Jolted awake by something she forgot no sooner than she opened her eyes, Makayla studied the shadows of the darkened room. At once, she moved her hands to her stomach. Its flatness confused her. She thought for a moment, but with her head racing even more quickly than her heart, nothing materialized. She searched the covers for the tv remote.
After hours of the watching comedic shenanigans, she flipped off the television. Someone was in the hall; she could hear their whispers. She slipped out of bed and made her way to the door. It glided open as she turned the knob and there at the end of the hall she saw them, the little boy in the same ratty old sweater and the teenage girl in her silken, punch-covered dress. Their backs were to Makayla, but still they shuffled hurriedly towards her in reverse. Screaming, she slammed the door and turned, colliding with the boy’s dangling legs. The putrid smell of his death wafting off his purple toes filled her mouth with sickness.
Lurching up in bed, Makayla was promptly met with blinding sunlight that poured in through the shades. She launched into a frantic search for her ringing cell phone, “Hello.”
“Are we still on for lunch or what? I’ve been calling you for an hour.” On the other end of the line, her sister, Kamia, sounded restless.
“Ye-” Makayla stopped short, noticing her protruding belly. Placing her hand on it, she studied it strangely.
“Yes, yes. I’ll be there at noon.” She stated calmly before hanging up the phone, never taking her eyes from her stomach.
At lunch, Makayla picked over her salad. After eating only some chips and salsa, Kamia was on her second margarita.
“So what is up with you, Makayla? You’ve been a little weird ever since you found out you were pregnant, but it seems to be getting worse.”
“Am I pregnant?” Makayla asked forcefully.
Kamia appeared genuinely intrigued. “What do you mean? Have you seen yourself? Of course, you’re pregnant.”
“But that’s the thing, Kamia, sometimes I wake up and I’m not. I can’t even tell whether I am asleep or awake anymore.”
“What do you mean?” Kamia asked.
“Do you remember that kid that killed himself when I was in third grade?”
Kamia thought for a moment, “Uh, yeah, Dan…danny…”
“Daniel! His name was Daniel Ramos. He hung himself.”
“Ok, yeah, Daniel, I remember him. So what?”
“Do you remember what happened? What I said about him after he died?”
Kamia giggled, “Yeah, you got in big trouble once it spread. Dad had to come up to the school and everything.”
Makayla was verging on tears.
“Jesus, Makayla, you said, ‘Ding dong, the witch is dead.’ It was stupid and silly but you were in third grade, you were just a kid. You didn’t mean anything by it. Is that what this is about?”
“Yes, that’s what this is about. It’s about Daniel Ramos and it’s about Jessie Conical.”
“Oh my God, Makayla, this is ancient history.” Kamia argued.
“It started with Daniel, but that’s only where it started. From that point on, it never stopped. From Daniel Ramos right on up to Jessie Conical. We thought it was funny. We-”
Kamia interrupted, “Jessie Conical threw herself from the roof of our high school because she was a weird, brooding, all black wearing introvert! How in the hell is that our fault?”
“Yes, she threw herself from a roof after we had been torturing her the entire year and the same night we humiliated her at the winter formal by pouring red punch down her dress or don’t you remember? Not much of a coincidence, if you ask me. I told her the dress looked better after the punch. She was trying and we threw it in her face. We were horrible people.”
“We were kids! Blame it on our rough childhood. We barely survived growing up with mom, one of us didn’t survive.”
“That doesn’t make it ok, Kamia.” Makayla argued.
“What the hell? Why are you bringing all of this stuff up now?” Kamia wanted to know as she was tiring of her sister’s grossly belated sentiments.
“Have you ever heard that saying about the sins of the father being visited upon the son?”
“What?” Kamia huffed.
“I…we…we bullied people relentlessly until we finally took someone’s child away from them.” Makayla started.
“We didn’t take anyone.” Kamia interrupted.
“And now they’re after me.”
“Who?” Kamia asked.
Makayla trembled with a fear that hardly let her speak.
“Jessie?” Kamia seemed to be praying that her sister would not agree.
“And Daniel. They are trying to take my baby.” Makayla added.
“You’re shitting me, right?” Kamia began to smile just a bit but it quickly dampened. “Tell me you’re joking.”
Makayla stared at her sister without a word.
With a sigh, Kamia spoke the words that she had been trying to hold back for so long, “Makayla, I think that you need to see someone.”
