It Will Be Satisfied

Swamp surrounds the village for as far the eye can see. The soggy soil of our secluded homeland is little more than sponge, sopping up so much water even the slightest of us must strap strings stretched across stiff wooden slats to our feet or else risk being swallowed whole by the sludge. Too many have become meals, preserved in the muck for unsuspecting outsiders to stumble across on a daring jaunt to our far-flung wastes.

It’s why we’re the People of the Mud. 

One of the reasons, at least.

Big sister, unruly and untamable, always donning a reckless sort of snaggled smile, became one such meal.

The night she was swallowed was like most nights in the wastes. Damp air clung heavy to our skin, its dankness cloying in our lungs. Every breath tasted like a chunk of mud we had to choke down. It felt like we would suffocate in our home, like the very air wanted us to.

Who wouldn’t want to escape? Who wouldn’t want to try?

Big sister hushed me in my hammock when climbing down from her own disturbed me, jostled the tenuous ropes holding us aloft and together. Shh, shh… She pressed her lips to my forehead, gave me her softly crooked smile, and then said, in a conspiratorial whisper, It’ll be our little secret little sister, yes? 

I didn’t get a chance to croak out a response before big sister slipped away, over the slim ledge of our room’s tiny window, which was little more than a slit in the wooden slats of our shack, and into the wastes. Her muck- shucks remained, I noticed at daybreak.

She never returned for them.

Flesh and blood, an elder in the hobbled hut stilted ‘side ours said when it was clear big sister was another meal for the wastes. The mud demands it.

Mother and father said nothing in response to the elder. Nodded, yes, but they kept their mouths shut. Held tighter to their silence than they did big sister. I kept my mouth shut too. Choked down the dank air of our home. Swallowed the bitterness.

I said nothing when no vigil was held. Nothing when I was moved into big sister’s hammock and my old one was filled not a year later by another child. Nothing when big sister’s muck-shucks were pried from my protective hold and broken into bits by father, strung together again by mother. Remade, so carefully, for a smaller pair of pitter-patter feet.

I said nothing when bitterness turned sour and seeping. 

In the swamp, the mud is not the only thing that makes demands, that requires sacrifices. The water, too, has wants. Has hungers. There is a ritual that must be performed before it will let our dead lie.

Touch

We must honor the passed with one last memory of a loving touch. Must comfort them a final time, skin to skin, or else risk their disgruntled, starving spirit coming back with a vengeance for what was denied

Flesh and blood. 

This hunger thickens the air, sticks to our skin like soil to muck-shucks. Burrows deep down the backs of our throats and settles solid in our lungs. 

It thrums through our veins. 

It slithers out of the murk and into your hut at night. Up into your hammock. Coils ’round and ’round you till its smooth, scaly touch is all you can feel. 

It sneaks up on you while you’re muck-shucking at dusk. Watches you with beady eyes from razory reeds, saw-tooth grass, biding it’s time till you tempt fate too far and then it is tusks through your soft tissues. 

It is a jagged-jawed maw lying in wait at sundown in the shallows’ shadows. Scaled hide shades of dark red in the day’s dying light. Eyes dim until the moment mother leans too far for the laundry line and topples down into the drink. Till father wades in too deep to rescue her and is sucked under.

It can be a gentle shove too much. A helping hand pressed too hard to mother’s back. A nudge too knowing towards a hopeless rescue. 

Sometimes, it can be a mouth kept shut. A cry for help choked down. Swallowed.

Shh, shh…

The water settles slowly, red ripples staining the surrounding mud. Feeding it. The soggy soil savors the blood as if starved for it. Just above the murky surface, snaggle-toothed snout slinks. Shadows give it a crooked curl, an almost smile. Then, with a single thrash of its reptilian tail, it fades back into the wastes’ muddy maw. Finally able to rest.

Baby sister wriggles in my hold.

“Ma? Da?” She mumble-grumbles, pointing a pudgy finger at the settling murk. “Go?”

Shh….” I soothe her struggling, her searching, my voice less than pacifying from long disuse. “It’s a secret.”

