The Baby Won't Stop Crying
When I first moved into my apartment and settled in, the baby hardly made a sound. It didn't even cry until a week after I'd finished unpacking. Those few days felt so peaceful and easy. I could really just enjoy my new space. I took it for granted, though, that I'd always be getting a full night's rest.
It was like a flip being switched the day the fussing began. Just sniffling at first, then full on wailing that grew worse with each passing night. Sometimes it continued into the early morning hours. My apartment echoed with increasingly demanding shrieks, which killed my ability to sleep at all.
It took me some time to adjust, too, because when I moved in, I didn't have a baby.
I've always lived alone and had been used to the evening quiet, so even those first whimpers were jarring. It sounded so close, but just muffled enough that I initially thought I was hearing it through the wall. A neighbor with a child, maybe a colicky baby that couldn't sleep through the night. But as the crying grew louder and more frequent, it became apparent that it was coming from my own apartment.
I guess I was scared at first. That feels like a fuzzy memory now, but at the time, I was frightened by what I couldn't explain. My friends told me it was a dream, and I wanted to believe that. I'd started having some rather bizarre nightmares around that time, and this could have been one of them. Just a horribly vivid, recurring nightmare. But the more insistent the cries became, the less I was able to accept that explanation.
Convinced there had to be a logical cause for the noise, my friends soon started joking about my apartment being haunted. They laughed over potential culprits--your run-of-the-mill ghosts and possessions--and though I was still on edge over the whole thing, I tried to play along. It was kind of funny at first, entertaining the idea of some supernatural force just messing with me for the hell of it. But as my nights became more and more sleepless, I started to lose my sense of humor. My fear, too. Something about total exhaustion had sapped my ability to feel anything but frustration. I was going to lose my mind if I didn't get some rest soon. Whatever it was, I wanted it to shut up.
I was down to two to three hours a night when I finally decided to seek out the source. There was nowhere in my apartment that I hadn't been, but come night time, I thought perhaps I'd have more luck finding something unusual. I wasn't going to be able to sleep anyway. So darkness fell, and like clockwork, the crying began. It went on for a few minutes before I quietly followed the sound. Farther down my hallway, closer to my bathroom. I walked carefully, listening all the way, as the noise grew close.
When I reached the end of the hall, I couldn't believe I hadn't solved it sooner. Not in the walls, but close enough. I opened the door to my linen closet, and there it was, sitting on a shelf. It was wrapped in a blanket, but its arms were out, and they were tight in angry little newborn fists. Its cheeks were damp from tears, but it had stopped crying. Once the door was open, the noise turned to pre-meltdown whining, more discontent than genuine upset.
It was weird, when I think about it. You don't expect a baby to materialize in your linen closet. But somehow it was the most natural thing in the world to gather it up in my arms. Keep in mind, I've never even held a baby before this, and I was a little nervous. But once I had a good grip, it felt more effortless.
The moment it was in my arms, its sobs turned to gentle cooing. It looked up at me with its big eyes, so sharp and aware for something surely no more than a few weeks old. It was weird, seeing an infant up close. I'd never realized how perfect they were, the feeling of their skin, the softness of their hair. I had the overwhelming sense that I never wanted to put it down again. A shiver ran through me, and I squeezed the little bundle against my chest.
Maybe in the back of my mind, some distant part of me thought I should be calling the police or something. I didn't know where it had come from or how it got there. There were so many questions I should have been asking. But somehow, I knew the moment that I saw it that it belonged here, in this apartment. Just like I knew that it needed me more than anything.
For the first time in two weeks, I could finally sleep, and it was the deepest I'd had in a while. A part of me had wondered if the baby would be gone come morning, but it was beside me in the bed when I woke, just where I'd left it. It was smiling at me now, the kind of expression that soothes mothers when they're at their wits end. Though I'd never wanted children before, I felt like I finally understood the urge.
Later in the day though, while I sketched in my notepad, the baby began to cry again. I thought it wanted to be held, so I picked it up, but it didn't calm down like before. As it became more agitated, I started to panic. My lack of experience in infant care was really shining through now. But after I took a moment to breathe, it suddenly occurred to me that I knew exactly what it needed.
I came back from the store with some solid foods. I tried a variety of things--chicken, pork, fish--but the baby had an immediate preference: steak. Raw and bloody, fresh from the container. I thought that perhaps I should cut it up first, but the baby had no problem with the larger pieces. It devoured them in deep, greedy gulps.
