Lorena drove around a parked red Chevrolet Chevelle and then parked her own car along a dirt stretch of forgotten road that led to the cozy white house in the distance, a two-story firmly nestled within the dark trees of this backwoods area.
She shut off her lights and turned the key to shut down the engine of her Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser. She reached over and grabbed her briefcase full of case files, thought better about it, and left her briefcase in the passenger seat. She didn’t need that yet.
It was Friday, and she had a date with Robert tonight, so it was best to review this case and make a judgement of future action now rather than let it sit until Monday. It was a hassle, true, but children were the one universal thing that Lorena could not turn her back on. She would never do that.
True, she was looking forward to tonight and her date with Robert, but some things were just too important to let sit, even though she could have, in fact, let this marinate until Monday.
Besides, this was just a quick interview anyway. She wouldn’t need her briefcase for that…No, she was ready to go.
Dawn had not yet touched the eastern trees in the distance. There was still about ten minutes to go before that morning orb would pierce the sky, but that was fine. She had a busy day, so she was here early, and that was unfortunate for Mrs. De Veuve, but what the State wanted, the State got. It wasn’t like Mrs. De Veuve could turn her away without serious legal repercussions.
This, of course, was about Missy. Missy De Veuve had somehow been lost in the filing, and if Lorena had not been so diligent at her job, she would have never discovered the existence of the little girl, nor would the State have sent Lorena here, out here in this neck of the boonies of their own fair county.
And the boonies this was. The dark angle of thick trees and overgrowth cast a long shadow of spindly fingers that tugged at one’s sensibilities and stoked one’s own backwards fears, and that was during the day. Being out here during predawn was a little much, to tell the truth.
Still, this was about Missy. The little girl had already turned seven, yet she had not been enrolled in school. A whole month had gone by without her attendance, and that was simply unacceptable.
Lorena walked along a dirt path strewn with fallen leaves until she reached the front door of the De Veuve residence. It was the light from a bottom floor window of the house that lit her way, for without it, she would have had to leave the lights on from her car to see anything at all.
She could see that light within this cozy two-story via a single standing lamp at the west wall, and that quick peek through a window on the right revealed a small living room that led to a white archway, probably the entrance to the kitchen. The rest of the house was shrouded in darkness, much like the early-morning sky.
Lorena had only knocked twice before the door was answered, that singular, white wooden door creaking open to reveal the little girl in question.
This little girl was around six or seven, so that much was accurate, but a complete description of her had been wholly lacking within the State files.
This little blonde thing had pale peach skin, skin painted over with a light brush of peach upon alabaster, and she possessed ruby red lips and striking green eyes, an eye color that was rare in combination for a natural blonde. Her adorable face was settled within a circlet of blonde ringlets, a face that was both cute yet disturbing in its…well…adorableness, and combined with her antiquated clothing, her very presence unsettled Lorena, if only because the girl looked like a walking and talking porcelain doll made flesh.
And speaking of antiquated clothing…
This little girl wore a red dress that looked like a mix of styles from the Victorian Age and the Renaissance, a red, velvet drape with frills along the hem, a hem that rested above her narrow ankles. The shoulders of the dress were puffed, with spotless-white sleaves that ran down to form small tight cuffs around her twig-thin wrists. Beneath the hem of that dress shone the black gleam of well-polished brass-buckle shoes surrounding white ankle socks, something that most certainly added to the overall semblance of a living doll.
It was 1972, for crying out loud. No one outside of a stage play dressed like this anymore.
Lorena, herself, had on her formal attire of a white button up, a brown vest jacket, and a matching brown skirt. She had on her pantyhose with her good white heels, and she had her long, feathered, brown hair pinned back for the moment for a more professional look. She did not consider herself the most attractive woman in the world—brown eyes and brown hair were very common indeed for a white woman in her late twenties—but this little girl made her look…plain.
Nevertheless, Lorena had a job to do. She needed to speak with Mrs. De Veuve.
“Missy?” asked Lorena.
“Yes?” asked the little girl.
This little blonde doll’s voice was like a silver bell, a sweet call that held a strange lull to it…Lorena had to shake her head to fling off the feeling of both nostalgia and complacency that haunting voice cast upon her.
“I…I’m from Child Welfare.” she said after a second of composure. “I need to know why you haven’t been in school, Missy, so I need to speak to your mommy, sweet heart. Where is your mommy now?”
This little living doll scrunched up her red lips as her blonde brows furrowed in visible confusion.
“Mother isn’t expecting visitors today,” said Missy. “She has gentleman callers now and then, but she’s not had one for at least a month, Miss…umm…Who am I addressing, ma’am?”
This little thing held a slight southern accent, something else that dug into Lorena’s psyche, a combination of voice and style that nearly tripped her up again. It was that dulcet calm in Missy’s voice, that lulling bell that ate at Lorena, and it was difficult to resist.
“Uhhh…Kaminski,” replied Lorena.
