“Hush now; you’l need your strength. The hard part is over. She wil live. You did a great job.”
The doctor took one hand off of the metal handle and laid it on my forehead. His palm was ice cold.
I flinched but felt surprisingly constricted. I looked down at my arms. They were strapped in place by heavy, thick leather.
“You were a great host,” he added. His eyes went across the stretcher. I was suddenly conscious of someone else beside me. Flabbergasted, I turned my head the other way to see who he was talking to.
Her dreads were swept up underneath a white cap, but it was the demon girl from the other night. She had a mask on, covering up those terrible, sharp teeth, but her red, predator eyes were the same.
“Perry, Perry, Perry,” she whispered. A low cackle erupted from her throat. “Oh, you had no idea, did you sweetie?”
What, I tried to say but my lips were too dry.
The movement suddenly stopped and the stretcher was stil . The doctor and demon girl left my side abruptly, and I was alone, strapped down, facing a door at the end of the hal way.
“Hel o?” I cried out.
I lifted my head and shoulders up as much as they could go and looked around me. There was an old man sitting on a chair outside the door, hands resting on a cane, his eyes concentrated on his feet. There was no one else around. I looked down at my legs. I was stil in my Port-Town uniform; skinny jeans, black polo shirt, black apron. There was a sticky, wet sensation on my jeans when I shifted, especial y around my crotch. With whatever happened to me, I wondered if I had peed my pants in fright.
A weird skittering sound, like light nails brushing against steel, came from my right, from the ground. I turned and looked to see a large creature that looked like a wood bug undulating past me. It was the size of a dog; its grey, segmented shel of a body moving back and forth with each step of its many spindly legs.
My breath stuck to my lungs and I was unable to let it out until the wood bug skittered past the old man and around the corner. The old man, his attention stil at his feet, paid the giant insect no attention.
What the fucking fuck was going on? This had to be another dream. I had to stil be on the floor in the bathroom at work, that wasp stil crawling on my face. Even though what happened earlier was terrible, it was stil preferable to what was happening here.
A low, steady creak came from the front of me.
The door I was parked in front of opened and who stepped out of it but Dex Foray. He was holding a bundle of something wrapped in thick, white cloth, holding it like a baby.
Seeing Dex’s face both scared and calmed me. He looked much like he did the last time I saw him. Handsome in a rough, dark way. Eyes like mahogany-glazed coal. It would have fil ed me with hatred so frighteningly uncontrol able, but I couldn’t feel anything but confusion and fear.
“I didn’t think she’d make it,” he said in his gravel y voice. He was talking to me, I think, but looking at whatever he was holding in his arms. “Thank you, Perry, for doing this for us.”
“What are you talking about,” I whispered. I tried to get a better look at him but was distracted by a redness that was spreading on the sheet beneath me. I hadn’t peed my pants – that was blood that covered my lower half.
“Oh, God. What happened to me?” I squeaked. I tried to break free of the restraints but I was held firmly in place.
The leather cut into my skin as I struggled, but I didn’t care.
“Relax, Perry,” came a voice from behind. I tilted my head up to see Abby standing over me. Abby, Dex’s ex- girlfriend. Dead ex-girlfriend.
Unlike the last time I saw her, she wasn’t mangled into a mil ion bloody pieces. She looked like a normal, pretty col ege student. Straight blonde hair with a red tint. A pink dress that flared out from the waist. She looked completely normal.
Until she smiled.
There were wasps crawling on her teeth.
She promptly shut her mouth and swal owed until the moving bumps under her lips disappeared, then walked over to Dex. She put her arm around him and peered at what could only be a baby in the blanket.
“It has my eyes,” Abby said in her Fargo accent and looked up at Dex. He was now staring straight forward at the wal , not moving.
“Would you like to see?” Abby asked me, taking the bundle out of Dex’s stiff, frozen arms. She walked toward me with delicate precision, her shoes echoing extra loud in the strangely silent hal . As she came forward, I looked at the old man with the cane, wondering if he could help free me. He was now looking at me, his eyes black, his mouth wide open in a silent scream. It seemed to carry on forever, his gaping, empty mouth with no sounds coming out, the blackness of his throat, until Abby was all that fil ed my view.
My horror was indescribable.
“Of course you want to see the baby,” Abby said, and lowered the bundle until it was right in front of my face.
It was a baby, all right.
A baby covered in a very fine coat of black hair all over its little body. It was nestled deep in the white blanket. I stared at it, mesmerized. Horrified.
The baby moved a bit onto its side and the change in position caused a single wing to flap out of the blanket. It was as thin and delicate as a bat’s, wrinkled in its folded state and covered with throbbing veins. The baby lifted its head and opened its eyes.
They were a dark black-brown, like Abby’s, like she had said. The baby did have her eyes.
The baby then opened its mouth to reveal shark-like teeth. It regarded me with contempt and, in a rush of guttural, vibrating words that reached deep into my skul , said, “I’m stil inside you. You can’t get me out.”
