Halloween Spirit

Continuing the challenge from writers’ group to write a spooky Halloween flash fiction (under 1,000 words) story.  I couldn’t leave Christopher M. Palmer to have all the fun ^_^

-Jessica Donegan

from openclipart.org by j4p4n

It’s too early to feel the chill in the air or to see the leaves burn, but the cloaked figures know it’s the perfect time to prepare. As the grain rolls into the full harvest and man rests in his power, they pick the perfect location: an abandoned lot. Was it once a Circuit City? No one remembers, technology’s wheel spins far faster than the natural turn of time.

 

Vague chalk markings and a quick chant bless the hollowed building. This is the chosen vessel. Common elements like graveyard dirt, salt, and water charge the structure.  A shadow of intention settles.

 

Weeks pass, mundane as all those before them. Do more crows rest in the lot? Who can say?  Even if the sky shadows with dark wings, what does it matter? Anything is better than those fat pigeons with dull eyes. Perhaps rust colored markings grow in the parking lot, but isn’t that part of the lot’s decay? If the strange shapes look like markings, they must be a construction crew’s notes. Wouldn’t it be nice if the city did something with this eyesore before the building collapses in on itself and becomes dangerous to the locals? The strange script must mean revitalization.  

 

Days grow darker. Mid September arrives unnoticed by the masses. The back-to-school frenzy distracts, and then it’s a matter of settling into their new normal. Familiar change pulls everyone toward the quiet peace that settles in most homes until Thanksgiving. If anyone watched the shadows grow in the old lot, they’ve forgotten it in their rush.  Those contractors never acted on the strange red scrawled notes. No demolition or construction came to fruition. The effort stalled. Are they tied up with the inspectors?

 

It’s a shame we won’t see the new building before Christmas. Who was hoping for a custom sporting goods store or a boutique that showcased their style or a toy store for the kids? All pointless pondering: it will not happen in time for Christmas this year.  

 

The cloaks smile, in growing twilight. Crows cawing drown out the chink as they cut chained doors. They slip inside the building. Cobwebs scrawl their own spells across the rafters. Rats scurry, but they’ve already feasted on poisoned bait. No point to bring in hunters when time will do the work.

 

They bring the salt and water from before, reinforcing the foundation, but it’s time to add spirit to their intent. Passion, movement. Sage smudges burn in each of their hands. The cobwebs shrivel in the heat and the coven laughs. The chanting rises, relentless. Fluid movements of the group become harsh choppy waves. They part and flood the old shopping aisles. Blood runs free as the group scratches and scrambles for those last moments of life. Sacrifice is necessary, they will die, but not alone. The building fills with endings. First the failure of some long defunct chain, and now the organic viscera of blood. Sage ashes float across the floor like restless dust bunnies. Energy builds boiling: the wicker man will rise.  

 

Bright banners adorn the re-purposed building. Orange as the dying sun and the dark smoke of the reaper rise in the public’s perceptions. Smiles of the young at heart curve across the mass’ faces as they drive by a once abandoned lot. Frowns fill frumpy prudish faces.  

 

A Halloween store,” they think, “it’s the fleeting fancy we needed.”

 

And Halloween Spirit reaches out to embrace the masses. A waving ghoul extends its arms by the entry. Tall air blown dragons hold fire in their eyes as their wings flap with impressive mechanizations. Ghouls drag plastic carcasses across the floor, startling inattentive adults and terrifying little children. Movie characters of the moment peel manic, terrifying laughter. It leaves no pop culture reference of the moment unmined. A spectacle of capitalism as much as love of the holiday.

 

Pimpled disinterested teens staff registers. When they aren’t too busy watching their phones, they make jokes at the expense of their clients. Don’t these people know Halloween isn‘t for sale? It’s a time of pranks, mayhem, and fear. A $90 costume won‘t make the experience. Fools, all the casual shoppers.  