A loud bang outside the window commanded Makayla’s attention; she stiffened at the sight of Jessie, the girl had fallen from the sky her dead body pressed firmly into the hot cement with a pool of blood growing around her. Kamia turned to follow Makayla’s gaze through the window and saw only cars dragging through the lazy intersection. Before Kamia could return her attention to her sister, Makayla had fled.
“Makayla?” Kamia called, but her sister was already halfway to her car.
That evening Makayla woke on the couch, where she found herself clutching a knife. The second thing she noticed was that her baby was gone, leaving her and her stomach deflated.
“No.” She cried quietly. The phone rang. It was Kamia.
“Kamia?” Makayla spoke as soon as she answered.
“Makayla, are you ok? I just wanted to check on you. You seemed a little distant at lunch today.”
“I need to ask you a weird question, but just give me an answer, please. Am I pregnant?”
“Pregnant? If you are, you haven’t told me. You were skinny as a rail today at lunch.”
“Kamia, I have to go.” Makayla laid her head on the arm of the couch, clutching her knife in one hand and her empty belly in the other.
The next time Makayla woke the living room was completely dark. In the kitchen, she heard them. As she tried to jump from the couch, her pregnant belly hindered her. Makayla rubbed her stomach gratefully and held her knife out fiercely in protection of it. She turned to face the whispers behind her and all that she could make out were shadows dipping and twirling in the darkness.
“What do you want?” Makayla asked and in response, the whispers rose to frightening clarity.
Ding, dong, the witch is dead.
Jessie, your dress looks better now than it did before. The words assaulted her repeatedly and suddenly the room was spinning and the moment it stopped, she was face to face with Jessie, the girl’s bloody hands pressed tightly to her belly.
Makayla screamed before running into the room and locking the door behind her. Looking down she saw that her belly was flat once again, her child stolen. “Please stop. Please give my baby back.”
Ding, dong, the witch is dead. Jessie, your dress looks better now than it did before.
Something grabbed at her toes and she looked down to see tiny fingers protruding from under the door. She ran into the bathroom, locked the door, crouched down in the tub, pulling the shower curtain to a close and clasping the knife close to her. Once again, her swollen stomach bulged and she had trouble sitting comfortably.
Makayla. Makayla. Makayla. Makayla. Makayla. The voices called.
On the other side of the curtain, the shadows rose and she groaned a deep cry as the black water came pouring into the tub.
“I’m sorry.” Makayla croaked just as the shower curtain jerked back and the hands of the dead reached down toward the life inside of her.
Kamia’s skin glowed under the early morning sunlight and she rocked slightly on her feet as she and the officer waited for the landlady to unlock Makayla’s door. Kamia had not been feeling well that morning and had been nauseous the whole way over. “We had lunch a couple of days ago and she was acting strange. I haven’t heard from her since. I never go more than a day without talking to her.”
As soon as the landlady opened the door, they all took a step back from the overwhelming stench.
“Makayla.” Kamia called hopelessly. Leaving the landlady behind Kamia followed the officer through the house into the bathroom where he immediately tried to hold her back, but she pushed passed him and went to her little sister, who lay in a pool of blood, her once bright brown eyes glazed over to a silvery hue.
“Sister” Kamia spoke softly as she knelt to hold her sister’s icy hand. Kamia lifted Makayla’s arm to study the long slice that went from her wrist almost up to her elbow, she glanced over and spotted the matching scar on her other arm. The knife lay close to Makayla’s hand, hidden behind her large, pregnant belly.
“What in the hell happened here?” The officer whispered, more to himself than to Kamia.
“She wasn’t doing well with this pregnancy, but I never thought she would do something like this.” Kamia laid her head down on the side of the tub and cried as the officer disappeared to call for help.
For a moment, Kamia thought she was hearing things. She lifted her head slowly and studied her sister’s tight gray skin and the purple veins that marked clear trails across her face. Closer, Kamia looked and saw the slightest of movements in her sister’s sunken eyes.
“Makayla” Kamia called as she lifted herself to her knees.
Something lurched in Makayla’s belly and her gray eyes shifted and sat coldly upon her sister. Jerking forward, the blackened tips of her fingers swept Kamia’s stomach through her thin t-shirt. “They’re coming for you.” The corpse whistled before her blackened tongue went limp.
Kamia fell back into a plastic bin, which toppled over, spilling rollers, brushes and bobby pins across the tile floor. When she looked up again her sister was there, still dead and Kamia had to throw up.
Jean Nicole Rivers