Features | Written by Kate Shenton 25/01/2020

The Baby Monitor by Kate Shenton

The baby gurgled.

She reached for the monitor.

His mumbles crackled through the cheap speakers. A scratchy night-vision image on the screen showed a baby rolling onto his back, full spread-eagle. A saliva bubble popped on his lips before the camera switched itself off.

Relieved, she slotted the monitor back into its charger, then returned her attention to the numbing comfort of reality TV.

I should never have agreed to babysit. Why would you even have one?

She refused to bring something into the world which exploited her body, spent all her money and paid it back by covering her in shit! There’d been enough co-dependent relationships in her life, thank you very much.

I don’t want one, she kept telling herself. Her body clock disagreed.

Already, her ovaries were turning into scrambled eggs as her mind became a slideshow for her imaginary child. His first cry, emerging from her mutilated vagina. His first words, clearly preferring daddy over her. His wedding day, tears falling from her eyes at the existential crisis she was now facing.

No. I don’t want one!

Her mind and her body often disagreed.

Drama was erupting on the TV. The island was sweaty, the bikinis were skimpy and the speedos left little to the imagination. Generic Beauty One wanted to bang Generic Beauty Two, who was too busy banging Generic Beauties Three, Four, Five, and Seven. It was tense stuff. Living your life through others usually was.

The baby gurgled.

She reached for the monitor. A black flicker on the screen.

Trick of the eye? A spider running across the camera? The Argos Value purchase already packing in…. Or could there be someone in the room? A mass murderer caressing his weapon of choice, his face hidden by a ‘Poundland' Halloween mask?

No, she concluded.

She resumed being a fly on the wall. Generic Beauty One was finally getting frisky with Generic Beauty Two. Reality TV was fulfilling its purpose: bringing vanilla porn to the British middle-classes.

Despite the steamy distraction, her mind kept wandering to her imaginary child. He always looked same. Curly black locks tumbling over his rosy cheeks, emerald green eyes full of mischief and a cheeky smile which was easy to forgive.

Stop it! You're not having one!

She was a modern woman and wanted her own life - one which she could waste watching as much reality TV as she damn well pleased! It’s what the suffragettes died for.

The baby gurgled.

She reached for the monitor. Her heart stopped.

There was a shadow. In the corner of the room, behind the cot. The camera was too pixelated to show details, but it was there.

A human shape.

She dropped the monitor and ran out of the living room. Maternal instinct was kicking in; even though it wasn’t her child, she was going to fight to the death. It’s what women do.

The hallway was silent.

No noise from the bedroom.

Arming herself with an umbrella, which had been resting against the wall, she creeped up the stairs. She held her weapon like a baseball bat, adrenaline pumping through her veins.

Reaching the landing, she made her way to the unassuming bedroom, her grip tightening around the handle.

I’m going to kick the shit out of you! she kept telling herself. Positive thoughts lead to positive actions; that’s what her therapist said.

She pushed the door open and scanned the room. Nothing.

She flicked the light on. Nothing.

Just a plump baby dreaming about boobs.

Stupid monitor. She was going to write a strongly worded online review.

Lowering the umbrella, she spun around and stepped out of the room.

The baby gurgled.

Instinctively, she turned around. There was no baby in the cot.

She recognised him straightaway. Those beautiful black locks and that cheeky smile. The little boy her body longed for, but her mind feared, proudly standing in the cot, beaming at her with the neediness only a child can give.

‘Mummy!’ it squealed.

Pain gripped her belly. She clenched it for dear life.

Inside her something was growing, kicking and punching her womb, longing to break free of its cage. Ripping open her shirt, she saw her belly expanding; blue veins throbbing and stretch marks burning. Mercilessly it

kept enlarging, stretching her stomach, shoving organs against her diaphragm, turning her body against her.

‘I’m ready!’ smiled the imaginary child, pointing its little finger at her fully pregnant belly.

She screamed as the first contraction ricocheted through her. Water gushed down her legs.

It’s coming….