The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Lydia Prime
by Lydia Prime
by Lydia Prime
Twenty feet from the opening, they huddled close together, not sure where the voice had come from. A summer breeze blew through the open room, wafting the scent of fear and sweat toward the damp chasm.
“I can hear you, please, help me,” the voice pleaded and the feet crept closer, certain a little girl was calling to them. Heel to toe, they made it to the edge and peered down, their flashlights just barely able to penetrate the darkness; perhaps a trick of the light, but one was certain something skittered across the ground from one corner to the other.
“Hurry, please!” She called out again; her voice was beginning to sound impatient and less distressed. The men looked at each other before deciding which one of them would go down there and save the girl. With a heavy sigh, the smaller of the two began his descent into the darkness.
“Help me!” He shouted to his friend. The sound of flesh tearing from bone echoed through the cavernous pit; a scream from below drove right through the man trembling above. Hesitantly, he shined his light below and saw his friend scattered all over the floor and walls. His breath caught in his throat, Where was the … thing that did this!?
Rapid scraping against metal; it was coming. His mind blank, his body failing to remember how to move, to scream; helpless and frozen he stayed as a white creature exited the concrete opening. It had the horns of a stag and the face of a decomposing ram; its slender body turned, showing the butchery that covered its matted fur. Tears began to well in the man’s eyes as it showed off knifelike claws, tapping them together and watching as the crimson bits dribbled from each one.
“Delicious, but still…” came the warbled female voice, as its red eyes locked on its next meal.
My mentor had done this procedure countless times but he was getting on in years, it was now my turn. As we entered the room, I turned to be sure he’d noticed. The subtle scent of overly ripe fruit in a room with no such dressings; the aroma of an expiration past due.
I walked over to the patient and examined her pale clammy skin. Her pulse weakened, her breath shallow. No wonder Death visited this room. I gulped and returned to my mentor’s side.
Our patient let out a faint whimper that neither of us could decipher. At the word of my aged tutor, I began administering treatment. An injection of morphine to calm her, ease her into bliss, followed by several well placed leeches to suck out the monster who held her soul captive.
“Quickly, quickly now!” His harsh whisper scratched through my ears.
“But… she just… and…” I managed to stammer.
“Yes, yes. A horrible tragedy all that, a grievous state.” His head hung low for the briefest of moments until his hands found their way back to tidying up. I couldn’t move, just watched while he placed the tools back into his bag. “Don’t just stand there boy!” His raspy voice coached me. I grabbed up the blood-soaked sheets and tossed them into my own bag…
“Get the leeches boy, the leeches!” His voice rang in my head. I turned, knocking my bag to the floor. The leeches had grown fat, too fat, as they continued their suckling while the patient withered. Plucking the engorged creatures off her tore sheets of wallpaper flesh from the desiccated carcass. I glanced at my guardian through terrified eyes; he himself shook at the horror before us. This wasn’t the way it was meant to be.
I ran to the wooden basin and flung them in, foolishly assuming I’d have time to dissect them later. Before I could blink, they swirled through the cracks, found each chink to slither through. No! No! No! With bare hands, I tried pulling them back but they were already gone.
Exhausted from the struggle, I turned from the useless pail only to find a figure standing behind my mentor. I tried to warn him but my voice escaped as quickly as the leeches had. I watched as it sliced through his torso, dropping meat haphazardly to the wooden floor. I wept as it devoured our patient one glutinous gulp at a time. I howled with fear as the figure turned its attentions toward me.
Perhaps Death wasn’t only a visitor but a voyeur…
∼ Lydia Prime
Some said we would never see the sunrise, but there it shines in the morning sky. As we huddle within the church, I can hear people weeping, from a relief at being alive or in mourning for those dead, I cannot tell. I will shed no more tears. Mine already fell for those I lost in the carnage.
