Mary and the Demon by Tricia Lowther


Perched on your sofa in the dark, I clutch my baby doll. I named him David, it means ‘beloved’. I hug him close in the blackness that hides us, like a blanket. I sing softly to him – ‘Rock-a-bye baby’.

I’m a good Daddy to David. I try hard to be like the Daddys on TV. Or like the ones in stories they used to read at school, where children had toys, friends, birthday parties, and Christmases spent in warm, clean houses.

Behind me in the kitchen, the chip pan flicks and sizzles. Hot oil will scour you clean, make you sing. I wonder if you’ll wail like a baby. I wait for you, here, in the safe dark.

Memories slide down these walls. They lick at my cheeks, slither past the framed picture of The Immaculate Heart of Mary, her eyes fierce behind cracked and dusty glass. When I was small I thought she was my mother. I prayed to her, begged her to come and rescue me.

The walls grow quiet when I sing. They like my songs.

You never liked to hear me sing. You never liked to hear me speak.

“Shut up before I shut you up,” you used to say.

“I want doesn’t get,” you used to say. “Ungrateful little bastard.”

“Please may I have something to eat, Daddy? Please, Daddy, may I have a drink? Please may I?”

Old memories burn fiercer than recent ones. I remember my dry, cracked lips as I hugged the wall under Mother Mary and she fed me, brittle flakes of sweet paint. I remember the stench of soiled nappies, my vomit. The rasp of my breath before I was saved.

My scarred arms squeeze baby David tight. He cries, so I rock him harder.

A creak on the stairs freezes the hairs on the back of my neck.

I tell Mary on the wall, ‘Forgive me for what I am about to do.’ Her eyes glow and under the hiss and spit of the pan I hear her say, You are not like him.

I sing to calm the shakes. I sing for the children who didn’t survive. For Tiffany, Victoria, Peter and Liam. For Harriet, Riley, Lydia, and Laree. For Kelsey, Ayesha, Sakurako and Kaede. A chorus of ghosts surround me. We sing our song of horror and despair for a world into which no child should be born.

You push the door open and flick the light switch, but someone has messed with the fuse box.

I don’t like the light. Once upon a time you hurt me when the lights went on.


You didn’t expect to find me here did you? Me a big strong man now, and you all folded in and shrivelled, like a helpless boy, your boxer shorts the biggest thing about you. Alarmed grey tufts try to flee your temples.

“Who’s there?” Your voice all croaky like a frog. Shush now.

“Shut up before I shut you up.”

Under the reek of dirty, boiling fat, I smell your sweat. My tears are acid, hot enough to fry your eyes. I wanted you to sing with me, Daddy. All those songs you should have sang when I was little.

You are smaller than I remember, not the demon of my nightmares. A pungent stink tells me you’ve soiled yourself.

I pull the picture of Mary from the wall. She’s calm now. Leave, she whispers.

“That’s mine,” you whimper as I pass you by.

I stop, look down at you. You press your skinny self against the wall.

You are your own punishment. I will not be like you.

I open the door to the fresh scent of rain.


Tricia Lowther grew up in Liverpool, England. She has had fiction, non-fiction, and poetry published by various outlets, which include Thema, The Third Corona Book of Horror Stories, and The NoSleep Podcast. Her short story, ‘The Clearing’, was published in Tales from the Moonlit Path in 2020. You can find her on Twitter @TrishLowt

Published 6/16/23

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