The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Girl of Glass, Girl of Fire
by Naching T. Kassa
There are monsters in the world. Some are human. Some are not. Frieda knew both and feared only one.
She lay beneath the warm quilt, clutching her doll. The soft murmur of voices, rent by the occasional laugh, drifted up from downstairs.
Nearby, a lantern sat upon the nightstand. The small flame danced within, flickering over the snowflakes which had been carved into the glass, and casting their shadows on the wall. Frieda basked in the amber glow and her thoughts turned toward Anna, her best friend.
Anna had been a maid for Uncle Hans and Aunt Maria ever since Frieda had come to live with the couple. Kind and gentle, the older girl had seemed more like a sister than a servant. It was she who comforted Frieda in the darker hours of the night. She who had given her the lantern.
“I thought your family didn’t celebrate Christmas,” Frieda had said while unwrapping the present.
“We don’t. But you do. Do you like it?”
“I love it. Are these snowflakes? They look like the star on your arm.”
Anna glanced at the armband she wore. “They do, don’t they?”
“Then you will find great protection in them. They and the lantern will stave off the darkness and keep the dark creatures at bay. However, if anyone asks, say they are snowflakes.”
“And, then there’s this.”
Anna handed her a gray ball.
“What is this? Clay?”
“It is more than clay. It’s a protector.”
“How can it protect me?”
“You shape it into the form of something which can protect you. Like a dog. Or a tiger.”
“What about a great beast with huge claws and a face like a dragon?”
Anna laughed. “It can be whatever you wish. Let it dry. It will keep the monsters away.”
“If I want it to…will it attack them?” She stared at Anna. The weight of her words lay heavy between them.
“Thank you, Anna.”
The older girl smiled. “You are welcome, little one.”
Frieda’s doll fell from her grasp and on to the floor, waking her from the memory which had become a dream. It rolled beneath the bed.
Footsteps sounded outside the door. Anna was right about the lantern. It did keep the darklings away. But not all monsters feared its light.
The knob turned and a man entered.
Uncle Max stood six-feet-tall with white-blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. Silver accented his black uniform. It gleamed in the lantern light. This evening, for the Christmas party, he wore a red and white armband with a swastika emblazoned on it. A crystal glass filled his hand. The skull above the brim of his hat grinned.
“Frieda, you are not sleeping,” he said, as he approached the bed.
“I’m waiting for Anna. Has she come back yet?”
Max settled into the chair near the bed, the one Anna always took when she read Frieda stories.
“She will not be back today. But do not worry. I will tell you a story instead.”
“It’s about bad little girls. Do you know what happens to bad girls?”
Max turned his red-rimmed eyes on Frieda. His breath smelled of sour peaches. She shrank back into the blankets, wishing she could plug her ears.
“I deal with bad girls all day. They come from the bad people, the ones who wear stars.”
Frieda sighed. In all of Max’s stories, the bad people wore stars.
“Some girls are fragile like glass,” he continued. “Like sheep, they do what they’re told. Others have fire in their veins. They are wild and hard to break. I know of one such girl. A bad girl with bad thoughts in her pretty head. Let’s call her…Anna.”
The heat drained from Frieda’s heart and an icy chill filled it. She rose up on one elbow.
“Anna was a wicked girl. So smug. She thought herself superior to everyone, even me. I knew how to break her though. I sent her parents to a work camp, promising their safe return if she would be…nice to me. She agreed.”
He shifted in the chair and almost fell out of it.
“They are dirty, those bad girls. We are not supposed to touch them. And, yet, I could not keep away. After she shared her delights, she would ask after her parents. She did not know what had happened to them.” He looked up into Frieda’s eyes. “Do you know what happens in the work camps, Frieda? What really happens?”
The next words spoken, spun nightmares in Frieda’s mind. Her heart pounded hard in her ears but did not drown out his voice.
When he finished, tears stood in her eyes.
“I waited for years to break Anna. To build her hopes and then dash them. I would have kept her longer if they hadn’t made me send her away. You should have seen her face when I told her how her parents died and how long they’d been dead.”
“Where is she?” Frieda cried. “Where is Anna?”
“The train took her to the workcamp this afternoon. This is what happens to bad girls.”
Tears trickled down Frieda’s face.
“Are you a bad girl, Frieda?”
Frieda didn’t answer. The tears scalded her cheeks.
“I think you are,” Max said. “But…are you a girl of glass? Or a girl of fire?”
As though waiting for the speaking of these words, the doll stepped from beneath the bed. Its grotesque form grew before their eyes, and its claws raked the wooden floorboards as it advanced. A scaly, gray head weaved back and forth.
Max fell from the chair as the beast sat poised above him.
Frieda rose to her feet.
“I am a girl of fire,” she said.
Flame licked the beast’s lips.
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Naching T. Kassa:
As technology takes over more of our lives, what will it mean to be human, and will we fear what we’ve created? What horrors will our technological hubris bring us in the future? Join us as we walk the line between progressive convenience and the nightmares these advancements can breed. From faulty medical nanos and AI gone berserk to ghost-attracting audio-tech and one very ambitious Mow-Bot, we bring you tech horror that will keep you up at night. Will you reach the Kill Switch in time? Edited by Dan Shaurette and Emerian Rich, with authors Chantal Boudreau, Garth von Buchholz, Bill Davidson, Jerry J. Davis, Dana Hammer, Laurel Anne Hill, Naching T. Kassa, Tim O’Neal, H.E. Roulo, Garrett Rowlan, Phillip T. Stephens, and Daphne Strasert.