The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Time to Die
by Stacey Turner
The bell jingled over the door, and Fifika passed through the beaded curtain to greet the new arrival. A man stood inside the shop, glancing at the merchandise. She studied his face: handsome, with a strong jaw and cheekbones, heavy eyebrows, youngish, maybe early thirties. Even with the slightly amused smile playing about his lips, he appeared dark and brooding. He raised his gaze to hers. She stared into heavily lashed, piercing blue eyes, and she felt a bolt of recognition, though she was certain she didn’t know him.
“Ah,” he said. “You must be the beautiful Madame Beauville.”
She inclined her head. “Are you here for a reading?”
When he nodded, she led him beyond the beaded curtain to her reading room, indicating he sit at the small table. She sat, anxiously smoothing the velvet table scarf. “Tarot?”
She took her deck from an antique hand carved box and removed the purple silk scarf in which they were wrapped. She wasn’t sure why she’d decided to use her special deck, when surely the normal Rider-Waite would have been sufficient.
“Your cards are exquisite, Madame. Is that a Tarot de Marseille?”
She regarded him coolly, trying to hide her surprise. Very few people knew the historical origins of the Tarot, let alone recognized an original deck.
“It is,” Fifika answered. “It’s a family deck, passed down through generations. My family migrated to France in the early eighteenth century. And my grand-mère brought them with her when she came to America.”
“You are true Romani then,” he mused. “So you know this specific deck was devised for cartomancy in the eighteen hundreds?”
“I do.” Again, she hid surprise. Who was this stranger?
“I will tell you something even more interesting after my reading. A simple three card spread will do.”
“As you wish.” She shuffled the cards, then handed them to him. “Please cut the deck.”
He did so, and she laid three cards face down on the table between them. As she flipped the first—Death—she explained, though she was almost certain she didn’t need to, “The first card represents your past. And though the card is Death, it doesn’t necessarily mean literal death. It can mean the end of a cycle, a change or metamorphosis.”
He laughed. “The end of a cycle. Like the Life cycle, yes?”
Unnerved, she nodded and continued. “This next card—The Hermit—represents your present. In its reversed form it often represents loneliness or isolation. Or perhaps the querist has lost their way.” She fidgeted as he let out a harsh chuckle. She was good at this; readings were in her blood, but she was having a devil of a time figuring him out.
She turned the last card—the Wheel of Fortune—and spoke, “This last card reveals your future. It speaks to the inevitability of fate, but also signals a major change or upheaval.” She raised her eyes, but he no longer sat opposite. The hair on her nape tingled, and she bit back a scream as his hands gripped her shoulders. She hadn’t sensed his movement.
“You are a true diviner, my dear, just like your grand-mère, or was it your great grand-mère? Maybe even great great. That’s a fantastic spread for a vampire. Death, loneliness, the inevitability of my fate. You are talented and beautiful.” He lowered his head and licked her cheek. “But alas, we are destined to part. Me from your company, you from your life.”
Fifika straightened her spine. “You cannot be in here, you were not invited, and you are unwelcome.”
He backed away from her and clapped his hands. She whirled off the chair and stood to face him.
“So you were taught about things which go bump in the night. Bravo to your maman. But I was invited, quite literally. The sign in your window reads, ‘Come In, We’re Open.’”
Fifika groaned inwardly. Damnit. Why hadn’t she thought of that? Maybe because she’d never really credited her grand-mère’s stories? Thought them crazy Romani stories like the rest of her family’s folklore? Now, she’d live—no, die—to regret her disbelief. Frantically, she cast her mind about for some weapon, something to fight back.
He came forward and chucked her under the chin. “Don’t even try, chérie. I could snap your neck before you so much as took a step. I’m here to fulfil a longstanding debt to your family. Sabina Beauville is the one who cursed me to my current fate and stole my Tarot de Marseille. I’m not sure which I’m angrier about, to be honest. But your death will have to suffice for both.”
“Killing me won’t make you human again. Nor will it hurt my long dead ancestress.”
“True,” the vampire answered. “But it will make me feel better.”
“I doubt it,” Fifika said. “Revenge always sounds better than it actually feels. You’ve carried this grudge for the last—what? Two hundred years? All my death will do is take away your purpose. There’s no one left to mourn me. Only you will know you had the last word.”
He considered for a moment. Then he was behind her again, pulling back her head, exposing her throat. “You’re right, gypsy. So I will modify my plan. I will turn you, and then you will spend eternity knowing I won.” He bit down on her neck, piercing the carotid artery and sucking the warm blood until she was limp. Then he bit his own wrist and forced his blood into her mouth before dropping her.
She whimpered as she hit the ground with a bone rattling thump, gagging at the coppery taste filling her mouth. He’d done the one thing worse than killing her. Her veins throbbed, and the wound on her neck itched with an agonizing intensity as her body fought to repel the curse. But she couldn’t let him win. She knew he’d hear her, even if she only had the strength to whisper. And so she did.
“Hear me, vampire. This is not a victory for you. With the strength of my ancestors and my Romani heritage flowing through me, I curse you.”
He turned from his place by the beaded curtain to gaze at her. He shook his head. “You Beauville women just don’t give up, do you? What could be worse than the fate I’m already suffering?”
She smiled. “There’s only one think I can think of worse than an eternity of life—an eternity of ennui. And so, I curse you to an infinity spent existing in no more than a fifty mile radius of your current lair.”
“Nooo!” he roared.
She wheezed out a laugh. “It is done.”
“This is not over, sorcière.” He whirled and vanished.
“Not by a long shot, asshole.” Fifika lay, staring at the ceiling contemplating the evening’s events and waiting for the hunger to begin.
Fiction © Copyright Stacey Turner
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from author Stacey Turner:
Morbid Metamorphosis: Terrifying Tales of Transformation
Metamorphosis occurs every day as caterpillars become sweet fluttering butterflies, tadpoles become gorgeous frog princes and chameleons become one with the beauty of nature – but you won’t find any of that here.
The transformations you’re about to witness are unnatural, sometimes gruesome and deeply psychological. They will make you question reality and take your mind places it was never meant to go.
Terrifying Tales of Transformation from Greg Chapman * Roy C. Booth & R. Thomas Riley * Terri DelCampo * Dave Gammon * Nancy Kilpatrick * Rod Marsden * Jo-Anne Russell * M.J. Preston * Stacey Turner * Tina Piney * Suzanne Robb * Franklin E. Wales * Donna Marie West * Suzie Lockhart * Cameron Trost * Daniel I. Russell * Simon Dewar * Amanda J. Spedding * Ken MacGregor * Erin Shaw * Gregory L. Norris * Nickolas Furr