Author: Riley Meachem

“Come over this instant!” That was all the message said. Henry didn’t know what to do with it. He stared at it for a moment, with a certain, deducing distance. He hadn’t been in contact with this woman for over a year now. That’s a long time to go without speaking to someone. A long time to be receiving urgent demands to ‘come over’ anyway. And the tone of her voice on the message—it wasn’t that of a hesitant ex, embarrassed, yet driven, full of need. This was an order. It was angry.

He knew, for certain, what must be being done to him. He was going to be framed, made the stooge stud who had fathered a child. She had chosen him of all her exes, the easiest to cow and break. There would be a child, and he did not want it, wanted no part in its upbringing. He deleted the message.

Then another one came. “Henry, I need to speak to you—it’s important!” The brevity was startling, and the insistence an affront. He blocked her number.

Several weeks passed. Then there came a knock on the door one day as Henry sat alone in his apartment. He opened it and found her standing there. As he had suspected she was pregnant. His face must have revealed his paranoia, for almost immediately she chuckled and said “Oh, don’t worry—it’s not yours.”

“Can I—get you on record saying that?” Henry tried to ask, but the words seemed feeble and heartless to him, and they died halfway out of his mouth.

“Henry, you don’t seem to understand.” She strode into his place of living, noticed a half emptied bottle of gin. She had drained it before he could so much as protest. “I don’t want this baby pawned off on a man. I want it dead, Henry. I want you to help me kill it.”

“What… you mean like… pay for an abortion?”

“No: I tried that. It’s not a normal baby, see. Something got mixed in with it, somewhere along the line. It’s not human. It’s eating me, Henry. Bits of me. Memories, thoughts, feelings, looks. And worse, it seems capable of sparing me. It’s mother. Trapping me in my own corpse. For God knows how many years.”

“Well how do I kill it?” Henry inquired, unnerved by this exchange.

In response, she removed a .380 revolver from her purse.

“Please” she whispered. “I’ve tried, but I can’t do it alone. I’m a coward. Please Henry! You are the only one I trust! The only one I ever really loved!”

That hurt most of all, somehow. He threw her out of his apartment and locked the door, but she stayed by the door for hours, screaming and begging for his help. Then abruptly, late that night, the cries tapered off, turned to strangled croaks, then nothing.

Next time Henry saw her, her eyes were oddly blank and glassy. Her motions rigid. She was right. Right and gone.