This story is by Jewel Eliese and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
A phantom string pulled me home, a warning that something was wrong. I’d washed my hands and checked the locks before we left the house for our night out, three times. Each. But I had only kissed my son twice. My gut twisted, and I knew we needed to go back.
I turned to tell my husband to take me home, but he wasn’t there. Damn it. He’d probably huffed away, annoyed by my compulsive need to count the cracks in the sidewalk. I found him pushed up against an ash tree by a woman wearing high-waisted jeans and a white cardigan. One look from her and I couldn’t move.
She embraced my husband and started sucking on his skin. His eyes went wide with a moment’s delight, a burst of pure pleasure I hadn’t seen in a while. Then the wrinkles around between his thick brows deepened. Tears fell down his clean-shaven cheeks and all I could think was how I should have let the string tug us back home. My husband fell to the ground.
Those blue eyes I’d loved for seven years stared at me, unblinking. The pupils were two tunnels that no longer lead to his soul. My heart burned. The searing grief was almost as excruciating as the teeth now biting into my neck.
It was more than just pain, though. I could hear my blood leaving my artery, the sound like soda flowing through a straw. And with each pull, She took another part of my soul with it, making my limbs go limp in a sort of trance. I couldn’t fight. I just stared at my husband lying still on the damp grass, the lamplight shining in his blue eyes and wished to die. Not just to see my love smile at me once more in the afterlife, but to simply never be like this demon stealing my breath. Better to die innocent than to live as a monster, even if it meant I’d never see my son again.
Just let me die, I prayed and begged anyone who might hear my silent words. I heard laughter. The world blurred, and black spots danced across my vision signaling my oncoming death. My murderess took one last drink, slow and savoring. My heartbeat stuttered but didn’t stop. Not yet.
“This will be exciting,” She whispered in my ear. “Let’s see how much you really want to die, Darling.”
The taste of blood was exactly as I’d always imagined it would be. Salty. Metallic. Horrible. I gagged but an arm pressed harder against my mouth and the crimson drops fell down my throat. Finally, with a rolling thud, my heart stopped.
Everything stilled. The blood in my veins settled and my brain quit sending signals. Death had finally come for me and it was a relief. No more pain or worries, just a long sleep. Maybe I wouldn’t be a monster—
Then I re-took my first breath of air. Agony rushed back and this time the acid was in my every cell. I was a worm squirming in the devil’s pit, the fire never-ending. Pure hell. I screamed, my voice echoing into the night.
It was done.
The silence was replaced by the sound of a cat meowing two blocks away, it’s little heart a flutter. Bugs crawled in the grass, searching for their next meal. And the smells. The rose next to me was better than any perfume my husband had bought for our anniversary. I wanted to jump into its glorious scent and live there for a moment. But, I could also smell his aftershave. The minty scent already mixed with the undertone of my husband’s decaying body. I vomited blood onto the grass.
“Why, why, why?” I chanted, even now making sure to say it three times. Somehow, I knew I wasn’t fully like her yet. There was some piece of me that was still human.
“Oh, Cupcake, I just needed dinner. But trust me, this will be fun. Drink and you’ll forget all those pricks. Friends and family,” She said with a scoff. I couldn’t look at her, didn’t want to see her face as She spoke. Her voice was high-pitched, patronizing as if talking to a child. She picked me up, cradling my still weak body like a newborn baby. I arched my back in an attempt to escape her arms, but her grip was iron.
She ignored my squirming tantrum and flew. Trees and lights sped past us. We were an invisible blur. There was no way to know where we were heading but I had a feeling deep in my gut, the instinct of a mother. We stopped at the small house on the corner of a suburban street. A green bike lay in front of the door, just like I told Liam countless times not to do.
I was home.
A rage like I’d never felt before spilled into my body. I jumped out of her arms and growled. Actually, growled and attacked this woman who destroyed my life but she was gone, already ringing the doorbell. The babysitter didn’t even take a breath before She knocked her out. I screamed and ran to my house, ready to protect my son but I couldn’t get in. I stood at the open door of my own home and was unable bring one toe inside without invitation. A monster at the doorstep.
“Liam,” I yelled, voice catching with a sob. There he was walking down the steps, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He was wearing his favorite pajamas, the ones with Iron Man raising a fist ready to blast away evil. My little superhero.
“Mommy,” he said, questioning. I could imagine how I looked. My clothes reeked of blood and dirt, yet I couldn’t take my eyes off him. My arms ached with the need to hold him, to kiss him.
“Don’t be rude, boy. Let your mom and me inside,” She said, standing behind me.
“Come read me a story, Mommy. I can’t sleep without it.” The barrier fell, and I ran to my son and finally kissed his forehead for the third time. Everything would be okay now.
“You can come in too, ma’am,” Liam said. My dead heart dropped.
“Run upstairs. Now.” My little boy’s eyes, so blue like his father’s, widened. “I’ll read to you then, okay?” I gave him a helpful shove up the stairs, then finally turned to look at her.
She wasn’t pretty. There were wrinkles around her eyes, under her chin, and age spots on her hands. Long fingernails dug into our new and certified babysitter’s neck. A drop of blood poured down the girl’s chest, and my throat burned. The cloud started to wrap around my heart, my humanity slipping.
“See sweetie? You’re ready but if you don’t kill her you’ll die before sunrise. It’s just one life and she’s probably a tasty little slut, anyway.”
I hissed, showing new teeth.
Her silver eyes dimmed, and her smile turned into a grin.
“You think I don’t know what you’re afraid of?” She laughed, throwing her head back. “I made you. You wanted to die so much, yet I’m betting you’ll choose to live. You’re mine.”
“Drink, or I’ll rip out your son’s throat as you watch.”
I gasped, the breath unneeded. If I did this, if I took this young girl’s life, I would lose my soul. I wouldn’t be able to meet my husband waiting for me in death and my son would grow old searching for me. My boy, my sweet little boy would be alone. I couldn’t leave him. Who would teach him to tie his shoelaces or hold his hand as he crossed the street? Who would read to him before bed?
I took three long, calming breaths. Like a beast, I could smell the pages of the book my son had opened in his room upstairs and the blood flowing in the teenager’s veins. I trembled.
And yet, the choice was made the minute She walked through my door and threatened my son. The babysitter, Anna, eyes widened as my teeth grew long and sharp. She shrieked as I pierced skin, too fast for a struggle. I bit into the demonesses neck, taking her life in fierce gulps. The immortal blood tasted sweet, as revenge should.
The bitch turned to ash.
Relief rushed through me before my soul faded, the cloud finally shrouding my heart. With an internal click, the fears, anxieties, and worries of a human life washed away. My boy was free, but my heart was slate. The babysitter screamed as I walked out the door, not bothering to check the locks. No more counting. No more fear. The phantom string no longer pulled me home.