Here’s my third short story challenge coming in at just a touch over 1000 words. My husband came up with this week’s word, ruthless. This image caught my attention.
I discarded the first ending because it felt too expected. This one worked for me 🙂
I forced a smile and turned away from the picture. I swore the yellow eyes were still watching me. I nervously stuffed a cucumber sandwich into my dry mouth. Big mistake. It caught in my throat and then burned. I could taste the hot peppers as I coughed. I was positive I was going to die.
“Are you okay, Sandy?” Jessie’s clear blue eyes showed concern as she handed me a glass of water.
“Yes, I just swallowed wrong.”
Bobbie clung to my arm while Freddie sat on the couch with the same terrifying expression as the picture. This playdate was taking a dark turn.
“Freddie, why don’t you show Bobbie your room.”
Freddie smiled. “Sure, I can show him my new ax.”
I cleared my throat. “Ax?”
“He asked for it for his birthday, but it’s been put away. He knows we don’t play with weapons when we have guests. Right, honey?”
Freddie let out a loud sigh. “Yes, Mommy. No real weapons on playdates. I remember. But can we show him later?”
Jessie winked at me. “Maybe later.”
I gently detached myself from Bobbie’s tightened grasp. “Maybe we should go with them.”
“We’d just be in the way.” She waved. “You two be good.”
Bobby followed Freddie down the hall like he was on death row and making that last walk to his end. I was with him. The house was decorated like a haunted house, and the windows had dark drapes keeping the light and world out. What wasn’t black was gray and the pictures… I shuddered. These were things of nightmares, including the so-called school picture of Freddie.
I sipped my water, trying to think of something to compliment in her house, but I drew a blank. “It’s so kind of you to have us over. You didn’t need to go to all this trouble with these sandwiches.”
Jessie offered another one. “Please, help yourself.”
“I didn’t know we’d be eating. We just ate lunch, and I’m stuffed.” I patted my stomach.
“I forgot to say something. My fault. Can I get you more water?”
I set my empty glass down. “No, I’m fine, thank you. So, are you an artist?”
Jessie set down the platter of her little cucumber sandwiches. Her face lit up like a flashlight, pointing right into my eyes. “I am! I did all those photos and would love to make it into a business someday.”
“Your own business, what a great idea.” I stood up and walked over to a wall that was covered with Freddie. All had the same theme of him holding an ax. “So, you take the pictures and then add in the effects?”
“Oh, I never Photoshop a picture.”
I held a frown behind my plastic smile. “You certainly have a way of capturing the shot.”
Jessie clasped her hands together and squeezed next to me. “Thank you. Would you like to see my studio?”
I glanced at the old grandfather clock. Only fifteen minutes had passed since we had arrived. “Sure, I’d love to see it, but maybe we should check on the boys first.”
“I say when it’s quiet, you leave them alone, right?”
Against my better judgment, I nodded. She led me down a dark hall into a lightless room and flipped on a light.
“I know, isn’t it wonderful! I’ve got it just the way I wanted it.”
“Wonderful,” I mumbled, taking in the horror.
The walls and ceiling were black, and two round lights were on a stand looking much like angry headlights waiting to shine their light on their victim. A rounded black chair was pushed against the gloom, while off to the side was an assortment of black clothes and props that included hands, legs, guns, knives, axes, and a guillotine. The farthest wall had metal shackles. A powerful scent of copper hit my nose as pain tore through my gut. I needed to get Bobbie out of this madhouse.
Jessie smiled and put a hand on my shoulder. “That will pass soon.”
The room spun as I sunk to the floor. “What are you talking about?”
“Your human-ness, silly. What I put in your water is returning to your beautiful form. I tried to make it easier by showing you the picture of Freddie.”
My muscles spasmed like a seizure, and suddenly the room was too bright. I closed my eyes.
“I’ll get the light. I know how bright the earth is for us. You’ll stay here until the ship arrives. That way, you don’t have to wear all that makeup, contacts, and worry about the sun damage.”
When the spasms stopped, it all came flooding back to me. I volunteered for this. I secured a relationship and then married a top-ranked government employee. In my deepest sleep, they were able to extract the important secrets I had obtained. Bobbie wasn’t supposed to happen, of course, and the poor thing will have to live with the shame of being part human. I reached up and stroked my leathery face. I was back.
“Feeling better?” Jessie wiped off the rest of her makeup. The beautiful deep red around her yellow eyes and almost transparent white skin was a relief to see.
“Yes, much. Is Bobbie…” I couldn’t find the words to ask.
Jessie smiled. “He looks like us, thankfully. Although we had to give the poor baby the human drug immediately after birth and adjust some memories. Nothing can pierce his skin now that his beauty has been restored too—like those old axes.”
I grinned. “Thank you, Jessie. When does it start?”
“In a week. We are gathering our spies now and have all the information we need to simplify it. This planet will make a great second home once humans have been rendered docile for our food supply. Thanks to you, we found the perfect virus that won’t affect us. Our alliance appreciates your service.”
I stood up, slowly finding my balance again. “Thank you it was an honor. I’m glad you could continue your artwork; the humans must have made great subjects.”
She brightly smiled. Her pointed teeth shone like stars. “Yes. Their surprised look when they realized what was about to happen was the best. Let’s go to the boys and have a nice snack. Too bad no one will get their mail today.”
I laughed and swayed my tail. “Great! I’m hungry.”
It was good to feel myself again, and I couldn’t wait to get back home. Bobbie had a new world to explore where beautiful darkness ruled.
Next week is back to book reviews that will go through September! This was fun, and I hope you enjoyed it. I might try this again in the future.
Embrace your inner child, D. L. Finn!