The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Michelle Joy Gallagher
Debra liked the sound her boots made on the old wood of the pedestrian bridge. It reminded her of when she was little and she and her mother would bring their golden retriever Geronimo out on long walks. The smell of the morning fog mixed with the vegetation almost had a dizzying affect. She stood for a moment and then spat. Thick globs of saliva and blood mixed with the clay and mud that surrounded the trail. She used a shovel she had purchased for her daughter as part of a Gardening with Mommy kit. It was the closest thing at hand when her husband Michael finally lost his mind. He’d run at her full force and slammed her to the concrete of their porch for asking where he’d been. Her tongue found the empty socket where she was missing a molar, dislodged in his onslaught. That’s when she found the miniature shovel, and it found a home in the side of his skull.
He was a huge mongrel of a man, smelling of whiskey and other women’s perfume, but his eyes had been kind once and they drew her here almost to her death. 14 years she’d watched him devolve into the shadow of the man he once was, and if she was honest she’d crushed his skull a thousand times or more in her mind.
Their daughter, Sophie, was still tucked away peacefully in her bed as Debra dragged darling daddy through the mud and the mouldering sweetgrass. It rarely dried here in winter, long weeks of rain and clouds. The Pacific Northwest Coast had many hidden gems, but this place was sacred to her. She’d buried Geronimo here along the path he adored so much when cancer finally took him. She’d marked the place with a large, flat piece of granite and left him flowers up until motherhood had pushed grief ever so briefly to the back of her heart. The air felt alive there, heavy and full of mercy. She’d brought Michael here and they’d shared their first kiss only a yard from where she now planned to dispose of him.
Debra dragged Michael’s body, now stiffened with rigor passed Geronimo’s grave. It’s the only time during the entire ordeal she cried. Not when her front molar shattered against the concrete. Not when the toy shovel her baby girl had helped her plant sage with broke his head open. Not when she continued beating him unrecognizable. Only when she saw that flat stone and remembered that she’d once been a girl with a golden retriever who dreamt of tall dark strangers, but never bludgeoning one to death and digging a shallow grave with a toy shovel.
She held the shovel between her teeth and pulled the the man she’d met, fell in love with and married to the place where he would rot. Debra began to dig when she was out of sight of Geronimo’s grave. Embarrassment that he may witness her act is really the only emotion she could muster. The tiny shovel with a plastic handle dove feebly into thick mud and clay. Soon the plastic handle cracked under the weight of its burden, the jagged edges digging angry furrows into the tender part of her hand between the thumb and forefinger. Her face swollen, dripping blood from her hands, she heard footsteps approach.
She hit the ground and disappeared into the long grass, laying for the last time next to her betrothed. She heard soft voices and flirtatious laughter. Something crawled onto her leg and hit her but it barely registered. Here she’d get caught, brought up for murder, her daughter taken. The footsteps grew louder and out of the fog came a young man and woman obviously planning to avail themselves of the privacy fog and a rural setting affords. Debra began to feel dizzy and as they grew closer still, the tones of their voices and laughter became familiar.
She inexplicably saw herself round the corner. Seventeen and stupid and in love. Holding her hand was Michael, all the parts of him she’d fallen in love with. 19 and newly enlisted. Eyes as bright as stars.
She felt ill immediately and vomited into the hole she’d started. If they were a hallucination, she would deal with it after this business was done. If they were real, there was no way she could avoid their detection. They came within feet of her and she was sure they’d pass right through her, ghosts of their former selves sent to haunt her for her sins.
“What the fuck?!” She heard young, living Michael say. She tried standing up but immediately lost consciousness. Her spell was brief as she opened her eyes to sound of her younger self screaming and sweet, young Michael standing over her, an edge now in his starry eyes that was far more familiar. She opened her mouth to speak, but Michael had already brought the broken handle of the shovel down, the jagged and sharp tip burying itself into her throat.
“Sophie” she mouthed wordlessly, and then bled out.
Fiction © Copyright Michelle Joy Gallagher
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More about Michelle Joy Gallagher:
Michelle Joy Gallagher is a poet from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys mixing poetry with other artistic mediums, and pushing her own artistic comfort zones in the process. Using visceral imagery, and playing with the elasticity of language is where she finds herself happiest. She is the author of poetry chapbooks, A New Mourning and S=K log W, her poetry also makes appearances in The Rejected Volume 1 and The Rejected Volume 2 By Stan Konopka, and her story, The Red Woman, will appear in the soon to be released Café Macabre (Leah Lederman and Source Point Press).