The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Michelle Joy Gallagher
John Barton ran ahead of his cousin Sam. The boys had spent a carefree summer together at their grandparent’s farm and knew every inch of the 5-acre plot by heart. It was 1991 and they were 11 and 9 respectively. After their morning chores were done, lazy afternoons would invariably end in exciting adventures in the evening. A picturesque wood bordered the beloved Barton property, and they knew every inch of that too. The wood acted as a sort of calendar for the boys, who easily lost track of the days. When the first few leaves started to fall, they knew their time together would end, and they’d be trudging back to school in different cities.
John hit the trail in the undergrowth they had worn themselves from months of play, and immediately tripped on a fallen branch. This sent Sam into a fit of laughter. John got up and dusted off his Levi’s giving Sam a dirty look, until Sam’s laughter became contagious, and he softened. He looked down at the place he’d fallen and saw there were many broken branches scattered about, as if something large had disturbed the surrounding trees. Sam was still trying to collect himself when John alerted him to them.
“Hey, Sam, what the hell!”
They’d been trying out the word “Hell” this week. Last week it had been “Damn.”
Sam stopped laughing immediately, hearing the tone in John’s voice. John hadn’t turned around but was staring at the ground. Both boys seemed to discover what had caused the disturbance at the same time, following the path of broken branches and torn wild blackberry bushes that had been ripped up from where they’d tangled themselves among the underbrush. They stared in awe without saying a word.
An old model sedan, rusted from disuse sat inexplicably among the trees. It hadn’t been there the day before, and they were absolutely sure of that, because it was sitting on top of the fort they built. Sam could see some of the old plywood and branches they used. He looked up all around for a possible entry point, thinking Grandpa would be steaming mad about someone dumping a heap of junk on his property in the cover of night but could only find their small trail and a few game trails that had been there for
years. Then he looked up. He tapped John on the arm and pointed. The trees on either side the sedan was sitting had broken branches all the way up on the sides that faced it. It looked for all the world like it had dropped from the sky.
“What the hell!” John yelped.
The boys looked at each other, then bolted toward the car.
“Where do you think it came from?” Sam asked. The plates were printed at the top with the year 1947 and the words “US GOVERNMENT” Sam did the math in his head. 44 years.
“Dunno,” John said, “but I call driver seat!”
Sam rolled his eyes at this then shrugged. John pulled at the handle of the driver’s side door, but the thing wouldn’t budge. He put his foot up on the side of the car and pulled with his full body weight. The door came open with a loud pop and John went flying backward from the unexpected momentum. He laid on the ground stunned for a moment but didn’t want Sam to climb in behind the wheel first. He scrabbled up to his feet quickly only to find Sam staring at what was inside in horror.
A man in a US Air Force uniform was laid out on the seat. His face was covered with blood and burns, and his uniform was singed and soaked in places. He was gasping for breath and reached a shaky hand out to the boys.
“Please…” He said, then hitched a sharp breath in, which obviously took effort. “Please help me.” He finished feebly. A gurgling sound started deep in his chest and his eyes rolled back. A black bilious fluid seeped from the corner of his mouth. When he opened his eyes again, he stared at a distant point in the sky and started screaming. The boys backed away and ran faster than they ever had back toward the farm.
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.