The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
If my stupid brother Lane couldn’t be there on time to walk me home from school, I was going to walk home myself. I hated waiting until he came bumbling up, stupid grin on his face, “Aww, are you mad at me?”
I was in first grade now and I would walk by myself because it’s just a few blocks.
I announced this at the dinner table in my big voice. Dad said okay, that’s fine, but I saw his mouth smushing at the corners and he took a big sip of water real quick.
Miss Cathy, the crossing guard, was Alfie’s grandmother. Alfie picks his nose a lot and I think he eats it when no one is looking, but he shares his lunch with me and says I’m pretty enough to marry.
I tell all of this to Miss Cathy in my talking-to-grown-ups voice, and she has the same smushed mouth as Dad. She’s nice, though, and doesn’t laugh at me like Lane does when I cover my eyes to pass the cement people at the graveyard.
Miss Badu down the street said the graveyard had bad people in it, and too many people prayed to the Jesus statue when it was just a rock made to look like a man. “You pray to a rock and Jesus not there. Bad things move in and you pray to them, give them power. Bad spirits there eat the power.”
Dad calls Miss Badu a “local” and says the word like its sour.
I hate that stupid statue, with its eyes stained dark and its dirty face. Dad says it’s just how it’s weathered.
The next day Lane is there to walk me home but he yanked my hair, so I used my big voice to tell him I would go with Miss Cathy.
But she wasn’t waiting at the fence. Stupid Lane made me late and she already left. I look around and see Lane is behind the school playground, smoking with his stupid friends.
It’s only four blocks. I am my Daddy’s big brave girl and I can walk by myself.
I say this in my out-loud-to-myself voice, faster when I pass by the cement Jesus. I cover my eyes and try not to peek at his blackened face through the cracks in my fingers, but that makes me trip and scrape my knee. My tights rip and turn red where it’s bleeding.
I don’t like it here. My knee feels hot where the skin opened up but the air is colder. The cement Jesus looks taller now that I’m on the ground. Why can’t I cover my eyes? My hands are at my sides stiff like sticks.
Maybe if I yell in my scared voice, someone could help me. But there is no scared voice, just my voice like sandpaper on a fingernail. I count the stones in the sidewalk to keep myself calm but there’s a shadow now, like it’s getting dark.
I know in my head, in my big-girl heart, why it’s getting dark. The cement Jesus wants me. The bad people in the graveyard want me. “Oh, Jesus, Daddy Jesus, help me,” I say.
“He’s not here,” a voice whispers. “Just Prisoner 3264.”
Then the trees and grass go slanted, and the whole street looks like it’s getting sucked into a vacuum cleaner. The sidewalk under me moves like the conveyer belt at the grocery store, and it’s headed toward the graveyard gate.
He’s waiting for me. His hands don’t move away from his chest because they’re made of stone, but his black eyes are looking at me, and I can feel arms, hard like stone, gripping my shoulders.
I try to use my big girl voice to tell them stop but they throw me on the ground. My tights are wet now because I must have peed them like Jana did the first week of school.
The rock hands are on my chest now, even if I can’t see them. I’m thinking about my wet tights and my brother smoking cigarettes and my dad waiting on the porch.
I’m not going to make it home. The bad people have me.
Fiction © Copyright Leah Lederman
Image courtesy of Marge Simon
More about Leah Lederman:
Leah Lederman is a freelance writer and editor from the Indianapolis area, where she lives with her husband, their two sons, two cats, and puppy. Since obtaining her Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Toledo in 2009, she’s busied herself with writing, editing, parenting, and teaching (though not always in that order). She started her own parenting column in The Toledo Free Press, and has had her short stories published by Bloodlotus Online Literary Journal, The Indianapolis indie magazine Snacks, and in Scout Media’s anthology A Matter of Words. Her most recent work will be released by Indie Authors’ Press in Issues of Tomorrow. Several other pieces are awaiting rejection. As an editor, she’s worked on dozens of indie comic scripts and has been featured on the comics news sites “Creator Owned Expo,” “The Outhousers,” and the podcast “Comics Pros and Cons.” In addition to her work in comics with writers like Dirk Manning, Howie Noel, Bob Salley, and Kasey Pierce, Leah has edited short story collections, children’s books, dissertations, and several novels.