An Empty Head
Sophie L Macdonald
Small whispers creep across the room, and I curl my fingers around the handle of the knife in my pocket. Would I use it?
“Matthew,” I try, “you’re a little boy. You like soccer. You like Weet-bix. We can go to the park.”
The whispers get louder, and something moves in front of me. I stumble back. There is a pause, then a shove that takes my breath away, and I am tumbling down the stairs, knife flying out of my hand and racing me to the bottom.
“Lisa!” I hear Dr Pleasance scream, but it seems far away.
Everything is black for a second, and then pain explodes like fireworks in my head. I scream. I can’t move.
There are footsteps, and a blast of air as the front door is thrust open.
“I’ve got him!” Dr Pleasance is shouting over and over.
“Don’t kill him!” I scream. I try to sit up, and the pain makes red stars appear in the darkness.
“I have to, Lisa,” she says.
The front door slams, a car engine starts up, and there is silence. Where is she taking him?
Something cold presses at my throat, and I hold my breath. I can smell it. The milky sour smell of Ninny. I let out a low moan. Something touches my forehead, pressing my head to the floor.
“I can’t let you hurt any more babies.” It’s Matthew’s voice I hear.
“Matthew!” My eyes strain to confirm that I am talking to Matthew and not Ninny. Is he changing already? Is he becoming like Ninny?
A flash of orange light blinds me and we hear a crash and then an explosion from outside.
Matthew clutches his head and screams.
“Ninny!” He runs outside, and I see his silhouette at the door. He is still a little boy. My little boy. He runs towards the fire, but then stops.
“It’s too hot!” he screams. “I didn’t save him!”
He kneels next to me, and puts the knife back against my throat.
“Ninny’s not talking to me,” he says, the reflected fire burning like a supernova in his eyes. “I can’t hear him.”
There are sirens in the distance. I can’t take my eyes off Matthew. Worlds are dying within his eyes.
“What happened, Matty?” I swallow, feeling the blade bite into my skin.
“There’s a car on fire.” His hand is shaking. “I think that lady took Ninny.”
“You don’t have to do what Ninny says,” I tell him. “You don’t have to be like him.”
“He says you killed my brother. He says you tried to kill me. He says you don’t want me.”
“I do want you,” I say. The words fall from my mouth like stones. “They just killed the wrong baby.”
“And I didn’t want to.” I am crying now, six years worth of tears. “I didn’t want to, but they told me you were sick, and that he would die too if we didn’t do it, but they killed the wrong one. And then you were born, and you weren’t sick like they said. You were just—” I stop. “You.”
Matthew drops the knife.
“My head is empty,” he says. “There’s no one in there.”
“You are still there,” I say. “You are. You are not just him.”
“I’m nobody.” Matthew stands up and walks away.
I hear the tyres on the gravel driveway. Emergency services are here to deal with the car, with Matthew, and with me too when they find me. I already know Dr Pleasance is dead.
“Someone get that kid away from the car,” a man shouts. “What’s he picking up? Don’t let him touch anything!”
My heart stops, and I scream for Matthew. I hear him answer the man.
“It’s mine. I have to bury it.”
I give a sob of relief, and then they come for me. I close my eyes.