The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The Spiral Staircase
by Alyson Faye
It had seemed a great idea, novel even, when Jake suggested we visit the ‘Vertigo’-inspired Bell Tower.
‘You know, Lou? The one from that cool Hitchcock movie we watched on TCM last month.’
I’d nodded – vaguely remembering a sad-faced blonde, a cemetery, a tower and amiable all- American Jimmy Stewart acting intense. Really though, in my head, I’d been stressing over work deadlines, my lack of pay rise (again) and why Jake didn’t pay his half of the bloody bills?
Jake wrapped his arm around me, pulling me in for a nicotine-flavoured kiss. ‘When are you goin’ to give up?’ I asked wriggling free, in eel mode.
‘Don’t nag, babe, it’s so ugly,’ Jake snapped, turning to the coach window and staring out at the flat landscape spooling past.
The tiny town of Santa-something came into view, and wrinkled, travel-weary, we disembarked. I was desperate for the loo and a drink.
‘C’mon babe, tour’s starting soon.’ Jake’s voice urged me to join him.
‘Hey, lovely lady, buy a souvenir.’ The old woman’s weathered face cracked like parchment, as she thrust her tray of gee-gaws at me. Jake shouted for me again – I mouthed sorry at her, when, to my surprise, and slight shock, the woman grabbed my arm and thrust a leather thonged necklace into my hand. ‘For you,’ she whispered.
The amulet was an eagle, open winged – of copper or bronze.
‘Cheap tat,’ pronounced my beloved.
‘I like it,’ I said, feeling defensive and tied it around my neck.
At the Bell Tower I gazed upwards, dizzy, and sun-blinded by its height; nauseous by the prospect of all the steps to climb.
Jake shoved and pushed me to the top step, where the board said, ‘Last tour of the day’ and, reluctant, I took his sweaty hand, and began the climb up a torturous twisting spiral staircase. Halfway up I paused, gasping for breath and gazed down, only to wish I hadn’t. A whirling spider’s web of layers and rungs twisted all around me. I was the tiny fly trapped inside its metal heart.
‘I want to go down,’ I told Jake, but he didn’t break his hand grip.
His face was set, his eyes blank and dark. ‘The view will make it all worthwhile,’ he replied.
I was in agony, with a stitch burning my ribs, by the time my wobbly legs made it to the top. There we stood under the brassy umbrella of the giant bell, watching the sun set over the town’s red roofs.
Happy at last to be together I turned to hug Jake, who at the same moment turned and with a face blanker than clean paper, shoved me with both palms open over the rail. I stuttered, grabbed but missed his shirt, toppled backwards and felt – nothing behind me, nothing to hold me – so I began to fall, arms flailing.
I could see Jake’s face staring at me, expressionless and behind him the bell, its giant hood gleaming orange in the sunset.
My hands grabbed at air, at my shirt, at my chest, at the leather thong of the amulet and static energy fizzed through my arms up to my shoulders. It was as though I’d been plugged into a circuit and was firing up. At the same time my fall began to slow, and I began to change.
My arms sprouted rows of feathers, my legs tucked up beneath my body. I could smell the wind and feel its power. I was a part of it now and fear had no place in my heart.
Powerful wings throbbed from my shoulder blades and I rose, swooping over the top of the bell tower towards my lover, towards my murderer.
I landed on the railing, our eyes met. Did he know me? I wondered.
There perching on the rail, talons hooked over it, I devoured him. First I pecked at his eyes, thus blinding him, then spilling his guts with one stroke of my claw, before scooping out his dark, twisted heart.
I ate my fill of him and it was a fine meal, a feast.
Fiction © Copyright Alyson Faye
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Alyson Faye:
The Lost Girl & Spindleshanks
The Lost Girl
A nailed-up door. An inheritance which comes with a ghost. A missing girl. A fifty-year-old mystery. Parapsychologist Berkley Osgood is hired to investigate. What he uncovers reveals secrets the living want to hide and the dead will never forgive.
Adam is having nightmares about a skeletal shadow figure, who he calls Spindleshanks. Soon his whole class are sharing the same nightmare. Adam’s dad, Rob, knows that Spindleshanks can’t be real. But is he? One terrible night Rob has to face his son’s nightmare creature and fight for his son’s life. What would you sacrifice to have your child back safe?
“A decent two-for-one. Alyson Faye brings the engaging and eerie in equal measure.” CC Adams – horror / dark fiction author