The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The old log stairs led up to the back of my Aunt Myra and Uncle Gene’s cabin. They weren’t used much except to access the back woods, where we’d gather small branches and other bits for the wood stoves. Even though we—meaning me, Ally, and my cousins, Dirk and Debbie—didn’t realize we weren’t really related until we were much older, we might as well have been. We spent every summer and spring vacation up at the cabin from the time we were in kindergarten through high school. Once all of us went off to college, got jobs, and did all those other adult things we were raised to be and do, we still spent a week or two together there every year.
That is until Aunt Myra and Uncle Gene were killed in one of those freak storms. They’d been on the way home from one of their monthly stock-up trips in town, and the fire department and local police said that they didn’t have a chance. Lightning decimated a row of trees and proceeded to Aunt Myra and Uncle Gene’s truck. There had been other people on the road that had been struck, too. “A tragedy. A downright tragedy,” Officer Nolan had told us when he arrived at the cabin with the news. Debbie, Dirk, and I had all been there at the time.
They’d left the cabin to all three of us, but Dirk and Debbie didn’t want any part of it. Everyone processes grief differently and in their own time, so I promised to keep the cabin up, stay there when I could. I hired Danny, a guy we’d grown up with, to watch over things. He did a good job for a while . . . until he just up and disappeared one day.
Danny wasn’t the only local that disappeared from the small mountain town. There were a few hikers, campers, and tourists staying at local bed-and-breakfasts that went out for a trek and never showed up again. Our little town in the mountains was overrun with the press as well as local and state law enforcement for a time. Even a few Feds and some freaky guys in black suits, wearing shades. . . even after dark. Then again, those florescent lights at the local lodge were awful bright.
We weren’t a town that tended toward old superstitions. Then again, there were a few that came to the fore. Plants with odd-looking pods had been popping up since the freak storm. This was about the time when the ranger and his men began to post warning signs all around the mountain trails. The back roads, too. Perhaps there was something they knew that we didn’t. When I talked to the ranger about it, he actually gave me a stern look, said, “Just do as you’re told and stay alert.” He’d never spoken to me like that, which made me pause.
Then a few more people disappeared, which brought the total to a total of around 33 or so in an area where the population was about a hundred, give or take a few. This wasn’t counting the next town over that had a population of several thousand. Within a matter of months, it was reduced to less than 500. We figured that they just moved further up the road, given all the boarded-up houses and such.
I wasn’t the only one that believed that freak storm woke up something in the woods, or shook it loose. For some strange reason, I decided to stay on, part of me in honor of my adopted aunt and uncle, another part out of curiosity.
Then one day, I decided to go down the old log stairs that led into the woods below. I hadn’t been down them for years, so I suppose it’s true something did call out to me. That’s when I saw the bones at the foot of the stairs—and something else that disturbed me even more.
The pods were all over the place! While some clung to the bones and seemed mere husks, others resembled large maggots pulsing with an eerie green light. I backed up the old log stairs, nearly fell. Were those Danny’s bones? Had he fallen and broken his legs, unable to make his way back up the stairs for help? Those strange pods had to hold the secret to all the deaths and disappearances. It was as if they were quickened by the freak lightning storm and ensuing fire. I’d heard something about how some plants needed to burn before they could germinate or something. These were definitely not plants; they were something else entirely. Parasites?
Mesmerized, I watched as a few of the pods inched closer, elongating to slither up the logs. I took another step up the stairs, then another and another before finally reaching the safety of the warm kitchen. After closing and locking the back door, I peered through the window. The pods were gone, and in their place, a slug-like creature wearing Danny’s face. It offered a lopsided grin, showing row after row of serrated teeth.
I wasn’t going to wait to see if it could come in the door. I grabbed my coat, purse, and car keys and ran out the door.
I never did return to the cabin . . . Occasionally, I’d hear a bit of news about the mountain town, usually on one of those paranormal documentaries. No one lives there any more. Not in the surrounding area, either.
At least nothing human.
Fiction © Copyright Terrie Leigh Relf
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from author Terrie Leigh Relf:
For thousands of Earth years, the Transgalactic Consortium has had a quiet interest in this planet and its inhabitants, the Haurans. While the Sisterhood of the Blood Moon works together with the Consortium and Haurans to maintain balance in the universe, the Blood Moon is fast approaching. The power of this moon reveals untold secrets . . . including a sacred covenant with the Mora Spiders. There is an ancient pact that needs to be honored—but at what cost and for whose purpose? The world may come to an end. But will there be a chance for a new beginning?