The Bearded Man
By Lisa McCourt Hollar
Tabitha felt hot. She was sweating. Tossing uncomfortably in her bed, she kicked the heavy comforter off her body, knocking it onto the floor. God, she hated summer. “But it’s not summer,” a voice whispered in her head. It’s winter, it’s not supposed to be hot.”
Tabitha lay still a moment, feeling the sweat pour off her body. Someone must have turned up the heat? Tabitha struggled through the fog in her mind to sit up. Looking around her room, Tabitha’s heart skipped. She didn’t know where she was, but this wasn’t her room. Glass walls surrounded her and all around the walls were flames, leaping up, trying to reach her.
Standing, Tabitha screamed, her bare feet feeling the heat from the floor. She ran for the door, stopping short when a bearded man appeared on the other side, his reflection dancing in the glass window, laughing at her. His beard was sharp and pointed and he sported a handlebar mustache that reminded her of images of the devil, although his face wasn’t red, but pale. The sound of his laughter reached her ears.
“What do you want,” Tabitha screamed. Behind him more images appeared, babies in a nursery and her heart stopped. These were her babies! “What do you want,” she screamed again.
“Your babies,” he said, mocking her with a smile while behind him the babies cried, huge tears falling from their eyes. Tabitha screamed and pounded on the door which was locked.
“You can’t have them,” she screamed, “they are mine!”
He just laughed, flashing his teeth at her, his beard shaking with mirth. Around her the flames danced, rising and twirling around, jumping to the frenzied beat of her heart. Tabitha felt as though she was losing her mind and she slammed her fists against the glass over and over, screaming at the man that he couldn’t have her children.
“They’re my babies!” Tabitha smashed her fists against the glass one more time and the wall shattered, glass raining down on her whilst the flames shot up, welcoming their entrance into the room. Tabitha covered her face, feeling the scorching heat.
Tabitha felt a cool breeze and she uncovered her face. The fire was no longer there, dancing around her. She was no longer in the glass room. Instead she was in an attic next to an open window. That is where the breeze was coming from. Tabitha turned, trying to find her way out. She needed to find her babies. Somewhere she could hear the man laughing, but the sound of it was fading, growing distant.
Tabitha jumped, feeling a hand brush against her shoulder. Turning, she smiled, greeting her grandmother. She hadn’t seen her for years, not since she’d passed…Tabitha frowned, how could this be.
“Grandma, how can you be here?”
“Shush,” her grandmother said, taking her hand. “You are safe.”
“But the man with the beard, he wants to hurt me. He wants my babies!”
“He can’t hurt you,” her grandmother said, hugging her. “He can never hurt you.”
“But the fire,” Tabitha protested, “he has them! I have to save them!”
Her Grandmother laughed, turning Tabitha towards the window, “You are safe. Come child, let’s leave and you will see.”
Then they were flying, soaring through the window. Tabitha couldn’t believe it. Clinging to her grandmother’s hand she gasped in amazement at all that she saw. They flew high, pushing through the clouds and Tabitha wanted to cry, she was so happy. But then she remembered the man with the beard and his laughter. His voice came to her, mocking her, his words crashing against the side of her head. “They are mine now.”
“My babies,” she screamed, losing her grip on her Grandmother’s hand. She began to fall and she heard her Grandmother’s words echoing behind her, “He cannot hurt you! But you have to believe it for it to be true! He cannot hurt you!”
Then Tabitha landed, her body jerking as it hit her bed. Her eyes flew open. She was in her own room, an annoying screech blaring in her ear. Slapping the alarm, Tabitha rolled over and pulled the heavy blanket over her head, trying to block out the sun. After a few moments she pulled the comforter back and stared out the window, trying to remember her Grandmother’s words. “He cannot hurt you! But you have to believe for it to be true!” Tabitha stared out the window, the dream beginning to fade. ‘What was that all about? She didn’t even have any children.’
“Weird,” Tabitha said, climbing out of bed and beginning to get ready for the day. She had an appointment with the doctor. She had been under the weather lately.
“Put this on,” the nurse instructed Tabitha, handing her the standard hospital gown. “Put it on backwards with the opening in the front. The doctor will be in shortly.”
Tabitha did as she was instructed. She was a little nervous. She’d never met this doctor before. Her doctor was on vacation and Dr. Stanton was a new associate of his. She listened absently to the music that was piped into the room. It wasn’t too bad, something from the 80’s. There was a knock on the door and then it opened.
“Hello Tabitha, I’m Dr. Stanton.”
Tabitha’s mouth went dry. She tried to speak, but she couldn’t find the words as she stared at the doctor who was smiling at her, his white teeth flashing in the light. He was handsome, his beard trimmed to a point and a small handlebar mustache.
“I have some test results here,” he said, ignoring her silence. “I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know it’s nothing serious. You’ll be feeling better in about 6 months.” He smiled at her and Tabitha felt bile rising in her throat, “You’re pregnant.”
Tabitha woke up, covered in sweat, the echo of a man’s laugh beginning to fade from the room. Inside her she felt something squirm.
Copyright© 2011 Lisa McCourt Hollar. All rights reserved