I glance down at the red streaks still swirling in the murk, the bone fragments floating like the broken bits of an old pair of forgotten muck-shucks. They weren’t forgotten.

“Our secret, yes?”

****

I hope you enjoyed that! This is yet another story inspired by a Twitter prompt. In this case, it is a second draft of a story I published on this blog a while back. It will probably not be the last draft of this story, either. Most of my stories are all works in progress. I’m sure plenty off writers can relate! Anyway, let me know what you think!

Truth Be Told

They die. If you tell the truth. Sometimes slowly, sometimes on the spot. It depends on the truth being told and it’s weight. The heavier it is, the faster it flattens bone into fragment, pulverizes pulse into a bloody pulp. 

The first time it happened was on the morning news, live. The camera panned across a generic studio audience to the show’s co-anchors, your typical man and woman duo. The man was tailored tight into his fancy suit, grin taut across his too- straight teeth. His arm was slung almost casually across the snug settee the pair occupied, his fingertips just skimming his female co-host’s shoulder, something the smug slant of his lips knew and savored. The woman did not smile. Her lips were set in a fine line. She was looking forward, maybe at the audience, perhaps at something beyond, her gaze focused but unknowable. She shrugged off the man’s prompting, probing fingers and scooted towards the edge of her seat, trying to escape his reach. Then, when the studio audience silenced and the show’s theme song died, she told the truth.

It was a crushing truth. A twisted one.

She told that studio audience and roughly several thousand watchers at home, psyching themselves up for their daily doses of drudgery, exactly what bottom line her boss really wanted to discuss with his female employees, herself included. More male employees than not followed their boss’s example, she said. Those who did not were more than willing to look the other way. Clearly, she had not informed her co-host beforehand of this deviation from the usual drivel, his hand he had not removed from her shoulder earlier now almost recoiling from her as if struck. 

The woman probably hoped her revelation would have impact. She probably never believed that it would.

Not two very tense minutes after the reveal though, an intern came barreling into the studio, blubbering and soaked in blood. Every frantic jerk sent red splattering, some into the studio audience which sat stunned until now, perhaps believing the woman’s piece and the boy’s entrance a part of some poorly contrived bit. The screaming started all at once, people flinging themselves frantically over each other to reach the exit in the back. The camera remained fixed on the boy.

He’s dead, the boy managed in between sobs, his voice barely rising over the panicked clamor. He’s dead. I was handing him his coffee, how he liked it. Decaf, two sugars and…. Just blood, there was just blood. He…his body, it… There was just so much…

The boy seemed to succumb to his shock, then, bloodstained hands falling limp and listless at his sides and eyes vacant. His knees gave out next, springing back like over-stretched rubber bands, and he slid to the floor, the syrupy sludge of blood and viscera that formed beneath him making an audible squish at the impact. 

The cameraman, perhaps not knowing what else to do, spun back towards the anchors. The woman’s gaze was still unknowable and focused but now slightly off-center, clearly intent on the boy covered in her boss’s blood. Former boss’s blood. Her male co-anchor was not as affected. In fact, looking back on it, he seemed downright scornful, his smirk a sneer, jaw clenched, and his frame strained beneath his fancy suit. An accusing finger now pointed at the boy collapsed on the ground. 

He should be arrested. The man declared to the several thousand viewers who were no doubt glued to their screens. And, He turned on his co-host, positively scathing. So should you. For libel. Conspiracy. Premeditated murder. Whatever you call this shit. You should be ashamed of yourself.

That broke the woman out of her trance. She turned her sights on her co-host, slow and calculating, spine straightening but head remaining slightly crooked. The slant of her chin was more like a slash, severing shadows and cutting the glare of the studio lights on her skin into pieces, creating a jagged corona around her face. It seemed like the image of that bloodstained boy was embedded in her eyes, her gaze taking on a reddish hue as the camera continued to role.

Ashamed, she said at last. Is that what I should be? 

