The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Michelle Joy Gallagher
Jack hadn’t slept since he drowned Elise. He hadn’t set out to hurt her. She’d just said so many things that wounded him in short order, leaving him no time to recover. The passion and fire in her that first drew his eye quickly left him burned. It left no working patience in him. They had been walking along the shore when she’d brought up Beatrice. Beatrice. Why had he ever given her the time of day?
“You’ve had your affair,” Elise said in a flippant way, “so, I guess I’m now allowed mine.” She gave a flirtatious glance toward a group of young men passing in the opposite direction, hiking her skirt above her ankle provocatively as she splashed playfully in the cold Atlantic waters.
“You’re behaving like a child.” Jack said flatly.
“My apologies Mr. North, I was under the impression that you quite enjoyed that.”
Beatrice had just been 18. The comment had wounded him as intended. It was as if his anger and shame had surrounded him in a thick fog, and when the fog cleared, he’d found his hand gripping the back of Elise’s neck tightly as she struggled face down in the water. Instead of relenting and pulling her to safety, his panic led him to commit. He put a knee down onto her back. Her thrashing weakened and then stopped. Jack stood, knee deep in the sea that filled his shoes and Elise’s lungs and backed away slowly horrified. The cold air whipped around him, as he stood motionless, watching her body dragged further and further out and away.
He lay in bed now, replaying the scene, mumbling a wish repeatedly under his breath.
“May my deed be undone. May my deed be undone. May my deed be undone.”
He’d wished so fervently the past few nights, he was convinced that with the rising of the sun, he’d return to the shore and find Elise there unharmed and happy to see him. With little sleep, he would drag himself out of bed and to the shore only to find the vast expanse of an unforgiving sea and nothing else.
This morning was no different. As the sun peaked through the heavy curtains Elise herself had chosen when they’d renovated the house, he pulled himself with much effort out of the bed they’d once shared and pulled himself together. He dressed impeccably, expecting to be reunited with his wife, and even donned the top hat he’d worn at their wedding.
The walk to the shore was short, but winded him. Lack of sleep and the weight of guilt had bent and weakened him. He found the place where he’d drowned her with some difficulty and then sat in expectation of the rising of the sun and the return of his beloved. It was evident quite quickly that Elise would not appear, but as the mid-morning sun glared and set the sea ablaze, he found himself unable to move. He’d stiffened. He tried moving his legs with no luck, and even tried laying back into the sand to rest and had found his body was as if in if rigor mortis. He quietly wept, watching families and happy lovers pass in front of his view. He yelled out a few times for help, but the roar of the sea drowned him out.
The tide crept closer and closer, tiny crabs scuttled busily, and bold seagulls landed on him to watch, then catch them in their beaks. The sun sank behind him, bringing a chilling breeze. The tide soon reached his legs and lapped around his polished shoes, then crept up to his waist and then beyond him. Wave upon wave crested and crashed against him, a derelict new fixture for the water to embrace. He felt the sand give beneath him, as the water dragged and dragged at his body, the burgeoning tide emboldened by a rising moon.
As the water rose around his neck and over his mouth, covered his nose and eyes and finally the top of his head, he was sure he could hear Elise’s melodic laughter, and in the dark water her porcelain skin shone in glittering glimpses, framed by her fine silk dress. They’d been reunited after all.
Fiction © Copyright Michelle Joy Gallagher
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from author Michelle Joy Gallagher:
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.