to you, I wished!
“Then came another knock. I went out. The postman had another letter for me which he had forgotten to give me. This one was from the US Administration, and it had come through urgent service.
“My hands shaking, I opened it as soon as I closed the door. The letter was dated yesterday only. I skipped the signatures and addresses and all that, and read it.
*We would like to tell you, with our utmost sympathies and a promise of revenge that their future generations will shudder to think of, that yesterday, the communist forces attacked one of our bases. And unfortunately, your husband was in that base at the time.*
“I started crying. That letter from him, the sin, our child, and now this; I was deeply convoluted. I felt a little pain in my stomach, but that was normal. I continued reading, albeit with difficulty and watery eyes.
*Many of our soldiers escaped, yet many more died. We don’t have any information of your husband yet, but his comrades told us about a V—shaped locked he wore, and that locket, we found it near a dead soldier whose face had become disfigured beyond recognition.*
“My hands shook. I kept reading, wanting to hold my husband in my arms and never let him go.
*Of course, that doesn’t mean anything. But if in tomorrow’s newspaper, you find more of your husband’s belongings listed, then you can be, with our utmost sympathies again, sure that your husband is dead.*
“My whole body shuddered, and I felt lonely, scared and desolate. My body had gone numb yet I ran towards the newspaper I had dropped in the corridor. I cried, I shouted and I ran…
“…until my stomach accidently hit the drawer in the corridor.
“I fell and as soon as I did, I felt pain, pain as if someone was burning me from the insides. I could feel something contracting and relaxing rhythmically inside me. Ah! The pain, it hurts to even think about it.
“I was writhing in pain, yet I crawled towards the newspaper.
“By the time I reached the newspaper, I had lost my ability to talk. In fact, tears slipped continuously from my eyes but no cries did.
“I read the newspaper.
“My husband had died.
“And then, I laughed, I laughed like a raving lunatic, using any energy I had left.
“Then, I lied down, submitting myself to the contractions and relaxations. They kept increasing in intensity, and with them increased the pain.
“I wasn’t able to move, I couldn’t see properly, and I breathed heavily, and my insides heaved and heaved with excruciating pain. The pain I bore was unbearable, but still I bore it.
“And why shouldn’t have I bore it? Can’t I bear a little pain for my baby, for our baby? I imagined then how will I play with him or how will I dress her, and all such things.
“Thirteen hours passed like this, each worse than the previous. I felt thirst but I couldn’t drink. I felt hunger, but I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t move.
“And then it happened.
“A head appeared, and I felt bliss, the bliss only mothers can feel, and then, after an hour or so, the full body came out. My baby came out.
“My stillborn baby.
“I couldn’t believe it. I screamed. I don’t remember how long I screamed, but it was in pure agony, the agony only mothers can feel.
“When I was able to move, I held my baby and hugged it and kissed it. But then, remembering what it was, I felt scared. I wanted to go far from it, not to see it forever.
“It hurt a lot, but I did it; I cut the umbilical cord with my hands. And then, my hands were red. Horrified, I wiped them with the newspaper, but they were still red.
“And that thing beside me, I wanted to throw it, to not see it forever. I looked around, but I could not find anything to keep it in, apart from that drawer, of course, but I would not put it there. Never.
“I carried it with my shaking hands to the bedroom and then inside a suitcase, I put it in and pushed the suitcase inside the bed.
“There was still that newspaper so I threw it far from my eyes in the back of the living room. And then, I limped inside the bathroom, and cried there the whole day.
“Now, anything else you’d like to ask,” she finished. Her stomach turned flat and her foetus began crying.
Victoria knew she’d have to ask something; otherwise that woman will get angry. So, using her baby’s red paint, yes, red paint only, she insisted, “Mother!” it spoke, she wrote on the wall:
**YOUR HUSBAND, YOU HEARD ANYTHING ABOUT HIM SINCE?**
The woman laughed, “No, I didn’t; but, look there, your child wants to say something!” And she began laughing, a laugh that never stopped the whole time.
Victoria looked at the child. It kept growing, and its nose and ears changed into that of her husband’s, and it grew still, and… and then, it was her… her husband in the bathtub.
He stood up and held Victoria by her shoulders in fear, and confided, “They’re coming, Victoria! They’re coming to kill me! And nothing can protect me, Victoria, nothing; I’m going to be butchered!”
And, soon they came.
Little, deformed babies emerged out of the bathtub. There came dozens of them, hundreds of them, and they snapped at her husband, and he screamed, and Victoria cried, and the woman laughed.
The little deformities began to choke him, began to thrust their fingers inside his mouth and did other gruesome things.
“You killed us! You killed us before we were even born!” They cried, the deformities, taking pleasure as they slowly killed him, strangled him and butchered him, like a pig.
Victoria fainted and when she woke up, there was no one inside the bathroom. The lantern was still hanging by the shower, and the things she had scribbled on the wall was still there, and the bathtub was still full, red, and then, red paint was everywhere, yes, red paint was everywhere, she insisted.
She was sitting exactly where that woman was sitting. Her stomach was flat…
…and she screamed in pain. Her stomach pained and churned and pained, and soon, it turned dry, parched-like even.
And then she felt that something was trying to come out from inside her; and soon tearing her stomach open, came out a hand. Then, there came the other hand, the head, and the rest of the body.
It crawled towards her. With its little hands, it choked her throat, and she wanted to move, to defend herself, but she didn’t had any energy left.
Its nose and ears were just like her, and it was covered in red paint, yes, red paint, she insisted.
So, how was the story? Comment below and let me know.
To read the first chapter of my science-fiction “The Lost and The Damned”, click here (read it, it’s awesome, or so does I suppose).
To know about the blogger, click here.
Like my Facebook Page, or subscribe to our newsletter by sign up form (scroll down, or look at the left of the page; it’s either at one of the two places).