“She’s resting right now, Miss Kaminski,” said Missy. “It’s not wise to disturb her at this hour, though you may come in and wait if you like.”
She lifted the sides of her dress and did a formal curtsy, something Lorena had never expected to see in her lifetime from…well…anyone.
This was crazy.
Lorena had to shake her head yet again. Not only was this little thing like a living doll, she was precocious in both manner and speech, so much so that it stunned Lorena for a few seconds. Missy’s intelligence had to be off the charts for her age.
“I…uhhh…” started Lorena.
“Why don’t you come in and wait, Ms. Kaminski,” said Missy. “Mother is always willing to entertain new guests. She’s had her fill of gentleman callers, I think, so I believe she would like to…entertain someone new…new and different, that is.”
The fact that this little girl kept using the term “gentleman caller” disturbed Lorena on a deep level, not to mention the precocious doll’s emphasis upon the word “entertain.” Oh, Lorena was definitely going to have to have a few words with Mrs. De Veuve. Whatever was going on here did not seem appropriate, or at least, not appropriate with a child in the house.
“I think I’d better do just that,” frowned Lorena.
She was about to step across the threshold when the little girl in question peered around her and out into the darkness of early morning. The precocious child’s face scrunched up again in visible confusion, so Lorena turned to follow the little doll’s example, though she could see very little in the early-morning shroud of predawn.
“Who else am I addressing, ma’am?” asked Missy. “Is there someone else with you?”
“No…” said Lorena hesitantly. “I came here alone.”
“Then which vehicle is yours, might I ask?” asked Missy.
“That’s not your mom’s Chevelle?” asked Lorena.
“No, ma’am,” replied Missy.
They came out of the dark after that, two strangers walking at a brisk pace from out of said darkness. They made a direct line for Lorena, and they each came from one side of her, from the east and the west.
One of these strangers was an older white man in his sixties, a respectable-looking man in a brown business suit wearing a matching brown fedora on his greyed head, but the other stranger was unusual in her appearance, unusual in the fact that she was a black woman barely out of her teens, a young black woman in a swirly blue and purple tie-dye shirt, blue jean jacket, and bell-bottom blue jeans.
The woman of the two had her long black hair tied in a bun with a strip of what looked like material taken from the very type of blue jeans she was wearing, but this little feature was not what held Lorena’s attention. It was the very real and very deadly shotgun the woman was pointing at her that captured her interest.
These two were as mismatched a couple as Lorena could imagine, but the fact that the woman of the pair was armed and pointing that weapon straight at Lorena overrode any questions Lorena might have had about that.
“We should have waited until sunrise,” said the woman in a hostile tone.
“It’s too late for that,” said the older man. “I wasn’t expecting anyone else to show up.”
Lorena had no idea what was going on, but this did not look good. She instinctively backed into the house and pushed back Missy, placing herself between the precocious little doll and the two strangers.
The woman with the shotgun kept the door open with her right black boot before Lorena could close it.
“Get back, lady!” demanded the armed stranger.
Lorena backed further into the De Veuve residence, all the while keeping herself between Missy and the clearly hostile couple before her. Their sudden presence, along with their clear hostility, caused Lorena’s adrenaline to automatically spike in vivid and clamping fear.
“Who are you people!” was all that came to her lips at that moment.
The armed woman of the pair stepped in as the older gentlemen followed suit.
The older man reached into his inner suit pocket and pulled forth a silver aspergillum, that strange device the Catholic Church used to sprinkle holy water, the small mace-like object clutched firmly within his right hand.
Lorena held up her right arm before her face as the man shook the aspergillum at her, sprinkling her with what she could only assume was the holy water in question that the device was supposed to carry. It was annoying, true, but it wasn’t exactly life threatening.
“What are you doing!” cried Lorena.
“She’s clean,” said the woman of the pair. “Let’s do the little girl.”
“Hey!” protested Lorena. “You leave her alone!”
The woman with the shotgun held it up to Lorena’s face and motioned with the weapon for Lorena to step aside.
“Get out of the way, lady!” commanded the armed woman.
Lorena wanted to protest again, a somewhat stupid thing to do in light of the situation, but she did not get the chance to. No, she turned to view Missy, because the little girl had stepped back and away from Lorena, stepping back and away in order to address the two hostile strangers. Missy then indeed addressed the two strangers, a deep frown etched upon her little doll’s face, an expression that caused Lorena to hesitate for a second.
“You weren’t invited in,” said Missy. “You need to leave now before you awaken Mother. She most assuredly won’t be happy you’re here. She wasn’t expecting any callers today, certainly not an older gentleman accompanied by such a brazen harlot.”
It did not take a genius to catch the insult bound within the precocious little girl’s words, and under normal circumstances, this would have horrified Lorena that such a young thing would even know such a word, but these were not normal circumstances, and the reaction to that insulting word was immediate.
“What did you call me!” yelled the woman with the shotgun.
She turned the firearm upon Missy, aiming for the little girl’s face, but Lorena stepped in-between Missy and that deadly weapon.
