The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
It were our Petey what seen her first, stood out by where the dark trees ended and our clearing began. He run back to the cabin, yellin’, “Ma, Ma, they’s a gal standing by her lone up by the edge of the woods!”
All of us went out to see. He weren’t lyin’. A little girl stood there all by herself. Her white dress showed like a deer’s tail in the twilight. She clutched a ragged toy bear in her hands. And her face was covered by a bloody bandage.
She give me the willies.
“Ma, leave her be. Send her on her way.” I knowed I sounded cruel. I didn’t care.
“Jodie Barnes, you should be ashamed,” Ma said.
I grabbed at her apron, but she shook me off and walked up the hill to where the gal stood. Ma took that gal by the hand and led her down and into our cabin.
Ma fed the gal soup. She cleaned up her tore-up face and her bloody eye sockets. Ma dressed her in our Mary Beth’s last year’s warm dress with the knitted collar and cuffs.
And the little girl ain’t never said a word the whole time.
I didn’t sleep good that night ’cause I kept wakin’ up thinkin’ that little girl was lookin’ at me in the dark. Starin’ at me with her empty eye sockets. Next day, she kept close to Ma all day. She ain’t never said a word, but she mewled like a kitten. Ma didn’t do her usual chores and all, just sat with that gal. listening to her mewling and pettin’ on her.
The second day, the whole family ‘cept me was just sittin’ around and listenin’ to that gal mewl. I kept the fire goin’ all by myself and fixed some stew, but ain’t nobody but me ate none of it.
That night, the gal went to the door and opened it. All the night sounds and the cold poured in. Ma, Petey, Jack, and Mary Beth – everyone but me – followed that gal out into the night. I called to ’em, but they paid me no mind at all. They trailed after that gal, right past Pa’s grave and off into the woods.
Was about an hour later that the screaming started. I barred the cabin door and hid myself. Wasn’t nothin’ I could do to help nobody nohow.
Next day, Ma was stood at the edge of the clearing, right by Pa’s grave. Her dress was all tore up and bloody.
“Ma!” I hollered at her. “Go away, Ma.”
She ain’t said not a word. She mewled at me. And she reached out one hand. I felt that call right down to my soul. I wanted to go to her so bad I took a couple steps toward her. Then she grinned at me with a mouth full of blood.
I run back to the cabin and got Pa’s long gun. Loading the rifle on the run, I threatened the thing that used to be my mother. “You get on outta here. I ain’t just jawin’.”
She turned and disappeared into the trees.
I reckoned she’d be back. And she was. Late that night, with the rest of ’em. Mewling and scratching at the door. The windows. The walls.
I felt ’em callin’ me.
The call got so strong. I was gonna give in.
So I put the rifle in my mouth and pulled the trigger with my toes. Last thing I saw was the door creakin’ open and Ma’s face – eyeless, with a mouth full of jaggedy teeth – peekin’ ’round.
Fiction © Copyright Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Mary Ann Peden-Coviello:
Women write horror and have written it since before Mary Shelley wrote FRANKENSTEIN. This anthology is to highlight the fact women write great horror and to kill the fallacy that they aren’t in some way up to standard. They are. Read here stories by Elizabeth Massie, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Lucy Taylor, and a plethora of other great writers as they work on your nerves, get inside your head, and bang out some of the scariest tales written today. I’m proud to present these women for your consideration, as Rod Serling might say, as I ask you to step into FRIGHT MARE. Lock the door and windows, put on a light, and remember, it’s not real. It’s not real. Midnight awaits, monsters scheme to take you away, the strange and weird wait in the shadows, but it’s not real. Is it?
Edited by Billie Sue Mosiman, the author who brought you the SINISTER-TALES OF DREAD collections and her latest suspense novel, THE GREY MATTER.
Please don’t forget to visit the other WiHM 12 projects taking place!