 

But they invoke the Spirit and it sits with an arcane sentience. Watching its patrons and worshipers alike. Disguised as a common retail front, it plants seeds in all is customers.  

 

As the moon rises luminous and night takes hold, the cloaks gather one last time. Fire cleanses their summoning as they wail and dance. Tearing clothes, pulling hair, and shredding skin. The end arrives and they embrace the darkness as the embers burn out. Autumn is a natural conclusion, like old age.  Their Elder God demands humanity pay its price each year.

 

The uninformed populace laughs and goes door-to-door gathering treats.  Older revelers pose at the bar in full Hallow’s Eve regalia. For some unfortunate few, those who fell to the siren’s call of a certain store front, their soul will be stolen away tonight. Smile wide and drink deep from life because in the twilight sits every man’s end. Death, like Damocles’ sword dangles.  In this end, those few costumed in an unknown deadly contract will see the truest face of All Hallows Eve.




 

The Ghost Strikes At Midnight

At one of the recent writer’s group meetings, we decided that everyone should write a flash-fiction length (under 1,000 words), scary story for the month of October. Here is mine.

-Christopher M. Palmer

Every Halloween, the neighborhood tradition was for the older kids to stay out after dark to play “The Ghost Strikes at Midnight,” a version of hide and seek. Abigail Richmond wanted to play every year, but her parents arranged for her older sister to bring her home after trick-or-treating, saying she wasn’t old enough to stay out and play in the dark with the other kids. This year, she was seven and Halloween was on a Friday, not a school night, and her dad convinced her mom that it would fine as long as she didn’t get scared.

Abigail wasn’t scared of anything. She was the first to volunteer in class, she loved to perform, she wasn’t even afraid of the dark or of scary movies and TV shows, not that she’d seen that many of them—her parents were rather strict with her TV viewing. Her sister, Penny, and her friend, Renee, had teased her all week about how scary it was to play in the dark. “You’ll get so scared, you’ll be the first one the ghost finds because you’ll be peeing your pants and running home to mommy,” Renee told her.

“You’ll see,” was Abigail’s response.

She had already picked out her first hiding spot: behind the loose latticework under the porch of the deserted, dilapidated, and spooky-as-all-get-out Lindholm house. She’d spied it out after school three days before, first checking that no one was watching her approach the house. They had been warned to stay away from it, but also she didn’t want anyone to find her hiding place. She thought it might be be dirty and icky under the porch, but the soil was dry and packed down hard. There were a just few beer cans and cigarette butts, and a couple of cobwebs she swept away with her hand. She wasn’t afraid of spiders, either, she just didn’t want them in her hair. She was sure that no one would think to look under the Lindholm house’s porch, since many of the kids said the house was haunted and dared each other to enter the yard to touch the side of it.

She hoped she didn’t get picked to be the ghost, because hunting was not as much fun as hiding, but since she was the youngest, she doubted that would happen. Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe seemed random enough, but kids always threw in a few extra phrases if they didn’t want to pick someone.

Abigail was so excited to be playing with the big kids, trick-or-treating was almost perfunctorily rushed through. She only wanted to hit the few houses that gave out the best candy every year and, by the time the sun fully set, she was ready to drop her plastic pumpkin full of candy off at the house and ditch her plastic dinosaur mask — she was not happy with her store-bought costume this year, but it didn’t really matter, the green dinosaur suit would be hard to see in the dark. She grabbed a couple of candy bars and ran out the door and up to Caleb’s house, where all the kids would be meeting.

“Who’s the baby?” Caleb asked, knowing good and well who she was.

“Shut up, Caleb,” Abigail retorted. He just laughed.

They finally started the game at eight thirty. It was a perfect Halloween night, crisp as a tart apple, with a light wind stirring the fallen leaves. As Abigail suspected, when she was about to be picked as the ghost, Caleb threw in another “old dirty dishrag” and the clenched fist bumped on Penny to be the first ghost. The game was about to start!

