This is a short story I recently wrote from my English 300 class, I thought I’d share it here. Please forgive the lack of proofreading. Happy Halloween.
Aaron’s mother was fairly quickly to recover from the loss of her husband. It was less than two years before another man started to drop by the house. Aaron was not so young that he didn’t understand the meaning of the man’s frequent visits, or the lingering glances he directed towards Aaron’s mother. He wasn’t a part of Aaron’s life, or his mother’s, for very long however. Neither were any of the other men in the string of suitors that his mom went through at an alarming rate. The only constant companion in Aaron’s mom’s life was Old Number Seven, but that had always been the case, even before he lost his father. Aaron wouldn’t ever call his mother negligent, and in fact, was likely unaware of any animosity he held towards her. Nor did he see her drinking as any particularly significant issue, though it was true that he didn’t have much of a concept of what his mother was like sober, and thus had no point of reference.
Aaron was an only child, and because his mother was often out very late (her office closed at six, but she rarely made it home before nine or ten) much of the housework was Aaron’s responsibility. However, given that only he and his mother lived in the house, it was never a very significant burden, and Aaron never found himself so occupied with chores and meals that it ate into his free time or interfered with his studies. In fact, his marks were often very good. Not anything to be particularly worthy of any significant praise, but he was at least on the higher end of mediocrity, and considering how little genuine effort he put into school, this was more than satisfactory for him.
One cool, October evening, in the early evening, Aaron was occupied in his home’s small kitchen preparing dinner for himself and his mother (his mother was not to arrive home until late, but he would put aside some of the pasta and meat sauce into tupperware containers for her). The sun was setting soon, but it was not quite at the horizon and so Aaron left the lights of the house off for the moment. He liked the orange glow that the dwindling sun filled the house with. It was a different type of light from the warm, yellow-green glow that would fall on the world after a rainy summer’s day, but nonetheless he found it nostalgic. There was a type of dissonance between the frosty air, and the calming light that he found comforting. Outside, he knew it was cold and biting, but inside, the light cast itself through the blinds, and he felt as though the harshness was filtered out and he was left with the toasty comfort the orange glow provided.
Unexpectedly, there was a knock on the front door. Short and curt. Aaron surveyed the counter tops and stove briefly to make sure he was in no danger of burning his meal, and went to answer it. It was his mother, home early from work. She was in a surprisingly pleasant mood, one that she very rarely seemed to be in. They brought in her bags and a few groceries she had stopped for on her way home, and she took over preparation of the dinner. A short time later, Aaron was eating his first meal with his mother in perhaps two months.
"You’re home early," Aaron said non-aggressively. Truthfully, he was politely asking what had prompted her to return, but he wasn’t very comfortable with directly asking questions.
"I wanted to celebrate with you," his mother said with a polite smile.
"Celebrate," Aaron asked without punctuation.
"Well, normally I don’t find it tasteful for adults to share financial information with their children, but…" she flash Aaron a look of confidentiality, "I happened to receive a rather significant raise today. Apparently, the boss was very impressed with my performance on our last contract." Aaron, though happy with his mother, was rather confused as to why she was sharing this with him. His mother was quite often a very personal person, who didn’t like to talk about her own affairs, even with her son. Nonetheless, he politely congratulated her. As the two finished dinner and were washing the dishes, the doorbell rang.
"Go see who that is, will you honey?" Aaron’s mom asked, "I’ll finish up here."
Lazily, Aaron walked out of the kitchen, over to the front door and opened it.
His mother was waiting behind it.
Aaron staggered backwards, wide-eyed. The blood drained from his face, and his hairs stood on end. He was frozen.
"Dear God, honey, what’s wrong?" his mother asked, "is that any way to greet your mother?" Aaron didn’t say a word, he merely stared at her dumbfounded. Something inside of him screamed for him to run, something else screamed for him to throw a punch. The rational part of his brain ceased to function, unable to assimilate the information that he was being presented with. He wondered, briefly if this could be a cruel joke his mother was playing on him. But no, he still heard water running and humming coming from the next room, and as if that wasn’t enough evidence, he heard his mother voice, the voice of the person he had just spent the last half hour with it, come from the kitchen.
