The big two-story mansion kind of surprised me. I was awestruck by how beautiful it was. I had not expected Anita Peuvront to be the kind of person who would indulge herself with such a monstrous extravagance. But again, I had never been good at reading people. We had spoken on the phone twice before she decided to invite me over, and not once had I suspected her of being more than just a soft-spoken woman with good intentions who genuinely wanted to help me out of the goodness of her heart. There were a few things I noticed right away when I looked out the tinted windows of the cab as we entered the neighborhood that afternoon. It was deadly quiet. Traffic was almost non-existent. Not a soul spotted wandering the streets. I inhaled deeply, stepped out into the cool breezy afternoon air and started walking cautiously towards the front door. Rich people always have this effect on me which makes me recoil in submissiveness. They intimidate me. Fortunately as soon as Mrs. Peuvront herself opened the door for me, I soon discovered that she was anything but dismissive.
“Make yourself at home, my dear!” She led me around a massive shiny grand staircase, and through a long hallway which let out into an open area where it intersected another tunnel which ended in what looked like a nursery. The walls were painted bright blue with framed pictures of Disney characters hanging on them. There were two rows of small wooden low-profile beds lining up against the walls, each with a plump blue pillow and stuffed animals on them and a tiny bookshelf in between.
“It’s only me and my son David living here now. My husband passed away five years ago and my sister returned to our hometown last year to take care of our mother. And David is barely at home. So I only have the old gardener and the cook to keep me company,” she said as we settled down at the small table next to glass shelves stacked on top of each other, crammed with more stuffed animals, dolls, and other toys which looked worn out and a little shabby upon closer look.
“Thank you, for inviting me here, Mrs. Peuvront,” I told her.
“Oh,” she waved her hand impatiently. “No need to be so formal with me. Just call me Anita. Your mother was a good friend of mine. We were really close in high school until that bimbo Tamara Wilkinson stole her boyfriend and your mother started avoiding everyone and moved away to live with your great grandmother in Dunstalk. You’re a splitting image of your mother. How is she doing?”
I sighed and shook my head slowly. Tears started to well up in my eyes again.
“Not good. The doctor said she needs to start her treatment again right away. You know, chemotherapy and all.”
“I’m so sorry.” She took my hands and squeezed them gently. “And you said she has refused to continue getting the treatment?”
I nodded and let my tears trickle down my cheeks and onto the table, struggling to stifle a sob.
“Oh dear. She has always been such a stubborn woman, your mother, hasn’t she?” A tone of slight irritation in her hoarse voice.
“I don’t know what to do.” I slid my chair further back, deeper into the corner of the room and buried my face in my hands. “And we need a lot of money for her treatment.”
“We came from a very different generation that believed that there’s no sense in seeing the doctor. Our parents had passed this unhealthy obsession with God onto us. According to them, God himself would heal every disease and affliction.” She shook her head.
“She’s all I have in this world.” My voice came out tight as I held my breath, trying to fight the urge to scream hysterically.
“I know, dear. I know,” she said gently, reaching out both hands towards me and wiping the tears off my face. “Now, wait here. I’ll be right back.”
She rose from her chair and walked out of the room, leaving me alone with my own thoughts and agony. By the time she returned, I had regained my composure and was eyeing up the toys on the shelves.
“Here …” She handed me a glass of lukewarm water and returned to her seat across from me.
“Mrs. Peuvront … I mean, Anita. What is this room?” I asked her.
“Oh it’s for the kids,” she explained, almost dismissively, pulling her thick and dark hair into a bun.
What kids, I thought to myself. She told me herself she has only one son and he’s not married. I gulped down the urge to question her more regarding the subject and tried to be a good guest. The truth could be maddening. I had long learned to not let my curiosity get the best of me. The spirit of inquiry isn’t for everyone. I wasn’t going to throw such annoyingly prying questions in her face after she had been a really nice host to me that afternoon. Boy, little did I know I was in for a treat.
