UNDER THE STARS
by Beck Fenton
Babies know. I can see them looking at me and wondering why I don't stop it. I can't. I am not even allowed to hold them, their parents are afraid I'll drop them. My hands shake so now. And I can't get through the barrier of noise that's around me when I see them. People ooohing and cooing. If they would only be still for a moment the babies might be able to hear what I need to say.
Some of the others here at the home try to shout it away. They holler all day and night. They have ruined my chances to be heard. I can't blame them though. I'd scream for help too, if I thought it would help. I'm doing pretty well just by being still.
My children's children visit me and I can hear them whisper behind me, "Won't be many more years."
I can't help crying. They always think I'm overtired and ask to have me put me to bed. It's just as well. I sleep most of the day so I can be awake all night. It's the nighttime that brings it out. It makes us all so scared, so crazy, so wild that we holler. Some of us are found dead in the morning, mouths still open in a silenced scream. I wonder if they are the lucky ones?
It's so beautiful here. It's always warm and there are roses growing in big pots by the front door, where our families come in for their visits and leave. We're not allowed out there. Not past the roses. Sometimes everyone is invited to come for a party, and we wait near the door for them. I can smell the roses and it sickens me. I know what is coming.
We are shoved around in little chairs on wheels. I have a tray that prevents me from getting out and running away. If I could walk, I would run. There is an elevator and we are packed in so tightly that I'm afraid to breathe. Some of us moan the whole time. I listen to the talk around me of boyfriends and used cars. I want to throw-up, but I hold it down. I want to be good and quiet.
My room is at the end of the hall. Right next to the exit door. I'm not sure why I've been spared so far. Maybe it needs to roam a little before it feeds. Maybe I'm not ripe enough. Maybe it's because I'm awake and quiet. I haven't been touched yet. Not even looked at. It just goes by me. Looking for someone else.
It's almost always after dark. When the lights go to dim and everyone is tucked into bed like a baby in swaddling clothes. I listen to the moans fading into snores and I watch the door open. It comes out into the hall, looking like the pictures drawn back when people had the sight. The scythe has been replaced with a pillow. A pillowcase with big pink roses carried in bony hands makes its way down the hall. I listen and hear one moan cut off.
I always watch to see who was taken. It's nice to be prepared to find an empty spot at the breakfast table. No one says anything. They all pretend it's always been that way. And soon someone new comes and is placed there. No one mentions the back door or what is under the stairs. Waiting.
Beck Fenton is new to the publishing scene, but has been writing stories for several years. She graduated from Vermont College of Norwich University in 1997. That's where she discovered the thrill of writing. Her stories have appeared in Nocturnal Ooze Magazine and Nice Stories, both online publications. She lives with her husband, Ted Pendleton, and their springer spaniel, Chyna. When she's not writing you can often find her reading tarot cards, which is where the idea for Marli's party originated.