The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Whistle a Deadly Tune
by Selah Janel
Sasha didn’t know where death was, but it was somewhere behind her. Through the panicked beating of her heart and the rush of blood in her ears, she heard the whistling.
It had started out tuneless when she’d begun her errands, just like the thing in her peripheral vision had begun as a blur and a brief feeling of existential dread.
She’d tried to go about her day, but everywhere she went, it followed. There were no footsteps behind her at the post office, no definite sightings of a stalker at the grocery, but as she navigated what should have been her catch-up time on an otherwise sleepy Saturday morning in small, rural Andersville, it followed. Somehow, she knew that if it caught her, she’d never escape.
Somewhere in the farmer’s market, the whistling also gained a tune. What had started as bright, brassy, and off kilter enough to be unsettling plunged into a minor tune, a dirge that was meant for her.
She couldn’t shake the nagging, cold fear building in her stomach. Every time she turned, something slid away from her field of vision.
She thought she’d found peace in the library, among the new titles waiting to be discovered. Sasha had reached her hand to pluck her holds from the designated shelf, when the tune crept among the pages, trickling between the book spines for her and her alone.
Sasha left her car in the lot, left her duties, left everything behind as she bolted for the makeshift wooded area across the street. She ducked into the open gate of the family garden that held little verses etched in stone and sculpture along a winding path.
The tune picked up into a jig.
She pushed down the path past a mother with a stroller, ignoring the put-out expression and the Cheerios her toddler dropped. At least the crying covered the damn whistling.
“Leave me alone!” she shouted, wincing when she stumbled and her ankle twisted. Faces turned to give her withering looks, and she pushed past the hot flush of embarrassment and flash of pain up her leg. She was used to carrying on. She’d just deal, keep going as she always did with work, obligations, the thousand things on her to do list. She’d keep going about her day and try not to die.
As if it caught on to her resilience, the tune slid into the lullaby her mother used to sing. Revulsion curled her stomach, and Sasha took off across the garden in a jog, gritting her teeth against the jabs of discomfort that stabbed into the muscles of her right ankle with every step.
The sing-song melody of the solo she’d been so proud to perform in her seventh grade concert and hadn’t thought about since followed her. It became the pop song she’d danced to at prom. The final hymn of her grandmother’s funeral. The song she’d heard in the grocery that morning.
“Stop!” She covered her ears and bolted through the exist at the other end of the garden. At the last minute, she pushed into the trees at the far side of the garden, curled into a ball in the tall grass and undergrowth, and waited for it all to pass.
It’s in my head. It’s all in my head! It took a few minutes to realize that the only sound she heard was her ragged breath and the occasional chirp of a bird. She panted out a laugh, wiped her face with a damp hand, and sat flat on the grass to take the pressure off her ankle.
Sasha winced as something jabbed her hip and pulled a smooth, flat stone from underneath her hip. It took a moment for her attention to pull outward again as she turned the rock in her hand.
It took a moment longer to take in the music notes that didn’t look to be part of any installation, but were of the rock itself.
The hairs on her arm raised as she terror built once more, deep within her.
She felt a presence behind her and knew if she turned, she’d see what that blur was.
The whistling warbled low, pleased, and right in her ear. She vaguely recollected enough sight reading from her choir days to realize that it was the same brief collection of notes as on the stone.
She also knew enough to know that there was no repeat signature, and that this was the end of the tune.
Fiction © Copyright Selah Janel
Image courtesy of Rie Sheridan Rose.
More from Author Selah Janel:
Like many young men at the end of the 1800s, Bill signed on to work in a logging camp. The work is brutal, but it promised a fast paycheck with which he can start his life. Unfortunately, his role model is Big John. Not only is he the camp’s hero, but he’s known for spending his pay as fast as he makes it. On a cold Saturday night they enter Red’s Saloon to forget the work that takes the sweat and lives of so many men their age. Red may have plans for their whiskey money, but something else lurks in the shadows. It watches and badly wants a drink that has nothing to do with alcohol. Can Bill make it back out the shabby door, or does someone else have their own plans for his future?
Very creepy and sinister.
Solid pacing to great end! Very eerie!
Such a chilling story – love how you used the melodies of her life to build the tension