“Stop!” demanded Lorena. “Don’t you dare!”
“Move out of the way!” commanded the hostile woman with an equally powerful incentive, that incentive being the shotgun she was now pointing at Lorena’s face.
“Calm down, Latasha,” said the older man. “The little one’s just trying to get under your skin…We need to find the mother anyway.”
“Not before I blow apart this little sh—” started “Latasha.”
“No, you won’t!” commanded Lorena. “You put that down right now! Don’t you dare threaten a child!”
These two crazies angered her, angering her to the point of stupidity, because she was most certainly not the one with the gun. On some level, she was terrified, but her common sense had been overridden by a need to protect children, something she had always carried with her, something she had carried with her throughout her entire life.
“Step aside, miss,” nodded the older gentleman in the fedora. “Let us do our job.”
“Job!” cried Lorena. “What job! You think threatening to kill a little girl is a job!”
“This dumb-dove mirror warmer thinks that’s a little girl, Fenman,” said Latasha.
The older man shook his head, frowned, and then directed that frown at Lorena.
“We can’t kill what’s already dead, miss,” said the older gentleman, this “Fenman.” “What we can do is lay her to rest…Now…step aside so we can do our job and put her down.”
“What are you talking about!” protested Lorena. “You two are crazy!”
Missy stepped into view once more, stepping out from behind Lorena on Lorena’s left, the little girl deliberately putting herself in harm’s way.
“It’s okay, Ms. Kaminski,” said Missy. “These two can’t hurt me. Even if they did manage to do anything, they would only anger Moth—”
The older man of the hostile pair, the one named “Fenman,” shook his silver aspergillum, droplets of the blessed water splashing in an arc straight towards Missy’s pale little face.
The little doll raised her left arm in front of her face as the droplets of holy water struck her in various places.
The effect was immediate, just as immediate as the insult Missy had levied against Latasha.
Missy transformed in an instant. The golden ringlets of her hair turned jet black, and her pale, peach-brushed skin turned a distinct shade of blackish-blue, a washing over of colors unnatural for a human being. She stepped back as she hissed in defiance, comically-large, glistening white fangs dropping down from her gums in an overt, supernatural insanity of transmogrification. Her green eyes glowed even greener with an internal emerald light, and there was nothing on her little face but sheer rage, rage and something else, something wholly evil.
Lorena shook in both surprise and swift horror as she backed away from the little girl…no, not a little girl, something else, something beyond description.
“Old fool!” screeched the monstrous little doll. “How dare you soil me with your god’s foul presence!”
“She’s not melting!” yelled Latasha.
“This one’s old!” cried Fenman. “It’s not like that nest in Monterey! Keep your wits about you!”
Lorena shrieked and backed away toward the front door as Latasha pulled the trigger of her shotgun.
The young woman fired off two rounds, two blasts of pellets that exploded outwards in a deafening roar around the quaint domicile, this little house out in the middle of nowhere.
Unfortunately, both shots missed.
The monstrous little doll that was Missy dodged to the left at blinding speed, dodging to the right after that as Latasha pulled the trigger for the second shot. Not one single pellet struck the little demon, even at point-blank range. No, the first shot tore up a wooden coffee table, shattering a small vase resting upon it, and the second shot blasted into a grandfather clock that rested against the southern wall that separated the living room from the kitchen.
The young woman pulled the trigger for a third shot, but nothing happened.
“Damn!” cursed Latasha. “Gun’s jammed!”
She struggled with the firearm as the older man in the fedora, Fenman, pulled forth a large wooden crucifix from his inner suit jacket.
Considering he’d already pulled forth an aspergillum from that jacket, Lorena figured the man had to have an arsenal hidden in there.
Fenman held up the crucifix, stepped forward, and blazed forth the holy symbol like a blessed shield.
“Back!” commanded the older man. “Back, creature of the night!”
Missy’s normally sweet red lips had turned a nightmare black, and she opened those ebon lines to hiss yet again, baring those huge, unnatural fangs.
Fenman’s crucifix burst into flames, and the older gentleman was forced to toss the holy relic to the floor. He stamped upon it a second later, something sacrilegious in Lorena’s eyes, but a fire was a fire, so immediately putting it out was probably just instinct.
Missy giggled and grinned, her mouth opening wider than it should have possibly been able to open, those overlarge, glistening white fangs a deadly symbol of their own.
“Silly old man,” she replied in her dulcet tones. “That won’t work on me.”
Lorena lost control of her bladder as fear and her previously ignored survival instinct finally took control of her. She had urine running down her right leg as she turned, ran to the front door, and gripped the knob. She turned that knob and pulled hard, but the door was stuck shut, stuck solid, stuck as if glued to the frame.
She could feel the door give a little as she struggled and strained to open it, but there was something gluing it shut, something strong enough in construction to prevent her from budging that wooden gate barring her only current exit.
Her mind had temporarily shut off, but it flipped back on again as she looked toward the windows of the house, only just now realizing that those windows were painted over in black, painted over to keep out the sun’s comforting light.
