Atmos Studios is the online portfolio of Thomas Brush. From indie games to short stories, I love telling stories about all things uncanny. 

Copyright ©2017 Thomas Brush

manInTheCrib.png

The night Denny Jr. died he looked so snuggly in his onesie pajamas.

His blonde towel dried hair rested in clean-cut layers on his bright yellow and baby blue star-shine pillow case. Those wide-set baby blue eyes were half-way closed, and meant everything to me, his perfect sweet mama.

“Mama, mama, tell dada I miss him.” Denny Jr. mumbled from behind the bars of the crib his father built the day I showed him the pregnancy test. Denny Jr. was three, but he would scream for hours if he slept anywhere else. His warm, moist body went limp in the spotlight of angelic moonlight blooming onto his blanky. I clicked off his yard-sale Mickey lamp, and left the room in a somber, drunken peace. The door clicked shut, casting a tiny sliver of Denny Jr.’s yellow night light from under the door onto the shag rug in the dim hall.

I sent a quick text to his father.

The late summer crickets moaned through a crack in the window of the master bedroom, while a sudden relief passed through my fingertips as I felt my phone vibrate.

Denny Sr. is calling.

It was the same rush of emotions I had when Denny Sr. would strut with his football buddies through the UGA food court. His biceps were what got me. They were large and tan and rough.  

Then a sudden pang in my neck.

Denny Sr. is calling.

He was piss-drunk and shouting as I put the phone to me ear.

“He just wanted me to tell you goodnight. Just take it or leave it Den.” I snapped back. I could smell his smoky breath through the phone.

“You sure you’re not texting about the money? ‘Cause that’s what it sounds like. I don’t have your damn money, Cindy.”

“At this point I could care less about your money.” I mumbled this on queue like a robot for the fifteenth time that week, tossed the phone across the room, and fell heavily onto my grandmother’s quilt. The room was warm, humid and red, while the summer breeze flicked my browning curtains back-and-forth, revealing a deep black mouth into the backyard.

I thought about Denny’s father, and those warm romantic feelings of want and desire shattering on the cold hard truth of the divorce. Denny’s father was a man’s man, and he gave me everything I ever wanted. He told me who I was, and he never lied.

It’s crazy how Denny Jr.’s diagnosis cracked through our marriage in less than a week. When we got the news, we split like tectonic plates. How does something so perfect seem to become possessed by a horde of demons in the blink of an eye?

I finished off the Benadryl bottle and fell asleep.

The sound in the hall didn’t surprise me. A soft shuffling, and a shadow of two tiny feet passing by my door. The clock light burned my eyes — 1:00.

In the blackness I heard my dry, dehydrated voice crack and split, “Denny, back to sleep sweet heart.”

The feet passed back across the warm hall light through the bottom of the door, and I faintly heard the soft click of his bedroom door reverberate down the old walls. My head sank into the pillow.

An hour later, I woke to the sound of my door opening.

My eyes focused, and I spotted his blurry silhouette staring at me from down the hall, until he slid back into his bedroom, closing the door softly behind him.

The hour Denny Jr. died was 3:00. I woke to my bedroom door snapping shut, my heart throbbing painfully beneath my breasts.

“Denny?” I whispered loudly. “Denny Jr., get your ass in here!” My head was splitting.

As I entered the hall, the wall lights faded out one by one, leading to the slit of yellow under his door. I could faintly hear the sound of Denny Jr. humming the Bulldogs’ fight song he learned from his father.

“And to Heck with Georgia Tech.” I mouthed, staring intensely at Denny’s tiny door, trying to calm my nerves. It felt like it was a mile away — like the hall was stretching.

“Denny” I whispered down the hall  in a sing-song voice. As I approached the closed door, the last hall-light flickered off, and the door cracked open, revealing a blurry face in Denny’s room.

“Denny?” I said, but only air came out of my mouth. Denny Jr. stopped singing as I slowly crept into his room. In the soft vignette of his black bedroom, I couldn't catch my breath.

What is that?

The shape and color of his face was bizarre. I could hear a sharp buzzing in my left ear, and my heart began quaking violently in my right.

It was a man.

A man was sitting in the crib.

I tried to speak, but my lips parted and closed frantically as I froze like a statue, confused, and horrified.

The man sat upright, staring straight at me in the darkness. The faint light from the nightlight highlighted his blank and emotionless face — deep, shiny red cheeks with a pointy black nose and two spidery-black eyes.

“Mama?” It said.

It was Denny Jr.’s voice. God, it was his voice.

I’m dreaming, right? This is all a dream. God, please tell me I’m dreaming.

“Wh-wh-wh-wh-what did you do?” I managed to sputter, falling slowly forward toward the man and catching myself on the dresser to my left.

“Mama?” It  whispered, sitting up straight and pointing it’s chin down.

“I’m thirsty.”

I began to shake violently as I stumbled to the edge of the crib.

“Where is my boy! Where is my boy!?” I sharply whispered.

The face looked suddenly afraid, almost in shock. With wide eyes he turned his head closer towards mine, and frowned. I then noticed his legs were stick-thin, devil-red, and tightly crossed. They looked like they had been cooked in a furnace and buttered.

“WHERE, ” I gasped through a blur of tears (I could barely make out the diaper), “IS MY DENNY?!?”

The man was wearing Denny’s diaper.

The room fell silent, and that thing slowly began to giggle.

I felt a panic, sprinted, and peered into the crib, hoping to find Denny Jr. It snatched my lower jaw and flung me to the ground. I found myself gasping on the floor with it’s shiny red fingers wrapped around my neck, while it proceeded to slam my head violently against the hardwood floor.

“MILKY!” it screeched through a sharp white smile, its face turning a vibrant red.

“DENNY WANTS SOME MILKY!!”

“DENNY?! DENNY?!”

My words were useless as I began to lose consciousness. His grip tightened and the smile of the red face approached my neck and kissed it. My fingernails had passed through the thing’s paper-like throat, and trails of blood trickled down my wrist.

“Mama.” The voice was hoarse. “Mama. Where’s dada?” The red face was suddenly crying, and that’s all I remember about the night Denny Jr. died.

But I’m okey now. I’m happier than ever.

Ever since then I’ve felt a sense of relief. Things are looking up. Denny’s father and I see eachother once a week at the hospital, and he brings me white-chocolate and roses and  we sometimes talk about the game or Denny Jr.  We just miss Denny Jr. so much. But we’re so much happier now. But we do really miss Denny Jr. more than anything.

It’s a wonderful feeling, falling back in love after a tragedy. Sometimes, I feel like I’m born again. Denny Sr. is my savior.  Those lost feelings we had before Denny Jr. was born shiver down my spine and it feels amazing. His tense, tan, strong arms mean everything to me now.

I think he believes me and I think he’s happier because of what happened. I’ve told him what the police said wasn’t true. The police said they found me covered in blood with my fingernails in my son’s neck.

I told him, I said, “What mother does that to her own child?”

He knows I wouldn’t do something like that.

We both know that thing wasn’t my child.

That was never my child.


About The Author

Thomas Brush is the owner of Atmos Games and creator of indie games Pinstripe (TIME Magazine's Most Anticipated Games 2017) and Once Upon A Coma (in development). Thomas also enjoys writing horror short stories and writing classical music.