In an attempt to steer herself away from the thoughts that plagued her, she laid back and remembered the very thing that she had been experiencing fits with for the past few nights. Memories weren't always pleasant, more specifically because ones she could recall had emotional attachment, which was too often a traumatic event as opposed to something with positive inflections. This one had to deal with her mother, and how she was so...
She was so gentle and understanding, a figure that was balanced in both feminine modesty and fiery passion that left her unrivaled in that sense. Despite characters she read about in books, the scolding parental figures that led coming-of-age youths to self-discovery, she understood that was fantasy, and this was reality.
Her mother was her teacher and guardian, someone who could shield her from the world when things were too frightening. On the nights when she couldn't sleep, which became more frequent as she grew older, her mother would sit with her and read, gentle but stern in trying to put her to bed so that her body could rest. She comforted her through night terrors, pushing back her hair from a sweating forehead and dousing the hot nights with cool water on a cloth that she pressed there to rid her of that suffocating feeling.
She knew when to call her on her bullshit, the lies through clenched teeth while she simply laughed at her half-assed attempts to pull one over her head. She explained to her many things, as much as she could based on her knowledge of life how she lived it, and offered advice despite when she was unwilling to hear it. Often times she pretended not to listen and treated her with cold indifference as opposed to half-hearted comebacks, isolating the woman when she became intolerable so that she could stew alone (knowing that she was undoubtedly right).
Then there was that night – when she was finally, finally asleep – and she woke up to THAT FUCKING SCREAM.
Her bed was wet with perspiration when she stirred. She lifted her head from the pillow and stared at the doorway. She was sure that she heard something, the sound of it sending a rush of short-lived panic through her unconscious figure, but what exactly was it? What happened? She lifted her body just enough to linger, hunched, on the molding sheets that her mother had scrounged up together as a gift for her...what was it? Eighth, ninth birthday?
The silence buzzed in her ear. She dug a finger in it to clear her head of the jumbled thoughts that did nothing to satiate her curiosity. Her nose was running, maybe she had a cold and that was why she had finally given in to the slumber, and she was overcome with dizziness when she attempted to stand. It took a few more seconds of placing her hand on the wall to steady herself before she was ready to trudge out, preparing herself for the reprimand of her mother for crawling out so late.
The word went unanswered, probably because it came out in a strangled whisper. Halfway in the question she realized her father was out of it; if he was disturbed by her childish request he would no doubt take it out on her in the morning by putting her through more of those survival exercises she had come to dislike based on sheer redundancy. So the request for her mother died on her lips and she opted to search, speechless this time, so as not to invoke the wrath of a sleep-deprived parent.
She stumbled on a raised floorboard, one that her father promised to fix time and time again; not that she could blame him, the house itself was coming down around them and she understood he had other priorities. Still, she wasn't quick to hide her annoyed expression in the dark because she knew no one would see the twisted upper lip or her furrowed brows.
Her stride paused when she listened close for any indication that she was the only one up. She could hear heavy breaths from around the corner, as if someone had just gone out for a midnight run and come back.
It wasn't too strange for her parents to indulge in these activities because it was when they had a sliver of privacy seeing as how she was confined to her bedroom to at least "try" and get to sleep. She wasn't sure what it was they did when they left her alone but they seemed to be in a much better mood and went to bed with ease, so she wasn't about to ruin their fun by whining to tag along. Besides, as soon as they slipped out and figured she was safe all tucked in her bed with her eyes glued to the ceiling, she indulged in her own means of unwinding.
She slipped around the corner and entered the parlor as her mother so fondly referred to it, the entire space consisting of nothing but a few cracked lawn chairs arranged in a neat triangle for them to converse and enjoy each other's company. Her mother sometimes brewed this disgusting tea that she made with some sort of bitter leaf from outside, and each time they drank it she would take it all in one gulp despite the temperature scalding her stomach to avoid the unbearable itch it left on her tongue.
Except that something wasn't right. Not now, not with the moonlight coming in slices through the blacked windows that they only took down in the early morning to bring in some life to the house – and only when she and her father were gone. She was used to navigating in darkness, having her eyes adjust to the lack of light so she could rely on other senses. But now, with the room swathed in an eerie pearlescent glow, she found that each individual hair on the back of her neck stood at full attention, much like the soldiers her father explained when he handed her that gun.
She whirled around and, distracted by the terrible way that the room looked because she could see it turned upside-down and topsy-turvy by the sun's light reflected from that orb in the sky, realized that she was eye-to-eye, face to face with something wearing her mother's skin.
