Black Petals Issue #86, Winter, 2019

The Night Side of Eden
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Eric Roseman's Poem-Fiction by Jacob Austin
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Napper's Holler-Chapter 7-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
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Napper's Holler-Chapter 9-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Not This Time-Flash Fiction by Roy Dorman
Our Neighbors, The Zombies-Fiction by Jon A. Park
The Art of Dream-napping-Fiction by Mark J. Kevlock
The Night Side of Eden-Fiction by George Rosas
The Sump-Fiction by Anthony Lukas
Tingles-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Winter's Gnome-Poem by Janet C. Ro
Saucer, Schmosser-Four Poems by Richard Stevenson

nightsidehlyon1.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2019

The Night Side of Eden

 

By George Rosas

Kids napping, demon stalking

 

 

 

I’ll never forget the wretched sounds of the night of my eighteenth birthday. The cold wind washed the trees’ leaves on that ungodly, mad, ravenous, dark night so long ago. What sounded like worn leather scraped against the small pebbles of the ancient beaten path going up towards my childhood home, my father’s home. Ragged, unjointed sobs of some poor, suffering, wretched creature made its slow, mad ascent towards me. Freezing chills ran down my tired, bony back. Beads of sweat formed on and cooled the young skin of my brown forehead. Birds abandoned their nests in a flurry of fright as the disheartening scrapes came closer and closer. Those sobs tore at your heart but gripped it with terror. I could feel the flap of sharp, uneven wings against a dark night devoid of stars. Bleakness and quiet desperation grew in the shadows that rested in the corners of my room.

I remember hearing the faint heartbeat of the tiny baby resting against my chest. I remember how her small heart beat unevenly, keeping pace with the uneven scrapes of the creature outside. I held her against me, hoping her mother’s warmth would quell her unrest. We lay in the small room I shared with my two children and Natividad, who was my nanny growing up and now my children’s—Julisa’s and Orielito’s.

Julisa, my second born, was a plump cherub, with fat arms and cheeks. She was the kind of child who brought on that urge to softly pinch those beautiful cheeks or the rolls of fat on her small legs.

My eyes turned toward my other child, Orielito, my firstborn. The progenitor of the next branch of the family tree, he swayed peacefully from side to side on a small hammock held up by rusty nails hammered to the old walls. My first child was not what one would call pretty. He’d always been too skinny, and his head seemed oversized for his diminutive body. My father claimed that he would grow into it, but I had my doubts. His skin was rough and of a pale yellow hue, with one brown spot that resembled a scar on the tail of his back and two smaller ones, like incisions, on his shoulder blades. His scars reminded me of his father who had the same marks on his lean body. My children were both beautiful to me.

Oscar, where did you go? How your children miss your fatherly presence—always so courteous, so kind, so gentle, yet so strong and firm in all your endeavors. You commanded respect, awe, and even fear from those around you…except for my father. He did not fear you. He never took a liking to you. He criticized our early marriage; I was sixteen and you claimed to be twenty-one. But I was pregnant and in love. He talked about how odd things happened when you were around, unnatural, unearthly things. Animals cowered and fled when you appeared; you could not stand the sight of a cross; he did not like the way you smelled when returning from your nightly walk in the woods. These were things I did not care about. You were not one to be understood, only loved.

I was unable to determine if my firstborn soundly slept or if the ominous presence had awoken him. What I could see was his tiny hand clutching his favorite rag, a pastel-orange bath towel with torn edges that Oscar had used as a handkerchief. The unpainted walls of my father’s humble, rural home turned pitch black as a sudden wind blew out the lone candle in my room. In those times, electricity was a luxury, not a commodity—a gift not yet bestowed on those with lesser income. In fact, it had not yet reached the rural countryside of our small third world country.

As the bleak sounds of that night came ever closer, I felt every pore of my body ooze fluid. From my nose ran streaks of thick, bloody mucus. My eyes became red and inflamed. Tears fell to become a pool of salt water in the lines of my neck. My entire body burst with sweat, which ran down my back in rivulets, but, oddly, I did not feel hot. Rather, I felt cold.

