he house was absolutely silent and completely dark. Asleep like all its patrons. But something had roused her: a sound? A sensation? A feeling? A premonition? Just a dream. Must have been a dream. She looked at the glowing red display of her cheap plastic alarm clock. It was early, very early, too early. Must have been a nothing. But as she prepared to return to the land of dreams it came again: a scream. A child’s scream, shrill and filled with the agony of irrational youth. A child’s scream… Edith. She was fully awake now; out of bed and down the hall, past the stairs that led to the first floor. Into her daughter’s room guided only by the memory of an anguish-filled outburst and the faint glow of the “My Little Pony” nightlight in the hall bathroom.

Her daughter was sitting in bed. Dressed delicately in the frilly, white, cotton nightgown her grandmother had given her last Christmas. Her favorite nightgown, already wearing thin. Should wash it soon. Edith sat staring down at her hands; they were dark (and wet?). They glistened. Yes, they were wet and they glistened in the waning moonlight. Edith looked up, saw her mother and moaned. So filled with pain, too much pain for such a small child.

It’s ok, mommy’s here. The words never came out. Just a gasp. As eyes adjusted slowly to the reduced level of light, mommy saw: Edith’s hands were wet with blood. Blood that was coming from her ears, oozing down her slender throat, soiling her white gown. Should wash it soon. Edith’s eyes were red, filled with tears and blood. “Mommy!” she screamed, “it hurts; it hurts so bad.”

Before mother dearest could move, could reassure, could console, could calm her child, Edith rose, running the few steps to her bedroom window. She stepped up onto the window seat, anointing her family of teddy bears with virgin blood. Mother stared. Edith jumped. Through the window, through the glass, out of the house.

Luna’s guiding light sparkled innocently off the showering shards of glass. Slowly they fell, floating on the moon beams, reflecting blue light about the child’s room: a small bed with lacy white sheets and a light pink bed spread; the plush zoological caricatures that lived on the bed, protecting its somnolent inhabitant from the monsters in the closet; shelves lined with dolls, each garbed in miniaturized sartorial splendor, glass eyes staring blankly out the window. Out the window. Edith. The shower of glass fell to the carpeted floor.

She rushed to the windows. The glass cut deeply into her bare feet. No pain. No sensation. Only Edith.

Edith lay on the cement driveway directly below her window. Her legs bent awkwardly. Broken. Motionless. Dead.

But the girl moved. And mother breathed. Edith stirred, only slightly at first, slowly shedding the shroud of nightmarish unconsciousness. She raised herself up on two arms. Tried to rise further. Could not: too painful; but not so bad as the pain in her head.

Again the girl moaned. This time it wasn't much more than a gurgling sound in her throat. Edith coughed. Black blood and saliva ran down her tiny chin. She was alive but the pain was too much.

Slowly Edith dragged herself down the driveway. Leaving behind a trail of innocent blood. An eternity later she reached the curb. Catching her breath, she raised her head as high as she could and smashed it down on the cold edge of the curb with as much force as she could muster. Stunned she lay still a while but the merciless pain revived her, wouldn’t let her sleep, wouldn’t end. Again she brought her head down on the concrete. And again. Blood covered her face, streaming freely from a gash in her scalp. And again. No more thought now, just pain. Her nose snapped sickeningly against the curb. And again. Her front teeth fell from her sweet lips to join the puddle of blood that slowly oozed toward the storm drain. And again. Her left eye exploded adding milky optical fluid to coagulating blood. And again. No more. The pain was gone. Edith stirred no more. She lay awkwardly on the side of the walk. Sleeping peacefully disfigured on a soft bed of spent lifeblood. Sleeping in her white cotton nightgown. My baby’s favorite, mother thought, should wash it soon.


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