Voices murmur and I turn to glimpse the vicar passing food to those with appetites, and cups of water. At least we can be grateful for that. We will not have to worry about provisions for a while yet. The church has its own well, and donations from a food drive in storage.
It is silent outside, with the daylight hours, but we know it will not last. With night they will return. They will surround the church with their footsteps, with their growls. They will scratch at the ground and howl, fraying nerves, making it impossible to sleep. Memories will flood back, of blood, of teeth, of running while others died. And we will sit here among the pews knowing this holy place is the only thing that keeps them out. It will be the same tonight, as it was last night, and the night before that. Once again we will wonder if we will see the sunrise.
We are trapped here. Praying, surviving. Waiting for our inevitable end.
At midnight the police began to disperse the dense French Quarter crowd. The partiers didn’t want to stop the festivities but reluctantly gave way, breaking into twos and threes that gradually streamed off toward homes or other celebrations. Fat Tuesday was over. Lent had begun.
As the crowd split, a cold, hard gust of wind swept over the Quarter. It gathered other gusts to itself, swirled across the Faubourg Marigny and up Bourbon and Royal streets like a dust devil. It carried a mélange of beads and other Mardi Gras trash. It picked up the stench of sweat-soaked people, the stale odors of alcohol, urine, vomit. It gathered the thoughts and feelings of the revelers—their joys and rages, laughters and sobs, lusts and sins.
And when the wind had all that in its grasp, it struck the roof of the cathedral. The steeple shook; a dirty shadow enveloped it, then shrank, took darkling form. For a moment, a long-armed man squatted like a clot of evil on the roof. Then the figure leaped down and faded into the dispersing crowds as if it had never been.
The first deaths came within an hour.
The Order of Sanctification
The church bells tolled for many hours after they caught the latest resistor and slit her throat. Pytr had been chosen to carry the infant cut from the womb. They marched through the streets, chanting in clipped unison. The newborn squalled, its limbs still slippery with blood. Pytr tucked it closer inside his furs to shield it against the cold. When they reached the Temple of Free Souls, he gave the infant to a waiting orderly. Shivering, they kept formation until the Grand Priest appeared.
“Who brings this babe?”
“We of the Righteous, Sector Five.”
“Who carries the babe?”
“I, Holy One.” Pytr stepped forward.
“And your name?”
“Pytr, zero five zero two. Sworn by birth to the genetic cycle evermore.” He was careful to keep his voice in a cadence. It would have been blasphemous to do otherwise.
“Ah, Pytr, I recognize you. You were,” the old man smiled, “one of my favorites. And not long out on your own, either. Very well, excellent.” He rubbed his hands together, his fingers stained with a garish orange dye. “And what say the rest of you?”
“We are the children of Sanctification. We copulate no more. We bow to the sperm bank and Ovum of White. Pure is the Ovum. Pure are the Righteous born.”
The presentation ended, Ptyr joined the others as they formed lines to march homeward. He smiled to himself. He’d done his part to ensure the purity of one small soul. Babies must be protected from sin. Future generations of the Righteous would be produced and raised in the Sanctified Laboratories, as the currently popular Supreme Holiness decreed.
The Good Book
The book was found in the hundredth year after the war. It was buried beneath the ruins of a pre-war building. The scouts were looking for tinned food, but because they’d never seen such a thing before they picked it up. The wise men, the ones who had been taught to read, recognised it for what it was, although none of them had seen a complete book before. They analysed and discussed the words. After due deliberation, they proclaimed the book a miracle and claimed it was the word of God, written by his prophet. By following the doctrine outlined in the book, they too would achieve immortality.
Sermons were held every week. The priest intoned the holy words.
“The prophet requires a gift of blood for his Lord, to assure eternal life.”
“We shall obey,” intoned the faithful.
A girl was brought forward to the sacrificial altar.
“What are you called, my child?”
The congregation murmured its approval of her name.
Compliant, she exposed her neck. The priest, his canine teeth filed to sharp points, bent forward to collect the blood sacrifice that would satisfy their Lord.
