Trigger warning: Death, child death, body gore.
I saw the young woman at the bar. She wore a light blue dress and clutched her belly with one and the transparent glass with its brown content with her other hand. She raised the glass and gushed the liquid towards her throat. When the glass came down on the table her eyes were closed and the rest of her face a grimace.
“Ah,” she said.
I hadn’t visited desperation pub in a long time. Work had kept me busy and for one reason or the other I had begun to have friends. After my last experiences the idea of listening to more depressing or disturbing stories had lost a large part of its appeal.
I didn’t intend to go. It was just a long day at work and an empty night ahead of me. Without consciously deciding to do so I took a walk. Without conscious thought that walk ended in desperation pub.
Still, when pushed the heavy door and pulled the stale air with its smell of beer, sweat and wood polish into my throat I knew what to do. She stood at the bar and even before the glass touched her lips I knew that she had a story to tell.
“Anton,” I said.
My hand was stretched out in her direction.
“Not interested,” she said.
Her hand waved to the barkeeper. He came over.
“Two more!” I said it before she had a chance to speak.
She faked a smile.
“Anton,” I said again.
“Syrenne,” she said. “And I know this is a hellhole, but don’t bother with me. Not interested.”
“You know what?”
“I’m not here for that. You just looked like someone that needs an ear.”
The glasses arrived.
“I look like I need an ear?”
“I have two,” I said. “You can have one of them.”
She laughed. Then her face stretched into a grimace and her hands clutched her bulging abdomen.
When her cramp subsided I pointed at her belly.
“Sure you want that drink?” I asked.
With a nearly hissing sound Syrenne grabbed the glass and took a large sip.
“That’s not a child,” she said.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to…”
Syrenne slammed the glass back on the dark wood. She shook her head.
“I know what it looks like. You don’t want to know the story.”
I wasn’t able to hide my grin.
“Sure I do.”
It took a few more glasses. Syrenne told me about her two sisters that were both somewhere abroad. She spoke about the two men that broke her heart and then about the third that mended it.
“I didn’t even know how to trust anymore. I was so scared of being hurt and finally Joel came along. He asked me on dates for months and months until I finally gave in. He made me believe in love again. He made me believe in trust again.”
Syrenne’s left hand pulled a long strand of her brown hair.
“She was my best friend, you know? We were friends since kindergarten. We did all these ‘best friend’ things together. Paige knew how much Joel meant to me. But for her it was all a game. For her everything in life was just games.”
“Paige seduced Joel?”
Syrenne laughed through her teeth.
“No,” she said. “I don’t believe in that. You can’t seduce someone that doesn’t want to be seduced. I think he was lying the whole time. I saw how he looked at her. I saw it right when they met for the first time. We had a fight about it, Joel and I, but he promised that he would keep himself in check. He apologized for his ‘biology’, you know? He said that men just can’t look away from an attractive woman.”
“You believe that?”
“I did. Back then I did but now i’m not so sure anymore. All I know is that he lied when he said that he would control himself. I should never have sent him over to Paige on his own. Paige asked whether she could borrow some shoes and a dress from me for some sort of party. I didn’t feel well so I sent Joel to bring it to her.”
Syrenne clutched her abdomen again.
“Do you need help?” I asked.
She pressed her lips together and shook her head.
“No,” she said. “It will go. It’s just the price I have to pay.”
Syrenne relaxed again. Her right hand grabbed her glass.
“For trusting them. That’s my price. I sent Joel. She gave him a show, you know? Joel said that it was all her fault and that she seduced him. She modeled for him in my clothes. But I know that it wasn’t just her. He was the one that broke his promise. His body pushed inside hers.”
Syrenne poured the rest of the brown liquid down her throat. This time she didn’t flinch.
“I would never have found out. Maybe they’ve done it hundreds of times before and I didn’t even know. But he didn’t just stick his thing inside her, he also left something behind. They had sex in my clothes and Joel gave her the baby that he always refused me.”
Syrenne’s hands tighterend around her glass. I emptied my glass and ordered another round. There were at least six or seven customers, still the whole bar was quiet except for Syrenne’s voice.
