by DW GILLESPIE
I don’t believe in ghosts. I should say that up front. My mom still talks about the “haunted” house we lived in growing up, but I swear to Christ, I never saw anything. The idea of someone dying and hanging around the same damn place just never made much sense to me. Maybe I don’t scare easy, or maybe I’m just a skeptic. But now, after everything that’s happened, I think I get it. It’s not about rattling chains and white sheets. It’s about the echo left behind by pain and heartbreak.
When things started going downhill with Juliet and the baby, I didn’t even recognize it at first. I mean, everyone gets sick, right? The throwing up, not keeping anything down. All just part of the deal.
I’ll spare you the details, but here’s what you need to know. His name—our son, that is—was Jacob. Yeah, we named him. I wanted to wait, wanted to stay traditional about the whole thing, but she couldn’t last a week. Once we knew, once we saw that little heartbeat, she had to know who he was. My God, how much easier would it have been if he didn’t have a name?
She lost him. I know that the doctors, the specialists, they all tell us to say that “we” lost him, but that’s nonsense. I didn’t feel him the way she did. Sure, I felt a couple of kicks here and there, enough to get a chuckle out of, but it wasn’t the same. Juliet swore up and down that she could tell things about him from the way he moved. Said he would probably be an athlete, just like his dad. No, we didn’t lose anything. She did all the losing for both of us.
Another thing the specialists say is that it takes men longer to really make that connection with their kids. That one I do believe. I needed to hold him, to toss him around a little, maybe hear him laugh. Then, he’d have me curled around his fingers like kite strings. Never got the chance, though.
Even so, I understand why she fell so hard. No one should have to go through what she did, and I honestly don’t have the imagination to think up anything more torturous for a human being to go through.
At first, she refused to talk about it, to talk about anything. For the first month, she wouldn’t eat or drink or even bathe. I watched her, day after day, withering. She looked like a valentine rose sometime around Saint Patrick’s Day. I kept working, moving forward, trying to maintain a life for the two of us, but I was losing. I loved her more than I can say, but I was losing, and no amount of love could change that fact.
Even now, it hurts to admit it, but my temper started to go. One night, I forced her into the shower, screaming. She was clawing and hitting, even biting, but I didn’t back down. This had to stop, somehow, some way. I was reaching, trying too hard to change something that couldn’t be changed, draining the ocean by handfuls. She slumped into my arms and all the fight went out of her.
We passed a turning point that night, a subtle shift between us. She began to shy away from my touch and recoil if I dared brush against her in bed. We were, for a lack of a better word, adrift.
I don’t know how long things could have gone on like that. Maybe forever. Like I said, I love her deeply, and even though I can’t say I’m happy, I can’t turn off the way I feel. We just sort of fell into a new way of life, though ‘un-life’ might be more accurate. A new reality had fallen over us like snow covering a corpse, and we accepted it. We were sleepwalkers now, zombies liberated from the details of life, doomed to walk an endless loop of work, sleep, work.
I can still remember the morning when the change came. I was still sleeping, lolling in and out of that few minutes before the alarm went off, when I heard her crying in the bathroom. I leapt from bed and found her sitting on the toilet with tears on her cheeks. I was frantic, desperate even, as I tried to figure out what was wrong. Then I realized she was laughing. Her red eyes were beaming as the tears rolled down.
“He’s here,” she said cradling her stomach which was as thin as it had ever been.
“Jacob,” she said grinning. “I’m still pregnant.”
Thus began a new day. She was alive again, vibrant and happy, excited to greet every dawn. She was herself once more.
Do I have to state the obvious? We hadn’t touched each other since Jacob died, and I know that sex was the last thing in the world on her mind. So, you see, she couldn’t be pregnant, and she wasn’t. That much I knew.
What could I do? I considered having her committed, forcing her into professional help, but the truth was, I was as happy as she was. I didn’t know how long we could live such a grotesque lie, but I didn’t care. Love can make you do crazy things.
Just this last week, as we lay in bed, my hand cradling her stomach, she smiled and gazed at me.
Now I see. My wife, my love, she’s not crazy. Neither am I. And I suppose I’ve said too much now not to just come right out and say it. She’s haunted. Her body, her very womb, holds something wonderful: The ghost of our unborn son.
She’s in bed now, all still. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I’m at peace. I believe she is as well, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
D.W. Gillespie is a longtime horror writer and fan who
lives in middle Tennessee. When he's not at his day job, he spends most of his
time wrangling his two young children, two dogs, and two cats. Most of his
nights are spent lying in bed and dreaming up awful, twisted things to write
about. These stories, in turn, are read by his loving wife who immediately
wonders whether or not she is sharing a bed with a crazy person. Dustin may be found on Facebook:
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