CUB’s anonymous creative writer shares their haunting short story, The Child’s Room, here:
The phone rings. I turn over in bed and reach for it as the line goes dead. Probably a cold caller. I see the clock, the luminescent letters shining in the dark of the night. It’s three o’clock. Most sensible people would be asleep, and yet, I’m not now.
I roll over to face the other side and reach out. She’s not here. Probably in the child’s room. It’s where she spends odd moments in the day and night.
Understandable I suppose. She always wanted to be a mother.
I sigh and reach in the darkness for my packet of cigarettes. I find my dirty work jeans on the floor, dig around for the packet and my lighter, and I sit up.
The packet feels cold and nearly empty in my hands. Not many left. I take my lighter and light a smoke, a solitary light in the darkened room.
One less flame from my packet of fire.
Smoke dribbles out of my mouth as the door slowly creaks open. My wife walks in, tired, half-yawning, and climbs into bed as she drops her dressing gown on the floor.
“You’re always smoking”, she goes.
She always goes on like this.
“It won’t be good for the kid”, she goes.
“Well it’s not harming anyone now,” I go.
She yawns again and places her hand on my thigh. It feels cold on my flesh and sends a sensation tingling though my body.
Does she want sex?
“How was it?” I ask her, trying to remove the sensation of her touch from my mind.
“Yeah, the normal, all how it should be. Well, you know how it goes. Everything’s the same in that room at night. Not much to see, and nothing to report on.”
I don’t know what she was expecting. To find the room turned upside down and the walls covered in blood?
I don’t doubt her. She’s always been one for worrying.
The next morning, I go downstairs. Normal routine – wear the clothes from the night before, have a piss, and a quick wash.
I see her in the kitchen, and peck a kiss on her cheeks. She mumbles “morning” and goes back to wandering around doing whatever it is she does.
From there I step outside onto the patio, the door closing behind me and I sit down on the picnic bench and light another cigarette.
My wife comes out with two cups of coffee a few minutes later and asks for a smoke.
Nothing different there. Just another flame from my packet of fire.
She sits there quietly, coffee in hand, smoking, as mine goes out.
I light another and ask if she’s planning anything for the day.
“No, not much. Work as the usual. The same. I’ll let you know later if I’m running late. Not that I should be, but if I am, I’ll bring some food home.”
“That’d be good” I reply.
“Thought it would save us some work, won’t have to do the cooking.”
For someone so maternal, she’s too engrossed in an easy life.
I come home later that day, after stopping off at a bar with a few friends after work. Nothing out of the ordinary there either. I stop by on the way back to buy some more cigarettes, get back in my car and smoke one on the rest of the journey home.
When I get back indoors, she’s not in the kitchen, so I look in the lounge.
And there she is, as she is in the early evening.
Not doing much, reading some novel that I can’t pronounce the name of, and looking intently at the pages.
“This one’s good,” she says. “A classic french novel about a guy who kills someone just to know how it feels.”
From the tatty cupboard opposite her, I pull out a bottle of whiskey, grab two glasses from the sideboard, and fix two drinks. She takes hers as I sit next to her.
“Sounds a bit like life to be fair.” I take a sip of the whiskey. It burns in my throat, but I like that.
“Yeah, haven’t we all been there?” she replies.
Yeah, haven’t we all.
Later that night before heading off to bed, I go upstairs and notice she’s in the kid’s room.
Before I go in there, I go back downstairs and grab the rest of the bottle of whiskey. The glasses aren’t necessary.
I light a smoke as I go back up the stairs, and as I slowly edge into the kid’s room, she looks at me with doe eyes. Oh, those eyes. You could fall into them and live happily forever.
She takes the whiskey from my hand, and takes a swig. I join her.
After I’ve swallowed the golden burn, she asks for a smoke. Damn, the packet’s downstairs.
I mumble an apology and hand her the rest of my cigarette from my mouth.
She inhales and lets the smoke trickle out of her nose and from the peaks of her mouth.
Not that you should really be smoking in the kid’s room.
It’s okay, the kid doesn’t mind.
The kid doesn’t really have any opinions to be fair. Not really had the chance to have any opinions really.
We exit and stumble into bed, whisky in our mouths and smoke on our tongues.
She touches me and traces lines across my skin.
“I want you,” she whispers. “I want you inside me.”
I undress and climb into bed next to her. I notice the packet of cigarettes on the bedside cabinet.
So that’s where they were.
I gesture and she doesn’t mind.
I light up as I enter her.
The maternal figure her; always wanting a child.
A flame from my packet of fire. Hopefully her body won’t douse the flame this time.