Books that live forever in your heart and dreams

Monday, November 11, 2013

Come, the Dark by Rebecca Hamilton

A Rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.

Rose was a teenage girl carrying her father’s baby. A teenage girl who desperately wanted to escape. Womanhood in Salem, Massachusetts 1692 wasn’t what she had in mind.

As Rose attempts to save her newborn daughter, Anna, from both her father and the dark spirits that haunt her life, she is thrust from Georgia, 1962, into the era of Salem’s infamous witch trials, leaving her daughter hopelessly out of reach. Here, the townsfolk call her Abigail, while a strange man in the woods calls her by the name she gave herself as a child: Cordovae. She’s never shared the name with anyone.

She needs to find her way back to her daughter . . . but going back isn’t an option. Not until she faces certain death to banish the dark spirits that plague Salem. These dark spirits, if she doesn’t move them in time, will destroy civilization and trap her in this strange new place, ages away from her daughter.

Even if she can complete the task in time to return home to save her daughter, there’s still one problem: she’s falling in love with a man who can’t return with her. Achieving her goals will force her to choose between the only man who’s never betrayed her and a daughter she can’t quite remember but will never forget.

A heart-wrenching tale of a mother’s love for her daughter, this romantic paranormal fantasy underlines the depravity of both historical and modern society while capturing the essence of sacrifice and devotion.

November 11 – TWITTER CONTEST: For another chance to win a free eBook copy of THE MAKING OF NEBRASKA BROWN BY LOUISE CAIOLA: Post a tweet in the following format, filling in the blank: The best book I have read since #TheForeverGirl is _______________ #amreading #paranormal #fantasy

Rebecca Hamilton writes Paranormal Fantasy, Horror, and Literary Fiction. She lives in Florida with her husband and three kids, along with multiple writing personalities that range from morbid to literary. She enjoys dancing with her kids to television show theme songs and would love the beach if it weren't for the sand. Having a child diagnosed with autism has inspired her to illuminate the world through the eyes of characters who see things differently.
To learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, please visit the website below.
 Chapter ONE
August 1962

