The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
The Shadow waited, lurking in the dark interior of the spruce tree. The Shadow neither knew nor cared how long it had waited. It grew stronger season by season, snaring the occasional unwary chipmunk or cardinal that might creep or hop onto the tree’s branches. The Shadow hid itself deep in the dark recesses where no eye could see it, no long-snouted predator could search it out, no ray of sun could sear it.
Until the day came when happy shouts of, “There’s the Tree! Oh, Daddy, look, that’s the one!” caroled across the forest. The Shadow clung to the trunk of the spruce as the tree was sacrificed to the cruelty of the Season.
The Shadow hid itself ever deeper in the darkest branches of the tree, a darkness difficult to find after the tree’s corpse had been strung with flashing lights, tinsel, and baubles. The family laughed and preened themselves in front of the tree, never seeing the Shadow camouflaged behind the glittering display. The Shadow observed them from its hiding place, its predatory instincts on alert.
Two tall ones and a vulnerable, small one.
Late at night, the house quiet, the Shadow slithered down from the tree, seeking food.
The Shadow crept toward the room where the small one slept, sliding across the floor, the essence of Darkness, intent upon feeding. As the Shadow began to climb onto the bed, a low growl rumbled all around.
Giant claws snatched the Shadow from the bed and dragged it underneath. A Monster, much larger than should be able to exist in such a small space, roared into what would be the Shadow’s face, if it’d had one, “The Child is Mine. You shall not touch Her.”
Pain the like of which the Shadow had never imagined enveloped it as the Monster Under the Bed bit the Shadow in two and then swallowed it. One enormous paw extended beyond the bed and took the little girl’s hand, which she’d flung over the side in the throes of a nightmare she wouldn’t remember.
In her sleep, she squeezed the massive paw. Then she rolled over and dreamed again.
Fiction © Copyright Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Mary Ann Peden-Coviello:
Women write horror and have written it since before Mary Shelley wrote FRANKENSTEIN. This anthology is to highlight the fact women write great horror and to kill the fallacy that they aren’t in some way up to standard. They are. Read here stories by Elizabeth Massie, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Lucy Taylor, and a plethora of other great writers as they work on your nerves, get inside your head, and bang out some of the scariest tales written today. I’m proud to present these women for your consideration, as Rod Serling might say, as I ask you to step into FRIGHT MARE. Lock the door and windows, put on a light, and remember, it’s not real. It’s not real. Midnight awaits, monsters scheme to take you away, the strange and weird wait in the shadows, but it’s not real. Is it?
Edited by Billie Sue Mosiman, the author who brought you the SINISTER-TALES OF DREAD collections and her latest suspense novel, THE GREY MATTER.