“Strzyga” by Tabatha Jenkins

The halfhearted glow of the bathroom light pushed the veil of darkness into the corners of the room so that she could see the fullness of her body. Running her hand around the curve of her abdomen, her fingers naturally fell into the grooves of her stretch marks. So many times she had wished that this was all a dream, until the reality of it began to peek out from under her shirt. She cursed herself, him, and the innocent consequence she wanted so badly to be rid of. When people in her neighborhood found out, they made a point to remind her that she had made her bed and that she should lie in it. But how could she regret relishing the sweet comfort of the smell of his skin? She couldn’t quite declare it love but she at least wanted the chance to find out for herself. 

All of that changed the minute she saw the positive, +, emerge in the tiny square of her pregnancy test. Suddenly, a mass of pressure of expectations flooded both of their minds and their hearts, suffocating the warm glow of possibility. She couldn’t blame him for taking off; there were times where her legs felt shackled to the floor, and she wished she would’ve went with him. But more than anything, she wished for their baby to not exist. Why she should be the one left behind? 

Removing her hand from her stomach, she reached up to the sides of her face. In her mind, she repeated her wish over and over until she was almost meditating. But every time she could almost see the color in his eyes, she felt a kick to her ribs. Only now the kicks grew stronger. Fingers gripping the counter, she cried out with each impact. This continued until she finally fell to the floor. Panic clogged her throat when she saw the ribbons of blood streaming down her thighs. Pulsing waves of fire seemed to be engulfing her insides. 

Her legs couldn’t support her enough to get to the door, and she didn’t have a cellphone to call 911. All she could do was clutch her stomach and try not to vomit or pass out. She managed to crawl onto one of the soft rugs, using an old folded towel as a pillow as the kicks evolved into a level of pain she had never felt. She didn’t even realize she was screaming until her voice broke. Soon she felt the urge to push, fear and confusion dissolving her resistance. Was this a miscarriage? She suddenly realized that along with everything she felt, she also felt a bit hopeful. She was hopeful that, if this was a miscarriage, she wouldn’t have to watch another life affected by forced choices, breeding a resentment that slowly destroys love. 

She froze as she felt a mass move from inside her body. Her veins began to darken as if someone had filled her with ink. A chill ran down her spine as she leaned over just enough to see a decaying, black limb emerge from her body, almost slithering out. She closed and again wished that this wall a dream, her inner voice screaming out her thoughts. But she couldn’t ignore the ripple of pain she felt when the limb grew into a shoulder, the grisly strands of hair, or the misshapen head as the black mass forced its way out. The arms were spidery and covered with a single layer of putrid skin that resembled curtains. The fingers were curled nearly into a fist, hiding nails that were as sharp as blades. The festering brain running on hatred rooted too deep to remove. 

Her body began to struggle as more blood drained from her veins and into the narrow pathways of the bathroom tile. She barely felt the rest of the birth as she laid flat on the floor, staring only at the ceiling. Finally, she felt the feet leave her body. Many times she had imagined what her baby’s cry might sound like; would she feel the need to rush to their side? Would she sigh and reluctantly go to check on her? But she never imagined how she would feel if she ever heard the deafening shriek she now heard echoing from every corner of the room. She felt no motherly compassion, no sympathy, and no urge to comfort. She only felt the familiar urge to run that she had for so long. Only now she knew she could never run fast enough. 

The mass’ shadow grew in length as she watched it stand and stretch it’s crooked spine, shaking then turning toward her. She saw the disfigured face with pair of wide set, yellow eyes that seemed to be nearly absorbed in the face. The mouth had a bad overbite which exposed the rotting teeth. She couldn’t convince herself this was a dream; she couldn’t even convince herself this was human. The creature was just tall enough to look down at her face, and she saw more clearly how the skin seemed to have been nearly spun from the skull. She saw the arm reach up into the air, stretching out the hand of knives. With another shriek, she felt the knives slice open her abdomen, and then the abrupt plunge of her insides. And as she felt the numbing wave of death spread through her body, she recalled the love she felt while falling asleep in his arms.

Tabatha Jenkins, author

Tabatha Jenkins graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing. She has been published by the Adelaide Literary Magazine, Helen Literary Magazine, The Write Launch Magazine, The Scene & Heard Journal, The Bookends Review, Havik Literary Magazine, Gravitas Literary Magazine, Foliate Oak Magazine, and High Plains Register. She still currently resides in southeast Arkansas with her fiancé , her dog, JP, and her cat, Cayde-6. You can learn more at her personal website: tabathajenkins.wixsite.com/tabathajenkins.