The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Naching T. Kassa
The crystal sat upon a scrap of black velvet, shining beneath the muted light of the shop. I admired each smooth facet and the prismatic color revealed within its shadow before taking it in my hands.
“You’re sure it will work?” I asked the old man.
He shuffled over to me, his breath reeking of illness. He paused at the counter and peered into my face.
“Gaze into the crystal’s depths. It will tell you what you need.”
I did as he bade me.
The whispering began right away. A chorus of voices called out, directing me to the back of the store, and the glass case which held a variety of weapons. I pointed to the katana still in its jewel-encrusted saya. The old man took it from the case and handed it to me.
A large jewel had been set into the handle. Upon closer examination, I realized it was not a jewel at all, but a shard of crystal, perhaps the from the same one I had just gazed into.
“Do you want it?” the old man asked.
“Yes. How much?”
“Eighteen-thousand. Nineteen if you’re going to use it. Cash only.”
I pulled a package wrapped in brown paper from my bag and set the block on top of the case.
“There’s twenty in here. Keep the change.”
The old man eyed the package, then shifted his gaze to my face.
“A word of warning, before you go,” he said. “Never draw the sword unless you intend to use it. If air touches the blade, it must taste blood.”
“And…if it doesn’t?”
“Then, its hunger will grow. And the next time you pull it from the saya, it will feed until it’s sated.” The old man shook his head. “The samurai…they knew how to control the spirit in the blade. They never allowed it to control them.”
“I’m not sure you do.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ve already dug a second grave. The headstone’s already inscribed.”
He said no more as I left the shop. The bell on the door jingled in my wake.
When I arrived home, I found the ghosts of my family waiting. They laughed and smiled, forever frozen behind panes of glass and frames of wood. I would never hold them again.
My cell rang and I pulled it from my pocket. A hushed, female voice spoke into my ear.
“It was Smith. He ordered the hit. He killed them all.”
“Don’t go back to the office,” I said, and ended the call before she could say another word.
I placed my hand on the handle of the katana and pulled it from the saya. The blade gleamed under the amber light of the living room lamps.
“Blood,” a voice said. Hollow and inhuman, it filled my head.
“Who’s there?” I whispered.
A face appeared within the crystal on the katana’s handle. The raw, pink skin reminded me of potato bug larvae I found in the garden. One long tooth protruded from its upper jaw.
“Feed me,” the creature said.
“Soon,” I replied, and returned the sword to the scabbard.
I left without locking the house and drove my car downtown. Steel and concrete surrounded me as I pulled into the parking garage. I left the car in the shadows, the katana hidden beneath my long coat. When I entered the elevator, and found myself alone, I pulled the sword and released the spirit once more.
“Blood,” the thing demanded. Saliva oozed from between its lips and glistened on the single tooth.
“A few moments more,” I said, and returned it to the saya.
Jack Smith’s offices were on the top floor. He employed many people here. People who killed and covered for him. People like me.
I found him in the boardroom with nine other men. None of them were like me. None had tried to rise against him. None had lost everything doing it.
“Glad you’re back, Joe,” Smith said as I entered. “Sorry about your wife and kids.”
I released the spirit for the last time.
The long tooth cut deep.
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Naching T. Kassa:
Crystal Lake Publishing proudly presents Arterial Bloom, an artful juxtaposition of the magnificence and macabre that exist within mankind. Each tale in this collection is resplendent with beauty, teeth, and heart.
Edited by the Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Mercedes M. Yardley, Arterial Bloom is a literary experience featuring sixteen stories from some of the most compelling dark authors writing today.
With a foreword by HWA Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient Linda D. Addison, you are invited to step inside and let the grim flowers wind themselves comfortably around your bones.