The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Michelle Joy Gallagher
Tam prodded the arid dirt with the toe of her boot. A faint hum could be heard from deep underground. It could be felt too, when you were still. The hum had been there since before her village was founded almost 200 years ago.
The first Premier, a man banished for heresy from his birth village, found the place while wandering. He was drawn to it because of the low and mesmerizing sound. He tried digging to find the source, but after many days and nights of work and scoring the earth deep in many places, the only thing to ever surface was a flat black rectangle with a glassy surface that reminded him of obsidian. He began to erect a crude stone structure around it and from that moment on, it became a sacred place.
Other banished seemed to gravitate there as well, and they’d come in waves, bewildered at first and then awed. The man had made a place for them, they all said. It was a prayer answered. As their number grew, a village took shape.
The hum became the basis of a myths and songs. Mothers soothed their babies by mimicking the tone.
The black rectangle that the first Premiere found had come to be called “The Gate” due to how it reflected the sky. At the end of every harsh winter and summer, there would be an animal sacrifice atop the gate to usher in the crops. The humble structure built around it had been replaced with a skillfully built stone edifice. The first inhabitants of the village to guard the site, on reputation of strength and honor, and the role was passed down through the proceeding centuries.
Tam was one of the chosen, born to guard The Gate. Tonights vigil was like any other, staring out at a vast expanse of nothing but swirling dust. The familiar landscape, sun seared and jagged, cut a swath across her vision for what felt like the millionth time. And then the humming stopped.
Tam doubled over, her body immediately stricken with vertigo trying to adjust to a silence that she’d never known. She vomited onto the hard pan, and winced.
People poured themselves out of their lean-tos and flooded The Gate Temple. They looked around at each other in fear, and at Tam for an explanation. She was just as lost as the rest of them. The last of the vertigo finally subsided and she held her hands up in supplication toward the clamoring crowd.
“Please. Remain calm.”
The current Premier came forward, shielding Tam from the onslaught of questions that had started to turn j to accusations and abuse.
“HERETIC!” One man yelled “SHES MADE THE GATE SILENT WITH HER HERESY!”
The premiere called for silence. “Surely there is some explanation. Maybe we are on the cusp of a great blessing!” He offered, but the crowd only became more angry and insistent and soon a chant grew up from their ranks like a cresting wave “OFFERING!! OFFERING!!”
A group of men rushed the Premiere and Tam, surrounding them, holding blades to their throats. They gave the Premiere the option of walking away or being one of the ones offered to The Gate.
He looked back at Tam, his eyes sorrowful, then he put his head down and walked through the group of men and into the crowd. Tam screamed and kicked and lashed out at the men but was soon overpowered.
The pulled her to The Gate by her hair and laid her upon it. She was done screaming and fighting now, instead quietly sobbing and whispering please. Two men that urned her face down, while two more sharpened a blade. She opened her eyes, still in awe of being this close to the Gate. Feeling the warmth it had collected from the sun. As her eyes adjusted she could see something inside the stone. A depth to it, as if she was looking through the window at unidentifiable shape and shadow.
“WAIT!!” She screamed. “THERE IS SOMETHING INSIDE THE GATE!!” But the blade came down onto the back of her neck and severed her head from her body. Her blood pooled around the sides of The Gate, collecting at the edges. Her executors piled on to her body, kicking and stomping her corpse in abject disdain. She’d caused The Gate to silence. She deserved no honor or mercy.
Cracks began to form on the surface, in their fervor they took no notice until The Gate gave way. Tam’s body and her killers tumbled through the opening into a cement shaft 12 feet below. Dust flew up in clouds at their arrival at the bottom, choking the men who’d suffered broken limbs and twisted spines. They looked around in astonishment at what surrounded them. Bodies stacked to one side, mummified. They wore green camouflage uniforms and gas masks, but the men with no frame of reference thought they looked like insect men.
One of the men dragged himself toward the mummified pile and whispered “Uhs-Ar-May” attempting to read the “U.S ARMY.” patch on the front of their uniforms. A sign on the wall informed those who occupied the bunker of protocol surrounding nuclear fall out. It was dated July of 2032.
“UHS AR MAY!” He yelled “UHS AR MAY!!!” And the rest joined them.
Their sacrifice of Tam had revealed the old ones. The day had indeed been blessed.
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.