By the Pricking of My Thumbs

By Elizabeth Gackstetter Nichols

"Did you hear that?"


"On CNN just now, they said that there is some sort of stange sickness sweeping Japan"

"What kind of sickness?"

"It seems babies, thousands of them, are crying ferociously for hours at a time."

"What's causing it?"

"They don't know. The babies don't seem to have any other symptoms though. Other than the crying, they seem healthy."

"Then maybe it isn't a sickness. Maybe it's just a coincidence."

"Could be."

I am happy, happy, happy. I have a full belly. I love my Mommy. I love my Daddy. It is time for a nap.

"They say that now babies are crying in Europe."

"How strange!"

"Yeah. They still haven't found a cause."

"Are they still crying in Japan?"

"That's another weird thing. CNN says that everyone has lost contact with Japan and the rest of Asia."

"What do you mean, 'lost contact'?"

"There aren't any radio or television broadcasts coming out and all other forms of communication don't seem to be getting in or out."

"And meanwhile, the babies are still crying in Europe."


"Well, I hope it doesn't reach here."


It was a nice nap, except, wait! What is that! I don't like it! Something cold and terrible is out there! Maybe Mommy will make it go away.

"What's the matter?"

"She's a little fussy this afternoon. She'll probably feel better after her next nap. Any further news from Europe?"

"Well, just before we lost radio communication with Europe and Africa, it seemed they were thinking that the babies were fighting to stay awake."

"Huh. So what's causing the communications blackout?"

"The scientists on TV are talking about sunspots and EMF pulses, but they don't really know. CNN sent a plane over there, but they lost communications with it."

It didn't go away! It didn't go away! It got closer while I slept! It is a hunger, devouring everything in front of it. I scream for help.

"What's the matter?"

"I don't know. Maybe that Japanese thing has reached the States."

"How can she stay awake? She hasn't slept for hours."

"What are we going to do?"


I cry and cry and cry. If I keep screaming, I won't fall asleep. I can't fall asleep. It is getting closer. I can feel it all around. Why can't these people see the danger?

"Do you suppose it's colic?"

"No, now they are saying that all the babies are crying here."

"Now she's not taking the bottle. This can't be normal. She won't eat and she won't sleep. I'm going nuts here."


I can't eat. I've learned that eating makes me sleepy and I can't sleep. It slithers closer every time I sleep Don't they understand? There is a serpent coiled around the fragile shell of their universe. It's so close now I can feel the pulse of its blood. I have to stay awake! I must protect my family!

"Maybe we should call the doctor. She must be sick, in pain, or something."

"They're probably overwhelmed."

"Yeah, but we have to do something!"

"I'll go get the phone."


Why aren't they frightened? Can't they feel the monstrous presence? Am I the only one aware of our danger? Maybe that's why it can only get closer when I sleep. My consciousness keeps the evil at bay. I have to fight. I can't let the dark crush us and swallow us whole.

"The doctor says come in. They've set up a triage unit in the park"

"Go get the car."


I can feel it's eyes, feel it's breath. Why does it want to destroy us and our cozy existence?

"I can't find anything physically wrong with her, just like the others, but this screaming and refusing food is not good for her. I'm going to give her a mild sedative. It will calm her and let her sleep. Perhaps she will wake up hungry, having worked out whatever bothered her in her sleep."

"What do you think it is, doctor?"

"We just don't know. All we can do is help them sleep."


I feel jealousy and greed. Love and warmth draw it like a flame. The sedative is working. I can't fight any more. It isn't fair. We are all so small. We try to stay awake, we try to keep it away. Why is it our responsibility to protect the world?

"She fell asleep."

"I don't hear any of the others, either."

"Do you think that means...?"

"It's here..."

The End

Copyright © 1999 by Elizabeth Gackstetter Nichols

Elizabeth is a professor of Spanish at Drury College in Missouri. This is not her first story, but is her first submission. She welcomes all comments and constructive criticism.


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