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The Baby Jar

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She awoke abruptly to a spinning world of darkness.

With all the grace and poise installed into her at a young age by a fretful mother, she leaned over the arm of her threadbare couch and divulged the entirety of her stomach contents upon a long-suffering carpet. The pungent scent caused her stomach to roil, but there was nothing further to bring up. Slowly, her head pounding with the righteous cacophony of a high school marching band, the woman swept her muddy eyes across the train wreck of her apartment and attempted to take stock of the damage.

The slightly crumpled hulls of, six beer cans meet her gaze, silently mocking her condition. Blue Ribbon; cheap shit, tasted like rat piss and pond water, but it got the job done. With a low groan of discomfort, she rolled herself onto her back and stared up at a yellowed ceiling fan that, to her knowledge, had not been in functional order since the days of Reagan. She became vaguely aware of the fact that she reeked of old sweat and worse. Well, who gave a shit? No reason to leave the apartment, except to pick up more booze at the corner store, and she sure as hell wasn't the type did the high class fucks put it? "Entertain guests?". The building's pipes were shit anyway, producing a liquid that was more rust than water and invariably colder than the Arctic sea. It was hell on her leg.

Ah yes, her leg. One grimy hand instinctively dropped down to the wounded appendage and began to rub the twisted flesh hidden beneath her threadbare jeans. It was a gift from one driver who couldn't keep the bottle out of his mouth for five minutes. When running the morning commute the last thing most people worry about is a drunk weaving across the center divider and ramming into the side of their sensible commuter car like a rogue elephant. But that was that great bitch of Life for you, always throwing out delightful little surprises when you least expect them. She was put on disability after that and the rest was, as they say, history.

The irony that she herself become a drunk after the incident was not lost on her. But she was nothing like the asshole who had taken out her limb and livelihood, dammit. She needed the alcohol for the pain in her leg; the pills her cheapskate insurance provided were nowhere near powerful enough to cover the almost constant dull throb that spiked with every movement the injured joints attempted. And once she took that first sip of Blue Ribbon or Miller or whoever else was kind enough to ease her in a hazy half world that particular day, the car keys were off limits.

Except that one time. But it was an emergency, really.

Resigned to the fact that no further sleep would come that night, the woman carefully shifted herself into a sitting position and prepared to fetch a pinch of the dog that bit her from the fridge. She found it was the only thing that really quieted the monster in her head once it started roaring.

It was then that she noticed the TV was on.

The set in question, a pathetic old thing that was pathetic even in these squalid conditions, had given out about a month ago during a particularity juicy episode of Jerry Springer. Too lazy to drag it down two flights of stairs to the trash and too cheap to get it fixed, the woman had allowed the device to sit there silently collecting dust and beer cans, destined to waste away to quiet oblivion beneath an ever encroaching pile of trash.

Until now.

"The 'ell?" She half muttered, half slurred. The world still wobbled and rocked beneath her, like a ship docked upon gentle wave, and thus she did not trust herself to brave the few inches of carpet between the couch and TV. The screen displayed nothing more than slowly flickering lines of static, but the last time she'd had it on it refused to show even that. Hell, hadn't she even pulled the plug out of the wall in case it somehow continued to leech off her electricity? The memory was hazy, but she had grown used to peering through the thick lenses of alcohol over the years and discerning fact from fiction with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

Before the woman could perform a thorough evaluation of that particular section of her brain however, the lines on the screen became a solid image to the tune of a rather loud popping sound that caused the skin on her arms to stand on end.

She squinted, more out of disbelief than an inability to see; though slightly fuzzy and unfocused the scene before her was still perfectly identifiable. It was a table, draped with a simple cloth and set before a wall covered in a horrendous floral pattern. The picture flickered with film lines and was accompanied by the soft static purr of an older microphone met with no audio input. Everything was colored in dull shades of white, gray and black.

