A man is haunted by the mother of his newborn child.

“He Refused to Name It” by Eugen Bacon.

“He Refused to Name It” first appeared in The Road to Woop Woop & Other Stories, Meerkat Press, December 2020.

A transcript is available on the NIGHTLIGHT website.

Narrated by Jarvis Bailey.

Audio production by Tonia Ransom and Ron Webb.

Executive Producer and Host: Tonia Ransom

NIGHTLIGHT is distributed by Rusty Quill. All ad funds go toward compensating Tonia for her labor. All NIGHTLIGHT Legion contributions fund pay for our authors, narrators, and sound designers.


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Hi. I’m Tonia Ransom, creator and executive producer of NIGHTLIGHT, a horror podcast featuring creepy tales written and performed by Black creatives from all over the world.

This week, a man is haunted by the mother of his child.

But before we get to motherly instincts, I want to take a moment to say thanks to our newest patron, Susan. NIGHTLIGHT will be produced year-round thanks to the NIGHTLIGHT Legion, and now, we’d love to bring you new episodes every single week. Just go to patreon.com/nightlightpod to join the NIGHTLIGHT Legion and get a shoutout on the podcast. And don’t forget, NIGHTLIGHT merch is available and you can support us by sporting NIGHTLIGHT-branded gear. Just go to merch.nightlightpod.com to get your t-shirts, hoodies, notebooks, and more!

Now sit back, turn out the lights, and enjoy “He Refused to Name It”, written by Eugen Bacon, narrated by Jarvis Bailey.


Winter. His toes always felt cold even with socks. But they had never frosted this much. He understood it was a haunting. Not the kind of a low chuckle, doors closing and opening when no one was there. This one took the form of ice in his feet. And he knew she was there. Right there in the darkness, as he lay in his bed. 

Something else too: a sweet antiseptic smell seeped into the room. Not so much a hospital smell. This was more like the sanitizing, disinfecting smell that accompanied death. 

The smell of a morgue. 


“She what?” They were standing at the reception, Calder and the bloke from Diggers Rest with torn jeans and a checkered shirt. 

“Childbirth, mate. These things happen,” said the bloke, his voice like a drum. 

“Never seen you in my life before,” said Calder. “You come all this way from Sunbury Hospital. Track me to my workplace in the city. All to tell me that my ex—not wife, not fiancée—my ex-girl is dead?”

“That’s right,” said the bloke. 

“I haven’t seen M in months.” 

“There’s a baby.” 

“It’s alive?”

“It’s yours.”

The receptionist with a weak smile and wearing dog glasses looked up from her typing. 

“Twinx,” said Calder. “We’ll take a meeting room.”

He took the man’s arm. Bear, his name. Dragged him into the privacy of a thirty-six-seater boardroom—that’s all that was available—sat him at the head of the table. 

“Listen Hussle,” Calder said in a gentle voice. He leaned toward the man. “You want some water?”

“I’m good.” 

“How about coffee? A latte or a long black—what type are you?”

Bear shook his head. 

“Twinx can get you some. It’s no drama.”

“I’m good.” Bear looked at Calder like he was stupid. 

They were both stupid.

“This is a predicament, mate,” said Calder. “How come I don’t know you? M never mentioned a brother.”

Bear shrugged and said in his boom voice, “All this nonsense, right?”

Calder put a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Boss man. As you say, these things happen. Your sister’s dead. Why do you think it’ll give you peace of mind to go enforcing baby daddies? For all I know—”

“Please don’t. She said you’d be like this.”

“Like what?!”


That’s how it started. 

Bear’s visit ended with an address scribbled on a tear—seriously a scrap—in bloodshot ink. “Those are the digits to my pad.” Bear said, voice inside a drum. “There’s a wake tonight.” His tone did not indicate an option for Calder. “You can find Sunbury Hospital yourself. Ask for the baby ward. It’s the only newborn today.”


You know how things happen and it feels like a dream you’re witnessing? But, somehow, you’re also in the dream that is most thoroughly a nightmare? Calder looked at the sleeping baby wrapped in linen like a mummy in its sterile cot, the hospital’s white walls soaked in iodoform. 

