The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Naching T. Kassa
“Death is coming, Delphine,” the old man said. “Listen to me or he will claim your life.”
Delphine paused. The white pill lay on her left palm. The glass of water filled her right.
“What is it?” she asked, handing the man the pill and water. “How do you know, Mr. Slade?”
Slade set both aside and tapped his temple with one ancient finger. “I sense it. When you have lived as long as I, you will know when death is near. Mine will come tonight. You may be saved from it…if you listen to me. Do you remember the grimoire I showed you?”
“You’ve shown it to me every day for the last seven years. How can I forget?”
“When the time comes, and you will know when, you must go to the library and fetch it. It is the only thing which can save you.”
“Mr. Slade, I—”
“Shh. Ever since you came to work for me, I knew you were the one. You are more than a caregiver. That is why I chose you as my successor. In a few moments, you will understand that. Now, go to the door and whatever you do, stay away from the window.”
“I have long admired your curious mind and your questions. But, now is not the time. Humor an old man.”
Delphine crossed the room and headed for the door. Perhaps, she should inform Ezra of this. The butler had known the old warlock far longer than she.
When she touched the doorknob, the window shattered behind her. She turned.
Slade made no sound as he rose from the bed. He faced the beast which squatted on the sill, one hand raised in the air.
Delphine’s scream died in her throat as she looked upon the creature. The large, grey, eyeless thing was covered in tiny tooth-filled mouths. It leapt upon the old man and bore him to the floor.
“Go!” was the only word he spoke as the creature tore into him.
Delphine froze in mute horror. Too late, she turned back to the door and grasped the knob.
The creature caught her with one huge hand and something razor-sharp bit into her arm. When it pulled its hand away, the tiny mouth in its palm growled.
Delphine would’ve shared the same fate as Slade, had Ezra not flung the door open at that moment. Unmindful of her wound, he dragged her from the room.
“Hide!” he shouted.
She ran and his screams followed. They haunted her as she fled the west wing and made for the library.
Minutes later, she entered the east wing hall. Swords hung high above her, glinting in the moonglow. She entered the library and flipped the thumb lock, then hurried to the foreign section of Slade’s private collection. Like most warlocks, the old man had been fluent in several of the romantic languages, and French was his favorite.
A chorus of distant and inhuman shrieks sounded from the west wing and Delphine shivered.
Her arm ached and blood dripped from her pale fingers. She tore a strip of cloth from her skirt and tied it around the wound. No time for anything else.
She scanned the shelves, searching for her salvation.
Another chorus of screeches rang out. Heavy footsteps thundered on the floor below. The creature had left the west wing and found its way to her side of the house. Soon, it would be upstairs.
She intensified her search.
At last, she found the battered tome with the torn spine. She opened it.
All the pages were blank.
Delphine flipped through the book. Every spell, every word had vanished. The only marks within it were the smears of blood from her fingertips.
Below, the monster mounted the stairs.
Delphine froze, then peered around the shelf.
Outside the door, the footsteps paused.
Anxious seconds passed.
Then, the footsteps continued on. They receded into the depths of the house.
Delphine waited. She didn’t understand what had happened to the spells. Where had they gone? If only she’d paid more attention.
Her heart grew heavy as she thought of the old man.
“I don’t know why you chose me, Mr. Slade,” she said softly. “I’ve always been afraid. Always needed help. Just like I need your help now.”
The book suddenly grew hot in her hand. She looked down and realized something new had appeared on the pristine page. She read the spell in the moonlight, then spoke it aloud.
The hand holding the book vanished before her eyes.
In her new and invisible body, she moved toward the door. She put an ear against it.
Delphine opened the door and stepped into the hall. She crept toward the stairway.
Behind her, something breathed. Cold flesh brushed her wounded arm before she reached the stairs and she halted. The creature also stopped.
She could feel the warm breath from its many mouths on her skin. She closed her eyes, willing herself not to shake.
The monster moved on. It descended the stairs. Soon, the weird cries grew distant.
Delphine stood on the landing, her heart lightening within her chest. She descended and hurried toward the door. Crossing the threshold, she stepped into a world of silver and shadow, a contrast to the world of death she’d left behind. Crickets sang beneath the stars. Somewhere, far off in the trees, an owl hooted.
Her car stood just a few feet away, a gleaming beacon of freedom in the drive. And, yet, she found she couldn’t move from the doorstep. She couldn’t leave the house with work unfinished.
A moment later, she was back inside and climbing the stairs. In the hall, she found a chair. She used it to reach for the sword.
She held it before her as she moved throughout the house. At last, she found the monster. It had returned to the room of slaughter.
It didn’t hear her, as she tiptoed toward it. Didn’t see her as she raised the sword. The creature must’ve felt it though. For every mouth screamed when she plunged the blade into its body.
And as the black blood flowed, she knew why Slade had chosen her.
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Naching T. Kassa:
As technology takes over more of our lives, what will it mean to be human, and will we fear what we’ve created? What horrors will our technological hubris bring us in the future? Join us as we walk the line between progressive convenience and the nightmares these advancements can breed. From faulty medical nanos and AI gone berserk to ghost-attracting audio-tech and one very ambitious Mow-Bot, we bring you tech horror that will keep you up at night. Will you reach the Kill Switch in time? Edited by Dan Shaurette and Emerian Rich, with authors Chantal Boudreau, Garth von Buchholz, Bill Davidson, Jerry J. Davis, Dana Hammer, Laurel Anne Hill, Naching T. Kassa, Tim O’Neal, H.E. Roulo, Garrett Rowlan, Phillip T. Stephens, and Daphne Strasert.