The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The night is cold, the moon full above her. Not that she needs the light. She’s travelled this path so many times the ground should recognize her tread. How many nights has she visited the cold stone marker, nestled between others like it and just in front, a little to the left maybe, of the Jesus statue? The one that seems to judge her trespass and find her unworthy. She agrees with him, but still the silent, yet constant, reminder adds to her sorrow. Her mind tells her the judgement of other’s Gods and Saviors matters little. The Goddess understands there is light and dark in all things. She has taken responsibility and punished herself for her misdeeds.
She arrives at the stone and sinks to the ground. She sets her palm against it, shivering from the chill. As always, her fingers trace the name on the marker, the letters near indecipherable, worn by time and weather. She doesn’t need their imprint to tell her what is written. Rhiannon Hughes—who could forget their own name? The grave is hers, but the body rotting within is not.
Hundreds of years later she still remembers the day the king’s soldiers rode to their cottage. Standing outside, she heard them first—horses hooves drumming faster even than her racing heart—the same heart now frozen in her chest. What to do? Mam was from home, they were alone. She spied them coming and stood there. She never once shouted a warning to Ainsley, inside with the babes. Never uttered a word until the soldiers had gripped her fiercely and slapped her face, while their leader asked if she was called Rhiannon. She’d been terrified, she’d known they’d come for her after the birth had gone so wrong. That’s why you never helped a Lady, one so far above your own station in life. Mam had said it so many times. Why hadn’t she listened? Why had she thought herself too gifted for failure? She was not the Goddess; she had no call as to which baby lived and which died. That power was divine; she could merely ease the birthing, perhaps foster a weakened spirit. But give life to what had never lived? She could not.
When she did find words, they were the wrong ones. Pointing to the cottage with quivering fingers, she’d whispered, “There. She’s in there.” They’d dropped her, and her own shaking knees could not hold. She’d screamed from the ground, “No. No, I lied. I am she!” But the words echoed only in her head. The soldiers had gone to the cottage and dragged Ainsley from within, two of them holding her arms, forcing her to her knees. She stared up at the Captain, not with fear, but with perfect composure, so like Ainsley—always the brave one—while Rhiannon watched in shame. When asked if she was called Rhiannon, Ainsley’s gaze flicked to where her sister sat, not with accusation, no, but with love.
And she said loudly, “Yes. I am called Rhiannon.” The soldiers took her away. The family had not seen her after. Not alive anyway. She’d been burned at the stake for a witch, while Rhiannon lived on. Tears raced down her face, near freezing where they fell. The look on Ainsley face as she had sacrificed herself would never fade. It was carved in something harder than stone, something time and weather could not reach. Her guilt ran as deep today as it had then.
Ainsley had not the powers Rhiannon and Mam possessed. Her sister hadn’t been the witch. Rhiannon had spent so long wishing it different, praying for death herself. She’d grown weary of being immortal, weary of being ashamed. But the shame was her’s to bear, and bear it she would, as night after night she visited the grave with her name etched upon the stone.
Fiction © Copyright Stacey Turner
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Author Stacey Turner:
Metamorphosis occurs every day as caterpillars become sweet fluttering butterflies, tadpoles become gorgeous frog princes and chameleons become one with the beauty of nature – but you won’t find any of that here.
The transformations you’re about to witness are unnatural, sometimes gruesome and deeply psychological. They will make you question reality and take your mind places it was never meant to go.
Cover art and design by Greg Chapman
Terrifying Tales of Transformation from Greg Chapman * Roy C. Booth & R. Thomas Riley * Terri DelCampo * Dave Gammon * Nancy Kilpatrick * Rod Marsden * Jo-Anne Russell * M.J. Preston * Stacey Turner * Tina Piney * Suzanne Robb * Franklin E. Wales * Donna Marie West * Suzie Lockhart * Cameron Trost * Daniel I. Russell * Simon Dewar * Amanda J. Spedding * Ken MacGregor * Erin Shaw * Gregory L. Norris * Nickolas Furr