“Such a tiny gorgeous,” cooed a nurse or a nun in a tunic the color of summer sky and a cape imprinted from the crisp white of forbidden ivory. 

There was nothing spectacular about the baby. Oval face. Even symmetry between onyx eyes, button nose, plum mouth. 

Calder walked out of the room without a word.

He caught an Uber because he had not thought to drive—who does when things like this happen? But he didn’t return to work. His Monday to Friday suit smelled sweet and sterile like the hospital. 

It was windy and cold outside, the streets all gray. 

His unit in Blackwattle was a spartan place that looked like the kind you get when Ma and Pa Kettle rented a spare room. But that wasn’t even the owner’s name. Calder had never met the landlord. He rented through a property agent. Each unit had its own backyard, fenced. Out the front, a communal car park. As for the neighbors . . . he didn’t give a toss about them. Sometimes he saw them. Sometimes he didn’t. There was a fresh-faced chap, the jogging type. He wore tight trackies and white tennis shoes. He also had a wedding band, but Calder had never seen the wife. There was a girl with hat hair—all coned with brimmed-out edges. Mauve. She lived with a bald teen who wore a mo and gumboots that, rain or shine, never came off. There was an old man with a walking cane and a beanie. He was always dragging a shopping trolley—it had to be empty, the easy way he pulled it.

Calder sat in the unit and thought about shopping. Not like that. You know how you go shopping and there’s one thing you forget, remember it when you get home? Toilet paper. Washing up liquid. Cling wrap. M was like that—this is what Calder thought about. After they broke up, he forgot her and then remembered. In spurts. The workplace became his castaway island: he immersed himself in paperwork. Strategy and planning. Stakeholder engagement. He didn’t go through denial and all the shit that comes with grief. He just occasionally forgot and remembered. But he certainly did isolate. Feelings. Sure, there was anger at the time of the argument. Then came a black hole and dust that filled it up. Heartache was too much of a gorge to consider. He refused to name it. 

Now he felt a deep sense of aloneness. It was like grief attacking him in reverse. Something warm and wet snailed down his face. He realized it was a tear.

Before M, he’d never been the boy with the cool girl. Then pouty M came along with her spectacular cheekbones that contoured her face and evened the angle between her big eyes and thin jaw. She was a cool girl, stern but all pretty. She was his. Sure, sometimes she was a bit dizzy. Silly things came out of her mouth and got his goat. But not for long: who stayed cross when a woman that was a million stars lit your world? 

She was more than a curtain raiser. She looked like a creature from another world, another time. She was a goddess from a temple far away who took him on a stroll along a hanging garden. It lasted only three months, but it was enough. She was the Milky Way, a sprawl of stars twinkling around his Sagittarius. She was the gravity that held him together. In her own right his nebula—bright and visible to his naked need. 

There are people who’re receptors. They open to an experience and find immersion in it. Calder was a receptor. There are people who’re givers. They have power and sometimes power comes with love but is often devoid of it. M was a giver. Calder didn’t think he was both a receptor and a giver; his touch never transported anyone. And M was never both—she was incapable of receiving. But she was most definitely a giver. 

She had a key that gave him access to an invisible palace. When she kissed him, he tasted authority on her tongue. Each touch was like creation. She molded his clay, lifted him to unseen glory. Enlightenment. Their intercourse was edification: he opened to her tutelage. It wasn’t a choice, it just happened. She molded. He was malleable. 

He sat on his bed thinking about all this until night fell. And then the house talked to him. Usually it was silent, other than outdoor sounds of starting up cars or revving motorbikes. But tonight, it talked. First it was like a beating heart in the wind. And then a sway of dry leaves. He was astonished when he lifted his head from his hands to find a scatter of gum leaves on the floor. 

He took a dustpan and hand broom. Chucked the leaves into rashes of grass in the backyard. 


He caught an Uber because he didn’t want to search for Diggers Rest. The car pulled outside a gray townhouse with a cerulean roof and a wooden garage door. Calder checked the address scribbled on a tear. He put the scrap back into the pocket of his shirt. 

The door opened before Calder finished knocking. 

It was Bear, still in the checkered shirt. In his arms he rocked the baby from the hospital, still wrapped like something from ancient Egypt. 

