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Baby Talk

07 May
Baby Talk
     “Hey Chazz, here’s another load of dead babies. Where do you want them?”
     Charlie Kane looked up from his magazine and pointed toward a clear spot on his desk. “Just drop them here, Max. I’ll get to them tomorrow, maybe.”
     The man placed the small stack of CDs on the desk, shaking his head as he said, “How in the hell did you get such a cushy job, Chazz? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you busy, and you’re not even in your office half the week. I know the hospital had no choice after Big Al gave the order to hire you, but who are you to him? I—” The man stopped, abruptly. Apparently, it had just occurred to him that he might be prying into matters best left alone. He extended his hands, palms outward waving them in negation, as he said, “If you don’t mind saying, of course. I didn’t mean to pry.”
     For a moment he hesitated. But it wasn’t exactly a secret that the godfather of the local crime family had ordered the hospital to hire him, so he shrugged and said, “I’m Big Al’s son-in law, or was, till Frank Calasi and his men shot Susan two years ago.” He pasted on a sad face, then, and didn’t mention the fact that he was the one who pulled the trigger for Calasi. That marriage was a year that felt like ten, and best forgotten. And, his time in hell hadn’t even gotten him a decent job within the family.
     “Jeeze, that’s tough.” Max said. “But, why plant you here? Why not… well, give you something more exciting than this?” He waved a hand to indicate the modest space that comprised Charlie’s office.
     Why indeed? Certainly, he wasn’t going to tell Max that Al thought him a screw-up, and that the job was from a sense of family obligation, only. Did Al suspect him of complicity in Sue’s death? Perhaps, but since Al hated her nearly as much as he had, it probably didn’t matter.
     To Max, he said only, “It’s temporary.”
     The man left, and he went back to his magazine. But that was boring, as would be going home, so he decided to finish with the babies, to kill the evening, then take tomorrow off and spend the day getting the boat ready to go into the water.
     He moved the stack of DVDS closer, placed a tablet in a comfortable position for note taking, and slipped the first dead baby into the computer.
     Two hours later he frowned and hit the pause button. There was something odd about the video. Like the rest it was a film made by a bedside camera, as part of the study of sudden infant death syndrome. And like the others, it showed an apparently healthy baby, who simply stopped breathing and died. This baby, though, like one or two of the others, had been playing—gurgling and learning to make the sounds that would, eventually become speech. And then it died.
     But there was something odd about this baby. He played the video again, and then again. There was nothing obvious, but he had the impression of a slight flattening of the baby’s features, and movement of the baby’s head backward on the mattress, deflecting the bedding by just a fraction, as though a giant invisible hand was being used to block her nose and mouth. Certainly, the baby’s frantic movements as death claimed her seemed to support that.
     Three times more he played the recording. The average person would have missed it, but after watching as many deaths as had he, he had a feel for it that the average viewer wouldn’t have. Did the babies on the other DVDs display the same thing? It was hard to tell, because the cameras weren’t the best quality, and the pictures had been taken in near darkness, but at least one of the others did, too.
     He checked his notes, then pulled images from the archives, of other babies who had been awake and active when they died.
     And there it was. On several of the recordings, invisible unless you were looking for it, something was blocking the baby’s breathing. Those babies were being murdered. But how? And how could he make the discovery work for him? Were he able to learn the trick for himself, he could become the highest paid hit man in history. To know how to kill without leaving a trace? That would be a skill to pray for.
     For the next fifteen minutes, he searched. Then it hit him. There was a common element: the baby’s voice. Although they were babbling and making random sounds, at some point, within the moments leading to their death, they had all uttered the same string of nonsense syllables, “ba-ba-ba-kee,” as part of their play.
     He studied the transliteration of those words, glowing on his computer screen. “Ba-ba-ba-kee? What in the hell can that mean?” Frustrated, he spread his hands “Who the hell would—”
     “It means kill me.”
     “What?” Charlie spun his chair around. But, the office door was closed and there was no one there. Still, the voice had been real. There was no doubt of that. At least he thought there wasn’t. It wasn’t the kind of voice you forgot. It was deep, and gravely, and sounded like the kind of voice the earth would have, were it capable of speech.
     Reluctantly he turned back to the desk, shaking his head and wondering why his imagination was working overtime.
     “And since you asked me to kill you so nicely…” A wave of heat swept over him from behind, and the texture of the air in the room changed. Someone, or some thing, was in the room with him.
     Every hair on his body attempted to stand on end, as he whirled in his chair to face a vision right out of nightmare. How it got there he had no idea, because there was no way in hell that it could have come through the office door. It was far too big for that. Something, was crammed into his office, its bulk occupying virtually all the space he and his desk were not. There was no doubt that it was real, and solid, though. The stench of its body had a solidity of its own, bringing tears that he suspected were as much for his coming fate as for the assault on his sinus cavities.
