How Could a Mother Do That?

This is another excerpt from my upcoming horror novel, ‘Sweet’.  The narrator here is a reporter who has been hearing Larry’s story about the insane mother of his baby.

I just sat there, appalled at the story I’d heard Larry tell me.  I turned off my mp3 player and sat at my chair on the porch of his cottage with him, my jaw dropped and my eyes agape.  We were both silent for several minutes.  Holding Candy, his and Connie’s baby daughter, on his lap, he never broke the silence during that time, for, I imagine, he knew I’d felt the depth of the horror that he’d just shared with me.

I’ve been an investigative reporter for several years, and already I thought I’d heard it all–murders, government or corporate corruption, violent crimes of passion–but his story was just too much for me.

My husband, Jim, and I have a beautiful two-year-old son; we adore him, we dote on him, we’d do anything to make his life the happiest one possible.  When I was pregnant with him, and I felt him growing slowly in my womb, all I could feel was love and joyful expectation for the little one who was coming soon.  I’d bristle with excitement every time I felt him move inside me.  The miracle of life was something–and still is something–that’s never ceased to surprise me with delight.

With such a mother’s understanding, I now think of Connie–or Wilma Sweeney, rather, since that’s her real name–and I find myself totally incapable of understanding how she could have regarded babies, especially her own, as food.  How could a mother have such unnatural feelings for her own flesh and blood?  If I were to entertain such monstrous thoughts about my son, I’d feel more than nauseated: I’d feel sick all over, my body would ache, I’d get dizzy and lightheaded, and I’d probably fall down.

How could Connie have done what she did, what she’d planned to do with little Candy, that beautiful baby girl of hers and Larry’s?  Sure, Connie was horribly abused as a child: unloved by her own mother and repeatedly raped by her stepfather for years.  Her near starvation during her snow-in in that cabin in BC surely brought her to the edge.  But were all of those ordeals enough to make her want to practice cannibalism regularly, on her own babies?  I can’t believe that, nor can even Larry, and he’s dealt with lots of psychotics before.

Connie claimed that her cannibalistic urges could have been genetically influenced.  Apart from her mother saying she’d wanted to eat Connie as a baby, she said that whenever she, as a child, had cut her finger, or some other body part, her mother would suck the wounds and drink the blood.  If little Connie’s skin had peeled off, her mom would eat it eagerly.  Was her madness hereditary?  Of did seeing her mother eat flesh and drink blood make cannibalism seem acceptable to Connie when she was little?

All I can think is that if I’d gone through Connie’s childhood traumas, instead of carrying on those terrible traditions with my own kids, I’d be determined to do the opposite of what she’d done: I’d be the most loving mother I can possibly be, I’d hug and kiss my boy, I’d be patient when he’s difficult, and I’d intervene as soon as I saw any evidence of sexual predation on him.  And if I would do such things, could do such things even after suffering as badly as Connie–or Wilma–had, I still cannot see how she could have done what she’d done.

Finally, the silence ended.  “So, anyway, that’s the story,” Larry said, now holding sleeping little Candy more peacefully in his lap.  Obviously, relating those horrors to me had been cathartic for him; I could see it on his face.  “Do you have any more questions?”

“Only the obvious one,” I said, turning on the mp3 player again.  “With all your psychiatric knowledge, and with a knowledge of her life story, can you give me at least a theory as to how Connie could have done what she did?  How could a mother want to eat her own–and your–baby?”

He paused, then sighed.  “I don’t know.  I still don’t know.  What I do know is this: Candy will never be like her mother.  I, as her father, will make sure of that.”

I turned off the mp3 player.  He reached over on the table beside his chair to get his wine glass, but he knocked it over, spilling the red wine and breaking the glass.

“Oh, shit,” he said, spastically reacting and cutting his finger on a piece of broken glass.  “Oww!”  His fidgeting woke Candy up, and she began crying there on his lap.  He sucked on his finger a moment, then put his hand on Candy’s head, the cut finger a millimetre from her mouth, as he looked for a nearby cloth that he could use to wipe up the spilt wine.

As he was preoccupied with looking, he hadn’t noticed what I had: blood was coming out of that cut, mixed with a drop of red wine on the finger.  Candy’s tongue touched the swirled red.  She was tasting it, and smiling.

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