The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Suzanne Madron
What had begun as a stupid child’s dare was quickly turning into the challenge of a psychopath. The crowd gathered and walked them through the headstones, following the pair to the gates. No one walked through the gates. Not anymore.
The crickets abruptly ended their nightsongs as they approached and even the owls in the old oak paused in their eerie calls to stare down at those gathered beneath their lightning-blasted perch. The congregated witnesses paused in their habitual breathing as the challenged man stepped up to the rusted wrought iron.
He looked at his companion and scowled. “It’s locked.”
The other man’s smile was too wide, showing his back teeth and black sockets where teeth once had been. “That lock is rotted through. A tap with a rock will knock it loose.”
One of the children, eternally the helper, offered up a piece of one of the broken headstones. “Will this work?”
“That it will!” crowed the smiling man. He tapped the rock on the rusted chain and the links crumbled. “Now we settle this for once and all.”
The other man’s scowl deepened. “No good will come of this, Zeke. I beg you to reconsider.”
The smiling man laughed. “I tell you again as I have said before, the danger is a myth.” He approached and swung wide the iron cage.
The gates screamed in protest and clanged to a halt over exposed tree roots. It was not the yawning exit point that Zeke had hoped for but it was dramatic. His smile returned as he looked at the crowd.
He tipped his hat to the ladies, gave a nod to his still-scowling companion, and took a tentative step over the threshold of the old churchyard. As his rotted boot came in contact with the ground on the other side of the gate, the sun began to rise over the horizon.
“Zeke, stop! This is madness!”
Zeke took another step and now he stood on the other side of the crumbling walls, past the old gates. He turned to his audience and something shining white shone in the light of the sunrise. His smile faltered as he realized it was a skeleton.
It lay sprawled just on the other side of the gates, hand outstretched as if the man had tried to crawl into the old graveyard. Zeke took a step closer. The mouldering hat on the ground next to the skull looked like his hat.
Another step. One of the fingers had a gold ring set with a ruby. Zeke held his own hand up and stared for a moment at the gold ring with the ruby adorning his own hand. It had been a gift from his grandfather and he never took it off.
One more step and the toe of his boot tapped the flapping sole of the skeleton’s boot. Within the ribcage of the skeleton, where a vest pocket might have been before the cloth rotted away, lay a tarnished pocketwatch half buried in dust. He bent down and picked up the watch, shaking off the dirt as he removed his own watch from the pocket of his vest.
The inscription on the back of the watches was the same. With a sinking feeling he clicked the buttons at the top of each watch and the covers popped open to reveal the same cracked glass. The skeleton’s watch had stopped at a quarter past seven.
Zeke looked down at his own watch. It read fourteen minutes past seven. He barely heard the screams of the others as the second hand approached the twelve.”
Fiction © Copyright Suzanne Madron
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Suzanne Madron:
The house across the street seems to go on the market every few months, but this time nothing about the sale is normal, including the new owners. No sooner has the for sale sign come down and the neighborhood is thrown into a Lovecraftian nightmare and the only way to find out is to attend the house warming party.