A mother's love transcends the grave.
Hours of screaming. A pain so intense—so….I hadn’t believed them, not really, when they had warned me what to expect.
Funny now, I suppose, to think about how much I cursed at those who had tried to help me.
Maybe if I hadn’t screamed so much they would have been able to save me.
There were tears in Jack’s eyes as he picked up our daughter and in that space of time I hated myself. How could I have ruined such a beautiful moment—tarnished this God-given miracle with my death?
The nurses had covered me up by now, far past the hope that I could have been saved. I chuckle a little bit at their attempts to make this somehow better. As if Jack not being able to see the pale complexion on my face, the pasty shade of my lips would somehow alleviate his sorrow.
“I’m sorry,” one whispered. She reached out to him, expressing her desire to carry our child away. He looked at her, a gaze that was glossy and unfocused. I recognized this expression, no one else knew him like I did.
“Please…” I whispered. “It’ll be okay…we’ll manage, somehow.” I reached out a hand and placed it on his shoulder. I knew he wouldn’t feel it—or at least I figured he wouldn’t. I hadn’t been dead long enough to get the logistics of being a spirit—a ghost, I thought to myself.
A shiver went up and down his spine. I felt the slight nerve convulsions. He almost glanced over his shoulder but seemed to think better, returning his gaze to the child that cried in his arms.
I bit my lip to keep from crying—can I even cry anymore? I couldn’t help but wonder—as I looked over his shoulder to see the child I’d died for. All pink flesh with a tuft a black hair, from her father, green eyes peeked past the scrunched up face. Those were my eyes.
“She’s beautiful,” I whispered.
Jack handed our daughter to the nurse after another moment’s hesitation.
“What’s her name?” she asked. I leaned forward a little bit, unsure of what Jack would decide. We’d barely played with names in all honesty. After so many times of trying and losing our children, it became too painful to even think about what they would have been named.
He paused, weighing our options. “Serenity Marie.”
I smile. Serenity. I’d always loved that name, though he’d never cared for it much. Marie was my name. I’d chosen a winner when I’d married Jack.
“Jack, I wish you wouldn’t take our child into that God forsaken house,” I said. As usual, he didn’t respond, didn’t react. He got out of the car and walked around so he could grab Serenity’s car seat.
I stayed still for a moment, not quite sure why I was sticking around.
It was a question, the question of the moment, I suppose. Where was heaven? I doubted I’d been evil enough to go to hell, but where were those damn pearly gates? Watching my husband force a smile as he greeted my family and our friends for the funeral while he cries himself to sleep every night was getting tiresome. He’s so alone…and I can’t help him.
This helplessness, this must be hell. What could I have possibly done to deserve it? A few tears inch down my face.
I’d found out two weeks ago that the dead could cry.
I don’t bother trying to open the car door as I step from the vehicle. The longer I stayed dead, the less I try to act alive. I don’t try to open doors anymore, though I can feel their substance. Being a ghost isn’t how Hollywood portrays it, not really. My body can pass through things if I want it to, but I can also feel things, like warmth and movement, much more acutely than I could alive. I can’t move things or interact with anything, but damn if I can’t feel.
“Jack, I hate this house. I wish you would move…I wish we had moved the first time I said something about it.” I hurried to keep up with his stride. The house loomed, a brick monstrosity of a two story. A fixer-upper, he’d called it. Cheap, Marie, and we can make it ours! We can have our own dream house to raise our family. It’s funny now. Just as we’d almost given up on a family, we’d certainly given up on fixing up an unfinished, ancient house.
Ivy grew up the worn-out porch that creaked as he stepped up, and the heavy oak door with faded red pain groaned in protest of being opened. The hallway was old and tired, and sunlight had never reached the furthest corner of the hallway.
Jack sighed and rubbed his brow. He picked Serenity up from the car seat and hummed a song to her as he made his way to the kitchen.
“The itsy bitsy spider crawled up the water spout…”
“Down came the water and washed the spider out,” I whispered. I shook my head and walked up the stairs to our bedroom. Sometimes it was too difficult to watch him feed our daughter, knowing that I would never hold her as my own.