“Sweetheart, I don’t have much money left on me. Rudolph, my loser of a husband, had gambled away all our money before he died. This house is all I have. Well at least for now. I am planning on selling it and moving back to my hometown to be with my sister and mother. I know I should have been honest with you about my financial situation from the beginning. But, I still want to help.” She fidgeted around with her hands, suddenly looking nervous.
“Please tell me what I should do!” I said.
“You are your mother’s youngest child and only daughter. You love her so much and will do anything to help her, yes?”
I nodded, unsure as to what she was trying to imply.
“Please understand, I just want to help. Your mother was a really good friend of mine. She always stood up for me when I was being bullied by Tamara Wilkinson and her friends in high school. I owed her this.”
She pulled out something from her sweater pocket and placed it in the middle of the table between us. I immediately cringed away, wide-eyed in horror and disgust. My mouth involuntarily let out a high-pitched shriek as I quickly pushed my chair against the wall.
In front of me was a tiny glass jar of yellowish liquid, inside of which a tiny pale and dead human fetus was suspended, its back arched and both hands and feet drawn up against its chest, as if sleeping. Its bluish skin was glistening in the afternoon sun pouring in through the window next to Anita.
“What … what is that …” My shaky voice trailed off.
“Calm down, dear. He’s already dead. Well, sort of,” she said, clearly oblivious that I was in fact simply appalled at the mere sight of a dead human fetus before my eyes.
“I know it’s dead. But why—”
“Just pull yourself together, alright?” She gave me a weak smile and put both hands around the jar while I was still busy trying not to vomit. “How I procure a dead fetus is not important right now. It’s a long story we’ll save for another day. What matters the most right now is how we can help your mother.” She cocked her head slightly to one side and peered down at the thing in the jar, as if trying to have a better look at it.
“What do you mean? How does … that thing … help my mother?” I glanced at the tiny dead human, mortified.
“I wasn’t born into a rich family, you know? Neither was my dead husband. These fetuses helped us a lot through our most difficult times for decades.”
“Fetuses?” I blurted out. “There are more?” My face contorted into a look of utter terror.
“They’re just like our own children.” She ignored me. “In a way, we loved them as if they were real human children. Our own children. We took really good care of them. But I haven’t needed their help again for many years. Especially not after mt husband passed away. I don’t think so. Besides, I’m an old woman myself now. Wealth no longer means anything when death is near.” She turned her head to look out the window. “I laid them all to rest with Rudolph when we buried him. All but this one. He’s the youngest, I suppose. You can … use him. Yes. Help your mother.”
“I don’t understand,” I said, still pressing my back as hard as possible onto my chair, trying to keep my distance from the table. “You mean, I need to sell it? There are sick people out there who collect dead babies? For what?”
“Yes there are. But it’s not what you think. Some people simply have no choice or are in desperate need of some help.” She turned to look at me, looking slightly alert this time. “Like yourself.”
“Anita, I’m not sure. I—”
“Do you want to help your mother or not, dear?” She shot me a look, her nostrils flaring, looking upset for the first time. “You’re racing against time.”
I stayed quiet for a few seconds while I dared her stare, not blinking my eyes as she peered into my soul as if trying to read my mind.
“What should I do with it?” I said finally, somewhat at a loss for words.
She smiled knowingly.
“Bring him home with you. Put the jar in a darkened room or in a cupboard, or under your bed. On a moonless night, wait until the clock strikes midnight. Then take the jar out and open it. He’ll wake up and come out to do his job. He’ll know what to do. And now the trickiest parts.”
She held the jar up high in the air and rocked it gently from side to side. The thing inside started to bob up and down as it spun around like a child jumping on a trampoline in slow motion, and then it slowly stopped to face me, as if to acknowledge my presence.
“After he leaves, go fetch the largest bowl you can find and fill it with water. Put it on the floor and give it a few drops of the special potion.” She put the jar back on the table carefully. “Now all you have to do is stay up all night and watch the bowl. He will return before dawn and slip back into the jar to sleep. But before that, you have to feed him.”
“How?” I asked, already regretting it.
“He will suckle on your finger to drink your blood. It stings a little but you’ll live. When you think he’s had enough, gently pull your finger back and tell him to go to sleep in a stern voice. He may sulk and cry, even throw a tantrum. Raise your voice if you have to, and tell him to go to sleep again. He won’t disobey his master.”
