Unedited, Uncensored, Unsettling…
Apologies for the slightly later Stitched Saturday post than usual, horror fans. This week has two tales of terror inspired by the attached inspirational picture. A sinister little tale from the ever talented Mike L. Lane and a little bite-sized piece of written by me. Without further ado…
Freckles – Mike L Lane
“The Lord is watching you, Millie,” Meemaw warned, peering over her bifocals and down her long, pointy nose. Millie ignored her, teasing the cat ruthlessly and yanking its tail. Meemaw swatted the child’s leg producing a tearful, sullen face from the six year old. This irritated Meemaw more than teasing the cat had. The pouty freckle-faced brat reminded her of her mentally deranged sister. “Every time you sin, the Lord puts another freckle on your skin.”
Millie was appalled at the idea, her mind reeling at the implications. She searched her skin, discovering for the first time the freckles on her arms.
“Stop telling her things like that, mother,” Millie’s mom said. “You’re constantly filling her head with garbage and I don’t appreciate it.”
“You will when she gets older and starts getting into trouble, Brenda. You know the devil has a tendency to run unchecked on our side of the family.”
Brenda sighed. Her mother was stubborn and cruel sometimes, but arguing only fed the beast. Besides, the old woman was raised in a different time and the world had moved on from then. She supposed she couldn’t help it.
“Come on, Millie,” she said, offering a hand to her daughter. She gently tapped Millie’s shoulder to get her attention. The girl was terrified by the discovery of her freckles, attempting to scratch one off. “Let’s leave Meemaw to her soaps. We need to go home.”
In the car, Millie continued rubbing her arms.
“You shouldn’t tease Miss Prissy. Cats can get mean when they’re cornered,” she said, glancing over at her. Millie was truly perplexed by the bold faced lie Meemaw had planted in her head. “And don’t listen to Meemaw, Millie. Freckles are just angel kisses. It only means you’re loved.”
Millie looked at her, thinking this over. Gears turned in her daughter’s expression as she slowly grasped the idea. Her face beamed; the little fib easing Millie’s mind. She smiled her snaggletooth grin. If only my mother had been so kind, Brenda thought.
The years flew by as they always do with children and the topic of freckles seldom came up. Millie was obviously self-conscious of the dark specs blossoming on her cheeks and shoulders, checking herself in the mirror from time to time, but she never questioned it out loud and Brenda thought it best not to say anything. If Millie’s appearance bothered her, she felt certain the girl would confide in her.
By the summer of ’95, Brenda held down two jobs to keep lights on and mouths fed which meant Millie spent most of her time with Meemaw. She hated that her daughter had to endure her mother’s endless nagging and backwoods witticisms, but Millie had become quite the handful. To Brenda, this was the perfect tit-for-tat. Her mother deserved the emerging teenage monster for all the hell she had doled out to her over the years.
“Take off the mask, Millie,” Meemaw said, irritated with her granddaughter’s insolence. Millie had donned a smooth, white mask that gave her the creeps.
“I’m hiding my shame,” she said, folding her arms in a defiant pose. “This is my face now, pure as the driven snow.”
“What are you babbling about?” Meemaw asked looking up from the shawl she was knitting for the ungrateful girl.
“The sins on my face,” Millie answered in a monotone voice.
“I thought your mom said they were angel kisses,” she said, her words dripping with sarcasm. The child obsessed over her freckles and quite frankly, Meemaw had grown tired of it.
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on that,” she answered, standing between her grandmother and the television. Meemaw was watching Days of Our Lives. This was the day that John Black was supposed to exorcise the Devil from Marlena and the foolish child was blocking her view.
“If I miss anything on my soaps, Millie, I’m going to tan your hide,” she snapped. When the girl refused to move, she rose from her recliner in a huff, her arm raised to discipline. “I mean it, young lady. Insolence is the devil’s playground.”
“That’s just it, Meemaw,” she said. The old lady moved forward to swat her legs, but Millie pushed her back in the chair. Meemaw looked at her, speechless. “You said sins cause freckles.”
“You’ll be covered in them now!” Meemaw screeched, horrified at the mask’s blank stare. Millie leaned down into her face and slowly tilted her head. Meemaw retracted.
“And mom said freckles were angel kisses. My whole body’s covered in angel kisses, Meemaw. I got to thinking about it, so much so that I thought I might go mad,” she said with a chuckle. “I tried to be good, but the freckles… they just keep appearing. Why would angels do that? Kiss me all over… even in the private spots?”
Meemaw didn’t know what to say. Her granddaughter talked calmly and moved slowly, but her demeanor was unnerving. From the corner of her eye, she spotted the twisted, broken body of Miss Prissy lying dead in the hallway. The cat’s eyes bulged from its sockets in a state of permanent shock.
“What have you done?!”
“It’s simple if you think about it,” she said, picking up a knitting needle and climbing into her grandmother’s lap. The cold, blank mask nearly pressed against Meemaw’s bifocals. “I have so many freckles because I keep sinning and it’s not just any angel kissing me, Meemaw. It’s the fallen angel.”
“You need help, baby,” she pleaded, but the girl had grown too strong and she couldn’t work her way free from beneath her weight.
