The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Time in the Grave
by Naching T. Kassa
Nalin Kratides stood at the edge of the shallow grave, her eyes on the skull which peeked above the sand. Moonlight glowed over the sun-bleached bone.
A breeze tousled her dark hair and whispered across the desert. She held a silver compact in her left hand and traced the cold, raised surface with her right. Then, she turned to the man behind her.
Detective Warren leaned against his Dodge Charger, arms crossed. Green eyes peered at her through square-framed glasses.
“Are you ready, John,” Nalin said.
The detective nodded and said, “Do you think he’ll tell you?”
“Only if I ask.” She turned back to the grave, “If anything happens…will you…”
“I’ll catch you if you fall,” came the reply.
She shut her eyes and the desert came alive. In the distance, a coyote cried and the fragrant scent of Brittlebush filled the air. Night closed around her. She took a deep breath before allowing it inside.
The vision swirled up from darkness and spilled out before her eyes. It began with the flame of a single candle and the reflection of mirror glass.
Nalin held the candle before her. The reflection in the glass was not her own. The black and empty eye sockets of a skull stared back.
“Marjorie?” the skeletal figure said, in a high voice. Then, before she could answer. “No, you are not she. Who are you?”
“Why are you here?”
“To discover your identity and, perhaps, the name of the one who murdered you.”
She held up the compact. It gleamed in the soft light.
“Where did you get that?” it whispered.
“The detective found it buried beside your bones.”
The skeleton lowered its head.
“I thought he took it when he killed me. It belonged to Marjorie. I’ve had it…ever since she was…was…”
“Who are you?” Nalin asked.
Nalin’s eyes widened.
“You’ve heard of me. I can see it in your eyes. Women have such expressive eyes. So many truths lie within those depths. That compact is the only thing I have left of her. The only reminder of our love.”
“You loved her?”
“I adored her. And, she loved me. How long has it been…since she died?”
“Thirty years. How long have you been here?”
Harper chuckled, a mawkish laugh. The sound chilled Nalin’s blood.
“Twenty. It’s a long time to lie in a grave,” he said. “Who is that standing behind you?”
Nalin glanced over her shoulder. A long tunnel stretched behind her and, at the end, John still leaned against the car.
“He’s a detective.”
“He looks familiar.”
“He found your body.”
“Oh…I thought…his eyes. They look like—“
“Why didn’t you move on to the next world?”
The skeleton clenched its bony hands. “Vengeance.”
“The one who snuffed my life as though it were a candle. The one who took Marjorie away and caused her death.”
Nalin’s heart pounded in her chest. “Who?”
“I came to her that night. She wanted to leave him, to be with me. I saw it in her eyes the moment she opened the door. She loved me. Had always loved me.”
“Of course she did. But, he must’ve found out about us because he changed her. When I stepped over the threshold, she tried to push me out. She told me to go. She didn’t know who I was. She wasn’t…she wasn’t my Marjorie anymore.”
“Harper,” Nalin said, her tone gentle. “Did you kill Marjorie?”
“No! No…he made me do it. He put the hate in her eyes. He made me use the knife on her. And, in the throes of death, she called his name. His name! Not mine!”
“The one who posed on television pretending to mourn her. The one who pleaded for information leading to the capture of her murderer. The one who put me in this grave. Captain James Warren.”
Nalin covered her mouth with one hand.
“I swore I would see him punished. See him arrested and humiliated. If he still lives, it will be so. If he is dead, I will defile his memory. Can you imagine what the world will think? He was a great policeman. Now, he’ll be nothing but a common murderer.”
Bruce reached out toward the glass. It stretched around his fingers before bursting like a bubble. He grasped hold of Nalin’s wrist.
“The day has come at last. You are my salvation. Let me in.”
“No!” Nalin cried. She struggled as the skeleton pushed its way through the mirror.
“Through you, I will reveal the truth to all. The truth of Marjorie’s death. The truth about mine.”
“John!” Nalin screamed.
The detective rushed forward. He entered the tunnel.
As John drew nearer, the skeleton’s grip loosened. He stared into the detective’s face.
“Her eyes!” Harper cried. “He has her eyes!”
Nalin wrenched herself from Harper’s grip. She fell backward.
Arms caught her and pulled her away from the shallow grave. She turned and clutched at John’s shirt.
She nodded. He pulled her to her feet. Trembling, she wrapped her arms around his neck. He enfolded her in his embrace.
“It was Bruce Harper,” she said.
“The serial killer?”
“He killed your mother.”
“Then, my father—”
She glanced at the grave. In the moonlight, the skull still grinned.
“James Warren is innocent,” she said.
“Did Harper tell you who buried him here?”
Nalin paused. She stared into those green eyes, then, lowered her own. The compact still filled her hand. She slipped it into her pocket.
“No. He doesn’t know who killed him.”
A scream came from the grave. A wail only she could hear.
She ignored it.
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Naching T. Kassa:
It’s the Final Masquerade and it’s your turn to dance.
The evening is ending and the guests are ready to leave, but the final event of the evening is just beginning — the unmasking.
Welcome to Final Masquerade where no one is who they seem.
Stories written by Daniel I. Russell * Ken MacGregor * J.C. Delisle * Joshua Chaplinsky * Lori Safranek * D.S. Ullery * Samantha Lienhard * Thomas Kleaton * Josh Strnad * Naching T. Kassa * Roy C. Booth & Axel Kohagen * Sheldon Woodbury * Craig Steven * Gregory L. Norris * Jay Eales * Dale W. Glaser * R.K. Kombrinck * Jonathan Cromack * Brian C. Baer * Adrian Chamberlin