It was kind of adorable how much the baby loved its meat. I even started to get why parents thought pictures of their kids with food-coated faces were cute, rather than disgusting. The baby never seemed to need anything else, and as long as I kept it fed, the crying ceased entirely.
A week or two of that, though, and it seemed the baby was growing bored with beef. It wouldn't accept the other meats I'd purchased for it, and it quickly became distraught as the days passed without a new source of nutrients. I was at a loss, searching for something, anything, that the baby would respond to.
But as I sat there, I remembered the first time, how I'd realized what it wanted. How it dawned on me in a moment of clarity. And again, I understood.
It was difficult to make the first incision. I'm afraid of things like blood and needles, and I'd never had a high threshold for pain. But I found that I didn't need to slice very wide to get the desired effect, which was good, given how much it hurt. Just a flesh wound, but it felt much worse. Once I started, though, I didn't hesitate, and the baby knew exactly what to do. Its mouth latched over my open wound and it drank hungrily.
The feeling was revolting. I immediately wanted it to stop, but I wasn't going to push the baby away. It needed me to take care of it. Who else was going to feed it? If I had to make a few sacrifices, I could do it. That was what it meant to take care of a child. Afterward, though, I felt a sinking dread in my gut, even as I knew that I would do it all again the moment the baby was hungry once more.
During this time, the apartment had started to change without my realizing it. The shadows had grown darker and longer in the hallway. Things shifted in my peripheral, like animals darting just out of sight. The air around me felt heavier, too. And cold. Much colder than it was outside, even when I turned the heat on.
But I found I didn't mind it much. It was the whispering at night that was really getting to me. The weird, garbled voices, frantically murmuring in some unknown tongue. They permeated my dreams and chased me even in slumber, filling my head until my own thoughts were pushed out. During the day, it was quieter, but the nights had become so long, to the point of feeling like weeks had passed without the sun.
I began to lose track of time. I could mark the hour by what I was doing on days the baby was hungry. I could count the lacerations on my arms and legs to remember what day it was. But soon it felt like daylight stopped coming at all. And the baby was growing increasingly demanding, wanting more and more, and much more often. I dutifully cut myself open again and again, but there was only so much I could give.
The world around me began to spiral as I felt myself losing my grip. Every ounce of energy went into keeping the baby happy. It was all I cared about, all I thought about. And it felt like it would never end, this frantic sense of responsibility. The distant understanding that I was being slowly crushed beneath an unseen weight.
So when I noticed the sunshine pouring through the window one morning, it filled me with a newfound hope. I'd been so caught up in my routine that it had felt like an eternity, but now I could see that it had merely been a rough patch. That was all. I wasn't used to taking care of anyone but myself, and maybe I was still getting the hang of it. Now, back to a state of normalcy, my previous stress seemed so silly. It was bright and warm in my kitchen. The baby hadn't cried for a few days. I wasn't even having the nightmares anymore--the vivid dreams of being hunted, ripped to pieces by hundreds of hungry creatures in the dark, alive for every torturous bite. They were gone, and my usual tension was replaced by a heavy sense of relief.
I was even thrilled to hear the doorbell, even if it was just a solicitor. It occurred to me quite suddenly that I hadn't left my apartment in a while. I hadn't talked to my friends, either. It had been well over a month. Maybe I'd started to feel lonely. It would be good to connect with another human being.
But as I turned the doorknob, that feeling began to fade. I hesitated, but finally opened the door and peered out into the hall.
A woman with a thick layer of makeup and a stiff bun stood before me, smiling. She was holding flyers. She asked if I had a minute to talk about Jesus. If she could come in and chat.
I didn't want to. I swear, I didn't want to. But I knew I had to. I knew it was what the baby wanted. Needed.
I let her in.
She was friendly, chattering away about religious meetings and bible studies. I didn't talk much, barely absorbing anything she said. My somber demeanor didn't dissuade her, and she started listing church activities in an attempt to entice me into checking out a service. She sat on the couch as I made tea. Chamomile, a box I'd purchased to calm my nerves when the insomnia had first began.
The woman said something and laughed, so I laughed, too. I thought it might sound unnatural, but she didn't seem to notice. I served her the tea, then sat across from her in a chair while she discussed God's plan for me. It was all white noise by then. I was thinking about the baby the entire time. How upset it was. How it was relying on me.