Nobody wants to talk about what Pa did to me.
Mama and I sway on the porch swing, drinking the sun-brewed iced tea she made with her Tetley tea bags, sweetened with cane sugar and chilled with ice from our cracked freezer tray. We talk about the weather. Well, Mama is talking about the weather. If it was up to me, there would be no talking.
During our talks, her gaze flits around, never settling on anything for too long. Definitely not my eyes and especially not my stomach. She can’t look at me without getting that pained, watery gaze. I think she must not like shutting her eyes, either, because there are dark circles under them.
Maybe the Darkness won’t let her sleep anymore.
“Nice day today,” she says.
The words mean to fill the air between us.
Time seems to stand still these days, as though time itself were as lazy as the summer days are long. I stare at the muted day and pale sky, the dirt roads and faded grass. Forever in the sun, the dusty, bluish-white paint peels away from the decaying oak boards of our porch. The muggy air, dead of a breeze, makes my skin itch.
The weather’s just another pressure in my life, suffocating me, and the swell of my uterus against my lungs isn’t helping.
Mama tucks a grayish blonde strand of hair into her sunhat. It’s not fancy. Just something she wears to hide her unkempt hair.
“Georgia summer,” she says, all breathless-like. “That’s why I like it here. I like these Georgia summers.”
I don’t like Georgia summers. They smell like animal piss and cut grass and wet concrete cooking in the sun. But it’s not just the summers. I don’t like anything about Georgia. Georgia is a black hole—the home of the Darkness. Home of the shadows that scurry in my periphery. They always stay to the sides, stay where I can’t look them in the eye. Only the edge of my vision catches the figures gliding past, but they are gone the moment I turn to look.
They are here now, too. Always. Ever since that car accident my Pa and I should have died in all those years ago. I glimpse a shadow behind the window, inside our house, peeking through the blinds. I turn my head, and there’s nothing there, nothing but the blinds moving lightly. Another shadow crouches behind Mama’s rose bushes on the other side of the porch rails. This shadow-man crowds the edges of my vision, watching me. If I look straight at him, he’ll be gone, so instead I watch in this way, from the corners of my eyes. Not afraid anymore. Only aware.
When I’m tired of being stared at, I glance over. All that’s there are Mama’s strawberry plants, about to be overcome by the vines crawling along our porch, and a few bumble bees buzzing as they mate in the air above. A praying mantis feasts on a butterfly’s cocoon attached to one of the porch spindles, just beside where an old rope loops around one of the rail posts. In the crawlspace below, animal traps snuff the light of small and innocent creatures. Sometimes I hear them scratching to get free. Scratch, scratch, scratch . . . silence.
I wonder if Mama can see my overripe stomach from the corners of her vision the same as I see the shadow men. If she looked, would it all go away?
It’s probably too late for Mama to look now.
As I sip my tea, Mama talks about the cloudless day. But it’s not really a cloudless day. If Mama would look to the horizon, she would see the coal black storm clouds rolling in, casting our sunny day in a dreariness that seems more fitting for our life.
But clouds are something nice to talk about. Better than talking about the swell of my stomach, or the way even my face and ankles have gotten plump. ‘Still a skinny little thing,’ Mrs. Kelly says, when she passes our porch on her morning rounds. ‘It's in your bones.’
She probably thinks I’m an easy girl, got knocked up six months before my eighteenth birthday in the bed of some young man’s pickup truck. No one’s going to tell her otherwise. But we can’t just ignore what’s coming. Today has been a constant reminder, my abdomen so swollen that it crushes my stomach, quelling my appetite completely. Off and on, sharp pains have been stiffening all around my midsection and cramping in my back. I take a sip of my sweet tea, even though I’m not a bit thirsty.
I twist a small emerald birthstone ring on my finger. My swelling has made it fit too snug to remove.
“When the baby—” I start, but Mama’s mouth smiles in a silencing way.
She keeps touching her face, like she always does when she’s anxious. So much so that, lately, sores have appeared along her jaw. Her lips so bitten as to scab. It’s like she’s in there, somewhere, still a mother enough to worry—but part of her mind and soul have been taken. Like her body isn’t her own anymore.
I know just how she feels.
I close my eyes, wishing myself away from here. One day it will just me and my baby, Anna, and life will be better. One day soon. God, please let it be one day soon.