The camera closed in on the woman. Her red-dyed eyes appeared to glow bright in their sockets, their glare alight and alive. Scorching. 

That’s an interesting observation, Mr. Hands-On. But, She leaned in then, close enough her co-host must’ve been able to hear the click-clack of tooth against tooth as she asked, If I should be ashamed, then what should you be?

The man fell back from her and onto the floor as if shoved out of his seat, shocked and sputtering. His scornful gaze was now considerably softened, almost pleading. Rather than address the man groveling at her heels though, the woman turned her attention to the camera. There was something almost dreamy about her expression, transcendent even. Now, her eyes definitely gleamed, a shiny sharp red. The studio lights made her incandescent, blazing. Her lips twitched, the beginnings of a grin taking form.

If I were you, She stared straight into the eyes of her viewers. I’d be afraid.

On the floor, her co-host followed their former boss’s example for the last time. He twisted like a corkscrew, joints wrenched from their sockets, blood spewing and flesh flying. An arterial spray painted the brazen woman in jagged strokes of crimson, turning her into a living stained glass window. A lone, agonized screech escaped the man before he burst into a pool of bloody sludge, bits of bone and teeth soaring towards the camera. A full smile split across the woman’s face. Her tongue flicked out, licking at a drop of blood caught on the corner of her mouth. For a second, her eyes closed as if savoring the tang. 

Telling the truth never tasted so satisfying.

Very afraid. She rose and started forward. You should be very afraid.

A scream sounded and another spray of blood sliced across the set. And another. And another. Till the camera finally cut out. 

The woman never stopped smiling.

****

Hey~ I hope you enjoyed my little horror story ^.^ This week’s writing prompt was Censorship. I decided to explore the ways in which women who come forward against their abusers are often not only censured but censured. Women often have their lives ripped apart, everything they’ve ever done dissected. People are looking for reasons for why they deserved what happened to them or for why they may be lying. It’s almost more horrifying than anything I could write because it’s real life. To respond to that censure in some way, I decided to write a story where there are actually consequences for the men who hurt women. I decided to rip mens’ lives apart for a change. I think it came out terribly well. But, let me know your thoughts~

Far Too Many Teeth

They come. They always do. The sea brings them to me. Swallows them up and swishes them from cheek to cheek before spitting them just shy of my shore. The only haven in sight for miles. Mama used to say with a smile. Any port in a storm, my little minnow.

I didn’t understand, at the time, why she smiled so widely nor why it prickled me so. There was an…edge, to her grin. Something cutting in its curl. Sharp. It wouldn’t occur to me why until many years later and many more ships spat ashore. Too much teeth.

I have always called this lonely speck of misbegotten rock in the middle of this surly grey sea home. The only watchful gaze I knew better than Mama’s was that of the storm’s. Mama hated when those stormy eyes found us. Hated that moment of calm that would fall when an eye settled on us. It’s the only time she ever spit back at the sea. 

Any port only works if there’s a storm, after all. 

Even many years after her death, Mama’s teeth still gleam in my mind. Too much. Too many. Like those odd fish that sometimes washed up with the ships and sailors, dragged up from the darkest depths, jaws jagged with needle-point teeth. Yes, just like those fish. They were almost always dead by the time their broken bodies caught on our craggy shore, not made to thrive in the unforgiving world above. 

Mama died on a stormy night like this one. Wind howling across the isle, rain biting skin, battering this sliver of world we call home. A ship skid on the horizon, sails slanted, desperately trying to prevail and failing. 

Sailors are so foolish. Mama chuckled, her smile starting it’s upward slice. They always underestimate the storm. Her power. They think they can make her theirs, my dear minnow. They think they can own her.

On the sea, a strong gale tears through the ship’s sails and its bow sinks low, probably taking on water, same as every other ship lured from its course into our waters. Overheard, thunder beats the sky from blue to black. The faintest of screams begins to join the clamor. Those sailors will be screaming on my shore before the candle in my cabin has the chance to burn halfway. They will die before the light does.