“But they weren’t that way from the outside!” she rattled off to herself.
She turned and flattened her back against the door as the supernatural battle continued to wage before her.
“This one’s really old!” cried Fenman. “We’ll need to destroy her before we can get to the mother! Get that gun working, Latasha!”
The older gentleman reached into his suit jacket a third time, but this time he pulled forth a long wooden stake from his jacket arsenal, a silver tip on the end of that rudimentary weapon.
“To the flames of Hell with you!” said Fenman.
He stepped forward to end the monstrous little thing, but Missy leapt straight up as the older man attempted to drive the stake through her tiny chest. The little girl crawled across the ceiling after that, only to dive directly down upon Fenman’s shoulders.
The older gentleman’s brown fedora was knocked from his head as the little demon clutched him from behind, her oversized fangs sinking through the stiff fabric of his suit jacket, sinking through his white button up and then into the flesh of his left shoulder.
Fenman cried out as he was bitten, dropping his stake in the process, the silver-tipped weapon rattling across wooden floor.
Missy jumped from his shoulders and back to the ceiling as the older man stiffened, his fingers gnarling as if he were wracked with sudden, agonizing pain.
“Fenman!” cried Latasha.
The older gentleman’s face darkened as his veins blackened, onyx lines weathering outwards across his leathery skin. He fell to his back after that, his body shaking, his limbs locked in a rigid pose.
“My God!” he choked out. “We were wrong! She’s not a…not a…Aaaggh!”
“Fenman!” screeched Latasha again.
The older man’s skin blued over as his breathing slowed down to near nothing, and then his breath petered out altogether, the light in his eyes dying out forever.
Lorena could do nothing but stare in lancing, wide-eyed terror.
The young black woman with the shotgun popped free the jammed cartridge, and then she took aim at the little doll-demon crawling across the ceiling.
Missy hissed once, her green eyes flashing an emerald light, her huge fangs still glistening in the lamplight of the single standing lamp at the west wall.
“I’ll kill you!” shrieked Latasha.
She fired three times, each shot missing as the crawling demon above her skittered from one side of the ceiling to the other, each shot blasting open a large hole in the ceiling plaster, that plaster raining down in small chunks to bounce across the wooden floor.
Latasha pulled the trigger again but was only met with a loud “CLICK!”
Missy dropped down from the ceiling, landing on all fours with an unnatural ease, and then she slowly stood to face her assailant.
“You should have stayed at the bordello,” smiled the little monster. “Now it looks like you’re out of time, whore.”
“You little piece of…!” spat Latasha.
Her face worked inwards with a blazing fury, but then she shook her head and grit her teeth in defiance.
“You’re the one that’s out of time!” she yelled.
The young woman spun and flung her shotgun with all her might. The firearm smashed through the window left of the door, the right window from the outside, and dawn’s light spilled through the shattered black glass, that comforting glow streaming in to spread its warmth across both Latasha and Missy.
The green glow in Missy’s eyes died down as her skin changed back to the pale peach it was supposed to be. Her huge fangs retracted into her gums, and then the little girl held up her right hand to shade her now normal green eyes from the light.
“Don’t you know anything, little fly?” asked the monstrous child. “There are no vampires here…Sunlight can’t harm my kind, though it restrains our abilities to a degree…No, it’s just an inconvenience.”
Latasha stood both speechless and dumbfounded for a second, but then her head jerked upwards toward the ceiling as a loud clacking noise resounded overhead, the ceiling shaking from something large moving above them, bits of plaster dust sprinkling down upon them in a snowy cloud.
“Uh…ooooh,” smiled Missy, her ruby lips pulling back into an insulting smirk. “It appears you have awakened Mother, and she doesn’t take kindly to unwanted visitors tearing up her home. She especially doesn’t like callers of your low class.”
Latasha choked out a shout as thick silken cords, huge strands of webbing, sprayed over her from a hole in the ceiling, those white strands ensnaring her in a biologically-made net, and then she was pulled up to crash through the plaster above her, screaming the entire journey upwards. That screaming was quickly cut short as it was followed by a loud death gurgle, and then there was silence.
Now there was only Lorena, Missy, and the deceased older gentleman on the floor, though upon further thought, Lorena supposed Fenman didn’t count anymore, so it was really only down to herself and the demonic child before her.
Lorena still had her back to the door, so she slid down that door to her bottom to rest herself on the hardwood floor. She was in shock, and she knew it, but her mind was far and away from rationality, because nothing made sense anymore. There was nothing she could do but shake, her psyche locked in sheer terror.
Missy turned, walked into the kitchen, and then walked back out a few seconds later. She had a long silver spoon pinched between the slender fingers of her left hand, and in her right, she held a small glass jar, a jar with a steel and tin lid, that little jar filled with a black, jam-like substance.
