“Just a Phase” Dark Flash Fiction by Alan Caldwell

"Just a Phase" Dark Flash Fiction by Alan Caldwell

Most of my tribe assumed I would seek an early abortion. The others suggested, almost insisted, that I put Chip up for adoption.  “There are a lot of people out there who would love him like their own,” they said.

The rape had left me so muddled that by the time I relized I was expecting, I didn’t even want to consider a procedure, any kind of proceedure.  I didn’t want to be touched, by anyone. I know it sounds cliche, but the knowledge that he was growing inside me made me feel as if I were not alone. I’ve read that many thousands of women are impregnated by their attackers, and that many opt to keep their child. Others fear that they will see their assailant every time they look at his offspring, but I never saw the bastard’s face, only the shiny knife he held to my throat, the same knife he was holding when the police found him, the same knife he was holding when they sent him to Hell. Maybe his death made me feel secure. Maybe that’s why I ignored my tribe.

I know I made the right decision, and I’m not questioning that now, not really. I need Chip’s company. He’s momma’s little man. My female friends are all single … and busy, and I haven’t even touched a man in over five years. Chip has always been an almost-perfect child. Even as an infant, he rarely cried, even when he was teething. I don’t think he has ever been sick for more than a day or two. According to those who write books about child development, he reached all of his milestones early. He walked early, talked early. He could even carry on a pretty good conversation before his third birthday. He’s momma’s little man.  He is the healthiest child I’ve ever seen. That’s why I wasn’t worried a few months back when he started sleep-walking. 

The first time it happened, I heard him shifting around and mumbling. I rolled over and studied the monitor. He was just sitting on the edge of his bed. I went to him, of course. His eyes were open but not looking at me. I asked him if he was ok. He mumbled something incoherent, lay back down and closed his eyes. I covered him with his comforter and went back to bed. I didn’t mention it to him the next morning. To be honest, I didn’t even think about it again.

Then, about a week later, on a Sunday night, it happened a second time, but this time no sound from the monitor woke me up. I felt a touch on my leg. I sat up, well, jumped up, and Chip was standing next to me, his hand on my knee. Like before, his eyes were open but looking elsewhere. I picked him up and placed him in the bed with me. He went straight to sleep. I lay there awake till dawn, my arm around his shoulders.

Monday morning, while trying to look as if I were engaged in yet another Zoom meeting, I Googled my way to expert status on the subject of somnambulance.

“Just a phase,” Psychweb said.

The phase continued just about every third night.  Usually, he mumbles just enough to wake me, and I watch on the monitor as he stumbles around his room for a minute or two and then lies back down.

Three nights ago I heard the unmistakable sound of running in the hall. When I sat up, I saw that Chip’s bed and room were empty. I picked  up the monitor and saw him scramble back into his room and jump back in his bed, as if he were hurrying to return before being caught. He pulled the covers up to his chin. When I went to check on him, he was fast asleep …  I think.

Last night it happened again, the running. It was 3am. I was already awake. I hadn’t even closed my eyes. I stepped out into the hall and saw Chip sprinting into the kitchen. By the time I got there behind him, he was opening the drawer next to the oven, the silverware drawer, the one with the knives. I stopped him. His eyes were open, but, again, looking elsewhere. I guided him back to his room and into his bed without waking him, just as the experts suggested. He mumbled a few times and then was silent. As I closed his door and turned toward my room I swear I heard him say the word  “daddy.”

Alan Caldwell is a veteran teacher and a new author. He has recently been published in Southern Gothic Creations, Deepsouth Magazine, The Backwoodsman Magazine, and oc87 Recovery Diaries.

If you enjoyed this story, you may also enjoy “The Red Eye of Love” dark fiction by Len Messineo.

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