The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Melissa R. Mendelson
Henry was an emotional boy, or at least, that was what his mother kept telling him. Any little thing made him cry. A bird singing outside his window would even bring him to tears. He didn’t know what was so wrong with crying, but his mother acted like he was doing something wrong. Even the kids at school nicknamed him, Cry Baby.
On the weekends, his mother would leave him in the house. She would spend hours by herself doing errands. She couldn’t risk bringing him with her, she would say, adding that it would make her look bad. She wasn’t a bad parent, so he wouldn’t argue with her. He was almost eleven, almost a big boy, and he did not mind crying. Yet, the neighborhood kids would ride by on their bikes, shouting at the top of their lungs, “Cry Baby. Cry Baby. Waaaaaaah.”
The mail truck drove up the road. He waited a beat as the man reached into the mailbox, leaving letters behind, and he pretended to wipe his tears away. Yeah, it was really funny. He was just a joke to them, including his mother, but he should still get the mail.
“I could help you with your crying.”
He noticed how people avoided the lady down the street. Her house was overgrown with vines and weeds. Her lawn a short green. Even the kids in the neighborhood would cross the street, avoiding her, and now, she was standing behind him. “I could help you with your crying,” she repeated, a bent, gray creature looking at him with pale eyes.
“No thanks.” He moved away from her, tucking the mail under his arm.
“They won’t stop. Even your mother has given up.”
The sun slipped out from a gray cloud and cast its light over him. The warmth made him smile. Then, the tears came. Come on, even the sun made him cry?
“Up to you.” She crawled away.
“Wait.” He returned the mail to the mailbox, then turned toward her. “Will it hurt?”
“Maybe, for a minute, but then, the crying will stop.”
“Okay.” He followed her to the house that everyone avoided, and his skin crawled as he stepped onto her lawn. Maybe, this was a bad idea, but he couldn’t turn back now. He had to stop crying, and he couldn’t do it on his own. I don’t know what to do with you, his mother would say, adding to go to his room, if he couldn’t stop crying.
The woman led him into the house and opened the basement door. Maybe, he should turn back, and he burst into tears. He was so tired of crying. He wiped his tears away and went down the stairs, expecting her to follow him. She closed and locked the door.
He was surprised that the basement did not seem like a prison. It wasn’t cold or gray. Instead, there were beautiful flowers everywhere, and he stopped crying. He noticed a large plant toward the back of the room. This one seemed sad, its head resting on its pot.
As he stepped closer, the plant’s head rose up, a smile playing across its green lips. Its leaves gestured toward him, and he reached out to touch them. The plant’s mouth opened, revealing rows of little teeth, and its leaves wrapped around him, pulling him closer. And he screamed, but a vine twisted around his throat, forcing his mouth open. The plant leaned in, opened its mouth and breathed in the boy’s breath, every gasp, then dropped him to the floor.
He sat up on the floor and stared at the plant, who seemed satisfied with its reward. The plant pulled back into its pot, lowering its head down like before. He rose to his feet and touched the plant, but it had no more use for him. And the woman walked down the basement stairs.
“Dead cat,” she said.
“Someone ran over a cat in the street. It didn’t die but was left there, struggling to live. No one helped it. The poor creature suffered and suffered until it was dead.”
That should have made him cry. Something that horrible would have brought the tears he couldn’t stop for hours, but nothing happened. No tears. Not even a sense of sadness.
“I don’t understand,” he said.
She smiled. “You will, but for right now, you’re cured. No more crying.”
“No more crying?”
“That’s right. Now, you better get home. I think I saw your mother driving down the street.”
“Did she run over the cat?”
The woman shrugged. “Feel free to visit anytime.” She watched him move away and touched her plant. “Don’t worry. I’ll find another for you soon,” she whispered.
“Thank you,” he said from the top of the stairs before hurrying away.
“They won’t make fun of you now,” she said. “They’ll be too afraid to even say, Cry Baby.”
Fiction © Copyright Melissa R. Mendelson
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com.
About Author Melissa R. Mendelson:
Melissa R. Mendelson is a Poet and Horror, Science-Fiction, and Dystopian Short Story Author. Publications featuring her writing can be found here: https://linktr.ee/melissarmendelson