“So, I was thinking. If I get a freckle for every sin I commit and my whole body is covered in them anyway,” Millie said, raising the needle above her head. “What difference will another one make?”
Class – David Court
It had seemed like a straightforward dare, in the light of day. The old Marlowe place had looked a little decrepit, but nothing Jeff felt he couldn’t handle. That was then though, when his boasts had been buoyed by a heady mix of teenage bravado and adrenaline. Now, in the dwindling light of day, the building seemed infinitely more foreboding and sinister.
As the only child of a career military family, Jeff was no stranger to new schools and the imitation ceremonies that kids felt the need to have to welcome new blood. He seemed to change schools as frequently as hairstyles these days. Every school had their variant; a dare of some kind, a mischievous prank, going somewhere forbidden…
Jeff looked up at the bizarrely angled structure. What was an odd building even at the point of construction was rendered even stranger by having partially collapsed over the centuries. Broken and fragmented walls hung desperately and tentatively to warped and twisted foundations. It creaked as the wind passed through it, surfaces rippling and undulating like the diaphragm of a giant slumbering beast.
Jeff was with another new kid, an obnoxious dullard called Nathan. He was an army brat too and boy, did everybody hear about it at any available opportunity. He could barely finish a sentence without some outlandish boast about his dad, all of it probably exaggerated bullshit. Jeff knew the type only too well, but most of them had grown out of it by Nathan’s age.
“I’m tired of this crap,” he whined. “Let’s go in.”
He picked up a handful of stones and threw them at the corner of a downstairs window where a single sliver of window pane remained. Despite bragging for the past twenty minutes about how he was the best thrower in the whole wide world, he missed both glass and yawning window frame.
“We were told to wait,” retorted Jeff, unable to resist a smirk.
As if on cue, the other children emerged from the thick weed undergrowth that surrounded the house. They slid out noiselessly like ghosts, their faces plastered with thick chalk that glowed in the emerging light of the half moon.
“What are you supposed to be?” snorted Nathan.
The children remained silent, surrounding the two boys. The ringleader was a boy about Jeff’s age, tall with raven black hair which stood out with sharp contrast against the pasty white powder plastering his features. In his outstretched palms he presented two thick pieces of white chalk. Jeff took one, and, eventually, Nathan did the same. The children, as one, gestured towards the house.
“This is crap.” muttered Nathan as he scurried alongside Jeff as the two of them approached the imposing decayed structure. “Crap” was clearly a word that the boy had only recently discovered, and thought himself clever and adult in its overuse. The obvious fear in the boy’s voice penetrated a façade as flimsy as the one they stepped into. They stepped through twisted corridors draped in web and acrid-scented mildew and squeezed through shattered and rubble-strewn doorframes. Despite the chaotic layout and treacherous pathways, they were being guided along a singular unwavering path, of this Jeff was certain. They’d journeyed in silence, Nathan only pausing on occasion to sigh exasperatedly.
By the time they’d reached the room the sky showing through the thin jagged scars in the ceiling was cloaked in night. It had taken longer than Jeff had thought. The room was surprisingly intact, appearing as though there had been recent attempts to restore it. The rubble in the room had all been brushed to the edges, leaving a stone surface dotted and scored with chalk lines and patterns. Geometric shapes of differing sizes and colours patterned the floor beneath them. One cracked wall had a blackboard leaning against it, adorned with simple math problems.
As Jeff walked closer to it, he heard them. A scratching sound at first, growing louder, coming from behind the walls themselves. They unfolded themselves from the cracks in the walls, spilling into the darkened room. Jeff thought them to be the other children at first, the same featureless chalk dust faces staring at the two boys through dull black spheres. However, even in the gloom, the differences were quickly apparent. These things were of adult height and moved with an unnatural gait, thin long atrophied limbs jerking in erratic motions. They surrounded the two boys, leaning in. The fingertip of one, as chalk-white as its owner, scraped across Jeff’s face. It tilted its head, quizzically. Driven by an overwhelming urge, Jeff crushed the chalk in his fist and frantically smeared the uneven white powdery grains over his features. Nathan went to follow suit but his shaking hands fumbled and dropped his chalk.
The boy, surrounded by the figures, could do nothing but whimper as the piece of chalk slowly rolled into the darkness.
Their fingers burrowed into Nathan’s doughy flesh, smoothing it, moulding it. The boy’s screams were muffled as his mouth was shaped into a thin slit, his terrified eyes pushed deeper into his increasingly paler and amorphous features. Jeff watched as they held Nathan aloft, strands of ivory coloured flesh hanging in pliable folds from his convulsing form. A gesture from one of their number guided him towards the exit, where he stumbled outside and into the arms of his waiting – and knowing – school friends.
Questions were never asked about Nathan. Jeff heard his parents moved on without a fuss, as though the boy had never existed. He had nothing to owe the boy but in the decades that followed, whenever Jeff was in the neighbourhood, he’d swing by the old Marlowe place. His face chalked white, he’d venture in and wait for Nathan and his kind to emerge. Jeff would watch, wondering what was going on behind those dead eyes. On occasion, another of his old school friends would be in there doing the same, watching them with him.
The two would make eye contact, nod in acknowledgement.
Not a word would be exchanged.