The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Alex Grey
Claudia whimpered softly as she strained to fill her lungs with air. Her body screamed for oxygen, but she dared not make a sound. This time, Frank would kill her for sure.
She collapsed onto the forest floor, where the thin grey mist veiled her. Maybe Frank would just step over her, thinking that she was already part of the forest floor’s detritus – a piece of rotten trash like he always said she was.
“You foul whore. I’ll getcha good this time!”
Her ears told her that Frank was far away. That he hadn’t found her trail through the midnight forest; but his words boomed loudly in her mind. She crawled through the decaying mulch, welcoming the cool damp against her fear-fevered skin. She lifted her head above the mist. Just ahead she saw the welcoming shadow of the mausoleum’s portal. Rumour had it that her ancestors were buried there, but her family had fallen far from the colonial arrogance that had left this monument to fester in the forest.
Frank was superstitious. Maybe his dread of the long-buried souls would be enough to keep him away. She could rest a while, find her way out in the morning. He’d have cooled down by then. Maybe he’d forgive her, if she could work out what forgiveness to beg for.
The surging cold of the crypt’s entrance froze the sweat on her skin, chilling and burning at the same time. She recoiled, but then Frank’s voice floated through the mist.
“Where are you little worm? I’ve got a nice hook for you.” His sing-song tone was at odds with the cruel laughter that followed.
Claudia shrank back into the crypt’s portico; he was closer now.
Around her, forms took shape, black on black shadows in the mausoleum’s endless night. Ghosts crowded around her, pinching and pressing her, testing her defences. Claudia ignored them, senses straining outward, focused on Frank.
“She does not fear us.” whispered a ghost in her ear.
“No fear…?” The words passed like a breeze from ghost to ghost.
“How can this be?” the first voice enquired.
Claudia ignored the question; Frank’s voice was closer than ever.
“And when I’ve hooked yah, I’m gonna gut yah like a fish…”
“She has a greater fear.” observed the first ghost.
“Aaaaaah! Yessssss.” A sibilant chorus wrapped Claudia in sound, muting the noises of the forest and drawing her attention at last.
“You smell familiar.” said the first ghost. Claudia felt little tugs at her skin as something sniffed her arms from fingertip to shoulder. “Are you family?”
Claudia stared into the forest.
“Answer child, he will not hear you.”
“I might be.” whispered Claudia. “My grandpappy said his great-grandpappy built this tomb, but we ain’t buried anyone here for generations.”
“Aaaaah…” whispered the chorus.
“Well, you’re family, and family should always stick together.” The first ghost sounded oddly jovial.
“Yessss. We can help you.” replied the chorus
“How?” Claudia replied, distracted as she listened out for Frank.
“I can hear you, little worm, yah never could keep yah trap shut. Yah hiding in yer grandpappy’s crypt? Well, that’s as good a place to bury yah as any.”
Claudia whirled around, scattering the shadows. “I thought you said he couldn’t hear me!”
“We had to draw him here, we cannot help you beyond the crypt…”
“No, no, he can’t come here, I need to run!”
A metallic screech silenced her; a jagged section of the crypt’s wrought iron gateway came loose and fell at her feet.
“We will bring him close and confuse him; then you can finish him and be free.” The first ghost advised.
“You in there, little worm?”
Frank’s face loomed at the entrance.
“Ain’t no escape now. Babe.”
His breath reeked of whisky and old dinners. He hadn’t changed from his filthy work overalls; the stink of machine oil and fish guts filled the portico. He stabbed his hook-pointed hunting knife into the darkness. Claudia shrank further into the shadows.
“I could a’ sworn I heard yeh. Come out, come out wherever you are.”
“Now,” barked the first ghost.
Claudia lunged, thrusting the railing through Frank’s belly with all her might. He fell to his knees and dropped the knife.
“Babe, I didn’t mean nothing by it…” he gurgled.
“Finish it. Finish it. Finish it.” The ghostly chorus swelled around her.
“I know you didn’t, sweetheart.” Claudia replied distantly as she picked up the knife. It felt like Frank, heavy, awkward and vicious. She grasped the thick hilt with both hands, swiping the blade back and forth across his belly, practising. When she was confident of her aim, she sliced the blade across Frank’s throat.
“Yessss.” The ghosts whispered around her.
Light-headed with exhaustion and relief, Claudia slumped on the steps of the mausoleum. Around her, the ghosts cackled softly.
“Thank you.” She whispered gratefully.
“You’re welcome.” chuckled the first ghost.
“Babe, you done it this time.”
Claudia’s eyes widened. Her breath caught in her throat. He was dead. She’d been so sure he was dead.
A dark shadow, ragged and torn, rose from Frank’s cooling corpse. His ghost loomed over her, emanating malice and injured pride.
The ghostly chorus laughed and jeered…
“Are you frightened of us now?”
Fiction © Copyright Alex Grey
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More about Alex Grey:
After a lifetime of writing technical non-fiction, Alex Grey is fulfilling her dream of writing poems and stories that engage the reader’s emotions. Her ingredients for contentment are narrowboating, greyhounds, singing and chocolate – it’s a sweet life. Her poems and short stories have been published by a number of ezines including The Siren’s Call, Raconteur and Toasted Cheese. One of her comic poems is also available via a worldwide network of public fiction dispensers managed by French publisher, Short Edition. Alex’s original view of the world, which shines through her writing, has led to her best friend to say “For someone so lovely, you’re very twisted!”
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