The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Minnie was young and beautiful. Her pedigree increased her worth among suitors in the bustling metropolis of Chicago with a population of approximately 8,000 citizens. Minnie Williams stood watching the fireworks burst through the night sky, sending waves of “ooh’s” and “ahhs” through the crowd gathered on the soft grass among waves of acrid gunpowder and sweet baked confections.
Beside her, another group stared up. Their faces illuminating with colorful glows each time a new “pop!” echoed against the blanket of smoky black velvet covering the shy summer moon behind a pillow of clouds. Tonight, the stars faded in jealousy into the background.
When the conductor of the show took a break to reload for the next round, Patrick Flannagan took the opportunity to call out to her.
“Are you enjoying the show, Minnie?” he smiled his best smile, flashing the white enamel of his slight overbite.
Minnie lowered her gaze to the checkered blanket beneath her and smiled. Taking in a breath to fill her lungs, she tightened her jaw to steel her composure. Patrick was unrelenting in his pursuit of her, showing up in various places he knew her to frequent. Tonight, as she celebrated with the ladies of her needlepoint group, she was not surprised he’d find her. Flashing a glance in Audrey’s direction, there was a small creasing in the corners of her eyes knowing the source of his information was coming from the meddling, middle-aged woman across from her.
Lifting her chin, she pretended to be taking in the summer breeze caressing the dewy moisture laying lightly upon her cheeks and brow. Minnie’s complexion, even with the absence of light, glowed with an eeriness similar to what one would see while peering up at the moon. Her dark, glittering eyes held a mystery about them like pools of ink.
“I’m enjoying it just fine, Mr. Flannagan,” she said. Her voice was soft, and carried on it a hint of her native, Irish born timbre, “I was not aware you cared for such social affairs, such as these.”
Her eyes settled upon his, letting the weight of her accusation rest on his.
“Aw, I …” he began then stopped. Something flashed in her eyes and his train of thought left him with a clumsy attempt to salvage his dignity. He was stuttering along, unable to put simple words together into a sentence worth understanding, “I, well, you probably … It’s a party, and …”
Satisfied with her affect on him, her rose-petal stained lips curled into a smile. She stood, brushing the wrinkles from her skirts and turned toward the concession booths. The lace patterned gloves accentuated her long, thin fingers and his eyes could not help but to stare at her exposed skin. She always dressed in modest, fashionable style. He wondered what struck him about her gloves until he realized it was seeing parts of her exposed besides her face. Her flesh was as smooth as Italian marble, and the first thought in his mind was The Veiled Christ statue he’d once seen in his travels abroad.
His eyes fluttered with her question hanging in the air. Had she spoken to him? A blush filled small splotches across his face.
“Excuse me?” he croaked. Clearing the sudden dryness from his throat, he furrowed his brows and tugged at his collar. He felt a sense of discombobulation even though he hadn’t had a drop to drink all night.
“I asked if you’d escort me to grab something to drink,” she answered, taking a step toward him. Her body was perfumed with the intoxicating scent of Blue Flag Iris and earth.
“Yes,” he stammered again, “I … of course.”
Lifting his elbow to allow her hand to slip into the crook of it, he could feel the shift in his body temperature rising by the filtered breeze entering between the fibers of his cotton attire. Even through the fabric barrier, her hand was like ice. Jolted by it, he turned into her, placing his hand upon hers.
“Miss Minnie, you are like ice,” he said, concern raising in his voice.
“Oh, do not fret,” she laughed, patting his hand, “I’m like a bird. Thin boned and susceptible to summer wind.”
As if compelled by her reassurances, Patrick felt a sense of ease wash over him. He smiled like a simpleton and continued to lead her to the path in the direction of the tents lining the field. Lanterns swayed against the lakeside breeze. The wind was picking up and the crowd bustled in response to the change.
Looking over his shoulder, Patrick stared out at the dark horizon in confusion, “A storm?”
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” her voice wormed into his ear like a spider, buzzing through his brain.
The sound of the tents flapping against the current of air, and the bells of the buoys far into the distance grew muffled. Patrick was no longer in control of his movements. One awkward step in front of the other, like a marionette, he continued down the path which grew more isolated and shadowed the further they went.
This isn’t the way, Patrick’s subconscious was warning him.
“W-where are we going?” his question slurred out as he turned to her.
“Shhh,” she whispered. She was still smiling but the shadows crept along her features like serpents, making her face contort into a mask of hellish nightmares.
“N-No! No, please!”
Patrick’s begging was of no use, anymore. Whipping his head around, he could see he was being led to a building with no recollection of how he’d arrived there. He knew this building! After a few months of working on it, he was terminated by its owner when he questioned him about the children he’d seen come in … but never leave. It wasn’t until last year the news of the horrific details came to light. Murder Castle, he thought, terror rising in his chest.
Minnie, feeling his body become rigid, began to laugh. Her grip on his arm grew, constricting the blood flow to his hand.
“You knew,” she hissed, “about the hidden rooms, and the missing children.”
“No! I … I didn’t!” Patrick shouted, wrestling against her hold on him, “Let me go, I say! Let me go!”
The air beneath their feet became lighter and Patrick looked down to see he was floating. His chest ached with the battering of his heart, panic imprisoning his breath. With the world spinning around him, he could no longer tell what was up or down until, without warning, he found himself standing on the ledge of the rooftop.
His legs became like rubber. With tears filling his eyes, he looked around, but he was alone, looking over an empty street. With a slow, careful bend of his knees, he lowered himself a few inches, keeping watch for Minnie. She drugged me somehow, he thought. It was the only way he could make sense of what was happening. I have to get down. I have to get away. Oh god, why?
Patrick looked down at the street once more. “I need to get down. Easy does it, Patrick,” he said to himself, “just turn around, and put your feet on the roof.”
Hearing something behind him, he turned. Minnie was there, but her face had changed. Gone was the smooth, beautiful alabaster statue he knew, and in its place was a mask of decayed flesh and brittle teeth. Surrounding her was a crowd of children, all of them grey like ash. Their eyes were milky-white and opaque like tarnished glass. Their hands grabbed at him and he could feel their nails clawing into his skin even through his clothing. He screamed and jerked back until he felt his heel slip off the ledge. Loosing his balance, he caught his last breath and fell three stories down to the pavement.
When the officers discovered him, they found a watch chain hanging from the corner of his mouth. A small charm dangled from its golden clasp with the name, Minnie Williams; the missing wife of H.H. Holmes.
Fiction © Copyright Lisa Vasquez
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Lisa Vasquez:
A plague has washed upon England’s shore, bringing death in its wake. While the sickness plucks the lives of the victims indiscriminately, something else moves in its shadows, using it as a cover. Bodies with no sign of infection have been brutally murdered and dismembered. Suspicions already surround the infamous Doctor Wulfe when his eccentric behavior takes a more sinister turn. His interest in the young Morrigan spirals into an unhealthy obsession. Angus manipulates her father, giving him hope of a cure in return for his daughter’s hand in marriage. But, when his bride-to-be awakens with an insatiable appetite, will she be forced to go through with the arrangement? Or will the plague save her from a deal made with a devil? “Unfleshed is an exquisite dive into the madness brought on by love … a rose nourished with blood, rendered with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. A compelling blend of Mary Shelley, Baz Luhrman and the Grand Guignol!” —John Palisano, Bram Stoker-winning author of NERVES
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Women in Horror Month 9