Purgatory (1 of …) by Christian Camacho

Knock. Knock. Knock.

 

Mary looks around the dark room. Staring at the windows, someone is outside. She stands to find her footing, and walks to the shaded window. The faint glow of flickering light creeps in through the cracks left by the paper shade. She takes a deep breath, pulls on the plastic ring and the paper rises at her release. Nothing. Relieved, she begins to pull down the shade.

The hair on her arms prickle. The sounds of several children giggling rises from the floor below. She begins to shake. Her hands wrap around her waist. This sound, something she desperately wanted to hear at one stage in her life, creates fear in this very moment. Stillborns do not make noise.

 

Knock. Knock. Knock.

 

            She turns to the bedroom door. She chokes on a word, “Hell-… Hello?” There is a voice outside the door, she strains to hear what is just a whisper, but only hears the last word. The world is standing still and the last of her nerves have all, but disintegrated.

“… Mary,” a little girl whispers.

“No.” She sits on the edge of the bed, ready to retreat back into the sheets. The sheets feel cold in her hands.

“… Mary,” the little girl says.

Who is that? As she reaches the door, shadows of feet running down the hall flash past the crack near the floor. She peeks down the hall and the sounds cease. There is a flickering light at the far end, just bright enough to make out the stairs. With each step down the hall the light fades into the darkness down below.

Slowly, taking each step carefully, one of them creaks and she stops. The sound of wood and nails fighting for space echoes through the house. “Hello?” Mary calls out.

The cold night air sweeping the halls, the hairs on the back of her neck stands at attention.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

 

The front door, finally realizing where the sound is coming from, she walks over to where the white lace curtain has turned a light shade of yellow; a candle sways in midair.

“M… Mary,” a little girl calls, much louder than the first, almost screaming.

She rips the curtain open. There is a small girl standing in the dark holding the candle with her eyes shut. The little girl takes a deep breath and her big brown eyes peek out from behind closed eyes, quickly filling with fear. Mary looks at this small child confused. The child turns away from the door and runs, stopping right before running down the dark porch. Pressed up against the darkness as if a wall stands in her way, searching in the dark for a way out. She looks back at Mary, who is frozen in confusion, or maybe her own form of fear. The child screams, the candle drops out of her hand.

“Let me out of here,” The final words Mary hears before the darkness swallows the young girl whole. Mary tries to open the door, but it does not budge.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

 

Turning around, frantically searching for the source of a new noise, she stops for a second, preparing herself to see the little girl out behind the curtain again. She slowly turns back toward the door. The black night is the only thing Mary can see from inside.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

The smell of blood, wet rust, fills the front room of the house. Mary, choking on the harsh air, runs into the living room, as the fireplace begins to take life. The small fire glows in the dark room. The whispering returns, as does the same giggling, she heard upstairs.

“… Mary,” someone says. It is not the little girl anymore. This voice is deeper, but still childlike, a boy. A competing light comes from the bay window off to the side of the fireplace. Through the sheer curtains she can see a young boy, standing there, staring intently at his hand.

“…Mary,” he says again.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

The room fills with silence. The popping crack of the burning wood is gone, the fire is still lit, but there is no sound. Mary cannot even hear herself breathe. She stares at the little boy through the curtain, in one hand a small candle. The other hand is covered in a dark liquid it drips down his arm. Blood. He takes his hand and marks the window in each of its four corners.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Mary steps forward, curious as to what this child is doing, not wanting to scare him away. “… Mary, I have your baby,” he says coldly, spitting it at the window.

“What?” She stands there, looking him straight on. The noise returns, but it has changed, it’s laughing it fills the room.

“See I told you. Nothing.” The boy turns from the window and walks away, fading into the dark. Mary rushes to the glass, hoping to see to whom the boy is talking, but like the girl he is swallowed up in the shadows. The lock is cold to the touch, but like the door it will not budge. She bangs on the window, but no sound comes from making contact with the glass. Sound returns to the room, the crackling pop of the fire, her own breath.

He said he had my baby. She crumples to the floor, defeated. “I don’t have a baby.” Not anymore.

The sound of running water comes in from the stairs.

Eyes filled with tears, she stands, and the childish giggling is back. She hears the faint voice again. She cannot make out what they are saying.

“… Mary,” someone says.

This familiar sound shocks her. This time she rushes out of the room and up the stairs. Skipping steps in her frustration.

The sound of running water is much louder now.

The hallway is filled with darkness, but a flickering glow is coming from a door cracked open. As she makes her way to the door, the light begins to fade again. She swings the door open, it bangs on the inner wall, and she stops it before it swings back. She searches for the sound, the sink, the toilet, and the empty tub, all of them silent.

“… Mary,” someone says, much clearer for Mary to hear. It is a young girl, much older than the little girl at the front door.

The giggling rings in her ears. The sound becomes tangible, bumping into the walls before crashing into her ears. The voices surround her. Mary turns from the tub and walks to the window. The shade is drawn and she quickly reaches to open it. The sound of retreating paper startles her. The window is empty, only the darkness is outside her home. She stands there straining to see into the darkness.

The sound of running water stops.

She stops in the absence of sound. The tub is now filled with a dark substance. She steps over to it and touches the surface. Blood. In this realization, the room fills with the same wet rusty smell. She washes the blood from her hands and rinses her face in the sink. She begins to dry her hands and wipe her face, when she hears it again.

“…Mary,” the young girl says. “I have your baby, Bloody Mary.”

Mary lowers the towel from her face, the room is empty, and the window is void of any life. There is a faint glowing filling the room, she looks up from her hands, and in the mirror is a young girl. Her skin is beautiful, resilient. Her cheeks are filled with life. Mary is taken aback, not in fear of a young woman in her mirror, but by her sheer beauty. Mary is filled with confusion; the beauty of this girl is unmatched. At that moment, Mary focuses on her own reflection, this is the first time she sees herself for what she is. I am old. Her skin has long since wrinkled. It sags under her eyes; her cheeks are not full with life anymore. The flowing gold hair of the young woman seems to mock the grey hair sprouting from her head. The young woman looks up into the mirror and laughs.

The young woman reaches for the mirror and in that instant she is pulled back and her throat cut wide open. Mary steps back, in sudden shock and falls into the tub, the blood overtaking her. She can feel hands wrap around her body, as if the blood was pulling her down. She fights the hands the bind her, pulling at the edge of the tub.

“Bloody Mary!”

“Bloody Mary!”

“Bloody Mary!”

“I have your baby!”

“I have your baby, Bloody Mary!”

She can hear the giggling, the little girl screams, the boy’s “See, I told you” echoes in her ear, she can hear the very audible sound of blade meeting flesh. Hundreds of voices fill her head, she can hear them all saying the same thing, “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary!”

She is drowning in blood. The taste of the warm liquid fills her mouth. She can feel the blood in her lungs, the blood stinging her eyes, and streaming down her throat. There are hands around her neck. She is lost in the darkness, lost to the darkness. She reaches for her neck to pry off her attacker’s hands, she throws herself upwards. Her hands are the only ones holding her neck anymore. She is sitting up in bed, choking on the fading taste of blood. She catches her breath. Mary looks around the dark room, she is alone, the room is embedded in the darkness. The faint glow of a flickering light creeps in through the cracks left by the paper shade.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

“No.”

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