The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Selah Janel
Her parents praised her for being calmer, sweeter, better. Her manners were exquisite, her performance at school so improved! Who would complain about a perfect child, even if she slipped out at night on occasion and walked the cobblestone streets long before the lamp boys could put out the street lights.
She probably sleep-walked, they said. She’d grow out of it. And if, by chance, she wandered far from home to a nondescript alley, it didn’t matter, because no one knew. She was always back before dawn.
“Do they know?” Father (her real father) always asked once she was safely inside, back at home with all the comfortable smells of oil and grease and the lingering copper of blood. Elise could tick as loud as she wanted here. She didn’t have to work so hard to express emotions or understand feelings. She and her siblings could be free to be themselves in the loving expanse of The Workshop.
“No. They only marvel at how perfect their daughter has become.” She let Father put the tubes into her arm panels to refresh her fluids. It was a relief when he peeled back the skin on her neck to make sure her gears weren’t bent and still ran smoothly. Only Father would notice the fine line that designated her face panel, would make sure her mechanics and circuitry still functioned underneath the innocent exterior.
Johnny and Cynthia were in the corner, presumably for repairs. They’d been rumored as missing, though those in The Workshop knew it was only because they’d been caught in the rain.
“Father, why replace the town’s children with us?” She was certain he had a good reason. He always did.
“Human children are messy and full of problems, but parents are too attached to agree to replacements on their own. They need a nudge.” Of course. Elise nodded and settled in for her tuning, but her eyes blinked open at a sudden thought. It didn’t bother her – her thoughts never did, but they were itchy until she voiced them.
“So what happens to them if the parents are happy with us and don’t know?”
“Research is expensive, dear girl.” She liked when Father called her that; it made her know she had done something right. Unlike the town parents, praise from her real father meant something.
“And we can’t have two versions of people running around. Organs fetch a nice price these days. Organs and cadavers. Doctors need specimens, though soon bodies will be obsolete altogether. You’re making friends and will bring them here?”
“Good, good. First we’ll secure the children, then we’ll start on the adults. Society will be so much better when everyone is at peak performance, ticking along! And healthy adults fetch a pretty penny from doctors and resurrection men, and maintenance isn’t free.”
She didn’t need to smile for Father, but she did, anyway. Before she closed her eyes and settled in to have her gears cleaned and her oil topped off, she allowed herself that smile. That was one thing she couldn’t provide herself – real human organs and bodies of flesh, but she knew where she could find them. They were all around. If that’s what Father wanted, she’d get them for him.
In her wound-down state of rest, Elise smiled and dreamt of flesh, blood, and dead bodies. Dawn couldn’t come fast enough.
Fiction © Copyright Selah Janel
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Author Selah Janel:
Like many young men at the end of the 1800s, Bill signed on to work in a logging camp. The work is brutal, but it promised a fast paycheck with which he can start his life. Unfortunately, his role model is Big John. Not only is he the camp’s hero, but he’s known for spending his pay as fast as he makes it. On a cold Saturday night they enter Red’s Saloon to forget the work that takes the sweat and lives of so many men their age. Red may have plans for their whiskey money, but something else lurks in the shadows. It watches and badly wants a drink that has nothing to do with alcohol. Can Bill make it back out the shabby door, or does someone else have their own plans for his future?