The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The Hour Glass
by Marge Simon
Their apartment building was very old. He had tended it a long time, knew every inch of brick and mortar. In the basement, the pulse of its heart. He kept it alive, though no other tenants will need it now. He kept it alive for this. Her body waited at his feet, wrapped in clean linen. His bride would never wish to be piled outside with so many other corpses, so close together.
For him, she exists a lifetime ago, a place on a green river bank where she’d unwind her amber braid to lie with him. He recalled the day they decided to elope to America. It was the same day they first saw the hour glass. It was a magical afternoon, the sun filtering through the foliage had turned the rocks silver. Rising in the river mist, an hour glass appeared. It was balanced precariously on a stone, the sand at the top was going down unusually fast. When he reached to pick it up, it vanished.
“It could be a sign,” she’d said. “Do you suppose it’s warning us?” After a brief discussion, they agreed that indeed, it had meaning. War was coming nearer their village every day. It was time to leave. They were lucky, for the land they called home was devastated in the months following their departure. They found refuge in America, became citizens, found jobs and grew old together. But the warring across the sea continued.
In recent months, the enemy began using biological warfare. This time, the whole world went mad, spitting blood & rotting flesh. It was a pathogen without discrimination or cure. Yesterday, the vision of the hour glass appeared to them again. The sand in the top half was very, very low. Together, they watched as it ran out. Curiously, the sand in the bottom disappeared just before the vision itself. “Before, there was enough sand-time left for us. Now maybe it’s about the world, and there is none left at all,” he said. His love had nodded weakly. She didn’t last through the night and he too was coughing bits of lung tissue.
Sometimes there are things in a person’s life that defy explanation. Whose mystic timepiece was it? Did it belong to a benign goddess, or some pranking demon? It didn’t really matter, they’d had a lifetime together, thanks to the glass. With a deep sigh, he lowered her corpse into the fire. Her ashes settled on his skin. He did not brush them away.
Fiction © Copyright Marge Simon
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Marge Simon:
The title of this collection sets you up for the surprise of lyrical stories of victimizations with unexpected endings for the villains. Be ready to have your heart opened and cheer for perceived victims, human (made and unmade) and other life forms, victorious in the hands of these two award-winning poets. —Linda D. Addison, award-winning author, HWA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and SFPA Grand Master.
Across histories and cultures and from Auschwitz to Babylon this book leaves you questioning who are the victims, and regardless of your conclusion you’re likely to get throat-punched. This is horror where everyone has a knife, and is ready to deliver this message: “Remember, you are always guilty. —Herb Kauderer, author of Fragments from the Book of the After-Dead.
Simon and Turzillo have only gone and startled me again. What a collection! Brutal. Beautiful. This quiver of poems strikes with the unflinching truth of persecution and oppression as seen through the lens of feminism. Prepare to come away bruised and yet strangely bolstered by Victims, a symphony of sadness orchestrated by two masters of dark poetry. —Lee Murray, Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Award-winner.
This is one of the braver dark poetry collections I’ve seen in a while. Horror poets generally employ victims in their work, but the focus is generally on the Evil. Turning the camera the other way is unusual, unsettling, emotionally risky, and surprisingly effective. From their stark opening take on Pygmalion, to the ending poem about the wasted life of Stateira of Persia, this powerful collection teases apart an impressive number of the threads of victimhood. Some are the usual cases, but quite a few are surprises, or reversals, or cases with unexpected layers. There is nothing repetitive about this collection. —Timons Esaias, winner of the Asimov’s Readers’ Award and the Winter Anthology Contest
What a prompt and what a great story – has the feel of “Tales of the Unexpected” – thoughtful & mysterious.
Thank you, Alex. I always appreciate your comments — not just on my work, but everyone’s!
I’m just following A F Stewart’s great example – she is my role model – and your writing rocks 🙂