The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Selah Janel
Esther stared at the quiet, dark water. It was still and have no answers, just like the moonless night. She’d been hasty. She’d tried to do the smart thing, the safe thing. Now, She was far from home – a home gone mad, but home, nevertheless. Harold could protect her – the guns that dotted the ship proved that – but what did that really mean, now that they were far from everything, especially if she ever admitted she didn’t know if she loved him? The crew was his, the other passengers his friends, not hers. Would they care if he pushed her off the deck or would they ignore it?
I wish I could speak to Mother. She always knows what to do. She fingered the chain at her neck and stared out into the water. Searchlights showed nothing but the night. She should have been relieved.
‘There you are, darling.’ Harold spoke with the confidence of a man who knew his money would give him everything he wanted, no matter what his target thought about it. He followed her gaze out to the black water. ‘Have no fear. Nothing will touch us here.’ His voice was so quiet she couldn’t tell if the words were meant to soothe or threaten.
‘Yes,’ she whispered.
‘ What is it?’ She caught the hint of irritation that time. ‘ This is meant to be a happy occasion. You’re mine at last! We’re free! The world is ending all around us and yet it won’t touch us!’
‘I just…’ She couldn’t look at him, couldn’t face what she’d done, her moment if weakness when she had sought him for protection and traded herself for what? Aimlessly sailing until fuel ran out or the world righted itself? And what then? Would Harold try to seat himself as leader of the survivors, if there were any? She didn’t dare ask his plans, ask what chemicals his company had been developing. He’d either lecture her about progress or dump her over.
‘I just miss my mother.’ The words were too simple for the longing she felt.
‘We all miss someone, but we’re the ones here! We should celebrate that, not moan abiut in the dark. Besides, who knows if there could be pirates. Or…’ He trailed off, and on the searchlights she saw the grim distaste on his face.
‘I just wish I had her as a sounding board. She always knew what to do.’
The water splashed, somewhere far out.
‘What was that. Someone, check that noise!’ He turned from calling to the crew to regarding her with the stern, handsome face that gave her hope and dread. ‘You’re too old to cry for your mother. And why would you need advice?’
Esther winced when he turned her, was well-aware every step back pressed her closer to the rail.
Behind her, the lap of water grew louder, but she couldn’t take her eyes off her husband’s face. ‘Haven’t I lived up to my end and taken you away from Hell itself? Would you really want to go back to that nightmare?’
‘A nightmare your investments caused.’ She didn’t mean to say it, but she didn’t regret it, at least not as much as she did her vows. ‘I’m allowed to miss my mother! She always knew what to do-‘
‘ And now she’s gone, just like everyone else.’ Harol’s eyes were hard, his smile cruel. ‘I’m going to ignore what you just said, because you have an important place in this new world. It’s time to listen to me, darling, because your sainted mother cannot help you.’
He released her with a sharp yank, and she whirled to grip the rail, wondering for a moment if she should jump.
And then she saw it. The slender arm could have belonged to anyone, especially with so many turned to walking revenants in this strange new world, but she recognized the jewelry she’d buried her mother in anywhere.
‘She said she’d always come to help me…’ A slow smile danced over her lips. Harold didn’t hear her; he’d already left to tend to the other elite he’d selected to board the liner. It wouldn’t matter. The waving arm she knew so well was at the head of a large, rippling swell. More fingers appeared, then tops of heads, until a slow, relentless legion of the undead came bobbing toward them.
‘Esther, are you coming?’
She was supposed to sound the alarm. Scream. Call for Harold so the guns could be manned. Esther found her fear of her husband’s vision was far greater than the mass of decomposing bodies climbing the ship like nightmare barnacles.
‘Esther, is something wrong?’
Her heart fluttered as she watched the crawling progress, heart tight in her chest. ‘Not at all,’ she whispered, anticipating her mother’s wrath and protective arms.
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?