Friday, May 4, 2012

ANTE MORTEM by Ellie Anderson

Chapter 1


The air inside was crisp and cold after the midnight rainstorm.  Even though the house was new, there were plenty of drafts.  It was dark outside and her husband, Cy, was sleeping in their adjoining bedroom.  She stood in the nursery at the edge of the crib.  Ivy was lying on her stomach with her right arm up and to the right.  She leaned over, reached in with two fingers and loosened a remnant of fabric from the child’s mouth.  It caught in the gap of the two lower teeth as the young mother removed the 6” square of calico.   Hhhhmmmm…that’s one of my quilting scraps, she thought.  She squeezed it gently and let it fall to the floor.  It was strangely dry, considering where it had just been.  She loved those two teeth.  They erupted about the same time that the baby started smiling and they made for lovely, drooly memories.   The child was as beautiful at 18 months as she had been back in those early days, but today in the early morning hours, even though her eyes were open, they seemed dull and she looked tired.

Ivy was a good baby. She was born at home and she slept through the night when she was only a few weeks old. Ivy rarely fussed and when she did, she was easily soothed.  This was fortunate, since Cy was away a lot and raising a child alone can create tremendous strain.  Cy would be gone for days at a time working as a brakeman for D. & R. G. W.   They lived close enough to Bingham Junction that he could easily walk down, hop on the train and then be gone for days until the run was complete. 

She used to like to go to the junction and welcome him when she knew he was due home, but recently she’d stopped because she was plagued by thoughts of poor little Wilda Andersen back in ’98.  Wilda was cut in three by a locomotive pulling three overloaded cars of ore, when she froze in terror on the tracks.  She had slipped her hand from her mother’s grip to run and see the children playing outside the schoolhouse on the other side.  She stopped short, dead center in the tracks and froze in terror as the train approached.  The engineer applied the brakes when some of the school children started to shout.  He tried to signal his brakeman, but it was too late.  The three parts of little Wilda Andersen had to be swept up in a tray.

She pulled her shawl tighter and stood upright.  Maybe she should fire up the parlor stove.  It was earlier than her routine usually dictated, but she knew there was no chance of squeezing in any more sleep.  She sneaked into the parlor, started the fire and returned to the nursery.  The young mother gingerly wrapped a blanket around the child as best she could before heading to the rocker by the stove, but every time she tried to pull Ivy’s arm down so that she could swaddle her, her arm just popped right back up.

Heavy, heavy sigh.   It was good to have Cy home…the whole family under the same roof.  These were her favorite times.  She rocked, tilted her head back, rocked, pulled the baby under her shawl, rocked, felt the warmth of the fire, rocked, rocked, rocked, rocked, rocked and started to sing a lullaby. 

 “The night is here, my little lamb.  Try not to cry.
Soon the sun will rise again and light the sky.
And though the night seems dark, my child
The morning will come again.
So close your eyes and sleep for a while.
Don’t be afraid.
Morning will come…
So sleep.”

She stopped rocking.  Ivy’s eyes were still open.  The right side of her face was darkly mottled but it reminded her of the lovely shadows of the swaying tree outside her and Cy’s bedroom.  Sometimes when she’d lay down for a spell, and when the light shone just right through the bedroom window onto the surface of their bed she would become mesmerized by the dancing shadows of leaves.  Ivy’s unrelenting arm was still saluting, tucked up under her mother’s left arm as she cradled her.  It was awkward, but not distractingly so.  The mother lightly placed her fingertips on Ivy’s eyelids and closed them.  She pulled her closer, and felt the torso was now becoming as rigid as the limbs.  The coolness of the baby’s body against her chest made the warmth of the fire disappear.  She smiled to herself and started to rock.  Rock.  Rock.


Jacqueline said...

What an intriguing start, I can’t wait to find out what is going to happen. The suspense is going to kill me!

Sabrina E. Ogden said...

I love it when lullabys are used in creepy tales.

Horrible story about little Wilda Andersen, "The three parts of little Wilda Andersen had to be swept up in a tray." Is this a story that you researched? I'm wondering because you have a date for this chapter as 1917.

Lori said...

I passed to blog spot onto a friend and this was her response.

Please tell your friend that I am so excited to read the rest of her story. I love the suspense right from the start. Please let me know when there is more to read.

Laura Benedict said...

Creeeeeeepy! (In the best way, of course.)

Sara said...

Wow...just...WOW! I love it when a story sucks you in with the first few paragraphs.

Great beginning; I am excited to read more!!

Thomas Pluck said...

A nice creepy beginning to the tale! Looking forward to the rest.

Ginger said...

Creepy, it made me shiver!!! I just had a chance to read the story posted last Friday, and can't wait to read the next installment.