Tag Archives: daughter

He Wanted My Child

Mr Beers. Three months ago I first noticed him standing at his second floor window. His silhouette was clearly visible, framed by the brightly lit room. He stood there and for a reason I didn’t know yet his presence made my toes tingle with cold.

During the day his house looked like any of the others. A white three story house with a white three foot fence and a silver mailbox. Some of the paint had peeled off. One solitary tree stood in the unkempt front yard. He lived alone. There were never visitors.

We didn’t say hello when we moved in. Thinking back I can’t remember a single time when I saw Mr Beers on the street. The only times we talked were with me on the street and him in his front yard. He always stood close to the dark brown trunk of the tree and he always held some sort of tool – a shovel, a rake and sometimes a small saw. But I never saw him use it. He always just stood there with the tool in his hand, as if for a rest. Continue reading

15 Years in the Woods

It was more than fifteen years ago and still I feel guilty. Still I sometimes cry myself to sleep. Still I wonder what in heaven I could have done differently.

It was a hiking trip. Laney loved the outdoors and I wanted to help her love it more. Laney was already in the girl scouts and loved that too but our local group wasn’t very active. I felt like it was my fatherly duty to grow my daughter’s passion for nature and exercise.

Just for the long easter weekend. I carried the tent and sleeping bags and Laney proudly carried our cooking utensils in her small dark green backpack. My then wife wanted to do the family tour with our two year old son.

I think that’s why we broke up – because she couldn’t look at me anymore without seeing Laney. She couldn’t look at me without blaming me.

The first two days everything was wonderful. We hiked mostly along a small river and sometimes through stretches of wood. Along the way I taught Laney about edible mushrooms and how to recognize fresh bear tracks and how her mother had always hated hiking. Continue reading

Baby Colic

After four days in the hospital we brought Andrea home. She was an unusually quiet and calm child. She rarely screamed – and even then her screams sounded more like a goatish laughter.

Virginia loved our daughter with all her heart. She wanted to spend every waking minute holding and cuddling the little girl. And Andrea enjoyed cuddling her too. She was never happier than when she was gently held in Virginia’s arms.

We had her for four months. I really think we are good parents. I really think we did the right things and we loved our daughter. We knew her. We knew every detail of her body. She had a nearly triangular birthmark just to the right of her spine.

I remember it was a Tuesday morning. Virginia changed Andrea’s diaper. I heard Andrea’s screams in the next room and I already thought that she must be sick or that otherwise something must be wrong.

When the two came back to the living room Andrea was clinging to Virginia’s.I could see that Virginia was uncomfortable. Continue reading

Solid Ground

Water can swallow you. You can fall from the sky. I can’t count the times that I left a shaky ship or airplane and finally set foot on solid ground. I always felt relaxed when I was back “home” in our element. I always thought the ground was safe.

Soil, stone and wood. Only wooden floorboards sometimes disturbed me with a creepy creak or their slight elasticity. Still the ground seemed safe. It seemed so solid.

Then the shaking started.

Molly woke us up. She was six.

“Mom! Mom! Mom!”

I pulled Molly into our bed and hugged her.

“I want mom!” Continue reading

A Child I Loved

The building works stopped about half a year ago. I think the developer went bankrupt, but that might just be a myth going around our apartment block.

Either way, the building shell has been empty for months; bare gray walls, six floors, no windows or doors or decoration.

The crack addicts came about two months ago; at least I thought so. I saw the lights during the night, the thin shadows moving on the dark walls.

Carolyn disagreed. She called me over – one of those days when she asked me to babysit Sophie and I just couldn’t resists her charms – and we nearly had an argument about it. I meant it as a joke.

“Did you see the crack addicts already?” I asked.

“No. What?”

“In the skeleton over there.”

“Nothing there.” She said. “Definitely not crack addicts.”

Carolyn opened the door.

“Watch Sophie closely, okay?”

“Sure.” I said.

“Really, I mean it, closely.” She said. “Please.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “She’s such a sweetie.”

Carolyn smiled; then she left for her date.

The parking lot between our apartment block and the unfinished shell was nearly triangular; Carolyn’s apartment was closer to the urban ruin than mine; I knew that she would have seen more than I did.