“You used to play in those fields,” Mama says. She chews the inside of her cheek and nods to the hills across the street, to the waves of wheatgrass seeded with wild flowers. Closer to the road, poppy flowers grow in bright clusters that make the roadside more vibrant, even in the dull light of our cloudy day.
I don’t say anything. Mama doesn’t mind if I’m quiet. I just have to nod along as she tells her stories, as she lives in the past, talking about how Pa used to take me to the carnival and how Pa used to braid my hair and how Pa used to take me to see the horses. I think it makes her feel better.
I’m old enough to know I should be angry with her. Old enough to think she could’ve stopped him. But I’m not mad, and I don’t blame her. It was the Darkness that did this to our family. They took Pa when I was twelve. Made him different, first with his unnerving stares and discomforting touches. Then something more. The Darkness blinded Mama, or trapped her somehow. But the Darkness never took me, not directly.
Mama and I sip from our glasses and pick at last night’s crumbling cornbread until the late afternoon light reddens the porch.  A lot of days, when we’re sitting out here, she knits, but never anything useful. It’s just to keep her hands busy, like pearling together some doilies or another pair of oven mitts. She has a lot of those.
After much sitting and sipping and pointless conversation, Pa comes home. Mama's smile falls away, and she gets quiet and carries the pitcher of tea inside. I follow her, catching my balance on the doorframe as I step over the threshold into the house. The floorboards seem more uneven today, and a queasiness tumbles through me.
Shaky from heat and discomfort, I head to the bathroom to run a cold bath. The shush of the water is soothing. I lock the door and sit on the bathroom rug, leaning back against the wall. I won’t miss this place. When little Anna comes, I’ll take her away from here. I’ll need to get my own pitcher for tea, and some clothes for her, and some diapers and pins. And of course a real crib, not that box I’ve set up in my room. Then there’s those little booties and caps . . . .
At any rate, we’ll make do. I’ll give her a childhood where fairytales can happen in our backyard. All little girls like fairytales. Even me. And I know I’m having a girl, for sure, because I’m carrying high and craving sweets, and Mrs. Kelly says that’s why I look such a mess.
I’ll take Anna north to Seaside, with the cookie-cutter cottages right on the beach. Nobody will look for me in Jersey. Jersey is so . . . unromantic. The kind of place people go only because they have to, to visit family or take a job. It’s exactly what I need.
Exactly what Pa is never going to let happen.
I ran away once. Of course I did. Snuck out of the house late at night with a sack of clothes and some money I stole from Pa’s jar in the kitchen. He doesn’t keep a jar no more. I was going to get away to where he couldn’t hurt me—to where the Darkness couldn’t make him do those things to me.
My bike took me two towns over before the cops picked me up. If not for them, I would have gotten away. I begged them not to return me home; I pleaded, I told them everything. Everything—the things I could bring myself to say and the things I hoped implied what I couldn’t say.
“You never said anything before.”
“We hear this from your type all the time. Kids blaming their parents. You oughtta watch making such claims about your own Pa.”
“Learn some responsibility, young lady. Can’t go around making up stories to get out of trouble.”
That’s what the cops said. Pa had spent years painting me like a problem child to the town, and it’d worked.
I shook my head. Tried to shake the reality away. It didn’t work. Soon I was home, my Pa apologizing to the police for all the wrong things. Apologizing on my behalf, like I was the one who done wrong. Same way he’d convinced the school my missed days were from me playing hooky, as though I’d chosen to stay home. As if he weren’t keeping me there to hide the bruises.
That night, I sat awake in bed, trying to think up a new way to escape.
The next morning, Pa smashed my bike. He drug Mama in my room by her hair. Pa had never hurt Mama before, but today he stood, blocking my doorway, and pounded on her until her eyes were black and her mouth was bleeding.
Then he said it: the words that changed everything.
“If you leave, I’ll kill her.”
It wasn’t until Pa knocked me up that I decided I could live with that.
The whole world had already betrayed me. I was done helping others. Now I was going to focus on Anna and myself, no matter how selfish that may be. I don’t care what people think. What did I have to lose? My good name? Pa had already stolen that from me. The only thing left now was my humanity—and what was the point in having humanity in a world with none?
Yes, I could leave—I could risk losing my humanity—if it meant Pa would never have the chance to hurt my baby, my Anna. She was my responsibility above all else now. Nothing else mattered anymore.
