The Cry by D.B.Adams
A long plaintive wail emanated from the cardboard box. Whether
Jacob had seen the box or heard the cry first, he could not be
sure, but he was certain that the pitiful sound came from the
box. At once he was regretting taking the short cut from the
Burger bar to the car park, he had always felt uncomfortable
using it after dark. The passage between the Record shop and
the Butchers was only just wide enough for one person and it
was badly lit with a single bulb. Where it opened out behind
the shops, anyone could be hiding in the dark out of sight of
the High Street, hardly visible in the shadows from the vast
empty car park. Still he had something else to worry about this
time because there was that cry again, audible above the sound
of the fans on the refrigeration unit at the back of the Butchers
shop. It was a heart rending sound of loneliness, pain and hunger,
that brought back memories of childhood punishments, when Jacob's
mother locked him in his bedroom without any dinner or supper.
He could hear her voice even now, all these years later, "You
disgusting little monster".
What was that awful sound? What should he do about it? Leave
it probably, let some one else sort it out. Nobody had helped
him then locked in his bedroom or in the dark under stairs cupboard,
shivering in his wet pyjamas, his cries drowned out by his mothers
ranting and the loud rumble of the washing machine.
The cry went on long and pathetic, rising and falling in pitch.
It was probably some kittens, the abandoned and unwanted offspring
of a family pet, discarded by a callous owner. If it was and
if he opened the box, what then? He would then feel responsible
for them, would have to take them home. No, better to leave them
for someone else, not his problem.
But the cry was echoing round the alley, echoing inside his head,
there was something about it that sounded almost human. Perhaps
it was a baby shut in the box, he thought, in the dark.
He couldn't leave a baby shut inside a box, alone in the dark.
Jacob knew how that felt, to be shut in, how you could not breathe,
how you began to sweat, how you could feel the blood rushing
and roaring through your temples and the contents of your stomach
rising in your throat. The waves of panic that wash hot and cold
through the body.
And Jacob knew if there was any chance that it could be a baby,
he had no choice but to look inside the box. He was within a
foot of the cardboard box when suddenly there was a slight movement
from the box and the crying ceased, all was quiet except the
thrum of the fans in the butchers shop wall.
The top of the box was sealed with wide brown parcel tape, Jacob
managed to get his fingernail under the end and peeled off the
tape in one go. Pulling open the flaps he stared into the shadowy
darkness, trying to make some sense of the shape within. It didn't
look like a baby, in fact there seemed to be more than one set
of eyes blinking back at him. "Kittens, I was right the
first time" he thought, reaching in with both hands to pick
Taloned hands grabbed both his wrists, sudden and vice like,
searing pain shot up his arms.
He yelled out and tried to pull away. The claws pulled back,
hard and sharp, digging into his flesh and forcing him off balance.
Jacob realised that there was no way he could stop himself falling
head first into the cardboard box. As his head entered the box
more small clawing hands grabbed at it, pulling at his hair and
ears, he felt the sharp talons enter his nostrils, dig into his
neck and shoulders. Even as his chest passed into the box Jacob
was aware of the wet and warm, strangely comforting feeling spreading
through the front of his trousers.
Then as the claws pulled the rest of his body down into the darkness,
he felt the hot and cold waves of panic running through his body.
As he struggled for breath, the blood roaring in his ears, his
shouts of terror began to subside, turning first into a whimper,
then into a long plaintive wail.
copyright D.b.Adams 1998, first published in House of Pain.