The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Great Uncles Miles’ study overflowed with old leather-bound books and curious objects. Many of these were functional, rather than decorative, and he would often demonstrate how they worked—but not the gong that hung from an ornate stand, its mallet close by.
He followed my eyes today as always. “You must never touch this until it is your time. Promise, Maevas!” While the tone of his voice was vehement, his eyes bright and intense, his hands were still gentle when he took and held mine.
“Of course, Uncle. “What do you mean by when it’s my time?”
Great Uncle Miles paused for a moment, reached out for his teacup, then decided upon the sherry instead. After pouring me a glass and then one for him, Uncle Miles drank a few sips before settling back in his leather chair with an appreciative sigh.
“When I was a lad, my mother and father took me on one of their lengthy cruises. Your grandfather was in the import-export business, and was always in search of items that would appeal to collectors.
“On one leg of our journey, we traveled to an island, and it was there that my father discovered the gong.” He swiveled in his chair to glance at it, brows furrowed. “Once we returned home, your grandfather decided it wasn’t for sale. For you see, your grandmother delighted in listening to the resonate sound it made.”
A few tears trickled from the corner of his eyes, and he allowed them to slide down his cheeks, reaching instead, for the bottle of sherry, topping off both of our glasses.
Concerned, I leaned toward him.
“It’s okay, dear. Even after all these years . . . Well, my mother became quite ill. Not too long thereafter, she passed away. My father soon followed. Family and friends believed it was due to grief at losing her, but I learned otherwise. It was the gong, you see. Not so much the tone that it emitted, but the gong itself had brought something otherworldly into this old house. Or as I often imagined, awakened something that was already here.”
I’d been holding my breath during the last part, and finally released it. Great Uncle Miles had shared strange stories with me before, but this one didn’t seem made up. “How did you know it was the gong, Uncle? If it’s dangerous, why do you keep it in the house?”
“Good questions, Maevas. You may not remember your aunt and uncle very well, or their children. They used to live in my guest cottage.”
“Well, you were but a child when they lived there. An annoying lot, but one looks out for family fallen on hard times.”
“You took me in as well, Uncle. I’m ever so grateful I didn’t end up in that ghastly orphanage.”
“You are my treasure, Maevas. My greatest treasure.”
“I love you, too, Uncle.”
“One Sunday brunch, your cousins were misbehaving, and their parents weren’t much better, so I wanted to get their attention. I struck the gong . . . Within a fortnight, they were all dead.”
“But how could it have been the gong. Wasn’t I there that day? You?”
Uncle Miles nodded, taking another sip of sherry before setting down his glass. He reached out to grasp my hands and held them both tightly in his own. “I’ve attempted to learn more about the gong, trace its origins, determine whether it’s cursed or possessed, to no avail. When I tossed it in the rubbish bin, it reappeared back where you see it now. I even attempted to burn it in the fireplace. Not even the wooden frame caught fire.”
He let go of my hands, lowered his voice. “When my time comes, all this will be yours, including the gong. It appears that I, that we, are its caretakers, as when struck, it doesn’t affect us.”
“May I just look at it, Uncle? I’m curious about those patterns.”
“I’ve spent many a night hoping to decipher them.”
As I walked closer to the occasional table where the gong rested in its stand, the air seemed thicker, almost palpable. I turned around, eyes wide.
“You feel it, don’t you? Step a bit closer . . . there!”
I peered closely at the intricate patterns etched around the rim’s outermost edge. Perhaps it was the wan light inside the study, but I swear the patterns began to change, some rearranging themselves.
“You see it, too, don’t you? Please tell me I’m not imaging it.”
“You’re not, Uncle. This is most strange. It’s as if the gong is responding to our presence, perhaps trying to communicate with us.”
“Right so. Right so—but what?”
“It’s definitely strange.”
I continued studying the gong’s surface, tracing the patterns first with my eyes, then tentatively with my fingers several inches away. Before I realized what I was doing, the mallet was in my hand and I struck the gong, its deep sound resonating throughout the study.
Uncle Miles cried out, “What have you done!”
Stunned, I just stood there, the mallet hanging limp in my hand. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
“What’s done is done, Maevas. She has chosen you.”
At first, I didn’t understand what he meant. Within moments, however, I began to hear a voice within my mind, a voice cautioning me to obey Her if I wanted to survive, if I wanted Uncle Miles to survive as well.
“You knew all along,” I whispered.
With sadness reflected in his eyes, Great Uncle Miles nodded.
I wanted to forgive him, but felt betrayed and angry. I even considered packing up my things and leaving, never to return—but then She began to console me, offer enticements to remain . . .
And all I had to do was allow Her to fully possess me from time-to-time, so that She could walk among the living to sate Her hunger.
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?