Her sister wasted no time in starting the count. She yelled, “It’s noon!” Then quieter, and in a spooky voice, she said, “The ghost strikes at midnight.”

The kids scattered, most of them had already figured out where to hide. Abigail ran behind a row of bushes to get out sight quickly. The limits were Oak Street to one side and Chestnut Street to the other. Anywhere on the two cross avenues, Morgan and Cameron, was fair game. With such a large area, Penny played fair and counted slowly. Abigail was on the backside of the house next door before she heard, “It’s one o’clock!” followed by the fainter promise of the striking of the ghost.

Abigail wanted to win so badly, she didn’t want anyone to see where she hid. She waited in the bushes until Zach and Jess passed by. She saw Ashley hide behind the shrubs beside the Johnson’s back shed. She wouldn’t be able to see the Lindholm house from there. The coast was clear and it was already seven pm according to Penny’s chant. Abigail ran into the shadowy yard of the Lindholm house, pulled the latticework skirting aside, and slid into the darkness under the porch, pulling the lattice back in place. Safe and hidden and no one saw her.

Faintly, she heard the last count, “It’s MIDNIGHT! THE GHOST STRIKES AT MIDNIGHT!” Penny yelled. Abigail giggled to herself, certain that she would impress everyone with her bravery and her skill at hiding.

Penny found Lionel right away. He had a crush on Penny and probably wanted to be found. He tagged along as the Penny the Ghost searched for the rest of the neighborhood kids.

Next was Patrick and then one by one, they all fell to the searching of the ghost and her minions. Penny looked anxious the one or two times she’d passed in front of the Lindholm house. Abigail had to be nearly the last one left and she smiled thinking that Penny was actually worried about her.

“I’m going to win,” she said to herself in a soft voice.

“Yes, you are.” A damp, gritty hand closed around the lower half of her face. “No one is ever going to find you.”

Murder, Love, & Romance

North Alabama’s Writer’s Group

Writing Round Robin Exercise

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Murder, Love, & Romance

By Christopher M. Palmer, Jessica Donegan, Zach Stanfield, and Patrick O’Kelley

Beatrice Lochley pulled her robe tightly across her sleeping gown. It was morning at Kimberley Manor and the warm sun was streaming through the bedroom window. She walked to the balcony, overlooking the rolling green grounds. Her grandfather’s Greek temple folly on the hill framed the morning sun like a druidic henge, casting long shadows over the gravel drive. The gardeners were busy in the flower beds, trimming dead blooms and weeds. Soon it would be time for breakfast. She listens to the maids making their way through the halls, but they knew from prior unpleasant surprises not to disturb her. She returned to the room, careful to avoid looking at the canopied bed. There was a little wine left in the carafe on the nightstand and she poured it into a crystal glass and downed it with a grimace.

The washbasin would be cold until they brought it warmed water, but it would have to do. Cold water worked best for bloodstains, or so she’d heard. She removed the robe, not looking down at the bloodstained gown underneath. She dropped it as well and washed. Blood coated her hands and chest and throat, but a few drops had made it onto her face.  When Beatrice finished cleaning the worst areas, she wadded up the bloody towel, gown, and the stained robe and shoved them under the bed.

As she leaned against the bed, Harry’s cold hand fell outside the curtain.  Beatrice shuddered and grasped it, moving the husk from sight again. She had loved him, once, but now she felt numb of all feelings. No love. No guilt. No fear of what would happen to her now although she had no idea how this would play out.

After a moment’s reflection, she retrieved the bloody clothes and dressed in them again, then reached through the curtains to where his bloodied body was hidden and smeared herself with blood. One quick look around the room and she crossed to the door, opened it, screamed at the top of her lungs, and collapsed sobbing.

Maids rushed from both left and right sides of the hall.  A pitcher of fresh warm water shattered, forgotten on the marbled floors.  Beatrice smells heavy herbal tea and greasy bacon.  It mixed with Henry’s dry clotted blood in strange and stomach turning ways.  

