This story is by Christiane Williams-Vigil and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
I wanted to live the moment after I tried to kill myself. My body flooded with instant regret and shame. I lay on my side on the cool bathroom floor, a mouthful of bile threatening to spill out. My eyes were red and raw from a day’s worth of crying. The smell of bleach crept into my nostrils and burned the soft tissue inside. I was cold, but sweat still trickled down my back and dampened my hair. Out of my peripheral vision, I could see the empty containers whose pills were now inside me. Everything began swirling, like I was strapped onto a spinning plate. To be honest, this isn’t how I had hoped to finish. For days, I dreamed of easier, less painful ways to go.
Before this, I thought of dragging a single blade across the pitch fork pattern veins of my wrist. But, the idea of watching the blood pump out made me queasy. I had to think about those who would eventually find me. If somebody came looking for me. My lips puckered against the tile and I could feel more things threatening to come up in my throat. I started choking slowly and felt a rush of panic. A thick clump of something was pressing against my esophagus, making me want to vomit more. If I stood up now and ran to the phone, maybe they’d come in time. I didn’t want to do this anymore. I wrapped my pale arms around myself and cupped my shoulders in my palms.
The neighbor’s dogs barked wildly. They were right next door, but they sounded like they were underwater, deep under the surface. My eyes rolled back into my skull, ready to be done, and I caught sight of her. I froze, every muscle in me trembled. A flicker of fear flashed in my full belly. She clung to the corner of the room, up on the ceiling, her hands spread on each wall. Her legs tucked underneath her chin and her feet dangled freely. I rolled onto my back to get a better look at her. Her hair was the same shade as the sun and her eyes the color of every sea in this world and others.
On her head was a crown of Great Horn Owl feathers, twigs, and unpolished silver chains. Tangled in her hair were bits of pale pink petals that drifted down to the floor. Her large eyes were like a cat that was drawn to any sudden movement. She was naked with strange deep scars across her sides. My eyes burned and hot tears streamed down the sides to the back of my head.
“Why are you crying?” she asked. Her voice was like a mix of three of her speaking at once. One was deep from the back of her throat, a whisper, and her own.
“I’m going to die, but I don’t want to anymore,” I sobbed, thick, yellow bile seeped from the corners of my lips. I inhaled and felt I didn’t get enough air. I coughed and emptied out what was in my mouth. Using her hands only, she guided herself down slowly until she sat across from me. I turned my head to her and sniffled. She leaned forward and crawled to my side. The muscles of her arms were twisting under her transparent skin. Blue air brushed veins visibly throbbed and saturated in color.
“Who are you?” I whispered, my mouth struggled to get the syllables out. She pressed the back of her hand against my forehead and I shivered from the heat.
“How bad do you want to live?” she asked, ignoring my question. It felt as if my head was filling with lead. My eyes were shutting and I let my head drop to the side. She grabbed me under the chin and gently shook. My vision blurred for a moment and then it cleared. I looked into her eyes and imagined myself falling into them. I clicked my tongue against the back of my teeth and realized how dry and sore my mouth was.
“I’ll do anything,” I told her. I bit my bottom lip and took a painful breath, causing me to wince. “I don’t want to die.” She lowered my head down and puckered her lips. A soft breeze blew across my face and I felt calm. The pulpy mass inside my chest thumped and smacked my ribs like a punch. My breathing quickened and I grabbed her arms in a panic. I was about to go.
“Please,” I begged, squeezing tighter. Her body heat was like candle wax. A burn at first when it hits the skin but dull after. She put my arms down at my sides and placed her right hand over my stomach. My mouth opened as her fingers dipped in like I was made of clay. My teeth gritted from the sharp, white pain and I felt her moving around inside. She pulled her arm back and in her palm were wet, discolored, and misshapen pills.
“I will give you purpose,” her voices said.
My body relaxed and I used my last strength to speak. “Who are you?”
“I am the scent of dirt that follows the heavy rains, the fear that makes the hair stand on the back of your neck, and the power that commands the sea. I am the brightest star in the morning and the darkest part of night.” She said, leaning over, eclipsing the bathroom light. My eyes were heavy and as I lost consciousness I heard her mutter,
“I am Say.”
* * *
It came time for me to pay my debts. I did not want anything to do with this. I did not want to be pregnant with this thing. I learned quickly that whatever she was, she was not good. With her came the smell of bitter smoke and the endless cackling of distorted voices in the night. Around her, my mind was feeble and the simplest of words were failing me.
