The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Michelle Joy Gallagher
Sarah watched the sun set as she’d done countless times in what had felt like an achingly long life. Except, the sun didn’t set here. It sank, like a skipped stone into the water. The body was wrapped neatly at the prow of her small rowboat, the one she’d built with her father almost 50 years ago. She and her now ex-husband Francis painted it on their honeymoon. They’d spent a week together at her childhood summer home. She’d repaired it and repainted it when he’d asked for a divorce some 20 years later. He’d left her for another woman, and one 15 years her junior. She drank a lot of whiskey then, and the days flew by in a blur. She’d gone back to the place that had always healed her, and she allowed herself to wallow. One night she’d walked naked into the lake intending to drown and gripped a too heavy stone as she plodded along the muddy bottom. As the water slowly swallowed her, she tried to clear her mind of all thought. The water was numbingly cold. She would count to 3 and take a deep breath to let the water flood her lungs. Her eyes opened instinctively when she opened her mouth to breathe. The sunset made the water a murky green that reminded her of jade, mottled through with inclusions of brown from the mud she’d stirred up and clumps of yellow moss dislodged from the rock she carried. It didn’t hurt. Not much. But her lungs burned in a way she’d never experienced before, and she wondered idly if perhaps that was how babies felt when they first drew a breath of air. It didn’t take long before the murky jade green of the water faded to black, and the rock slipped slowly from her fingers and settled on the bottom with a dull thud that she did not hear. When she jolted awake the next morning, warm and dry in her bed, she played with the quilt her mother had hand stitched when she was pregnant with her and hummed softly as the light came up over the hills and illuminated the room. She wasn’t shocked to find herself there but felt a bit unsettled as she crawled out of bed and inched toward the old coffee maker in the small kitchen. How much of that whiskey did she drink the night before? The coffee was stale, but she sipped it gladly while watching the sun rise over the lake. The glass-like placidity of the water was broken by something floating at the surface. Herons lit upon it and pecked. Her curiosity got the best of her and she wandered out in her fuzzy robe to the muddy bank and strained to see what the object was. The herons screamed obscenities at her, sensing competition for their prized find. When her eyes adjusted to the contrasting shadows of the object, she could see a pale hand, and a halo of auburn hair shot through with grey, floating serenely. A fixture of the landscape. She gazed in horror then, as the herons continued to dive and collect strips of flesh from the corpse. It wore a blue gown just like the one she wore under her robe. She decided to row out and investigate, in case her eyes were playing tricks on her as they’d done in the past. When she reached the body and chased the hungry birds away with an oar, she prodded it til she was able to flip it face up. She found herself staring down at her own face. The one in the water had lost an eye to surrounding scavengers, but it was unmistakably her. The Sarah that walked into the lake never came back up. She pulled the body closer with the oar and then pulled it slowly on board, almost capsizing the boat when she did. She looked down at herself feeling both an immense amount of love and loathing.
“You fucking stupid bitch.” She whispered, then collapsed upon the body sobbing, kissing her own dead face gently, forgivingly, trying to transplant as much kindness as she could with each one.
Fiction © Copyright Michelle Joy Gallagher
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from author Michelle Joy Gallagher:
This collection of twelve stories and artwork by women is truly a collection of the macabre. Make a reservation for terror and get ready to delve into the deepest, darkest fears of some of the best writers and artists in the fiction game. Leah McNaughton Lederman has collected an anthology of the truly strange… a tome of the weird. Take a seat and order a cup, you’re dining at Café Macabre!