The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
It would only be better if one of the worshippers fell and bit their tongue off, adding blood to brick canvas. No matter, She couldn’t have everything and She already had more than most of her brethren.
The abandoned subway tunnel reminded her of the old days, of when the worthy descended into caves to worship Her, gladly met her in her preferred setting, willingly put their lives on the line for a glimpse of her and a moment to commune with ecstasy.
She didn’t pretend that the madly thrashing children (all humans were children in her mind) were true worshippers, but their motives and hers were close enough. She watched idly as those who had found her, young and old, danced and gyrated and lifted their arms to her, all because she’d given them something better than a canvas, something better than paint.
An artist wants to be stretched, after all, and she was more than willing to stretch them to their limits.
Let the Londoners have their cyber-whatever art cults that dealt in death. Here, deep in the forgotten lair, her clan dealt with something higher.
The body they dragged before her struggled under the robe and the stone mask – they all struggled, even the willing. If it was saying something, she couldn’t hear, not that she would listen. This was the best part, the part where she got to play and create along with her children.
Celci, who had taken the role of priestess raised her arms and said the pleasantries, and gestured. Two similarly cloaked figures snatched the coverings off the chosen, revealing naked human form and a face somewhere between man and bird. At least the grafts were holding this time, proof Her little artists were getting better. They all had chosen to take on parts of her image. At the dawn of man they’d formed her from clay, bird head, human body, parts of other animals here and there. It was only fair her followers reform themselves for her in return.
The tribute would have screamed but his tongue was already gone – smart move on Celsi’s part. The worshippers, a mix of art students, the desperate, and the forgotten, congregated, picking up brushes, rolling up their sleeves. Waiting.
She approached him, smiled, though it looked like no human smile. Raised a taloned hand. Slashed.
It doesn’t take a tongue to scream in agony, and his agony was the most beautiful tribute of all. It was exquisite, born of a very special cut, one that few would receive. She watched him as he writhed and fell to the dirty ground, watched as the rest fell on him as vivid colors poured from the wound. Anyone could shed blood, but it took a goddess to bleed the soul.
They used the offering to paint, slathered the wall with it. They had to work fast, for once released the soul rushed to wander. Again, they were getting better. No quaint tags this time, no childish throwbacks to hieroglyphics that were much later than her time, no attempt to do anything but create what came to them. On the ground, the tribute twitched, blues and greens and yellows and tans and whites and reds flowing free, releasing to the world.
They worked in silence – they didn’t need to talk anymore, not when she was there. She didn’t need their silly praises. She needed their art as much as they needed to make it.
When they finished, they pulled back, expectant, terrified. She’d shed the blood of five people last time she hadn’t been pleased. It wasn’t her fault some artists couldn’t take critique. They backed away, quietly trembling, knotted together, bits of colors, memories, feelings, what it meant to be human drying and flaking from their hands. As long as the tribute’s belief made it into the picture, she didn’t care.
She tilted her head, regarded the eye that stared down at her. She could see herself in it, feel the connection with the dying man aiding the power of the piece. All who saw it would be seen by Her, all who viewed it would know Her. Such was the magic of the paint they used. She slowly lowered her own mask, smiled her cruel, benevolent smile at her poor, ephemeral children. They trembled, waiting her thoughts. She smiled and they practically collapsed in on themselves. This time they did cry out, they did scream praise, they did beg forgiveness for things she had no opinions on.
She stepped to the wall and it made no difference if She stepped on the corpse used to paint the eye or not (She did). She placed a clawed/feathered hand and felt the belief mingling with her own power as it dried. She saw herself, one of the few times she could view herself in all her hodge-podge, terrible, wonderful glory.
Her little artists were getting better. Soon, they would show the world.
Fiction © Copyright Selah Janel
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Author Selah Janel:
Like many young men at the end of the 1800s, Bill signed on to work in a logging camp. The work is brutal, but it promised a fast paycheck with which he can start his life. Unfortunately, his role model is Big John. Not only is he the camp’s hero, but he’s known for spending his pay as fast as he makes it. On a cold Saturday night they enter Red’s Saloon to forget the work that takes the sweat and lives of so many men their age. Red may have plans for their whiskey money, but something else lurks in the shadows. It watches and badly wants a drink that has nothing to do with alcohol. Can Bill make it back out the shabby door, or does someone else have their own plans for his future?