In my memory, Mama’s eyes burn. More like lightning than any candle, so striking and yet so fleeting. They only burned like that when she reeled in the night’s catch. When she gutted bellies, pulled out innards, dyed the sands of our little shore and the long hems of our pilfered muslin dresses a deep, dark red. Anything we couldn’t use, she’d toss back into the sea. Like those odd fish. An offering, she called it.

I guess she believed us blessed.

Foolish, she said that night, licking her teeth clean. To think they can own her. Control her. Storms belong to no one, my little minnow. Remember.

She was right.

The wave that swallowed her flopped over the rocky lip of our shore like a large, languid tongue. It slammed her almost casually into the rocks, jagged edges tearing through fabric and flesh, red bleeding in between the points. She screamed, I remember. A piercing sound. My little minnow! But, I wasn’t so little anymore. Neither were my teeth. Or, my appetite. 

Saliva flooded my mouth and blood thundered in my ears and I remember wondering at the storm brewing inside me.

My little minnow!

I caught the eye of the storm. It was nearly overhead. Mama never liked her gaze. Mama spat in her face and threw her our leftovers. Foolish.

I let the sea have her, the last leftover.

Now, I watch as the ship sinks even lower, draws ever nearer my shore. Once faint screams now overtake the winds’ howling. Thunder and blood thump in my ears. A smile with far too many teeth cuts across my face. 

Storms belong to no one.

©Kelli Hayes

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Inspiration Work ~ En La Lejania by Adriana Madrid

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I joined the Writers Circle at my library! This week, the group write stories based upon this picture prompt! I thought is was a very inspiring work and I wrote a story that I am quite happy with! I hope you enjoyed this little taste of horror! Definitely look forward to more!

Skin Girl

Drumbeat batters breeze bare-knuckled. Bloody, if it could. Tut-tut-tut transforms the atmosphere into something tormented. Tortured. Just a sliver shy of a scream.

I sway to the sound, skin soaking in its scathe. Absorbing the maim and claim. The tug and tear.

In the thick of the crowd, illuminated by a mix of fire and faint moonlight, a figure fights the drum’s beating. Twists sharp turns to thwart possession. To prevail. A losing game.

Once lured in, that’s it.

Other figures clap, pound flesh till the night seems alive with its own rhythmic pulse, thrumming steadily through the battered air. A grunted chant rumbles in time.

Somewhere, deep in the wood surround, a wolf howls. Tears at night’s skin. A territorial call if I’ve ever heard one. A victorious brag. I grip the skin I’m in. Tame growl into grumbling chant. Return sight to the light bathing those gathered in shades of dark red.

The dancer nearest flame, so deeply red they’re shadow on smoke, throws back their head–theirs and the bear skull that swallows it whole. An echoing, bellicose bellow–growl–silences both flesh and drum beat.

Another deep sound, the wolf.

A last, me.

For now.

Closely, I watch the dancer shed the bear skull. Slide claws as long as fingers from their hands. Keep the grizzled pelt wrapped ’round their wide shoulders, though. For warmth, maybe. The skin in place ’round their meaty waist.

Two figures donning wolf skulls and matching hides separate from the crowd as the lone bear dancer returns to it.

Beats begin their battering blows once more. Less heavy. More lean. Like wolf meat. Night’s pulse picks up in a low thrum, a lower hum. Faintest scream.

I track the bear dancer as they cut through the crowd, one toothy smile at a time. A short laugh or two. My rhythm mirrors theirs. Overtakes it. Sleek. Light. A slow skulk. Steady hunt.

We meet where the edge of the crowd kisses forest fathoms.

Bear Dancer slashes a charming smile across their face, distinctive jaw jutting upward with its self-assured slant as if to display the many scars crisscrossing sensitive skin like trophies. One rather deep cut is still raw. Fresh. I curl my fist.

It’s him.

A grin of my own begins to stretch flesh. Tempt tearing. Bear dancer’s widens in return. Devours his face.

“Hello,” he steps into my sway. “Like tonight?” I nod, grin sharp enough to put Bear Dancer to shame.

