The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Naching T. Kassa
Nalin Kratides woke in darkness. A chill, as cold as the dead, pervaded the room. She blinked against the black. What had woken her?
Dim ambient light from the streetlamp outside revealed the figure of Detective John Warren lying on her right side. He snored softly. Was it he who’d cried out in his sleep? Had he dreamed of his murdered mother again?
“Nalin,” a voice whispered near her ear.
Nalin glanced to the left. A long tunnel materialized before her. At the end of it, a candle flared to life. The skull came next. Long, thin horns rose from the bleached skull of the ibex. Blank eyes stared. As suddenly as they appeared, they vanished.
“Who’s there?” Nalin asked.
“Call me, Celia,” the voice replied.
“How can I help you?”
“He didn’t murder me.”
“Who didn’t murder you?”
“Come, and I will tell all.”
The sheets rustled as Nalin rose from the bed. A hand grasped the bare skin of her arm and she turned.
“What’s going on?” Warren asked.
“Spirit talk. I’ll be back in a minute.”
She leaned forward and kissed his lips. “Always.”
She rose and stepped into the tunnel. Three steps took her to a small apartment with a skyline view of New York. The place looked as though a tornado had touched down in the living room. Broken glass littered the hardwood floor, the furniture had been turned over, blood stained the white sofa. Celia stood beside it. Her pale skin and golden hair gleamed in the light of dawn. She gazed at Nalin with sad, blue eyes.
“He didn’t do it,” she said.
“The young man they arrested. I don’t know his name.”
“If he didn’t, who did?”
“A policeman. He followed me home. Said he needed to question me about the robbery at the gallery where I work. He came in and when I turned, he attacked me. We struggled. He stabbed me here—on the couch.”
“Are you sure it was a policeman?”
“He showed me his badge when he met me at the door.”
Nalin crossed to the couch and peered at the stain which marred the cushions. It seemed strange, lighter than most. “Then…you know his name.”
“Yes. He was a detective. His name is John Warren.”
Nalin looked up into Celia’s eyes. They glowed ghostly. “You’re sure? What did he look like?”
“Handsome. Green eyes. Brown hair. He has a scar. It runs through his eyebrow on the left side.”
“Is he right or left-handed?”
“I’m not sure. Left, I think. Yes, left. He held the knife in his left hand.”
Nalin had circled the living room while they spoke. She halted when she reached a small end table on the other side of the sofa. She stared at the empty surface.
“How did you find me, Celia?”
“I asked for help. The tunnel appeared and showed me you.”
“You didn’t see Warren through the tunnel? It didn’t show him to you?”
“No. Just you.”
“Am I right or left-handed, Celia?”
“Something I’ve noticed about the tunnel. It shows the world through a mirror. Things which are right-handed appear left, and so on. I’ve gotten used to it. I don’t think you have.”
“What? What are you talking about? I don’t understand.”
“You saw Warren in my bedroom. The scar is on his right side, not his left.”
“No, you have to believe me. He killed me.”
“If you’re dead, I’m Abraham Lincoln.”
The melancholy drained from Celia’s eyes. They grew hard and cold as flint.
“Damn. You’re smarter than I thought.”
“And you’re arrogant, like all of demonkind. Which one are you?”
“Tut, tut. Giving a name gives control. I won’t make that mistake. How did you know I’m a demon?”
“You have thin blood. A little too light to be mortal. Also, you summoned the tunnel using a candle and an ibex skull.”
“Double damn. You saw that?”
“Clear as day.”
“Then why did you come?”
“To see what you’re up to. Wasn’t nice to bring Warren into it.”
The demon smiled. “He’s your Achilles Heel, isn’t he? Your kryptonite. How long would you last if I snuffed his life?”
“I think you’d die first.”
“Is that a threat?”
“No. A promise.”
Nalin reached out. The ibex skull appeared in her hand as she snatched it off the empty end table. She lunged forward.
The demon shrieked as the horn penetrated her chest. She fell to the floor and the world dissolved.
When Nalin opened her eyes, she found herself in her own room. Warren stood half-dressed beside her.
“You alright?” he asked. “Are you hurt?”
“It’s not my blood.”
“What the hell happened?”
“It was a demon—”
“A demon! Why didn’t you call me?”
“It wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. I stabbed her with an ibex horn.”
Warren’s eyes widened. “She must’ve been a nasty one.”
“What she said was nasty.”
“What did she say?”
“She insulted my kryptonite.”
“Nevermind.” She moved close and kissed his lips. “Let’s take a shower.”
Warren grinned. “Damn.”
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
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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.
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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.