“It drinks blood?” I stammered.
She nodded. “Which is why you should never allow him to drink from anybody else but yourself. He won’t listen to anybody but you. Now, listen to me carefully! It’s very important that you do exactly what I’m about to tell you. If the water in the bowl starts to ripple, it means he is in danger. Throw the water out the window quickly or pour it down the drain, and he shall return to you.”
I sat quietly listening to her. The more I considered her offer to help, the more outrageous it sounded.
“Also …,” she continued “Cats are his weakness. They can sense and smell him and may try to attack, or even kill him. Who knows if he runs into one during his night walk. So make sure you don’t fall asleep while watching the bowl! Wait until he returns.”
“Is it a baby vampire?” I murmured under my breath to voice my concern over the nature of the fetus.
She let out a brief cackle.
“I have no idea what kind of magic makes it work, if any, but no. Not a vampire, for sure. Garlics have no effect on them and they surely don’t burst into flames when exposed to sunlight as you can see.”
“Anita, this is too weird.” I rubbed my face worriedly. “And horrifying, to be honest with you.”
She sighed and reached out a hand to me.
“Okay, no need to get so worked up. Do it for your mother. What other options do you have, dear?” A note of sadness in her voice returned.
She was right.
“Oh, and one more thing before you go. Don’t get too affectionate with him. I mean, feed him, but don’t spoil him rotten.”
I frowned at her, unable to comprehend how in the world would I ever act lovey-dovey towards a terrifying creature that feeds on my blood.
“It’s better if you set boundaries and keep things … professional with him. He does the job and you pay him for it with a few drops of your blood.”
I left Anita Peuvront’s house that afternoon feeling nervous and fidgety carrying the jar home with me, enclosed in a sturdy cardboard box. I had no idea what had got into me. It felt appalling and stupid at the same time. My mother used to say, “Winna, you’re much smarter than your two brothers combined together.” She had a point. Being the youngest sibling, I watched my brothers following closely in my alcoholic father’s footsteps. My oldest brother Anton drank himself to death after losing a substantial amount of money to a scam. He was only in his early thirties. My other brother Daniel has been sober for a few months and we have decided to put aside our petty squabbling recently due to his past drug abuse to focus on helping our mother.
Later that night as I walked to the side of my bed and bent down to put the jar under it, I absolutely didn’t feel smart at all. If my mother knew about the dead fetus, I bet she’d call a priest over to exorcise whatever demon has possessed and persuaded me to engage in such a grotesque ritual.
I waited for a few days, until one night. I woke up after a brief nap a few minutes after eight. The moon wasn’t visible in the sky. My mother had gone to bed early as she always did. I lay awake in bed fiddling with my phone on some paranormal websites until the clock struck midnight, which prompted me to jump off the bed immediately. I crouched down on the floor and reluctantly reached for the jar under the bed.
My hand lingered on the lid for a few minutes, unsure as to what I was doing, the hairs on my skin rising to attention, Anita Peuvront’s words echoing in my mind. Then before I knew it, I got to my knees, removed the lid from the jar, and put it on the floor in front me. A mild tuberose scent filled the air, which strangely put me at ease immediately. It sort of reminded me of the smell of ginger with a slight hint of oak or pine.
I frowned as I peered down at the fetus. Sweat trickled down my back. Then I turned away for just a few seconds to glance at the clock on the wall, and when my gaze returned to the jar, I gasped, surprised to find it empty. I rubbed my eyes and started to look around frantically, but then I heard a soft giggle which stunned me on the spot. It was coming from under the bed.
I scrambled backwards as a tiny and pale hand with long dirty fingers shot out from the darkness, followed by another, equally gaunt looking. I stood up right away but tripped over my own feet and slumped back hard to the floor in my hurried state. My heart rate was through the roof. Then a small and pale face appeared. I had to put a hand over my mouth to stifle a scream. There were two black gaping holes where the eyes should have been, staring up at me. Then it slithered out slowly from under the bed, and rose to its feet in front of me, completely naked. It was no taller than my knees. Its pale bluish skin was almost translucent. I could see the dark veins beneath. An egg-shaped bald head too big for the frail-looking body rested on its slouching shoulders.