Lee Andrew Forman
Hooded faces lined up in the abbey to drink divine milk; they waited with reserve to wrap anxious lips around the papilla of the six-breasted obelisk. Its scarlet liquid dripped for ages, kept the cabal well-fed. Its sweet blessing held their souls within preserved bodies, entombed behind reverent, ever-young eyes. Sustenance from the fleshless bust of the ancient lord was their only indulgence. They observed all outside their congregation reach for the heavens; ages, generations—all seen, all judged. When the bosom of life dried up, they knew the lord’s decree was to be fulfilled.
As the sun slowly began to dip beneath the horizon, the colors danced across the pews and paint chipped walls, releasing something more insidious to the building. Footsteps echoed in the distance, slow at first but their pace quickened as a single set became several.
The stranger raced through the nave hoping to make it to the massive oak doors without incident. Voices swirled around the empty cavity though he couldn’t make out what they were saying. As he reached for the rusted latch he noticed the glass was no longer full of colorful images. He yanked on the latch as hard as he could, but couldn’t get it to budge. The other sets of footsteps caught up to the exploring man. They stood in the shadows and whispered unintelligible nothings to one another. His heart beating through his chest, he pounded on the wooden barrier before him and pleaded to see another day.
As the creatures drew closer an unearthly chill rattled through his bones. One of them moved into the light, it had no features of anything he’d ever seen, but its mouth bore rotten needle-sharp teeth; Its tentacle-like appendages edging near him. They made no noise as they leaned in and he screamed for his savior.
I’ve watched him fall before, The Morning Star. He’s been falling for millennia it seems, but then it always does. This world, these creatures, they lose fear, tell tales; forget fate is coming for them. I remember, I always remember for I am their reminder. I’ve watched it unfold myriad times. The clock resets, he is granted entrance, my reward—to be forsaken.
The rabble are born anew. Creation they hark as they build; or rebuild as it were. They know nothing of the former that perished among the rubble, their blood feeding a new world, their crushed bones the foundation this ground is laid upon. They eat the bread, drink the wine; expect absolution for debauchery’s lure. They seek a second coming while I walk quietly amongst them watching as the star falls yet again on perfection.
Light and Dark
My skin is the battle ground for the sun in the cloudless sky and the crisp fall air. Two steps and I will be out of its rays. Sun to shade. Light to dark. “I gave them light. I gave them everything,” I say, not looking back at the seven others. “And this is how they repay me; ornate structures with false prophets inside. They twisted my words and teachings, picking out whatever scriptures they needed at that moment. I love them and they cast me aside.”
A man in a tailored suit walks out the door, “It’s time to move along, gentlemen. We can’t have you loitering while service is going on.”
“Not even an invitation into my own home,” I say as I cross into the shade. “I can pick and choose scriptures too.”
The man’s eyes go wide as wings unfurl from the seven. Fear radiates in his soul where there should have been love. I snap my fingers and his neck twists at a grotesque angle before he crumples to the ground.
“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the lord.”
Scarlett R. Algee
She wakes to the darkness she expects, and the silence, and the gnaw of hunger deep in her belly, toothy and raw.
She strokes the rough inner surface of the sarcophagus’ lid, splintering her overgrown fingernails, before putting palms to stone. The lid moves a fraction—in the face of the hunger, her strength is always slow to stir when she wakes from the long sleep—but it moves; that’s enough to let in a peep of blue-tinged sunlight, not direct enough to harm but sufficient to keep her uncomfortably awake. No matter; in this place of sienna brick and cobalt-stained windows, she’s been deemed a saint. Of course someone will come.
The pain of the light dulls until she can almost doze again, but a noise catches her attention: low shuffling footsteps, brisk scrape of a broom on a stone floor, quivery low-pitched hum.
