The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
This is not my garden.
Lucy moved slowly, searching for something—anything at all—that felt familiar, but nothing was where it was supposed to be. A briar patch crept, thorns the size of swords, where the roses should have been; the flowering figs had been overtaken by obelisks covered in anemone-like flowers with writhing tentacles for petals; the pansies had become petunias, and they swayed in waves as they hummed a catchy Beatle’s tune.
She felt a tap on her left shoulder, and she turned with a start, only to find John standing in front of her. She put her hand to her chest and let out an exasperated breath, lunging forward to hug him. Every ounce of anger melted away, past mishaps falling to the wayside. “Oh, thank god!”
She took another look at the ever-changing environment. “You don’t see it?”
He grinned while a dozen ribbon snakes sprouted from his head and writhed along his dark hair. “See what?”
She shook her head, backing from him. “I… I need help.”
“I know. I can help you.”
“But you have snakes in your hair.”
“Don’t worry about the snakes. I can take you someplace safe.”
She considered the offer carefully. He didn’t look too concerned about the issue at hand, so maybe he did know where to find help. Maybe he cared more than he’d previously shown. Why else would he offer to step in? She followed him to his car, which was unremarkable save the random shapes coming off the shiny paint job. She got in, and he buckled her up.
As they drove, the trees on either side took on strange shapes: distorted faces of demons and clowns, a twenty-foot rabbit, and a dragon that spanned a good half mile. Lucy struggled to make sense of the transformation, and she was finding it increasingly difficult to mask her horror.
She had no idea where they were when the car stopped, but John insisted she get out and follow him. The tree creatures were everywhere, though, so Lucy stayed seated. She shook all over, the combination of the cool air and sweat like ice beneath her shirt.
He opened her door, and the smell of damp pine rushed in. “Let’s go.”
“Let me show you.” He pulled her out and took her by the arm. “This way.”
The tree creatures reached for them while they walked. Faces came at her from every direction, and they began to laugh. Then the laughter became a chorus of blackbirds, which faded when the birds scattered from the trees.
Lucy wrapped her arms around herself with a shiver. “How much farther?”
The wind picked up, and so did the trees creatures’ movements. They thrashed clawed hands and whipping limbs, and the laughter returned even louder than before. Lucy’s face became wet with tears, and finally she stopped, refusing to continue. “Tell me what’s going on!”
“What do you mean?”
“Why are we here?”
“I thought you needed my help.”
“This isn’t what I had in mind, John!”
“Take me home.”
“Can’t do that.” The snakes on his head had multiplied, but he didn’t seem to notice.
He pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Because this is it.”
Her chest grew heavy, and she feared the beginning of an asthma attack. She reached to her side, a whole new shock of horror hitting her when she realized she’d left her purse in the car. “I need my inhaler.”
“Hmm.” He turned around, looked through the trees for a moment, and then turned back. “You stay here. I’ll go get it.”
Hyperventilation seized her lungs. “You can’t leave me here!”
He clapped her on the shoulder, and then he was off.
She started after him, but she was too winded. “Please!” she wheezed. “I feel like I’ve been dropped off into Wonderland or the Twilight Zone or something! Everything’s… wrong!”
“That’s what a four-way tab of Orange Sunshine’ll do to you, you crazy bitch,” he said under his breath, and then the tree-creatures swallowed him.
She fell to her knees, screaming as the monsters manifested in the tree trunks, the piles of pine needles near her feet, and even the clouds in the bits of sky peeking through the treetops. She coughed, wiping snot from her nose. She felt like she was breathing through a hookah straw, and it was growing narrower by the second. Pins and needles rushed into her hands and feet.
He said he’d be back.
The laughter echoed. The dragon circled her, taking what was left of her air.
She struggled desperately to catch a breath. A light cry found its way out, and then her airway sealed, a sinking pain hitting her chest when she tried to force in one last breath. Her vision faded. She dropped into the darkness, expecting to feel earth and pine needles on her face upon impact, but she only continued to fall.
Fiction © Copyright Leigh M. Lane
Image courtesy of Marge Simon
More from Leigh M. Lane:
Finding Poe is a riddle to be solved, and this edition caters to those who feel up to the task. If you’re a Poe fan, you’ll already know he was the father of the deductive detective story. Many scholars will argue that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series was inspired by Poe’s Detective Dupin stories.
This book asks the reader to assume the hat of the deductive detective. Throughout the text, there are numerous clues to direct the reader toward an alternate speculation about Poe’s untimely death. Before you set out to solve the riddle, however, you must first find the question….
About the story: When reality and fiction collide, there’s no telling what horrors might ensue.
In the wake of her husband’s haunted death, Karina must sift through the cryptic clues left behind in order to solve the mystery behind his suicide–all of which point back to the elusive author, Edgar Allan Poe.
Karina soon finds that reality, dream, and nightmare have become fused into one as she journeys from a haunted lighthouse in New England to Baltimore, where the only man who might know the answers to her many questions resides.
But will she find her answers before insanity rips her grip on reality for good? Might a man she’s never met hold the only key to a truth more shocking than even she could have imagined?
Finding Poe was a 2013 EPIC Awards finalist in Horror.
“Atmospheric, lush, and lyrical, Leigh M. Lane’s Finding Poe is a haunting Gothic novel which will delight anyone familiar with the works of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as anyone who enjoys an evocative and classic tale of terror.” –horror/mystery author Dana Fredsti.
About the Artist, Marge Simon:
A writer-artist since the mid-1980’s, Marge Simon has illustrated numerous poetry collections for Sam’s Dot Publications/Alban Lake; as well as multiple print magazines. She illustrated covers and interiors of every issue of Niteblade (Rhonda Parrish, editor). Currently she illustrates for Lorelei Signal, Carol Hightshoe, editor. Check out her art galleries at www.margesimon.com
Marge is also one of the Ladies of Horror who writes for this challenge.