The old man’s scream finally found its way to me, blasting down the hal like a radio that has just switched on.
He screamed for the both of us.
Moments later, I was in an operating room with an exquisite pain tearing through my insides. The same doctor who pushed my gurney earlier lifted his head sharply. He was between my legs, blood on his arms. He looked at someone off to his right.
I felt a commotion behind my head, a few beeps from machines, and a mask was placed over my mouth. My eyes rolled back.
“Perry?” I heard Ada’s voice sink into my brain like a soft feather.
I groaned and tried to move. The stiffness scared me and I had a flashback of being tied down with leather straps, but after a few attempts I was able to lift my arms.
Barely, but I could tel they weren’t constrained.
I forced my eyes open. I was staring up at the ceiling again, the same perforated white panels. Dread fil ed my heart. I thought that had been a dream.
I brought my head to left, in the direction I had heard Ada’s voice, but was immediately met with a crushing pressure inside my skul and my vision fil ed with a swarm of spinning black dots. I shut my eyes hard as a moan escaped my lips.
“Easy, easy,” another voice said. It was female, measured and soothing. “You’ve been through a lot. You’re in the hospital. You’re with a nurse, me, I’m Sheila. And you’re with your sister, Ada. Your mother just stepped out for a moment. She’l be back. Just rest. There’s no rush.”
I let out a deep breath and tried to open my eyes again. I felt my hand being grabbed by slender, slightly-sweaty fingers and Ada’s anxious face fil ed my vision.
“Perry, it’s me,” she said softly. Her eyes were wet and I could see her heavy eye-makeup had created sticky trails of dark tears.
“Ada,” I said slowly. “What happened? Where am I?”
“You’re in the hospital. You fel down at work and… and…”
She trailed off and looked behind her. She kept hold of my hand while a woman came into my view.
She had squinty eyes that portrayed a wealth of kindness and a ruddy complexion that came in your fifties.
“Perry. I’m Sheila.” The apples of her cheeks raised pleasingly as she talked. “What was the last thing you remember?”
“I was at work,” I told her. I must have sounded unsure because the last place I really remembered was a hospital just like this one. “I was cleaning the bathroom. I had these real y bad cramps again, this terrible pain. I fel over onto the ground.”
I didn’t mention the wasp. That would have been a bit too weird, and in this case, probably irrelevant. If it even happened at all .
She smiled as if she were confirming everything I said.
“Yes. Your co-workers found you in the bathroom. The door was locked so they had to break it down. They found you on the ground, unconscious. They said the lights were off. Do you remember turning off the lights?”
“No,” I said softly. “They just turned off. At the same time I had the pain. I don’t know why.”
She nodded and leaned a bit closer. Ada stil had hold of my hand.
“Do you remember waking up during the surgery?”
Sheila asked quietly.
“That was real?” I blurted out.
Sheila exchanged a glance with Ada and gave me a sad smile. “Sometimes we don’t know how much anaesthesia to give. Because you came here in an unconscious state, it made things difficult. We couldn’t be sure what was wrong with you until we did the ultrasound.”
Ultrasound? At the sound of that my veins felt replaced with vinegar and it wasn’t because of the IV my other arm was hooked up to.
“Did you know you were pregnant, Perry?”
Pregnant!? My eyes widened and Sheila looked a bit chagrined.
“You didn’t know,” she said to no one in particular.
“Pregnant?” I managed to exclaim. “I wasn’t pregnant!”
“Yes, I’m afraid you were, Perry.”
No. I wasn’t! I had my period like a month ago. Oh my God. That would be impossible. I would have been almost three months pregnant. “That’s not…you’re wrong.”
She was wrong. And crazy. How could she think I was pregnant? The idea was ludicrous.
“We weren’t wrong,” Sheila said. “And I’m sorry to say that you lost the child.”
“Child?” WHAT CHILD?!
I heard a whimper from Ada and I craned my head back to look at her, ignoring the spots at the corner of my vision.
“Ada. What’s going on? Why are they saying this? You know me…I wasn’t pregnant!”
She wiped the corner of her eyes and looked at Sheila before saying anything.
“But you could have been. Couldn’t you have? You had gained some weight. You were sick all the time, you felt pukey, you were tired and cranky.”
“I’m always that way! Plus I had my period.”
“How many times?” Sheila asked, straightening up.
“Twice,” I told her.
“Were they heavy or light?”
“Very light…but, that stil counts…”
Nurse Sheila brought out the chart from the bottom of the bed and started flipping through it. Her face was stil fairy Godmother-ish but was acting more authoritative.
“Unfortunately, your period is not always the best sign of not being pregnant. It’s rare, but in cases like yours, it does happen.”
Oh my God. My hand ripped out of Ada’s and flew to my mouth. How could I have been pregnant? My worst nightmare had actual y come true and I wasn’t even aware of it.