The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
This Woman’s Work
by Tiffany Michelle Brown
It’s always uncomfortable, the change. She screams when her skin stretches, when her bones crack and lengthen and rejoin. There is no blood, but it’s excruciating just the same. The whole process takes an hour. An hour of endless pain, hollow cries, and a precarious dance with death. She’s never sure she’ll survive it, but she always does.
Outside, as she begins her journey, she turns her face up to the moon. She wonders, if she reached out to touch it, would it burn her fingertips with cold? Or perhaps it would turn out to be a fragile thing and would shatter into a million pieces with the slightest disturbance. Someday, she tells herself, she’ll find out. But tonight, she has work to do.
Despite her size, she’s quiet on her feet. The fairytales are wrong. When giants traipse across the earth, they don’t cause earthquakes. Rather, they inspire something much scarier. Shifts in energy, swirls of unknowing that are impossible to escape if you happen to fall into one. But she’s aware of her power and avoids people and only moves at night.
She carries an hourglass filled with snow-white sand. The item is light as a feather, but it won’t be for long. Soon, it will hold incredible weight, and it will be difficult for her to transport the hourglass back home. There will be sweat and scorched muscles and moments when she’ll want to give up. But she can’t. Without her work, the world will fall in on itself and grow sick and sordid and unbearable.
Across the river, she pauses by an old oak tree, knowing radiating through her. Yes, he’s close by. She can feel it like a leech on her fair skin, a distinct, dirty pull that makes her stomach flutter. He’s been hitting things again. Anything that gets in his way. People, animals, walls. They all succumb to his fists.
It’s time for him to succumb to something.
She flips the hourglass, and as the grains of sand fall into the glass, they are no longer white. They are the blackest black. They are infinite and heavy and evil. They fight to break the glass and escape.
She closes her eyes as the hourglass grows heavy in her hands. She takes all that she can as he sleeps, dreaming of future violence he will no longer be able to impart.
She’s weary when she returns home, but she tamps down her desire to collapse into bed and sleep. For one thing, she’d decimate her bedframe, large and powerful as she is. For another, her work isn’t quite done.
The change isn’t as bad when she’s returning. The shrinking is strange, unnerving, and slippery. Her bones go first, sliding out of place and withering back to human proportions. As her skin catches up, she’s like a balloon gradually releasing air. For a while, she’s simply an excess of stuff, shapeless and immobile. She closes her eyes, practices patience, and counts to a hundred, over and over again.
When the reversion is complete, she enrobes her body in luscious silk and brews a cup of tea. The hourglass responds to her touch and opens easily. She tips the contents into her cup. The black grains sizzle when they hit liquid. They will taste terrible, like him, like the brutality that used to fester inside his mind, his body, his soul. Now, she will consume him. She’ll down his horrible nature. Within her, it will do no harm. It will dissipate, no longer exist, be snuffed out by something greater than he ever was.
And the man will never swing a fist again. In the morning, his wife will find his skeleton between their cotton sheets. She’ll scream, partially out of shock, but mostly out of relief. Because the bones, bleached and useless, will be substantially less frightening than the monster he was life.
Fiction © Copyright Tiffany Michelle Brown
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
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