The sudden drop of temperature made Natividad, our old, indigenous nanny, who was sleeping on the other side of the small room on a green cot, dig around with long skeletal fingers for a misplaced sheet to cover herself. Then, with an electrifying jolt, she sat up. I could tell by the way her head was cocked how she was trying to focus, how her brain strained to shake off sleep, to hear the dead sounds, the corrupt sobs of the unseen fiend imitating the crying of a devastated woman. The more I heard the sobs, the more I recognized the familiar tone of its sheer desperation. You see, the creature’s cry sounded identical to mine, a depraved echo of my sadness.

“Natividad, what is that? What comes towards us this night?” I asked.

I held my beloved baby girl tightly against my chest. I now sat on the edge of my bed and inhaled the bloody mucus to not let it fall onto my sweet child.

Natividad rushed towards me and pressed one of her long, skinny fingers onto my lips. “Clotilde, my child, for the love of God, I beg of you, do not let any of your babies cry. The…” She paused. At the edge of the corner of my father’s home I could hear what sounded like three dirty daggers scrape against the concrete wall. The demon was turning around the corner, so close now to my bedroom window.

“Clotilde, I will fetch your father. He’s most likely asleep on the living room couch. You wait for me here. Pray to our Holy Father in heaven and do not stop praying. Close your eyes, and stop the tears. Wait for me here, and do not forget, don’t let your children cry.”

Natividad fled the room, her feline steps not making a sound in the dark. I rose from my bed, its springs creaking as my body left it, and looked at my firstborn sleeping in the hammock. The maddening sounds had not awakened him. Instead, a sort of grin had settled on his sleeping face.

Then I heard it. I heard its breathing, and saw its towering, evil silhouette outside my window. Its arms outstretched, I could see its long claws groping for a way inside. My arid mouth opened to utter a scream, but I instantly bit my tongue. I gagged as I felt warm blood well within my mouth. I could see the creature’s freezing breath appear and disappear against the window pane. The pale-yellow glow of the moon faded as gray clouds hid her from the events occurring under her domain, as if she dared not witness the night’s horror. The sinful creature’s shadow of a body bobbed up and down. What appeared to be long hair, but resembled wet hay instead, fell from its mountainous twig-like shoulders towards the earth below. It snaked its head against the window panes, as if trying to smell where we were. Then, in his sleep, Orielito giggled!  

The nightmare outside our window froze. It tilted its head and let its arms hang limply by its sides. My feet moved automatically, bidden by some unseen force to come closer. And, as I did, the creature slid its face closer to mine. My face inches from the devil outside, I could almost feel its polluted breath on my face. Bile tickled the back of my throat. The creature whispered, the hollow voice hissing inside my mind. It commanded me to give it, to give her, the children. It murmured, pleading softly and seductively, that those were her children. The fiend insisted she was their rightful mother and she would have them back. The intimate, greedy voice sounded like glass crashing.

Every pore of my body gushed cold liquids at her words. My face, once again, was covered in tears and snot. I was too paralyzed to move, one hand hanging limply by my side, while the other clutched the soft, fragile body of my sweet Julisa. The demon promised a better home, a greater, more comfortable life than I could ever afford for them. In their rightful home they would be eternal royalty, forever ruling alongside their mother. Others would admire, fear, and cower before them. If they remained here, she told me, they would be nothing but slaves, bowing to other wills and whims. They would amount to nothing, working tirelessly to make others wealthy and renowned.

I was on the border of despair, my feet dangling on a cliff overlooking an abyss. My mind was clogged with honeyed promises, as if a fog inhibited my brain from thinking clearly. I was on the verge of compliance. I would give it what it wanted. I started to lift Julisa towards the window. The monster’s head tilted towards my baby. Its breathing was ravenous, frantic, expectant, and amorous.

A shotgun blast broke the still silence of that malevolent moment. The bang rang against my frail disposition, my broken will, and my shattered mind.

“Get back, demon! Step back from that window immediately and crawl back to the pits you came from!”

It was my father. Natividad, true to her word, had awoken him. If anyone could help, it would be him. Another shotgun blast was heard. The creature flailed its twig-like shoulders and arms upwards in a confusion of pain. A high screech, like the sound of nails against a blackboard, ruptured my eardrums, its voice still inside my head. Blood trickled from inside my ear, down my earlobe and onto Julisa’s forehead. I snapped to my senses, held Julisa against my chest, and stepped backwards, away from evil.

