The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Lydia Prime
Time seems to go so much faster now; the world withers but I stay the same. If I focus on the end, maybe it won’t start again…
Shallow breaths leave tears streaming down my cheeks. I can’t help but wonder if it could have been different – would have been different – if only I’d just said no. My thoughts travel to places I’d rather not see; a memory breaks through and my pulse begins to slow.
The ground beneath my feet feels as if it’s falling away; I’m floating through a familiar void. I look above and see a faint glimmer of green, the higher my body goes, the brighter the light becomes. Strung up in the cosmos I watch the clocks roll back and forth while the skies change above me. Prickles on my fingers; my flesh gives way to bone. It doesn’t hurt anymore, just happens.
A long lonely path to the decaying castle, I looked up to the branches, small buds – the leaves were just starting to appear after such a vicious winter. It took just over an hour to walk from town to the abomination within the mountains.
Upon reaching the iron gate, I paused and took in my surroundings. It didn’t seem like any of the monstrosities were venturing about. No enormous winged beasts circling overhead, nor the six-legged mongrel. Those were the worst, with their ability to almost pass for a dog, had it not been for the extra limbs, and of course overwhelming maw filled to the brim with sharp black teeth. I breathed deeply and convinced myself that I was doing the right thing, no matter how hopeless I felt, and pushed the gateway open; the creaking of the rusted old metal hurt my ears. I shivered as goose bumps traveled the length of my arms and made my way to the wooden doors of the enormous structure.
Before I could knock, the door swung open. Through what little light there was, I could just barely make out the silhouette of someone standing back near the opposite wall. I cautiously stepped through the door way, my eyes locked on whomever was hiding in the shadows.
“Hello?” My voice shaky and questioning. No response followed and the figure remained still. “Are you, Annalina?” It took one step forward, I assumed that to be a yes. “Annalina, I’ve been sent by the people you and your beasts torment. I’ve watched as your nightmarish ghouls have plucked us off one by one. I stood helpless while my siblings drowned in a pool of their own blood. I –”
The figure let out a raucous laughter. She stepped closer to the light, closer to me. Now I could see all of her: pallid skin hung loosely from bone, fingernails curled in different directions, eyes of pure obsidian, stringy grey hair that came past her hips. “You’re either unbelievably brave or immeasurably stupid to dare coming here, to dare speaking to me like that.” Her voice rasped something awful, the hate in her tone was absolute.
“I prefer brave. I’m here to offer you a deal.” I blurted out; a bit quicker than I should have. My palms were sweating profusely and my knees were becoming jelly. I held her gaze and watched as a glint formed in those dark eyes.
“A deal, child? Are you sure you know what you’re getting into?” Annalina smirked, her yellow rotten teeth exposed.
Needing to resist the urge to run, I nodded. She moved closer, her odor wafting in my face. She stood no more than four feet away from me, “I will give you whatever you want, if you leave the town and its people be.” I dropped my head to my chest, her putrid scent causing nausea. “Anything at all, but the town must never be victim to your monsters or you ever again.”
“Anything? Anything at all?” She mused, “But how do you know if you have anything I’d want?”
My heart sank, I didn’t know. I had no plan beyond getting here, I didn’t think I’d even make it this far. Whatever it takes… “What do you want?” I asked. “The only way to know, is if you tell me.”
She scratched her scaly chin, turned away from me and began to pace as she thought. “You.” She uttered calmly, spinning to face me once again.
“M-m-me?” I stammered. “What could you want with me?”
“Doesn’t matter, does it? You said anything. I want you, all of you.”
“You’ll never bother the towns people again?”
“Never.” She held up her hand as if swearing on some invisible tome.
“So be it.” I replied accepting her request.
Annalina’s cackle echoed through the empty room and the ground began to crumble around us. She raised her grotesque hands to the heavens and chanted in a language I’d never heard. Green sparks flicked around us, her skin smoothing while mine shriveled. We floated above the clouds for what seemed like an eternity. When it was over, I collapsed and looked up at her. She’d gone from a disgusting old crone to an indescribably beautiful young woman.
“Your youth, your life, your soul. These will keep me satisfied for a time. As you heal, my youth and beauty will fade. Then, it will be time to feed off you some more. Your precious town will be safe as long as you live.”
Tears welled up and stung behind my eyes. My breaths shallow, my skin like paper.
Fiction © Copyright Lydia Prime
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from author Lydia Prime:
Under Her Black Wings:
2020 Women of Horror Anthology
– A glamorous actress whose very flesh is reanimated by a beloved Hollywood icon
– A Boy Scout Troup encounters a frightening mythological creature in an American forest
– A lonely woman finds a home among a group of lost-and-found souls, all cared for by a tentacled sea-creature called Mother
– A Faceless Woman attacks like a virus and takes on the identities of her victims
– A post-apocalyptic battle for survival rages between human and insect
– A Shadow Woman leads the spirits of the murdered to take revenge in the desert
These are just some of the stories nineteen women came up with when tasked with creating their own Women Monsters. Step inside and experience tales of bloodsucking entities in the jungles of Southeast Asia, Cuban river goddesses, an Aztec bruja, werewolves, mermaids, soul-stealers, obsessive lovers, furious spurned wives, bloody murder in Gothic manors and on Southern plantations… and so much more…
With Foreword by Brandon Scott (Author of Vodou and Sleight, Devil Dog Press)
Please don’t forget to visit the other WiHM 11 projects taking place!