The Nightmare Plague: A Mother’s Rest

The woman had been exhausted for days, ever since the birth of her child.  The old women had been robbing the mother and child of sleep with their constant chattering.  They kept the lights on throughout the night and day, hovering over the pair in the bed.  They declared that, for the safety of mother and child, the lights would remain on and the group would remain in the room for ten days and nights.  Conversations regarding ancient demons occasionally took place with low voices, the words often inaudible to others in the room.  Their certainty of belief in fear led the old women to be overbearing and demanding of those in the house.  The young woman was terrified of the impact these actions would have on her and the tender child beside her.

She had lost track of the days, but it was evident that a ferocious argument was taking place.  In her fatigued state, she was unable to make sense of the words, but the vitriol permeated the house.  She eventually realized that she and the baby were alone and the argument had moved downstairs.  

People must be forcing the old women from the house, she thought.  This comforted her and seemed to do likewise for the little boy, who’s almost perpetual frown was disappearing.  He yawned, flexed his little fingers, and slipped into sleep.  She watched him through blurred vision before following him into slumber.  What she did not see was the shadow detach from the wall, resolving itself into the figure of a bent, old woman, much like those who continued to howl protests from the street.

The figure stayed in the corner, patiently waiting as the day slipped past and into the night.  Once the room was dark, lit only by what light filtered in through the curtains, did the figure move further into the room.  People had checked on the pair in the bed several times through the day, being careful not to wake them.  Now, she and the child were alone.  Vulnerable.

The creature began making low cooing sounds, almost like a strange, guttural chuckle.  Features and shape became more defined as it moved, looking every bit of an old woman.  That image began to twist as fast as it had solidified, with joints swelling and talons pushing out through the fingertips.  The back went from being bent to growing a large hump, twisted and knotted.  Lank, greasy hair began to ooze from beneath the hijab.  The strange sound emanating from the creature changed into a victorious chuckle as it approached the bed.  The face contorted as it’s mouth opened as a great maw, sharp, needle-like teeth growing to unnatural lengths.  It stopped, though, at the sound of a voice coming from another corner of the room.

A small, stuffed bear walked out into view, causing a mocking laugh to begin crawling from the creature’s throat.  The sound ended abruptly at a tapping sound from behind.  Another bear was now visible, tapping her palm with the edge of a wooden scimitar.  Turning back, the creature was startled by a third bear, this one standing over the young mother, her golden fur almost glowing in the weak light.  She was holding an intricately ornamented club.  Turning around to look at the entire room, the creature was confronted by more bears, all armed with wooden weapons.  It snarled for some time before distinguishable words began to ring out.

“What is this,” it demanded, “and who are you to disrupt my work?”

They didn’t speak but closed in around the creature.  It continued to rail against the intrusion, but no response was forthcoming.  The creature’s frustration shifted to alarm as two weights struck it from behind.  Two bears had leapt on it’s back, forcing the creature to the floor.  The bears all stepped in, silently ending the thing on the floor.  All but the golden bear, who still hovered protectively over the mother and child.  She gently brushed the cheeks of her sleeping charges, and gave each the slightest of kisses.  She straightened up and stood guard, her eyes unblinking, as the other bears retreated back into the shadows they had been occupying.

The room remained peaceful the remainder of the ten days.

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