A Mother’s Torment
Maggie Stewart couldn’t get the image out of her mind. The night her son Jacob was killed. Her husband had stayed home to pass out candy. Usually, that was her job, but Sam’s recent knee surgery prevented him from taking on the Trick-or-Treat journey. After two blocks worth of houses, Jacob dropped his bag of loot as they were heading home, toys and candy scattering into the street. Jacob ran to retrieve his lost treasure at the same moment a car careened around the corner, slamming into his little body and dragging him several yards. She had been haunted by him ever since.
She would see him around corners or dash away into his room. Sometimes she would hear his voice in her head. " Mommy, why are you so mean to me?" Maggie despised it when her dead child asked her that, but it didn’t change the fact that he blamed her. Once, she had mentioned it to Sam and he threatened to have her locked away. She never said anything after that.
It was October again and Maggie was trying to keep her mind busy with mundane things. She was dreading tonight. Trick-or-Treaters were excitedly getting ready to go on their rounds. The image of Jacob’s mangled body was at the forefront of her thoughts. As she stood at the sink washing dishes, Maggie could feel the presence behind her. Then the voice started again.
She tried so hard to ignore it.
"Mommy? Are you going to take me Trick-or-Treating?"
Tears began to fill her eyes. When was this torment going to end? Why wouldn’t Jacob leave her alone? Her grip tightened on the butcher’s knife she had been rinsing.
"Mommy? I’m in my costume. Do you like it?"
Jacob’s voice sounded hesitant. Eyes closed and tears streaming down her face, Maggie slowly turned around to face her dead son. When she finally opened her eyes, Jacob stood in front of her, skin pale and facial bones accentuated by deep shadows.
“What are you supposed to be,” she asked.
Jacob smiled and laughed.
"I’m a ghost, mommy!"
Maggie swiped at the apparition with the hand that held the knife. As it did every other time, Jacob’s spirit disappeared on a wisp of air, a scream echoing through the kitchen. Maggie sighed heavily as she turned back to the sink to finish washing the dishes. She scrubbed the knife blade again, irritated that soap spots had dried on the shiny metal.
Sam was in the garage cleaning and reorganizing. Maggie was in one of her moods again and she had taken it out on him. It was best to stay out of her way at times like these, but at least he had been the target when she lost her temper. Now she was in one of her cleaning frenzies. It was better than the alternative.
After Jacob’s accident, Maggie had never been the same. She started saying strange things and Sam wanted her to get help. Instead, she shut down and refused to talk about it. Over the past couple months she seemed to be getting better. Her bouts of violence decreased and she was starting to behave like she did before it happened.
Jacob’s recovery had been a miracle. The fact that he hadn’t died on impact was almost unimaginable. Perhaps that’s why Maggie had such a hard time believing it. Their son had coded several times on the way to the hospital from blood loss, but in the end, he had come out with only a couple of broken ribs and a fractured arm. But something had snapped in Maggie that night and Jacob avoided her every day since then because she would slap him hard across the face for no reason.
When Sam heard the scream from the kitchen, he froze. She was having another episode. He should have known her recent change in behavior wouldn’t last. Jacob must have crossed paths with his mother again. He ran into the room from the garage and found Maggie washing dishes calmly as if nothing had happened. As Sam rounded the table he felt his heart stop.
“What have you done?!”
Maggie turned to look at him and walked over Jacob’s limp, bloody body as if it wasn’t there.
“I’ve been cleaning, dear. Do you have the candy ready for the Trick-or-Treaters?”