That human music makes her gut knot and her teeth ache, but she swallows her slaver and forces her hands to relax. The sweeping musician sounds old and slow, but the footsteps are dragging closer. The intruding sliver of sunlight is ebbing away.
She can be patient a little longer.
For the forty-sixth issue of The Sirens Call eZine, we’re looking for works of horror and dark fiction.
We’ll be accepting short stories, flash fiction, drabbles, and poetry provided they fit within the horror/dark fiction genre. We welcome reprints as long as you hold the copyright to the piece.
Your piece can be scary, sullen, emotive, freaky, elegant, bizarre, have a dark-humor edge to it, or be flat out creepy as hell!
The basic rules:
We’d like to mix it up and have some pieces that speak to the title, and some that are just damned good dark writing, so be creative, be bold, show us what you’ve got, and if it fits our criteria, we’ll offer it up to our readership of about 35,000!
REPRINTS ARE WELCOME
Submission Deadline: July 31, 2019
Circulation: Approximately 35,000
Short story word count: 1,000 – 2,500 (limit of one submission per author)
Long flash fiction word count: 500 – 1,000 (limit of one submission per author)
Short flash fiction word count: 200 – 500 (limit of three submissions per author)
Poem length: minimum 10 lines; maximum 50 lines (limit of five submissions per author)
Drabbles: 100 word prose (limit of five submissions per author)
Reprints are acceptable as long as you currently hold the copyright.
Full page/single book cover ads for individual authors are available at $10 per ad.
Please contact Nina@SirensCallPublications.com for advertising information.
All story, flash, and poem submissions MUST be submitted to:
Submissions@SirensCallPublications.com for consideration.
by Lydia Prime
Desperate for the pinch that would bring her escape, she sought refuge in a dilapidated house slightly hidden by an overgrown yard. Squeezing through a paint-chipped opening, she entered a once loved home; now a desolate shell. She tiptoed through the crumbling building; fitting, however ironic it may have been, to have found a location almost as decayed as her. A few rodents scurried past and a disillusioned smirk crossed her chapped lips. A wave of cold sweat coated her from head to toe and the cramps in her muscles became too strong to ignore. Illness coursed through her brittle body; the remedy within her grasp.
Empty glassines scatter amongst the debris; almost instantly her vacant eyes glazed over. Collapsing into her surroundings, her back slid against exposed drywall. She stared through the broken window before her. The skewed view of an unkempt backyard swirled with gray matter. A memory washed through sullen eyes as salty tears trickled down battle-scarred cheeks. The enormous oak tree cast shade upon the little ones as they giggled in the grass; a time almost entirely forgotten. In that second she could feel the sun’s gentle warming on her skin. Pigtails and lemonade seemed so far away, droplets of melted mascara and misery spilled onto her tattered shirt faster than they could be caught. A swift jolt of pain deep beneath the flesh followed by a surge of pure bliss wrenched her into the present.
Despondent and motionless, she slumped over, barely propped up against the wall. Truths that could never have been told, let alone forgiven, silenced without warning. If she called out, would anyone even care? The gruesome truth beneath the surface of burned bridges and voluntary exile were all around her. The only company to be expected now were the rats to clean up her mess.
That haunting memory grew stronger; a skinned knee and the scent of antibiotic ointment permeated the air. Her pain was gone, then and now. Ghosts of her past pranced through her brain and banged against her skull. The sun beamed upon her face a final time as she welcomed its familiar burn. Her deep inhales grew shorter and more shallow until a stillness resonated through not just the decrepit shelter, but her ever wasting body. The withered land she’d hidden in would swallow her whole before she could be found. Iced coffee and nicotine lingered in her mouth — the last flavor of a life willingly let go. An accepting smile rested on the corpse who had no other home. Her once beautiful pale face now a brilliant blue.