I laid back on our bed with a small sigh, watching the walls of the house contort with a constant heartbeat. Something about this house, something about the whispers I heard at all times made me fearful. Was it because I was dead, that I just saw things differently? Maybe hallucinated? I wasn’t sure. Still, I somehow knew I wasn’t alone. There was something here, perhaps in this house, perhaps just waiting for me.
It was getting worse. A building aura of anger and lust that made the wall shudder in a sick sort of expectancy.
Jack’s footsteps on the stairs broke me from my troubled thoughts and I ignored the shifting walls of the house like I had for the last two weeks. I heard him rustle in Serenity’s bedroom, putting her to bed.
“I love you Marie,” he said, closing the door.
I stayed silent, watching him walk in and undress. Something stirred inside me, a longing for comfort that I know will never be mine again. As Jack laid down beside me, the tears started once more. I know he’s going to cry himself to sleep.
The walls in the hallway seemed darker tonight, more sinister. They groaned and moaned and seeped a malicious intent. I wrapped my arms around me as I watched the ceiling sink in.
Get out, get out. She’s mine….mine….mine….mine…
I’d never heard a voice quite like it. Broken and sad, but firm, terrifying and lustful. Feminine—young and deadly. If I had a heartbeat, it would have paused at the pain twisted words.
“Who are you?” I demanded. I’d been hearing whispers since I’d died, but this was the first time I’d been able to understand them, and the cruelty scared me. “What are you doing here?”
Get out. Get. Out. You are not welcome here in my home. She’s mine…mine…mine…mine…mine
“Who’s yours? This is my house…” my voice paused as I caught movement at the edge of the hall. A shadow detached itself from the corner and scuttled in a broken, haphazard movement toward the door at the edge of the stairway. I stepped closer, close enough to see a glimpse of a white wedding dress, of gray skin and tattered veil. Legs seemed to rise from the figure in arching gateways, clacking and scratching against the ceiling and the walls.
She looked at me, and the pain and anger was enough to stagger. She wore the emotions as power, manifested and real.
“She’s mine. I didn’t have one; he killed me before I could.” Tears, black and viscous seeped from rotting holes. “I was seventeen and with child. He killed us both. I will have this one.”
“No…” I watched the monstrosity of legs, blackness and lace meld into the walls. She inched her way into the door leaving a stench of mold and rot and roses. The walls around me convulsed with her power. I pounded at the door, surprised I could no longer pass through it.
“No! Let me in…you can’t have her. You can’t have her!” I pounded and screamed and for once the door shook beneath my touch. “Serenity! Serenity!”
My baby started to cry and I could hear someone crooning to her. The itsy bitsy spider…
“Oh…God…” I backed away as I watched hundreds…thousands…of spiders dart beneath the door. They covered the walls with an undulating mass of black, clacking and billowing. Thousands of bodies with long legs and cruel pinchers.
I ran toward Jack’s room and passed through the door, screaming. He remained passive and unaware.
Please, God…I’ve never asked you for anything, but please…I reached out to touch my husband’s shoulder…and passed through.
I screamed in frustration, and my voice shook the walls around me. Jack frowned and turned over.
He almost heard me, I thought. It’s emotion…it has to be. The spirit that was with my daughter…so much pain and betrayal. The whole world bent to her will.
I thought of our daughter, about all my resentment of dying before I could raise my family, of my guilt for leaving Jack alone to deal with this world.
A mirror shattered and Jack’s eyes opened, inches from my own. The world seemed to pause as his eyes focused on my face. A moment of confusion—where he almost smiled before he remembered that he’d buried me, and then his mouth opened in a yell.
“No…no…Jack. Listen to me. Get to our daughter. Something’s got her. Something’s…” I could tell that an explanation was going to be useless. “Our daughter, Jack! Now!”
He sprung from the bed and ran, jerking the door open and running down the hall and I followed. We stopped at the edge of the wide pool of spiders. They crawled over each other in a swirling mass. He looked over his shoulder, looking for me. His eyes passed over me and didn’t see.
“Marie…?” He looked away and back toward the roiling expanse of arachnids. Serenity’s cries stopped in mid breath and I watched the blood drain from his face. “Serenity!”