“You dance good.” Another growl tamed into something softer. “It’s striking,” I motion to the pelt on his back. “your form.”

“Yes.” He preens, fingering the fur. I swallow fury. “A lucky catch, bear. Usually, they keep to their caves.”

“Ah?” I drag him back to me. “Where’d you get the bear then?”

“Clearing by Slim River.” His voice is proud. “Mama and cub hunting. Hare, probably. I got Mama first in the side with my spear. When she charged, I got her in the head with my handy ax. She clawed, though.” He taps his scarred chin. “A fighter.”

Huntress.” I correct.

“Yes.” Bear Dancer nods, looking grave. “Very fierce. The others threw many spears till she went down. The cub though,” Bear Dancer’s grin returns. “was easy. Little fella. A club to the head.” Bear Dancer swings his arm past my face. “Dead.”

“Dead.” I repeat, dead, stepping back into forest, spiny nettles brushing bare skin. Swirl my hips. Bear dancer follows. “Poor boy.”

“There were two.” He leans close as if revealing a secret. “Cubs. Two of ’em. Always with Mama but not this time. Very odd.” He quirks his head. “Bears don’t usually keep more than one. Too hard to feed. Keep only the strong one…. Wonder where the runt is? The little fella cried out after he was hit. Almost like a scream. Maybe–”

She heard.” I finish with too much gnash. “The sister?” Bear dancer gives me a confused look and I reach for his hands–the ones that were wearing Mama bear’s claws–settling them on my waist.

“Yes.” Bear dancer tightens his hold on me. I lead us further behind branches. Beyond the fire light’s creeping reach. “You know the story?” Now, I quirk my head. Take another backward step. “About the sister cub. That she’s one of us. Child lost from the tribe long ago. Found by bears. Clothed in their skin.”

“I hadn’t heard.” Another step. So close.

“Not from ’round here?” Bear Dancer asks. “Was wondering…. You look familiar but can’t place face.”

Finally. Trees give way to open space. A clearing. Nearby, a watery babble replaces drum beats. Flesh beats. Moonlight overtakes flickering flame.

“It’s not my usual.” I brush Bear Dancer’s hands off me and he tilts his chin. That fresh cut. Shiny red beneath the moon. I flex my fingers. Feel nails sharpen. “Face.”

A swipe of my claw to the head and Bear Dancer is down. For brother.

I’m on him before he knows what hit him, my lithe body now heavier. My skin, fur. Much better. Weight settles on my shoulders–my skull no prop large enough to swallow a head whole. Bear Dancer’s. I stare into his wide eyes, grizzly reflection in their glisten. I can’t smile anymore so a snarl will have to do. Recognize me now?

“S-s-skin-n-w-w-wwalk-ker-r.” He accuses.

No, a growl like a laugh rumbles in my cavernous chest. I told you. Huntress. 

A claw finds purchase in the mark Mama carved so I’d know and tugs. Jaw gone before Bear Dancer can scream. Then, claws like little spears and teeth like ax blades find flesh. Tear. Bite bone, too, creating their own beat, own chant. Rhythm.

And, when the song is done, I toss my head back. ScreamTear the night in two. It’s no victory screech. No brag. Nothing celebatory. It’s a warning. An announcement.

I’m here.

I’m coming.

I’m hungry.

The battle is mine.

****

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*Side note: those last words are coincidentally my first thoughts in the morning…. Weird. ^.^

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Find more of my delightfully disturbing/twisted tales under the Killing It tag~

As always, hope you enjoyed~*

 


Split Girl

See.” Auntie would hiss, breath-half mist-half piss–spit splattering across my face like soggy freckles. “Don’t you see?”

Spittle soaking deep into bone, I’d bob my neck up down. A metronome kicked on its side. But that was never enough.

My compliance meant nothing till it suffered. Till I suffered.

Till I looked.

“Can’t you see?” A banshee-screech that bounced off mirrored glass like my small skull in Auntie’s gargantuan grip. Bang. Bang. 