“I said, get back!”

Another shotgun blast.

I watched how the black shadow outside my window snapped in several places, fell awkwardly to the cold ground, like a house made of cards. I looked down to comfort Julisa and noticed that, except for my tear of blood on her forehead, she was as pristine as when I bathed her. Not a drop of sweat or mucus was on her angelic face.

I walked towards Orielito. He had not moved an inch since the evil ordeal had started. I meticulously surveyed his face and found it to be in the same condition as little Julisa’s. It was pure…too pure. I kissed his forehead and briskly walked out of the bedroom into the living room. There I found Natividad looking at the scene through the living room windows. She turned towards me, her pupils reflecting unknown horror.

“Natividad, I’m going outside with Father. Please hold Julisa until I come back, okay?”

“Dear, no, you need to stay inside! We don’t know if it’s safe! Let’s wait for Don Clemento to come back in and tell us what has happened during this foul night. It could come back.”

I placed Julisa in her arms, ignoring the plea of her words.

“I’ll be right back. I promise,” I said.

“Miss! Please!” Natividad said, as she reluctantly, but carefully, took Julisa into her safe arms.

I stepped outside and ran towards the back of the house to find my father poking with the butt of the shotgun at a black mass of ragged robes that lay crumpled below my window.

“Father?” I said, with a trembling voice. “What was that…?” I paused, searching but failing to find a proper word to describe the being.

He walked towards me and embraced me, his strong muscles underneath his shirt tensed and strained.

“It’s okay now. Everything’s okay,” he said. I could feel his voice waver.

“But Father, what was it? Where did it come from? And why did it come here? What did it seek?”

“Hush now. I’m not sure I have all the answers. All I know, and care about, is that you’re all safe. How are the children? Are they okay?”

“Yes. They’re with Natividad. I wanted to make sure you were also okay.”

“That’s good. That’s very good.” He let go of the embrace and placed his burly hands on my shoulders.

“Clotilde, go back inside with your children. I will take a look around the property and make sure nothing else is roaming around,” he said with urgency in his tone.

“I’ll go with you. I won’t leave you by yourself,” I said, determined to stay.

My father looked at the stern features of my face and must have seen my conviction, for he did not fight me. Sometimes, I wish he had.

“Fine. But stay close.”

I looked at the dirty rags on the ground, shuddering at the thought of what might have been. My father picked up the shotgun and slung it on his shoulder. I grabbed hold of his arm as we walked towards the left front side of his home. We searched for any clues or signs of the grotesque creature, but not a shred of evidence could be found. It must have slithered back, beaten, to whatever depths it came from.

“Where did you first hear the sounds of that demon?” asked my father.

“I first heard the sounds coming from the right side of the house. They sounded like some sort of leather was being dragged through the dirt. And its voice felt like it was scraping the insides of my mind with a nail.”

My father stopped dead in his tracks. “It spoke to you?” he asked.

“Well, yes.” I answered. The way his eyes looked at me made me uneasy.

The color on my father’s rotund caramel face drained as he processed my answer.

“What is it? What’s wrong?”

“It cannot be,” he muttered under his breath.

“What are you hiding from me, Father? For my sake and for the sake of my children, you need to tell me, and you need to tell me now.”

“I always knew there was something not quite right with the father of your children…especially after he vanished that one night, during one of his nightly walks under the moon. I fear you’ve been marked, my beautiful Clotilde.” I could see his unwavering frame try to hold back the tears that arose behind his eyes. Something unspeakable was shaking the very foundations of his morals and his faith.

“What? What was wrong with Oscar? What are you talking about?!” I was angry at his ambivalence, hurt by his reticence.

“I do not believe he was of this world.”

“What does that mean, Father? Explain yourself!”

He looked downwards at his feet and remained silent.