Tranquility filled the darkness as hours passed, followed by weeks, until the months began to pile on. A skeleton picked clean by vermin, intertwined for eternity with an abandoned home. The idea of redemption dissolved; though her tomb was secret more would surely come. They’d follow in her footsteps and dwell on their misguided past; lives just as lonely and hearts concealed by frost.
∼ Lydia Prime
Lee Andrew Forman
The sounds of the world bring peace: crunching gravel, leaves dancing with nature, songs sung by the creations of life. Reality has other sides, some which only a vagabond can see along their journey. The pleasant are never left unappreciated. The darkest sit atop your shoulders, ever apparent in your sight.
A band of three delinquents emerge from the brush to intercept my path, smoke-filled ugliness trailing from their mouths. Their eyes immediately find me: the derelict, the tattered wanderer, the lonely victim. But their eyes only see what their minds can imagine. I sigh in response to their vile introductions.
Before they can hassle me further my front-side expands and splits down the middle. My innards expel themselves and splatter the deviants in carnage. Fluids dissolve their flesh; they scream a futile cry of agony no one will ever hear. Only when my would-be predators are mere remnants of ooze do my organs crawl back and nestle themselves where they belong, happy and well-fed.
“Shhhh, I’m here.”
The man shuddered, not quite sure yet what had happened to him. I rested his head in my lap, then pushed sweat-matted hair back from his face to see his terrified eyes.
“Help…me,” he begged.
I shook my head. “Sorry. This could have been avoided, but…” I gestured for him to look at himself.
He turned his head to gaze down his body. I let him scream at what the passing train had done. He tried to struggle, to thrash his arms and legs. He had no arms or legs. Shredded remnants of his severed limbs looked like piles of cooked raspberries strewn along the tracks. And, as I’d read would happen, the train’s weight had cinched the torn veins shut. He wasn’t bleeding out; he’d live a while yet. No one would find him here, though, where I’d tied him to the tracks.
“Please,” he begged again.
I shrugged and rose. “I warned you about those spam calls from your site.” Taking out my cell, I punched a number. The phone in the man’s pocket buzzed obnoxiously. “Press 2 to be placed on my do not call list,” I told him.
When I pulled the trigger years ago, I knew my turn would come. There is only one of us in the family at any time. My death is their first hit.
Blindfolded and with hands tied behind my back I shuffle along rocky ground. Whoever is behind me helps guide me. He nudges the back of my knee with his foot and I awkwardly let myself fall to my knees. He lays me flat, my face touching cold metal, then pulls the blindfold back enough for me to look down the long track. Not the same track I used of course, but the scene floods my memory. There is only one person who knows the story of my first hit. I never thought he would be the one.
“Thank you,” a male voice says, one I’ve known since he was born. “Your place of honor awaits.”
Those words, the exact ones I spoke when it was my turn, linger in my brain as I hear the click of the safety releasing.
Now You Stand and Wait
Scarlett R. Algee
They’d picked up her clothes along the track, almost too shredded to bother, and the whole time Shep had been grumbling you’re a damn fool, it ain’t the same no more; so when Shep squats by the rail and picks up a tuft of fluffy black fur, Ben hates him a little.
He clutches the ruined clothes, swats away Shep’s offered rifle, stares down the slope to the ground beneath the trestle bridge. Squints. Wonders. “She’s still my girl.”
Shep toes the claw marks along a rusted edge of rail. “You think that now.”
“She’s still Ellie. You just wait here.”
Alone, Ben treks down to the darkness under the bridge, stands at the bottom to a warning growl. He glimpses eyeshine in the black yards away. “Ellie, it’s Daddy.”
He steps closer. Another growl, deeper, but Ben can see the shape of her now, huge and magnificent, tail held out stiff. He clears his throat. “It’s gettin’ late. Your mama’s got supper waitin’.”
Ellie’s snarl is softer this time. Ben decides to take the chance. Sure, maybe he’s a fool, but she is still his girl.
Step by step, he walks into the darkness, toward the waiting wolf.
The Flattened Penny
I can still smell the copper stench.
