The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Scarlett R. Algee
Marion’s first idea that anything was wrong came at the tickle between her toes, just after she’d shut off the water.
She glanced down into the slowly draining soapy water and saw them: the whip-thin black tendrils, curling between and around her toes first, tugging as if curious, then thickening up through the drain and skating over the tops of her feet. She stood perfectly still for three seconds, until a spasm of anxiety made her shiver and drive her fingers into the mass of her wet blonde hair.
But the snaking dark lengths wrapped around her ankles and glided halfway up her calves, and Marion drooped in resignation, leaning forward till her forehead touched the clammy wet tile. Baby was hungry.
She didn’t know what it was, actually—some species of leech, maybe, knotted up down below like a rat king—or how it had got into her shower drain, or even how far it reached in other directions. Maybe in different houses, different wriggling ropes latched onto different legs. Maybe—
The tendrils tightened their collective grasp. Marion tensed, anticipating pain, but as always none really came. Brief rasping stings lapped toward her knees like aggressive cats’ tongues, but then she was numb, numb as a stone, too numb to be afraid.
Then the creature, feeding, began to sing.
It was nothing Marion heard with her ears. The low rough fluting began beneath her skin, wormed its way deeper like seeking fingers, like tentacles, sheathing the innermost spaces between her organs in wavering, haunting cacophony. The dappled walls of the shower fell away, and as the song crept higher through her throat and toward her brain, it seemed that Marion’s skin and skull fell away too. Odd stars sparked and warped behind her eyelids and between her teeth as the song receded, became a pulse, as if the cosmos held and rocked her in some vast, welcoming womb.
Baby, the creature said, though to which of them it referred, she couldn’t be sure.
Time unwound. The pulse weakened and stilled; the tendrils receded. Marion’s cosmic nest gradually faded to the gleaming damp walls of her shower, and she stayed still for a long time before she could brace herself to step out on the mat. She raked both hands through her tangled hair again and looked down.
The tapering welts that curved toward her kneecaps still oozed blood sluggishly. In a few minutes there would be scabs, and tomorrow the scabs would peel off to reveal vermilion stippling its way up her skin, and the next day the vermilion would be gone, until the next time.
Marion reached for a hand towel to blot the most egregious ooze. It had taken more than usual this time, would probably take more the next time and the next; but Baby was hungry and had to be fed, and those moments of comfort, of song and slow-turning galaxies, were worth a little blood.
She wrapped herself in a towel and stepped out into her bedroom, still trailing blood, still tasting stars.
Fiction © Copyright Scarlett R. Algee
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from author Scarlett R. Algee:
The Lift: Nine Stories of Transformation, Volume One
The hall is dark and the overhead light flickers. Sounds echo, and there’s a creaking and clanging that gets louder as you stand in the semi-dark. The elevator opens and you’re offered a ride. Step inside and ride it to the story chosen for your transformation. Don’t be afraid, for Victoria, the mysterious girl who operates The Lift, waits to guide you. Set in the same world as the award nominated audio drama, The Lift’s first written anthology features nine all new stories by fan favorite writers and special bonus content by creators Daniel Foytik and Cynthia Lowman. The collection is brought to life with beautiful illustrations by Jeanette Andromeda for each story.