The Reward

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Danny drove through the pouring rain in the middle of the night wondering just where he was. This was hilly country, this much he could see through the haze, but with tall trees blowing every which way and no signpost, visibility poor, he could not recognize tree nor track. He’d been driving for hours albeit slowly before he saw a building. There were no lights on, indicating a power cut. He drove up to it anyway, maybe, just maybe somebody’s home.

(Image provided by Soter Lucio)

When there was no answer to his incessant banging, he pushed the door and realizing it was unlocked he went in and called again. No answer. He looked around with a feeling of déjà vu. He’d been here before. The rain stopped just as he closed the door.

Then it hit him.

This was once his house.

He didn’t live in it for very long, hence the reason for the poor recollection. There’d been some changes, though he didn’t know by whom and on whose authority. His wife had gotten it as part of the settlement after a contentious divorce. That was ten years ago.

He checked the fridge hoping for something to eat. Surprised to find it well stocked he made himself a sandwich with cheese and tomato with lots of mayonnaise and sat down to eat. He promised to leave some money in return. He heard a faint mournful cry, and put it down to the wind. He thought no more of it until he heard it getting closer and closer.

“No.” He said aloud. “That can’t be the wind.”

But, he being a fearless person at heart, didn’t allow such a thing to bother him. He was glad to be indoors.

He went up the stairs where he found the bedroom, tidy, with clean colourful drapes and the large bed neatly made. For such a rundown place it sure was well kept. He couldn’t even remember a peaceful night in the house much less in this bed. However he showered and changed into some pajamas he found in a drawer.

He jumped up as he heard that voice again, but this time it was not the mournful cry, but a deep wailing, like an adult just outside the closed door. Daring as he believed himself to be, he still stayed within the confines of the bedroom. It stopped momentarily, then increasing in volume accompanied by scratching the door and then footsteps going away from the door. He was now scared. He had no explanation for what was happening. He put it down to the stress of work and  driving that long distance and getting lost.

The power came back illuminating the stink and grime of everything within. Then the phone rang. Who could be calling an empty house at this hour? He asked himself. He followed the sound only to find the receiver off the hook and phone not connected. He was trembling. He didn’t see any other houses close by. What should he do now? He turned to go back upstairs but stood transfixed at the apparition before him. A ghostly figure with huge bulging eyes, seen through a plastic wrap over her head. The most gaudy necklaces around her neck, and she was staring at him with eyes full of hatred. She smiled exposing jagged teeth, and tried to talk but the only sound she made was that mournful cry.

Danny rediscovered his mobility and in two twos he was at the front door trying feverishly to get out. It wouldn’t budge. He turned and there she was right behind him, he screamed and in a guttural voice she said, “I want my baby.”

Then it dawned on him what was happening. This was his wife.

After the divorce she was granted sole custody of their daughter to whom he was very much attached. She also got the house. He didn’t mind that, but he wanted his daughter. The house being in a secluded area far away from the nearest neighbor, it wasn’t too difficult to get rid of her and have his daughter to himself. He’d tried strangling her but she was too strong for him so he knocked her on the head and used a plastic bag to suffocate her. Then he threw her body in the basement along with all the wood and unused pipelines and other stuff. Then he threw a doll on her body and said, “There’s your daughter, you wretch.”

He remembered it all too clearly now.

Danny begged and pleaded with her to let him go. She was vengeful. Angry. She twisted her hands and dragged him choking around the room, knocking his head on the posts but not hard enough to get unconscious. He screamed and called for help knowing no one could hear him. All the while the ghostly apparition was asking for her baby.

With the rising of the sun she was vanishing, and knowing that she couldn’t hold him any longer she coiled some cutlass wire around his neck and mouth so he’d be there for after sunset.

Danny saw when the front door opened. Relief on his face he welcomed the help only to see his mother in law. Hopes dashed as he remembered the last time he saw her. She’d told him then that he would be rewarded for hurting her daughter. He thought she meant that she was glad her daughter was nowhere to be found. Now he knows he was wrong in the interpretation of reward. She stayed in the house until after sunset when Marla returned.

She removed the wires and slammed him across the room several times until he was unrecognizable but still aware of everything. He screamed and begged again but his mother-in-law just stood there with a grin on her face.

She took the doll and installing it on his stomach with his arms around it, she told him, “May you have your baby throughout all eternity.”

This story previously appeared in Dark Chapter Press November 2015.
Edited by Marie Ginga

Soter Lucio is a great grandmother who does ironing for a living and writes horror at night. She lives alone and her hobbies are reading and writing. She's been published by Sirens Call, Weird Mask, Dark Chapter Press and Migla Press. She can be found on Twitter @JanSoter and on FaceBook at Soter Lucio.