This is a short story I wrote ages ago, but still one of the best things I have done so far.
A Short Story
By James Hall
Shannon was shaking as she stood, amniotic fluid slowly traversing the contours of her thighs. A spasm shot through her abdomen, and tears leaked from her blood shot eyes. She sniffed up some escaping mucus and let out another sob; if only she could see the state she was in, but in the darkness, she could see nothing. Her boney fingers, undernourished, wiped the tears from her cracked cheeks. The wetness was becoming uncomfortable, and it felt like she was burning between her legs. In the darkness, her arms reached to find a wall, or perhaps the door, but she could neither find or see anything. Her swollen belly gave another kick, she knew it was soon time, and that the one thing in the world she needed right now was a hospital. Don’t be stupid, her thoughts told her, you’re on your own, and no one is going to help. She would have this baby, here, in the dark, alone, with risk of infection or even death, to both of them. Shannon had still not decided if she wanted the baby to survive or not, her thoughts torn between love and hatred for the child, and despair of bringing a child into her current, hopeless situation. Many a time had she thought of punching her stomach, hurting herself and the baby, to prevent any further suffering, but could never carry it out. As she shuffled forwards, each movement causing discomfort, her skinny protrusions fingered the wall; mentally cursing the fact that it was night-time, and that the only window was devoid of light. Her hands followed the wall, as she moved closer, looking for something to latch on to. A shriek of pain engulfed her thoughts as her left toe collided with the stone latrine. Trying to compose herself, she cautiously bent down and carefully lowered herself onto the makeshift toilet.
“Help me, you bastard.” she cried.
“Where the fuck are you”.
Her scream echoed between the mossy stone walls of her environment. No one would come, no one had been for a few days now, which initially pleased her, but now scared her every sense of reason. The pain was becoming intense with every spasm of her vulva, her body shook from pure fright; she was probably in shock her thoughts told her. How was she going to cope with a pitch black birth, would she be able to feed the child from her breast considering how malnourished and de-hydrated she was. Could she even produce milk; assuming they both survived. She had to stop thinking of the worst, she was going to make it; convincing herself of this was very difficult. Another spasm shot through her abdomen, they were becoming so regular now, it would soon be time.
Shannon carefully lifted herself off of the cold wet stone seat, shuffled a few steps while supporting her waistline. She put her back against the wall and slowly let her feet slide away from her body. Sat on the cold floor of her prison, tears streaming down her face, spasms rocking her body, she started her labour. The pain was like nothing she had experienced before, her insides trying to evacuate an unwanted seed, the splitting sensation as the baby started to crown. She didn’t know what to do, there were no classes to teach her to push, to breath correctly, and at 17 years old, she had known no one who had been through pregnancy to share information with; she was going to have to do it blind. There was another searing pain, and then she felt her bowels evacuate, but there was no time to feel embarrassed, or to be worried about it, she just wanted it all to stop, and to get through the experience alive. There was an amazing sensation to push, and so she did, pure instinct took over. With an amazing sense of relief, the anguish was over, the pain no more. Sweating, and panting, she lay her head back against the wall. A few moments passed where she suddenly felt calm, but then the screams started, she wondered why she was screaming as there was no new pain to accompany them. Sitting up, the realisation hit her that her baby was alive. Panic hit her, what did she need to do. Her hands fumbled in between her legs, her fingers brushed against a wriggling mass of flesh. It was heavy, heavier than she thought it would be, but surprisingly small, probably undernourished, perhaps premature. As she lifted the child up to her chest, there was a tugging sensation between her legs. A memory of her pet cat came flooding back, as if brought on by a maternal instinct, specifically when it had given birth to a litter of kittens. Shannon remembered how the cat had chewed through the umbilical cord to set the new born free. A realisation of what had to be done flooded over her. She had expected it to hurt, but there was no pain; tougher as well, seemed to take an age to gnaw through the flesh. It was a struggle to hold back the feeling of sickness, as the last strands of chord were severed by her teeth. Leaning her head over the stone toilet, she retched, but nothing presented itself. The baby was still screaming, probably hungry, so she lifted the child up to her breast, unable to so see what she was doing. Shannon hoped the baby’s instinct would kick in and it would find its way to the nipple and start to suckle. Exhausted, she rested her head against the wall, and quickly descended into a deep sleep.