“He lived with me for two months before I found out. Paige gave my clothes back the next day and hadn’t even bothered to wash the white stains out of my dress. Still I didn’t suspect a thing. He lived with me and only two months later Paige called me to tell me that she was pregnant. When she didn’t want to say the father I joked whether it was Joel and she stayed silent for a second too long. That’s when I knew. He only admitted it when I lied and told him that Paige had told me about it. I screamed at him. He said that it was all Paige’s fault. I slapped him. He said that he never wanted to hurt me. He said that I should be happy about it because I love children so much. That’s when I kicked him out.”
Syrenne’s eyes teared up.
“But that just wasn’t enough. They still pretended we were friends, even when Joel moved in with Paige. They posted photos online where they were kissing. He said it was a one-off thing – and then he moves in with her! I couldn’t accept that. I cried for days while they posted photos with huge smiles. I couldn’t stand seeing them so happy. I couldn’t accept it.”
“You tried to hurt them?”
“Oh,” Syrenne said. “I didn’t just try.”
For the first time since we had met she smiled.
“I found this lady. I had heard about her a few times. She was from Haiti or Jamaica or something and had this small room behind a magic shop. She usually did palm readings and horoscopes, but I had heard that she did more things. She said that she could help. She said she could make them suffer and take their happiness away. She said that it would cost quite a lot to take the baby away. When I said I would pay any price she just nodded.”
“You mean she did some sort of voodoo?”
“I don’t know what it’s called but she spoke in some other language. And she wanted some personal item from both Paige and Joel and one from me as a payment. I offered her money instead, but she refused it. So she ended up only with Joel’s shirt and Paige’s hair clip and a little action figure that Joel gave me years ago.”
“The woman did some sort of ceremony?”
“She had some weird metal pot with some bad smelling liquid in it and she threw some leaves and powders in there. Then she first put the shirt and then the hair clip inside and at the end she took them back out and put my action figure into it and told me to leave. While going out I saw that she stabbed the hair clip with some sort of needle.”
For a moment Syrenne grinned, then her face slowly filled with anger.
“I heard about Joel’s death from a mutual friend. I thought I would be more upset about it, but actually it just felt good. He drove off the street. His car crashed into a telephone pole and he flew straight through the windshield and was pierced by a broken street sign. Supposedly he was alive for a few hours before he died and the pain medication didn’t have any effect.”
“For Paige it was different. I was happy in a way, but I also felt sorry for the baby. She was on the bus or something and started bleeding. She thought she had lost her stolen baby, but it was still alive and the doctors actually killed it during the C-section. They thought it was dead and handled it a bit too roughly and the head ripped off.”
Suddenly Syrenne bent forward and pushed against her belly again. Her teeth were clenched, still her grin returned.
“Do you want to know from what Paige died? It had clawed its way through the uterus and injured some of her organs. The baby had dug deep into her body and she died from the wounds that the baby did to her insides. That’s a good death for someone that steals a man and a baby, don’t you think?”
Syrenne grimaced and quickly grabbed her glass off the counter. She emptied the rest in one go.
“After the funerals I thought it was all over. But then my own belly began to grow. I didn’t sleep with anybody since Joel so I was confused but at the same time happy. I always wanted a child and to have one without the man just sounded perfect.”
Syrenne knocked her glass on the counter until the barkeeper refilled it.
“But around the same time that my cramps started the old lady called me. She said I had to come in to pay my debt. I thought it was paid with the personal items, but figured she might want some money – and after seeing her powers I sure as hell didn’t want to anger her.”
With her other hand still pressed on her abdomen Syrenne took a sip from the newly refilled glass.
“The old lady didn’t want any money. We sat between all these candles and she said that she wanted what I had in my womb. I refused and said I wanted to keep my baby, but the lady just laughed. She laughed so hard that she nearly fell off her chair.”
Syrenne pushed herself off the barstool and nearly fell. In the last second she managed to hold onto the bar.
“The lady said that the thing in my womb my baby. She says when I asked for the curse I said I would do anything – and so now I have to give birth to something for her.”
“You will give birth to ‘something’?”
“Yes. I can feel it move inside my body. The lady says it’s not my baby. She says because I asked for the death of its mother I have to give birth to Paige’s baby instead.”
Syrenne emptied her glass.
“The old lady said she has plans for the baby and that it will be her property after I give birth. She threatened that if I have an abortion she will kill me too. At first I wanted to find a way to fight and keep the baby. But then I went to the hospital and saw the doctor going pale. The doctor saw on the ultrasound that there is something missing. I saw it too. It seems when the lady implanted the baby in me she couldn’t find the head.”