The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by R.A. Clarke
Daddy slopped a glob of grey plaster onto the top of my new playroom wall. Each rounded piece fit perfectly, forming rows that climbed from floor to ceiling. They were all painted with different designs, creating a kaleidoscopic montage. Those were the fancy words my mamma used to describe it. She was such a good artist. Her masterpiece—a present for my fifth birthday—was almost complete.
“A beautiful playroom for a beautiful girl,” she’d said, giving me a big hug. I remember feeling so light inside, I coulda floated away.
“Oh, it’s so close to being done!” I jumped up and down, squeezing my Janie, barely able to contain my excitement. My doll’s plastic head and limbs jostled as her red hair flopped side to side. She’d been a gift from my granny when I was born—the same doll she’d cuddled every night as a child. I didn’t care one bit that her dress was faded, or that she was missing an eye, because to me Janie was perfect.
“You wanna put this piece on?” Daddy asked.
“I’m not tall enough.” I pouted. “I’m always too little.”
Daddy’s strong arms swept under my armpits and flew me up onto his shoulders. “Soon enough, baby girl, you’ll be all grown up. Enjoy these fancy free days while you got ’em.” He flashed a lopsided grin and passed me the piece.
I smiled back, nodding. “Alright, Daddy.”
He pointed to the spot he’d slopped with plaster. “Now put that cranium there.”
I smushed the piece into place, loving how light glinted off the painted clouds covering its surface. The jaw suddenly shifted, its incisors pinching my pinky. “Ow!”
“You alright?” Daddy asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I yanked my pinky free and shoved the piece down hard—punishment for snapping at me.
Daddy lowered me to the floor and tickled my sides. Once my giggles subsided, he admired the wall. “Pretty ain’t it?”
I smiled—the kind that showed all my teeth. “I wanna grow up to be an artist just like Mamma. She says I got a good eye.”
“You do.” He touched the tip of my nose with his finger. “You can be whatever you wanna be.”
That warm, floating feeling washed over me again. “When can we make the very last piece?”
“Me and your momma are working with the final still life tonight. I promise you can put the last piece on the wall when it’s done.”
I squished Janie as I crossed my arms. “Daddy, but you promised you’d let me help make the last one! Not just put it up!”
“Baby girl…” His head tilted, a sigh escaping his mouth like he always did before telling me I couldn’t do something. But before he said another word, I stomped up to him and glowered.
“You promised!” With a flick of my wrist, Janie’s head nodded in agreement.
Daddy called up to Mamma, then looked back down at me with a quirked eyebrow. “I guess I did…”
He waved a hand. “Well, a promise is a promise.” Daddy led the way out of the playroom and across the basement to the rear closet. He lifted a wooden hatch on the floor inside. A light popped on, brightening a set of stairs leading down.
“What’s the first rule of the art studio?”
“Don’t paint anything without an adult present,” I answered confidently.
“The second rule?”
“Don’t kill anything without an adult present.” Janie nodded with me.
“And the third?”
“Never talk about our family’s art.”
“Good girl,” Mamma said as she joined us. She had silky blonde hair just like mine and was the bestest mamma.
We walked down into the studio and Daddy turned on the gallery lights, revealing wash tubs and boxes of lye sitting against the far wall. Easles were scattered about, some canvases already painted.
Next Daddy flicked on umbrella-like lamps surrounding the main studio. Soft light bounced every which way, and that’s when I saw the still life tied tight to a chair in the centre of the room. He looked a lot like Mr. Grosner, my gym teacher—the one who’d touched my bum during class last week.
“Nobody touches my baby girl when he shouldn’t.” Mamma gave Mr. Grosner a pointy glare.
My gym teacher’s eyes widened. Wet, stringy hair clung to his forehead, his screams muffled by a rag. My daddy chuckled as he readied the tray of artist’s tools. Paint brushes, palette knives, a hammer, drill, pliers, jars of a liquid that burned, and lots of shiny blades.
Daddy and Mamma shared a look I couldn’t quite understand, then Daddy knelt in front of me. “Are you sure you’re ready to make art with us?”
I gave him an I’m-big-enough look. “Yes.”
Daddy sat back on his heels and looked at Mamma again. “Alright, little darlin’. So once we finish creating the art, we toss the fleshy chunks to the pigs, then dissolve the rest. Except the skull. That goes to your mamma to clean up and paint for the wall.” He smiled. “The very last piece.”
I clapped my hands, over-the-moon happy, as I hugged my Janie. “Can I make the first cut? Or pluck out an eye? Janie needs a new one.”
Daddy ruffled my hair. “Now, now. Cutting is for when you’re a bit older, baby girl.”
Before I could argue, Mamma said, “How about this… You can help us abstract the subject and pluck an eye out for Janie then, okay?”
I beamed with pride. I get to help!
“And we can get ice cream after,” Daddy added with a cheerful grin.
“Ice cream, too? Yay!” I took off, skipping a wide circle around Mr. Grosner’s chair making my folks laugh. Then I stopped, turning. “Can Janie come?” I held my doll out, giving her a shake.
Mamma donned her red stained smock. “Sure. We’ll put an eye patch on her.”
“Perfect!” Daddy rubbed his hands together. “Now let’s make some art.”
Fiction © Copyright R.A. Clarke
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from author R.A. Clarke:
Oh, That’s Good, Too!
From the author of Oh, That’s Good… you are cordially invited to peruse 52 more original speculative fiction prompts that are sure to inspire and spark the imagination. From dark to light, spaceships to fairytale creatures, and everything in between, there’s a little something for everyone between the covers. Whether you’re writing short or long fiction, in the home, class, or office, these prompts work for all manner of creative writing. Just spin, expand, elevate, and transform the concepts into your own, then jot down your shiny new plotlines in the handy note sections provided. So, are you ready to find inspiration and write that next great story?