“It wouldn’t do to have you disappear, Ms. Kaminski,” said Missy. “No one will miss those hunters, but you actually have eyes on you, and we can’t have more people from the government coming out here, so it just makes sense to let you go…Besides, you put your life on the line for me, and that’s something Mother won’t forget, not ever.”
She walked up to Lorena as Lorena shook in paralyzing, crippling fear. The little monster that was Missy removed the lid from her jar, dipped in the silver spoon, and scooped up a spoonful of the strange black jam within the jar.
“This is Mother’s Mercy,” said Missy. “She makes it herself, but it’s only for the deserving…That’s why you should have it, Ms. Kaminski. I think you’ve earned it.”
Lorena stared in horror at the quivering, trembling blob of black upon the silver spoon. She did not know what this stuff was, and she most certainly did not wish to find out, but it was not like she had a choice in the matter…She did not want to die, especially in whatever terrible ways were present within this house of unmitigated horror.
“Just open up for me…” trailed the little demon as she raised the spoon up to Lorena’s lips.
Lorena reluctantly took the spoon into her mouth, though she did not want to.
The substance that shimmied and shook on her tongue felt alive, and she nearly spit it out, but it was fear that rooted her in place and kept her from any open defiance. That black goo was spicy in flavor, though the texture and the fact that it was moving made it much more difficult to swallow than any burning sensation.
Loran gagged as the substance traveled down her esophagus, but she managed to choke it down anyway.
Missy turned, walked back into the kitchen, and then walked out again without the jar and spoon. She walked back up to Lorena and took Lorena’s left hand into both of her own, though Lorena quavered at her touch.
“Now there’s just one more step,” said the little girl who was not a little girl.
Missy’s oversized fangs dropped down from her gums one more time as she bit into Lorena’s left wrist.
The bite hurt like mad, and a venomous fire raced through Lorena’s blood, temporarily causing her to jerk and shudder uncontrollably as she opened her own mouth in a silent scream of pain, her eyes squeezing shut from the sheer magnitude of that pain.
It occurred to her in stark realization that she could have just escaped through the now shattered window where dawn’s light was streaming in, but sheer terror had prevented her from doing so, from even thinking about such an action.
She was stuck before the monster she so wanted to run from, and that previous mental prison of paralyzing inaction had screwed her over, because now she was physically paralyzed by whatever terrible affliction was currently coursing through her, a bitter, venomous dose of irony that was just now taking root.
But Missy would not just allow Lorena some peace. The little demon continued to talk, and what she said was neither encouraging nor comforting.
“Birth is always painful, Ms. Kaminski,” said the little demon. “But without birth, there can be no life, certainly not for our kind.”
The pain caused Lorena to shake and sweat, a torment beyond words, and this lasted for at least a full thirty seconds, a million years in her mind, but then it was over just as swiftly as it had begun, the agony receding, fading into a foreboding, tremulous calm.
She breathed out a long sigh of relief and then opened her eyes, hoping in some way, somehow, that this whole situation had simply been a bad dream, but this foolish hope was an egregious mockery, because the only image to greet her vision upon the raising of her eyelids was Missy’s wicked profile, the little demon patiently awaiting Lorena’s return to normalcy.
“Come with me now,” said the evil little doll. “Our kind are territorial, but Mother will want to meet you anyway. I believe we shall speak to her before you take your leave.”
This was something Lorena most certainly did not want. As terrible and as monstrous as Missy was, Lorena could not begin to imagine what her mother was like.
But she did not have a choice in the matter.
Missy took Lorena by her uninjured hand and coaxed her to stand, and then the terrible little girl led her toward the stairs, leading Lorena toward a set of wooden steps, ascending steps to the left of the kitchen, white wooden steps that led upwards toward whatever unimaginable horror lurked above.
Lorena was led by the hand up those stairs, and as she took one step after the next, the walls around her began to change, the pristine white wallpaper with green flowers caking over with many years of dust and dirt, the paper peeling as if rapidly decaying by Father Time’s own hand, great strands of webbing forming here and there and everywhere.
Lorena walked into the upstairs, but there was only one room up here, one very large room that spanned the entirety of the second floor, that room filled with webbing, white silken webbing in the corners and the ceiling and strung everywhere else to form a complex maze of walkways and passages.
The only other thing that stood out was the large circular window in the north wall, that window painted over with an ominous black.
There was no light in here, not a mote, not even a glimmer, and it took Lorena a moment to realize that she could still see, viewing her surroundings in black and white like the images of an old T.V. show.
She shuddered deep down, deep, deep down, to her very soul.
Something was wrong with her, very wrong, and she could feel it, sensing it all the way down to that cast in spirit. There was a growing darkness inside her, growing like a swiftly metastasizing cancer, and there was nothing she could do about it. There was also a helplessness inside her born out of fear, but she could not give up…
There had to be a way out of this.
Missy led her through the maze of webs, but there were distinct holes in the wooden floor, holes caused by Latasha’s shotgun blasts. There was one hole that was of a particular avoidance, that one larger than the rest, and above it hung…
Lorena recoiled at the cocooned and very deceased body of Latasha. The young black woman was now nothing more than a withered, desiccated husk, her dark skin stretched in leathery pronunciation over her hanging skeleton, but her eyes were still intact, her dark eyes bulging slightly outwards due to a lack of surrounding supportive tissue.
