Blatnik Andrej:
His Mother’s Voice

    In the cinema the kid was watching a horror movie. People were screaming in terror. On the screen, an invisible killer was killing off, one by one, the members of a family living in a lonely spot - a house on the outskirts of town. They had not done anything, or if they had, it was not clear what it was; he was killing them, as it were, because it was their fate. All the murders happened in more or less the same way; each time a member of the family would unsuspectingly enter a room where the killer was waiting in ambush for them, and he would slaughter them. Each time the audience would groan: how could they be so stupid! They should have known there was a killer in the house, and yet they were not at all careful. Not even the soft, harmonious whisper that was heard whenever the killer was close meant anything to them, although it was loaded with significance.

    The most horrible scene of all was where the killer called to the little son of the family, who had suspected that something was wrong and was determined to act with utmost caution. He did it by imitating his mother’s voice. The little boy naively believed that it really was his mother calling him, while in reality she was lying in a pool of blood on the floor, at the killer’s feet. Somebody sitting next to the kid whispered: "Be careful, watch out, it’s not your mommy, it’s not your mommy." At the peak of suspense a woman cried out: "Run!" The little boy did not hear her and did not run away. He went straight to the killer. Everything was clear.

    The kid drew in his lips and stared at the screen. He kept repeating to himself that it was just a movie. The killer cut the child to pieces before the little boy could realize that he had made a wrong move, that it had not been his mother. The people felt somehow relieved that it was all over. They had known all along that the little boy would not make it, he was too gullible, it could not have ended any differently, they told themselves. The kid thought: how could he have been so careless and not have recognized the voice? If he had recognized it, he might have been able to defend himself. If only he hadn’t let himself be drawn to that room!

    Soon afterwards the killer was identified and the movie was over. The lights went on in the cinema. People were getting up from their seats and straightening their clothes. Each one somewhat hesitated at the exit, as if unwilling to go out, and then went off into the darkness. The kid was among the last to leave. It was the first time his mother had let him go to the late show, and he was scared. He had a long way to go home, as they lived on the outskirts of town, on a lonely spot, and because of the energy saving cuts the electricity was turned off at ten, so the streets were not lit. In every bush the kid thought he could see the killer, and while walking he listened intently to every sound, as he could not see anything. Once he suddenly heard something behind him that strongly resembled the whisper that betrayed the killer’s presence, but when he turned around it was only a rat running from one sewer to another.

    After a few terror-filled minutes he came home. At first he was almost relieved, thinking that he was safe now and he could tell his mother about how he had been so afraid; the fear would then disappear and they would laugh at it together, as they had many times before. But the house was dark, no lights anywhere. Something seemed wrong. Cautiously, he opened the door. He entered the hall. He waited. He did not know what to do. The house was quiet, almost too quiet. Something’s wrong, thought the kid. Something was in there. Something… What if something happened to mommy? They lived in a lonely part of town, anything was possible. If only he had something that would help if… He groped behind the door. He felt something cold under his fingers. He recognized the thing, it was the ax. Yesterday they were chopping wood for the winter with mommy. Mommy praised how strong he had become, since he could split a log in two by himself.

    When he took hold of the ax he overturned something and it made a muffled noise. He heard his heartbeat pounding in his ears. He held his breath and waited. The thing inside, in the house, also waited. Then he heard it call out: "Is that you? Kid, is that you?" His first impulse was to drop the ax and enter, then he stopped. It occurred to him that it might not be his mother’s voice, although it was similar to it. Very similar. He grasped the handle of the ax firmly. He held it with both hands. Caution. He had to be cautious. Not risk anything. "Kid?" Now the voice seemed even stranger. This was supposed to be his mommy? You’re not going to get me, he thought. You’re not going to get me.

    "Kid, come on in." I’m not going, thought the kid. And I’m not going to run away either. I’ll get revenge. You in there, what did you do to her? It’s true she let them put me in a special school, so that my schoolmates from the old school don’t like me any more, but all the same, she was my mommy, and tonight she let me go to the late show, although it wasn’t a movie for children. I’ll get revenge. "Kid?" He was perplexed. He did not know what to do. The voice was very similar to his mother’s. More than the one in the movie. How childish that boy in the movie was, he thought. No wonder he caught it. He wasn’t cautious enough. "Kid? Answer me!" Now the voice was closer. He realized it was coming in the hall. He gathered his strength and lifted the ax above his head. "Are you here? What’s the matter?"

    By now his eyes had adjusted to the dark. He squeezed himself into the corner behind the door and waited. He imagined his mommy lying on the floor in a pool of blood, and tears came to his eyes. The whisper that betrayed the killer droned in his ears. Here it goes, he thought. The killer’s outline was already visible at the door. The kid whimpered in fear and the figure on the doorstep slowly turned towards him. Through the tears and the dark he could see that the killer did not only copy her voice, but also his mother’s appearance. The resemblance was amazing. For a moment he faltered. At that moment the killer in the disguise of his mother caught sight of the ax in his hands, and in spite of the dark, the kid could see how it made the killer’s eyes widen and the whites stand out. The ax in his uplifted hands trembled and his doubt reached its peak. Then the killer in the guise of his mother screamed ed in a dreadful way. The scream was like nothing the kid had ever heard before, least of all the warm, kind voice of his mommy. He felt relieved. Now he knew.

Translated by Tamara Soban