The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Michelle Joy Gallagher
The known dark is warm and familiar. It’s in the way the room develops as our eyes adjust when we turn off the lights. We instinctively fold ourselves into it, cradled by its comfort. It is an evolutionary gift that we benefit from that allows us to identify familiar shapes and sense movement.
The unknown dark is built out of the darkness in the blink of an eye, the darkness that resides in the closed system of our bodies, our hearts beating out a lifetime in its grasp. It is not so much the absence of light as it is the place behind light. The place we can only intuit and never get true glimpses of. And it is occupied.
It was a new hotel, but the room looked the same as the one she slept in the night before. That was 500 miles ago. Nancy was exhausted. She drew the heavy blackout curtains and threw herself onto the bed face first fully clothed and sighed deeply. She reached out to turn off the bedside lamp but hesitated. She craned her neck around to survey her surroundings one last time. It wasn’t fancy but it didn’t have to be. It was a safe place to sleep and that was all. A TV, a dresser, a sitting table and chair. Olive green, burgundy, relics from fashionable furnishings 10 years ago.
“Alright.” She told no one. She turned onto her back and stretched to turn off the lamp.
There was something there. Alive. Looming over her unseen in the unknown dark.
“Alright.” It mimicked almost mechanically. Mockingly. Inhumanly. She wanted to scream, but this thing that she could feel but not see felt so close she was afraid to. She simply said “please.”
She began to see the outline of television and dresser, and as they sharpened into focus, that … thing, whatever it was, the feeling of it in front of her started to dissipate, evaporate like rainwater. She sat bolt upright and looked around the room, all the familiar landmarks there. Nothing out of order. She blinked and realized that within each fraction of a second in the darkness behind her eyelids, it was there. She couldn’t escape it.
The cleaning crew came through at 9am. Sara and Carina had already been on the clock for 3 hours and were on autopilot. They knocked at room 207 but got no response. Everything looked untouched. They shrugged at each other and started the regular cleaning. Sara in the bathroom and Carina dusting the furniture. Carina screamed in a way that made Sara’s stomach flip. She bolted from the bathroom and saw Carina knelt beside the far side of the bed. Then she saw the body. It wasn’t unusual for housekeeping crews to find people dead in the rooms they serviced. They had heard horror stories. But it appeared this woman had used the small sewing kit the hotel provided to sew her eyelids open. The stitches had ripped in places, leaving her eyelids a tattered mess of strips of flesh and coagulated blood.
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!