The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
There Be Monsters
by Terrie Leigh Relf
As children, we were warned not to venture too far beyond the rocky shoreline cliffs. While there were a few well-worn pathways, the cliffs were supposedly unstable. Rumors of disappearances were also common. If that didn’t put fear into our young minds, someone’s gran or gramps would add, “There be monsters,” with an ominous tone, teeth bared, hands twisted into claws, which would always cause us to burst into laughter.
Still, the idea of exploring what lay beyond the rocky cliffs intrigued us. Me, most of all. Since I minded my elders, I never did venture much further than a favorite ledge to watch the sun set. It would be quite a few years before I answered the call . . .
I set out one morning before it was too hot. The hike wasn’t all that challenging as I’d always been a bit spry. Once the path gave way to another large outcropping of rocks, some more stable than others, I slowed down my pace. When I sat down on a rock to have a drink and eat a bit of cheese and bread, I looked out toward the sea. It was high tide, which was unusual for this time of day. Nevertheless, it was a gorgeous morning with an occasional glint of silver as a fish, or some other creature, surfaced before diving back beneath the water.
Break over, I shoved myself up off the rock and it shifted in place. My nose twitched at a dank scent that emerged from beneath it. Curious, I wobbled then shoved harder. The rock teetered and fell to the side revealing an opening. I turned on my flashlight and pointed it down into the hole. There was plenty of room for me to climb through. Even though there was a bit of a drop, it seemed safe enough.
Once I’d clambered through, I discovered a well-worn path that descended into shimmering darkness. I turned on my flashlight and continued walking, wondering who or what had worn it so smooth. While the dank scent increased, a cool breeze accompanied it, which lead me to believe there must be breaches in the cave walls, or perhaps an exit to the beach. Thus far, I hadn’t seen any vegetation or signs of life. Not even a single crab or other scuttling creature. I shone my flashlight on the cave walls hoping for drawings or paintings, anything that would reveal the purpose of this cave, for surely it had once held a purpose.
The trail ended in a grotto where light and shadows played along the walls. Water trickled into tidepools. When I peered into one, it was strangely devoid of life. Not a single fish or anemone. While fresh air filled the space, I couldn’t find where it was coming from.
I sat down to drink some water and pulled my camera out of my backpack. After snapping several photos, I moved further into the cave. This time, the flash revealed a painting that seemed to pulsate with life. I walked closer, took a few more photos of the strange creature. It had the head of a woman and the body of an octopus. She was hideous in her beauty: Mesmerizing eyes, lips that parted in a slight smile, human hands that beckoned me closer. Whoever had drawn this was a true artist, and it dawned on me that this drawing was likely the origin of the monster stories from my childhood.
Curious, I stepped even closer, reached out a hand to trace the painting’s contours. Rather than feeling rough, cold rock, my fingers tingled as they sank into the cave wall, followed by my hand and arm. Before I could catch my breath, a strong wind swirled around and thrust me into her tentacled arms.
Agonizing moments passed as I tried to move my limbs to no avail. I screamed for help, but no one came . . . and then the descendants of the Old Ones began to whisper.
And so I remain here within this painting, my heart still beating, as a warning. This sleepy little beach town harbors a very old secret: These caves are a gateway to realms both ancient and strange. Yes, there be monsters, and I am now one. Come closer . . . yes, closer, and I will tell you another tale.
Fiction © Copyright Terrie Leigh Relf
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from author Terrie Leigh Relf:
The Sisterhood of the Blood Moon
For thousands of Earth years, the Transgalactic Consortium has had a quiet interest in this planet and its inhabitants, the Haurans. While the Sisterhood of the Blood Moon works together with the Consortium and Haurans to maintain balance in the universe, the Blood Moon is fast approaching. The power of this moon reveals untold secrets . . . including a sacred covenant with the Mora Spiders. There is an ancient pact that needs to be honored—but at what cost and for whose purpose? The world may come to an end. But will there be a chance for a new beginning?