‘I’m pregnant,’ said Joy excitedly, ‘I can’t believe it.’
‘I thought you’d be pleased. I know I am,’ said Eric hugging his wife.
After ten years of trying, they were both overjoyed at the prospect of becoming parents.
‘You’ll have your own special doctor to take care of you too, that’s me by the way,’ said Eric, ‘But I must tell you of the tests you’ll have to have.’
‘What tests?’ Joy asked her expression turning to concern.
‘Well you are in the older woman stage,’ said Eric, soothingly, ‘older women who become pregnant have certain checks, just to make sure there’s nothing wrong with the baby.’
‘And they can cause miscarriages too,’ she said solemnly, ‘I’m sorry Eric, but after all this time and now finding out I’m pregnant, I won’t risk losing this baby.’
Eric realised Joy was getting worried and tense and decided to let her have her way, he knew how much this meant to her.
‘Don’t worry,’ said Eric, ‘you don’t have to have the tests, it’s a choice for you to make.’
‘Then I choose to leave the pregnancy to nature. If it’s God’s will to have a healthy baby, we will.’
Joy and Eric Maidstone had been married for ten years. They were childhood sweethearts. When they’d married all they wanted was to start a family as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Joy couldn’t get pregnant and after several tests, the doctors told her that there was little or no chance of her becoming pregnant. The cause was a blockage in her fallopian tubes. Joy and Eric were devastated. Eric, being a doctor, knew the chances of Joy ever becoming pregnant and they were very slim.
Even though it was in the back of their minds, they eventually resigned themselves to a future without children. That was until Joy had a check up. She’d been ill a lot just recently. Sickness, bad headaches and dizziness. Because she hadn’t had her last two periods and being thirty eight, she thought she was going through an early menopause. It hadn’t occurred to her that she might be pregnant.
Two days after her check up, her pregnancy was confirmed.
As the months passed, they decorated the nursery with everything a baby could need. Swinging crib with satin and lace. Teddy bears and toys, large and small filled the room. Wardrobes and drawers were crammed with clothes.
Joy continued with her regular checks. Seven months into the pregnancy, Joy began to feel terribly ill and was ordered to have plenty of rest. Eric came home one day to find Joy in bed, covered in sweat and in terrible pain.
‘Let me call an ambulance,’ Eric said, fretfully.
‘I think it’s too late for that. The contractions are a minute apart, the baby’s coming now.’
Joy began to pant and before she knew it she felt the strong urge to push.
‘Please Joy, let me call the hospital. It’s too early, there could be complications.’
But Joy was no longer listening; the time had come to have her baby. Eric began to collect the things needed to deliver the baby. After two pushes the baby’s head began to show. Eric staggered backwards and Joy looked at him, frightened and worried.
‘Eric what’s wrong?’ she screamed at him.
Eric’s eyes were still staring, a horrified look on his face, watching the head that was emerging from his wife.
‘Eric,’ Joy screamed again, ‘What’s the matter with you?’
Joy could no longer hold on, one more push and the baby would be out. As the baby emerged, Eric began to shake violently and fell to his knees, sobbing. Joy was hysterical. She kept screaming at Eric to tell her what was wrong. Suddenly, she fell silent as she realised for the first time since the birth, that she hadn’t heard the baby cry.
‘My god, the baby’s dead,’ she screamed, ‘Please Eric, tell me the baby is all right.’
But Eric just sat sobbing and staring. Joy pushed herself up to look at the baby. She didn’t know whether to scream or cry when she saw the thing lying there on the bed. The baby, no – the thing, she thought – was hideous. Its body was so badly twisted that it didn’t look like a body at all. The arms were short and had long fingers coming from the elbows with long talons at the end of them. It had a horrible scaly face, with long pointed ears and sharp pointed teeth. There was no nose to speak of and the eyes were pitch black sockets. The whole body was covered in thin downy hair which you would normally find on a baby.
‘What do I do with it? Eric said, finally.
‘Is it dead?’ Joy asked him, still leaning forward. She couldn’t believe she had actually carried this around inside her for seven months and then given birth to it.
‘If it isn’t, it should be. My god, why us?’
Eric rose slowly from the floor and moved towards the bed. He sat down close to Joy and gave her a hug. The thing laid still and silent on the bed in front of them.
‘I think it’s dead, it hasn’t made any sound or movement in fifteen minutes,’ Eric said, quietly.
‘What do we do with it?’ Joy asked, ‘We can’t let anyone see it.’
‘People knew you were pregnant,’ Eric replied, ‘What do we tell them?’
‘We’ll just tell them I lost the baby. No-one will know any different.’
‘What about the hospital?’ Eric asked.
‘Ill go to the hospital and tell them I was getting labour pains, and then I started to bleed heavily.’
‘They’ll know you have given birth. What will you do when they ask you about the baby?’ Eric asked again
‘I’ll deal with that when the time comes,’ Joy said, calmly, ‘Now we have to deal with this thing.’
Joy turned to Eric and looked into his eyes.
‘I’ve had an idea. The little closet you were making in the baby’s room, seal it up with the thing inside. Wall it up and no-one will ever know.’
Joy cleaned herself up and wrapped the thing up in the bloodstained sheets. After the thing was in the closet, Eric began to brick up the doorway. Later, they would redecorate the whole room.
Eric phoned the hospital and explained that when he’d come home Joy had been in pain and was bleeding heavily and said that he would bring her down for a check up. Luckily, when he’d examined Joy she hadn’t torn during the birth.
