The Ring – Part Eight: Facing Isobella
By Michael Jordan
They enter one of the houses and Isobella pulls her to the bedroom inside. But she does not want to go. She remembers the last time; Isobella’s lips on Karen’s baby…and afterwards…hers…her teeth sinking into that soft little throat…that taste! that taste! Oh God she had not meant to do it! This time she will not…
Isobella reads her thoughts. She laughs and whispers:
“Sweeter than a first kiss,
A first orgasm,
A first lover’s caress,
Always as sweet as the first time,
Is the taste of a newborn’s blood…”
She feels so thirsty! She can smell the baby inside. It is three days old, fresh and soft, and the thirst is so awful that she lets Isobella pull her to the room.
Yes…a baby is inside. He lies in the crook of his mother’s arm. Isobella tells her that the father’s a security guard; he’s on the night-shift. She sees a black dot on the baby’s forehead, placed there by a pandit, but that cannot stop them! They hover near the bed. The mother, a girl really, frowns in her sleep as she senses their presence. Isobella leans to her. She purses her lips and blows in the sleeping girl’s face. The girl mutters, but sleeps on.
Isobella gives her that sly, malicious smile. There is raw hunger in those strange, red eyes, but Isobella says, “You go first, my sister…”
No! No! No! But she thinks of that very first time, when Isobella had tasted first, and had then stretched out a blood-stained finger out…and she, Sandra, instinctively, greedily, had leaned to that finger, her tongue darting out on its own volition, to taste the sweetest thing…
The juices spring to her mouth, she feels a hunger that heats her loins, and she leans nearer, and as if on their own accord, her lips open.
But she pauses, listening…
Someone is calling her…. someone who loves her. And she feels a loneliness and a yearning to go back to the people she loves.
She does not belong here. She tries to turn away, but Isobella’s bony hand digs into her shoulder.
You have to! You have to!
But the hunger is gone. She gets a glimpse of that face, hollow-cheeked and yellow, and wonders how he could have thought that face beautiful.
She breaks free and races through the night until she is floating by her front door. She does the secret movement that would allow her to enter the locked door, but nothing happens.
She cannot enter! She bangs at the door, but her fists make no sound. She flits around to the bedroom window, banging her fists there, but again she cannot enter; she sobs and besides her, Isobella is screaming in rage and fear…
Maxwell, watching her, sensed that something was going wrong. He had seen Sandra’s mouth open, and had thought she would speak, but instead, her lips had curled back, her teeth seeming sharp and feral.
Then Dr. Delong had said: “No Sandra, fight her,” and slowly, that distorted mask had closed and become Sandra’s features again. But now her hands were clenched. She was writhing on the bed again. Her harsh breathing filled the room.
She was straining against the strips of cloth that bound her hands; trying to bang her fists against the bed. Her lips moved again and he realized she was trying to speak. He bent to her…
“Let..me…in…Max…” A whisper of fear. “Let me in…oh God…I can’t come in…”
He shook her, terrified at the lost sound in her voice. “Wake up, Sandra, wake up, oh God…wake up…”
It came back to him now; that story that his grandmother had told him about a man who found out that his wife had the curse of feeding on babies. Old John Morris had tried to have her cured, but she had become weaker…weaker…and then died. There was no cure, grandmother had said, shaking her grey locks sadly; …no cure. And now he saw clearly the flaw he had only sensed before in Dr. Delon’s plan.
If all this craziness was really happening, and Sandra was becoming like old John Morris’s wife, wouldn’t the barriers that they had erected to keep out Isobella, lock out Sandra, too?
What had that voice whispered to him in that dream in which he had tried to remove the ring from Sandra’s finger? “Till death do us part, Maxwell Lewis; like marriage…like marriage, till death do us part…”
With a groan, he grabbed Sandra’s hand. He heard Dr. Delon’s shout of dismay as he grasped the black talisman that she had placed on Sandra’s finger.
“What are you doing?”
“We got to stop this thing.” He was close to tears. “Oh God, we killing her…”
She slapped him; a stinging blow to the cheek. She dug her fingers into his shoulders. “Max, if we remove the talisman, the entity will return with her.”
“We have to help her to fight, or she will die”
The urgency in her voice made him turn back to the bed. Fear locked off his throat. Sandra now lay limply; he could scarcely discern her breathing. Her face had turned a sickening grey. He stared at her, watching her die.
Again, he felt Dr. Delon’s fingers dinning into his arm. “Help her, Maxwell!”
She leaned to Sandra. Loosening the straps, massaging Sandra’s arms, she whispered urgently: “Come back Sandra…come home…don’t be afraid…you can cross…come back to your husband…” She broke off to glare at Maxwell. “Help me, Max!”
He began to stroke Sandra’s sweat-dampened hair. “Come back Sandra…come home to me please…come back darling…”
“The light,” Sandra said suddenly, her voice filled with wonder, a half-smile on her lips. “The light…”
The Haitian gasped. “Mon Dieu, we are losing her! …get your child.”
Maxwell stumbled outside to the crib. He snatched up Wayne, who whimpered in his sleep. Dr. Delon took the child, still wrapped in his blue sheet and placed him near Sandra.
“See you child, Sandra? See? Come back to him, come back to your man, come back to your child…”
A flicker of eyelids…white of eyes showing…closing…
“Come, Sandra!” they cried in unison.
Her eyes flickered open. She stared at them blankly, then she turned towards the window. She gave a whimper of fear.
And now, above the rain, he heard a muffled repeated thumping outside the window, as from a heavy breeze. The bedroom light above them dimmed…then brightened momentarily to a sickening red…then went out
The window began to shake as if someone was banging angrily from the outside.
For a moment, he seemed to see a red-eyed distorted face staring in at him.
The Haitian scrambled up from the bed. She grabbed the manicole broom that she had placed on the floor and strode over to the window. She began to beat at the window with the broom. “Let her go, Isobella.” Her voice was loud, authoritative. “Go back…back…back…” she broke into a string of unintelligible French.
Suddenly the thumping ceased. He heard a burst of harsh, familiar laughter… the sound of a breeze rushing away…followed by a silence that hurt his ears.
He realized that Sandra was sitting, hugging him and sobbing.
Dr. Delon stared at the window for a moment, then returned to the bed. She was trembling.
“It’s alright, Sandra,” she said. “It’s over.”
But he knew that it was not over.
They would never look at a baby again without thinking of those two wasted children. They would never look at Karen again without feeling a pang of guilt. He would never look at a bottle of ketchup again without revulsion.
He would look at that black talisman his wife was destined to wear, until she died, and wonder whether he had exchanged one evil for another.
And that damned ring. It was somewhere out there, sealed in a jar, floating in the restless Atlantic.
But perhaps, one day, it would float ashore, and, God forbid, some fisherman, some heart-sick lover, some child scouring the beach for the ocean’s treasures, would free the ring from its casket; and then someone else would be doomed to roam the night-skies, cursed with a terrible hunger, and a red-eyed woman named Isobella will give them troubled dreams…
Copyright © 2009 Michael Jordan. No part of this story can be reproduced without the author’s permission.
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