Besides the silence, nothing was amiss. The mother returned to find her child where she had left him, everything the same except for the uncanny and unfamiliar silence. The mother was grateful. She lifted little Robert with a gleeful exclamation of, "You see! Nothing's worth raising such a racket over!"
Little Robert simply smiled. In the days that followed, the whispers began. For a babe that had cried as though every day was his last on earth, he had made a remarkable turnaround. Only a short week following that day, 3-month-old Robert was sitting up by himself. At 5 months he was walking, still never uttering a sound. The mothers talked amongst themselves. Little Robert's mother was understandably unsettled.
One night little Robert's mother, after putting the baby to bed, pulled the father aside.
"There's something off about him," she whispered. "He's not... something's changed."
"He's getting older and developing more every day. Rob's just a bright kid is all."
"No, you don't understand. He's too young. Something isn't right."
"You're worrying too much, Margaret. He's fine."
The father disappeared into his study, the door shut imposingly behind him. Margaret's brows knit together in frustration. She turned to head back to the room and a small figure standing in the doorway made her step back in shock.
Shaking, she approached little Robert. "N-now, sweetie. You mustn't climb out of your crib, you could hurt yourself." She slid her hands under his arms and lifted him to her chest. She was all too aware of her heart pounding in her ears. Depositing the babe back on top of his blankets, she withdrew her hands a little too quickly and gazed down at him. The fear was ridiculous, she told herself. His eyes were innocent. The serious look on his face was out of place but not impossible.
She turned to climb into her own bed, pulling the covers over herself violently as though to shield herself from the thoughts that invaded her mind. She closed her eyes.
She dreamed that she was staring at the ceiling above her, unable to move. Sweat gripped the collar of her nightgown around her throat. In the shadow of one corner, a spider emerged. She could only watch as it made its way to the space above her, each leg delicately sweeping the dust from its path. She could hear each of its eight feet fall with the sound of a needle passing through silk. Somewhere in the distance, a child began to bawl. As a mother, she knew her baby's voice. The spider seemed to smile, reaching out as it grew closer and filled the view of the petrified Margaret.
She woke tangled in sheets and scrambled to her feet, falling out of her bed and onto the wooden floor below. Her eyes, wide with terror, found the crib a few steps away. Her husband, awoken by her tumble, sat up groggily. Margaret's voice broke as she forced out the word.
The child was gone, little black footprints leading from the crib out of the open door. Margaret got to her feet, swaying uncertainly. She reached for her husband, eyes locked on the footprints that disappeared down the hallway. "David," she whispered fearfully. He came to her side.
"Stay here," he said. Margaret willingly planted herself on the edge of the bed, her small frame shaking uncontrollably. Her husband followed the footprints out of the room. Every creak of the old house made Margaret's heart skip a beat. She closed her eyes and tried to ignore the lump in her throat. Footsteps approached and her eyes flew open. David stood in the doorway. She got to her feet.
"No sign of him," he grunted, confusion in his eyes. Margaret stumbled past him, pushing him aside.
"Robert!" she called, her voice strong despite her fear. She went to the front door and threw it open. The footsteps continued down the steps but disappeared into the grass. Margaret leaned against the doorframe, her eyes locked on the horizon. "Robert...?" Bitter tears filled her eyes as confusion, fear, and grief clogged the depths of her heart. She sunk to her knees and sobbed.
Margaret refused to have another child. A year passed. Then five. Then ten. The crib stayed in the corner of their room, untouched. The truth, as it was passed from mouth to ear, became more and more warped, but essentially the same. They had raised the devil's child.
Every night, as though coming from just in the room next door, Margaret would hear him crying. As a mother, she knew her baby's voice.