The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Naching T. Kassa
Death waits for Erick Mossburn. She paces outside the heavy oak door of his bedroom, her tread slipper-soft, waiting for someone to allow her in. When his visitors enter and exit the room, he glimpses her pale face.
The heady scent of oxygen fills his nostrils. He cannot move his arms. As for his legs, they ceased to function years ago. Thin, almost skeletal, they lay motionless under the sheet. He couldn’t run even if he wanted to.
Two visitors enter the room, and through the open door, death becomes visible. Yesterday, she was a woman of seventeen, her face slashed and unrecognizable. Today, she is a little girl holding a grey rabbit with no ears. Her eyes blindfolded—no, bandaged. They bleed through and beneath the cloth. She wears a parka and a pretty dress. The door closes on her.
The visitors to his room must think he’s sleeping. They whisper, but the sound carries to him.
“How is he today, doctor?” the woman says.
“The same,” the doctor says. He scratches his greying beard.
The woman, his niece Matilda, nods her head. She dabs at her eyes before the mascara can run. “Can you…can you make him more comfortable?”
The doctor nods.
“He’s such a good man,” she says, a choke in her voice. “Everyone in town loves him. When his parents died, and he took over their restaurant business, no one believed he would succeed. Many made fun of him. He wasn’t bitter though. He worked hard and gave back to the community. They learned what a great man he is.”
The bedroom door opens as Matilda’s husband, Justin, enters. Mossburn’s eyes widen as Death adopts a new visage. The rotting corpse which had once been his father, glares at him and bares its teeth. The door shuts as the ghost reaches forward.
“Matilda,” Justin says. “Jill’s here.”
A chill creeps over Mossburn’s skin at the mention of his daughter’s name. He tries to rise, but strength flees. He raises the fingers of his left hand instead.
“Oh, I knew she’d come,” Matilda says, wiping away an ink-colored tear. “I knew she couldn’t stay away. Couldn’t hold that grudge forever. She has to say goodbye.”
Mossburn grunts, trying to attract attention.
“Jill hasn’t been the best daughter,” Matilda says to the doctor. “She was always rebellious. After her school friend, Dina Anthony died, she became positively insufferable. She deserted Uncle Erick at the age of eighteen and hasn’t been back since. Perhaps, she’s learned her lesson now.” She glances up at her husband. “Well, don’t just stand there, Justin. Bring her in.”
Justin nods and scurries from the room like an obedient squirrel. The doctor follows. Matilda turns toward Mossburn’s bed and smiles.
“Oh, Uncle Erick, I’m so glad you’re awake. Jill is here.”
“Don’t…” Mossburn says. He licks his dry lips and cracking lips. “Don’t let her…”
Matilda approaches. “What was that, Uncle Erick?”
His parched throat allows him only one more word. He voices it as loud as can.
“You want to be alone with her? Oh, certainly. Certainly. We’ll all leave when she comes in.”
Mossburn cannot shake his head nor wave a hand. The chill reaches from his skin to his bones as Jill enters the room.
The girl he knew is twenty now. And though she wears a sad smile on her lips, her blue eyes are hard as ice.
“Father,” she says, her voice choked with tears. She comes to him and seats herself on the bed. Her cold hands take his.
“I’ll leave you two alone,” Matilda says.
Mossburn groans and waves his fingers in protest, but Matilda crosses the room toward the door. He shuts his eyes as she exits. The minute she is gone, Jill’s melancholy smile fades.
“You see, father? You’re not the only one who can act.”
He cannot answer. Cannot plead.
“Can you see them now, father? That chain of ghosts you drag behind you? The faces used to be familiar. I don’t recognize most of them now.”
She rises to her feet, heading for the door. He clutches at her, but his fingers are too weak.
“I started seeing them at eighteen. They told me no one would believe me. That it would only get me killed. They promised to call me back someday. I wish they would’ve called me sooner.”
Her fingers touch the doorknob.
In his mind, he screams.
She opens the door.
Death enters wearing many faces and treading on silent feet. They grip him, pulling him from the earth.
Jill grins as they bear him away.
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
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.
Please don’t forget to visit the other WiHM 12 projects taking place!