The next morning I woke to the sound of something heavy hitting the floor, and my first thought was that Maria had fallen from her bed. Getting up from mine, I rushed into her room… only to find her as I left her, with a slightly pungent smell of a full diaper. I turned and walked out of the room, closing the door, and made my way to the front of the house to fix myself something for breakfast.
The day nurse came in and took care of everything, even going so far as to not that I’d moved a photo of her and I to a place where if she turned her head she could see it.
“Can she do that?” I asked.
The nurse smiled over her cup of coffee. “No, not really. She’s paralyzed from the neck down and comatose has been since I got hired nine years ago.”
“She’s never made any movements or sounds?” I asked.
“Some, mostly gurgles and creaks. One time I caught her mouth wide open towards me, her eyes staring at me as if in shock as she silently screamed at me. That scared me.”
“I’ll bet,” I said.
“But she really is harmless. I heard about the live-in nurses who quit, heard the rumors before I took the job.”
The nurse laughed. “You didn’t know about the rumors and you still took this house?”
“What rumors?” I repeated.
“Look, I’m not going to get into it because it’s not my place to say. But let’s just say your Mom was into some weird stuff, stuff I hope you’re not into.” The nurse said, pointing a finger at me.
“No, nothing weird, I swear.” I crossed my heart, smiling.
“Good. The last thing this girl needs is strange rituals and whatnot, what she needs is some help from a specialist.” The nurse said. “I’ll leave some brochures on the counter, but I’ve worked with him before. He’s helped cases that seemed far more lost than yours.”
I nodded as she turned to leave and finished my coffee, staring at the countertop as I wondered what my mother had done to make this house have rumors. Knowing the old bat it had to be something kooky. I tossed my coffee mug in the sink and went about making myself some lunch before retiring to the living room where I could watch a marathon of an old 80’s cartoon I used to love.
Jackie called in sick that night, claiming she just had a chest cold.
“It’s nothing serious,” she said over the line. “I just don’t want Maria to catch it. Chest colds are bad for people stuck in bed all the time.”
“Of course,” I said, walking between the living room and the kitchen. “Is there anything I should do?”
“Well tonight is the night that I normally give her a bath, but that can wait for another night,” Jackie said.
“Alright, so just make sure she’s safe and warm and wait until the day nurse comes in tomorrow?” I asked.
“Make sure she gives her a vitamin booster, as I was planning on it this evening,” Jackie said before descending into a coughing fit. “Well, I’d better go.”
“Alright Jackie, you have a pleasant night,” I said as I hung up the phone, right before a loud crash rang throughout the house. I raced to the back room where Maria lie and checked her machines. They’d moved a little, I think, but they were all on wheels. Her feeding tube was currently empty, so I made sure to load it properly. While loading it, I noted that she was wearing a different set of pajamas then I remembered her wearing when the day nurse had come over.
Oh well, I thought to myself, She must have changed them.
I patted my sister on the cheek as the sludge began to slowly work its way into her stomach, her cold, clammy skin causing me to quiver for a moment. Wiping away the imagined slime, I turned around and moved to turn out the light.
The alarms on her machines went off all at once, causing me to spin and nearly shriek in terror as I saw Maria completely unplugged from all her machines, her claw-like appendage quivering against her chest, her foot trembling. I took the time to plug her back into everything, double checking all the monitors and her feeding tube, before backing out of the room slowly, eyes never leaving her frame until I shut the door.
Shaking my head, I just whistled. “What in the world was that?”
The next morning the day nurse thanked me for changing her pajamas, already knowing about how Jackie had called in. The older nurse had an air about her that she didn’t approve but seemed grateful for the aid.
“You must be mistaken, I didn’t change her at all,” I said from my spot on the sofa.
“Well someone changed her then, I don’t know who.” The day nurse scoffed, turning to head to the back room, muttering under her breath.
I settled in to watch my show when all of a sudden a scream rent the air, causing me to bolt from a seat and run to the back room. Leaning over my sister, the day nurse was struggling against the vice-like arm of my sister as it had a grip on her wrist, her mouth moving in silent words as she said something. I moved forward and pulled on the feeding tube, pulling it out of her mouth with sludge spilling over the bed, just as Maria creaked out the last few words.
