“Come on,” Dad said, visibly exhausted. “Please go back to sleep, Tiny One. I have work tomorrow.” But Little Baby Molly continued to cry. It was two-thirty in the morning in their small cottage at the edge of town, and in the little town of Mousehole in Cornwall, that was extremely late.
“What do we do?” Mom said from the doorway, her hair a tangled mess. She looked equally drained and leant against the door frame, less from physical fatigue as from the mental fatigue of trying to help a very unhappy baby. They’d both already had long days with Dad having worked a long day, and Mom having dealt with this throughout. “Do you think she’s ill?”
“She doesn’t have a temperature,” Dad said, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and index finger, a universal sign of exasperation and exhaustion. He sighed and shrugged. “Maybe she’s teething? I don’t know, but I hope she stops soon. Tomorrow’s a big day. I need to be fresh for this meeting with Davids, and-”, he winced, closing one eye as the baby ripped into another cry. “Jesus, her lungs are strong, eh?”
Mother could sense his tiredness feeding his temper, and his angling to get away and find some attempt at peace was a way to make sure he didn’t lose it at his young daughter. He was a good man, a great man, but his fuse was short – she was amazed he hadn’t already flipped, but then again, he’d felt the guilt last time he’d given in to frustration in the face of his young daughter’s tantrums. She approached him from behind, putting a hand on his shoulder, “Why don’t you go and sleep in the spare room, Jim? I can sit here with Molly.”
Jim sighed and stood, turned to his wife, smiled at the sight of her, and kissed her on the cheek whilst attempting, unsuccessfully, to flatten her curls. Jim was approaching his fortieth birthday, and as she looked at him, she realised she couldn’t see much of the man she’d fallen for in their twenties, but the man he was now was better. A good man. She could almost see the feeling of guilt in his eyes as he looked at her, “Thank you, Sue. I’m sorry, I just wish I could make her go to sleep.”
As he left, Sue’s attention turned to the baby. She started to hum a sweet lullaby her own mother used to hum to her and her sisters when they were restless, and she wondered if they’d been as loud as Molly. Little Molly paid no attention to the humming, and in the dark room she wailed. On and on Sue hummed, stroking the tiny baby’s head for what felt hours. Just as she thought little Molly had quieted, she would erupt into a fresh round of alarmingly pained wails. Jim will not sleep through this, she thought, no one could. But he had not come back like he usually did when Molly was upset. He’d often let his guilt overcome him for leaving his wife alone in this situation and come back with a cup of tea for her, but he must have been truly exhausted, because this was the worst Molly had ever been, but he’d not returned. She was quietly grateful they had moved away from neighbours when she fell pregnant because this would have woken everyone on their street.
She toyed with the idea of calling an ambulance, but Sue had worked with babies for years and there didn’t appear to be anything wrong with Molly. Molly wasn’t hot, she wasn’t being sick, she wasn’t anything except agitated. Incredibly agitated. But then, Molly had always been agitated; tonight was just worse. It was almost as if she could sense something Sue couldn’t. Sue had read such things before in various online journals, from the credible; children being sensitive to the moods of the parents, to the incredible; children being sensitive to the spirit realm, malevolence, and evil. She didn’t believe the latter for a second, but something was upsetting Molly, and it wasn’t anything Sue could sense as an illness. The clock struck three-fifteen and Sue decided that at three-thirty she was calling the hospital regardless.
Suddenly, almost in response to the thought, Sue began to feel drowsy. She sat down in a chair next to the crib and seconds later was on the edge of sleep. The baby continued to wail, but the noise dropped to a background level, almost in another world. The room fell in to an eerie faux quiet so quickly it was as if she had been spirited away. Maybe this is what people felt in the eye of the storm, or when all the tornado preparation had been taken care of and you were waiting for it to hit. Maybe this detachedness is how people feel the moment they’re told they have cancer, or that a loved one has passed. As if the world had faded to a hum as the brain worked through the news. Despite her seeming detached sleepiness she was aware – she saw the room in her mind, unable to move. What was happening? Was this sleep paralysis? She’d heard of people falling asleep and later feeling awake, but unable to move as something happened to, or around, them. Sue tried moving and still couldn’t. Her foggy mind refused to compute the commands and turn them to action, and she sat, not limp, but paralysed.
Fear began to knot her stomach, a feeling she didn’t think she’d feel were she asleep. She couldn’t move, something was wrong, something was happening. A light clicking sound echoed in the quiet, rising from the background wailing as a person comes in to focus when walking from a distance – the sound became clear, louder, closer, catching in Sue’s ears. Then back to quiet, a low hissing sound, and quiet again, then a titter of a low, gurgling laugh that made Sue’s spine shudder and the hairs on her neck rise. Sue thought the shadow behind the crib moved but she must have imagined it. She must be imagining all of this. But it felt so real. The click again. The hiss. She was asleep. She wasn’t asleep.
