The New Orleans Horror Story – By Dennis Higgins
She was beside herself with grief at the loss of her only child. I reckon she was a good mom. I never did take much to the child though, too whiny, always needin’ something from me.
As I strike a match to light the lamp I’m holding, my thoughts go to the boy. I had tried hard to be a good nanny. I even attempted to give in to his tantrums, but it was so difficult sometime. I know it wasn’t entirely his fault, being brought up with a want for nothing the way he was. Must be nice having all that money his granddaddy made selling munitions to both the Yanks and our boys in gray. Traitor is what I say. They named the child after him, Albert Ashford the third.
As I creep towards the coffin containing the body of this nearly four year-old boy, I am grateful neither the Ashford’s nor their doctor questioned that bottle of tonic they found near his still, little body. It was my newly opened bottle of nerve tonic. I never thought it would harm their precious child. I only wanted to calm him down a bit since he was havin’ one of his temper fits over a broken wooden toy. I lied and told the Mrs. that I had taken it myself that day, so she gave it back to me.
The shadows in the room dance with the flicker of the oil lamp as I creep closer to the poor little thing. I try to walk slowly so the floor boards don’t creak too much. I don’t much like being around the dead. Makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. But I feel I must pay my last respects now, since later I will be busy servin’ folks.
I creep closer and closer and can just make out the silk lining of the coffin’s interior. I am almost there when a faint noise startles me. I stop dead in my tracks. It sounded like a whisper coming from somewhere in the room. I look, but my eyes can only make out the fine marble sculptures on the fireplace. The room is still, maybe too still. I am about to take another step when I hear it more clearly this time.
“Oh, poor little Albert, what have I done to you?” I cross myself but somehow feel that God won’t be forgivin’ me for the transgression against this little one. I’d given him a gulp of my nerve tonic before. Maybe I gave his little body too much this time.
His face is so sweet and I get closer to give him a kiss when… his eyes pop open. I jump back and let out a little scream, but when I again look down at the boy, he looks to be at peace. It must certainly be my imagination playin’ tricks in the dim lamp light.
“Come on Claire,” I say to myself. “You know dead little boys can’t come back to life. Get a grip on yourself, old girl.”
I steady myself and the room becomes a dead quiet. Suddenly my lamp goes out for no reason and I am standing in total blackness. My hand fumbles past the bottle of tonic in my apron as I feel for the matches. Putting the glass from the lamp down on the table next to the casket, I strike the match. In the dim light from the little wooden stick in my hand, I see the boy. His head is turned towards me, staring at me. His eyes are wide and full of anger, like a mad dog ready to pounce. The match starts to burn my finger and I let it drop to the floor. I thrust my hand into my apron pocket and grab for the bottle of tonic. I need to calm my nerves. I open it and take a large gulp. It sears like acid going down my throat.
Poison, the tonic was poison. I didn’t know. I collapse.