A super-short horror tale, dedicated to nurses & healthcare workers everywhere.
The familiar smell of starch rolled out of the locker. Dress, shoes, stockings and hat all hung at attention. The bells in the chapel of St. Juliens rang five times. A few younger girls came crashing through the door, they were at the end of their day shift.
I’m not really much older than them, but my hair is fully gray. I used a pin to affix an errant curl under my white cap, as an enthusiastic voice pulled at my focus.
“We’re all going up to the country to camp in a couple of weekends, do you want to come?”
I put on a smile as I swung shut the metal door. “Afraid I’m not such a fan of the great outdoors! But you all have a nice time.” My shift began.
Six years before she had awoken with her cheek pressed to the dirt floor. A smell, somehow both sweet and acidic arrested her nostrils. Aching from toe to head she shifted her body. Her chest rasped slightly. Shifting her weight she tried to get a look at where the ghost eye’d man had taken her. Her hands and feet were tied.
She began to strain against the ropes; but at the sound of footsteps, fear stiffened her body into stillness. The outlines of feet crossed the gapped, rough-hewn floor.“This is not where I die.” She thought. “It’s ludicrous”
In the nursery ward my white shoes crossed the floor. They were new and the rubber was still too hard. I preferred silence if possible. Especially during the night shift. If one of the babies began bawling it could create a domino effect. I walked past the prams. Soft, barely creased fingers curled gently in slumber.
At the end of the third row an infant had kicked off a tiny sock. I went to him, covering his little foot. As I was adjusting the blanket, his pale blonde eyelashes parted gently. I took a full step back, bumping against the cart beside me. Staring placidly from the lily-white face of a gently smiling infant were the eyes of the man who’d tried to kill me in the forest.
The footsteps finished their trajectory at the small hatch door. The iron handle clunked heavily as it was pulled up- flooding the cellar with light. From her vantage point, Marie watched him come down the creaking wooden steps.
“You aren’t a screamer like the others” said the tall man, stooping down and touching her dark hair. He wore a clean black bandana across his face and an old black farmer's hat across his brow- like a scarecrow dressed for a country funeral. She examined his eyes. They were beyond ice, a pale violet streaked with reds. The right iris however had a swath of deep blue.
I had just finished adding a splash of whisky to my coffee when the break room door swung open. “Hello Ms. Borel.” I nodded politely toward the doctor, sipping the hot cup of coffee as I tried to get my bearings.
“Doctor, what are the chances of concurrent albinism and sectoral heterochromia?”
Dr.Michaels laughed broadly in a way that I found somehow startling in juxtaposition to my mood.
“You’re direct, I’ll give you that. The new one in the ward, eh? Well I’m no statistician but each is rare, extremely so. Together? And in America where those pathologies present themselves less regularly? We probably wont see it again.”
“Very interesting.” I said, “Are you doing ok, kids are good?” Dr.Michaels began to speak again and I feigned listening as I thought about the baby. “Innocent fruit from a corrupted branch” I thought.
The man roughly dragged her back to the corner of the cellar, straining her arms. “Why ARE you so quiet?” he sneered “Though you’ll be quiet forever soon, can’t blame you for wanting to practice.” He made a noise that she had to assume was a laugh. He grabbed her head, directing her vision toward the far wall of the cabin cellar that was previously out of her vision. A woman’s body wrapped in a sheet slumped and decaying in a corner. “You’ll be purified too.” he said. “I promise” He struck her on the back of the skull and everything went black.
She awoke to the steady rhythm of wood being chopped behind the cabin. Pain shot through her - but there were no other options. Her much-questioned silence was a simple animal understanding- there was no one to hear her if she called out. Tucking her legs up under her she squirmed and felt as though she was going to dislocate her shoulder. Hands now repositioned she made quick work of the ropes at her ankles. Her wrists would be trickier- and she had no time now. She crept up the stairs and gently opened the hatch. It was late fall and she had no idea where she was. She’d be caught and die of exposure with no shoes and just a light dress. Clocking the cabin, there was no coat. Blood dripped into her eye and stung- the chopping stopped. She grabbed the bear skin rug off the floor and ran into the woods. She ran hard. It took five days before she found the highway. It would be a year till she let herself cry.
And it took almost two days of high anxiety waiting for him to visit his son. I managed to avoid the mother; despite taking extra shifts and working overtime. I wanted to be there. I had to be sure. Yet I was confident he wouldn’t recognize me; my uniform is a mask.
On the day he arrived, I was working in the nursery behind the glass. It was his footfall that first announced him. It was burned into me, like everything about him was. Her suspicions confirmed she moved silently to pick up the telephone and call the police. Outside, the bells of St Juliens rang out.
the photo is mine too. duh.