The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Kim Richards
Zoya sat on her park bench beneath a sky gray with clouds. Oak and aspen leaves of the autumn colors of gold, red, and brown littered the ground around its twisted steel legs and the path nearby. Last night’s rain drenched everything and still came down like spittle. She reached out her left foot to nudge the closest leaf with the toe of her ragged tennis shoe but couldn’t reach it with her short legs.
A man and woman wearing dark clothing ran past. Each step squished the wet leaves beneath their boots with a soggy sound. Their breaths sent puffs of steam out into the air.
They look cold. Zoya rubbed her bare arms with her hands. She wasn’t. She hadn’t known the discomfort of cold, hot, or anything since…since the fall.
White light so bright it sent waves of pain from her head throughout the rest of her body. She flinched and squeezed her eyelids closed tight, unwilling to visit the memory. She had no choice. It intensified. She cried out from the pain.
Her memory took her back to when she sat on a tree branch high above the bench. She swung her legs in little circles and turned her face to the warm sun.
Mama would be mad if she knew her daughter came outside but Zoya didn’t care. Tired of hiding in their raggedy house, she wanted to run and sing and chase the squirrels. She went down to the basement and snuck out the small window when the adults went in search of firewood.
Now, perched up in the tree, she listened to the birds chirping and a squirrel chattering at her for making it run. Off in the distance a dog barked. It sounded like Doni’s hound. Zoya hadn’t seen her friend or the dog in months.
A sharp crack split the air, sending the birds fleeing skyward and the squirrel down the tree trunk. Hot pain hit Zoya in the chest. The impact from the bullet sent her tumbling backward. She hit the ground hard. All of her joints ached but her chest screamed as it leaked blood.
A man carrying a rifle moved to stand over her. Black hate filled his eyes. He said something to her but she didn’t understand. Her world grew dark.
Mama, I fell. Please don’t be mad.