Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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I'm Only Here for the Child

by Felix Bailey

Perching on the rusted tiles, I see two figures stagger in the yellow sand below. The woman rubs the bulge in her belly as she walks, trying to catch up to the man ahead of her. She shivers in the mid-autumn breeze as her unkempt hair and growling stomach manage to stumble towards the doormat before he does.

I float down and land my skeletal feet on the balcony, looking for a way in. Peering into the living room from the shutters, the ensuing darkness is only interrupted by dim illumination from the light bulbs. There’s no heater, it's probably cold enough without me.

As the voices start to get louder, I drift towards the frail kitchen window-inside, two giant silhouettes argue behind the curtain with blatant shouts and rigid, pointing fingers.

I have to get closer. But I can't risk mindlessly phasing through a window, they might hear something. An entrance more subtle... the chimney!

I hover back up and, spotting the well-rusted pipe, plunge in. The shaft is an all-consuming abyss of ash and soot.

My landing's rough, unworthy of a guest, but fitting for me--a morbid Saint Nicholas. The charcoal scatters off me and wafts into the air as I float along, transforming the musky corridor into the physical memory of an ancient tomb.

A singular polished shelf stands out, distancing itself from the moldy keyboard below. On it lies a fishing trophy engraved David. B, and an old wedding photo with the smiling couple's heads circled in deep red: a caged reminder of how close they used to be.

"How are you feeling?" the woman asks, the night's cold biting into her patched-up dress. A brown mess of hair grumbles a reply, the mouth mimicking his shoulder's disheartening shrug. The beard that cakes his chin and swarms up to his nose shivers in withdrawal, but remains civilized, just as he's been taught. His hands, dirtied from factory labor, fix themselves together for warmth--he fears both the winter night and the day he is inevitably replaced by a machine.

The woman is a husk of what she was on her wedding day. She's lost faith, those eyes that were once so wide and blue, are now hollowed to narrow slits.

I have seen such eyes many thousands of times across my eternal years.

The aging beauty fears.

She reminds him of the problems they face. The damage to the already pitiful finances. She suggests instead they live frugally, '…to cut down on our luxuries, and your drink'.

But he's decided. Drudging out of the living room, he finds his last reserves in the worn-out kitchen drawer and gives in. He comprehends the selfish act he's about to commit.

An act I must witness.

Another gulp of foamy courage distances him from murder in the first degree. His mask falls to the floor and shatters. He is free, free from moral obligations, untempered by societal expectations.

The primitive mind's desire to hurt and for blood lust comes crawling out. The wife pleads and makes her peace, only trying his patience further.

"Why does one hold a grudge for the past?" I ask. "Why try to drink away the sadness of yesterday by borrowing the happiness of tomorrow?"

Now they begin to bicker. Their voices build and build, the argument growing into a dangerous cacophony. Lunging towards his wife, the hardened hands flail and scrape against her. I'm forced to drift back into the shadows, my pitch black rags and skeletal fingers sweeping painfully close.

The belt slithers out of its buckle, and he begins his relentless assault, starting with her legs. She screams his name, over and over. Despite all the signs--his growing habit, the frequent visits to the bar--it's too late; she trusted him. Void of regret, he continues to beat and prod, to damage and harm. She whimpers for mercy; a silent prayer to the heavens. Praying to something, anything, for protection. To something that can stop her suffering, something with the power over life and death.

But I'm only here for the child.

Hunched over, drenched in lust and jealousy, his fist clenches and drives forward into her swollen belly. Despite months of development, it will only take a single blow.

The half formed skull shatters.

I dive in, cradling the unborn spirit through my brittle claws. The girl is tender and soft, eternally trapped in innocence, less than a month away from seeing her mother's sea blue eyes.

Holding the nameless girl in my arms, I prepare to guide her away. Turning to the man, I hope to see some fragment of remorse, to know he's regretful.

But even now, he still blames her.

Nothing can sate the monster's blind anger; not her trembling, not her prayers, and certainly not the way she clings to survival.

Grabbing a Chardonnay bottle from the damp, wilted shelves, he inches closer. He smashes it against her again and again, with more force each time. Glass splinters scatter across the haggled floorboards, shrapnel piercing her limbs, puncturing the already beaten flesh.

The guilty hand falters, losing its direction and hatred. He screams--glass shards are embedded into his hands. The bottle drops to the floor, but the man falls first. His victim is shaking, reassessing her world.

It's always sweeter when you're going down the aisle.

Through her pure and trusting soul, she has suffered terribly. Her tears are soaking into the floorboards. He has done so many wrongs. Had so many chances. Why can't I avenge her? Dispense justice? I want to take him instead. I want him dead.

I could carry out the act unhindered. All that bleeding woman would see is a levitating shard pierce his neck. The authorities would pass it off as an hallucination. I can feel the opportunity clinging to me, breathing inside me. It's so possible.

But these are all human justifications. Once the woman stumbles to a phone, he'll be legally punished, and face human justice.

My hollow bones creak softly towards the balcony, and, with the small soul in hand, the night welcomes me back.


2016 Felix Bailey

Bio: Felix Bailey is an amateur writer currently studying and stressing out over his final year in High School. He lives in Australia and likes History, Politics and gawking at the US 2016 Election.

E-mail: Felix Bailey

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