The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Scarlett R. Algee
Malory knew the door; had wondered about it for the entirety of her stay at the academy. Impossible not to, the way the other students tended to point at it and whisper. She put a hand to the scarred, pitted surface—it pulsed briefly beneath her palm—and studied the odd lock, ornate and heart-shaped.
So. This was it, then. Her last test. “It’s warm.”
“Astute of you.” Her teacher’s voice was low, gravelly; he bore the badly-healed scar of an old, deep rope burn around his neck. “Don’t touch it.”
She stepped back and tugged her collar, acutely aware of how utterly unarmed she was; even her training weapons had been taken. “What’s in here?”
“Ah, if I told you…” He reached over Malory’s shoulder and began to manipulate the strange locking mechanism. The metal whined. “That wouldn’t be fair, would it?”
He pulled the door open—the hinges were silent—and Malory could just see, in the darkness beyond, the beginning of a descending stair. “What do I have to do?”
“The same as the others,” and he put his hand between her shoulders and shoved.
Malory’s yelp was stolen as she smashed elbows-first into the stone staircase and began to slide. Then the slide became a tumble, her fingernails splintering as she scrabbled for purchase, until her ass hit the floor at the bottom and her breath was pushed out.
“Survive,” her teacher laughed from above, and shut the door.
Malory fumbled to her feet in the darkness, knees unsteady, every part of her angry and aching. She scrubbed her stinging palms on her pants and stepped sideways, into something that rolled around and beneath her boots and almost sent her sprawling again. Scowling, she bent and reached into the drift of offending objects, feeling long segments and rounded edges as she waited for her eyes to adjust.
Then a light snapped on somewhere above, and she saw the floor was strewn with bones.
An intact hand. Phalanges. A brown, shattered tibia. And beside her right foot, what had almost tripped her: a skull, small and crumbling, too small to belong to an adult.
“Survive,” Malory huffed, turning a circle carefully in the shifting mass. Survive what? The initial shock? Did her teacher expect her to collapse down here and shriek herself into madness? She plucked a partial femur from the debris and studied its jagged edge. Not a knife or a dagger, but enough to cut flesh, and with a little heft to it.
“Good enough,” she said to herself; and then, behind her, something moved.
She went still, thinking the bones had shifted, but the noise continued: a wet snort, a shake, the distinct falls of limbs being flexed and tested. A multitude of limbs.
A growl like metal shearing apart in a gale.
Slowly—slowly—she turned around.
Fiction © Copyright Scarlett R. Algee
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from author Scarlett R. Algee:
The Lift: Nine Stories of Transformation, Volume One
The hall is dark and the overhead light flickers. Sounds echo, and there’s a creaking and clanging that gets louder as you stand in the semi-dark. The elevator opens and you’re offered a ride. Step inside and ride it to the story chosen for your transformation. Don’t be afraid, for Victoria, the mysterious girl who operates The Lift, waits to guide you. Set in the same world as the award nominated audio drama, The Lift’s first written anthology features nine all new stories by fan favorite writers and special bonus content by creators Daniel Foytik and Cynthia Lowman. The collection is brought to life with beautiful illustrations by Jeanette Andromeda for each story.