After our weird discussion I wanted to pay special attention to the people on the other side of the parking lot, but Sophie didn’t give me any time to do so. She ran around, folded and threw paper airplanes and somehow always managed to grab my attention.

At 22:30 I finally managed to get Sophie to go to bed; she made me sing for another ten minutes.

Back in the living room I tidied up the toys and dirty plates. I looked to the other side only for a moment, only for a few seconds before the lights went off – and still, the people I saw looked wrong. They looked too thin, too unhealthy.

Crack is horrible, I thought.

From my apartment they looked mostly normal. I saw them running on the fourth floor, running left to right – only the guy at the most left window didn’t run. He seemed to stay in place and the others bent down in front of him.

About a week later I babysat Sophie again. Carolyn was out; another date and I was already expecting her to come back and say that it all went horribly wrong and that the guy was just a pervert. She always said that and I wondered whether it was them – maybe the men she found were all perverts, or Carolyn’s cute face and tender figure with large chest made them wild – or whether it was Carolyn herself and her strange, quick changes in discussion topics that alienated the men and whether Carolyn’s “he was a pervert”-defense was just a lie.

That night Sophie went to bed early. Still I stayed. I wanted to read and finish my book – something that I somehow never manage to do at home when the laptop is around – but instead I ended up on the window. I watched their movements and behaviors. I felt like a voyeur, analyzing the addicts’ hierarchy and rules.

There were different things I learned that night – they had different levels of respect, those that ran the most bowed the most too. They bowed to someone in a right window, then a few seconds later they appeared in a left window, bowing to their leader. And also that really all of them were thin, there was no exception but one. Later, around 22:00, I saw a figure with long hair emerging from one of the few curtained rooms. She brushed something off her dress and then went to the leader.

The leader made her kneel and she kneeled longer than the others, as if she wasn’t sure how long she would have to stay. It looked as if she was a new member, a new victim of the drug – and the group was riding her hard so that she would obey to all commands.

Half an hour later Carolyn was home. She smiled and laughed, but she didn’t seem happy.

“He was a pervert.” She said.

“Where do you find all these guys?” I asked.

“The good guys aren’t single.” Carolyn said. “Or at least not many.”

“Oh.” I said.

“They all just want me for my looks.” She said.

I didn’t argue with her; half because I pitied her, half because I understood. She was nice, as a friend, but I couldn’t imagine being in a relationship with her and her good friends paranoia and OCD. Whoever she got – well, even if he accepted the child he would suffer from constant criticism. From the way her last boyfriend hit on every woman in the building I felt that maybe she also wasn’t exactly willing to offer her body even to those that were willing to offer their souls. Not that I blame her for it – no woman should feel forced to do that – but Carolyn was not easy to be with and I felt the frustration any partner of hers must feel; to have a pretty woman but not even be able to hug or kiss her, much less to do other things. That doesn’t justify anything, but it makes understandable that the guys that got too close ran away very quickly.

At home I didn’t see many new things; I still watched the group in the other building occasionally but there was not much to see. Running, sitting, bowing to superiors. I quickly realized that it wasn’t just an addict house, rather it had become a dealer house. That also explained the occasional appearance of new, less skinny people. They too bowed too long and then disappeared somewhere in the building – likely either on the floor to hit their drugs, or they might have gone out straight after their shot.

Another week; another of Carolyn’s dates.

Sophie was on edge. She kept running between her room and the living room. The teddy elephant was tightly in her arms. Not even Pocahontas managed to stop her from running around.

I gave up after a while – and instead I watched the other house. There was a new figure again, a more sturdy and thick body compared to the long and thin frames of the usual inhabitants. The new one, long hair again, bent down in front of the leader. The leader stepped towards her and placed a hand on her hunched shoulder.

Sophie slept tightly; I read my book. Carolyn came back around midnight with her head held high.

“A good night.” She said.

“Nice guy?” I asked.

“Well,” Carolyn said.” Not nice, but at least satisfying.”

She winked.

“Good you finally have some fun.” I said.

“I think I really deserve it.” She said.” Life is so hard right now, with Sophie and everything.”