The first maid, Anges, knelt beside Beatrice and tentatively reached out her warm arm.  Beatrice leaned into the warmth, shaking and crying.  She was enjoying the body heat even if she didn’t otherwise appreciate the liberties Beatrice took to make contact.  Nothing this morning, or most of the past evening had been warm.  From blood damp bed sheets to her small attempts to wash.  Chill surrounded her and radiated from a once loving heart.  

“Help,” Beatrice pleads, a detached part of her is proud at how many tears she’s produced and how much her voice quavers.  There was a reason Henry had always indulged her whims, and it wasn’t because he’d suspected the end he’d meet if he denied her.

 Anges shushes her and pulls her closer.  She’s spent around fifteen years in service to Beatrice’s family.  She knows what her concerns need to be if she plans to stay employed.  

“What are you all gaping at!” Anges demands.  “You call the authorities, there’s been a catastrophe.  Dalia and Andrew, clean this mess you’ve all made, and Grason, prepare the spare bedroom at once!  Draw a bath for Miss Lochly.  She’ll need to wash and some strong tea,” Anges proclaims.  

Strong sure hands grip Beatrice now.  They help steady her as she rises.  Beatrice wants to tilt her head like a curious kitten.  Who would have dreamed Agnes could be so strong and sure of herself?  A woman of her late sixties, she’s demure and quiet.  Always lingering around the edges of Beatrice’s life.  Taking empty dishes, cleaning dirty rugs, stoking fires.  Anges is useful, but never worth a second thought.  Now, comparing her firm certain grip to the tepid last struggles of Henry, she wonders what attracted her to that man.  That a servant woman commands such presence when Henry barely made his last moments memorable. Henry gave up long before Beatrice struck her killing blow, accepting his death the same way he accepted an unsightly gift.  It was good she’d ended his misery.  Maybe with Henry gone and this unsightly murder behind her, Beatrice would return some sense of control to her life.  She’d no longer have to entreat anyone to fund her hobbies or clothes.  The manor and all its funds would be hers.  An unforeseen gift.

Anges led Beatrice to the far side of the manor.  A rarely aired out section the family only uses for holiday visitors.  Beatrice hiccups and wrinkles her nose at the old dust and imagined mold.   She takes a few shuddering breaths.  Sobbing lost its charm almost as soon as she took it up.  Swollen tired eyes isn’t a look someone of her station should try.   Beatrice’s throat is hot and itchy from the screams.  Her body is tight with the tension caused from the pantomimed trembling.  It’s all so tedious.  

“Please,” Beatrice whispers.  

“Hush now Miss, we’re almost there.  Soon you can rest your bones in a nice warm bath.  And I’ll bring hot tea with lemon and honey, for your throat.  Your mother alway did warn you against such hysterics,” Agnes chides.

Captain Jonah Batson arrived just as Beatrice dropped her wet towel to put her evening clothes on. The thrill and the shock of her murderous action is wearing off and softer tender emotions are taking over.  Beatrice’s hands tremble, and she wonders, what’s next. Agnes knocks at the door of the guest bedroom, and Beatrice jumps.  Her nerves can’t take all this uncertainty.

“Miss Beatrice, Capt. Batson is here. He would like to have a word with you.”

“Just a minute.”

Beatrice finished dressing, relaxed her breathing, and reached the door just as another knock came. The door opened.

“Excuse me, miss. Sorry for the intrusion but we must be getting on with this case.”

“No, no. I understand. I’m sorry. I am still a tad bit shaken as you might imagine. Henry and I have been together for a good number of years and this is a complete shock to me.”

“Oh, believe me Miss Lochley, I understand. But if we may, I’d like to ask you a few questions before I visit the scene.”

“You haven’t been to the room yet?”

“No ma’am. Based on my previous experiences, I like to get a first hand account of the situation from the witnesses if there are any. So what can you tell me about the events of last night and this morning?”