     Slowly, he sorted out a jumble of visual impressions. Eyes came first. They were the size of basketballs, and patterned in shades of black, other than for fire-red lightening jags of what he guessed were veins. There were teeth, of course… rows and rows of them. The less he thought about them, the better. The fact that they were set in a mouth that was grinning broadly was not at all reassuring, especially given what the beast had just said.
     The body came next, though that was hard to think of in terms more definitive than, “Oh my God!” both because it was so overwhelmingly close, so huge, and so hot that he wondered if his clothing might soon catch fire.
      Holy shit, I’m sitting next to a special effect! That he would die seemed assured, but the beast was so far outside both possibility and reason that it was too much to accept. So much so, that his mind began to function again, doing what it did best, looking for an angle.
     “Hang on a minute,” he said, his mind searching for possibilities. “If you’re going to kill me, at least let me know who’s doing the job, so I can be properly appreciative.”
     Black irises focused on him from a scant two feet away, giving the beast a cross-eyed look. What he took to be its forehead creased in response to his words.
     “You’re not…frightened?” It wasn’t easy to tell if the words of a talking cement mixer carried tones of curiosity, but the fact that he wasn’t already dead brought a flicker of hope. If he could convince Big Al that he was interested in his sister—given the way she looked—perhaps he could work with this guy. The trick was to keep him talking.
     “Frightened? Sure. But I’m impressed, too. Those are pretty spectacular muscles.” At least he thought the various bulges under its pebbly skin might be muscles.
     “Really? Thank you. I work out.” The beast shifted a bit, and took a breath that depleted most of the air in the room, then flexed. It was impressive. But then it exhaled, and he had to close his eyes and focus on remaining in control of his digestive system.
     “So, who are you, and what brings you to my office?” he finally said, regaining control and opening his eyes again. The view hadn’t improved.
     “You can call me Nacky, and I’m here because you called me, and gave me permission to kill you. I really appreciate that.”
     “I don’t think—” Then it hit him and he pointed to the baby’s image on the monitor. That baby… You killed it simply because it babbled ‘Kill me,” in your language? Are you some sort of a pervert?” It occurred that he hadn’t been terribly diplomatic, but what was said was said.
     The beast shrugged. “Those are the rules. It was a legal kill.” Its tone on the last few words sounded a bit defensive.
     “But… you eat babies?
     “In a manner of speaking.” A finger the thickness of an elephant’s trunk pointed in Charlie’s direction “I suppose you don’t eat calves liver. Or lamb chops?”
     “I… Well, sure, but those are animals, not people.”
     The beast was smiling again, as it said, “Take my word for it. You’re not people. You’re barely above a monkey in intelligence. In any case, you have your question answered, so now—”
     Think Chazz, think! Nothing came so he went with desperation.
     “Wait! Won’t you at least explain what in the hell is going on? You don’t physically eat the babies, and you sounded like you wanted me to be scared when you kill me. Maybe… maybe if you explain, that will scare the crap out of me and make me taste better?”
     Nacky cocked his head in what seemed interest, so Charlie added, “Unless you have to be somewhere?”
     “No. I have time.” The creature settled himself, and leaned toward Charlie, something that inspired no confidence, as it said, “My people kind of screwed up.”
     “Screwed up?”
     “Yeah. Once we were geeks like your people, though we evolved from carnivores not monkeys. So, hunting is pretty big in our culture.” That squared not at all with his claim that he didn’t actually eat the prey, nor that the prey was composed of helpless infants. This whole thing made no sense.
     “I know what you’re thinking,” Nacky said, shaking his head. “But hang on for a minute, because it comes together…
     “Anyway, our science types gave us a way to live forever, move from place to place by just thinking about it, and to improve our bodies to what you see here.” He pointed toward his torso. “So naturally, we redesigned the chassis to make us even better hunters, and to scare the living shit out of our prey. And since we no longer needed to actually eat what we kill, they also fixed it so we could taste the lives of our prey, instead of their flesh.”
     “And?”
     “And it’s better. Plus, with nothing coming through the pipes you don’t need toilet paper no more.
     “No, I mean what happened then.”
     “Oh… well it turned out to be boring. Nothing can outrun us. Nothing can kill us. Nothing even presents a threat. So even when we moved off our own world and went exploring, we were hunters with nothing worth hunting. Worse yet, we were a threat to other races, and that pissed them off enough to do something about it.”
     Charlie rubbed his lips in thought, as his mind sought an angle. There seemed to be none, so to keep the monster talking, he said, “So… you went to war?”
     “We didn’t get the chance. Hunters like us tend to be solitary, and focused on the chase. The others, they got together to work against us. They didn’t like us wandering all over their worlds and killing their people.”