There was no hesitation as he pushed forward and I watched the creatures tear at his feet, crushed and biting. He winced but kept running and shoved his shoulder against the oak door.
All at once, the power left the world. The walls stopped groaning inward, the spiders were gone. Jack’s shoulder gave in and he stumbled as the door opened. For a moment we were still until Jack got to his feet and limped toward her crib.
“She’s gone,” he said in a voice that was hollow and terrified. “Marie…Marie! Are you here? God, I’m going crazy….my daughter…not her too, not her….” His words broke on the ragged edges of his sobs as he sank to his knees. Ugly blotches and knots marred his legs and arms where the spiders had gnawed.
“The basement…” I remembered the smell around the figure. The must and rot of the dirt in the unfinished basement. “Jack, the basement.”
He didn’t hear me. I put a hand on his shoulder, feeling the convulsions of nerves that traveled his arm. He looked up, his eyes almost meeting mine. I tried to tug on his shirt, begging him without words to follow me. I pulled harder, almost catching the edge of the material. He stood with difficulty.
“I’ll follow, Marie. I’ll follow…”
I almost laughed in relief. I kept concentrating and yanking at his shirt. He caught on quickly and followed me down the stairs and into the basement.
Serenity’s cries answered us and I breathed a sigh of relief as Jack ran down the stairs.
“Serenity?” Jack’s desperate plea speared another quill of fear through my heart. Where was our baby? If we could hear her? Horror filled me as I heard Jack begin to tear at the dirt with a shovel. I ran down the stairs to see him desperately digging. The dirt was moist clogs and smelled of death. He dug for almost an half an hour.
Serenity’s cries had stopped minutes before.
“I’m sorry, Marie…Oh God, I’m so sorry.” He sobbed as he dug, repeating the words over and over. I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me or our child.
His shovel struck something solid.
Jack stumbled to his knees and clutched at the dirt with his fingertips. Wood showed up beneath the dirt, showing the door of a rough, crudely made coffin.
“Oh…” I covered my mouth with a hand as Jack jerked the door open.
She lay there, clutching our child in a loving embrace. It was sad, how gently she cradled the sleeping child. What was left of her hair laid out behind her in a rotting shroud and spiders tumbled over each other from a mouth that voiced a silent scream. None touched Serenity.
“How do we get her…”
I finally understood. I knew the sadness I felt would be our only protection. This would be the last time I would see my husband or my daughter. I smiled through the tears that began to drip.
His eyes widened at my voice and he looked behind, his eyes locking onto mine. “Marie?”
“I’m sorry. I love you.”
I tried to smile, but knew I wouldn’t be able to manage it. “Take Serenity and leave. I will protect you. Don’t ever return to this house; it will never be safe.”
Jack reached out toward me but I shook my head. “Keep her safe for me.”
He nodded and reached toward Serenity. I felt the walls begin to shudder and build in whispers. “Hurry.”
He picked up the sleeping child and the spiders begin spewing from her mouth, reaching out as a corporeal force toward Jack.
“Run!” I screamed. He looked at me, his eyes pleading and lost. A pain so intense that I doubt it would ever completely leave his eyes.
He didn’t hesitate as he broke the gaze and hugged Serenity to his chest, bolting up the stairs.
Anger and remorse inched their way through the air, originating from the body. I let it meet my own sorrow and reached my arms out toward the body. “They’re mine. Serenity’s mine.”
The spirit seeped out of the walls, facing me in white lace, black legs and malice. Empty eyes regarded me with a painfully pure hatred. I heard the front door slam, and I knew that Jack and Serenity were safe.
I smiled though tears still streamed.
The walls groaned and the ceiling above us shook down particles of dirt, wood, and dust as my emotions met and melded with the ancient spirit in front of me. I raised my arms, feeling the power contort around me, facing the clicking embrace of the jilted bride.
Word Count: 2,511
Submitted to: Boy, Have I Got a Story for You (entered:2/15/15). First Place, Received Blue Awardicon Link to contest: http://www.writing.com/main/forums/item_id/1848696-Boy-Have-I-Got-A-Story-For-Yo...