The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
A rare excursion. Food and companionship.
What could go wrong
in the dark swirling dregs of an evening sojourn?
The wasted man slumped on a seat,
ferried home from three hours and forty minutes
of leisure-time with fellow deadbeats.
Also known as slackers. The Gang Of Goof-Offs
they called themselves. “Watch out, World,
see us snore!” A masculine response to
“I am Woman, hear me roar!” Less jaunty
or chivalrous than “All for one and one for all!”
Theirs was the opposite of a Social Club.
At the moment Raoul wanted only to crash,
in a nice soft bed. Preferably not a hospital bed.
His own mattress in a drab uncluttered apartment.
A private haven from the modern rush. The insane
hyperspeed pace and competitive axe-grind where
everything had to be smart, trendy, connected.
The passenger resented being obliged to chat;
pressured to make polite conversation keeping Davis
alert, in the proper lane. The group had imbibed.
These annual get-togethers were taxing.
An Introvert, he felt exhausted. Like the universe
wouldn’t stop demanding, burying him beneath
commitments, more than he could bear. It wasn’t
his responsibility. I didn’t ask to ride Shotgun.
Or be dropped off last. Raoul just closed his eyes
a second. Then heard a peculiar resounding thud.
Wow. His numb internal reaction. Boulder-heavy
eyelids raised. He glimpsed the windshield aglow.
An emerald sheen. His first coherent thought:
Alien Abduction. The car remained earthbound.
Except the road had changed . . . its lanes
unnaturally bright and garish, the fringes hazy.
Leaning forward, he fought for clarity.
Brain swimming. Senses floating and dull.
Yet he doubted things looked normal. They had
entered a different space, a distorted eerie atmosphere
with a funny hue. A Crazy Vibe that wasn’t real —
Not the realness he knew. It occurred to a sluggish
mind he must be dreaming. Of course, that explains it.
He could relax. No stepping out of his Comfort Zone.
(It had been stressful enough to venture out, period.)
Things were going to be fine. They would both
wake up and the creepy carnival exhibit, the scary
Alternate Universe would be gone. Then Davis
glanced toward him, mouthing a statement in some
bass-level foreign tongue. A load of gobble-de-gook.
The dude braked his car in the middle of empty,
climbed out and sprinted away, down the street.
Which made Raoul sit back up.
He was alone. And couldn’t get his head straight,
couldn’t distinguish what was happening.
The passenger struggled to follow, to eject,
and found no release. Yelling, he wrestled the
safety harness. A door handle. Toppling onto
pavement cold and slimy. It wasn’t rain.
He staggered along a fuzzy path, still believing
he would awaken from the nightmare. Or,
Video Gamish, somewhere in this nowhere had to be
an exit. He would find it, and his friend . . .
The bad scene, like all bad scenes, would come
to a close. A reasonable conclusion.
It was a law of Physics, he assumed.
He didn’t pay much attention in Science Class.
Or any class. Even a simpleton could hope.
Matter around him warped, careening out of kilter.
The shadows merged and shifted. Raoul discerned
vague uncanny figures. Shuffling through fog.
“Hey!” The shout was lost in a murky void of silence,
absorbed by an absence of noise, like the edges
were padded. Finally, a familiar sight drifted amidst
the forms. “Davie!” His greeting failed to carry,
swallowed by a blank substance coating each surface.
Thick as oil, invisible as air, wet as slime.
An ethereal clammy film that clung to him.
Left him feeling hollow. “Wake up,” he whispered.
It also couldn’t be wiped off. “What is this place?”
Voice bouncing in a thick head, Raoul turned —
and discovered himself next to the car.
He had approached a corner. Then wound up
where he started. Laughing in frustration, the guy
trudged forth again. And looped right back to . . .
the beginning of the reel. “This is ridiculous!”
He marched stubbornly, arrived at the corner and —
stood at the car, shaking. Angry and confused.
“Davie, come back!” His rage went unheard.
“You promised to drive me home!” A mute accusation.
The fourth attempt at escape, a curious robed female
appeared. Watching, inviting him to reach
the end of the line. Her skullish aspect beamed
under a hood, lovely, grotesque, half bone, half flesh,
emitting a shine that covered everything.
He had waited for this. Reluctant. Apprehensive.
Dread and paranoia surrendered to bleak acceptance.
“Take me to your leader,” he told the Green Lady.
Ready to be collected. Willing to board her vessel.
A lipless grin parted. “There are no leaders.
We are all equals on The Other Side.” Vision cleared.
Raoul gawped at a wall of curtains, the texture
of fabric, an eternal pattern in the weave of the Veil.
Understanding burned its mark on his brow.
A serial number, branding him a member of the
Lost And Forlorn. He had plunged beyond,
sleeping through his death as he slept through life.
Trapped in a linear dimension . . . locked in the
dungeon depths of History, the Past. Fulfilling a rite
of grim repetition upon that sobering final stretch.
A spirit belatedly roused, unable to rest.
Who should have skipped the gathering this year.
He was never a joiner.
Angel or demon, the woman faded with a smile,
her sole expression. Torches flared with ragged flames;
a neon sign flashed WELCOME TO LIMBO.
He almost wished it were aliens.
Fiction © Copyright Lori R. Lopez
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Lori R. Lopez:
A rich gathering of poetry with a dismal twilight atmosphere, a brooding nature, an eerie tone . . . DARKVERSE: THE SHADOW HOURS encompasses such pieces written by Lori R. Lopez between 2009 and 2017, collected in three of her Poetic Reflections volumes along with humorous and serious verse. This ample compendium allows a more focused reading experience and mood — presenting poems that share speculative themes, flashes of horror, glimpses of madness.
Lori is the author of THE DARK MISTER SNARK, LEERY LANE, MONSTROSITIES, AN ILL WIND BLOWS, THE FAIRY FLY, CHOCOLATE-COVERED EYES, JAR BABY, SAMHAIN, 3-Z, and SPIDER SOUP, among other tales. She has been called a storyteller, whether composing verse or prose.
The aim of her DARKVERSE series is to offer a chilling trek through unlit stretches where all manner of creeps and kooks may lurk; where graveyards and bogs and full-moons abound. The pages of THE SHADOW HOURS illuminate those morbid uncanny perils and dreads that inhabit drab corners, the known and unknown terrors of the night. Vivid and distinct, her voice echoes our worst fears then delves beyond, exposing hitherto unimaginable frights.
Prepare to confront a motley array of ghouls and menaces that might just move under your bed.
Look for an Illustrated Print Edition with quirky art by the author.