The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
I can hear them, downstairs. They’re giggling. Who’d have thought the sound of three giggling kids would frighten me to the point of nausea?
It’s my own fault, I guess. When I took this babysitting gig, Mrs. Donovan told me not to fall asleep before she and Mr. Donovan got home. I thought she was being overprotective, you know. One of those helicopter parents.
After I fed the kids their supper, I did a little homework while they watched TV. The new puppy was sleeping in its basket by the gas fireplace. My stupid English homework – I mean, who needs to diagram sentences in the real world? – put me to sleep, too.
The puppy’s shrieks woke me up. The oldest kid, Gregory, who’s only eight, was holding the pup in the fireplace – gas fire burning – with a poker through its little collar. I jumped up and yelled, “Gregory Donovan, you stop that!” just as the puppy went silent and fell limply onto the fake logs.
The three kids – Gregory, Olivia, and William – turned to face me. Gregory still held the poker in his fist. Identical cold smiles curved the lips on three little faces.
Gregory said, “We don’t like you, Addie. You don’t play games with us. Bippy didn’t play nice. He bit Livvy.” Olivia showed me a perfectly unmarked arm. “So we punished him. Now it’s your turn.” Gregory raised the poker.
I didn’t wait to see what he had in mind. I ran up the stairs to the Donovans’ bedroom, locked the door, and then dragged the dresser in front of it.
And here I am, hunkered down behind the barricade, listening to the kids. I hear them on the stairs, whispering. Their parents aren’t due home for two more hours. Maybe Mrs. Donovan wasn’t protecting the kids. Maybe she was trying to protect me.
Do I smell smoke? Oh, God. They’ve set fire to the door. Smoke curls under the dresser, the acrid stench burning my nose.
I don’t know what to do. I can’t move the dresser. They’ll get in. I can’t not move the dresser. They’ll burn me out.
The window. I raise it and climb out onto the roof. My feet scrabble on the shingles. I hang over the edge and drop to the ground. The fall isn’t far, but landing is a shock. Pain shoots through my legs. But I’m safe.
When I turn around, Gregory waits for me, Olivia and William standing behind him, grinning.
“Mama!” I cry in the moment before the poker connects with my temple.
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.