And hear the way the train’s wheels screeched as it rolled over the penny on the track, squashing it razor thin. I watched Denny pick up the flat coin, after it cooled down, and wave it around laughing.
I didn’t laugh.
Denny never heard the whistle of the other train, the death train. The one I had seen before, that should have been my ride. One penny to the conductor as payment, but that foul creature didn’t care much about who held the coin. Easy enough to cheat him.
That’s the smell of copper I remember. His blood.
But better him than me.
Taking the Ride
The rumble loosens my gut; thrums through my body. My eyes quake in their jelly as teeth shiver saliva from plump, rouged lips. Searing heat washes over me as the screech assaults my core. I feel the shatter of my sinus cavities as the revolution of iron pressed upon iron crushes my head. Body thrashing in the wash, I Pollock the scree, feed the weeds; slick the rail for the next eager rider.
Definitely Not a God
Beneath the rocks and rails there lies a secret that our tiny town holds. We keep quiet and everything stays peaceful, that’s how it’s always been. Mama says it’s God under those tracks, says he protects us even in his sleep. I don’t think Mama knows what God is.
Late at night I sneak down to the tracks and kick the rocks as I walk past the iron ties. I can hear it, sometimes it sounds like snoring, but other times… If Mama could hear the noises I know she’d change her mind.
Just a ways ahead, the rocks shift and I sprint to see who’s there. The air smells of earth and death, my eyes settle on a gnarled looking creature hunching over in the moonlight. All six of its eyes blink then lock on me. I’ve never seen anything more gruesome, it grins and licks its crooked lips.
I turn to run but my foot snags the rusted rail. As I scramble to my feet, four more creatures step into sight. I was right Mama, definitely not a God.
As it wears off, I’m worn down
walls are spinning all around,
my skin is crawling, or was that bone?
Belief is still that I’m far from home.
breath in sessions.
“What comes next?” I try to ask.
Voice so calm, “put on your mask.”
Bile; spewing out my soul.
Shallow breaths take their toll.
Crack here, crack there – something new,
skeletal fragments puncture through.
Bloody tears spill down my cheeks –
soak in sweat; my body wreaks.
My mirror’s near but I’m scared to look,
decaying since the last one I took.
Claws displayed, now covered in fur.
The moon is full; scented blood my lure.
Into the night I seek my prey,
I must feed before break of day.
Unsuspecting meat so tender –
hides from me, though I am clever.
I sneak up upon terrified face,
devour the heart, leave no trace.
was it me or was it them?
Hunger cured, I take my leave.
Moon’s glow fading – end of eve.
Before long the sun will rise,
my body twists back to size.
∼ Lydia Prime
Fragile as rose petals, the tomes must be rewritten, rebound; the lifeblood of those who’ve gone before, wasted. Their scent causes my eyes to water, the text itself brings on a feeling of burning within my soul. Who began these works? I wonder while I glance at the shelves surrounding me. My tears stain the sheet as they drop from my face. Another page I must rewrite, Why does this ache so much?
As the night wears on and the candles fade, I do too; my chest heaves deeply. Who else would willingly take on such a task? My mind wanders to all those who’d ventured this chamber before. “Work quickly,” words slither through my ears as venom does my veins; the only advice received from the other.
I carefully ink the final page and feel my soul slowly fading from my body. I chose this, I know, but to parade as one of the fates seemed much more glamorous than how this wretched task feels.
Shallow breaths, my pulse in my ears; one word left, I don’t wish to do this. A language that has flown so freely through my mind to my hand, one I will never speak, yet I have written so clearly. Shedding tears for myself, I scribble the last of it, breathing has become a chore; the warmth grows deep from within.
Wailing, my fingers twitch and I can feel my body shutting down. My skin feels as through it’s slipping off my bones; my spirit ready to escape. As I lay down the scribe, through shimmering vision I see another tome claiming its form.