Il Maledetto [Halloween Special]
Her skin felt like rubber. Four months and Elisa still wondered how this body could contain an entire human life. She traced her fingers along her stomach and felt a momentary kick from inside her. She flinched, and moved her hand away. A sudden wave of nausea overcame her and she rushed to the sink. Her hands rested on the counter and she wished Abilio were there. But Abilio was never there.
And when he was his hands were cold and his mouth sharp. But Elisa had been taught to believe that cold hands were better than no hands at all.
The evening light had long vanished, and the room swelled with darkness. Outside, the chimes sang to the rattling of the wind and the trees cracked in uncanny dissonance. It was October 31st, the eve of Halloween.
Elisa whiped her mouth and flushed it clean with a glass of stale water. She hobbled toward the front door, hand on her stomach, as she walked the old, wood floors creaked beneath her feet. The air was bitter, but Elisa felt calmed by its coolness, it helped alleviate the aches in her body. Her pain was, in part, due to the creature growing inside her. But it was also due to a different kind of creature; one that lived in Abilio when he came home from the bars, a kind that vanished as the sun rose and returned when it set, one that smelled of whiskey as it breathed heavy against her neck.
Elisa walked down the rows of houses, all alike, marked with one red streak to keep away the monsters on Halloween night. She walked passed the post office, the general store, and finally the church situated at the outskirts of town. It was late into the night, the dirt streets bare, and Elisa kept walking.
Soon enough, she could see the silhouette of the village's cliff at the edge of town. The villagers called it Il Maledetto, the cursed.
As a girl, Elisa grew up listening to the old women telling stories about Il Maledetto. It was said that every year something strange would happen in the village. The legends were always the same: of people seen going to the cliff and never returning, of search parties exploring the surrounding area and, one by one, they too were never seen again.
Even Abilio was afraid of the cliff. Not even Abilio would come looking for her here.
Elisa followed the unkempt trail up to the cliff’s peak. The wind whipped at her skin, tugged at her hair, pierced her eyes. Elisa looked down the cliff. Il Maledetto, she thought to herself and she embraced it. She embraced her desire to plunge, to let the cliff devour her like it had so many before. She was prepared to give in when out from the darkness, crawling up the edges of the cliff, she noticed a strange, formless being slithering its way toward her. Elisa stepped back. The figure was almost inconspicuous against the night but Elisa saw it. It had no eyes, no mouth, no nose, it was inhuman, and what it truly was, Elisa would never know.
She fled back to the village, back through the empty streets, passed the Church, the rows of houses, and safe within her home.
Elisa awoke the next day, still feeling uneasy from the night before. She decided to believe that her eyes had simply misled her, and that the legends of her village had corrupted her mind. Foolish old women, she thought. The shadows move strangely in the dark, and that is what causes all those people to fall from the cliff.
Winter was now approaching, the cold air crept through the cracks of the house. Elisa sat up against the headboard of her bed and felt something strange beneath her. Panicked, she threw back her blankets and saw that they were stained red. Her hands mechanically touched her stomach, but this time, there was no movement. She grabbed the sheets, tore at the covers, and fell off the bed onto the floor and then she screamed --- Abilio's body lay lifeless on the ground. His face pale, eyes wide.
He smelled of whiskey but Elisa knew that had nothing to do with anything at all.