The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Naching T. Kassa
Miss Pym had always dreaded menopause. She despised hot sweats, cold chills, and the other discomforts which accompanied it. Most of all, she feared the lack of control the hormonal shifts caused her.
One such shift occurred on a cold and windy day in November. She was seated in her classroom, watching the second graders as they worked on their math problems, when Jamie Morrison crept into the room. The boy was small and slight with a spray of freckles across his cheeks and straw-blonde hair. There were holes in his long-sleeved shirt and in his faded jeans.
The boy looked up, his face pale.
Jamie shuffled up to her desk, his eyes on the floor.
“This is the third time you’ve been late this week. Is everything alright?”
“Yes, Miss Pym.”
“Are you sure?”
“Look at me, Jamie.”
The boy looked up and when he did so, his neck became visible. A dark purple mark peeked above his collar, marring his pale skin.
The blood in Miss Pym’s veins grew scalding hot.
“Sorry, Miss Pym,” the boy said. “It was my fault. I woke up late.”
“What happened to your neck, Jamie?”
The boy’s eyes widened. He pulled his collar up, covering the bruise.
“Yes. On the stairs outside our apartment.”
“You’ve been falling a lot lately.”
“My shoes are too big. I trip.”
“I think I’ll talk to your mother. Maybe, she could get you better shoes.”
“Please, don’t, Miss Pym. He’ll get m—I mean, she can’t afford it.”
Miss Pym raised an eyebrow. Trembling, Jamie averted his eyes.
“I see. Well, I guess you can return to your seat, then. The assignment is on your desk.”
Jamie nodded and hurried away. Miss Pym stared after him. Whether he liked it or not, she would contact his mother. She’d seen enough bruises. It was time to sort this out.
She reached down to open the desk drawer where she kept parent phone numbers and froze.
Her hand had changed. The fingers had grown several inches and long claws had sprouted from the tips. Soft, gray fur covered the top, and the palm had become a thick pad.
Miss Pym looked up. The students continued with their work. No one seemed to have noticed.
She took a deep, shuddering breath and shut her eyes. When she opened them, her hand had returned to its original human form.
“Damn, hormones,” she said under her breath. Of all things to lose control over. Why couldn’t she be like other women? Crying uncontrollably and swearing like a sailor was far preferable to this.
The end of the day couldn’t come fast enough. When it did, Miss Pym bade her students goodbye and settled down to grade papers before heading home.
A few minutes after three-thirty, a soft cough interrupted her work. She glanced up. Jamie stood in the doorway. Tears glistened in his eyes.
“Oh, Miss Pym,” he said. “Can you help me?”
She rose from her chair and hurried to his side.
“What is it, dear?”
“I had to go to the bathroom and I missed my bus.”
“Would you like to call your mother?”
“She’s at work. She can’t come and get me.”
“Who’s looking after you when you get home?”
“Jack Clegg. He’s my mom’s boyfriend.”
“Can you call J—“
Jamie shook his head. “He won’t come.”
“Would you like me to take you home?”
“Let’s go downstairs to my car. I’ll drive you.”
Moments later, Miss Pym found herself behind the wheel of her beige Subaru with Jamie in the back seat. Aside from giving directions to his apartment building, the boy didn’t speak. He bit his nails as he stared out the window.
When they pulled up outside a large brick tenement building and parked, Jamie opened the door and bolted from the car.
“Thank you, Miss Pym,” he called over his shoulder. Within seconds, he’d disappeared through the front door.
Miss Pym stepped out of the car to close the door and found a backpack lying on the seat. It was Jamie’s. She pulled it out of the car.
For a moment she held the bag, her eyes on the building. Before she could change her mind, she headed for the front entrance.
Miss Pym stepped through the unlocked door and into a dim and dirty hallway. Jamie had given her the second-floor apartment number.
The elevator was out of order. She would have to take the stairs. A long flight with a cherry-oak railing lay before her.
Muffled cries and the sound of an angry male voice suddenly sounded above her. She grasped hold of the railing and climbed.
Miss Pym didn’t notice the change in her hand. Her nails, now claws, scraped the wood as she moved and left a long gouge in her wake.
When she reached the door of apartment 2C, the shouting had stopped. Miss Pym realized the state of her hand only after she had knocked. When the door opened, she hid it behind her back.
A thin man stood in the doorway. He was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, his face covered in acne.
“Whadda you want?” he said.
“Are you Jack Clegg?”
Miss Pym held up the backpack.
“This is Jamie’s. I’m his teacher.”
“He said he forgot it at school.”
“He left it in my car. I brought him home.”
The man held out his hand. Miss Pym kept the bag out of his reach.
“I’d like to give it to Jamie myself. I have something to tell him.”
“He’s in timeout. He can’t come to the door.”
“The boy didn’t mean to miss the bus. It was an honest mistake.”
“He should’ve called.”
“It’s none of your business, lady. Why don’t you give me the bag and leave?”
Miss Pym glanced over Clegg’s shoulder as the bathroom door opened behind him. Jamie stepped out, holding a washcloth. He dabbed at his bleeding lip before disappearing from view.
“You bastard,” Miss Pym whispered.
Clegg stepped out and closed the door behind him.
“Get lost. Or you’ll get some of the same.”
“You’ll never hurt him again.”
“What’re you gonna do? Call the cops? I got relatives on the force. They won’t believe you.”
Miss Pym trembled. Heat flashed over her body. Bones cracked and shifted.
“You’re the one they won’t believe,” she said in a hoarse whisper.
Clawed hands lashed out and took him by the shoulders. She covered his mouth with one hairy paw as she dragged him down the stairs. When she reached the bottom, she gave voice to an earth-shattering howl.
When Miss Pym returned to human form twenty minutes later, Jack Clegg lay in the alley before her. His right arm lay five feet away. His left arm was three. She shook her head as she hurried to her car.
She’d meant to beat him up, give him a few bruises, and put a scare into him.
Well, at least Clegg wouldn’t hurt Jamie.
He’d never hurt him again.
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Naching T. Kassa:
Halloween, every horror writer’s favourite festival and every reader’s wish that the writers find something new to say about it. . . look no further than this startling new collection of Halloween Horror! From the first very nasty little story to the final lengthy one outlining the history of the pumpkin, there is horror entertainment all the way. Enjoy!