     “I can imagine.”
     “Yeah, but they couldn’t kill us, so they fixed things so we couldn’t kill them either. Then they made life even more boring.”
     “How?”
     “By fixing it so we couldn’t hunt them anymore—or anyone, unless we had their okay.”
     Charlie blinked in thought. “So, babies saying ‘Kill me’ are, what…a loophole?”
     “You got it. It’s not much, but it is a loophole, and makes this place a popular vacation spot.”
     “But… babies. Where’s the sport—”
     “Where’s the sport in any of it? I told you. We screwed up, and now we’re stuck with it. Nothing can beat us and nothing can outrun us.” He shrugged, before adding, “Adults are a lot better tasting, but the rules are the rules.” He scratched. “And you said the words, kiddo, so… It’s my turn in the rotation, which means I get an honest to God adult to taste.” He looked apologetic, and shrugged, as he added, “Normally, I’d give you a running start, to make you feel like you have a chance, but with me blocking the door…
     The beast leaned toward him, but he held up his hands in a wait gesture.
     “So that’s it? You guys are reduced to killing kids? The men and women from your world come here to kill children? That’s absolutely pathet—”
     “Listen, you take what you can get. You know? But no, we don’t all eat babies. The women have a thing about that—even no-brain kids like those on your world. For them, it’s fires.”
     “Fires.” Not a word of this made sense. The creature currently bringing the room to furnace temperature was so powerful it was unkillible. It could travel through space, apparently by simply willing it. It somehow knew when a child’s babbling simulated its language, from an unknown distance away. And, their females liked to watch fire victims die—or maybe they liked to personally toast them. That wasn’t clear.
     He, and the others like him, weren’t examples of the best their race had to offer. They couldn’t be. The fool who was currently threatening him was more like an intergalactic idiot, with no more actual brainpower than Big Al’s bodyguards. But, that wasn’t something to think about yet, because Nacky was talking again.
     “Yeah, they like fires. But don’t knock it. Taking lives via fire has the victim in the right frame of mind for the very best feeding. And that turns the ladies on, thank you very much. If you’ve never gotten some loving from a flame-bathed female you haven’t gotten any at all.”
     There wasn’t room for Nacky to stand, but he came as upright as space permitted, as he said, “But talk isn’t entertaining, and you’ve had your answer, so let’s get started with—”
     “Suppose…suppose I could supply you with all the victims you want—adult victims.”
     Nacky settled on his haunches, blinking. “What do you mean, all I want?”
     “Just that. Suppose I got lots of people to ask you to kill them? Suppose I even got people to shout that they wanted to be burned alive? Would a female be grateful to you for pointing to that? I mean—”
     “Go on.”
     “Here’s the thing.” He had a handle on the angle, at last, and it was beautiful. “I have a friend, and he often has people who need to be… removed. So suppose I was to send one of those people a letter, advertising a new club—an exclusive club. And suppose this club has a secret password. You figure the guy will practice it a few times before he goes to the club?”
     “… Clever. And the fires?” There was definitely interest in the beast’s voice.
     “Well… Suppose instead of asking to be killed, the guy shouts, ‘Hey, please burn me up,’ in your language? You figure a girl would be grateful for a favor like that?” Big Al was going to pay well for untraceable deaths. In fact, why limit the action to only the city, or even the country? Why not think in terms of politics?
     Still, there was one thing that nagged, so he extended a hand as he said, “But there is one thing.”
     “Mmm?” A frown replaced Nacky’s smile.
     “Well… It’s about the babies. You gotta stop that shit. It’s just not right.”
     “Done… as long as you can provide the product.”
     Relaxing and leaning back in his chair, Charlie waved a hand in Nacky’s direction.
     “Call me Chazz… I think maybe you and I can do business. In fact, I see this as the start of a positively beautiful friendship.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Author’s Note:
     This story hung in my mind, as a tickle, for years. I even wrote the opening several times, only to put it aside because the tone remained elusive—and because who wants to publish a story in which children are harmed? But one day, there it was, ready to be typed and sent out. And as I thought, who wants to publish a story in which children are harmed? =sigh=
     But it is a good story, and if I didn’t type it out it would flicker around the dark corners of my mind forever.
     I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, and got here from Facebook, pressing the “Share” button at the page bottom will let others know the story is here, and give them the chance to read it, as well.
     And if my little story pleased you, I’m glad. There are other stories posted, as well. You and others like you are the reason I write. If it did bring a moment of reading pleasure, take a moment to rate it. Feedback matters to me. And if you’re in the mood for something a bit longer. make a stop to look at my novels, and read the excerpts to see if they please, as well.
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Posted by on May 7, 2011 in Short Story

 

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