The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Gloria Alder, age 74 and longtime resident of the small, white detached home at 4 Rosehill Lane, paced the floor. Where was Lillian? It wasn’t like her friend to be this late. Nearly noon already, and tea would be getting cold.
Ten minutes later, a knock at the door. Finally.
“Where have you been? Are you all right?” Gloria asked, her tight white curls bobbing as she looked up and down their quiet residential street in the tiny borough they called home. The day was unusually sunny and warm, even for their little English village in late summer.
“I’m just fine, but, oh dear, wait until you hear the news!” Lillian said, her aged blue eyes bright with excitement or fear—or perhaps both, Gloria thought.
Gloria ushered her inside the parlor, where they would have their tea by the big front window that overlooked the street, and into an old rose-patterned armchair by the tea table. Lillian’s hands were shaking, but at 78, no one could know if it was arthritis or agitation.
Gloria poured them both a cup of tea, one cream and one sugar each, as always, and sat back in the wicker rocker she always sat in. “Well?”
After a sip, Lillian looked at her. “You know that new couple in the little house next to me? The Simmonses?”
“Americans, right? Blonde wife, husband always away on business in Bristol, teenage boy who rides that irritating skateboard in the road?”
“That’s them, yes. Well, last night around midnight I heard screaming from the house—her and him, presumably—which…isn’t too uncommon, despite them only being here since February.”
The two women shared an appraising look. People just didn’t behave that way here.
“Someone must have called the police, because there were lights outside my window by one, and then sirens and more lights, and then the biggest ruckus you’ve ever heard. When I looked out, a couple men were putting the boy into the back of a police car. He was…well, it looked like he was covered in blood.” Lillian nearly whispered the last word.
“Oh my! Do you know what happened?” Gloria had forgotten her cup of tea, which now sat untouched upon its saucer.
“You get the food out while I try to remember what the Wilcox woman and Martin Woolbridge told me this morning. I’m starved.”
Gloria got the appetizers from the fridge and the food from the freezer, then set the oven to preheat their lunch while she took the starters into the parlor.
“Oh, lovely! You do always remember my favorite! Anyway, dear, as I was saying”—sauce dripped down Lillian’s arm, and instead of using a tea towel or napkin, she licked up the dark liquid with an indulgent, childlike smile, remarking upon how sweet it was today—“I was walking Penny this morning, around seven, and Martin was out in his front garden.”
“Has he done anything else since his wife went missing in March? I rarely see him not in the garden,” Gloria said, shaking her head sadly. Martin’s wife, April, had been in the late stages of Alzheimer’s when she’d disappeared—wandered off in the night, police said—but he still hoped in vain for her safe return.
“I know, poor man. I do wish I could help. Anyway, Martin said that the husband and wife were both apparently having affairs. Him in the city on his so-called business trips, and her with the young man round the corner that does the tall hedges—Paul, is it?”
“Yes, Paul something-or-other. He does my hedges, as well. I thought he was a nice young man. Shame.”
“Indeed. Well, Martin said that was the source of the fighting and whatnot I’ve been hearing. He didn’t know anything else, though,” Lillian said.
Gloria was disappointed; she wanted the juicy bits of the story.
Lillian continued. “But then…I ran into Margie Wilcox at the end of the lane, with that horrible little mutt of hers.”
“Yes. Pomeranian, I believe. Keeps us up all hours of the night,” Gloria said, rolling her eyes and taking a sip of tea as she pushed her glasses back up her nose.
“Margie said that the boy and his father don’t get along—she said he blames him for the affairs, but honestly that’s just pure speculation from that busybody.”
Gloria nodded pertly; Margie Wilcox was a known gossip and her word could not be trusted. Discussion of facts was one thing, but local etiquette dictated that a proper lady would never speculate on such personal matters.
“Oh, we’ve finished starters already! I’ll go get mains! Won’t be a minute!” She headed to the kitchen. Thankfully it had all heated evenly. She turned off the oven, put the food on two ivy-printed porcelain plates, and returned.
“So Margie tells me all that nonsense, but then she says she got the story of what happened from the newspaper boy. His father was one of the detectives at the scene,” Lillian said conspiratorially, and Gloria’s eyes went wide as she chewed.
Lillian paused to take a bite, then resumed the story. “Richie Gresham says the son murdered the father when he returned from Bristol a day or so ago, then put his body in the freezer. The yelling I heard wasn’t from the husband and wife at all—the wife came home after a weekend away and found blood pooled beneath the old hall freezer, her husband’s body stuffed inside!” Gloria gasped aloud.
Lillian took a large drink from her cup, consumed with the drama of her story. Gloria had managed only a few bites in the last few minutes, though it was one of her favorite meals. How could Lillian eat while discussing a thing like this?
“What happened after that?” she pressed Lillian.
Lillian sat back in her chair, having cleaned her plate, licking her fingers. “Well,” she said heavily, “the mother and son got into a screaming match—naturally, she was horrified at what he’d done, of course.”
“Here’s the strangest part, Glo: police were called from that empty cottage across the street…but no house phone was found inside. It’s totally empty in there, but the call was traced to the old house line, which should have been disconnected ages ago. No one’s lived there since last summer, since…you know.” Lillian pursed her lips and raised her brows.
