Ellen hoped against hope as the nursery door creaked open and she inched her way inside. She told herself that, if she believed---really believed---the crib at the far side of the room would not be cold and empty. It was what she clung to. She needed it to be so. It all had to have been some horrible dream from which she’d finally awoken, or was about to.

Please, dear God, please….

Softly, she crept toward the crib. Just the sight of it filled her with a kind of nostalgic joy. She had lain in it as a baby, and so it was only right that it should pass to her son.

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Her dear sweet son. The boy had been out in the world for only two and a half months, and already she had a sense of him. He was lively, communicative, and never allowed his presence to go unnoticed. An early attention-seeker, Ellen mused to herself. I will have to watch him closely as he gets older.

As much as she loved her baby boy, the thought of his less desirable habits made her shudder. Sleep, for instance, had been scarce these few months. At times, she wondered if she would ever rest again.

As Ellen approached the crib, however, none of that mattered. Her beautiful little sun became her only thought. How sweet it would be to peer in and watch him sleep….

Empty. The blanket that lay within was smooth and untouched. Not so much as a thumb print sullied its velvet. A teddy bear sat alone and unloved in the corner. Even the impression in the mattress that had once been left by a little baby body had faded by now.

The boy was still gone, and the memories were still true.

Hot tears ran freely down Ellen’s face. She dropped to her knees as she remembered every brutal detail. “Crib death,” they called it. She’d let them call it that. Better they think her unlucky than the monster she knew she was. Death had come to her little boy, but the reason was not mysterious to her. It was exhaustion that took him. Not his, but her own. Exhaustion and desperation for just one moment of quiet.

Now the quiet was deafening. It mixed with her sobs and pounded in her ears. “I’m sorry, Denny,” she mumbled against her palms. “I’m so sorry.”

That was when she heard it. It was so soft at first that she refused to believe it, but as her weeping subsided into curiosity, the sound grew louder. Gurgling. The idle babbling of an infant. It had to be. Her ears were those of a mother, and she was sure she knew that sound.

But where was it coming from? In front of her? Every muscle in her body shook when she realized the sounds seemed to be coming from beneath the crib.

A switch flipped inside of her. “Denny?!” she shouted with wild hope. “Denny, Mama’s coming!”

She dove onto her stomach and in seconds had her head beneath the crib, searching the darkness for a sign of movement. None would be found, except from above her.

A click set the crib’s drop side in motion. Ellen never had time to react as the infant bed-turned-guillotine smashed down onto the back of her neck.

There, Ellen twitched her last, unable to move or breathe. With her consciousness dimming, the irony managed to find its way in. The final image to flash across her mind was that of her own hand, squeezed tightly over her baby’s face.

Written by Jdeschene
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