“-‘ll see what to do,” Maria said, her eyes staring at the ceiling. Her mouth creaked wide open until it was just a dark O facing the ceiling now, her claw hand letting go of the day nurse as she settled back down into her paralyzed state.
“I thought you said she was paralyzed? Comatose?” I demanded, looking at the nurse.
“She is, was. I don’t know!” The nurse said, going into hysterics as she attempted to flee the room.
I wasn’t having any of that. I grabbed her by the lapels and pushed her back towards my sister. “Get her cleaned up and set up for the rest of the day. I don’t have the time to find anyone else to do it, and I’ll stand here and watch over you while you do it, just to make sure nothing else happens.”
She took a few shuddering breaths before nodding, shaky hands going back to the instruments and tools, plugging them in and sliding the feeding tube back down her throat, using a towel to clean up the banana paste she’d been eating. After she was done she marched from the room and out towards the front doors.
“I was warned not to take this job, and I took it anyway.” The day nurse said, looking back at me. “That little girl in there is messed up, and I don’t mean physically. Something is wrong with her, something evil. Something in this house.”
“You’re talking crazy, listen, just go home and sleep it off and come back tomorrow, okay?” I offered.
“Oh, I’ll be back. But I’m putting in my two weeks’ notice now, and I’ll begin training my replacement as soon as you find her.” The day nurse said before grabbing her keys and heading out the door.
The night I couldn’t sleep. I kept hearing odd groans and moans echoing throughout the house like the wood was shifting. I thought of my sister in the other room, about what had happened today. I hadn’t mentioned it to Jackie, who’d come in tonight. Judging by how quiet she’d been she must have already known. Sitting up in bed, I looked out my doorway, feeling as if someone was looking at me.
Slowly, moving on imperfect limbs, with a curled claw scraping at her chest, my sister walked into the room. Drool pooled from her mouth, and her eyes were black as coal. Her head was hanging limply against her shoulder, and her strong leg kept her upright, balanced on one foot.
“Maria,” I said, trying to remain calm. “What are you doing out of bed?”
“I… I had… to… see you,” she gasped, each word a fight for oxygen. “I… brought you… here… after… all… this… time…”
My mind flashed to the corners report of my mother dying of a heart attack. I stared at her as she crawled on top of the bed woodenly, her strong arm sliding up alongside my chest as she formed a spoon behind me. I patted her cold hand, even kissed it, as she cooed.
“Why did you attack the day nurse?” I asked, wanting, dreading, to know more.
“To tell her you… would… be taking care… of me… from now… on…” She rasped her strong arm wrapped around me possessively. “I… like Jackie… you two… should… date…”
“Oh really?” I said, trying to keep the panic from my voice.
“Yes… then we could all… be one… big… happy… family…” She said, her strong arm moving up my chest and towards my throat. “Don’t… you agree?”
“Yes! Yes, a hundred percent!” I said, the hand slowing down. “Let me just get up and I’ll call her.”
“You… do… that…” she rasped, pulling her arm back so that I could get up.
I sprang into action, moving out of my bedroom and into her bedroom, looking for anything that could be helpful. Opening a drawer full of syringes, I gulped. Getting on in her would be hard unless I used the shunt. She had a shunt in her left elbow that was a connection for all of her intravenous fluids. Pulling back the plunger and filling it with air, I stared at the syringe for a moment, contemplating what I was about to do.
Kill my sister.
But no, she’d died all those years ago! I reasoned, clutching the syringe. When she fell out of that tree and cracked her head. She’s been a vegetable ever since, barring whatever Mom did to her to allow her to move.
The claw slid around my wrist and gripped my hand painfully, her body pulling flush with mine, as her withered hand rested on my hip. I tried to overpower her grip on the syringe, but just couldn’t. Slowly, she turned my hand until the syringe was pointing into my gut.
“You’re just… like … Mother…” Maria said, her voice thick with drool. “You never… appreciate… what you have… when you… have it.”
And with that she forced the needle into my sternum, her thumb pushing down on the plunger, a burst of air entering my bloodstream and causing the world to go white.