“Single Mother”

I composed this from a free-writing prompt a few days ago. I looked at it again, added punctuation, made a few edits, and thought it was generally okay. Not my finest work, but does well enough at evoking a certain feeling–we often are terrorized by things in the night, though rarely is there anything supernatural about it.


Every night, at nine p.m., I lose my mind.

The darkness doesn’t come as soon now, because it’s getting warm, and we all did the thing that changes our imaginary clocks; in the winter, perhaps it’s seven, or even six, and that’s much worse. But the sun stretches her arms this time of year, and for now, it happens at nine.

I work at my computer, stifling exasperation at the baby’s interruptions, pensively observing the light framed in the window shift from yellow to blue to purple. A nasty bruise, like a prophecy of my inevitable beating at the end of the day.

Eventually, I must close the computer, and put the baby to bed.

It begins.

The television is off—my meager DVD collection terminally exhausted, and there is no internet in this house, no, that is a luxury I cannot afford—and I frantically try to get my broken phone to charge, just please charge, alternately pleading and berating this inanimate thing. Sometimes having it helps, like a sort of tether, a feeble string tying me to humanity, and I am clawing for it now, feeling the oncoming storm in my brain exactly like the insistent ache of my knees when the thunderheads roll in.

But the broken phone won’t charge, and even when it does, it’s a sick and magicless talisman against the haunting. There are nights—most nights—when the faces and words staring from behind the glass only make it worse, when the imagined raft in the churning sea turns out to only be driftwood, and I sink below the surface, still clinging.

The house is empty, and dead, and undead, too. The silence boils with a cacophony of voices that, like all ghosts, and demons, and vampires, and monsters, seem to only be ever stifled by the light of the sun:

My father, and her father, and all the other men I have disappointed simply by existing—

And the ghosts of all the ones I thought I loved, or thought loved me—

And my mother, and the other mother, and all their endless questioning—

And the imagined laughter of my faraway friends, who never care enough to come—

And the buzz of my neighbor’s gossip through the walls—

And the scream in my jaw from the rotting tooth I cannot pay to fix—

And the rumble of passing traffic, confirming my isolation, because no one is coming home to me—

And the blare of plastic primary colors strewn across the floor, demanding to be picked up—

And the cold clang of the pots that have sat in the sink since last night—

And the creak of my muscles, pushed to frantic, obsessive exhaustion each and every morning—

And the red shriek of the past-due bills on the microwave—

And the flutter of book pages my mind sees but cannot read—

And the sigh from the pile of laundry, snaring my foot as I walk by—

And the crunch of the cereal below my feet, discarded, unwanted, filthy as me—

And the hiss of the tattered broom across the tile, mocking all attempts to make clean—

And the metallic screech of utensils on ceramic, trashing the food I have no will to eat—

And the clatter of the keyboard, recording worthless musings of a depraved sack of bones—

And the pounding of water on tile, as if I could scald revulsion out of my body—

And the small girl inside me, who loathes the woman I’ve become—

And the woman I’ve become, who urgently tries to soothe the small girl—

And the scratch of my nails on neck, as if I could dig them both out of me—

And the sob of the baby in her sleep, who will hate me always for saving her from her father—

And there he is again, contradicting me—

And they all crowd in at once, and I go mad, and the noise swallows me up until I drown. I am left to do nothing but wander the dark rooms, and move up and down the halls, and touch things, and cry, and pantomime the ghost I secretly wish to be. For once the haunter, and not the haunted; perhaps, as a ghost, someone would finally see me.

Every night, at nine p.m., I lose my mind.

Copyright E.J.R. Webster, 2019, all rights reserved.

One Comment on ““Single Mother”

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