The Rattle

Flash fiction, inspired by personal experience.

Sharing writing is scary, for real. Warning: extreme amateur. Thanks for reading!


“I’ll be back in a minute, I promise. Daddy needs to go and speak to the nurse,” said Sammy’s father.

Sammy opened her mouth to protest, yet the words fled back down her throat. She didn’t want to be left alone, not with her mother. Not when she was making that noise.

“That okay, petal?”

His face was broken, the smile not quite lining up with the eyes. She was afraid to look at those browns flecked with gold, their glazed-over misery revealing a truth she didn’t want to understand, and so she fixed her gaze on his unshaven chin with a faint nod.

He vanished out the door a second later, taking with him the only comfort she had in the bright yet sickly world that now surrounded her.

Her mother was sleeping, it’s all she ever did these days. Varying tubes connected her to alien machines, and Sammy kept scratching at her arms, imagining those pinhead worms buried into her own skin. The worst thing, though, was the sound. It rose and fell in rhythm with her mother’s breathing, coming from her slightly open mouth. It wasn’t normal, and just to make sure this was the case, Sammy took a breath in, held it, then released it in a loud puff.

See? No grating and gurgling, as if something lived in there.

She’d heard the nurse call it a rattle. The word had wedged itself into Sammy’s mind ever since, an echo that wouldn’t fade.

Rattle.

Rattle. Like a baby rattle? Or a snake’s rattle? Slithering and slimy snakes.

She screwed her eyes shut as a memory surfaced, one that painted a picture of her mother urging her into a specific building of their local zoo, its gloomy interior and glassed enclosures summoning a discomfort that settled deep in her belly.

It’s okay, her mother had soothed. You’re safe with me.

Sammy stifled a sob that threatened to burst from her, the day at the zoo seeming like a dream when it was only some months ago. She shuffled her feet, her lids continuing to shield her from the pallid visage of the woman she had trouble recognising.

“D-do you remember Penelope?” she asked the prone form. “She has a sister now, her name’s Fiona. Daddy surprised me with her, you’d like her.”

No response.

“They have matching gowns. They bicker sometimes, but they love each other.”

She hesitated several moments, her mind a whirlwind of uncertainty. Suddenly the topic of dolls seemed stupid – they were nothing but plastic inside and out. This was real life, and she had to be a grown-up.

“Do you still love me, mummy?”

The question came without thought, and all of a sudden, the noise stopped.

Sammy’s eyes shot open. Was her mum finally going to talk to her today? She approached the bed, about to call out with excitement━she’d so many things to tell her━when she noticed the bulge of her mother’s throat, like she’d somehow swallowed a tennis ball when Sammy wasn’t looking.

“M-Mummy?”

There was movement, the swelling growing until a shape━slithering and slimy━seemed to spill from between her mother’s dry lips. All at once Sammy recognised such a monster; a serpent as black as the space under her bed, something she’d once seen behind a pane of protective glass. Its eyes that resembled the deep green of her mother’s bored into her own, its mouth opening to reveal a forked tongue. The rattle began anew with the shake of its tail.

Sammy screamed, a warmth soon flowing down her leg, yet the terror was interrupted by a concerned call.

“Sammy, what’s wrong?”

Her father was there, and soon she was encased in his arms. She didn’t have the chance to glimpse the evil thing again as she was carried from the room.

“But it’s living inside her!” she exclaimed in between cries, any and all reassurances failing to bring calm. “You have to kill it!”

Her father appeared lost as he glanced back through the doorway, his brows knitting together. “Please stop,” he pleaded in a broken tone. “I shouldn’t have left you alone, I’m so sorry, petal.”

She knew what she saw, despite not being believed by anyone.

The rattle inside was making her mummy sick.

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