I recoiled in horror and disgust at the sight of the grisly creature, pressing my back hard against the wall like the first time I had seen it resting in its jar hours before. The ghostly boy remained still like a statue for a few seconds, eyeing me in silence. Then his lipless mouth parted to reveal tiny, jagged, razor-sharp teeth as it fell open in a grimace, spittle spraying from its cracked corners, snot hanging from two long slits which were his nostrils.
He’ll know what to do, I remembered Anita telling me.
“Hello,” I chirped, unsure. My breathing had become labored and ragged. The boy got on his knees, his back arching and the thin skin between his collar bones dipping and stretching as he did so. He looked up at me in silence, as if waiting for me to say something more.
“N-nnow … go. Do your job!” I stammered.
He nodded lightly and immediately got back to his bony feet. Then right before my eyes, his skeletal figure started to dissipate as he quickly vanished into thin air with a gentle sloshing sound, leaving me befuddled and horrified, still unable to get over my shock. I rose from the floor and sat huddled on the side of my bed for a few minutes then I remembered what Anita had said about the bowl. I trotted down the hallway into the kitchen and returned with one of the large and deep glass soup bowls my mother had always used before she got sick. I filled it up with water up to the brim and poured a few drops of the yellowish liquid in the jar into it. Then I sat waiting, watching the still surface of the water in silence until my eyes started to get heavy. I yawned and lit up a cigarette to stave it off.
A few hours passed and the creature hadn’t returned. It dawned on me that Anita hadn’t told me where he was supposed to go or what he would do to help me. I almost fell asleep at some point during the night, so I wobbled into the toilet to wash my face. As I stood over the sink, suddenly I felt a jittery feeling in my back, as if being watched. There was a draft coming out of nowhere, and then I heard the now familiar soft sloshing sound coming from behind me through the partially open toilet door. I turned around quickly. He had returned.
Again, looking at his grotesque figure standing in the middle of my bedroom, my face instantly contorted into a look of horror and disgust. But he hadn’t returned empty handed. He looked back at me expectantly with those two gaping black holes, a brown bag slung over his thin shoulder.
“Oh, you’re back,” was all I could mutter, whilst panting heavily. I tried to feign excitement to see him. He heaved the bag lightly onto the floor and got on his knees again, looking up at me, waiting. I walked over to him slowly and pulled the bag towards me. As I resettled myself on the floor, I let out a yelp when I saw what was inside the bag.
“What on earth …,” I murmured as I reached into the bag and pulled out three of the stacks of cash inside. “How did you …”
I glanced at him and for the first time that night he was beaming, aware he had done his job well. My fear and disgust dissipated quickly, replaced by excitement. And all the questions that had been swirling around in my head suddenly did not seem to be bothering me as much.
“Here …” I reached out a hand to him. He looked at me confused, but I nodded my head reassuringly.
He gently took my hand and started to suckle on my thumb. It stung a little when his tiny sharp teeth penetrated my skin, and I had to clamp my teeth against the pain, trying not to wince. But he deserved it. I caressed his cold cheek with my other fingers as he drank my blood. Then when he was done, he let go of my hand and quickly retreated under the bed as the first light of dawn started pouring in through the window.
That night he brought me $800.
The following weeks went by in a blur. And after a little coaxing and persuasion, my mother finally agreed to continue her treatment. I told her I found a new high-paying job which could be done remotely and she bought it. I even got my brother a new phone for his birthday last week. They were anything but inquisitive as to this new promising development in my career. For the very first time in my life I wouldn’t have to worry about money. I had enough to pay for my bills and help my mother with her treatment. And yet, I had decided to remain modest in my bearing, given that my mother’s health was my top priority.
