The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Breaking the Chain
by Naching T. Kassa
The demon entered when I was sixteen, and there it stayed.
My possession didn’t begin with a witch board or a pack of cards. It didn’t start on Halloween beneath the glow of a gibbous moon. Instead, it began with a mirror and the face I saw in it.
The mirror had belonged to my grandmother, a woman with a heart as cold as glass. She had ruled my father’s life with an iron grip, chasing everyone and everything from it. The only person who could withstand her jealous hate was a woman called Mercy.
Grandmother disowned my father when he married Mercy Evans. His life began that day and would have continued had my brother not come along. I was eight when Joseph came yowling into the world and took my mother from it. I hated him for it. He didn’t just kill Mother. He killed Father too.
Mother had been in the grave two days when grandmother came to stay. She looked upon our home with disdain and badgered my father until he agreed to move into her hers. We left our little farmhouse and moved into the large and dreary mansion. My father, who had grown tall and strong outside his mother’s influence, became hunched, soft, and pale. He drifted away from me and barely cared for Joseph. Next we knew, he had deserted us for the army. He died in a place called No Man’s Land, far away in France.
Nature abhors a vacuum and apparently, grandmother did too. She stepped in to care for us, garnering the admiration of all her well-to-do friends, and their sympathy too.
I don’t wish to speak of what she did to us, how she broke us and bent us to her will. It’s true she never laid a hand on us. You don’t need to when your tongue is a sharper weapon than any blade.
I don’t know how it happened. Why I suddenly stood up to her. I hated Joseph just as much as she did. Perhaps it was the way she criticized him that day, ridiculing him for being soft like my father and calling my mother an “evil influence.” I don’t know why I defended the one person who had ruined my life. Maybe, I hated her more than him.
Our argument extended from the cold walls of the mansion and out into the blinding glare of early morning sunlight. She chased me down the walk, screaming obscenities until she grew apoplectic and fell onto the street. I watched the life leave her eyes before she fell into the dirt.
For the first time in eight years, silence filled the house.
We didn’t grieve for her. I never wore black, nor did I lower the shades or cover the mirrors. Thinking back now, I know I should have covered them. And I never should have gazed into the one which stood in her room. The reflection wasn’t mine.
I lost time after that. One moment, I would be in bed, in the twilight of sleep. The next, I would be in Joseph’s room towering over him, as he quailed before me. I don’t remember how I got there, nor the words I spoke. But he did.
As time passed, he resembled my father more and more. He barely lifted his eyes to mine as he grew pale and thin. Often, I would awake mid-shout as I berated him—as she berated him. Sometimes, I heard her laughing in my mind. She lurked in the darker corners, waiting for me to sleep. I tried to remain awake but lost the battle often.
One morning, I awoke to the rumble of thunder and the soft patter of rain upon the windows. An icy claw gripped my heart as I found myself not in my bed, but outside Joseph’s room, a butcher knife in my hand.
She laughed as I dropped the knife, rushed out of the house and down the walk in my nightgown. I ran as I had never done before, away from the house and out of town. I followed the railroad tracks, halting a few hundred feet from the small station. Lightning broke across the sky and a deafening crack of thunder seemed to sever the world in two.
“I don’t want to be you!” I screamed.
Lightning flashed and branched across the sky like the limbs of some ancient and skeletal tree. It struck the iron rails, snaking down the metal toward me.
She didn’t think I’d do it. Didn’t think I’d leap upon the rail and take the charge within my frail body. Her shriek echoed through my mind before the darkness took me.
When I woke, I found myself standing before the mirror. Grandmother stared back at me, reaching for the hate I no longer had. I struck the mirror as hard as I could, and it shattered to the floor.
“Esther?” a small voice said. I turned to see Joseph standing in the doorway. “Are you alright?”
I snatched grandmother’s handkerchief from her dresser and wrapped my hand in it. Then I took my brother in my arms and held him tight.
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.