A Wail in the Night

Photo by Ahmed Adly on Pexels.com

Laura placed the mug inside the cupboard and straightened it so that the handle was facing her. She took another cup out from the cardboard box and did the same. She found the repetitive movements comforting. Laura glanced out the kitchen window after placing the last mug. The grass was a vibrant green, accentuated with palm trees and short rounded bushes; the land was struck by the midday sun. Streaks of ice appeared on the edges of the windowpane, spreading slowly towards the middle. Laura hadn’t noticed, as her mind wandered to an image of her and her unborn son playing in a baby pool in the yard. She smiled to herself.
“Honey, I got another box here of utensils. I’ll place it next to the first one.”
Laura turned to face her husband, Oscar, and then glanced back at the window. The ice had receded to barely anything.
“What’s wrong? Something out there?” Oscar said and stared out. He thought he saw something clinging to the window pane.
“No, no. I thought I saw something.” Laura said as she hugged him around the waist.
Oscar turned and wrapped his arms around Laura.
“This is going to be great. We’ll start over. And… we’ll leave the past behind.” Oscar said; he pulled her chin up with his finger, their faces close.
Laura’s smile almost faltered, yet she managed to hold fast to it. “Yes, I believe it too.” She said, knowing that it was what he wanted to hear.
“Great! I’m almost done. I’ll get in the last remaining boxes. How about we grab some burgers from the place we passed by on our way here after going to Home Depot?” Oscar said as he headed back, stopping at the kitchen door frame.
“Sounds good to me,” Laura said.

Laura and Oscar entered the massive Home Depot and was greeted with the smell of saw dust and the hum of machinery. Oscar led the way to the aisle where they kept the nails, he was looking for a kit for hanging frames. Laura stood by waiting, glancing at her phone with disinterest. Her mother had texted asking if everything was alright. I wish she would stop worrying so much.
Laura almost missed it as she darted a look towards the end of the aisle. The tail end of a dark blue jacket and brown shoes could be seen followed by a child’s giggle. She glanced back at Oscar, he didn’t give any indication that he had noticed. Laura peered backed, waiting for the child to return. She heard a giggle in the distance.
Slowly, making her way up the aisle towards the sound, Laura looked back briefly at Oscar. He was studying two items he had in hand. She left the aisle behind and walked passed the proceeding ones, peering down each one. The giggle came to her again. Laura followed it to an area that was cordoned off to customers. She peered into the gloom of the space under construction. A shadow hopped. It must be the boy!
Ducking under the yellow tape, Laura fanned her face with her hand as dust swirled around. It was an area filled with construction debris, tarp and dim lighting. A tool box lay on a table nearby, its lid open. Cables dangled from the ceiling, Laura pushed past them and found herself at a corner. A chill hung in the air and she rubbed her hands together.
In the shadowy corner, Laura found a crouching small figure. It hummed The Itsy Bitsy Spider in a child’s voice as it rocked gently on its heels. She approached him slowly, careful not to make a sound; in case the child was easily frightened. The humming stopped as she reached him. Laura’s heart accelerated, she felt the saw dust clinging to the back of her throat. I shouldn’t be here.
“Hello,” the boy said, still facing the corner.
“Hi,” Laura’s voice sounded distant and strained.
“Do you want to see something?”
“Sure, then we can go look for your parents.”
The boy giggled. Gradually, he stood up. He couldn’t have been more than seven years old. He turned around, with his hands lifted towards Laura. She stumbled back and fell on her side. The boy had the biggest tarantula she had ever seen, cradled in both of his palms. It’s front hairy legs were raised and the mandibles twitched. Laura got to her feet and ran, leaving the boy behind.
Stumbling out of the area, she bumped into a worker, who admonished her. Laura sprinted by him, searching for Oscar. People peered at her as she coughed violently. Having found the public water fountain, she gulped down the cool liquid, letting it dribbling down her chin.
“Laura?” It was Oscar.
“Oscar.” Laura said as she wiped her chin.
“Where have you been? One minute you were standing there next to me and the next you were gone.” Oscar said.
“I-I-I was looking for something. I was thinking of putting wallpaper in the kitchen.” Laura said, steading her voice.
“Wallpaper? That’s this way. I can show you.”
“No! No, that’s ok. I’m real hungry. Let’s just go. I’ll check some other day.” Laura said, pushing her dark brown hair behind her ears.
“Alright. Are you ok?” Oscar said as he placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Yes, just hungry. You know how I get. I get quiet and moody when I need food.”
“Well, in that case, let’s get you a big, fat burger before you get hangry.” Oscar said, laughing.
Laura pushed a laugh out, which sounded louder than it should have. She glanced back at the far corner of the store, before following Oscar to the cash registers.