What unsettled me, though, was not the fact that I had to feed the boy-creature my blood each time he returned, nor was the probability that his ill-gotten gains might come at a price which I would be forced to pay later. It was the sense of misgiving that came with my quick, almost immediate acceptance of him since that moonless night I had let him out of his jar for the first time. Though the thought of him snuffling around in my room and sneaking up on me when I least expected still unnerved me, I could not help but wonder whether I had become so desperate and pessimistic that as a last resort to fix my life problems, I turned to the paranormal, something at once detestable and nonsensical that bordered on evil and or indolence, depending on how you see it.
And then came January, the coldest and cruelest month. We were told that my mother’s cancer had already spread to her lungs. It could be controlled to prolong her life, but not cured. We were too late. Right after her funeral, I shifted into self-destructive mode immediately. I spent days and nights lying awake in bed after her funeral, caught in a trance of what had transpired for the last few months. I indulged myself in a series of fancy nights out with my newfound friends, people whom I have befriended from my regular visits to nightclubs. I drank heavily until I could not hold anymore, the only thing depriving me of the ability to feel pain, albeit momentarily. I plunged myself willingly into inebriation as an escape from reality, to help me endure my pain.
One night, after another night of heavy drinking and hard partying, I went home with a pounding in my head. As I wobbled into my darkened room, my eyes involuntarily cast to the tiniest reflection of the light from the hallway on the glass jar under my bed. Then it just occurred to me that a long vacation somewhere in the tropics for a couple of weeks might be just what I needed to cope with losing my mother. I needed some more money.
I lugged myself to the floor and reached under the bed for the first time since my mother’s funeral. The jar was still there of course, with the dead fetus inside which turned into this terrifying blood-suckling creature with two big holes for eyes on a moonless night as soon as I set him free.
For the umpteenth time, I removed the lid and then put the jar in the middle of the room. Then … there he was again, glancing up at me on his knees. I wasted no time.
“I need a hundred dollars,” I told him matter-of-factly. “Can you get me a hundred dollars?”
As usual, he didn’t answer, just nodded his big round head and then he was gone. I fetched the bowl from the toilet, filled it with water, put it next to the jar and settled myself into a sitting position on the floor, leaning against the bed. I poured a few drops of the yellowish liquid into the water and waited.
I had not drunk as much as usual that night. I was sober enough to drive myself home. But as I sat there staring at the smooth surface of the water, I got caught in a trance of its nothingness and before I knew it I had already fallen asleep.
With a start, I snapped back into wakefulness. I glanced at the clock. Ten past four. Then my gaze fell on the bowl in front of me. The surface of the water was no longer still. It sloshed around as if an invisible hand were splashing about in the bowl. Suddenly gripped by fear, I quickly picked it up from the floor with both hands, crossed to the toilet and poured the water down the sink. I spun around but he was not there. Panic started to creep up on me. What have I done? Am I too late? Why hasn’t he returned?
Then a few minutes later, a dull thud snapped me out of my pacing aimlessly around the room. He landed on the floor, both knees drawn up against his chest. His small thin body was shaking uncontrollably, eyes stretched wide open, as was his mouth. His lower jaw moved up and down, as he sobbed silently. There were deep scratches and bite marks all over his body, and a long gash that ran from his forehead, down his cheek, and towards his mouth, where a big chunk of meat had been bitten off of his face.
“Oh, God!” I shrieked as I ran towards him. “No … what have I done?”
I picked him up from the floor as gently as possible and held him on my lap as his whole body convulsed weakly in pain.
“I’m so sorry … I’m so sorry.” Tears started to well up in my eyes. “Please … what can I do …”
I rose to my feet and carried him onto my bed. I watched the outline of his tiny face shaking in a rapid blur of movement. Then it dawned on me that I already knew what to do. It was the only way to save him. I picked him up again, sat on the side of the bed, and settled him on my lap. I grabbed my blouse at the neck and pulled it up over my head, and took off my bra. Then without hesitation I brought his head closer to my breasts. I winced as his teeth penetrated my skin. Blood started trickling down my chest and stomach as he latched his teeth onto my nipple.
“Go to sleep, dear. Go to sleep …” I whispered, rocking him gently in my arms as I started to lose consciousness. “I’ll take very good care of you now.”
Credit: Eoghan Ferguson
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