Stories No. 73 – Christina Rosso

What Happens When the Ride Stops

By Christina Rosso

  1. The wave curled, a claw digging into flesh. My tiny body thrashed in the ocean, the pressure of the wave on my neck and shoulders like a thousand bricks. Saltwater bled from my nose and throat. It was like being on the tilt-a-whirl at the Malvern Fair. I would ride it until I was hunched over, my head between my knees, my strawberry blond hair licking the trampled, trash-littered grass. But unlike the tilt-a-whirl, these tidal waves weren’t a ride I could get off.
  2. My mother-in-law called to congratulate me on the big news. What big news? I asked. You’re pregnant! she said, her voice shrill with glee and pride. I looked at my husband in confusion. I wasn’t pregnant. He and I both knew I was incapable of creating life.
  3. It played out before me in slow motion, as though it wasn’t happening to me. A film reel that could be paused and edited and restarted. The lean muscles in his body pinned me to the mattress. Pause. That’s not correct. Rewind. Play. The lean muscles of his torso pinned me to the mattress, the lean muscles of his legs pinned Jess to the mattress. Both of us, teenage girls, out past curfew, under the weight of a monster, who had, until three minutes prior, been a prince.
  4. My hand clutched the still warm soft down of her tiny head. Her face was ghoulish in its blue coloring, and pinched, as though the birth canal had disgusted her. And why shouldn’t it? It had killed her, drowned her in amniotic fluid and blood. I had killed her, my body betraying its sacred duty. I could feel the witch behind me, her laugh a wheeze of dust and decay scraping my shoulder.
  5. There’s always been something about you and death, Jess said. Her voice earnest and unwavering, as though she was telling me she liked my most recent hair color. Of course, she was right. Normal people didn’t find dying birds and rodents on sidewalks and hiking trails and at work. They didn’t pause to watch their little lungs pushing out labored breaths like a car on empty, stalling and then stopping. Normal people slept through the Witching Hour, eyes gently closed, their breathing even; they didn’t sit with every light on, their eyelids peeled back, heartbeat frantic, waiting and watching for something to come. Or strike. Normal people didn’t have visions of destruction and chaos during meditation and acupuncture, where everyone and everything swirled and burned around them as they sat cross-legged and watched, worry free. Normal people didn’t have a spirit attached to them like I did.
  6. At the start of the Witching Hour, the piercing clang of the piano began. Every night I was propelled out of sleep by this haunting lullaby. A thick knot in my throat, I tiptoed into the hallway, careful not to step on the spots that squeaked. I always knew I was in danger, yet still I moved closer, as though a strong breeze pushed me forward, towards her. Her neck spun like an owl’s at the exact moment her skeletal fingers stopped playing. I opened my mouth to scream, but it was gone, a patch of pink, pliable skin in its place. Like a wave, the witch surrounded me, her long fingers like spider’s legs wrapping around me, her claws penetrating my freckled skin. Blood dripped from the fresh wounds. Like the confusion and time lapse when you nod off to sleep and jerk violently awake, suddenly the witch had me in the water, her shriveled hands surprisingly strong. They held me down, a thousand bricks on top of my neck and shoulders. The saltwater burned my nose and throat. My tiny body thrashed against the witch even though I knew it was pointless. I peeled my eyes back wide; I wouldn’t blink. I wanted to see what would happen when the ride stopped.

 

Christina Rosso is a writer and bookstore owner living in South Philadelphia with her bearded husband and two rescue pups. Her debut collection, SHE IS A BEAST, is forthcoming from APEP Publications. Her writing has been featured in FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Ellipsis Zine, and more. Visit http://christina-rosso.com or find her on Twitter @Rosso_Christina.

Photo Credit:  © korionov / Adobe Stock

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