‘A Mother’s Worst Nightmare’ is a horror story from Rhys Clark, illustrated by Hollie Joiner. It’s the first story from our Halloween series: Five Nights of Horror.
Cathy groaned and turned up the T.V, her nine-month-old daughters screams growing louder. Every night it was like this. Her constant screaming drained Cathy of her energy and left her a weary, battered shell. They had all warned her. They told her being a mother was no picnic. She wished she had listened.
Not for the first time, Cathy wished she’d just done what her mother suggested and aborted the little headache, or better still, hadn’t gotten into bed for a one-night fling with her stupid ex-boyfriend. He was probably off having the time of his life, partying, drinking, endlessly getting his end away. Not once had the dick asked about his daughter. He’d probably forgotten she existed.
We can get through this.
Don’t worry, I will always support you.
We got love, right baby? That’s all we need.
Liar liar, pants on fire.
Since it had been born, the baby had brought her nothing but misery. Cathy hadn’t slept for over a month, her eyes carried pitch black bags, her beautiful curves were reduced to sagging, bloated folds. And now, the brat wouldn’t even let her relax! Five minutes. Five fucking minutes. Was that so outrageous to demand?
The worst thing though was the eyes.
Wherever Cathy ventured – to the park, to the schools, to her mates, if she took as much as one step outside the house – the eyes would land on her. The judging eyes. The mocking eyes. The eyes with their labels.
The eyes that hid cruel jokes. The eyes that carried dull pity. The eyes that spouted cruel jibes, like vomit from a drunk’s throat.
And it all revolved around that stupid baby.
The baby that was still crying.
It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t fair, it-
The baby’s cries increased in volume, their high-pitched squeals like a drill in Cathy’s ear.
She worked hard day and night caring for that ungrateful accident. Tonight, she’d barely even managed to get comfortable before that bloody drooling parasite had started bawling. She deserved this rare moment of peace. It was time to start putting herself first for once. Cathy leaned back, settling into her sofa to enjoy the rest of her show. A gaggle of heavily made-up celebrities were busy screaming at the top of their lungs at another group of equally stupid-looking celebrities. Cathy grinned. She turned up the volume.
Suddenly the phone rang, jarring her out of her oblivious state. Cathy swore and ignored it, as she ignored her daughters wails, engrossing herself in the T.V. She was going to enjoy this show in peace, no matter who tried to interrupt her.
Seven minutes passed. It continued to ring. Its noise merged with the baby’s blubbering to create an ear-splitting, shrill screech that clawed at Cathy’s ears. Cathy swore and raised the volume some more. Still, the phone continued to ring. Its vile noise increased in volume, rising over the sound of shrieking celebrities.
Cathy gritted her teeth, a headache pounding against her temples.
It’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair!
The phone rang on, oblivious to Cathy’s rising fury.
Snarling Cathy leapt up and stomped over to the phone. She grabbed it.
“What do you want!?” She growled into the receiver.
There was a pregnant silence. Then came a voice, a curiously soft and high-pitched voice. It was gentle yet dripping with malice and mocking laughter. It brushed her ear in a way that reminded her of when her ex-boyfriend used to kiss her neck. It felt wriggly and wet as it slid down her ear and crawled into her brain. It made the flesh on Cathy’s arms crawl. Suddenly her T.V. show sounded like it was coming from a long way away.
“Do you love your daughter?’ hissed The Voice at the end of the line. Cathy’s head spun. What? What kind of messed up question was that?
“Do you love your daughter?” repeated the Voice. “How much do you love her?”
Cathy was getting annoyed now. This wasn’t funny in the slightest.
“I think you-” she started to say.
“Would you die for her? Would you kill for her?” The Voice rasped, panting softly, a perverse lilt in its tongue.
Cathy’s head throbbed. She was confused and now more than a little frightened. At first, she’d believed it might be some sort of twisted prank call from one of her friends but now she realised this was far too sinister, even for them. The three (or four) glasses of wine she’d finished earlier weren’t making this strange conversation any easier to follow.
“Do you love your daughter?” asked The Voice.
“Of course, I love her,” snarled Cathy, “now who the f-“
The Voice at the end of the line burst into a cold, cruel cackle, full of the promise of torment and darkness. It didn’t sound like the laugh of a mere human but of something dark and malevolent and far more dangerous. It made her head burn and the hairs on the back of her neck quiver. Images flashed through Cathy’s mind; she could not say how but she knew that somehow The Voice was showing them to her. Feeding fragments of its evil mind into hers. Rummaging its fingers through her memories and throwing in a few of its own for good measure.
The image of a pit of corpses writhing in pain.
A smiling face.
A baby’s cry.
A cocked ear.
A movement hidden under the veil of night.
A window left carelessly open.
“Then why…” chuckled The Voice at the end of the line, “did you not answer her cries…?”
And that was when Cathy realised, with a growing sense of dread, that her daughter had been silent for a long time.