Surrounded by half-empty cardboard boxes and scattered pieces of furniture, Oscar and Laura had their fill of smash burgers and fries on their wobbly dining table. One of the table legs had gotten damaged by the move.
“Don’t let me forget to call the movers tomorrow about this table,” Oscar said as he shoved a fry into his mouth.
“Ok. They should be able to compensate us for this. This was shoddy work; they should have been careful. They only had one job.” Laura said she felt herself boiling over.
Oscar placed a hand on her shoulder. “It’s alright, Laura. I will handle it. You should relax. The doctor said you need to be stress-free.”
Laura nodded her head, a pinched smile crossing her face, as she took some deep breathes. She eyed the last fry escaping out of the paper container.
“I call dibs on the last fry,” Laura said, grabbing it.
“Go for it. You deserve it.” Oscar said, rubbing her shoulder.
Oscar watched her.
“Is everything alright? You seem a bit thoughtful, since leaving Home Depot.” He said.
Laura had an image of the tarantula flash into her mind. She kept herself from shuddering at the memory. Oscar eyed her, waiting for a reply.
“When I was looking for the wall paper, I came across an aisle that had lamps. There was a child’s lamp, it had a sky blue base and the shade had images of baseballs and baseballs mitts.” She said and she stared at the vacant, burger box.
“Laura….” Oscar said.
“That would be a nice addition to a nursery, right?
“Yes, it would. If we were -“ Oscar stopped short.
Laura stared at him. She waited for him to finish what he was going to say. Instead, Oscar smiled and rubbed her shoulder.
“I have to go take my pill. Hopefully I can find it in this mess. I need to shower too. Do you need help clearing this out?” Laura said.
“No, no. I can take care of it. Go ahead and take a shower. I’ll probably take one after you.” Oscar said as he gathered the empty boxes of take-out.

The steam covered the bathroom mirror, and Laura used her palm to wipe it away. Naked, she examined her body. Everything seemed normal until her hand landed on her belly. It bulged a little. Laura caressed it affectionately. She began to hum a tune that her father used to sing to her when she was a child. Goosebumps broke out all over her body as an image came to her of her unborn son cradled in her arms; she was sitting in the nursery room. Oscar was standing over them and affectionately gazing at the child. It was a warm feeling that possessed her, and for a moment, she had forgotten that she was in the bathroom. There was a knock on the bathroom door.
“Laura? Was there hot water?” It was Oscar.
“Yes, Oscar.” She said, and she slapped her hand on the sink.
She stared in the mirror and shook her head. Maybe I should call Dr. Lantana tomorrow, Laura thought. These visions are coming back again. It’s this house; I can’t help imagining living here with our… son. I should go back to taking those pills. No, I don’t like them; they always make me feel not myself. Everyone thinks I’ve been taking them. I’ll call the doctor; It’ll be ok. Oscar says to stop worrying and relax. Laura smiled and got dressaura was startled awake, and she blinked the sleep out of her eyes. She glanced at Oscar, his back to her, his body gently rocking by his deep breathing. Laura pushed the blankets off of her, and she sat on the edge of the bed. She heard a sound coming from beyond the open bedroom door. Staring at the opening, she waited for the sound again. When it came, she got up and stood at the doorway. Laura couldn’t make out what it was, yet she believed it was human. She tiptoed down the second-floor hallway towards the guest room. They hadn’t decided what to turn the space into – a guest room, an office, or maybe a nursery, something that Laura had imagined for it. For now, it stood empty, except for the sound that came from within. Laura stood in front of the door, her hand barely grazing the doorknob; the sound drifted to her. It was a wail, a baby’s wail. She gasped and grabbed the doorknob. Before her was a colorful room decorated with a rainbow mural, baby furniture, and an oval woven rug. The room had a chillness in the air that caused her rapid breathing to fog. A crib was tucked into the corner next to the changing basin. Laura slowly walked to it and peered down. Squirming in a blue onesie was a baby boy, his faced pinched with stress. She clucked her tongue and gently lifted the baby into her arms. She swayed and rocked with the baby; It cooed with delight. Laura hummed a tune and was filled with that same warmth again.
Standing at the door was Oscar, who stared at his wife as she paced, arms posed as if she was cradling something in the empty room. He shook his head, bracing himself from the frigid air. A sob threatened to escape his lips.
She had not gotten better, and the realization struck him like a blow to his face. No amount of hours with the therapist had succeeded. No amount of pills had blotted out the supposed hallucinations she was having of their miscarried child. Even his mother’s intervention with a priest did nothing. The ghost of their son, Manuel, was going to stay.


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