Beatrice hesitated. She had thought she would have more time.  Her story was foolproof but her performance might be the deal breaker.

“Alright. Last night was like any normal night. Nothing extraordinary happened. However, around midnight I…”

A scream pierces the air, interrupting Beatrice’s stilted performance.  Batson tears out of the room leaving Beatrice behind. Another scream. Beatrice rises and begins to follow Batson.  What now?  Had one of the servants stumbled in on Henry’s body?  No, they would know to avoid that room.  Beatrice’s nerves feel raw and tender.  She’s doesn’t have the endurance for so much intrigue.

Batson arrives to the master bedroom where the body still lies. At the window, Agnes stares down to the courtyard below, pointing down and sobbing. Batson rushes to meet her gaze.

“Now Ma’am, there’s no reason to be so close to the open window, please come inside,” he coaxes, approaching her as a well meaning man may head towards a wounded deer.  Beatrice stands transfixed in the doorway.  Why did Anges venture to this room ahead of the Constable’s investigation?

Anges shakes her head, loosing a sob.  She looks past Batson to Beatrice, and as their eyes meet, Beatrice is certain she knows exactly how Henry’s bloody corpse came to lounge in the master bed.  But she doesn’t have any time to react because Anges turns and dives toward the walkway below.

Agnes prostate body caressed the stone. Blood dribbled down the crease of her mouth and into the lawn. Captain Batson peered up to the second floor and back at Ms. Agnes.

“Constable.”

“Yes, Captain?”

“Gather up the rest of members of the estate until further notice.”

“Yes, sir.”

Moments later, Captain Batson circles the body. He rolls her upward to face the sky and delicately shuts her eyes. A refraction of light showed from her hands. She clutched a locket, its chain winds around her wrist. Batson unclasped the piece. Inside were two adolescent photos of Henry. He was dressed down in light slacks and shirt. He affected no smile and stared ahead. Batson clasped it shut and returned to Beatrice.

She wept in the parlor. A few others stood by around tending to her sobs, trying to placate the tender spasms of air she sucked in. Batson dismissed the others and faced her.

“How long was Ms. Agnes attendant to Henry?”

Beatrice dabbed at the tears.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

Want more?

Christopher M. Palmer’s Ending

Jessica Donegan’s Ending

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Love, Murder, & Romance~ Patrick O’Kelley’s Ending

Part 1 of “Murder, Love, & Romance”

 

“Oh, only God knows that. She was already in his service when we wed. I onced asked her about where she came from but Henry shushed me before she could speak.” The cold, dead hearth behind Batson sparked a ember flame. He didn’t care to notice.

“I see… Well, I am doubtful she took her own life out of grief for killing him. She must’ve leapt to her death from a broken heart. Still, this begs the question…. how did he die? Who killed him?”

“Heavens, I wouldn’t know. I woke up and he was… he.. he…” she broke out into a sob and blew her nose with her handkerchief. The fireplace burped another large flare, this time gathering the attention of Batson.

“What the hell?” The flame burst into a stout raging fire, not able to be contained by that mere fireplace. Batson backed away, grabbing Beatrice by the arm, pulling her with him. The fire spilled out into the parlor room, chasing them into the corner. Fearing the worst, Batson broke open a nearby window pane and was about jump out with Beatrice in his arms. The flames however, hadn’t had their way with him just yet.

The fire wrapped around his ankle like an octopus from the sea. He fell down to the floor screaming for help. Beatrice stood in front of the broken window long enough to see his body get swallowed up completely.

 

By the time she had jumped to the garden below and made her way to the forest just to the edge of the property, the entirety of Kimberly Manor had sunk into the ground. The Earth was continuing to eat up the stone and marble when Beatrice gave it one final glance.

“Thank you, Henry. You were the best supernatural being I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.”

