The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The Memory Box
by Suzanne Madron
“What is all this stuff?” Randolph looked over the piles of photos and shook his head. He leafed through a box of old photos that ranged from what he guessed to be the origins of photography all the way to what he assumed to be the sixties. His brow furrowed as he uncovered a photo and recognized his own face. He opened his mouth to call out when a creaking noise drew his attention toward the doorway.
An ancient woman leaned over a walker. She smiled at him, her eyes far more alert than her body would have hinted. “Thank you again for helping me,” she told him. “I would never have been able to clean this old place out all by myself.”
“No problem, Aunt Lydia.” Randolph motioned to the boxes of photographs. “Who are all those people in the photos? And why am I in here?”
The old woman’s smile didn’t reach her eyes. “Old friends, lovers, people lost to time. And you,” she looked at the photo in his hand. “Your mother sent that to me when you went away to college. You were always my favorite.” She waved an arthritic hand. “I made you some of that tea you like.”
“Always. In fact, I made your favorite.” The old woman smiled crookedly and hobbled out of the room. The squeaking joints of her walker followed her along the squeaking floorboards to the kitchen.
She wasn’t really his aunt. She had always been the neighborhood old lady, making cookies for all the kids and giving out the best candy at Halloween. When she contacted him as an adult to help her clear out her house, he had been surprised and expected that other kids he had grown up with would be there as well.
He entered the sunny kitchen and inhaled the scent of earl grey tea and fresh-baked cookies. Lydia placed a plate of cookies and a cup of tea in front of a chair and motioned for him to sit.
“Thanks, Aunt Lydia.”
She took the seat across from him with her own cup of tea held in trembling hands. As Randolph ate, he was reminded of the many happy times he had spent in the kitchen helping the woman bake cookies, or doing odd jobs around the house. She had told him he was her favorite.
“Are you moving out?” He asked between bites of cookie.
Lydia considered his words. “In a way, I suppose I am.”
The smile faded from his lips as the old woman twisted her neck to the right as if stretching out a kink and the bones bulged against the parchment skin. Her smile was more than lopsided now, it was running down her drooping face.
“Aunt Lydia, are you ok?”
He was up and moving around the table, terrified she was having a stroke. He failed to notice the way her skin had begun to run off her body, pooling around her feet like an old pair of pantyhose. In moments, something that was not the woman he remembered was standing up from the table, its bare head brushing the molded tin ceiling.
As he screamed, it flowed into his gaping mouth. For several long seconds, he felt his body reshaping itself to accommodate its new occupant, and then there was only black.
When the transition was complete, the creature formerly known as Aunt Lydia hung up the saggy skin suit in a cedar closet in the attic next to all the others. They were in various states of deterioration, all moisture leeched from them long ago. It carefully placed the photo of Randolph back into the box with all the other photos it had collected from its victims over the years, then closed the door.
Fiction © Copyright Suzanne Madron
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Suzanne Madron:
The house across the street seems to go on the market every few months, but this time nothing about the sale is normal, including the new owners. No sooner has the for sale sign come down and the neighborhood is thrown into a Lovecraftian nightmare and the only way to find out is to attend the house warming party.