Doctors couldn’t understand what had happened to Joy. They finally told her they thought she’d had a phantom pregnancy, gone through all the labour pains, but nothing had been expelled from her body but blood. Joy cried, mostly because she had been thinking of the thing she’d given birth to, but also because of not being able to have the baby she’d so dearly yearned for. After a couple of hours rest, Joy was allowed home.*
That night, as Joy was on the edge of sleep, she thought she heard a baby crying. She sat up in bed, startled. The crying began again, it sounded muffled and distant. She thought she was just imagining it but the crying could still be heard. Joy closed her eyes, covered her head with the duvet and finally fell asleep.
The next day, Joy asked Eric about the crying of the previous night.
‘You don’t think it could have been alive after all?’ Eric asked her.
‘Don’t be silly,’ Joy snapped, ‘We both saw it. The thing hadn’t moved or cried in all that time. It was dead.’
All throughout the day, after Eric had gone to work, Joy had the strangest feeling that she was not alone. I’m just being silly, she thought. I’m so tense with worrying about Eric. He’d taken this very badly. Not that she wasn’t upset too, but Eric was having very graphic nightmares about the thing coming back from the dead to pay back them both for walling it up. But that was absurd, she thought, once things settled down and time had passed only then could they start to live their lives again.
As though jolted out of a dream, Joy suddenly felt tightness around her throat. She could hardly breathe. Her hands went up to her throat, but there was nothing there. Whatever was strangling her was getting tighter and tighter. She tried to let out a scream but nothing would come from her throat but a gargled moan. Her face became bloated and purple, her blues eyes bulged from their sockets and the last thing she could hear before she fell into unconsciousness was a baby crying.
When Eric walked through the front door he called to Joy several times. No answer. He walked up the stairs to see if she was taking a nap. As he opened the door, he saw the slumped figure of his wife on the floor in front of him. He rushed to her side and noticed the ugly, deep red gouge around her neck. Desperately he turned her onto her back and checked that she was still breathing. As he was checking the mark on her neck, she stirred slightly. He picked her up, gently, and carried her to the bed, and then he ran downstairs to get his medical bag. He dressed her wound and sat on the bed by the side of her for the rest of the night; until he could no longer stay awake.
‘Help me. For God’s sake, help me!’
Eric sat bolt upright in bed, still fully clothed and covered in sweat. He looked down at Joy and found she was still asleep. Quietly he made his way to the bathroom and washed his face with cold water. As he raised his head to look at his reflection, he thought he could hear a baby crying. He followed the sound until he found himself outside the nursery. As he opened the door, the crying became louder. Eric walked to the wall and started to punch it with his fists.
‘For god’s sake, die. You have no right to live,’ he shouted.
The crying got louder and louder. Then suddenly it stopped and Joy was stood by his side holding him.
‘You heard it too, didn’t you?’ she asked.
‘It’s still alive in there,’ Eric was hysterical; ‘It’s been in there with no food or water. There’s no way it should still be alive.’
‘Look at your hands Eric,’ Joy said, taking his hands in hers.
Eric looked down at his hands; they were smeared in blood and had deep gashes across the knuckles. His eyes turned once more toward the wall, which was also smeared with blood. He began to cry and Joy held him in her arms.
Next morning, Eric rang work to tell them he’d be off work for a few days, when he replaced the receiver he turned towards Joy and asked her what had happened yesterday. She told him everything.
‘I think I’m going mad,’ he said to Joy, ‘look at my hands, how I acted last night. I was a mess.’
‘We have got to pull ourselves together and get on with our lives. Otherwise we will go mad.’
‘How do you explain everything that’s happening?’ Eric asked, nervously, ‘I think God is punishing us for what we did.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ Joy hissed, ‘Things happen all the time that can’t be explained.’
‘Oh sure,’ Eric shouted, ‘You nearly get killed by something you can’t see and you’re not in any state of mind other than calmness.’
‘We have to put the past behind us. We can’t let anyone know, they would lock us up.’
They both sat in silence knowing that they had to try and carry on as normal, the best they could.
Nothing else happened for the next few months. Except for the baby crying every night, it seemed as though things were getting back to normal at last. Eric’s state of mind had improved, although he was still jumpy and nervous. To Joy it was as though nothing had happened to disrupt their lives. That was until the night the crying finally ceased.
Joy had felt strangeness in the house all day. It was as though the house was a tomb. It was too quiet. She jumped as Eric opened the front door.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked, nervously.
‘Nothing. I just want to get out of here for a while,’ she said, trying to smile.
They both decided to go to their favourite pub in the country. Joy made the reservations to stay for the night.
While driving there, Eric began to notice something was wrong with the car. He began to weave from one side of the road to the other.
‘What’s going on?’ Joy screamed.
‘I can’t control the car, I…’
Before Eric could say anymore, the car swerved violently, turned over when it hit the curb and burst into flames as it hit the ground. The car lay in the deserted field, flames lapping hungrily. Nothing stirred in the darkness, except for a lone owl settling back into the tree it had previously been startled from.
The Maidstone house stood empty for two years. Three couples had previously bought the house, but none had stayed longer than a month. They told people it was haunted, it had strangeness about it and they could hear a man and woman shouting at each other. There was also a baby that cried
Nobody wanted to live there, except a newlywed couple who’d just moved to the area and wanted something cheap. They had heard all the stories, but they weren’t put off.
They decorated the entire house. When they stripped the wallpaper off the nursery walls, they found a doorway that had been bricked up and decided to see what was behind it.
When the wall had been pulled down, the young couple stared horrified at what they had discovered. There in the tiny room in a small crib, was the deformed body of a small child or what they thought should have been a child. It was too deformed to tell what it really was. They called the police and the body was taken away.
The ghostly crying and arguments between the man and woman had left the house forever.
insanity or love?