The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
“I can see it now, Caro, can’t you?” Thomas’s voice practically vibrated with enthusiasm.
“If you say so.” Caro’s did not.
“The foundation’s solid. So’s the masonry. Most of the structure’s sound as the dollar used to be. It’s one of the dormitories of the old Marchbank College for Women, the last building standing from the college, in fact. Calloway Dormitory. Historical value, see? We can take the twenty-eight rooms on the two floors and make them into eight nice apartments, four on each floor. Add a laundry/utility room and a lounge on each floor. It’ll sell like hotcakes. The woodwork inside is to die for, honey. Come have a look.”
Caro followed her husband up to the old building’s front door. “Looks like a big, scary money pit to me,” she muttered to herself.
Thomas struggled to open the front door, using the key he’d wangled from the real estate agent. The door relented, creaking open with a sound like all the fingernails in the universe scratching against an eternal blackboard.
Thomas grinned. “Needs a little WD-40, yeah?” He stepped inside the entryway. “Look at the crown molding, Caro! And these baseboards! I bet they’d restore beautifully. And the floors are 100 percent oak, according to the listing.”
Caro edged past the doorway. “But I can smell mold, honey. And rats, I think. And it’s so cold in here. Why’s it so terribly cold? It’s at least 95 today.”
“It is a little chilly, isn’t it? Probably the thick walls.” Thomas trotted up the wide staircase toward the second floor.
A thin, grim-faced woman in a black dress shimmered into existence at the top of the stairs. Her white hair was pulled into a severe bun. A bit of white lace at her neck and the wrists of her long sleeves were her only adornments.
“Stop!” Even though there was no actual sound, her voice shot through Thomas and Caro like an icepick. “We allow no visitors after hours – and especially no male visitors.” She imbued the word “male” with enough venom to poison a small city.
Through the closed doors of the dormitory rooms, the ghosts of girls drifted toward Caro. She turned toward the front entrance, but before she could run through the doorway, the door slammed shut of its own accord. Spectral hands grabbed Caro and pulled her down. She began to scream.
Thomas, struck immobile by the sight of the ghostly house matron, stood rooted to the stairs as the grim woman glided down toward him. As she reached Thomas’s position at the midpoint of the stairs, her eyes began to glow red. She reached for him.
Thomas’s screams merged with Caro’s till they reached a crescendo of pain. Then they were suddenly cut off.
Silence reigned again inside Calloway Dormitory.
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.