Lorena’s own horror was interrupted by the dulcet tones of the monstrous doll that was Missy.
“I’m here, Mother,” said the little demon. “I’ve brought up Ms. Kaminski. She’s been very kind to me, I think.”
Lorena’s lips parted in a silent gasp, and she shook in place as the huge black leg of a spider reached forth from an overcoating shock of webbing from the south, that huge arachnid’s leg stretching forth from that silken wall of white, that leg as thick around as one of Missy’s own legs.
The sharp black tip of that huge leg stroked Missy’s pale right cheek.
“Those hunters actually thought we were vampires, Mother,” said Missy with a slight giggle. “They had no idea they were in the lair of a Widow.”
Lorena could hear a shadowy voice stab into her mind, a sibilant whisper so dark, it froze her in place.
“Such foul-tasting undead could never enter here, my child,” came the terrible voice.
“Yes, Mother,” said Missy. “They know better than to come here, I think.”
“Yes,” spoke the dark voice. “You did well with the hunters, my child…and I see you’ve brought me a gift as well.”
“This one was willing to give her life for me,” smiled Missy. “She’s from Child Welfare, and she tried to protect me from the hunters, so I gave her your blessing.”
“Then she may leave,” said the shadowy voice. “She may go and use her influence to hide us. She must leave, for she will soon know the hunger that binds our kind.”
Missy turned and smiled at Lorena, and it was then that the full knowledge of what had happened crashed into Lorena’s psyche, an explosion of cosmic proportions, a horror so profound that there was no comfort, no light for any future salvation.
She was one of them now.
Lorena could feel the evil inside herself, germinating within herself, a darkness so terribly overpowering that she had no internal dialogue to describe it.
But there had to be something she could do…
She turned to catch the grisly image of the withered corpse that had once been Latasha. If this woman had been anything like her older male counterpart, then perhaps…
There was something Lorena could do, but it could only work depending upon Missy’s reaction to it, and only if the little horror reacted in the same way a second time…Even then, Latasha’s corpse still had to have the item in question.
Lorena reached into the webbing cocoon that surrounded Latasha, burrowing into the thick, sticky strands, her hands immune to that sticky glue now, immune due to the evil already changing her from within. She reached inside the cocoon in order to reach into the blue jean jacket the woman had worn, and it took her less than three seconds to find what she was looking for.
She pulled forth the desired object in desperate triumph, though doing what she was about to do would probably mean the end of her, but at this point, ending herself was far more desirable than whatever terrible fate was in store for her…She did not want to live as one of whatever it was Missy and her mother were.
She spun and held up the large wooden crucifix the deceased hunter had been carrying in the recesses of that innocuous jean jacket. The wooden holy symbol inflicted a slight burning sensation within the palm of Lorena’s right hand, further cementing the fact that she was now infected by the Widow’s evil, a supernatural evil too horrible to ever live with.
“Back, both of you!” she screeched, and then the real madness began.
Missy’s insufferably cute face warped and changed yet again, warping back into that monstrous, dark figure with flashing green eyes, blue-blackened skin, and oversized fangs.
The little girl hissed once in automatic defiance, and then Lorena’s newly acquired crucifix burst into flames.
This, of course, was exactly what Lorena had wanted.
“NO!” came a mental shout that speared straight through Lorena’s mind.
The ringing of this mental assault did not stay the conviction Lorena felt surging through her. Her insanely-desperate plan had worked, and Missy’s horrific mother could not change one iota of what Lorena was about to do.
Lorena tossed the flaming crucifix at Missy’s feet, and the little demon-doll’s antiquated red dress lit aflame at the hem, those flames spreading upwards without mercy.
Missy screamed and darted out of panic through the morass of webbing around her, and then that silken deathtrap went up as well, quickly blazing across lines of spread strands that encompassed the entirety of the upstairs floor.
The heat around Lorena was so intense that she panicked as well. She could not contain her own reaction, and that reaction was to run, a survival instinct that had been implanted within human beings since their inception, and part of her was still human, a part that was still unwilling to just up and die.
She turned and ran toward the dark circular window embedded in the north wall, that window that had been painted over in black, and she pushed past thick webbing with ease, that webbing that would have prevented her from moving before she had been inflicted with this terrible curse.
She hit the window at full speed, shoulder first, and then she was through it, crashing through the panes to momentarily fly through shattered glass flung about her in gleaming, slicing bits.
She hit the bare dirt seconds later, falling straight down from the second floor, and she hit that dirt feetfirst and rolled over her left shoulder as if by cosmic instinct, something she could have never done mere minutes ago.
Her high heels popped off her feet, the straps snapping from the rigorous strain of weird acrobatics, and Lorena was up and immediately running in nothing flat.
