The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Suzanne Madron
It had been 54,750 days since he had gone off to join the war. Each day without him she had etched upon her flesh with a piece of broken window glass she had salvaged from the ashes of their home and her body was a series of healed-over scars marking the time.
All that remained of the once-beautiful large house now were two crumbling chimneys thrusting through overgrown vines and debris like decayed teeth in swollen gums. She wandered through the wreckage and yanked the tatters of her dress from the clutches of dead rosebush thorns as they tore at the decayed silk.
Behind the house was an old pathway leading to the gardens and the fields beyond them. It was the anniversary of his leaving and she followed the worn place in the underbrush to the creaking wooden bridge at the edge of the farthest field. Until that day she had not ventured over the bridge. Today was different. She had run out of skin to mark the passage of days and cut too deep.
She stepped onto the warped planks and tried not to look down, past the gaps in the broken wood to the river rushing below her. She could feel the splinters beneath the worn soles of her shoes as her feet scraped with each step.
The river noise rose in volume as she reached the center of the bridge and she paused to adjust the torn fabric-turned-bandage she had wrapped around her forearm to staunch the bloodflow from the cut. It was a bright, angry red and she bit the inside of her lip to keep from losing consciousness. Passing out on the bridge would mean certain death. She had to keep going.
She stepped off the bridge and into the warm grass of the field beyond. It was the first time she had noticed this property and she marveled at the beauty of it. The sun shone down on her and she looked back toward the bridge, certain the sun had not been shining when she had started her journey. All she could see were the gray, warped planks of the old bridge and nothing else beyond an overgrowth of honeysuckle.
She continued to walk and noticed a well-worn path leading to the bridge from this side. In the distance, a figure approached and she wondered if she should turn back. As if sensing her fear, the figure paused, then ran toward her.
She stumbled backward toward the bridge as the figure drew nearer to reveal a man in uniform. As he came closer, she cried out.
“Annie, it’s me! Don’t run!”
The voice was familiar and she stopped, waiting. The man reached her and she jumped into his outstretched arms.
“I’ve been waiting for you for so long,” he said in between kisses.
“You never came home, why?” she asked.
He glanced down and she followed his gaze. With a cry, she pressed her hands against the gaping and bloodied hole in the front of his uniform. He gently removed her hands and led her across the field.
Through the trees, she could make out the roof of a house. The sounds of children playing and laughter filtered through the warm air toward them.
As they reached the clearing she gasped. The house was her house, intact, and the children were her children, no longer dead and buried. They turned at her approach and their smiles opened fire wounds.
“Mama!” they cried in unison.
She had come home at last.
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.
Very evocative and poignant, a superb story.
I loved the ending!