The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The Scent of Pine and Wildflowers
by Naching T. Kassa
The moon gleamed outside Margo’s window as she placed the silhouette against the glass. Cut from black construction paper, it cast a tree-shaped shadow over her bedroom.
“What’s that, Margo?”
Margo turned. Her father stood in the doorway.
“Something we made in school.”
“Are those your friends?” He pointed to the girlish shapes around the tree.
“And is that Mr. Crinkles?”
Margo nodded. A tear trailed down her cheek. “He liked climbing trees.”
“It looks good. Especially with the moonlight behind it.”
“Oh, it’s not for decoration. Emily Wallace said it would keep the monster away.”
Margo covered her mouth with both hands and glanced at her father. The man shook his head and smiled.
“Sit on the bed, Margo. We need to talk.”
Margo climbed up on her bed and sat with her hands in her lap. Her father switched the light on, and the tree silhouette vanished.
“I know you’re upset about your friends, sweetheart. It’s a hard thing to lose people so young.”
“He took them, Daddy,” Margo said. She brushed another tear away. “And he killed Mr. Crinkles.”
“I know. But he isn’t going to get you.”
“Sarah’s doors were locked, and he took her anyway.”
“He won’t get you.”
“What about Lisa? He took her from her grandma’s house. Emily Wallace said he hid in her closet. She said Lisa didn’t put up the picture, so he came and got her.
“Emily is making things up.”
Father held up a hand. “Margo, no monster will come in this house and take you. He won’t dare.”
“Because of the picture?”
“No. Because I’m the scariest thing in this house. Nothing will mess with me.” He pulled back the covers. “Time for bed.”
Margo slipped beneath the blankets. Her father tucked her in and kissed her forehead.
“If I’m scared, and I call you, will you come?”
“I’ll be here faster than you can blink.”
The silver moon crawled across the velvet sky and the paper tree’s shadow shifted with it. Margo yawned. She shut her eyes and slipped into twilight. Dreams bloomed in her mind.
Margo ran with wolves along a mountain ridge. They jogged beside her, their eyes reflecting the silver moon, tongues lolling.
Seconds later, they reached the shore of a lake. Margo joined them at the water’s edge. She leaned down and lapped up the sweet, clear water.
Something rustled in the brush.
The wolves rose, ears pricked. Something padded out of the trees. The man-like beast grinned at them. It’s cat-like eyes glowed. Blood dripped from the talons of its right hand.
She pushed herself up and stared, panting into her bedroom. The scent of pine and wildflowers lingered.
The moon had moved on and only a sliver of silver light remained. Margo’s gaze swept the room, halting when she encountered a shadow. One which hadn’t been there before.
“Are you awake, Margo?” the shadow asked. It lunged toward her.
Clawed hands covered her mouth and green, feline eyes glared into her own.
“I didn’t know which room was yours,” the monster said. “I’m glad you listened to my daughter.”
“Daddy!” Margo cried.
The beast laughed, low and hoarse.
“Margo!” Her father called from beyond the door.
“Daddy, help me!”
The creature snatched her up from the bed and covered her mouth with one hand, muffling her cries. Something crashed against the door as they headed for the window. The door jamb splintered.
Margo’s eyes grew wide.
The thing which entered her bedroom bore no resemblance to her father. Black fur covered its human form and the strange snout which emerged from its face. The eyes glowed with animal shine. It howled and rushed forward.
The monster hissed and dropped Margo to the floor. It lashed out with a clawed hand.
The man-wolf ducked the blow and went for the throat. Strong teeth latched on. Together they fell through the window. Glass shattered, sparkling in the moonlight.
The world fell quiet.
Margo rose to her feet. She approached the broken window and peered down onto the lawn below. A man lay upon the grass. Margo’s breath caught in her throat. She hurried out of the room, down the stairs, and out the door.
The man still lay on the lawn. A shard of glass protruded from his eye.
She turned. Her father stood near the front steps. He wore no shirt, only pants.
“Daddy!” She rushed into his arms.
“I told you he wouldn’t get you.”
She clutched at him. His hair smelled of pine.
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of PChristina Sng
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.