Whatever Baby Wants
A needle dropped in the hallway. A cushion of moss caught it before it could wake the babies. When the babies woke up, they were hungry. The babies needed to be fed, and what they like to eat were the walls. And floors. Carpet and draperies, stairs and terra cotta roof tiles.
The babies liked it all.
If they were asleep though, then they weren’t hungry. The babies liked quiet. It was fortunate then that the house had been built in the middle of vast acres of rolling farmland.
In the bright years before the babies came, Hilltop house had stood alone at the crest of a perfectly formed small hill; a white pebble road wound up to a broad landing where carriages parked and disgorged bright cargoes of guests. Back then, the house basked gloriously under a good warm sun, thinking nothing.
As time went on the parties trickled down to a barely perceptible occasional pump of life; rampant rumors of haunting kept many away from Hilltop House. The rare visitor would leave almost as soon as they arrived, throwing pebbles from spinning tires in their haste. The Basement saw them go, felt the dark future underneath its stone foundation.
The Basement had known for a long time that the babies were coming. They were coming up through the grit and cobble of the hill. The Basement could feel them pricking at its belly with their burning wish to emerge from their ritual entombment deep underhill. The babies were hungry, hungry for ‘up.’
So, as a young forest grew up around Hilltop, the babies nibbled. As the oaks and hickories dropped countless years of seeds and nuts around now-empty Shadowlands, the babies sucked. As the draperies rotted on their rods, the babies plucked and nuzzled their way into the house, tearing tiny bits of it from everywhere, an agony of slow destruction. Hundreds of years of terrible slow assault had left Hilltop ghostly, nearly invisible.
It was important to keep them inside, for Hilltop had learned the babies were hungry for more than stone and mortar. Once they’d escaped the house, found ‘up,’ they'd continue into the woods and world, feeding their dark need to conquer. Like all babies, though, they needed to sleep. Hilltop, therefore, had learned to lullabye its babies by sighing through the thousands of holes in its walls and crooning down crumbling chimneys. It learned to keep quiet once they were asleep, muffling floors ans walls with moss. leaves, and cobwebs. The babies always woke up though, chewing anew at their angry prison.
In this way a thousand years of quiet fighting passed, until a migrating bluebird hopped on the conservatory roof, yanked its small clawed foot back out through the hole it had unwittingly stomped, and exploded in a thousand and one years of the babies’ unfettered hunger.
As they screamed free, Hilltop sagged, and waited for the end of the world.
For the Wordsmiths.