The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Naching T. Kassa
The story races through my mind. I must tell it before it’s too late.
My sister has always been afraid of crows. That’s why I used them to drive her insane.
Clara had to go, you see. Both of us were to receive an inheritance upon the death of our father. And, when he finally breathed his last, it was she who stood between me and the $100,000 which lay moldering in the bank. She was younger than me, and though I could not bring myself to kill her, I could not wait another year for her to leave the earth. Driving her insane would work just as well. When they made me her guardian, I could spend her $50,000 just as easily.
The feathers came first. Lustrous and black, I laid them on her pillow before slumber and smiled as her shrieks filled the hall. When I rushed to her room and she motioned to them, I pretended not to see them, sowing seeds of doubt in that oh so fertile mind.
The sounds came next. I slipped into her room without notice and hid the player under her bed. During the darkest hours of the night, the raucous cries filled her room. They propelled her from deepest sleep to fear-gripped wakefulness. She would scream my name, but I would not answer until all the cries had ceased. I would peer at her in puzzlement as she described the fearful cacophony, telling her I had heard nothing. Then, I would return to my bedroom, cover my head with a pillow, and laugh with delight.
The last thing, the one which drove her over the edge, was the bird I set upon her while she slept. A particularly vicious and hungry creature, it pecked at her hands and fingers until I pulled it away. Her mind had gone by the time I switched the lamp on.
A new month found her in a new residence. Her inward stare now encompassed the wide, lush lawn of the institution to which I had committed her. My long days of penury had ended. The money now filled my bank account.
I returned to my home and removed all trace of her and our father. The house was a fresh page and I would fill it with what I craved.
After dinner, I took a stroll in the woods behind my home. I pretended a new childhood, one without my family and my sister. One in which I played alone. I took a path I’d avoided since girlhood, intent on creating my new past.
And, there I saw him.
He stood alone at the end of the trail, dressed in the black uniform of a chauffeur, the brass buttons glinting in the dying sunlight. The overlarge and denuded skull of a crow covered his face, long feathers grew upward.
I stood frozen as his vacant eyes gazed upon me. And, then he spoke a single word.
The sound of my own name sent me scrambling in the opposite direction. I had forgotten this monster, this creature which had haunted my childhood. He who had turned even the sweetest dream into a sanctum for nightmares.
I cast a fearful glance over my shoulder as I ran, but he had not pursued me. I burst from the wood, dashed up the drive, and into the house.
The lock clicked and I leaned against the door, my heart in my throat. Memories flowed in like water over a broken dam. I now remembered how Clara and I had wandered down the path. How we had found him and how he had haunted us. Every time we came near the wood, he had followed us, stalking us from the brambles, watching from behind the trees. One night, he’d even come to the window and gazed in upon us. We had screamed for our parents, and though he stood but inches from the glass, they did not see him. Only when he crept away did we grow quiet.
We knew we could not escape him.
The next day, Clara had come to me and taking my hand, said, “There is only one way to get rid of him, Rita. We must turn our backs on him and forget. More than that, we must never go down that path again.”
I squeezed her hand and as one; we forced him from our minds.
The trick worked. We never saw him again.
But Clara still feared the crows.
It was she who always kept me on the right path and away from the one he inhabited.
I trembled as I mounted the stairs and hurried through the empty hall. When I reached my room, I fell upon the bed and closed my eyes against the darkness which filled it.
I tried to push him from my mind, tried to erase him as I had before.
I must’ve fallen asleep because when next I opened my eyes, moonlight streamed through the window blinds and the digital clock read twelve. I rose and realizing I had not yet eaten, made my way toward the door.
Movement caught my eye.
I didn’t want to turn my head. I didn’t want to see the figure, which had been crouching in the corner, rise to his feet. I didn’t want to see the pale bone headdress in the silver slivers of moonglow. I shut my eyes against him, even as I stood rooted to the floor and his soft footsteps crossed the carpet.
I tried to forget him. But his cold fingers, like claws, closed around my arm…
Now, I sit in the same room as my sister. Dressed in a similar robe, seated in a similar chair. Someone thought it would be kinder to keep us together, that somehow, it would bring us out of the spell which binds us. From dawn til dusk, I stare into her face.
Clara just blinked. She sees me for the first time. Her eyes are sad. She speaks but I can’t respond.
Perhaps, she’ll make a full recovery.
I will forget Clara in the days which come, but I will not forget him, and he will not forget me.
Even now, he waits in the shadows of this room.
Waiting for darkness to come.
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.