“I see.” My raspy exhale fogged the glass.

“See what?” Bang.

“I see a sister slayer.” Yours. “Mommy murderer. Blood traitor.” The worst kind of betrayer. The kind that bathed in their victim’s blood and cried out in wailing victory.

“What else?” Auntie pressed–my head harder into my fisheye-like reflection.

“I see,” I swallowed. Chewed the tip of my tongue. Bang. “a pretty dress.”

“And,” Auntie dragged the consanent across her crooked incisors.  “what do you say?”

“Thank you,” Bile slid down my throat. Spit settled on my face. “Auntie.”

I was released with a huff that coated me in another spray of slimy, grimey, salted spit. Tasted like Mommy‘s tears. Probably. I wouldn’t know. Won’t. I sagged into myself.

“Good boy.” I’m not.

Satisfied, Auntie would slink off and I would scramble back from smudgey glass. Smooth my hands down silk. With fingertips, find frills, find something like-comfort-but-not-quite in the edges.

I’m not.

What? Auntie’s spit simmered on my skin. My fists clenched frills flat.

Boy. Bang. Good. Bang.

I’m not.

****

Auntie comes to see that for herself. Eventually. She has no choice but to.

Not when my shoulders brush the height of hers. Not when my eyes meet hers on an upward climb. An ascent.

The few photos kept reveal Mommy had a good head above Auntie. My good head, now. The only good thing about me, according to Auntie.

Still, Auntie takes me to the mirror. Stands me before myself and demands–See.

See what you’ve done to your mother, boy. To me.  

Auntie reaches for my lengthy curls–for leverage–but the bang is already echoing in my ears. The spit already boiling fresh on my flesh–each drip of dribble like a teardrop at the corner of two lids kissing. I flutter.

Auntie is against the glass in a spin that twirls my skirt.

“What, bo–”

See.” It isn’t a hiss. Nor, an order. It’s the slightest, crunchy-squish of a hard-shut eye opening. Blossoming. Ricocheting ad infinitum off mine and Auntie’s super-imposed reflection.

“Wha–” Bang.

See.” Frills brush Auntie’s skin like eye lashes, gentle but coated black so they curl. “Can’t you see?”

Another bang and she does. She looks and–

“I see.” Of course, Auntie spits it–in our shared face. My glassy-eyed part of the reflection doesn’t relent. though. Not now.

What?” Bang. Red joins spit. “Auntie, what?”

“I see,” She huffs when struggling only intensifies red. “a sister slayer.” Mommy’s. I bob my head. Auntie’s lip curls sharp. “A Momma’s bo–” Bang. The mirror cracks.

Auntie gasps, splattering crimson in our splintered reflection. It’s splitting down the middle. Like a large eyelid.

“See what?” Like glass, my voice cracks. Auntie can’t stifle her snicker. Bang. Bang. Bang. She stops. “You see Mommy’s what?”

“–aughter.” Auntie spits between a newly chipped tooth and mouthful of shards. I crook a brow and she tries again, “Daugh…ter.”

“What else?” I roll her limp head till she’s staring straight at the split separating as it joins. “What else do you see?”

“Blood…” Her gurgle hides her reflection’s eye beneath a red coating. Again, a try. A cry. “blood…tr…blood-y….dr….ess….”

She slumps into herself like one lid folding down and I rise from her like the other lid sliding up.

“Thank you, Auntie.”

My fingers find wet frills, edges soaked in and dyed a colour they’ve always been afraid of. Blamed for. A colour I’ve not worn since my first and only–till now–victory.

What would Mommy say?

See?

I wipe the glass before my eyes till I peek through red. Split open and smiling. Fingertips brush the toothy slash.

Good girl. I nod.

I am.

****

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Hope you enjoyed reading ^.^ For more twisted and delightfully disturbing tales, check out my Killing It tab~ I usually most twice a week.

**This is the painting in the Featured Image for this post. Saw it at a recent trip to the Whitney Museum in the city and–fell in love–but also felt like it would be perfect for this sweet vicious little story**