"Who is it, Aaron?"
It was now the other mother’s turn to be terrified. She heard a voice, he own voice, come from someone that wasn’t her. She dropped her purse and glanced pleadingly at Aaron, hoping for some form of explanation, but upon realizing he didn’t have one, her eyes darted back towards the kitchen. Her throat was dry, Aaron could see it on her face.
"Aaron? Is something wrong?" the mother asked. Aaron couldn’t respond. He couldn’t even try to respond. Footsteps from the kitchen, and then both of Aaron’s moms were face to face. For a few painfully long seconds, there is nothing but silence. Then the mom in the doorway stutters, and speaks.
"Aaron…" she swallows hard, her voice is barely even a whisper, "come over her son."
"Don’t speak," the other mother said harshly, "Aaron, don’t go near that…" she looked at her mirror image, "that thing. Get away from her. Come over here, get behind me." Aaron didn’t move. "Aaron? What’s wrong?" the mother looked away from her doppelganger and towards her son. "Aaron, you don’t think…?"
"He knows his mother," said the mother in the doorway, her eyes also moved to Aaron. There was hint of desperation behind her eyes. "You can tell which one is the fake, right?" Aaron didn’t move. He didn’t say a word. He couldn’t tell the difference. He remained with his back against the wall. The mother he had just eaten dinner with took a step towards him, and he took a step away, towards the living room. The mother in the doorway suddenly became very calm and looked at the other mother.
"I don’t know what the hell you are…" she said coolly, "but I swear to God you will regret it if you take another step towards my son."
"Your son?!" the mother said indignantly, she turned towards the other mother, "YOUR SO-“
She didn’t finish the sentence. The mother in the doorway had moved faster than Aaron had ever seen her move. She grabbed a nearby vase, a hideous, mundane piece that Aaron had used as the container that he gave her flowers in last mother’s day, and smashed it into the other mother’s face. The other mother staggered backwards and fell to the ground, and shot a fiery glare at the mother standing above her. The other mother’s face contorted horribly for a brief moment before her mother’s face tore itself apart, and her jaw split outward, fanning fleshy-webs about her mouth, and revealing countless rows of razor teeth.
Aaron ran. He was in the other room before the other mother was off the ground. He heard one mother screaming in terror, and the other mother hissing violently, but neither had followed him. He panicked for a brief moment, utterly unable to determine what he should do. Quickly though, he composed himself, and darted for the kitchen, where he threw open the pantry doors and ducked into it. He wasn’t quite as small as he was when he used to play hide-and-seek with his father, but he was still able to squeeze under the lowest shelf and almost entirely conceal himself behind a bag of cat food.
He heard could still hear the two mothers struggling in the foyer, the tumbling and crashing of a violent brawl. Frequently, shrieks pierced the air and echoed through the house. They were loud, and inhuman, but he couldn’t tell which mother they came from, and he couldn’t tell if they were cries of anger or pain. Suddenly, he hears a loud swish, a wet schlick, a tumble, and a furious scuttling, then silence. Aaron couldn’t even breath. He didn’t dare breathe.
“Aaron?” one of the mother’s voice floated through the house, “Aaron, I know you’re scared of me, and I’m sorry for that… I didn’t mean to scare you. Aaron, I don’t want to hurt you…” the voice drifted from the kitchen back to the foyer. “I love you, Aaron, I would never hurt you. I love you very much, and I’ve been watching you for a long time,” it said, “and I’ve been watching your negligent mother ignore and reject you. I knew it was hurting you and… and I just thought maybe I could be a better mother to you. You would never have to know. I didn’t mean for it to happen like this, your mother wasn’t supposed to come home until you were in bed. You would never have to know…” The voice sounded far away now, on the other side of the house, but Aaron knew it was looking for him, and would come closer. Vaguely, he heard sobbing coming from the living room.
