Flash fiction piece from fiction writing course at the Crescent Arts Centre. Featured in a booklet for Belfast Book Festival.
A scream rose from the upstairs nursery. Ingrid ran to the room to find her daughter staring at the white crib with a horrified expression on her face.
‘What is it Helen?’ she said. She looked into the crib to see the baby was alive and well.
‘He has a tail!’ Helen cried. Ingrid looked again into the crib and noticed a short, fat fleshy stub protruding just above the baby’s bare buttocks.
‘Oh dear. That is not good,’ she said.
‘Not good! What am I going to do? How could this have happened?’ Helen was beginning to hyperventilate. She paced around the room.
‘I’ll have to call the doctor! He’ll think I’ve been hiding it. It wasn’t there last night, this doesn’t make sense!’
‘You should have put some iron at the door,’ Ingrid said.
‘What is the doctor…what are you talking about mother? You’re not helping!’ Helen walked out of the room and returned with the phone to her ear.
‘Hello, yes. I need an appointment today. It’s my baby. No…I can’t explain but it’s very important he see a doctor today.’ She tried to speak calmly. She stared at the child as she finished up on the phone.
‘He looks different. I think he’s…hairier. And his nose… looks bigger. Oh God!’ She began to cry.
‘I’m afraid the doctor can’t help you dear,’ Ingrid said. ‘The iron cross I gave you would have kept her away.’ Helen looked at her angrily. ‘Oh mama, you can’t believe those old wives’ tales!’
‘I’m sorry Helen but it’s the only explanation. A troll mother has your baby. She’s swapped her ugly son for Ben!’
The offensive infant let out a loud, horrible burp. Helen began to cry again. Ingrid put her hand on Helen’s shoulder.
‘Come on, we must find something to barter for your son.’
Under a stone bridge in the parklands nearby, something female rocked a baby. She was strange, wild and well-suited to living under rock.
‘My beautiful boy,’ she cooed. ‘you are just perfect!’ She tickled the baby’s toes and he giggled joyfully.