Shannon awoke with a start as her head flopped forward from against the wall. Squinting as she tried to open her eyes, rubbing them with her hands, she could smell iron on her fingers, most probably her dried blood. As she blinked the blurriness away, it was obviously daytime as a very small amount of light shone through the small two foot square window just below the ceiling. A feeling of numbness seemed to prevent her limbs from moving as she tried to push herself up from the slouching position she had found herself in. Sat with her back against the cold stone wall, she started to compose her thoughts, trying to remember the events of before. A pain in her abdomen fired off a disturbing recollection of giving birth. Quickly looking down to the floor, a surge of panic flooded her as she saw a small, motionless, blood soaked baby splayed out between her knees. Urgency fuelled her muscles as she reached forward to pick up the new born. Clutching it to her chest she watched for movement, the slightest sign, a minute breath to hint at life; there was none. Tears began to stream down Shannon cheeks as she sobbed into the crown of her child. The feeling in her heart was incredible, more than she could ever have imagined. Eventually her eyes dried up, her body ached with pain, sorrow, hunger and dehydration. She lay down the limp child on the floor, trying not to gaze into its wrinkled face. Leaning forward, she lifted herself onto all fours, and began to crawl her way to the one solitary dripping copper tap against the far wall. As she approached closer, the smell of the uncovered dirty drain invaded her nostrils, but she would have to persevere as she was becoming desperate for a clean, and a drink was needed to sustain her. Arriving at the tap, suddenly aware of the fact she was covered in blood and excrement, she turned it anti-clockwise and began to wash. After a few minutes, and once her hands were clean, she took a drink of the tepid life giving fluid to quench her thirst. Done drinking, she continued to wash, trying to clean herself as best she could. As she scrubbed, the sensation was very uncomfortable, suggesting she was still sore from her ordeal. When she was done, she slumped back to the floor, crawled a little way away from the stench of the open drain, curled up into a foetus like ball, and slipped into a deep sleep.
It was dark again when she awoke, the small aperture above her devoid of light. Although she had been asleep, there was no feeling of being rested, muscles still ached, abdomen still sore, and an emotional sledgehammer pounding in her chest. A few moments passed and then tears escaped her drowsy eyes. Were they tears of sadness for her poor forsaken child, or for her still ongoing predicament. Shannon gradually pulled herself across the stone floor of her prison to where she thought her child lay. As she dragged her feet, inch by inch, a spasm of cramp attacked her ankle and calf; pausing for a moment she waited for it to subside as experience told her; cramp came so easily to her of late. Resuming to move, her fingers outstretched, she felt a pathway to her baby. Once found again, with tears rolling down her cheek, and child in her arms, she placed her back to the wall, hung her head down low, and sat there in the dark, in the silence, waiting for it all to end.
She wasn’t sure if she was awake or asleep when a noise jolted her to her senses. A scraping sound, like rubber soled boot against sand covered stone floor. Her captor was back. Terror shot across Shannon’s face, a panicked expression coursed through her entire body. After days of being left in darkened solitude, after the ordeal of an unassisted child birth, it was going to start all over again. Shannon sat, fearful and rigid, motionless child in her lap, knees pulled up to her chest; hoping that he would not see the child. The sound of screeching metal sent shivers throughout her spine, not because of the blackboard like sound, but because of what the sound represented. The huge metal bolt was being moved out of the way, and in a moment the door would be opened. With her head pointing down, but her eyes focused on the door, time seemed to grind to a halt as the bolt seemed to take an age to be moved aside. The sound stopped. A thin crack of amber light appeared, slowly thickening as the door began to open. Shannon could see a dark figure just beyond the door, no features were visible, just a silhouette of a man, standing still, watching her. She couldn’t help crying, it becoming too painful to hold the tears back. The man just silently watched. The door continued to swing open using its massive weight as momentum. The amber light was now illuminating Shannon, and the limp child could be seen tucked into her lap. The man seemed to observe for a while, head tilted in suggested quizzical manor. As if suddenly realising what he saw, he lurched forward before Shannon could even respond, grasped the child by an arm and forcefully snapped the body away from her desperate clutch, while simultaneously pushing her over with his other hand.
“Please, no, no please” was all she could think to cry out, but it sounded like a whisper as her throat was dry and sore, but before she could say anything else, he was out the room, slamming the bulky steel door behind him. She lay where she was pushed, crying, eyes shut, and before long was sleep again.
