Friday, 19 April 2013

'Night Terror' by Rachael Dunlop


The child is having a night terror again. He sits, he rocks, half-rises, falls back again. He calls out, Mummy, Mummy, Mama. He stands up in his bed. The woman, who has been watching from the far side of the room, comes and puts her hands on his shoulders. Lie down, she says, go back to sleep. He looks at her, but he doesn’t see her. Mummy, Mummy, Mama, he says, his face twisted as if he were crying, though his eyes are dry. He cheeks are damp with sweat, damp and pink. Lie down, the woman says. She looks at her hands where they are holding the child and she sees her mother’s hands. The skin is loose, the veins bulging blue, the pads of her fingers worn smooth by living. How did that happen? she wonders. How did time pass through my fingers so?

The child shrieks and wriggles out of her grasp. The woman sighs and retreats. Nothing to worry about, the doctor said, he’ll grow out of it. Maybe, she thinks, but still... a child that screams and kicks and looks through you with eyes full of rage. Rage he must have been born with, for where else would it come from?

Spent, at last, the child sleeps and the woman leaves him be. The man is waiting for her outside the room. Another night terror? he asks. The woman nods, then shakes her head. Send this one back, she says. Send him back.

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