“They discharged it?” Calder made conversation. 

Bear did not answer. 

He led them into a lounge room full of character. Polished wood on the floor. A painting of roses on an ebony backdrop hung on a big white wall. A plush three-seater, all black, complemented the white and silver house. Every wall was white. Every fitting was silver. There was a modern kitchen with silver-top benches and matching toaster, microwave and refrigerator. 

Calder dug out a bottle of beer. 

Bear and the infant didn’t seem to mind. They were rocking by the fireplace. 

“Boss man. This is a goddamned wake. Where’s everybody?”

“Just us, mate.” Bear continued rocking. So charcoal, his eyes. “No murder of crows. That’s the rest of them. Nobody gives a shit.”

Calder studied a silver-framed photo of a small boy and his younger sister standing on the golden salt of some Bondi Beach. You could see resemblance. He was charcoal-eyed with a thatch of hair on his crown. Nothing like the full-haired bear he was now, fur crawling all over his face. The girl was stern and pretty, full of authority. She used her body beautifully. She was like an albatross in a swimsuit. Looking beyond the camera at something else. 

Calder sank in the three-seater. “Well I’m here. So, tell me.”

“It’s about routine,” said Bear in his boom voice. “Warm the bottle. Change the nappy. Repeat.” 

“I can’t just take the baby.”

“Yes. You can. It’s yours.”

“Give it a rest one minute.”

For the first time, an emotion flickered across Bear’s bearded face. An emotion like hatred. “Did you think for a moment about the consequences of leaving?”

Calder drained the beer and stood. “I think I’ll just go.”

“Yes, run. Like you always do.”

Calder reached Bear in quick strides. He hauled the baby from the big bushy arms and nuzzled it against his shoulder. Slammed the door to the fuckwit from hell.

He stumbled into a shout of wind. 


He couldn’t sleep, the baby by his side. 

The house still talked. This time it was an endless flutter of bird wings. It sounded like a peep of chickens. Calder tried distracting himself with thoughts, but he couldn’t shake the frost from his feet. 

The pleasure of thinking about M came along with ice swords to his core. Would it have been easier had she been murdered? A bloodied body found in the bottom of a ditch? This was rough: childbirth. She’d carried a baby to term. Never thought to tell him. She was always secretive. 

He remembered the mountains, a pulse of time. It was heart memory. Who forgot a getaway like that? He did. But now he remembered. The Briars cottage with bird-nest lamps. Waking to the sight of snow through the windows. M curled into the pillow that wintry morn. Rubbing against his leg like a cat. Her breathing soft on his skin. He remembered everything. Her spectacular cheekbones. Tousled hair on her stern, pretty face lost in sleep. Her taste of toothpaste in the morning. Her lusty gulp of freshly squeezed orange juice from Black Forest Café. An intensity in her scowl at the skinny flat white topped with a heart. But she thawed with the double-ladled pot of mulled wine at the Pig and Whistle where they stopped for lunch. The food tasted washed. But it was a glorious day despite the cold, not a single brow in the horizon. The sky was a giant blue lake. The boy who served them whistled all the time, a sound of birds from his lips. 

Calder remembered the fight—how M let slip she had to get back to the city for a shift. 

“You’ve got a job?”

“The odd hand here and there.”

“Like where?”


“The Fifteen? That’s top notch.”

“You know I can cook.”

“Then why have you been temping as a typist?”

“Because I went to culinary school, it doesn’t mean people immediately see my potential.”

“So now they do at Fifteen?”

“Geoff said—”


“He’s a sous chef there. Sometimes you need connections.”

“That kind of history?”

“Feels like a grudge match. Why are you so angry?”

Things tumbled from there pretty much. 

As they drove back under the big lake sky, Calder tried to mend things. “Move in with me. It’ll be closer to your work.” 

“Move in?” she spat. “Blackwattle is a shoebox.”

“You could fit a whole army in there, still have room.”

“An army of idiots.”

He said it then: “You’re cold in the heart. Incapable of loving anyone but you.”

“I don’t hate you,” she said. 


He woke from a fitful sleep to a smell of bird. The window was open. A trail of fresh droppings led out of his bedroom to the backyard. He swept the droppings, sprayed the floor with antibacterial kitchen cleaner. 