I spent another week watching the other side. The same visitor came back, with long hair and no clothes. Seeing the naked frame made me feel strange; I hadn’t noticed that most of the regulars were flat-chested males. Watching the exchange – a kneeling for a hand on the back – made me feel strangely aroused; I thought about starting my own drugs-slash-sex organization but I quickly laughed the thoughts out of my mind.

Still the woman stayed, with her head and chest bent forward and her breasts hanging down. I felt guilty for looking, but I couldn’t look away either. The scene wasn’t erotic per se, it was my imagination that made it erotic – my thoughts of what I would do if I was in the leader’s place with my hand on the naked back of a pretty woman.

I asked Carolyn whether she would like me to babysit again; I liked to babysit Sophie with her bright smile and the cute way she handed me things and told me to play with them. But it was mostly some voyeur drive, some instinct to see more of the events in the other building that made me offer more of my time.

Carolyn accepted. She said she had planned another date but likely could schedule it earlier.

Sophie was active that night; she handed me puzzle pieces and I finished her puzzle. Yet I kept looking out of the window; yet I saw the guest arrive again; bare-chested and pretty as before.

That the guest had the same body as Carolyn made me feel aroused and guilty. Sophie still handed me puzzle pieces and I thought about her mother’s body. I slapped myself when Sophie was asleep. What the fuck are you doing? I asked myself. She wouldn’t be good for you.

Sophie liked me; but Carolyn seemed cold. When I moved in it always felt as if she was interested, but over the months of babysitting Sophie that all seemed to have faded away. My desire was left; hers was gone. All she cared about were her Friday or Saturday night dates.

At least she cared about those until she began to refuse my offers to babysit. Those nights I saw the addicts’ female guest later. I didn’t make the connection; it seemed too absurd.

And still, I think I could have saved Sophie.

Carolyn always allowed me to play with Sophie if I wanted to do so; if anything she encouraged it. But from one day to the next it stopped.

Maybe she noticed that we all are perverts. I thought. Maybe she noticed that I stare when she bends over.

I felt guilty and yet I felt as if there was nothing I could do. Genes are destiny; that’s the way we are programmed, for good or for bad. Unconsciously women assess virility and men fertility. Unconsciously women check chest and back and arms and men check breasts and behind and waistline. We can avert our eyes, consciously prevent ourselves from looking – and still we analyze it, process it. Humans are like that; humans are made for that – to reproduce.

I was sad that I couldn’t see Sophie anymore. A few times I saw them in the corridor or in the lobby and each time Sophie ran towards me. She hugged me and I enjoyed the knowledge that I had made at least one person in the world happy. But Carolyn pulled her away.

“She needs rest.” Carolyn said.

“Can I come over tomorrow?” I asked.

“I think we have visitors.” Carolyn said.

They didn’t have visitors. Carolyn knew that I could hear her through the thin walls and that I particularly could hear her laugh. She always laughed loudly when guys came over; she always laughed softly when women came over. When she was just with Sophie she laughed in a different tone – with her voice higher and each laugh more abrupt.

Those days and nights I didn’t hear Carolyn laugh. I still heard Sophie – laughing, and humming in the way she hummed whenever she was bored or scared.

That too stopped on the Friday that I saw the guest again.

I hadn’t seen the guest for about a week. Maybe Carolyn was right with all men being perverts; I certainly felt like one while I watched the thin figure in the building on the opposite side of the parking lot.

The leader was just standing in the same place. I never saw any of them during the day – but at night the leader was always in the same room and in the same position. He only changed his position whenever somebody else entered.

Sometimes he seemed angry, sometimes loving, sometimes supportive – but most of the time simply controlling; just like the way he placed his bare hand on the naked back. That wasn’t a sign of gratitude or care, it was a sign of power and control. It said “Your life and body are mine.” – And I suppose that’s what happens with addicts, they give their minds and souls away to the drug and the sources for their drug. That’s why addicts can steal – because they don’t steal for their own soul; they steal for somebody else.

The woman came and knelt down. The leader placed a hand around her throat – or maybe just on her shoulder, my view wasn’t clear – and pulled her up. He pulled her high, as if he pulled her feet off the floor; but still only with one hand.

I saw the woman shaking; even from the other side of the parking lot I could feel her desperation and I could see her begging for another loan or forgiveness or whatever it was.