“The Carrington incident, yes. Good luck selling that house in this market after all those awful vultures from the media descended on us and splashed it all over the papers and television. They shouldn’t even be allowed to show that trash!”
Lillian nodded in agreement. “Such garbage on television these days. Waste of time, in my opinion. But Margie said that when the police got there, the mother didn’t even try to protect the boy, though they were supposedly close. Showed the detectives right to the freezer, she did, while the boy sat on the sofa, calm as can be. They called for backup and forensics, but he was completely quiet until they removed him from the house, screaming about demons in his head and monsters at the window or some such.”
“Good heavens! Mental illness at such a young age. It’s all these video games and violent films at the cinema, doing who knows what to these teenagers’ developing brains,” Gloria said, clicking her tongue in disapproval as she finished her meal. “Do you know what the police plan to do? I assume we’re not to worry about our safety now that the boy has been confirmed as the killer and taken away?”
“There’ll be no coroner’s inquest, as the boy’s already confessed. At his age and in his state, he’ll likely end up in an institution for the mentally ill who are criminally violent. Very unfortunate. The body’s being cremated, Margie said, so I suppose Doug already has the remains.” She licked her lips. “I doubt there’ll be a funeral.” Doug was the local medical examiner and, coincidentally, Lillian’s cousin. They would get details from him later.
“Not if the boy’s mother wants it to remain a private matter, anyhow.”
“Yes. Her name is Dawn, I think. Margie was saying that she might move back to her home in America. Texas, I heard it was.”
“No wonder I couldn’t understand a bloody word the woman said!” Gloria exclaimed, and the women laughed, breaking the tension a bit.
“Is she in a facility now too? Or is she by herself in the house?” Gloria asked.
“Crime-scene cleanup and whatnot will take a day or two, I imagine, but they’re keeping her sedated in hospital until the house is cleared for her to return in a few days.”
“Will she return?” Gloria asked, intensity in her eyes. “Tell me, Lillian.” Her voice was different now, much deeper than it had been only moments before.
Lillian sighed and ran a wrinkled hand through her cropped gray hair. “Oh, all right!” she said with a sigh of annoyance. Lillian tipped her head back until it was touching the back of the armchair, then let her face go slack, mouth open and eyes wide and unblinking.
Gloria waited patiently until Lillian’s body started shaking. The transformation was beginning. Gloria got up and closed the drapes, noticing with satisfaction that the sky outside was already visibly darkening. Lillian’s eyes went pure black, her skin became unnaturally smooth, and her skull and jaw elongated, her teeth now clustered knives filling her mouth, growing well past where her lips had been. Her withered hands were now powerful claws tipped with razor-sharp claws, and her new body shuddered as smoke arose from the massive ocular orbitals that had taken over her now-noseless upper face. Strangle angles poked from beneath her lavender floral housecoat. After a moment, Lillian went still, then slowly returned to her original form.
“Come on, Lil, tell me!”
Lillian shook her human head like a dog after a bath, then indulged her friend with a smile, revealing her slightly off-set dentures. “Dawn Angelica Simmons, nee Chapman, of Huntsville, Texas, United States, will return to the home in three days’ time, at precisely eleven forty-nine a.m. on Thursday. It will be raining. No police presence will be at the house.”
“Very well. And her plans?”
“Due to financial circumstances and her son being kept in an institution here, she plans to stay until he’s able to be transferred to a facility in America, which will take at least three months. She has no living family except a sister, single, no children, who is already en route from Texas and who will arrive at the house with her on Thursday.”
The two women shared a grin. The remains of the man—which would be delivered later by Doug in exchange for April Woolbridge’s fresh left calf—plus the two women would hold them well through the autumn and winter. They likely wouldn’t need to hunt again until late next spring. The Carrington family had lasted a good long while, but they were nearly gone now.
“Do you have any more of that lovely steak from April’s upper thigh, Gloria? All that worked up quite the appetite,” Lillian said with a giggle.
“All I have is a bit of elbow meat I set aside in case you wanted more starters,” Gloria said.
“Ooh, lovely! Marinated?”
“Of course. I’ll go grab it from the fridge.” Gloria walked into the hall and opened the large refrigerator/freezer. Cynthia Carrington’s head remained wrapped on the bottom shelf—to protect from freezer burn, of course—and her son Gavin’s right shoulder and pectoral region took up the middle section. April Woolbridge took up the rest of the freezer, minus her left arm and thigh, which they’d feasted on today. The calf had already been packaged up for Doug.
Gloria removed the last bits of April’s elbow and some left hand from the fridge with the sauce and closed the doors, returning to her friend. Lillian immediately grabbed a portion of meat and dipped it in the blood until it was saturated, then put it in her mouth, closing her eyes as she savored the taste.
“Really, Glo, what is your secret for keeping them so fresh?” Lillian said.
“A layer of foil plus a layer of plastic wrap, to be honest,” Gloria said. “Freezer burn just ruins the flavor, so you have to wrap it, and the foil protects the blood’s natural taste from spoiling.”
“It’s heavenly,” Lillian said as she took another bite. Then she noticed the hand on the plate. “Oh! We’ve still some of this left, as well!”
Gloria smiled. “I try to save the best parts for happy occasions like this. And you know how much I love lady fingers.”
Fiction © Copyright Ashley Davis
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
Poetry by Ashley Davis can be found featured in the fall 2017 issue of
The Horror Zine