With a pace befitting a small gastropod, a man's head began to rise up from behind the line of the table. First came his hair, neatly combed and gelled into a conservative style hailing from a bygone age. Next, the eyes, set with a cold gleam, and a sharp jutting nose. As the woman watched, her brain numb, an impossible grin slid into view. It has admittedly been quite some time since she had laid eyes upon another human face, but she did not recall the average man's lips being able to draw that far back. Neither did he, to the best of her knowledge, possess quite that many teeth. Her consciousness drifted slightly.

"Hello friends!" the stranger stated in a gentle monotone. Though his words were slightly muffled, the audio itself carried an unpleasant edge to it. The static persisted beneath all. "Today I'm here to talk to you about the latest product to come from the brilliant minds of true blooded American scientist!" As he spoke, the top half of a collared shirt came into view. The woman found herself furiously mashing the inside of her cheek between her teeth. Odd. That was a tic she hadn't had since grade school. With some force of will, she managed to still her working jaws. A faint taste of copper began the mingle with her saliva.

The man on the screen came to a rest with the table bisecting his body just above the midsection. Slowly, he raised his right hand from beneath the obstruction. In it held an old-fashioned glass soda bottle. The mouth was jammed with a wine cork.

"The Baby Jar!"

She blinked, leaning forward despite the cry of protest from her sense of balance. There was no way she heard that correctly.

"Yes, the Baby Jar! The latest and greatest way of expanding your family! Tired of having the missus lag behind on her kitchen and cleaning duties due to the bouncing baby boy in her belly? No longer!" The man's smile, if possible, grew wider. He set the bottle down with a dull thunk and drew a small rectangular box from an unseen pants pocket. The camera cut to a close-up with such speed the woman felt as if she had received a case of mental whiplash. The words 'Baby Jar Special Formula-Male' filled the screen in bold stylized letters arced above the grinning face of a young boy. "Simply drop one of our per-approved tablets into the Jar, and watch the magic happen!"

The shot widened again with the unpleasant jerk to the first cut as the host of the program did just that. The dark, oblong tablet slid through the bottle's narrow opening with ease and clattered upon its thick bottom with a sound that strongly reminded the woman of the jumping beans the local gas station kept by the counter. For a second, all was still, and the omnipresent static seemed to consume all.

The tablet wobbled. It twitched. And then, as the woman's teeth once again set themselves against her unprotected flesh, it expanded, lengthening at each end and turning in upon itself like a bean. That unpleasant zoom once again reared its ugly head but she didn't care, couldn’t care, for the scene taking place before her was far too transfixing to spare a second for such frivolous things as shoddy editing.

As she was watching in a mixture of horror and amazement, small buds began to form at on end of the bean, lengthening and splitting at the ends to form a perfect set of limbs. Arms and legs, coated in a glistening black shell like a cockroach's, carefully segmented at each joint. The top half of the object bloated, distorted, and became the scrunched-up visage of a newborn. It opened its mouth to cry and the lower jaw split in half vertically, both halves swinging out to opposite sides. The cry was a heavy wasp's buzz.

It expanded, grew and soon its chitinous sides pressed hard against the glass walls of its artificial uterus, the cold body of its uncaring parent. The glass cracked, broke, and the abomination spilled out onto the tablecloth, still increasing in size. Its eyes opened to reveal twin pulsating orbs, constructed from countless human irises, pupil-less and pulsating in a nauseous display.

Cut to full screen-a necessity, as the creature now extended beyond the frame-and the woman noticed with her first true pang of horror that the host was still smiling. Indeed, he gazed down at the Baby jar's offspring with a look of raw pleasure, a salesman who has just seen his product make it big on the open market.

"Isn't he beautiful?" He cooed, reaching a hand down to stroke the creature's bald head. The joyful applause of a studio audience could be heard after the man's words. The buzzing subsided somewhat as it leaned into the human contact, eyelids sliding partially shut in pleasure. The man turned his attention back to the viewer. "And he can be yours for only five easy payments of $19.95." A number flashed across the bottom of the screen. The baby squirmed slightly, glass crunching beneath its hard skin. "Call now, and we'll double your order. After all, who could be satisfied with only one of these sweet little angels?"

The edges of her vision darkening, the woman discovered that she did indeed have more in her stomach to purge.

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