Chapter 8 from the Ama audiobook
“Just a glimpse, Jason.”
He found himself in his old kitchen again, sitting on the floor as before.
Lilith continued, “I wasn’t going to show you that just yet, but then I thought, why not? Just a glimpse, though. You’ll see it all soon enough. Don’t try to stop your wife from enjoying her moment again, because I won’t stop your ride next time. I’ll let it take you all the way. By the way, I paused the show for you.”
Jason looked at Emily and her small body frozen in time, her legs in mid-swing under the table, her hands working a can opener in freeze-frame, midway through opening a tin of tomatoes. Zoe remained motionless, too, slicing into a mushroom as she stared out the window.
Jason looked across at Lilith. “Please stop this.”
“Ready to go again?” Lilith clicked her fingers, and the world moved once more.
“Shit!” exclaimed Zoe, after cutting the side of her thumb with the knife.
“It’s okay, baby. Mummy is being clumsy. How are you getting on with those tomatoes?”
“Almost done,” Emily said. Her tongue was sticking out from the corner of her mouth as she strained to turn the mechanism of the can opener. “Oops! Oh…” she squeaked, as the tin shot from her grasp. It skimmed across the table, falling over the edge and down to the floor. Tomatoes and juice splashed across the mock-slate vinyl floor. “Oh! Sorry, Mum.”
Zoe turned round, her face placid. “Oh dear,” she said with cold composure. “Don’t worry. I’ll clean it up later. Get another tin from the cupboard.”
“It’s okay, I’ll clean it up.” Emily jumped down from her chair. She picked up the wayward tin from the floor and put it in a small bin by the side door, and then grabbed a few sheets of tissue from a roll hung above the bin and set about cleaning the mess from the floor. A minute later the floor was clean again. She moved to the cupboard beneath the counter, next to her mother, to claim another tin of tomatoes.
Zoe looked down at Emily, a sharp stare that fixed on a watery red blotch on the hem of her dress. “For heaven’s sake, Em. Look…” She used the knife to point at the small imperfection.
Emily grabbed a new tin from the back of the cupboard and stood up. She looked down at her dress and the small patch of tomato juice. “Should I go change, Mum?”
“No.” Zoe’s response was riding on a hard sigh. She tapped the cutting board with the tip of the knife as she looked out the window once more.
“Oh, isn’t it a beautiful thing,” Lilith said, excitement bright upon her face. “Your wife’s monster is waking up.”
“Please stop this,” Jason pleaded, as he struggled to climb to his feet, his body still weak. “I’ll do anything.”
Lilith looked at Jason for a moment, as if looking at a bug she would soon squash beneath her foot. She returned her gaze to Zoe. “I know you would, Jason. Now, be a good boy and observe in silence, like stone, you might say.”
Jason tried to move but couldn’t. A cold chill ran through his veins, turning to ice as it reached his muscles.
Emily returned to her seat at the dining table and set about opening the new tin.
“A new dress,” Zoe said, still staring out the window. “It was a beautiful new dress. Yellow like the sun, like the buttercups my daughter picks. Beautiful and pure. Now, it’s dirty. Shit like everything else. Fit for nothing but the bin.”
Zoe sighed. “Into the bin with the other rubbish. That’s where I’ll put it. It can be right again. Jason said we’ll sort it out; we can start again.”
Emily jumped down from the table, walked over to her mother and placed the open tin on the countertop, next to the cutting board.
“Thank you.” Zoe picked up the tin and poured its contents into the sink.
“What are you doing, Mum? Don’t you need them anymore?”
“No, it’s shitty rubbish.” Zoe’s demeanour resembled the calm surface waters flowing over a known undertow.
Jason tried to close his eyes. I can’t stop this, he thought, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to watch. His eyes remained open.
“You’re already damned, Jason,” Lilith said, “and you are going to watch it all. Anyway, I thought you’d be happy. You didn’t get to see this bit first time round but you’re going to be able to witness it all this time.”
Jason tried in vain to close his eyes. He could feel his eyes drying out, a mere blink no longer possible.
Zoe picked up the mushrooms and threw them one by one into the sink, where they joined the splattering of tomatoes.
“I’ll go watch TV, Mum, and wait for Dad to come home.”
“Okay, dear. But, can you see how dirty it all is? It wasn’t always like this.”
Emily stopped, looked at her mother for a moment and then walked over and stood by her side. “What’s wrong, Mum? Why are you saying those things?” Emily reached up and put her tiny hand on her mother’s arm.
“It’s all dirty. It’s all disgusting, shitty and…” Zoe looked down with tearful eyes at Emily. “Your beautiful dress is ruined. It’s all ruined.”
“I love you, Mum.”
Jason’s thoughts screamed. The garden. Yesterday. I remember. We were in the garden. Emily was in the garden with me.
“Can I do anything to help, Mum?”
In the back garden. She was chasing the bees. She was talking to them, naming the furry little bastards. We were laughing together, in the garden. She was playing… In the fucking garden.
“No, it’s all right. I’ll tidy it all up. I’ll clean away all the rubbish and make it all perfect again.”
Emily turned and made to walk away.
Zoe gripped the cutting board with both hands and raised it above her head. Her face remained blank, devoid of expression or any sign of emotion.
What’s that? Can you stroke them? No, don’t stroke them baby. Aren’t they beautiful? Those busy little bees, aren’t they…
Zoe brought the block of marble crashing down.
The sound punched Jason in the gut, while the sight burned his eyes. The marble cracked in two on impact with Emily’s head, and the two pieces of stone followed the child to the kitchen floor.
Zoe looked down at Emily’s twitching body, her eyes following the stream of blood emanating from her head. A dark pool formed on the floor. Zoe’s reflection grew upon the bloody mirror as she watched her daughter’s life ebb away. The blood soaked into Emily’s dress. “Oh, Em, look at your beautiful dress.”
Jason was released from his paralysis. Although now able to move and speak again, he said nothing. He thought nothing and didn’t move. He stared at Lilith as Zoe dragged Emily’s lifeless body out through the kitchen’s side door.
Lilith made to follow the trail of blood and then looked over at Jason and asked, “Don’t you want to see what she does with the body? But then, you already know, don’t you.” With a slight but perceptible skip to her step, Lilith followed Zoe out the door.
Jason felt a cold shudder as he heard the sound of the wheelie bin at the side of the house being opened, its lid falling back against the outside wall.
“How could you do that?” Jason asked the empty room. “To our precious little girl.” When he heard the sound of Zoe dumping his daughter’s body into the bin, Jason threw his hands up to his face and screamed into them with a primal fury. He squeezed his hands into fists, ripping at his face with his fingernails.