This story is by Janet Leigh Green and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Maddie Stern focused on the single thought that ripped through her brain; she was running out of time. She needed to get to her daughter before her step-father hurt her baby, the way he hurt her. Confusion poked at the edges of her subconscious, but she pushed it away. Only one thing mattered, saving her child.
Searing pain pierced her head. “Aaghh. Oh God.” She pressed her fingers to her temples and squeezed her eyes shut. Visions flashed behind her eyelids, like pictures from an old projector; they flipped by faster and faster. She concentrated on each image, and fit them together in her mind, as she would a jigsaw puzzle.
“Oh no, oh no. No, no, no…” She raced out of the house to her red sports car. She dug into her pocket, produced a key and fit it into the lock. Relief flooded through her as she sunk into the soft leather of the bucket seat. “Now I can find you, baby, no more waiting at home for the phone to ring. I know where you are, they don’t know anything. They don’t know what it’s like do they baby?” She said as she pulled out of the driveway.
Head fuzzy and aching; she maneuvered the sleek car through the street, determination etched on her face, joining the deep creases of stress, worry and lack of sleep. Her once beautiful face lost its shine over the last few days. Too much time passed, and no one heard her when she told them about Paul. The image of an hourglass filled her mind; the sand seeped through the little hole at an alarming rate, she needed to hurry.
Maddie’s heart pounded in her ears as she sped through the streets of her childhood. Dread filled her soul at the thought of losing her daughter. She thought of how Silvie’s angelic face came through in her visions, tears streaked her cheeks, leaving trails of pink skin through caked on dirt. Silvie’s blonde ringlets, now dark and matted to her sweet head.
Her daughter’s face morphed into her own at the same age, the differences so minor, an outsider would miss the way Silvie had a small little button nose, and Maddie’s nostrils flared. Maddie and her daughter were the same. Silvie was indeed her mini-me in every sense of the word, and her heart broke for her daughter.
“No,” She shook off the visions of her little girl. “Don’t panic, focus on where she is.” She admonished. She brought forth the visions again, but this time, she tried to remember everything except her daughter. Maddie began having visions when her stepfather started coming into her room, she needed an escape, and the visions were her saving grace. Now, her daughter needed her to rely on that same lifeline.
Paul Duncan had the devil’s blood running through his veins. Her mother married him at a low point in her life, and stayed with him until she died. Maddie thought the nightmare was over when she left home. Now, if the visions were right, and they always are, the nightmare escalated far worse than she could have imagined. This time, Paul had her daughter. Maddie knew Paul’s M.O., he played with his victims first, but she didn’t know how long he’d had her in that hell hole. Her one sliver of hope lay in the fact that the visions were premonitions, and her baby was still alive; but not for long.
Through the years after her mother’s death, Maddie learned just how black her stepfather’s soul was, and knew her mother was the only reason she still breathed.
Racing through the streets, she focused on the visions and tried to match them to her surroundings as she drove. She felt her head begin to throb, then the familiar pain sliced through her head. “Oh God! Owww.” She muttered, steering the car to the road’s shoulder, just as the vision overtook her.
She slammed the car into park and leaned over the steering wheel, hands pressed hard against her temples to dampen the pain. Pictures filled her mind once more, green leaves of a big oak tree glistened in the sunlight, and swayed in the soft breeze. Maddie knew that tree, it stood in front of her grandmother’s house. The tree faded into mist, and the basement appeared. Maddie’s heart stopped. The gloomy room looked the same, the stench of damp concrete and rotted earth filled her nasal passages. She spotted the old cuckoo clock on the wall; the time stopped at one thirty-five; the cuckoo bird hung from the open doors at an awkward angle. Maddie remembered when the clock died, when the little bird sang its last koo. The first time Paul touched her, she watched the tiny bird fly out of its home and freeze in mid-air, as the first tear escaped her eye and left a pink trail down her dirty cheek twenty-years earlier.
“I knew he had her there, and I’m not going to make it, it’s too late, and he’s already got her in the basement. No, this can’t happen to my baby. No!” She jerked the gear-shift into drive and sped away from the shoulder, spitting gravel in her wake. “Stop it! Stop sniveling and go get Silvie, there is still time.”
Her blood pounded in her ears as she watched the buildings fly past her, “Dammit, dammit DAMMIT! Why can’t I remember how he got to her?”
Her right hand found the revolver in her waistband, she pulled it out and put it on the console between the seats. The hard metal felt warm. Her finger itched to slip through the trigger guard and squeeze. She craved the moment when the bullet ripped through his chest. She needed to see Paul’s blood pour out of his body.
Tires screeched around the curves, as Maddie hurried to her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother died years ago, the house stood empty now.
“Oh God, oh God, please let my baby be alright, let me get there in time.” The pedal already, pinned to the floor her stomach flipped, and her heart ached. Despair and helplessness waged war to compete for the top spot in her fractured emotions.
The car fishtailed as she spun around the corner of her grandmother’s street, she let out a pent-up breath when the old house came into view. “Please be ok; please be ok…oh baby just hangs on, momma’s coming.” She chanted over and over.
She jumped the curb and missed the garage by inches as she screeched to a halt. She grabbed the gun and her feet hit the ground before the gear-shift landed in park. The transmission screamed at her, but she didn’t hear the stripped gears shriek, she heard nothing over the screams in her head as she ran into the house. The fact that the door stood open was lost on her, as she flew to the basement door and yanked it open.
“Silvie! Paul, if you hurt her, I’ll kill you!” Maddie screamed into the basement as she tore down the staircase. Met with silence, she looked around stunned.
“Paul! Where are you?”
She spun around at the masculine voice, and cringed at the old nickname. She raised the gun. “Where is Sylvie, you bastard?” She squinted through her tears and tried to focus on the tall man in front of her.
“Put the gun down; I’m here alone, whose Silvie?” He said.
Maddie cocked the gun, the noise gave off a loud click in the musty space. “I swear I’ll kill you if you don’t give me my daughter.”
He took a step toward her, his arm outstretched. She fired, and he vanished. “Wha-, where did you go you sick freak?”
“Maddie?” She vaguely heard a woman’s voice as deafening pain shot through her head and dizziness took hold of her, then everything went black.
She opened her eyes and saw her grandmother’s sad smile. “Oh Maddie honey, you poor dear.”
“Grandmamma? Why are you here? Where’s Sylvie?”
“Maddie, there is no Sylvie.”
“What? Yes, there is. Paul has her!”
“Oh, honey, Silvie is you.”