The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Of Mice and Ghosts
by Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
A pack of feral boys had gathered on the front porch – hooligans who planned to invade the McNeil House. Old Lady McNeil had been found dead here over a half century before. She’d lain in the kitchen, undiscovered and unmourned, for six months decaying into a heap of bone and carrion flesh. Eventually, a curious neighbor had investigated. Her screams and hysterics had brought more attention than did Old Lady McNeil’s actual corpse.
Rumor had it that her ghost still walked these empty rooms. Occasionally, someone heard strange sounds coming from the old house, usually late at night. Sensible people avoided the dilapidated place like the health hazard it was.
The boys on the porch egged each other on, punching shoulders and grinning like gargoyles.
“Go on, you wuss. You said you wasn’t scared.”
“Shut up. I’m checkin’ crap out.”
“You go first, butthead. It was your idea anyway.”
Old Lady McNeil remained silent as the clichéd tomb while the boys ginned up their courage to cross from the porch into the house. She knew they would. She’d seen their type before. She recognized family resemblances from long-ago tormenters, others who’d entered her home and wreaked destruction. Anger rose within her, lending her insubstantial self the strength to become visible.
The redheaded, jug-earred ruffian shoved the fat one, who stumbled across the threshold. All the boys thundered in then and crashed through the house like a pack of destructive curs, rampaging and howling, breaking any knickknack that wasn’t already shattered into shards. The fat one tore down the last tattered bit of curtain in the parlor, laughing at the dust that swirled into the air.
All the time, she watched, unseen, silent, growing angrier, growing more powerful with her rising emotion.
“Hey, look! A mouse!” A howl of bloodlust erupted from a half dozen throats. A dozen boots stamped and stomped, chasing the terrified rodent through the dining room. It shrieked at a pitch too high for human ears to hear, but Old Lady McNeil heard.
The vicious crew chased the tiny grey mouse into a corner. The ringleader raised a foot to crush the little animal.
Emmaline McNeil didn’t hesitate. Hundreds of generations of mice she’d known, played with, loved since the first ones had kept watch over her while she’d lain undiscovered and rotting on the floor in front of her stove.
She stood over the defenseless, cowering mouse and breathed a mist of cold fog into the faces of the rabid fiends who would end the harmless little life.
“What was that?”
“It’s the ghost!”
“Let’s get outta here!”
She flitted to the front door and slammed it in their faces. Their screams inflamed her rage even more. She was so strong now. The sharp tang of urine rose from their jeans.
Assuming the rotten face she’d worn when she was finally discovered, she manifested fully. “Brave nasty little boys, are you? Strong enough to crush ferocious mousies? How about me? Can you stand against the likes of me?” She raised spectral arms and swooped forward, wailing, her mouth twisted and distorted.
She chose the lug-earred redhead for special attention. She wrapped ghostly arms around him and plastered her rotting face against his. With a high-pitched giggle, she licked his cheek, drooling protoplasm down his chin. The unfortunate boy’s eyes rolled back in his head, and he fainted dead away. The fat boy grabbed him by an arm and dragged him toward the front of the house. Emmaline McNeil allowed the terrified urchins to yank open the door. Reeking of terror and assorted bodily fluids, the boys fell through the entryway, onto the porch, and into the yard.
Old Lady McNeil put away the fearsome face and resumed her normal one. The gentle rustling of mice accompanied her as she entered her dining room. The last unbroken piece of furniture in the house, her favorite dining chair, stood alone in its moldering glory. She settled in with the final newspaper delivered to the house so long ago. Too bad no one ever brought a new edition when they attempted to breach her defenses. She read yet again an article about Ike’s re-election, the happy mice playing at her feet.
Fiction © Copyright Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Mary Ann Peden-Coviello:
Women write horror and have written it since before Mary Shelley wrote FRANKENSTEIN. This anthology is to highlight the fact women write great horror and to kill the fallacy that they aren’t in some way up to standard. They are. Read here stories by Elizabeth Massie, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Lucy Taylor, and a plethora of other great writers as they work on your nerves, get inside your head, and bang out some of the scariest tales written today. I’m proud to present these women for your consideration, as Rod Serling might say, as I ask you to step into FRIGHT MARE. Lock the door and windows, put on a light, and remember, it’s not real. It’s not real. Midnight awaits, monsters scheme to take you away, the strange and weird wait in the shadows, but it’s not real. Is it?
Edited by Billie Sue Mosiman, the author who brought you the SINISTER-TALES OF DREAD collections and her latest suspense novel, THE GREY MATTER.