He warmed a bottle, changed the baby’s nappy. 

Only later, he frowned. He didn’t remember taking a bottle, baby formula or nappies from Bear. He didn’t remember buying them. Such was his rage he must have blacked out. 


He was straight about the break-up, pragmatic. Same way he was pragmatic now about the baby in his shoebox. He warmed the bottle. Changed the nappy. 

The baby strangely followed him with its eyes, sometimes intensive, sometimes drowsy. 

Now it was asleep. 

Already it was dark outside, and the house started talking. A sound like rusty pipes. And his feet, so cold. 

In the middle of the night the baby woke. It didn’t cry—he just felt its eyes. 

He held it in a stranger’s hands. Borrowed feelings to feed it. Glanced without emotion at the child’s greedy tug on the tit. Onyx eyes fixed on his face. Tiny palm around his finger. Rapid breaths on its ribcage. 

It slept. 

The house once again talked. It shifted, walls and floors humping. But it too fell silent and slept, sounds scattered to nothingness. Only Calder stayed awake, listening to the unbeating heart of the house. What had changed? 

He was unconvinced it was him who had changed to this life in monochrome. Every day was night. Everything dull and noir. 

The baby was still as a corpse. He didn’t remember its face—it was a distant memory. 

Suddenly the house spoke. This time it was the sound of a car endlessly rolling on mud. 

Calder wasn’t surprised to wake up from a doze to find a trail of muddy tracks with wheels leading out to the backyard. He noticed the tree for the first time. 

It was shaped like a phallus growing from the ground. 


He hadn’t seen the neighbors in a while. How many days had passed? Or was it nights? It felt like a post-apocalyptic movie where everyone was gone. Work hadn’t called. Who was doing strategy and delivering on the corporate plan? But he was a manager. And managers, like sous chef Geoff, got away with things. 

He warmed the bottle. Changed the nappy. The baby followed him with its eyes. What baby was this? It never cried. Now he wondered about the baby’s tiny palm around his finger when he fed it. He didn’t remember unbandaging the mummy wrap. And how the hell did he change its nappy? 

Suddenly he was afraid. For the first time, he regretted succumbing to Bear’s goading. How it made him take the baby. He worried that, if he looked, he might find nothing inside the mummy. 


It went dark early in winter. 

He took his car, a sedan on good mileage he’d secured from a second-hand car city along Punt Road. He put the baby in the back seat, strapped it in the baby seat—who put it there? He didn’t remember buying a baby seat. A curtain parted in Unit One—that was the girl with the hat hair and the gumbooted baldie. A peek of brows but he couldn’t tell who it was. A flicker of television in Unit Three—that was the old man, the one with the empty trolley. 

Calder set destination in the smartphone, pulled out of the driveway. A ghost of trees lined either side of the street. A man and his Labrador on a leash walked the crossing just before the main road. A jaywalking smoker dashed across the junction. The rest was smooth sailing. Lights that were red turned green as he approached. 

He let the English-accented navigator guide him through the M1, down the freeway and along the M80. He drove all the way to Diggers Rest. 

He leaped out. The baby stayed strapped in the humming car. 

Calder banged on the wooden door of the gray townhouse. He banged like he was on fire. 

“Yes, dear?”

A white-haired woman wearing a green cardigan and jeans peered at him at the doorway. Hau! Hau! A sausage dog, wire-haired, all tan with deep chocolate ears, barked at her heels. 

Calder pushed inside. “I must speak to Bear.”

“Gracious, manners dear.” She faced him. “Who’s Bear?”

“He lives here. Right here. See?” Calder pulled out the address scribbled on a tear. 

He blinked. The scrap of paper was blank. 

“No. This can’t be right. There was a photo.” 

He searched the big white wall and found its painting of roses. He sought the boy and his sister standing on golden sand, regal in bathers. Nothing was there. 

Hau! Hau! said floppy-eared Barky, all bowlegged in a lively trot. 

“Oh, my,” a float of the woman’s words somewhere in his consciousness. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost, dear—shall I get you help?”

But Calder was already legging out of the front door.

The woman and her dog ran after him. Hau! Hau! 

