Brood

by Martin James Hunter

 

We married young and with haste. A small gathering to which only I brought guests. When my lips pressed against hers at the altar there was almost no response. I decided that was just the way she was.

When we made love she would lie in silence. Watching me without expression as one would watch television. Upon finishing she would push me off and poise in a manner that assisted conception. There was never any pillow talk.

Every time we had a child I promised it would be the last, but it never was. Each one born dark-eyed and as silent as their mother. At one point there existed so many of them our corridors were like those of psychiatric wards. They never responded to me so I had seen no point in remembering their names.

Each birth would take place in the living room. The wet parting of skin. My wife silent as another child slid from her. Its steaming form on the carpet. I stopped counting at twenty but there were many more.

She tutored them behind a locked basement door. A ritual I had always been excluded from. There was something unsettling about the way they filed in and out, never squabbling and always on time.

One morning I awoke from a dreadful nightmare to discover them all gone. The corridors more silent than they’d ever been. Beds made and floor spotless and no sign of disarray. Investigating the garden I discovered a black fissure in the earth deeper than I could see. Tendrils of smoke leaking into the air. The smell of burnt wood. Later that night it closed up and the lawn was as good as new. It was as though my family had never happened.

 

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