She was in her car after that, jamming the key in the ignition, her quivering right hand desperately turning that key to get the car started. Her station wagon roared to life as she pushed in the clutch, and then she automatically shifted into reverse, though her attention was still on the house before her.
She could see the dilapidated, run-down two-story in flames, that house covered in blazing webbing, just a ball of fiery silk surrounding that den of evil, and she knew right then that this was the building’s true form. The bewitching spell that had made this house look warm and inviting had finally been broken, the deadly illusion dispersed.
She winced at the screaming in her mind, even as she pushed in on the clutch and roared her station wagon backwards, doing a half-donut to turn the car around, only to throw the stick into drive, and she did drive, jamming the pedal to the floor, the screaming in her head dying away to nothing as she put distance and the blazing ball of webbing and wood behind her.
“That’s right,” said Lorena into the speaker of her phone. “I’m quitting, effective immediately…No, I already know that…No, I…I’ve been diagnosed with an incurable illness…Yes, it’s progressive…There’s nothing I can do…I’m going to move and…and enjoy what little time I have left…
“No, you don’t have to worry about the Missy De Veuve case. Mrs. De Veuve and Missy moved away to France years ago when Missy was only two. This whole case was some kind of oversight by the State…
“Yes, I did go out to the house. There’s nothing but a burnt-out hollow where the house used to stand. In fact, I did a little digging, and I found an old article on microfilm. The house burned down five years ago, right after the De Veuves moved away…It was a lightning strike, I believe. Shame too. That house was only on the market for two months after the De Veuve’s departure…Well, that’s a closed case, so that’s all there is to that.
“No, thank you, Mr. Stanford…No, that’s okay…Yes, please tell everyone I’ll miss them…No, I’ll be all right. I’m cashing out my bank account, and…and I’ll get by somehow…No, it will be all right; I’ll be all right…Thank you, Mr. Stanford…Yes, I’m sorry, too…Yes, goodbye. I’ll call you if I need to settle anything else…Thank you again. Goodbye.”
She hung up after that, placing the large white receiver of her phone back onto its base.
“So much for that,” she muttered.
She walked out of her kitchen and into the bathroom, sighing as she studied her surroundings. Her house was simply too small anymore, but she was selling it anyway. She was going to go cheap but bigger, maybe buy something run down in a remote location…It was really the only option.
But none of that mattered right now. No, she had a persistent problem following her around, and it was high time that she addressed it.
Lorena flipped on the light in the bathroom and stared into the mirror. In the reflective glass was her own image, but behind that and to her right was Missy’s image, the little girl’s horribly burned and bleeding face staring back at her, her little bald head missing its golden locks, her little body’s bare skin devoid of any cloth, her antiquated clothing replaced by charred, flame-ravaged flesh.
“I see you’ve been busy, Ms. Kaminski,” came the girl’s disembodied voice, that southern voice still a haunting lull that made Lorena wince.
“Unfortunately,” replied Lorena. “What is it you want, Missy?”
“Oh, so you’re no longer pretending you can’t see me?” asked the ghoulish figure in the mirror.
“Why bother?” asked Lorena. “You’re there every time I turn around.”
“And I always shall be,” smiled Missy, flecks of black crumbling from what was left of her thin lips.
“I’ll ask you again,” frowned Lorena. “What is it you want?…You must want something, or you wouldn’t be in my face every time I turn around.”
“Our kind will always see the restless damned, Ms. Kaminski,” said Missy. “That has been our fate ever since we first came to be.”
“What is it you want, Missy?” repeated Lorena, her voice lowering an octave. “I’m not going to ask again. I’m getting very tired of your intrusive presence.”
“I only stopped by to ask a question,” said the charred little girl.
“And what’s that?” asked Lorena unhappily.
“Where is your beau, Ms. Kaminski?” smiled Missy. “Where is that handsome fellow named Robert that you’ve been seeing? He came by last night, didn’t he?…He paid a visit, but he never left here, to my understanding…He is indeed such a handsome fellow, too. He’s quite a tall drink of water, as Mother would say.”
Lorena sucked in her breath as she squeezed her dark eyes shut. She opened them after a second of shaking anger, but this time her eyes were a verdant green, a flashing green that glowed with an internal, emerald light for a few seconds.
“Oh, temper, temper, Ms. Kaminski,” smirked Missy as she wagged one charred, bleeding, and blackened finger. “You have no power over me anymore…
“Besides, this is all your fault anyway. Mother gave you a gift, and you tried to reject it, but that’s not how this works. You’re one of us now, and you ever shall be…
“Oh, but there’s more to your crime, I think. Our kind may be different than mortal men, but I was still a child, and you murdered me. You murdered one of your own, and a child at that. Now you have to live with the consequences of your actions. Now you have to live with what you’ve done.”
This hit Lorena in the heart, a deliberate emotional attack she had not been prepared for. It quelled her anger, quelling her rage in spite of the caustic goading of the burnt child in the mirror. She had always considered herself a protector of children, and she still wanted to be one, even if that was no longer possible, and what had ultimately happened to Missy ate at her, ate at her like nothing else.
