Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

Creative writing By Lucinda Merriman

It was silly really, letting the weak winter daylight disappear before walking her dogs; now it was too late to get back without the dark closing in. Pulling on a coat over her expectant belly, chastising herself for becoming distracted and irritated at the prospect of a wet, muddy slide in the twilight, Justine squeezed through the back-gate.

Her day had been frustratingly unproductive; undeveloped ideas melting away before forming fully and the baby seemed unusually restless, shifting within her.

And there was a nightmare which suddenly surfaced, freed by a radio debate discussing gender-neutrality – a ‘cause’ she’d adopted by opting-out of a ‘sexing-scan’ and felt was a fundamental part of this androgynous existence. Devastatingly real, the dream revealed a faceless baby, slick with blood – ambilocal chord fast about its neck. “It was only a dream”, she comforts, shaking her head to stop foreboding thoughts sinking deeper.

Heading along the well-trodden hedge line, huddled against the annoyance of an unorganised existence writing her first novel, she passes under the trees’ dense canopy. She wonders at her unease, having always been more concerned at creating a book than a life.

Ahead, the beagles stop abruptly, unhappy tails tucked despondently beneath them, focusing their intense gaze on something sensed along the path. A cold, malingering pocket of air, drapes itself across Justine’s shoulders and shivering, she instinctively touches her stomach.

Suddenly, a blackbird sounds a noisy warning. Relieved and annoyed at the dogs’ unease, she calls to them and hears a voice as faint as an echo whispering back. Pulse pounding, she searches the direction of the canines’ neurosis, while fishing for her mobile in her pocket, swiping for the reassurance of the torch.

Her phone is dead and swearing, she moves to hurry back, startled at how vulnerable and cold she unexpectedly feels. But the unintelligible voice speaks again – louder this time - as if tuning to a more receptive channel and glancing down she sees that a pale-light is emanating from its screen. Shakily holding it away from her like an unpleasant thought, Justine reluctantly places the phone to her ear with a tentative “Hello?”.

She expects a girl’s voice but can’t be sure and as she tries to make sense of the barren words; the voice is lost to babies’ screams in the background. The glow dies, along with all composure and crying, she tries to run back along the slippery path.

Falling painfully onto her knees, struggling to stand up, a new terror seizes her as something brushes against her face and turning, Justine sees a pair of pale, dirty feet suspended in mid-air.

Hauling herself up, hysterical sobs racking through her body, she stumbles away and looking back sees a corpse hanging, head lolling unnaturally, blank eyes staring down at its distended stomach.

The police and paramedics arrived quickly but there’s nothing to be found.

Her doctor insists on another scan later that week, which confirms Justine is having twins – a boy and a girl.

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