Paper Tigers

It’s not there. Not really. I hear my breath heaving int he dark. Why can’t I breathe quieter? My heart sounds in my ears. Thump thump. Thump thump. I am pretending to be asleep. Slow, even breaths, ragged. Stuck in my throat. What’s that smell? Rancid, like sour meat. Like bad eggs. Like sulfur. I am really here? Is this really happening? My missing eye starts to throb. Almost like an alarm. She is coming. She is near. Pretend to be asleep. Struggle to love her. Pretend you are not terrified. My poor precious baby.

I pry open my eyes, terrified of what would or wouldn’t be there. My room is dark. It’s as if the air was sucked from under the door. I don’t hear a noise. Not a cricket, not the wind. No leaves. Moonlight spills from between blinds and falls on the carpet. I used to think the light was pretty, magical even. Now I think it beckons to the creatures, lighting their way to me. Why me? Why Kayla?

I sit up in bed and run through my memories of her as a baby. She was also so perfect and still. Looking up at me with love in her eyes. I was her world. She was mine. She still is my world. A world I have destroyed and failed in protecting. I wanted to badly to be pregnant, to give life to a soul. Holding her in my arms at the hospital. I start to cry. Nothing comes out, my tear ducts were ravaged in the attack. I feel phantom kicks in my stomach from being pregnant and being attacked. I life my shirt up and startle to see the scars. Proof. This happened. My own blood, my own heart. My love has turned against me.

“Mommy? I’m so scared…can I sleep with you?” She is standing in the doorway. I know if I say  yes I will not sleep. I wonder if I even care to sleep again. Nightmares are beckoned by the moonlight and come to life around me. My arms weigh heavily, needing support. Needing to hold my own little soul.

“Yes. Come here.” I move over in bed and let her lie next to me. She reaches up to my eye patch.

“I didn’t do that, Mommy. I love you. I can’t…” I hold her as she silently cries. I look towards the open door. There is no one else standing there. I grieve for my lost child. I grieve for both my children. They are lost. I am lost. I am numb. Eventually we fall asleep, together. I smell rotten eggs in my dreams.

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