How had life brought me here? I used to think everyone had a right to freedom over their own body. Now I realize that’s something you have to fight for. Because if you don’t take control over your body, someone else will. This right over my body was never free, and taking ownership back will come with a cost. Perhaps the cost will be Ma’s life.
But leaving is my only hope. My pregnancy has not leftj me well fit to travel, so here I am, waiting for Anna to come so we can escape together. I might not have the money, but I’ll find a way. I’ll hike down to the train station and go wherever. Anywhere is better than here. And now that I’m an adult, the cops can’t stop me.
I’m tossing and turning on a lumpy mattress when my water breaks. I still myself. I don’t want my water to break now. Not tonight, not while Pa is home. I’ll never be able to get away with the baby then.
The moonlight looks bluish on my walls as I lie here, staring at the paisley wallpaper that’s curling away from a fist-sized hole in the plaster. It was pretty once, cream colored and soft blues and greens and yellows and pink. The night is mostly quiet, just the hum of my fan and a rattlesnake hissing outside my window.
My eyes sting from lack of sleep, and the room feels impossibly humid. My hair is so damp from sweat that it has darkened to the color of blood against my cream pillowcase. The electric fan on my dresser does little more than push a musky odor around the room.
I kick off my threadbare quilt, and there’s another rush of warm fluid, pooling on my sheets beneath me. I want to crawl out of my own skin, away from my body, but I don’t move.
I hope I’m wrong—that my water hasn’t broken. That I’ve just pissed myself. If Anna can wait until morning, wait until Pa leaves for work, everything will be okay.
The shadow men are in a frenzy tonight. They whip past my bedroom window, crouch in the corners of my room, hover near the ceiling, outside my window, and in the hall outside my door. They scurry away each time I look, each time I try to catch them with my gaze.
Usually I ignore them, but I don’t want them here anymore than I want Pa here. I keep looking at them, hoping to make them disappear, but tonight they do not leave. They move, they move, they move, but still they remain, crowding me in darkness.
Somewhere in the distance, glass breaks, and part of me wonders if it’s them—if the Darkness can touch things now.
Maybe I’m insane, like Aunt Myrna.
For two hours, I shift between sleep and consciousness. I keep falling into that place in my mind, the place I always hide when Pa comes into my room. I couldn’t let him kill whatever soul I had left; I had to escape in some way, save some part of me, the part of me I call Cordovae. Now here, in this place I can only dream of, I spread my arms and lift my head and twirl around, untouched, unharmed. It’s my prison and my protection, where only those who know my heart can reach me.
I’m safe here.
But then the pains begin, ripping me from that world. Bringing me back to the unfortunate life I was born into. At first, I feel the way my stomach hardens, the way it squeezes around my little Anna. But as the night drifts deeper, the pain intensifies and spreads through my entire body.
I can’t quiet my breathing. I close my eyes and try to envision the cramps disappearing, but I can’t think straight. I hum the only lullaby I know, the one Pa always yells at me for humming.
“That ain’t no damn song I ever heard,” he always says.
But I know the song, and it’s as familiar as the sun rising.
The pain shakes my body, and I let out a long, low groan. I don’t want to make any noise. I try using a painting I’ve made for Anna as a focal point. I’d mixed the juice of raspberries and blueberries with glue and painted the mixture over leaves on paper and pressed sticks and small pebbles into the blue and red and purple swirls, until I’d created for us our future—a dream of a cottage in the woods where no one would ever find us.
My efforts to escape right are crushed as the pains overlap and a pressure builds. I grit my teeth, but another groan forces its way past my lips.
Footsteps rush through the hall. On flicks a light, yellow and brassy, illuminating my bare room in a way that makes it feel colder. Ma’s expression falls, and she hurries to my side and holds my hand. I wish she’d stop running her fingers through her hair. It makes me nervous.
“Rose. Oh, God, Rose. I’m sorry. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay, baby, Mama’s here now.”
I don’t respond. Pa stands in the doorway, still dressed in the dark denim pants he’d put on after his shift at the farm. Sleep-marks carve the left cheek of his face and his short black hair—past-due a haircut and just long enough to get messy—sticks up on one side. My heart skips to near racing. It’s so loud in my ears I swear Pa can hear, too.