Calder bracketed the wiener dog’s barking off his mind. Was powerless to unhear the woman’s exclamation: “Jesus! Is that a baby in the front seat?”

He leaped into the purring car, roared away. 

Cars rushed on either direction of the freeway. 

In the city he parked off the road. He took the baby and entered the office building. Up the lift to the sixth floor. He swiped in. Twinx was there. 

The receptionist looked up with her dog glasses, cast him a weak smile. “Hiya.”

“Working late?”

“Something like that.” Eyes fixed on him. “You’ve been gone a while. We haven’t seen you since—” She looked at the baby.

“Do you remember the bearded guy with a checkered shirt . . .” He didn’t know how to continue. 

“What guy?” 

“You booked us the boardroom . . . ?” Twinx stared at him. “Surely, you remember?”

“I book a lot of rooms for a lot of people.” She eyed him funny. “Are you alright?”

He shook his head, laughed. “You’re messing with me. You don’t get to do this. Just don’t. I’m not your bosom buddy.”

“I didn’t mean to upset you, Calder. Why, you’re acting all weird.”

“Tell me this—am I holding a baby?”

“What kind of question is that? Of course, you’re holding a baby.”


He pulled into the communal car park. The jogging neighbor, tight trackies and white tennis shoes, crashed past on the way out. A thin black girl with slippery hair jogged nimbly after him. 

It was weary feet that stepped into the husk of Calder’s unit. Fatigue washed over him. He sat with the baby, studied her onyx eyes intent on his face. Doll fingers wrapped around his big thumb. She broke into a gummy smile meant for him. Cooed and blew raspberries. Fat legs kicked in the fluffy rabbit onesie zipped up front. Why in heaven had he thought it was a mummy wrap? 

His heart swelled with sudden affection. Titian curls on her head. She looked like a Zoe. He cradled her as she smiled, this time in her dream. 

Somewhere in the night, the smell of formaldehyde got worse. His toes became ice and he knew M was there. Right there in the darkness, as he and Zoe lay. M was close, too close, because now his ears were ice. When the house talked, this time it was the swell of a roaring river cascading over a ledge. He unheeded it. Dozed, woke up thirsty. He put his feet on the floor—it was flooded. 

He bundled Zoe into his arms. She was asleep. 

He stepped out to the backyard into crisp air away from the morgue smell, from the pulse of the house’s malevolent spirit. The night was shimmer-free, no stars. But it was windy. He sat under the penis tree. Cradled Zoe from the breeze that thawed the frost in his feet and ears. An unkindness of ravens jumped in soundless unison from a branch. 

The sky in the horizon unlocked itself to a float of light scanning the universe. As the penis tree unfurled its gnarled phallus, as branches reached and reached, cocooning Calder and Zoe from the biting wind, a shooting star shimmered and twirled with satellites out yonder. 

Calder immersed himself into the language of life. I’m a receiver, he thought as he closed his eyes. For the first time in a long time he fell into a deep sleep. 


Thanks again to our patrons for supporting this podcast. Because of your support, listeners around the world get creepy tales in their ears every other week. If you want new stories every week, the only way for that to happen is to join the NIGHTLIGHT Legion by going to patreon.com/nightlightpod and supporting this podcast. You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal at PayPal.me/NightlightPodcast. If you’re unable to support us financially, word of mouth is the next best way to help. Give us a shoutout online on Twitter or Instagram @nightlightpod, or like us on Facebook @nightlightpod. Reviews are also a huge help, so be sure to leave a few kind words on your podcast platform of choice.

Audio production for this episode by Tonia Ransom and Ron Webb.

And to thank you for listening until the very end, we have a creepy fact for you.

A few years after I graduated high school, I woke up in the middle of the night after dreaming about a conversation with my great aunt, who was in assisted living at the time. Though I didn’t know it, her health had declined, and because I was a carefree college student in her 20s, I didn’t keep up with her as much as I would have liked to, particularly because she stopped speaking after the death of her husband years before.

After I woke from that dream, I knew she was gone. I reached out the next morning, and discovered she had passed away at the very same time I woke up the night before.

Join us next time for a brand new story…and be sure to leave your nightlight on. You never know what might be haunting you in the dark.

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