The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Mother of Dust
by Scarlett R. Algee
In the field beyond the house, the corn bakes parchment-brown and thin, sun at the stalks’ heads, sand at their feet.
But she can’t see that, not anymore.
She rocks in her chair on the gapped and rickety porch, but the runners of the ancient chair don’t creak; they whisper, slip-sliding with her hard rhythm in the sugar-fine sand that coats the boards. She’s outlived her name, both eyes and all her family; memories pass through here and there, a husband’s callused hands, a daughter’s giggle, but the memories are whispers too, passing through an hourglass, through a sieve.
She scoots the chair through crunching grains and turns her face to the sun: a balm on her creased and ancient skin, a hell in the empty sockets that once held her eyes. A tickle starts in her chest and worms its way up her throat.
She pulls the kerchief from her cropped white hair, twisting the weathered calico as if the motion will hold back the cough, fine explosions of powdery earth puff from the folds of the fabric and from the wrinkles in the joints of her fingers. The sneeze takes her by surprise, tearing through her desiccated sinuses, wringing particulate effluvium from her eyes. She clutches the cloth tighter, mutters a parched and tongueless prayer, but the cough has long fingers and scratches the back of her mouth.
Her wizened body heaves. Spasms wrack her chest in waves as her throat clogs, as her mouth fills to bursting and spills its contents into her lap: not phlegm, not even blood, but black loam and red clay and bone-grey sand, as if she’s inhaled the soils of a thousand thousand lifetimes. Grit and humus and one thin, bloodied corn leaf rattle out of her eye sockets, past her teeth, through the fingers she’s clasped to her mouth; they whisper onto the porch and fill her shoes and stop the runners of the rocking chair.
But she is not empty. She is never empty, and with the next wrack comes another flood of detritus, and meanwhile the silty pile around her feet slips off the porch, caught in an eddying wind, pouring toward the corn.
Between flutters in her trachea she hitches in one breath, her heart a creaking stone in her chest, clay singing in her veins as she erupts and erupts again, drowning herself, drowning the world.
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.