“Evelyn,” he says coolly. “Get the rum and a glass of water.”
She keeps staring at me, swallowing, looking at least a decade older than her forty-three years. In this light, her nose looks especially crooked from all the times it’s been broken. But my Pa didn’t do that to her—no, her own Pa was to blame for that.
She swallows again, and now I’m feeling the urge to swallow, too, but my mouth and throat are too dry. It takes me a moment, but I realize why she’s still standing there. She’s wants to protect me.
Little late for that.
Pa snaps his dark gaze toward her. “Go!”
Mama startles, and I startle, too. Everyone startles when Pa yells because his eyes get bigger and darker and his face gets pinker. As Mama darts from the room, my skin gets all shivery.
I close my eyes and wish Mama was back, but when I open them, it’s still just Pa and me. I’m shaking so much it makes the pale, painted-yellow headboard of my bed rattle against the wall.
Two of the Dark Ones step closer to Pa. Step right into my direct line of sight. Dark, faceless figures.   
I gasp. I’ve never seen them so directly. But before I can react any further, another contraction crests, wracking my body with a new wave of pain.
A coolness caresses my forehead. “It’s okay, Rose. Breathe.”
The voice had come from behind me. One of the Darkness. They had never spoken to me before. Why do they care about me now, after having caused me so much pain?
Pa steps toward me, but they grab his arms, pinning him in place. He doesn’t seem to see them. No one sees them but me.
Pa’s brow furrows, and he shakes his head. “Where’s your damn Mother?” he asks. He’s been drinking. He’s always drinking when he’s home, and now my room smells like whiskey. He turns toward the open bedroom door. “Evelyn!”
Mama rushes in moments later with the rum and water. She’s also brought fresh towels, which she drops by the end of the bed.
“Is everything okay?” she asks Pa. “You’re going to help her, aren’t you? You said you’d—”
“No,” he says, his face pale. The bead of sweat above his lip trembles. “You deliver the baby.”
“Me?” She glances over to me. “I’ve never—but you—you’ve delivered some of your siblings…”
Pa came from a family of nine kids, and his Mama didn’t believe in hospitals. Not even when some of her babies caught cholera, not even after she lost a few to cot death. So Pa could do this, like Mama says, but I don’t want him to. I don’t want him to ever touch Anna.
“You created this mess,” Mama says with a forcefulness that is new and awkward.  “You deliver the baby.”
Pa turns away. Leaves. The pressure overwhelms my body. I just need to get to a hospital, but I don’t think there’s time for that now.
“I need to push, Mama.”
Mama rushes to my bedside and holds the water to my lips. She’s trembling, water splashing onto my chin, but I shake my head. My mouth’s dry, but even the idea of drinking sounds painful.
“Now,” I say. “The baby’s coming now.”
She sets the glass on the nightstand. “I can’t,” she says. She backs away, tears filling her eyes. “I—I’m sorry, Rose. I can’t.”
“You can’t leave me!”
She shakes her head and keeps backing away until she reaches the door, tears spilling down her bony cheeks. Then she turns, and all that is left of her is the clomp of her footsteps hurrying down the hall. Hurrying away.
A door shuts. A lock clicks. Mama’s shut down again, the way she always does when things are just ‘too much to take’.
I shouldn’t care. I hadn’t wanted them here. But now I’m terrified. I don’t know how to deliver a baby. The woman up the road—
Oh, Lord, help me! Another contraction.
I grit my teeth and cry to myself. The pain rips through me. I feel like I’m dying. I can’t take anymore. My body trembles through every limb, and nausea quakes in my stomach.
Then it’s gone, and I’m thinking of the woman up the road again. Fear replaces my pain. She hadn’t known how to deliver a baby either; I can’t let my Anna die like her baby did.
I should’ve gone to the hospital, taken myself if I had to. After another strong contraction passes, I try to get out of bed. Maybe there’s still enough time. I’ll take the keys to Pa’s truck from the hook by the door and—
Another contraction slams through, and I lean back into the bed. The pain is like a fire slicing me in half, and they are right on top of each other now, barely giving me a moment to breathe or even think.
I’m not going anywhere. I can’t even get back on the bed. Everything is happening too fast, and at the same time, the pain seems to stretch on for eternity. I just want to have my baby safely—have her and get her far away from this place.
“Mama!” I holler. “Please, Mama!”
Sobs echo from the other room, and I realize I’m crying, too.  It’s just me here now. Me and the Darkness and my baby, my Anna, coming into the horrifying world that doesn’t deserve her.


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