The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The barn was derelict, no more than a withered assemblage of unkempt, rotting wood masquerading as shelter. Rain slithered through cracks in the roof and dripped onto every surface, rendering the space wet and uncomfortable. It was a place no one in their right mind would go, especially during a thunderstorm—which made it the perfect place for Vanessa to…coerce young Matthew Goodwin.
She’d lured him here with a song she’d sung for the past 539 years, a melody that seeped into Matthew’s bones. A ballad that rendered him warm and malleable and desperate to find the purveyor of its notes. It worked every time.
And now the boy was strung up in the rafters, dangling from air. He was screaming and shaking, making a fool of himself—as if his frantic pleas would save him from his fate.
Vanessa stood below the writhing human, soaked through with rain, her millennia-old-yet-smooth-as-snow face devoid of emotion. On a wooden stool nearby, she’d placed a cup of hemlock tea, a tired-but-ticking pocket watch, and her spell book, open to the Suspension Enchantment.
“Matthew,” she called, her voice echoing through the open space. “Matthew, dear, I just need you to tell me who, and then I shall let you down. You have my word.”
But Matthew simply wouldn’t cooperate. A litany of curses and insults poured from his lips, some of which pleasantly shocked Vanessa. Who would have guessed Matthew Goodwin had such filth within him? It was incredible what you could discover about an animal once it was caged.
Vanessa clucked her tongue. “That isn’t the information I requested, though I am impressed by your expansive and wretched vocabulary.”
Now, Matthew simply howled, his mouth no longer forming anything intelligible. Vanessa could see they were getting nowhere. It was time.
She closed her eyes and whispered ancient words. In response, a piece of wood, tapered into a fine point, snapped from the floorboards and soared up toward Matthew. Momentarily, the boy stopped moaning, distracted by the sudden movement. Then, he started blubbering. Through his cries, he pleaded, “Please, please, please…”
“You had your chance,” Vanessa whispered. She flicked her wrist, and the wooden stake throttled forward and impaled the boy’s foot.
Matthew Goodwin’s screams filled the barn, but Vanessa remained unmoved. Her eyes focused on the face of her pocket watch, and she watched the second hands tick, ignoring the boy completely. Precisely eighteen seconds later, Matthew stopped shrieking and started mumbling.
And to Vanessa’s delight, he mumbled a name: Claire.
Claire Goodwin. The matriarch of the Goodwin clan.
“You Goodwins are full of surprises,” Vanessa whispered. “I never would have guessed your mother capable of murder.” Her voice softened. “Apparently, Sylvia underestimated her, too.”
Vanessa paused, remembering how she’d found her sister’s body, splayed out in the living room of the cabin they shared – rigid, cold, and so very dead. Her head was detached, the only way to ensure death for a witch.
A muddy footprint stained the cabin floorboards, and it was the only clue Vanessa needed to deduce a lead. A simple spell later, she’d identified soil from the Goodwin farm within the print.
After that, it was just a matter of coercion. And, of course, revenge.
Vanessa snapped her fingers, releasing Matthew Goodwin from his invisible suspension. He plummeted to the barn floor, falling at an unfortunate angle that resulted in a loud and resounding crack.
Vanessa reached for the hemlock tea and took a sip, watching the Goodwin boy intently for any signs of life. Tonight, she didn’t plan to leave any behind.
Fiction © Copyright Tiffany Michelle Brown
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com