When Shannon awoke, unaware of how long she had slept for, her hunger pains were screaming their concerns to her. It must have been days now without food, but in her mind, actually hoped that food would not come, for she associated food with only bad painful experiences. Now that her captor was back, she knew she would be fed soon, but dreaded it. Maybe if she was left alone for longer, she would fall asleep for good, because she certainly had little energy left. She just wanted it all to end, and in her mind, had given up dreaming of being released months ago, or was it years ago. Her memories seemed to fail her, she knew common sense told her she had been captive for more that nine months as her limited education told her that this was the time taken to carry a child; but for how long before that, she could not gauge. It felt like she knew nothing else, her captivity being her only life. Hazy were her memories of parents, friends and school. It had been such a long time since she had walked in daylight, her only existence now being shrouded in darkness, alone and malnourished, her life a series of beatings and rape.
The rectangular slot near the bottom of the door slid open, and a bowl was sloppily pushed through, spilling some of its contents across the stone floor, seeping through the cracks of the flagstones. The slot slammed shut. Shannon stared at the bowl, the smell of oats and warm milk enticed her nostrils. She could even tell it was laced with sugar, the sweet aroma torturing her stomach. Her judgement was to ignore it, to leave it well alone. It would be foolish to eat, but her physical weakness was telling her mind a different thing altogether. Maybe this seemingly innocent bowl of porridge was free from the drug that she had been constantly subjected to. Maybe it was just food that she was meant to eat, with no ulterior motivate; but maybe it wasn’t. She shivered, and tears escaped the corners of her tired eyes. She turned her head and buried it into her knees, hoping she would fall asleep as easily as she had been lately, but sleep didn’t come. The sweet smell of sugary porridge was like having a cold shower, her senses seemed alert, the most awake she had been in days, possibly weeks. She lifted her head to look at the glorious bowl sat there like the temptation of Satan. She slowly dragged herself across the floor, inch by inch, to where the aroma originated. As she got closer, the smell became more wonderful, all she could think about was eating the sugary slop. She imagined the energy and warmth it would bring to her, the renewed strength she would feel. Her face was now inches away from it, her nose twitched and her mouth tingled as if it were trying to digest the food from afar.
Shannon ate; her mind thinking nothing of the consequences; her mouth barely tasting the food. Within seconds the food was gone. She rolled on to her back, with an almost smile across her face, and a warmness about her she had not felt in weeks. As she was lulled into a false sense of security, it started; she felt her body become limp, her muscles started to relax. Her fears were confirmed, the food was drugged, as it almost always was, Cursing herself she tried to lift her head up off the floor, only to flop back to the hard ground with a jarring crack. Time was slowing down, her senses seemed to be amplified, sounds she had not heard before suddenly rang out in her head. Trying to drag herself away from the door seemed such an effort, the distance feeling like feet, not inches as her muscles gave up. After a few small moments, she was stationary, the pathways between brain and muscles blocked. She lay there, waiting, wide awake but her senses slowed, her body motionless. She did not know how long she was lying there before the grinding metal sound of the doors bolt froze her thoughts as it was pulled back. Unable to move and unable to defend herself she lay there, panicked anticipation blocking all her thoughts. She could sense the door being opened as the warm amber light engulfed her naked, bloodied body. From her position on her back, the ceiling was all she could see as she was unable to move her head. A clash of metal rang out as the hulk of a man loomed over her, apparently kicking the bowl out through the door. In Shannon’s sluggish state of mind, his deep breathing thundered throughout her conscious. She saw his shadowed form kneel down and could feel her legs involuntarily part as he positioned himself between them. She was sobbing at this point, although she could not tell if she was showing any physical signs of her distress due to the paralysis of her body. Her mind started to drift, it would be a small blessing if she passed out and didn’t have to be subjected to the whole ordeal; but her thoughts were brought back to the present with a surge of incredible pain from between her legs. Although she could not move, she could feel everything. The pain was intense, worse than it had ever been, and with every thrust it got worse. A warm sensation could be felt around the area of penetration, spreading quickly down her legs, and around to her back. It felt like she was lying in a pool of sticky warm water. The pain kept coming, she didn’t notice the stale smell of sweat on her attacker that she normally would, nor the dripping saliva hitting her face, The weariness was taking her, her senses slowing even further. The light from the passage was dimming; her eyes must have been closing. The pain was subsiding, it didn’t seem to hurt anymore. A strange sense of comfort seemed to cradle her in a blanket of security, she felt relaxed and untroubled. The physical ordeal seemed to be over, there seemed to be no movement from the man, no feeling of pain, no amplified noise, just peace, and then darkness.