“What is my purpose?” I whispered to her, my breath raspy and shaking. We were lying down in my bed, my head against her sharp shoulders.
“You will carry my child. It is time now for him to come as it had been written long ago in the book of the people. He will rise and he will not be defeated,” Say coldly responded. Her head turned but her body stayed frozen in its fetal like position. “Open your legs.” I shut my eyes tight and cringed when I sensed an appendage slip inside. I did not want to do this.
I used to pray when I was young and afraid, the words drilled into my skull every Sunday, until I stopped going. My lips quickly moved, trying like hell to remember. Say’s fingers pried into my mouth and her fingers pressed my tongue down. Her voices growled and her teeth grazed the tip of my ear. My eyes snapped open and all at once I understood her true identity. She thrusted hard and with her motion my mind became locked into hers, flooding me full of thoughts and memory.
Fire, terrible heat, and the sounds of millions of voices screaming in agony were dancing in my skull. A forest suddenly filled my vision and Say handed down a dark red fruit from a tree to a naked woman, who was standing below, reaching eagerly for it on her toes. Everything blurred to a man caught in a sandstorm, his knees sinking into burning sand as Say stepped on top of his hand. “Look at you, his prized son, weak and powerless in my presence. Call on your father to save you, let his wrath come down upon my crown once more,” she screamed in his face. She spit and spackled blood across his cheek. “Give yourself to me! Worship me!” He turned his head away and bit his lip. Then there I was, lying in Say’s arms, going limp. “I am Satan.”
She detached and I collapsed, tumbling down the side of the bed. My head collided with the corner of the nightstand with a loud thud, causing me to see a quick flash of purple and then I was out.
* * *
I ran as fast as I could to the nearest clinic, I had to get rid of this thing rooting and sprouting within. I turned a corner and from there I could see a crowd with picket signs in front of the red brick building. I ran up the stone walk way leading to the front door and they blocked me. Their signs with pictures of dismembered fetuses slapped me in my face as I tried to push through. I turned to see their faces. Angry scowls and misquoted bible verses spat into my face. “Please, you don’t understand. I have to,” I sobbed, my hands raised defensively. Their faces distorted and features melted into dark smudges. I left screaming, trying to escape the sudden loud cackling.
There was a park down the street from my home and I sank down into a patch of tall grass. Damp earth cradled me and I felt hopeless. My chest rose and fell with each heavy cry. The afternoon sky was a soft blue and cloudless. “Help me,” my hoarse voice, begged. My eyes searched the canvas of the heavens and nothing fell from it. I swallowed hard and bowed my head. Tears blurred my view and I curled into myself, defeated. Why should I be helped? After all, I tried to waste my life and gave up my soul.
“You are stronger than you know,” a comforting voice echoed suddenly in my mind. I shivered and my line of vision fell suddenly to a small church across from me, ‘Lady of the Light Holy Catholic Church.’ In front of a multicolored stained glass window, stood a statue of the Virgin Mary, cradling a Christ child in her arms, looking sympathetically my way. “A mother is God in the eyes of her child,” the voice continued. I staggered up onto my feet, feeling a wave of power trickling into my veins. I will not give up this child forced into my uterus, I will give us a purpose.
* * *
Inside, my home was freezing and it burned my skin. The room darkened as I entered and Say crawled out of a shadow in the corner. My body trembled. “I did my part, I will carry this child. You will leave us alone. I will raise him to be good, to know who he is and how he can stop you. I will teach him to love and to be a man of faith,” I yelled. “Go.” The corners of her mouth turned up into a thin smile and she moved slowly back towards the shadows.
“You will need me once again and until that time comes, I will be waiting,” her voices whispered as the darkness swallowed her. The shadows receded and the house lit up in her absence and the warmth came back into the room. I breathed a sigh of relief and lay down, my arms wrapping protectively around my womb.
* * *
I excused myself quietly from the women’s retreat to use the bathroom for, what seemed like, the twelfth time. I washed my hands and wiped them on the front of my pants, leaving dark blue smudges against the jean fabric. I looked into the mirror and smiled. My bump was round and had already dropped some days ago. Any day now, my son will come. I took out my phone and posed, feeling him kick under my palm. I raised the screen up to my face, ready to post it. My blood ran cold and I felt the hairs on my neck rise. Behind me, faintly, was a figure with a crown of Great Horn Owl feathers.