He let the woman down and she sank to the floor; it looked as if she cried. Then she slowly moved out of the room. She cried in the next room; then she seemed to go downstairs.

I could call it an accident; honestly I waited until I heard Carolyn and Sophie pass. I just wanted to see Sophie again, to feel her hug around my neck and know that there was a life I affected. It was evening already and I had noticed that Carolyn left that time. I noticed it from Sophie’s bored humming.

I didn’t expect them both to be on the corridor. I thought it would be Carolyn on her own; I wanted to ask her whether I could take care of Sophie. I wanted to tell her how bored Sophie was withot her.

Instead, when I opened the door, I heard a high squeak and Sophie ran towards me. She hugged my leg and I pulled her up to give her a kiss on the forehead. Carolyn forcefully pulled her away.

“Hey.” I said.

“Stay away.” Carolyn said.

“What, why?”

Carolyn pressed the elevator button.

“You make us feel bad.” She said. “I should have done it long ago.”

“Do what?” I asked.

Carolyn pulled Sophie in the elevator. Sophie waved with sad, big eyes; I waved back with wet eyes and a fake smile.

“A fresh start.” Carolyn said.

That night there was light on the roof of the unfinished building. But inside the building most lights were off – all except the ones in the room with the leader.

I didn’t want to look at the house; I felt like crying and just wanted to look outside – but in a city there is not much else to look at except houses.

I saw the bare-chested woman enter the room. She pulled something along that was hidden behind the window frame.

The leader rubbed his thin, long arms.

The bare-chested woman bent down and picked something up.

The child was nearly still; only her legs moved as if she wanted to walk away. Her arms were hanging limb.

The leader took the child from the woman’s hands.

Then, for the first time, he ran.

The woman sank to the floor.

The lights in the room went off.

The lights on the roof glowed stronger; then, without any warning, they got very bright and then disappeared.

The next day there was no light in the unfinished building.

Another day later I saw the landlord entering Carolyn’s apartment. He told me that Carolyn had moved out; he said she had moved the furniture and her stuff long ago.

“They left only the mattresses.” The landlord said. “But she said she got some money.”

He smiled.

“I think it’s good for her. She said something about a fresh start.”

I never saw Carolyn again.

But I saw Sophie again:

First I found her toys in the trash, then her teddy elephant – then all her pictures.


This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.

Always Leave Work on Time

This story has been featured in the NoSleep Podcast.


I am careful to always leave work on time. I had my fair share of abusive bosses; now I will fight with nails and teeth to not lose an inch of my free time just to print another stack of meaningless papers.

I’ve been in this job for nearly a year, and only twice I had to stay past 6pm. The first time was when a meeting ran overtime; I was new back then, and careful not to make a bad impression. The second time was this Monday.

Before Monday I might have been careful to always go home on time; now I am anal about it. I will never again in my life stay a minute longer at work than necessary. And certainly I will never again be the last one to leave work; even if it’s the CEO on the phone.

Monday was just a bad day. I was hopping from stressful meeting to stressful phone call to finishing a powerpoint on the last minute. And then, ten minutes before I got off, the CEO called.

It wasn’t even important. He wanted to know what our team was up to and for some reason my team manager had forwarded the call to me.

I felt like I didn’t have a choice. Of course, really, I had a choice. I could have offered to call him back in the morning. Or I could have transferred the call to my mobile phone and continued the conversation on the way home. But I didn’t. I sat at my desk, talking, doodling, and checking my emails while the 50-something on the other end of the line was talking about vision and goals and performance and whatever other buzzwords he picked up during his MBA.

It wasn’t even that late. It was around half past seven that I finally locked my workstation – never shut it down, else the IT can’t run their precious updates and will haunt you for a week about it.

Only half past seven – but the office was already as empty as an Egyptian pyramid after three millennia of grave robbers. Nothing more left than posters, the modern murals, and empty, half-lit cubicles that always remind me of sarcophagi – not just because cubicles are the places where dreams die, but also because they seem to be made to lock their inhabitants inside. The sarcophagus doesn’t just keep robbers out – it also keeps the mummy in.