“Aaron— please— please don’t— listen to it!” his mother choked out between great heaving sobs. “I know… I know I haven’t been—” she took a deep, raspy breath, “around as much— as much as I should have been. I know I’ve ignored you, and for that I’m sorry… I’m so sorry, but please! Don’t listen to this thing! I’ll be a better mother, I swear I will baby… But this thing…” she suddenly became very quietly, “It wants to kill me, Aaron, don’t let it kill me.”
The sun had set by now, but the light still remained, and is shot crimson-orange daggers of light between the blinds, illuminating the dark house with sparse, deep-red wounds of brightness that cut their way through the rooms. Aaron pushed the door to the pantry open slowly, and crawled out. Creeping and ever-so-cautious, he made his way over to the living room, where he found both of his mothers waiting. One standing in the threshold, the other cowering against the fireplace, a deep cut across her face.
“Look,” the mother in the threshold said, shakily, pointing at the other mother, “That’s the cut that the vase caused. She’s the fake, come here Aaron,” her face was tear-streaked and her eyes glinted somberly in the dim light. Aaron hesitated.
“Don’t listen to her,” the mother on the ground said, “she can make herself appear however she wants, she gave me this cut with a fragment of the vase, then hid her own.”
“You bitch,” the other mother seethed, and she held out her hand. A jagged, red streak sliced across her palm. “This is the cut you gave me with the shard of the vase. Now we’re done talking. Now I see you bleeding, so I know I can hurt you, so you’re going to stay right there while I take my son, and I leave, and you’re going to find someone else to prey on while we both go very, very far away.” Aaron’s mother’s voice was sick, and vile. It was filled with toxic anger. She took a step towards Aaron, but again, he moved away. “Aaron, I know you’re scared honey, but if you won’t come with me, I’m going to have to force you. I’m not letting this thing take you away from me.”
“He’s too smart,” the other mother said, “if you were his real mother you’d know that. He won’t let either of us take him until he knows which one is which, and he just saw what you really are-”
“Be quiet,” Aaron whispered. Both mothers turned to look towards him. The one with the cut hand took another step, and he glared at her. “Don’t move,” he said, both beginning and issuing an order, “I need to think, please don’t move.” He wondered if there was a question he could ask them that only his real mother could answer, anything he could ask that would reveal which one was which. So far, however, the fake had know everything about him and his mother. He had spent an hour with her, and she had been indistinguishable. He hadn’t been able to tell she was a fake. He doubted there was anything he could ask that she wouldn’t know the answer to. She knew everything about her.
“Aaron, I’m sorry, but I’m going to take you out of here. I have to,” the mother with the cut on her hand said, and she move towards him. Aaron backed away. He didn’t know which one she was, but he had his suspicions. The other mother sat quietly and watched, waiting for him to make his decision. Aaron desperately reached out to find anything within reach that he could defend himself with, and as the mother closed in on him, his hand closed around the neck of a bottle of whiskey his mother had left carelessly on an end table after she had spent several hours nursing it the night before. His mother reached out for him, and Aaron smashed the bottle against the side of her head.
Aaron watched his mother drag the garbage bag to the hole they had spent the past two hours digging in their backyard. She left it at the side of the hole, panting heavily, and wiped the sweat from her brow. Jasper, who, out hunting rodents, had been oblivious to the evening’s drama, sniffed the two red, plastic jugs next to the hole, and the garbage bag. He recoiled and hissed at the latter. Aaron’s mom told him to fetch her a lighter from inside, and when he returned, she bid him to go and wait inside for a while.
The smell filled the neighborhood. Two houses down, Timothy Daniels asked his mother if they could have a cookout sometime.
That night, and many nights afterwards, Aaron and his mother slept together. Eventually, though, as with all wounds, the memories faded, and thought Aaron would still wake up with cold sweats in the middle of the night, but the actual memories of that night seemed to be as transient as the memories of a bad childhood nightmare. Always there, but blurry and faded. Aaron’s mother was true to her word, and started treating him much better. She left the bottle, and never looked back. She always made sure she was home to eat dinner with Aaron, and when she got home early, the two made dinner together. One night, about a year later, while they were washing the dishes, she mentioned to Aaron that she had gotten another raise. Aaron smiled at her. She didn’t need to tell him. He already knew which one he chose.