New horror fiction. 147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 11
Shawn let himself into the apartment and dropped his backpack at the door. Puddles of water pooled around his boots and leaked in a trail to the bottom of his bag. He didn’t bother to move it. Neither did he bother to take off his boots or sweater when he walked into the kitchen.
He stood at the refrigerator, dripping on the rug, holding the door open. It was full of glass and plastic containers, which held all manner of foods. All of them organic. Most of them green. Normally, he enjoyed having these things around. Tonight, he just wanted a paper full of greasy chips. Instead, he settled for some sort of tan grain with olive-colored specks. He ate it cold, standing, his hair dripping into his dinner. Or was it lunch? He couldn’t remember.
“Here. Let me take your coat,” Carolyn said from the doorway. He didn’t look up. He kept eating.
“I’ll get it,” he said. He took a final huge bite, a few grains slipping out of the glass tub and onto the floor. He stepped to the sink and tossed the bowl in with a clank.
“Could you…” she said.
“What?” he asked. “What can I do now?”
“Nothing,” she said. “How was work?”
“It was long. I’m going to bed.”
“Oh,” she said. “Good night.”
She walked to the sink and turned on the water, full and hot. The steam rose and she felt it, loosening the tightness in her face. The calm stopped when a pain grabbed onto her. She gasped and put her hand to her side. They were getting stronger. She’d had them before. They were sharp and quick, but they faded easily enough. She hadn’t had one for a week, then had one in each of the past three days. She braced herself against the sink with her other had and tried to breathe as deeply as she could. It was coming. Closing her eyes helped to focus her imagery, picturing her rib cage widening to allow for more air in her lungs. She opened her eyes when she heard the water shut off in the sink. She’d forgotten that she had left it on. Shawn was drying his hands on a towel. Carolyn heard him sigh.
“Leave it,” he said. “I’ll wash it tomorrow.”
“I’ll do it,” she said. “I’m fine.” She rubbed her stomach as the pain started to loosen its bite.
He stared at her. “I can’t do this. I can’t look at you every day like this.”
“Like what?” she asked.
“Look at you,” he said, voice raising to an echo in the small space. He gestured with his arms and when they collapsed back to his sides in defeat, water droplets flew off his coat. “You are not having a baby, Carolyn. I don’t care what you say. You’re not. So, I don’t know what this is.” He yanked his coat off, catching it at his elbow. He grunted and struggled and finally threw it to the floor. “And I don’t know what to do. You won’t go see someone and I can’t help you. Something is wrong. It’s very wrong. And I don’t know what to do.”
“You think I’m crazy,” she said.
“I think you’re sick.”
“I’m not sick, Shawn. I’m having a baby.”
“You’re not having a fucking baby!” he screamed. “You are full of cysts and tumors and maybe even cancer. You’re going to die. And I have to watch.”
Carolyn leaned forward and picked up his wet coat. She grunted quietly as be bent down. He grabbed the coat out of her hand and kicked it out into the hall. “Leave the fucking coat.” Carolyn stood quietly, her hand protectively folded over and under her round belly. She did look pregnant. She had gained forty pounds, at least. Maybe more. But not everywhere. Only her stomach.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“It’s all right. You just don’t understand. She said you wouldn’t.”
“Who? Who said I wouldn’t?”
“Pam,” Carolyn said.
“And who the bleeding hell is Pam?”
“She’s my friend. She’s helping me.”
“Well, she’s right. I don’t understand. But if she’s helping you, brilliant, because help is what you need. And I can’t.” He stared at her.
“I have to go. I’m sorry.” He stepped toward her and kissed her. It was habit and compunction, not compassion. “I’m sorry.” He hurried out of the kitchen. He scooped his wet coat off the floor of the hallway, slammed the door, and was gone. Carolyn turned back to the sink, and starting washing the dirty bowl.