“I never wanted you to suffer,” grimaced Lorena. “I really didn’t…And I am so sorry this happened to you, Missy, I really am…I’ve always dedicated my life to helping children, so this really does hurt me…I really am sorry. No child should have to suffer through what happened to you.”
“Touching sentiment aside, you started that fire, Ms. Kaminski,” reminded Missy.
“Oh, I wasn’t talking about the fire,” said Lorena with a shake of her head.
“Oh, you weren’t?” asked Missy. “Are you referring to our kind?…I wasn’t the recipient of a gift like you, Ms. Kaminski. I was born this way, so your sentiment, though touching, is severely misplaced…
“You were nothing but a spawn anyway, not a pureblood. You were supposed to gather power over time, but ever since you killed Mother, it looks like you’ve just up and taken her place…I didn’t even know that was possible…
“Now you’re a full Widow, and you shall forever be Arachne’s legacy. You’re not a half-breed anymore. Now you can make a full change, and you may find being a full Widow preferable to being human…Mother did…She rarely walked around in a human shape…but I digress…
“I suppose I shall make my point, and my point is very clear, Ms. Kaminski…You have a whole new world before you, and all the rules have changed in your life, so I hope the disaffection that has curtailed your emotions is stoic in its conviction, because you’ll be seeing many more bodies than just mine from now on.”
Lorena squeezed her eyes shut and muttered an ugly curse. Missy had a way of pushing all of her buttons at once.
She opened her eyes and gave the very crispy little demon the staredown.
“I don’t need a naked, barbecued little girl in my mirror to tell me that,” she scowled.
She reached over and flung open her bathtub’s green shower curtain.
Within the tub was the webbed, withered, and desiccated corpse of Robert, Lorena’s now former boyfriend, the man’s mouth permanently wide in a silent scream, his brown eyes bulging slightly from their sockets, a single fly upon the right eye, the insect’s ubiquitous presence more of a reminder of what Lorena had become than Missy’s warning and Robert’s corpse could ever be.
BONUS STORY: BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL
Jerry made sure the knots around the babysitter’s wrists were nice and tight. He had her sitting on the brown-and-white-trim tiles of the kitchen floor, somewhere in the house where he could gain access to a butcher knife, and now he had possession of that large knife, so that little problem was out of the way.
He held his knife against the babysitter’s exposed throat, and her breathing picked up, but he didn’t care. This young woman, a slightly-chubby brunette in her early twenties, wouldn’t be giving him any trouble. It was the brat in the corner who was setting his teeth on edge, because she just wouldn’t shut up.
The little girl in the corner was probably seven or eight, but she had pale skin and jet-black hair, and her little black dress wasn’t doing her any favors in the “making friends department,” either. He had thought about taping her mouth shut, but in the eight robberies he’d already made, he hadn’t even so much as bruised anyone, so he did not feel the need to do anything untoward to this child, creepy as she was.
“I told you to stop talking, little girl,” he warned again. “Do you want me to slit her throat? I’ll kill her and then kill you. Got it?…You’re stepping on my last nerve.”
But this little girl would not budge an inch. She did not even show any fear.
“You won’t hurt her,” said the little brat. “You can’t hurt her. I already know that.”
“Please…” begged the babysitter within his grasp.
“Shut up,” said Jerry in a cold voice. “I didn’t give anyone permission to speak.”
“We don’t need your permission,” said the creepy little girl. “The People Beyond the Fourth Wall can see what you’re doing, and they already know what’s going to happen, and even if they don’t, they’ll know soon enough, and I know too, because this story never changes.
“You can’t hurt us, and you’re going to get caught, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re going to be unconscious until the police get here, and that’s that.”
“That’s it,” grunted Jerry. “You’re done, little one. I’m taping your mouth shut.”
Jerry stood with the roll of duct tape in his hand, but in his haste, he dropped the roll of tape, and naturally, it went rolling across the kitchen tiles with all expediency. He bent over and moved forward to snatch it up, but as he did, he forgot about the kitchen counter in front of him, and he immediately banged his head upon the hardtop.
He swore as he stood and turned while holding his forehead in his right hand, but the roll of tape behind him bounced off the kitchen-counter hem, and he stepped upon it, sealing his fate. He slipped upon the roll and fell backwards, the back of his head bounced off the kitchen countertop, and he blacked out before he’d even hit the floor, hitting that tiled floor with a loud thud.
“How…How did you know that, Brittney?” asked the babysitter.
The little girl in black gave the young woman a strange and knowing smile.
“I’ve already read this story,” said Brittney, “and I already knew the ending.”
Missy Copyright © 2023 bloodytwine.com Matthew L. Marlott
Breaking the Fourth Wall Copyright © 2020 100 More Tall Tales Matthew L. Marlott
Breaking the Fourth Wall Copyright © 2023 bloodytwine.com Matthew L. Marlott