Small Graves in the Garden – Horror Flash Fiction
Story idea: Little Graves in the Garden
From “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“This night it shall be granted you to know their secret deeds: how hoary-bearded elders of the church have whispered wanton words to the young maids of their household; how many a woman, eager for widows’ weeds, has given her husband a drink at bedtime and let him sleep his last sleep in her bosom; how beardless youths have made haste to inherit their fathers’ wealth; and how fair damsels — blush not, sweet ones – have dug little graves in the garden, and bidden me, the sole guest, to an infant’s funeral.”
The above passage, spoken by Lucifer to Young Goodman Brown, is dreadful enough, but that final passage piqued my interest. The idea of a young woman burying her unwanted infant in the garden/backyard, and Satan being the only invited guest to witness the rite, was a chilling and poignant image. Gotta be a story there.
Prompt suggestion from Stephen Wilson via Facebook
Small Graves in the Garden
The dreams came more and more often since Betsy moved into the half-way house for unwed mothers-to-be. St. Margaret’s Women’s Shelter. It was anything but a shelter. It was more like a prison. She could walk the grounds, but iron gates prevented her from leaving.
Betsy was three months pregnant by a young lad who’d refused to marry her before he went off to war. Her parents couldn’t bear the shame that would come so this is where Betsy would remain until the baby arrived. If the baby arrived.
Each night as she slept, Betsy dreamt of dead children. Small graves in the garden. Only the mother and Lucifer in attendance. And each dream ended with a demon carrying her own baby to the graveyard. She woke each morning in fear. Gripped her stomach. Crippled from the cramps and pain in her belly.
Each day she walked the grounds. Stopped in the garden where a statue of a cloaked figure sat poised over a small graveyard. This is where they are buried. Unwanted babies. Betsy had been told the stories. Be good or this is where your child will rest for eternity. Damned. Just like Betsy was damned.
Twice a month, the doctor came to check on the pregnant girls. Twice a month, she was assured that there was nothing wrong with her baby. But Betsy knew better. She could feel it dying inside of her. With each breath Betsy took, it was one last breath her baby would have. Each day she would hold her breath for minutes at a time in an attempt to buy her child more life.
Shortly after her sixth month began, Betsy succumbed to a fever. In her fevered state, her dreams worsened. Intensified. A demon visited her each night.
“He wants your baby,” it would say. It’s gnarled, bony hands reached out to her stomach. Wrapped around her baby’s frail body. The demon hissed and moaned. “He demands your baby!” The demon spoke rites over her.
Betsy awoke each morning with her hands choked around her belly. She screamed in agony. The nuns came and tried to comfort her.
“He is killing my baby,” Betsy would say.
“Hush child. The baby is fine,” one of the nuns would tell her as she wiped Betsy’s sweaty forehead.
And then one night, Betsy awoke to blood oozing from between her legs. She cried out for help, but the nuns no longer responded to her pleas. She crawled out of bed. Stumbled into the washroom. Crouched down between the toilet and the sink. She nearly fainted from the pain. After a few minutes, her baby fell from her womb to the cold washroom floor. Plop. The sound of a dead fish hitting the cutting board in the kitchen. Betsy reached down and touched the baby’s face. It was motionless. A girl. Her dead baby girl.
“Noooooo!” Betsy wailed.
As if signaled, the demon appeared. He pushed Betsy aside and lifted the baby into its arms. Blood trailed as the demon carried the child from the washroom, down the stairs and outside. Betsy followed, running to keep up.
“My baby! Give her to me!” she screamed over and over again.
The demon ignored her. Kept walking. Out past the courtyard. Down over a bank. And when Betsy caught up with it, it stood over a freshly dug grave. As it bent over to put the baby inside, another figure appeared. The demon, done with its duties, faded away. Betsy looked up at the figure – a man with long black hair, blazing red eyes, and his mouth curled into a smile so wicked that Betsy cried out in fear. So this is Lucifer, she thought as she cringed and huddled near her baby’s grave.
“She was never yours,” Lucifer bellowed. And in a flash, he and her baby were consumed by flames and disappeared, leaving nothing but ashes in the grave.
©February 2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.