The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Naching T. Kassa
Moira crept up the stairs, the shining blade in her hand.
A whisper sounded from the library, calling her to the room. The door opened on soundless hinges, and she shut it quietly behind her.
Her bare feet made no sound as she approached the man sleeping in the chair.
Lamplight glossed the tintypes which lay about the floor, flickering over the features of strangers. Moira paused to look upon them. The old soldier, late of Afghanistan, stared up at her, as did the woman in black. Neither possessed the light of life behind their eyes. Neither had called her to the room.
The voice had come to her every time she’d passed the library. It had spoken to her through the doors and walls, telling her secrets no one knew. At first, she’d feared herself mad. But when the voice spoke truths she’d later confirmed, she knew her senses had merely changed and not deserted her.
“You’ve come at last,” the voice said.
“Where are you?” Moira whispered back.
“Tut. Tut. All in good time, my darling one. First, we must deal with the man who pretends to be your father. The man who destroyed our family and took you for his own.”
Moira’s gaze shifted to the man in the chair. His pale face seemed so peaceful, the lines about his eyes so kind. He was the only father she’d ever known. A gentle man who had loved her the entirety of her life.
“Harden your heart, my darling one,” the whisper said, speaking as though it could read her very thoughts. “He is not your father. He is the father of lies. He admitted it to you, did he not? Your mother did not die in childbirth. She was murdered.”
A dagger-like pain pierced Moira’s heart. The man before her, the one she had loved so dearly, had lied to her for years. She had confronted him a scant few hours before and he had nodded, wordlessly, unable to look her in the eye. Yes, her mother had been murdered. Yes, he had taken her away from her father. All of these things he had confessed. As the voice had said, he had spoken the truth when it mattered least.
Only one thing remained a mystery. When she had pressed him as to the nature of her true father’s whereabouts, he would not speak a word. And though she scorned and reviled him, this only served to stiffen his resolve. His hindrance had frustrated her to the point that she had fled the library, slamming the mahogany door in her wake.
A flame leapt within her heart. She clutched the kitchen knife she held.
Something moved within the tintypes on the floor and Moira glanced down, her eyes wide. A young man, dressed in a fashionable black suit, waved at her from one of the photographs. Moira fell to her knees before him.
“The time has come,” the young man whispered. “I had to wait to reveal myself to you. Wait until you truly believed.”
Moira opened her mouth to speak, but the question died on her lips. No doubt this was her true father. His eyes and nose were her own.
“My darling daughter,” the young man said. “You have many questions, I know. But our time grows short. If that villain wakes, he will take you away from me forever, such is the hold he has over you. You must do as I say and free me.”
“He has trapped me in this photograph with dark magic. You must break the spell by ending the thing which binds the spell. You must take his life.”
Moira glanced back toward the man in the chair. “I can’t.”
“You can. Trust me, my darling one. Take the knife and plunge it into his foul heart.”
Moira rose. She lifted the knife.
“Oh, Moira,” the old man muttered, his eyes closed. “My little girl.”
“What are you doing?” the young man cried. “Kill him! Kill the impostor now and set me free!”
Moira’s hand trembled and she readjusted her grip on the knife. Even if he hadn’t been her father, he had been good to her. How could she kill him now? She needed more.
“Did he kill my mother?” she asked, her voice no longer a whisper.
“Yes! Yes, he did!” the young man said, gazing at her with eager, hungry eyes. His lips had drawn back over his teeth in a hideous grin. The response startled her.
“Why didn’t you tell me that before?”
“Oh, my darling one. I wanted to spare you pain.”
The wolfish grin had passed from his face and an expression of grief had taken its place.
“Why did he trap you in the tintype?” Moira asked.
“Why are you asking these questions, darling one? Do you doubt my word?”
“If he killed my mother, why didn’t he kill you too?”
The young man’s face grew dark.
“Tell me,” Moira cried.
“Shall I? Shall I tell you the truth? Your mother was a common hoar, one I visited on the street corner and took in the shadows of Dorset Street. She was no fine lady. She had a taste for drink and a sharp tongue which led her to an early grave. You are my child and after he killed her, he took you from me.”
Tears sprung to Moira’s eyes. She turned her back on the photograph.
“Oh, darling one, do you not see? This is what I would spare you. The truth about your mother and the one you called father. That is why you must free me. So that I may right the wrong they have perpetrated upon us.”
Moira took a deep and shuddering breath. “I apologize, father. I should never have doubted you.”
The wolfish grin returned to the young man’s face. “You are forgiven, my darling one. Now—wait, no!”
Moira turned and raising the knife high, plunged it into the photograph. Blood oozed around the blade and obscured the young man from view. His shrieks filled the air and Moira covered her ears to mute the fearful sound.
The old man stirred in the chair, and when his eyelids fluttered open, Moira threw her arms about him.
The only man she had ever called “father” said nothing. He simply held her, just as he had when she had been but a little girl. Just as he had when chasing the nightmares away.
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Naching T. Kassa:
Crystal Lake Publishing proudly presents Arterial Bloom, an artful juxtaposition of the magnificence and macabre that exist within mankind. Each tale in this collection is resplendent with beauty, teeth, and heart.
Edited by the Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Mercedes M. Yardley, Arterial Bloom is a literary experience featuring sixteen stories from some of the most compelling dark authors writing today.
With a foreword by HWA Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient Linda D. Addison, you are invited to step inside and let the grim flowers wind themselves comfortably around your bones.