It wasn't her mother; it couldn't be, because her mother never grinned like that. There were always tiny, soft smiles accompanied with contradictory boisterous laughter that still caught her off guard in the lifetime she had known her. But this thing, the creature creating ripples in the blue-purple flesh of her mother's torso, approached her, flexing in a way that sent thick veins protruding through her arms. Its jaw unhinged and a row of serrated molars dangled with shards of splintered wood and sheer, elastic strips of who-knows-what.
And just by staring at the ghoulish expression painted, almost stapled on her face with the taut muscles strung along her cheekbones, she knew that this thing, whatever it was, was the incarnation of death itself. She could see it just by the way its eyes bulged and how the spheres spasmed in their sockets, lolling with random, jagged bursts of energy which was inhuman in every sense of the word. It didn't help that her entire nose was crushed, nothing left but a mashed mess of cartilage and blood that seeped down her chin.
But possibly the worst of it all was the cavernous wound, the gasping hole of torn flesh that was placed on her thigh, bone peering out from the dislocation and the rubbery way it swayed with every suck of air she took in through her discolored teeth. She recognized the pattern of the gash and knew what happened, knew deep in her clenching heart that one of them had somehow gotten in—
(the window, she reflected, because it was open. Simple.)
—and grabbed her mother and managed to sink down into her soft flesh before she had a chance to kill it. A struggle happened, and because of her slumber, the one that was so satisfying and disgustingly good, she had missed it all. She was buried deep within the cocoon of blankets stitched from unconditional love while her mother defended herself but couldn't avoid how it latched onto her, how it bit down with the intent to eat up her life force and leave her nothing but a shell of her former self.
And, in a way, it had succeeded.
It lunged at her and let out a scream that was ripped from its chest, a feral sound that would be forever imprinted on her very soul, one that brought tears to her eyes and caused her to lapse for a moment, just one second.
That hesitation was just enough for this creature who saw her not as a daughter any more but a mere source of nutrition, food, something that drew the urge to destroy within it. It swung down at its target because it was so easy and it almost seemed like it LAUGHED while it made the move to drive its elongated nails through her ribcage, grab a hold of her spine and crush it to a fine paste between eager fingers.
It made contact with her, nothing more than a brush of its touch on her, and-
She was outside, smiling at her reflection in a puddle of water from the late afternoon rain. Everything was at peace, the worries of the world melting away and leaving her in nothing but a mess of euphoria rivaling her first orgasm. She was groggy, too, and something chimed in the back of her mind, a tinkling of a bell accompanied by a hazy image that oozed satisfaction. Her head hit her chest and she fell within herself, only awoken by her father's firm hands shaking her shoulders and the panicked expression on his face that she couldn't understand even if she had tried to decipher the movements of his lips.
Her father never said what he did with the body. At first he refused to touch it and the two of them were forced to reside outside seeing as how neither one of them was brave enough to cart it away.
By the third day the smell began to permeate the clearing and, with a sharp curse under his breath, he disappeared within and came back out with one of their burlap sacks that had a sopping wet burgundy stain near the seams. He never even looked at her when he hauled it over his shoulder despite the sickening slap it made against his broad back, toting the full weight down a narrow path of gangly trees that made the scene all the more difficult to watch.
She hadn't bothered to follow him or ask where her mother had been buried – if that was what he did instead of burning the remains – because the guilt that swept inside her chest would silence her for the next six months. No more communication existed between them aside from the brief nods or grunts that they understood each other. It even got to the point that she was comfortable in the silence; when she did catch her father talking to himself when he assumed he was alone, the mere inflections of his voice grated on her ears and gave her the same feeling akin to grinding her teeth together at night.
But that night, the one where she faced that monster alone in the dark, continued to embed itself in every action that she made. She understood that while her mother had been long gone before the attack, she couldn't shake the feeling that her own flesh and blood, or what was left of it, had turned on her without so much as a single moment of hesitation. That was what this world had done to her and she lost a guardian, she lost a friend, and she lost a large part of her life.
She settled again, sliding her eyes shut and wondering just what it was that happened. She couldn't fill in the gap missing, the period of time that occurred the minute she was struck until she stirred again and had that calmness to her soul, an emotion she could only describe a handful of times in the course of her years. She never asked her father to lament on the gory details because she was sure he wouldn't answer her anyway, but the curiosity never ceased deep within, as much as she shoved those thoughts away.
Because it was over and done with.
There was no changing the past.
The only thing left was the immediate future.