The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Michelle Joy Gallagher
Brenda woke in a cold sweat. The gap in her heavy bedroom drapes let a blade of sunshine through the window that fell across her body, bisecting her. She watched the motes of dust floating in the light for a long time, wanting to delay the inevitable reacquaintance with reality. She could hardly remember the past week. Grief sharpened her memories of her father and dulled almost everything else. She kept thinking of when she was a little girl, feeling invincible, running around the park under her father’s watchful eye, wishing she could go back again.
She’d had an incredibly vivid recurring dream the night before and mulled it over, sitting up and gathering the strength to pour herself out of bed. She could remember a darkness, then a whisper. One that questioned her softly but had an edge to it. A hint of barely contained impatience.
“What would you give?” it asked her. She didn’t know how to reply.
“What would you give, to turn back the clock?”
She didn’t really consider the question before the answer left her mouth.
A warm glow softened the darkness, allowing her to focus. Standing before her was a woman who looked just like her but had an unidentifiable wrongness. Something false and somehow empty. Not a reflection but a poor simulacrum. It made her uneasy.
“Anything.” The woman said, not mocking, but matching tone.
Brenda had moved toward her, inexplicably drawn closer. She tried to force herself awake but nothing worked. The woman placed a hand on her face and her fingers at Brenda’s temples, then pressed harder and harder eventually piercing the skin, crushing the bone beneath. The pain was intense. Brenda screamed, but a sudden jolt stopped the pain and silenced her.
“Everything.” The woman said.
The darkness enveloped everything again before Brenda awoke.
She swung her legs out of bed and put her head in her hands, finding something wet and slick as she felt at the place where in her dream the strange copy of her had harmed her. She checked her fingers, wide eyed, realizing it was blood.
Suddenly she lost all sight, and struggled to breathe, as if her ribs were in a vice. Her father’s voice came floating in, distant but undeniable. She laid back down, choking and sightless. Helpless.
The warm glow returned, like in her dream, but this time intensified to a bright white that finally revealed themselves to be the fluorescent lights. This place was familiar. It was the hospital room where she’d watched her father weaken, held his hand as he took his last breath, except she was now in the hospital bed.
“I’d give anything to trade places with you, Kiddo. I’m so sorry.” Her father broke down into tears. She’d never seen him cry, even when the cancer metastasized, before they increased the pain meds that had mercifully drowned him.
“Everything.” She whispered. Beyond the ability to comprehend why, or panic.
He gripped her hand tight and nodded to someone outside of her view. She heard the beeping of machines. That was familiar too. A warm tingling feeling ran down her legs and arms. She closed her eyes again, letting the darkness enfold her.
Fiction © Copyright Michelle Joy Gallagher
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from author Michelle Joy Gallagher:
Blackhawk: Volume 2
Welcome to Blackhawk, Colorado. Blackhawk has always been strange. Natural disasters. Disappearances. Murders. High strangeness is a part of daily life. We can’t hope to explain it, but we can chronicle its past. Learn from it. Fear it. Blackhawk is an experimental fiction series set in a shared universe, written by a variety of talented authors. It is the brainchild of David M Brown (Plague Doctor, Modern Animals) and Carl D Smith (Moleb the Giant, Darkness Out of Carthage). Each story will contribute to an organic, evolving mythology as diverse as the voices behind its tales. For fans of True Detective, Lost Highway, Twilight Zone, and The Terror. This is Volume Two of the series and contains five stories by five different authors, each in tune with the specific strangeness Blackhawk has to offer. NOTE: For fans of Lake Lord Publishing’s prior horror titles, be warned that Blackhawk will contain content that is perhaps more disturbing and mature.