Fright, panic, and lunacy replaced my anger and confusion. I began taking steps mechanically as I thought. Why could he not speak frankly about what he believed Oscar to be? Why was he now speaking of this subject? If he had horrible suspicions of what kind of man Oscar was, if he even was a man, why did he not speak of it sooner? Why would he let me marry such a man and at such a young age? Why did he not protect me? In my neurosis I was blinded to where my steps led me, until I stumbled against what seemed a dead tree branch, hitting my head against a gigantic ceiba tree, a memento from another age.

“Clotilde!” My father rushed towards me. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m okay.”

My father helped me to my feet. As I wiped the dirt off my nightgown I felt some sort of sticky substance on the lower edges of it. I raised my hand to my sullied face to find dark sludge wedged between my cold fingers. I looked around me to find puddles of corruption. Dead grass surrounded the tree, its leaves appearing inundated by a sort of slime that exhausted the vegetation. A small nest of birds abandoned by their mother contained three lifeless chicks. They were withered from within, as if the gunk had sucked their bodily fluids, draining them of life.

“Father, I think I might have found something,” I said. I wiped the sludge against the tree trunk to clean my hands of the contamination. My father stared, dumbfounded, at the ceiba tree.

“What is this stuff? It’s all around this tree. And look.” One calloused finger pointed to a patch of dead grass and obscene filth that created a trail towards my father’s home. All life in this trail was also dead. The grass seemed as if acid had been spilled on it, and the flowers that bloomed had dropped rotten petals on the ground.

“What could this be, this darkness that has plagued our night?”

A shout of utter terror broke our investigation of the defilement of the nature surrounding us.

“No,” I murmured.

I broke into a sprint.

“No, no, no.” My voice trailed behind me.

Insanity welled in my throat, choking the air that tried to break through to my lungs. My heart pounded in my eardrums and blood dripped from them onto the putrefied earth.

Please, God, please. Please don’t. Please, don’t let it be. Please, let me reach them in time.

As I approached the house I noticed the door was ajar. My vision blurry, I gasped and clawed for air. I was almost upon the entrance when my father’s powerful grip grabbed my arm and held my soul back.

“Clotilde! Stop! You must let me enter first!”

“No!” I pounded and beat his chest as he tried to contain my whimpering body against his.

“Let me go! My babies!” I felt hot tears trickle down my cheeks. I could barely hold my self together. I raged against my father for the sake of my children.

“Please, child, get a hold of yourself! We don’t know what’s in there! You have to let me enter first!”

For a second, I regained control and stopped flailing. He must have seen this as a sign of compliance and voluntarily let go of me. Without realizing what I was doing, I tore at his cheek with long nails and rushed past his massive frame when he hunched over from the pain, with both hands on his left cheek. Blood dripped from between his fingers onto the smut below.

I found the mutilated corpse of Natividad by the living room window. Her throat had been ripped open by claws that could have only belonged to that infernal devil. The fell creature must have tried to silence her as she screamed for her life. The moonlight that had vanished during the middle of the night, when it was time for the monster to rule, returned. The light’s reflection shone brightly on the crimson lake covering the floor. I could not find a trace of Julisa, my beautiful baby. I searched the living room, madly throwing against the walls and on the floor the couch’s pillows, the cushions, the living room vases, portraits, and my father’s rusty furniture. My father stood by the entrance, staring open-mouthed at the body of a woman he had known longer than his own daughter.

Orielito.

I ran to the bedroom shared by Natividad and I. She, who would have helped me raise my children in the absence of their father, now lay cold and bloody on the living room floor. I searched the room to find, just like in the previous room, emptiness. I collapsed to my knees, sheer hopelessness flooding my heart. I stared at the empty hammock, swaying, oblivious to the precious life it had once held within. I had lost my two beautiful children to a nameless torment. I would never lay eyes on them again. I crawled towards the hammock to smell the faint aroma of a memory. I saw that Orielito had left behind his favorite orange towel, the one he had always clung to so frantically, that had once belonged to his father.

 

The End

 

George Rosas, george.rosas30@gmail.com, of Henderson, NV, who wrote BP #86’s “The Night Side of Eden,” is currently a resource management analyst for Dell in Panama City, Panama. A graduate of Business Administration, he has been in previous lives: a punk, a Marine, a lightweight boxer, a hiker in the snowy mountains of Colorado, and an amateur photographer.



Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines. She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big EasyThuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona.  https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/

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