The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
I clutch the vial containing the precious green liquid to my chest and run from the bio lab in the Weeks Scientific Center. My rubber-soled shoes thud against the floor, and the sound echoes down the empty hallway. I skid to a halt, my free hand extended to grab the door handle of the emergency exit. No time to wait for the elevator. I catapult myself into the stairwell.
From below, a roar splits the air. The crash of breaking masonry proclaims the arrival of the evil gargoyle that pursues me. The thing has already destroyed two of my associates, crushing the life from their bodies in hideous fashion, and has been tracking me all night, across the city from my home to the University, and across the campus to the Scientific Center. If the beast catches me now, the consequences will be unimaginable.
I turn and leap up the steps. Dawn is but moments away, and it’s crucial I get to the roof before daybreak. Everything is at stake, All my work, my research, my struggles. The scientific community that rejected and mocked me will soon be forced to acknowledge my dominance.
I scramble up two more flights of stairs. My heart pounds in my chest, threatening to burst through my ribs. My breath rasps like razor blades in my throat. The muscles in my legs spasm from the unaccustomed activity. Who could have predicted a middle-aged bio-chemist would need to run for his life from a mythical living-stone monster?
Behind me, below me the gargoyle growls and snarls. It smashes its way up the stairs, demolishing everything in its path. Its unnatural, hellishly hot breath heats the air in the stairwell and taints it with the reek of sulfur. The foul creature is climbing the stairs faster than I’d thought possible.
Agony rips apart my lower back. The beast has struck at me with its talons. I scream but do not drop the vial containing my life’s work. Only one flight of steps remains! I am within reach of my goal. I must not fail. I must not fall to the stinking beast raging behind me.
Weakened by loss of blood, I fling open the door and stumble onto the roof, the gargoyle only a few feet behind me, bellowing with fury. I hurry toward the radio tower.
The gargoyle bursts through the doorway, shattering the door, shouldering its way through the opening. It shrieks just as I reach the tower.
The first rays of dawn strike the snarling face of the gargoyle, instantly turning the creature to stone. I laugh in triumph, raising a fist high into the air.
I turn to the rising sun, open the glass vial I’ve protected from the gargoyle that has dogged my steps, seeking to prevent me from my victory, and release my virus — mine and mine alone! — into the dawn.
By the end of the month, my name will be on every tongue. And no one — not even nightmare creatures of living stone — will stop me from ruling the pitiable remnants of humanity.
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.
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