We really should’ve known that there was something up with this child when we received a call from the social worker. Daphne answered the phone at around ten PM, a few minutes later I was shaken awake and told that we had to get ready- there was a kid who needed a place to stay. Immediately.
My wife and I are foster parents, have been for over fifteen years. We’ve kept our eyes peeled for ‘the child’, but they never seemed right. We sent them on when they found their forever home, and it was sad, but we were okay with the fact they’d be loved and always welcome to come visit.
The first thing that was really seemed off was the urgency- in all our time fostering we’d never been told we’d be receiving a child within hours. The lack of explanation was disconcerting but accepted. I thought we would be dealing with a child quickly pulled from a neglectful or abusive situation, perhaps their parent was attempting to track them and they needed to move them.
The second thing that was off was that Aisha was six months old. We’d never taken in a child below five years.
Aisha seemed to be perfectly normal, at least at first. Lots of black curls, big brown eyes, wearing a pink striped onesie and curiously staring at me. Like she knew I wasn’t quite looking forward to this. I wasn’t going to turn away a needy child, but I have always preferred them to be older. I love the preteens, even the ones who are angry at the world. They make sense. I get them. Babies are impossible. They scream if they’re hungry, if they’ve wet themselves, if they’re tired or just for the sake of screaming.
Daphne immediately took to Aisha. She wrangled the cradle out of the attic that we got for Daphne’s first pregnancy, the first unsuccessful one of many. She slept in the room next to ours, and every three hours, Aisha would bawl and Daphne would be up to care for her.
Aisha knew I didn’t like her. Whenever I entered the room she’d begin to scream. Daphne would hush her and rock her back and forth but nothing would end the wails until I left the room. Then back to jabbering and pulling at Daphne’s necklace or slapping at whatever book was on their lap. It wasn’t that Aisha was a shy baby. It was the opposite. Aisha turned on the charm for anyone who came in. Social workers checking on her progress, my mother in law, my sister. Aisha would coo and cuddle and just be a normal baby.
When they were gone though, back to the utter hatred aimed at me.
Then I started having the nightmares.
It was just normal nightmares at first- the falling from great heights. The suddenly being naked at a family gathering. Daphne leaving me. Being unprepared for a test even though it’s been decades since I’ve been in school. That sort of thing.
The first night Aisha took it up a notch is the night I thought I was buried alive.
I dreamed I was underground, I could taste dirt pouring into my mouth. My lungs felt like heavy weights. When a worm crawled up my nose and started squirming into my skull is when I woke up, screaming and clawing at the blankets.
When my wife woke up, she just pointed out I wet the bed before she went to go check on Aisha.
The bed wetting got bad enough to the point where my wife will just sleep in the nursery on the chair. I really can’t blame her. It’s pretty disgusting.
Then I noticed Aisha’s teeth. Or rather, how they changed on an hourly basis.
I think there was two when we first got her. But one day I got a good look when I had to feed her and spotted five little pearly chompers. I told my wife, who laughed and told me she spotted only two. She went in to check on her while she napped and sure enough- just two teeth.
I thought I was going insane. And maybe I was. But whenever I’d check, the amount of teeth would keep changing. I knew I’d get screamed at, but I had to know. Sometimes she’d have up to seven, but other times there was only one, lonely in her pink gums.
The nightmares got more graphic as time went on. Unable to move as cockroaches crawled over me, shitting and mating and eating my festering, infected flesh. Dogs mauling me while one particular one went right for my groin, ripping into my testicles and chewing them into pulp. Daphne telling me she was the reason she couldn’t conceive, her womb was healthy, my swimmers were clearly not, before she mutilates my penis and shoves the meat into my mouth, forcing me to swallow.
I knew it had to be Aisha when I caught her staring at me as I walked past. I don’t know why I looked into the nursery, but I did, and I saw her looking back at me. Her mouth was split into a Cheshire Cat grin, her gaze mocking me. She wanted to see me suffer. To put a strain on my relationship with my wife. So she could have Daphne all to herself.
The police told me that my wife walked in on me battering Aisha and throwing her against the wall. She managed to restrain me long enough to get the ambulance and cops. I don’t remember any of this. All I remember is Aisha’s eyes, pure black, staring into my mind.
Aisha was dead for ten minutes. It was a miracle according to the doctors, that she would recover and live a hopefully normal life.
Now I see this child in my dreams every night, as I await sentencing and the papers from my wife that will announce our divorce.
And when she smiles, she has rows and rows of razor sharp teeth.