The ground belched in appreciation. Henry had been returned to his true form by the act of the breaking spell: murder by one’s true love

End

 

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To read other endings for this work check our Christopher M. Palmer’s Ending or Jessica Donegan’s Ending

Love, Murder, & Romance~ Christopher M. Palmer’s Ending

Part 1

 

She managed to collect herself enough to answer. “Three or four years.”

“Well, it doesn’t seem that we have much of a mystery here. She was obviously involved with him for some time and it appears he was killed in a jealous rage.” Batson was a local and he seemed to know which side his bread was buttered on. “There will be an inquest, of course, but, the way I see it, the facts are rather cut and dried.”

Beatrice dared hope that he was playing along. Surely he couldn’t be so dim as to believe that was all there was to it. She resumed dabbing her tear-filled eyes, but her sobbing subsided. “I can’t believe it. She always was his favorite and I’ve never had reason to suspect anything untoward going on between them.”

“Yes, well. I’m sorry for your loss, Lady Beatrice. I will take my leave to deal with the county authorities and you will have your obligations to handle as well. I’m truly sorry for your loss.” He rose to go.

Beatrice took his hand, but didn’t dare look him in the eye, yet. “Thank you, Constable. It’s going to be hard, but I’m heartened to hear that the family won’t be dragged through the mud with this.”

“As you say, Lady Beatrice.”

Batson really was a handsome man. Perhaps after a suitable period of mourning, she would have him over for tea.

 

End

 

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Want more? See Patrick O’Kelley’s Ending or Jessica Donegan’s Ending

Love, Murder, & Romance~ Jessica Donegan’s Ending

Part 1

 

“Ms. Anges tends to those new to the manor.  She administered me as a child, but her allegiance transferred to Henry when he came to live here some years ago,” Beatrice swipes at her tears.  Batson offers her a handkerchief.  She nods her thanks and  cleans her face.  Murder and Suicide, such a messy business.  Beatrice must strive to avoid it.  

Batson considers Beatrice.  The whole affair is highly unusual.  There hasn’t been a murder in one of the large manor houses in many generations.  Such atrocities are left to the lower end streets.  Everything about this place seems a little off, but some things are clear.  The murder was an impetuous  act of emotion.  Anger, passion, lust, Batson has seen them all.  It would be convenient if he could wrap both deaths up and return to his usual more comfortable beat.  But something about that solution seemed too simple.  

“Did Sir Lochley have any enemies?” Batson asks, working on a hunch.

“Henry was always a kind, bright man.  He carried a compliment on his lips for everyone he met.  And he’s retired from any business dealings years ago,” Beatrice adds.  

Batson nods but his face drops.

“Thank you Miss Lochley, I believe I can proceed from here on my own,” Batson says.  

“So soon?  Of course Captain, please let me know if there’s anything I offer you to help,” Beatrice murmurs, eyes downcast.  Her lip twitches but she wills the errant smile to stay clean off her face.  

Batson takes her hand, it’s forward, but he’s compelled to reassure her.  

“We will find who did this to Sir Lochley and we will bring them to justice,” he swears.  

Beatrice nods and allows a single tear to roll down her cheek.  

“I have complete confidence in your ability Captain.”

Batson shifts under her gaze.  He wishes he had the same belief.  At least the serving woman’s suicide gives him a culprit to pin it on, if all else fails.  He should interview the rest of the staff, ensure Miss Beatrice’s safety first.  That she’s still alive and unharmed suggests the killer had no ill intent towards her, a jilted lover perhaps?  But no, people of this station don’t commit crimes of this magnitude over base emotions like jealousy and they have no need of money.  It will be a baffling case.  

“You should eat and get rest Miss Lochley, recuperate your strength,” Batson encourages.  

“Thank you Captain, but I fear I can’t rest right now.  Perhaps a walk in the garden to calm my nerves if you think it’s safe?”

“Madam, we’d have left immediately if there was any indication of danger.”  

