When I awoke, I was in a boring, beige room. I recognised it as a hospital room or similar. A lady of about 40 was sitting by my side, smiling gently. Feeling self conscious, I sat up straighter so I could greet her. She introduced herself as Hellen and told me she was there to help me. Remembering the pain of the prior day’s events I eagerly asked her, “Marley?” I was so desperate to see my daughter, to have her with me, chattering away. “Mr Atkinson.” She started, “what year is it?” Feeling a small bite of irritation, I replied, “1998.”
“No.” Hellen frowned. “Mr Atkinson, the year is 2013. Do you remember what happened to Marley?” She asked slowly.
“Is she okay?” I groaned, feeling that sink of impending doom begin to open in my stomach. “Where is she?” Hellen took a deep breath.
“Albert. Do you know where you are?” I uttered another negative response. “You are in the River Bay Medical Centre. You were admitted here on April 29 1998.” She paused to allow me to register the news. “Allow me to walk you through the reason you are here with us.” She scooted her seat closer and placed her hand over mine. There was familiarity to the sensation that I felt slightly comforted by the contact. “You were at a wedding, remember? Lisa and Carl’s wedding. Marley got sick and you had to go home.”
I searched around in my mind trying to recall the night. “Yes, I remember. Lauren and I had that awful argument in the car on the way home.” I felt happy that I could recall something solid. That had to be promising, surely.
“That’s right, Albert. And what happened next? Take a deep breath and let the memory come to you.”
I closed my eyes and drifted back to that night…
“I’m not a Mother, Al! I’m not! I’m not the mothering kind, and I never will be!” Lauren screamed as she burst into tears. I pulled into the drive way frustrated, eager to escape my wife’s blubbering. I had never been comfortable with her mood swings. Leaving her in the car, I marched into the house and quickly thanked and paid our baby sitter, taking my precious baby girl into my hands. She was feverish indeed. I decided to run a cool bath to try and keep her cool. Lauren finally managed to get herself together and followed me into the bathroom, uttering her apologies and taking Marley from my arms as I turned the taps on in the bath. I told Lauren I was going to the kitchen to get some baby paracetamol to help with her fever. As I approached the stair case, I heard splashing. I recall smiling to myself, thinking that I was about to see my wife and my daughter frolicking together in the bath tub. I strolled slowly up the steps, feeling a little more relaxed and happy.
When I arrived, Lauren was crouching in the bathtub, her hands submerged under the water. I ran over and witnessed my daughter’s final breaths being taken from her. A rage filled me like no other, I pushed my wife backward from my daughter and scooped my baby out of the water, squeezing her tightly to me. I ran to the bedroom and placed her on the bed, my mind racing, how do you do infant CPR, 30 breaths? How many compressions? I took my mobile phone out of my pocket and dialled the emergency number for the ambulance. They advised they would be there as soon as they can. I rolled Marley on her side, opening her mouth, trying to encourage her to cough up water. But even I could see there was no use. I had been too late. Weeping, I kept checking for breath, massaging her chest, tugging on her tiny hands for some glimpse of hope.
I shuddered as I forced my mind back into the present. My face was wet and there was a gargling screams of terror and heartbreak filling the room. I recognised the heaving sobs as my own. I looked over at Hellen, whose own tears had been welling up in her own eyes. Leaning back into my bed, I shut my eyes tightly, trying to scorch the image out of my mind. But there was no use. Hellen covered my hands with her own and murmured words of comfort to me, her hands are a powdery warmth against my cold, unfeeling knuckles. “I killed her? Lauren?” I gasped as Hellen nodded in reply.
I was snapped out of my sorrowful reverie when the sharp bite of cold metal slapped around my wrist. Men had entered the room. “Time to get back to your cell, Atkinson.” The words resonated throughout me and the memories of the last 15 years came flooding back. I felt my age then. The weariness slumped over my shoulders. My Marley’s murder and the other deaths that night, the murders of every night until I was caught and locked away for life. Locked into a padded cell where I couldn’t wreak my vengeance on the rest of the world.
As I was rising from the bedside, preparing to be escorted out of the infirmary, I felt a sick smile catch on to my lips. It spread from my mouth to my cheeks and then soon, I was laughing maniacally at the very top of my lungs. I felt a shivering glee take over my body and decided to leave my case-worker, Hellen, with a little parting gift, “You look just like my late wife, you know? Just like her… I’ll bet you bleed just the same way.”