Welcome back to Strange As Fiction, a column that features short fiction prose. This is the second piece of a short horror story called “Like Father, Like Son”. If you haven’t read the first section, click the link to start reading Part One for the whole story. Enjoy!
Wendy had been waiting half an hour outside the Health & Home grocery store, still wearing her red cashier’s apron, when her husband’s black Toyota rolled up to the curb. Even before the car rolled to a stop, she noted the way Mike gripped the wheel. Her own hand, clutching that week’s paycheck, trembled. As if the the twisting in her gut weren’t enough, the baby started kicking again.
The car stopped, and Mike rolled down the passenger window. “Get in.” Wendy obeyed.
The ride back to their house was tense. It was only once they were parked in their driveway that Mike turned to Wendy. “How much this week?”
“450, after taxes.”
He grunted, switching off the ignition. “You think they’d pay you more. Monday, you go to your manager and get a raise. You could stand to be more assertive.”
Wendy bit her lip. “Actually, I…” She took a deep breath. “I’m taking Monday off. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.”
“Why,” Mike asked, lightly drumming on the steering wheel, “would you do a stupid thing like that?” The wrinkles by his eyes deepened; Wendy counted to ten, imagining that Mike was doing the same.
“My manager… he said..”
Mike hadn’t counted to ten. Before his wife had finished her sentence, he slammed his fist down on the car’s horn. The resulting blare caused Wendy to jump in her seat.
“Goddamnit Wendy, didn’t you tell him we needed the money? That we’re going to be parents in a few months? Fuck, children cost money, did you happen to think of that when you decided to be a mommy?”
He reached out to Wendy, who couldn’t help but flinch before his hand landed on her swollen belly.
“Mike, he said I looked like crap. That I needed a few days off to recover my health. I am pregnant, after all,” she said.
“Well, he was right about one thing. But Wendy, that’s what the weekend’s for.”
Wendy flinched again, this time because her husband had started drumming with his fingers again, this time over her red Health & Home apron. The baby started to kick again, mirroring Mike’s tapping fingers.
“Have you heard of Patau syndrome?”
“No? What is it?” Wendy asked, beginning to grow nauseated from the sensations both inside and outside her stomach.
“It’s a genetic disorder, like Down syndrome but worse. Most children with it die in the womb, but in extremely rare cases… babies born with it can have cleft palates, malformed noses… some even have only one eye, like some sort of cyclops.” Mike removed his hand from Wendy, and she could feel the baby stop moving. “I looked at images online. It’s so fucked up, Wendy. Like something out of a nightmare.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Wendy asked, trying not to frown. Back when she first told Mike about the pregnancy, he had all but commanded her to abort it. If this was one last attempt to convince her…
“Monday, since you’re taking the day off. You’re going to the doctor to get some genetic tests done.”
“Insurance won’t cover it. I thought we needed to save money?”
“We can scrounge for a while. This is important,” Mike replied, unbuckling his seat belt. “A baby with one eye. Or nose, or ears on its goddamned chin! Could you really love a baby like that?”
Wendy paused, and and rested her own, shaking hand on her stomach. Her husband looked at her expectantly, his sharp blue eyes daring her to say what he thought impossible. Could she love a monster? his gaze asked.
He underestimated her. “Yes,” she answered out loud.
Mike’s eyes narrowed, and her unborn child began to kick for the third time that day, as if it were sounding the drums of war from within her.
Madds Warren is a graduate student at the University of Iowa. An avid writer since the seventh grade as well as a fan of Alice Cooper and Stephen King, she’s been excited to try her hand at horror ever since the idea for “Like Father, Like Son” popped into her head. Madds can be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments or critique, and more of her writing can be found on Wattpad under the pseudonym ‘clarissavandell’. Stay tuned for more “Strange as Fiction” on KRUI.fm!