The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Purple Hex Society
by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
Storms are breaking over the ocean. Soft billows pregnant with precipitation hang close to the atmosphere, and lightning pulses through the sky and into the white masses, electrifying the gray. Sunlight fights to glow amid the darkness, but is failing, as droplets begin to pelt the icy waters below. It’s eerily silent to all those aboard Passenger Flight 802.
Mary, dressed in black leggings and a t-shirt adorned with a plaid scarf, sits in her plush, burgundy reclining seat, buckled but frantic at the claustrophobic scenario of being trapped in the air, her nightmares revived of an airplane exploding and falling to the abyss. She saw that in a Hardy Boys episode when she was young and hasn’t shaken it since. It’s an unconscious and underlying anxiety nudge still for her, and as she bites her periwinkle-blue nails, tears slowly roll from her eyes. She quickly pulls a Kleenex from her bag, to wipe up any black pools of mascara.
The turbulence of the plane causes her to be nauseous, as she trembles and swallows hard to hold her bile. She turns and looks over her shoulder, watching for her husband who had excused himself to the bathroom at a time they allowed for unbuckling. Now, they wanted everyone to secure themselves, sit forward, and brace for impact.
She knew how to brace herself, her marriage was one in which she had to do that often. She wondered, as she pulled at the stray hairs near her forehead, how nervous the uneasy situation would make him. His stress often was directed toward her. She knew that was a risk she was taking, though, when she had asked him to come away with her to the island. She knew the route to the islands was riddled with Mother Nature’s madness.
Greg, in his tight jeans and button-down shirt, fanned open to show off his chest hair, finally approached their seating area and sat down beside her again in his aisle seat. He didn’t fasten his belt and Mary just looked at him. “What?” he said, with exasperated tone. “Well, they told us we had to buckle,” she said.
And he did, while staring at her with piercing black eyes, and then he faced forward, took her hand, and quietly bent her pinkie finger backwards. She wanted to cry out in pain, but she bit her lower lip to stifle any sound.
She had to stay calm. She knew what would happen next, if all went to plan. The Purple Hex Society had told her the plane would crash onto the island, slide onto the beach, and had reassured her it would stay out of the deep water. Plummeting into the midnight sky of the ocean was not something she took lightly. She didn’t want to arrange this if there was a possibility she’d drown. She had to put her trust in the Society and the pilots they hired.
As the plane began to shake and reverberate, she squeezed the armrests. Her husband was strung out on obscenities. She felt their acceleration dropping and tried not to hyperventilate but keep her thoughts on breaking free from something bigger, her marriage. Once the plane crashed, the island natives were supposed to claim Greg’s body or kidnap him for their cannibalistic rituals. She would lovingly scream and fake being sad, but after the way he treated her to a black eye every Friday as if he’d taken her for a vanilla cone, her acting was justified. The organizers from the Society told her a speed boat would be sent to pick her up eventually, but the story would be that she had escaped from the clutches of the cannibal tribe, and using flares from the downed plane, she had been able to flag down a group of scientists.
The plane was de-escalating at a very high rate of speed and she braced herself, crying both for dramatic purposes and for her own fears. As they were coming into the shore, fast and uncontrolled, parts of the plane blew by the window, and the fire accompanied it like someone had blown on a bonfire. She heard cracking and the whining of metal.
She threw her head back on the seat, her black hair cascading around her, and closed her eyes. Her hands gripped the armrests tightly, so tightly they almost went numb. The wind whistled, the plane whirred, but she refused to look.
The plane nosedived onto the sand, scuttling along on it as the broken pieces littered around like fallen porcelain. The velocity had taken a toll on the wings and the extremities. Passengers crawled out from under the debris screaming at the lifeless bodies of their families and friends. The pilots were a mass of bloody, burned shells somewhere submerged in the ocean long before the plane crashed.
Greg inched along the sand, his right arm broken in several places. His legs and face were red with blood from deep cuts. He had escaped the wreckage, from the side emergency door another survivor had kicked open, but left Mary’s body limp in her seat
He didn’t do desolate well. He didn’t do the peace and quiet and islands. You never knew what was lurking in these forests. And he didn’t want to sit on the sand the next day and get sunburned. He knew what happened to Tom Hanks in that movie. He didn’t want to talk to sporting equipment.
The next day, he was the only one left. Using the flares he found under their seating area when he went back for his carry-on bag, he sat and lit them off every two hours. Now, he was home, clean-cut and dressed to the nines. The wounds had healed and so had his arm. This evening, he had a book signing for his New York Times best-seller, MISSING MARY. The newspaper had run an article on him earlier in the week in which he talked about how he learned to cope after surviving the crash, but more so, how he learned to cope without his amazing best friend.
He’d told the reporter they were on an anniversary trip to celebrate their five years of marriage, one in which they never found a fight or hurtful moment. She was the dutiful wife, and he, the romantic husband. He had decorated his apartment for the day with photos of Mary, and the two of them, bought her favorite flowers for the coffee table, and lit her favorite scent of candle. He had already deleted the message from the Purple Hex Society, in which they were following-up with Mary to see how she was faring after her loss and talk about final payment. He glorified Mary to the reporter sitting on his periwinkle-blue sofa and she ate it up, thinking he was so sweet to love his wife so much. After she left, he cleared out niceties in the apartment to the garbage out back. He threw her photo face down on top of last week’s leftovers. He’d left her body on the island to rot.
Fiction © Copyright Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi:
Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.
In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.
In the short stories, you’ll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can’t find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.
Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.
With a touching foreword by the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk, Breathe. Breathe. will at times unsettle you, and at times embrace you. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a veteran writer and editor of the written word, offers up a mixed set of pieces, identifying her as a strong, new voice in dark fiction that will tear the heart from your chest, all the while reminding you to breathe.