The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by K.R. Morrison
Mina looked nervous.
Franz watched her from behind the curtain at the back of the tent. She couldn’t sit still; she would get up and pace the small enclosure, then sit and gaze out through the opening. Minutes later, she would repeat the performance.
Passersby were going unnoticed, and that was bad for business. Franz was not a patient man, and her behavior was taking its toll on his nerves.
Finally he’d had enough.
“Mina!” he barked, as he launched himself into the room. “What the hell is wrong with you tonight?”
She spun around from where she had been standing at the opening. Her eyes were wild with alarm. When she saw who had come through, she sighed with relief.
“Franz! Oh, you startled me!”
“Mina, what is going on here? You haven’t had a customer in at least an hour.”
“I…I can’t concentrate. I had a dream…”
Franz shook his head. “You’re always having dreams. What is new about them?”
“A…customer. A man…”
“So go find this customer. Get busy!”
Franz turned on his heel and went back to his post, behind the drape that hid the props of his trade. It was his duty to make things float and horns to play during the seances. The blue shawl was ready for the next fool to walk in and wish for a session. This was his favorite item—he made it dance and sparkle in the jack-o-lantern light that was the only source of illumination, and he was good at it!
There was a noise out front. He peered out through the slit in the curtain.
A man stood in the doorway, and Franz grinned at what would surely happen now. He fingered the cord that held the shawl.
But what transpired was anything but what he had anticipated.
Mina was hiding behind her chair! She only reappeared after the man had gone his way.
Furious, he tore through the curtain and bore down on her. “What the hell are you playing at?”
She only cowered, her eyes darting to the street outside. “It was him! The man from my dreams!”
“So?” He felt his arm raising, his fingers curling into a fist.
But instead of pasting her, he pulled her up by the shoulder.
“Go get dream-boy! We need the money! I don’t care how you feel about it. You’re not getting paid to hide when people show up!”
With a whimper, Mina practically crawled out of the tent. She stood up and, with a glance at Franz’s furious face, started down the sidewalk. She was really hoping her quarry had disappeared—but there he was on the corner. It was if he had been waiting for her.
Her voice came out in a tremulous whisper. “Sir? Would you like your palm read?”
He laughed—and her heart melted with the song of it.
“No thanks.” He looked down at his hand. “I like it the color that it is.”
She had to think about it for a moment. Then she laughed too.
“How about a séance then? Contact your deceased loved ones?”
His eyes caught hers, and it seemed as if the answers to the universe resided in them.
“None of my—relatives—could be considered ‘deceased,’“ he replied.
“Oh.” Mina didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t think of what to say to this. “Well, okay. Sorry to have bothered you.”
As she turned to walk away, she felt his hand on her shoulder. She looked back at him, and almost screamed in fright.
His eyes had become pools of magma, and they pulled her in.
“Now, let me tell you your fortune.”
She tried to back away, but his grip held her tight. He leered at her, and his smile was as hideous as the one on her pumpkin’s face, back in her safe, tiny tent.
“Come to think of it,” he rasped, “I believe I will show you instead.”
The tent went dark, the pumpkin rotted. Franz’s lifeless body was found two weeks later, behind the fabric barrier.
No one dared to enter inside ever again. It had truly become an abode of the dead.