I excused myself while the woman sipped her tea, then went to my room. The baby was waiting on the bed, just where I'd left it. It gazed up at me, expectantly, as I hovered in the doorway. After a moment, I scooped it up and carried it out to the living room.
The woman was babbling on again, sharing an anecdote about her pastor. Telling me how everyone liked him. When I turned the corner though, she stopped mid-sentence. I stood in front of the couch, and she stared for a moment. It was the first stretch of silence between us since she'd entered. But she was't looking at me.
Slowly, a strange expression rose on her face. Her brow wrinkled, and she began to shift away from me. "...What is that?" she asked. Her voice was shaky. Concerned.
"Do you want to hold it?" I asked her, stepping forward. She stood up from the couch and put more distance between us, standing on the other side of the coffee table as if it were a barrier. I held the baby out. "It's easy, just support the head."
The woman tried to walk around the coffee table, tried to run for the door. I cut her off on the other side and held the baby out again, encouraging her to take it. She immediately stumbled back, a fearful sound escaping her throat. Her back hit the wall, and I closed in.
"Get away from me!" she shouted, as I pushed the baby toward her. It didn't need my help this time.
In an instant, the baby latched onto the woman and put its mouth over hers, sloppy and wet like babies do when they're learning how to eat. The woman's eyes grew wide as her scream was cut short, blood bubbling up and spilling out between the baby's lips and her own. She fell to the floor, frantically scratching at the baby, but thankfully not hurting it. Everything happened so quickly, but I couldn't watch. I turned to face the kitchen as the wet, meaty sounds filled my small apartment. I heard her feet still kicking, her hands flailing. She fought for a long time.
When it was over, the baby cooed contentedly, snuggling against what was left. I didn't know how to clean any of it up. I just wasn't used to feeding babies, and there was so much. Everywhere. It was on the hardwood, on my shoes. My clothes where it had splattered. The wall where it had smeared.
The baby wanted to be held, so I picked it up and rocked it. It seemed happy and satisfied, which made me happy too, but I couldn't look at the mess on the floor. There was so little left that was recognizable as a person. Just knowing it was still there in my home had me nauseated, and once I laid the baby down for a nap, I set about bagging up the leftovers.
It's harder than it looks in movies, getting a rigid body into a bag. Luckily, there wasn't a whole lot there, but it was still heavier than I thought it would be. Her flyers were scattered on the ground, drenched in blood, so I gathered those up too and dropped them in with the remains. When I was sure no one was out in the hall, I dragged the bag to the trash incinerator chute and pushed it in. It was almost too big, and I was terrified it would get stuck, or someone would come out and see me with it. But after shoving it with all of my weight a few times, it went down. I could smell it burning up.
Afterward, I found a good tutorial for removing blood stains. Once I got over the smell, it actually wasn't that difficult of a job. But during the process, I found the woman's necklace under the coffee table--a simple cross on a silver chain--and I felt sick again. I panicked and dropped the chain down the garbage disposal, but I didn't turn it on. I'm worried it'll break the disposal, and I'll have to call the landlord.
The baby didn't cry again for three days. It was silent during that time, but I no longer felt the peace that I had before. I didn't go outside, just sat around and waited. I knew it wouldn't be long.
When the urge to call my friends arose, I smashed my phone so that I couldn't. The food in my fridge slowly spoiled, but I didn't go to the grocery store. I had to be alone. That was the only way.
I didn't want to do it again. I knew what the baby wanted, but I couldn't do it again.
Since then, the baby has been very hungry. I'm trying everything to keep it happy, even to my own detriment. I'm opening my arm daily, but it seems that's no longer enough, and I can feel its hunger in every fiber of my being. The walls are throbbing, beating rhythmically like a heart, and the shadows... the whispers... It's gotten so loud. The crying is worse than it's ever been, so bad now that my ears have started to bleed.
In the back of my mind I keep thinking, I don't need all of my fingers. I don't need my toes. I could even go without my legs. But what happens when those things run out? What do I do then? How do I prevent more people from coming in here?
I don't know what to do. I'm begging and pleading, but the baby won't calm down. There has to be another way, but I don't know how. How do I make it stop? Please. Someone please, how do I make it stop crying?