Beatrice dips into a small curtsey.  She leaves the gore behind and walks into the rising dawn light.  Her mind wanders over the past day, replaying her kill and all the events since.

Before long, Beatrice is at the decorative Greek temple.  She stares at the lamps on either side.  Grandfather, spared no expense when he commissioned it.  Footfalls echo across the marble entryway.  She walks to the inner sanctum and kneels before a statue of Hera.  

An odd choice, Beatrice thought.  Of all the gods, Grandfather could choose, Hera seems underwhelming.  A Goddess often proclaimed powerful but rarely seen in action.  And what good did her strength ever do her?  She, like all the rest, submits to Zeus’ might.  

Warm mass presses against Beatrice’s hands, arms, shoulders, and head.  If forced to describe, Beatrice would claim it was like a person wrapping themselves around her and making her support their weight.  But Beatrice is alone and instead of the force pressing externally, this pressure comes from within rising out of her.  The strangeness passes into a kind of terror, it’s like her soul is leaving her body.  She wants to run but an external force is heavy on her brain, willing her remaining kneeling.  Beatrice’s body trembles with exertion.  

“Just wait, it will be over in a moment little one,” a feminine voice echoes.  

Beatrice believes it’s meant to be comforting, but the whole process is too unsettling such a simple salve.  What’s worse, why are these sensations almost familiar?  Like a mirror reverse of something that happened weeks ago.  Beatrice struggles to pull the thought closer, but it’s not forthcoming.

“There, that’s better isn’t it,” the voice soothes.  

She’s right.  The warm weight retreats and Beatrice is on her own.  She collapses before Hera’s statue, a trembling mass.  But for all her bodily troubles, Beatrice’s mind is clear for the first time in months.  

“I must thank you for the ride.  It’s always cathartic to help women murder their tyrants that dare to name themselves Husband.”

Flashes are coming back to Beatrice. She’d planned to remove this temple, but they told her the cost out of her budget.  She settled on removing Hera’s statue.  When questioned, Beatrice explained she didn’t want to look at a statue that reminds her of her own bondage.  Beatrice didn’t deign to explain how a woman might view an arranged marriage.  How Herny wanted her, but she never had the chance to feel the same desire.  Those details were for Beatrice’s heart alone.  A bout of dizziness befell her, and then the next weeks are a fog.  

Henry!  He’s gone, murdered with her hands, though not her will.  Never her will.  Beatrice didn’t get to choose to marry him, it was a sick parallel, she didn’t get to choose to murder him either.

“You,” Beatrice stammered.

“I did you a favor, child.  He limited you.  Gave you an allowance that kept you leashed to him like a dog when this estate comes from your family.  With my strength, my power, I freed you.  Your indecision, your resentment, your compromised soul none of it was a match for me.”

Beatrice flushes.  There is part of her that’s enticed by Hera’s claims.  Uncertain if the cost if worth the gain, Beatrice hesitates.  

“You have time and space to learn what a great gift I gave you.”

The nod is slow and tear filled.  Her large bed empty and cold fills Beatrice with loneliness, there is no way to go but forward.

“Thank you,” she whispers, bowing low.  

“I do not require thanks, I require work.  Bring me a pair of peacocks I may observe in the gardens, and fresh laurel every full moon.  Do this and I will bless your home and make you powerful within it.”  

Beatrice nods, she need not hear about what could happen if she refuses.  Hera’s possession offers a myriad of tragedies to her quick mind.  She picks herself up off the ground and heads to the exit.  

“And Beatrice,” the voice calls, “never again question my strength or plan to remove me from this place.  I will make your current loss look like a child’s punishment if you cross me again.”

Beatrice’s blood stalls even as her heart pounds.  She flees the temple, and runs mindless through her gardens, falling to one of the many benches.  As she sits in the warm sun, she cries over her foolish words and careless thoughts.  The world is full of strange and horrible consequences.

End

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Want more?  See Patrick O’Kelley’s Ending or Christopher M. Palmer’s Ending