The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Lori R. Lopez
From an opaque night a tempest brewed,
crackling, raining bolts of fierce light,
stirring a dark soup to crash and maim the
hull of a sturdy Cargo Ship, a titanic Freighter.
Iron rending, crumpled and caved, split by
seas that pounded like hostile fists.
The mammoth hulk soon listed too far —
tasting, gulping mouthfuls of black waves.
In water risen through a large rift on a steep side,
shipmates and I were trapped below-decks.
All hands had been summoned. A few spied
ripples of movement; flashes of milk-white flesh.
Something lurked in that depth of flickering lamps.
A creature of the brine. A beast most unlike
the average deformed specimens hauled in with the
catches of fishing crews on smaller vessels. Never
labeled, recorded. Too wily for any net. A slyer
species, that much seemed obvious.
How wrong was I in certain assumptions!
The ship went down, screeching, cursed from
each weld and rivet of its construction, fated
to languish and rust at the bed of an abyss.
Victim of cruel skies that mirrored the Deep
only vaster — endless; unfathomed by mortals.
The testy tin bucket plummeted with protests,
creaking howls of agonized metal hide.
Resting to carve a shallow grave that could not
encase it fully. And the crew that rode this
doomed behemoth to the bottom would flail,
drowning, strangling in its undertow . . .
Claimed with the lick of a ravenous tide,
screams cut off as liquid flooded lungs.
Scores of stalwart mariners drawn to the
ocean floor, convulsing, choked in throes of
misery till strained pleas went still, glazed orbs
wide as fish-eyes in the ice-clutches of Poseidon.
Suspended in wet burial chambers, a mausoleum
of disordered crypts . . . Wax Museum statues
buoyant or sinking in limp poses. Wan caricatures,
both lifelike and lifeless, expressions blank.
Devoid of warmth, vitality, substance. Frozen
yet rubbery. I watched behind a porthole.
Coward or death-defier, my brain reacted to
an urgent crisis by steering me toward a cache
stocked with emergency gear. I thought to
tell those who might hear, but found a scene
of madmen rushing, yelling, scrambling to
save themselves. I sealed the door . . .
And witnessed tragedy, safe, shielded by thick glass
the size of a modest dinner plate. Shock. Desperation.
I had pulled on a mask, a tank of Oxygen just before
someone glimpsed me. Familiar. Once friends.
The woman slapped the window to my refuge
mouthing a phrase: Let me in! My head shook.
Water poured the ruined compartment, the base of
the ship. I wanted to help. There was no time . . .
we would all perish! Inanimate bodies drifted past,
obscuring the view. Among them floated a second
survivor, lacking name, unrecognized. Another gaze
locked mine, standing out from the Dead.
Although he bore the pallor of a corpse, he towered,
his structure huge — seven feet I estimated. Stitchmarks
ranged a bare upper torso, the sign of frequent surgeries
to craft this abomination. A military experiment?
A scientist’s morbid folly? Staring at me, vile and wicked.
I saw in cold eyes a soulless approximation of a man . . .
And squirmed under his scrutiny, truly afraid.
Why he existed, able to bate his breath if in fact he
breathed; glaring at me with teeth exposed — a snarl —
I could scarce comprehend. I had embarked upon
a strange voyage, under volatile heavens engineered by
deliberate forces. Manmade decisions and disasters.
None of it was natural, and without Nature, how might
we measure ourselves against our origins? To know how
far we had come or gone? There were boons and there
were booms that obliterated entire cities! This example
of miscreation boasted gruesome enhancements
fused onto a human frame: inhuman elements . . .
Parts of him grown in a Lab. Sewn like a patchwork
ragdoll into a bizarre chimeric entity. Powerful,
he grappled beneath my vision. What did he intend?
Would he wrench the hatch away? I gasped in fear
and blinked at the door bend, warped to allow streams
of saltwater to enter my haven. I could not leave . . .
Guarded by a devilish presence, a ghastly wraith.
Bleak murderous lips curled into an eerie smile.
Gloating, as if he had all the time in the world,
the monstrosity abided. Water filled my tomb,
a slow torture. I fumbled to activate my air-tank,
insert the mouthpiece. The first container emptied.
Swimming, I sought a replacement. The supply of
Oxygen diminished while a goliath brute enjoyed my
distress. I have reached the final tank. When I am
no more, he will stroke for the surface, toward a gray
expanse and break free, escaping this dungeon,
abandoning the ghosts of an interrupted journey.
Arrived; one with a turbulent environment of
thunderskies. Feeding off electric strobes, jagged and
unruly. At home in a furious pitch, a perennial rage.
Woe to any Search Party. To inhabitants of the
nearest coast. We were damned — soon as a ceaseless
nightmare squall released him in a wrecked Hold.
Fiction © Copyright Lori R. Lopez
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Lori R. Lopez:
Darkverse: The Shadow Hours
A rich gathering of poetry with a dismal twilight atmosphere, a brooding nature, an eerie tone . . . DARKVERSE: THE SHADOW HOURS encompasses such pieces written by Lori R. Lopez between 2009 and 2017, collected in three of her POETIC REFLECTIONS volumes along with humorous and serious verse. This ample compendium allows a more focused reading experience and mood — presenting poems that share speculative themes, flashes of horror, glimpses of madness.
Lori is the author of THE DARK MISTER SNARK, THE STRANGE TAIL OF ODDZILLA, LEERY LANE, MONSTROSITIES, AN ILL WIND BLOWS, and THE FAIRY FLY among other tales. She has been called a storyteller, whether composing verse or prose.
The aim of her Darkverse series is to offer a chilling trek through unlit stretches where all manner of creeps and kooks may lurk; where graveyards and bogs and full-moons abound. The pages of The Shadow Hours illuminate those morbid uncanny perils and dreads that inhabit drab corners, the known and unknown terrors of the night. Vivid and distinct, her voice echoes our worst fears then delves beyond, exposing hitherto unimaginable frights.
Prepare to confront a motley array of ghouls and menaces that might just move under your bed.
DARKVERSE: THE SHADOW HOURS is an Elgin Award Nominee and a 2018 Kindle Book Awards Poetry Finalist. Look for an Illustrated Print Edition with quirky art by the author.