Can You Come Out and Play?
Can you come out and play?
Those fateful words I said still echo in my mind, spinning around like paper in a tempest. Little did I know that now, many months later, how they would come back to haunt me.
My thoughts are interrupted by the whistle of the teakettle. I turn, almost reluctant to leave the window, and make my way into the kitchen. The kettle, a bright-red gift from my mother, God rest her soul, sits in his normal spot on the stove, a thin plume of steam angrily jetting from its spout.
I rush over and twist the gas knob off.
After pouring myself a cup of tea, I stand, facing the window above the sink. It affords a relatively clear view of my backyard, one that I have enjoyed many times over the years. But not this time. This time my yard harbors something that should not be there, but is.
I see movement behind the shed, near the property line. A shadow shifts, not much, just enough to catch my eye, just enough to drive home the fact that my fears are warranted.
I turn away from the window and drink the remainder of my tea in a vain effort to calm my nerves.
It doesn't help.
Letting my thoughts drift, I think of happier times with my wife. Her pretty face comes into my mind's eye.
"Julia," I whisper, as if the image of her can hear me. "I'm so sorry, Julia. I miss you."
Her image begins to contort then from a relaxed, happy expression to a painful one. Sweat glistened on her face, veins bulge from the strain she is under, and her mouth gyrates open and closed in a frantic effort to breathe. There are monitors surrounding her, each displaying her vital signs, and a small team of nurses and doctors are milling around the room.
She is giving birth to our child.
And then the memory fades, dissipating into the stark reality that curses me.
I turn back to the window, my heart beating wildly in my throat. I can still see something by the shed, although now it is clearer, having inched forward into the daylight just enough to reveal its horrible visage to me.
I cringe at the sight of it.
My son looks back at me, traces of Julia, his mother, the one he tore himself out of, still evident, even through his snarling expression.
But I also see something else, an aspect that directly conflicts with the evil so abundantly displayed.
Love. I can see love there. Despite what he is, my son still loves me.
"Can you come out and play?" I whisper to myself, hoping that the thing in my yard can't hear me because I know it was those very words that somehow allowed him to live when he shouldn't have. He should have been stillborn. Julia had a history of problems having children (this was our third try to start a family), and this pregnancy was no different.
But I said those words when she went into labor, I mumbled them under my breath, apparently giving the baby some type of power to overcome its issues.
And then it burst out of Julia's womb, slick with blood and pulsating with unnatural life. Its eyes glowed with malevolence, as if they were trying to convey the fact that it did not want to be thrust into the world.
It rolled out of its bloody cocoon and onto the previously-sterile floor of the operating room, landing with a wet thud and a horrible shriek.
I looked over at Julia. She was gasping for breath, the color draining from her pretty face. I knew that she was dying, despite the frantic efforts of the medical staff to save her. Then I looked back at the thing on the floor just in time to see it jump to its feet, and despite being only a few minutes old, bolt out of the room in a flash of gory speed.
The memories claw at my sanity: seeing Julia die, witnessing the abomination that was my son, smelling the blood and post-birth gore, it all rushes back at me like a tidal wave.
I close my eyes and try to wipe away the images.
Seconds pass, slowly, steadily drifting into minutes as I keep my eyes shut. The memories are fading, leaving a delightful void in my mind that I earnestly embrace.
A light tapping jars me back to my senses. I force myself to keep my eyes closed, being too frightened to open them, and as the sounds increase, brace myself for the inevitable.
I open my eyes.
The first thing I see is not what I expect.
I see a face, a bloated, ashen face frozen in time. The eyes are closed (I can still see a trace of crusty glue where the lids touch), and the mouth is sewn shut (thin strands of flesh-colored thread zigzag through the lips).
The overall expression is one of peaceful death.
And then, as I stare in disbelief, another face, much smaller, pops up behind the first one.
It is my son, his sinewy arms riddled with decay, cradles the head of his mother, my wife, Julia. His lips, purple with diseased blood, part, revealing swollen gums, fleshy tissue that has not yet had teeth erupt through it. And the eyes, twin points of feral hunger, blaze at me unblinkingly.
I watch as it mouths the words: "Can you come out and play?" and I realize that it simply wants its family to be together again. Somehow it dragged Julia from her final resting place and brought her back to me, and before I can help myself, I reach for the latch on the window, anxious to be with my family again.