This is a short story based on a dream I had a few nights ago. It kind of stemmed into a theme of – how far will you go to fix a mistake?
It was a cold, wet January afternoon when I was startled out of my reverie. A sharp knock at the door forced me to pull away from my thoughts of social gatherings versus work commitments. The kettle bubbled to a stop. I flicked off the switch, wiped my hands on a tea towel and headed towards the front door.
I opened it a crack.
A woman stood on my doorstep, wearing a beige raincoat. She clutched a bundle close to her. Her honey blonde hair was plastered to her face thanks to the turn of weather.
“I need your help.” She whispered, her voice was about to crack – she looked like she was going to break down in tears. “There’s – there’s been an accident. I think I’ve run someone over and I need you to call an ambulance and the police because…I just can’t do it.”
I just stood, rooted to the spot in shock.
Who was this woman? What the hell was she doing on my doorstep when she’d just hit someone?
I had half a mind to slam the door shut then and there. But my sensitive half battled it out and I found myself inviting this stranger into my home.
“Wait here.” I ordered, showing her into the living room, “I’m going to ring the police now. Where did you say your car was parked again?”
The woman just sat on my couch, staring out of the rain spattered window. Water dripped off her, seeping into the newly refurbished leather. I bit down my irritation and tried again.
“What’s your name?”
She raised her head to gaze at me. “There was nothing I could do.” She said, her voice a soft moan. “He was coming out. I had to get him out.”
I snatched up the phone. “Is this the person you hit? You moved him?” I tried not to show my annoyance. She shouldn’t have moved him, she might’ve done more harm than good. She should’ve just left him.
Oh wait, that’s what she did anyway!
“He was so tiny.” She muttered, starting rock back and forth.
My thumb halted on the second 9. She hit a child?
Panic and fear, a kind I’ve never felt before – rose up inside me.
Granted, there was a chance it could’ve been a complete accident…but I wanted this woman out of my house!
What kind of person leaves a child alone in the…where was he?
“Look, you need to tell me what happened now?” I shouted, resisting the urge to shake her.
“Shh!” The woman turned to me, her icy blue eyes wide and deranged. “You’ll wake him up.”
“Wake who up?”
And then she moved her coat aside. Pulling out the bundle wrapped in an old grey t-shirt. I could only move closer, looking on in shock.
“A baby?” I gasped. “Why do you have a baby?”
“She was already dead. But he wasn’t.” The woman started to cry, fat tears dripping down her face, off her nose.
“I – I had to get it out of her. To save him if I couldn’t save her. So I found a penknife in my pocket and…”
I clapped my hand to my mouth. She’d cut this baby out of his mother after running her over.
Too much. This was too much.
The baby wasn’t even moving. It was still. It’s tiny face pale. Not even the most quiet newborns could ever be that still. Or that pale.
I gripped the phone in my hand. Maybe a jail cell wasn’t right for her. Asylum perhaps?
My kids would be home soon, I wanted this woman gone before they arrived and became as traumatised as I was then.
“Can – can I take a look at him?” I took a tentative step toward her but she shrunk away. Clutching the baby closer to her chest.
“He’s mine!” She hissed.
I drew back. I had to. She scared me too much. I hit the last 9 and slipped out of the room.
“999 what’s your emergency?”
I tiptoed into the kitchen and shut the door. “There’s a woman sitting in my house, who’s hit a pregnant lady and then cut her baby out.”
The stunned silence on the other end of the line only confirmed my belief that this was insanity.
“Yeah.” I added, “So if you could just send someone over…a policeman, an ambulance, maybe even a psychiatrist – I’d really appreciate that.”
“Okay mam.” The operator stuttered, “Um – if you could just give us your address and we’ll send – someone over shortly.”
I gave the woman my address, hanging up the phone despite her protests. I didn’t feel very comfortable leaving that woman and dead baby alone in my house.
“Okay,” I called out, slamming the phone into the holdall. “I’ve called the -”
I halted outside my living room.
The woman had fled.
There wasn’t even a puddle on the carpet or anything. No sign any one had ever sat there.
“No…” I raced to the front door, hauling it open. The rain dripped off the roof, splashing into my hanging baskets. The road was clear. There was no sign of the woman.
I pressed my hand to my head. “Shit.”
The police were on there way over here, expecting to find a woman with a dead baby.
I would be the one carted off to the mental unit!
Ten minutes later, I sat in my kitchen explaining my story to the police, with a cup of tea and a bottle of Jack Daniels in arm’s reach. But they didn’t scoff or berate me for wasting their time, like I thought they would.
Apparently, forty years ago, a woman hit a young mother who was in the early stages of labour. In order to save the baby, the driver cut him out of his mother.
But the baby didn’t live long.
Unable to live with the guilt of killing not one, but two innocent people – the driver killed herself. Drove her car off a cliff or something outrageous.
No one knows the exact details.
Details tend to get altered over a period of time don’t they?
Since then there have been many reports from people in the area, claiming they have been visited by a deranged woman holding a dead baby. She begs them to call the police – then once they turn their back…she disappears.
Between you and me, I think she wanted punishment for hitting the mother. She tried to redeem herself by saving the baby. Sometimes in these tragic situations, we don’t know how much we can get pushed over the edge. Until it’s too late.
We’ll do anything to fix what we’ve accidentally broken.