Passing through the row of Egyptian graves I made my way around the corner, past the caffeine corner and the reception tables that always seem sad without the fake smiles of the two young women that realized too late that studying literature with famous professors is not worth $200k.

Press the button and wait. That’s the elevator rule: If other people are around avoid any movement, and any eye contact. But if no one else is around feel free to check your hair or pick your nose until the “Bing” and the light call you inside.

Doors open. Empty cabin; I step inside. Doors close. Elevator begins to move.

Nine floors.

Eight floors.

Six floors.

Five floors.

Loud bang.

You never notice the elevator’s speed until it stops abruptly; when it blows you off your feet, makes you hit your head against the wall so hard that you don’t know whether the lights are off or you just turned blind.

I didn’t notice the cold before, but while hammering against the last light source, the small red emergency button, my feet and back began to freeze. Maybe the roof broke? The cold from outside broke into the house and froze those thick metal cables?

Click.

Static.

Click.

“Hello Sir, can you hear me?”

“Yes; yes I can! Can you hear me?”

“Yes Sir. Is there a problem?”

“Hell, yes, there is! This thing is stuck. Get me out of here!”

“Of course, Sir, please stay calm. This happens occasionally. We will get you out; just relax!”

I hate the English language. Spanish, German, French, Chinese, Greek, Sanskrit, Russian – in any other language that sentence would have been a warning. In English it just was “We will get you out.”

“I can see you.” The technician added. “So don’t worry, you will be fine.”

I don’t know why the technician didn’t turn the microphone off. Either he forgot or he wanted to keep me reassured. But white noise is not reassuring, particularly not if there is an occasional whispered word seeping through the static.

I opened my bag and searched for my phone. That’s the problem with suits – in the jacket pocket the phone makes a strange shape; the trouser pockets send it to the floor the moment you bend forward or sit down. So you have a jacket with pockets and trousers with pockets but still you need to put your phone in a bag. And when you search for it, particularly while locked in an elevator cabin – pitch black except for the faint and almost menacing red glow of the “HELP” button – the phone refuses to appear.

I gave up after about two minutes. I still don’t know how the phone was able to disappear in my bag, between not much more than the travel mug, two books, and the shirt that I should have brought to the dry cleaner in the morning.

I sank to the floor to sit down but caught myself in the last minute. Probably dirty. Instead I leaned my shoulder uncomfortably against the wall; my eyes fixed on the red light and the white noise-producing speaker somewhere above.

Maybe that was the mistake. Maybe if I had sat down I would have noticed.

“Hey.” I said.

Nothing more than static.

The cabin got even colder; it felt nearly like a draft.

“Hello?” I said.

My finger pushed the button.

“Hey, can you hear me?”

Static.

Just when I wanted to scream – Click.

“Sir, please don’t panic.”

“Okay.” I whispered.

“We are still on the case. It seems we can fix it from here. Just hang in there; we will get you all out of there in no time.”

The hair on my legs stood on end.

Surely I just misheard.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes. We are just restarting the motor. You will hear a –“

Clonk

Free fall. Just for a moment; but you know it right away; you know how it feels when you fall, when the insides of your body seem slower than the outside, the pressure shifts, for a moment you can’t feel gravity, but you know that it is exactly the same gravity that pulls you to your doom.

I can’t explain how, but you just know when the ground below you is not a ground, rather it is moving as fast as you; falling together with you. The steel will survive the fall. You won’t.

The crunching sound came first; then my feet hit the ground, then my knees, then my elbows.

“Fuck.” I screamed.

“Sorry, Sir.” Said the technician’s voice.

“What the fuck?” I screamed. “Did this thing just fall two floors?”

“Just about.” Said the voice. “Are you all okay?”

I took a moment to feel the pain in my left arm as well as my knees; painful but not horrible.

“Think so.” I replied.

The steady hum of the elevator’s motion returned. A short stuttering made me grope for something to hold onto. Then the movement was smooth.

Two floors.

“And your daughter?” Asked the voice.

“I don’t have a daughter.” I said.

One floor.

“The girl that’s with you in the cabin, is she alright?” Asked the voice.

“Bing” made the elevator.

I screamed; crawled outside; pushed myself up, and ran.


This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.