The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Every time Ines closed her eyes, she saw him, draped in robes the color of campfire smoke, wielding a sword that tapered then flared. Crows flew from his vestments every so often, as if his soul were composed of darkness and feathers. A wolf always lurked by his side, looking angry and famished, but not for want of food.
Her hands shook as Ines assembled her Moka pot. She desperately needed caffeine to shake away the cobwebs of sleep—and fear. The man in gray had commandeered her dreams the past six nights without fail, and it had been unsettling to say the least. Though her California kitchen was bright and sunny, it felt like he was still there, perhaps around the corner, watching her from beneath the hood of his cloak.
Ines shook her head. Arrete, she chided. Il n’est pas reel.
She needed something to do while her espresso percolated—something that would require concentration and banish the man from her thoughts.
Ines plucked a Granny Smith apple from her fridge along with the knife she always used to peel produce from a kitchen drawer. She rinsed the apple, then set to work removing its peel. Her practiced hands handled the knife with ease, the product of working as a sous chef in the little French restaurant down the street.
The work of peeling the apple was easy, calming, soothing…until Ines’s marble countertops and sleek silver appliances darkened, then vanished, and the cold set in.
She was in a forest clearing filled with billowing fog. Ines could smell the damp in the air, fetid and wild. The chill pressed against her, icy and unrelenting. Another aroma fed her senses, something feral, just over her shoulder.
Ines turned, and as she did, heavy fabric swished around her. A pair of yellow dog eyes met hers, then shifted to something on the forest floor in front of her. The wolf growled, and it sounded like the whole world was rattling.
Oui, mon chien de la nuit, Ines thought. C’est l’heure.
Before her, a human skull lay half-hidden among moldy, tattered leaves. And she knew it needed to be vanquished. There was something old and evil within the bone, something that would swallow her kind whole if she didn’t dispense of it.
Ines unsheathed her sword, positioned the blade over the skull, and struck down, cracking bone. The wolf howled. As its cry echoed through the wood, the landscape cracked and peeled, revealing the blinding light of a southern California morning.
A moment later, pain coursed through Ines, fresh and hot. Blood poured from her hand, which was splayed out on the marble countertop, impaled by her favorite peeling knife.
Beneath the sound of her desperate screaming, Ines thought she heard a man laughing.
Fiction © Copyright Tiffany Michelle Brown
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com