The shadow. It did move. It moved again. It swirled, it writhed. It coalesced. Red dots formed, parallel, like two floating malicious- wait, they were eyes. A dread fell over Sue as she saw. She tried to move, struggled and struggled but nothing. Sue knew what was coming and internally she screamed.
God no, not this, anything but this, no. It’s not real! He’s just a story!
Out of the shadows stepped a creature. It clicked and hissed as it did so, its elongated hand stroked the side of the crib as it slid from the darkness, it’s swollen fingertips, a deep red, cracked, caressed the wood as a lover would a sleeping partner’s arm. As it edged into the light, it’s body and face were slowly revealed – a vaguely human figure but grotesquely thin, ribbed and pink, with sores and grazes across its chest, and some form of skin condition riddled it. Its face would have frozen Sue had she not already been unable to move, for depending on the light it looked something like Jim; blue eyes and a shock of fading blonde hair, but when the creature’s glamour fell, it revealed two beady red eyes, bruised and sore, and a bald pate painted in scabs. But the most revealing thing was its swollen red nose. It was clownlike, but a sad alcoholic clown; one that has known the bottom of a few too many whisky bottles. It looked fit to burst should anyone even touch it, and it wobbled as it slowly moved, a slow rivulet of snot made its way down to its mouth. The creature fixed the vile, red eyes on the crib, its wet mouth emanating guttural gassy noises as it moved. Slowly, so slowly. Inevitably, unstoppably, inexorably, like the march of the dead.
No, it got Jim, her mind raced. No, not Jim. Not my Jim, and not my Molly. Please, God, no.
As it reached the side of the crib it forced itself up, stretching its narrow frame to new heights. As it forced muscles that seemed to protest their duty to propel its torso up its alien face leaned over the crib, greedily eyeing the child, but as it feigned a smile, the glamour reappeared, and for a second it appeared Jim was there. The child fell silent, but it occurred to Mom’s consciousness that they had been hypnotised, and the baby was internally screaming, or even frozen in fear, seeing through that visage at the alien face leering down at it.
Sue silently shrieked as the creature pushed forth a long, blister-covered tongue and licked at the child, breaking its glamour, its breath heavy with excitement and longing. As she shrieked, it began to inhale.
No, please no. Not my baby, please!
It inhaled, and as it did, a purple light filled its eyes which began to expand, growing in the creature’s head, and as they did, a thin silvery miasma began to rise from the child, flowing directly into its gaping, absurdly wide mouth. It made sounds of ecstasy as it inhaled the baby’s dreams, in stark contrast to the internal shrieks protesting their imprisonment within Sue. It shivered as they slid visibly down its extended, welcoming throat.
All of a sudden it was over. The baby was silent, but a different silent – not an asleep silent, not a fearful silent, and not a peaceful silent, but an absent silent, an ending silent; a dead silent. She couldn’t see the body but she knew. She knew. Molly was gone. Sue’s head would have dropped down, and tears would have fallen, but she was still incapable of moving so instead she sat defeated.
The creature slowly turned its head to look at her. Its lips were slick with saliva and its blistered tongue looked fresher, more muscular, wetter, and more intent. It looked more upright as its eyes fixed on her and it moved towards her. She knew what was coming next. Her mind raced as the creature slowly crept towards her, more limber than it had been before, but still slowly enough to give Sue. Some of the open sores and wounds on its body had reduced, and its eyes were less bruised, larger, more intent.
As she sat there, unable to move, the Mime lowered itself in front of her, its scaly hands with absurdly long creeping fingers on to her knees. She screamed at it, not only with fear but with rage. It cocked its head to one side like an inquisitive cat, but the creature didn’t balk; it knelt calmly, eyes unflinching, fixed directly on her as if viewing her very soul, and again it became Jim.
“Thank you, Sue.” It mimicked Jim. “I’m sorry, I just wish I could make her go to sleep.”
As it finished, its mouth opened. Its eyes lit purple and out came the tongue. Slowly, it stretched it forth to an agonising length and slowly caressed her face with it, and as it did so, she heard the same low moans of perverse pleasure as before. Overcome with excitement and desire, the illusion of Jim dropped, the light began swelling behind its eyes, and Sue saw her end approaching. She watched, frozen as it inhaled, and she felt a tearing of her very soul, as if her organs were being pulled out through pressure. She relived the worst moments and pains of her life in those few moments before everything she had ever known was ripped away from her.
Was it her mind, or was it starting to resemble her as it feasted on her?
No, please no. no!
“Thank you, Sue.” The creature said to her as she faded, in a voice not quite Jim’s and not quite hers, before it perfected hers; “I’m sorry, I just wish I could make her go to sleep.”