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Monsters & Roses

Here we go, right into something we writers are urged to stay away from …. the dreaded cliché.  I can’t help it; I’m ‘killing two birds with one stone’, or, with one story in this case.

Its Tuesday Tales time; this week to the prompt ‘wave’ or ‘wavy’. I also need a contest entry, to write a short story, with a recognizable opening, based on the opening lines from Jonathan Maberry’s upcoming YA novel, FIRE & ASH.

Benny Imura sat in the dark and spoke with monsters.
It was like that every day.
It had become the pattern of his life. Shadows and blood.
And monsters.

So, here is Monsters & Roses. It’s only a first draft, more polishing to come. My two birds: My Tuesday Tales post and a WIP for the contest. Return to Tuesday Tales for more stories from many talented writers. Thanks for stopping by!


Monsters & Roses

Photograph from Alice Duer Miller’s book, I Have Loved England. Taken in an old English house in 1936.

Beth’s eyes flew open in fright. It was becoming a pattern – these dreams of shadows and blood. And monsters. Everywhere. Monsters infiltrating her life, her sleep, her daytime, her existence in this house.

“I hate being home anymore,” Beth confided to Mable later that day. Sitting in Mable’s kitchen next door, a kitchen polished with meticulous care, Beth felt safer.

Mable peered over her spectacles with an odd expression Beth couldn’t decipher. Averting her eyes, Mable turned her head towards the stove where a kettle sat, softly simmering its ambient music to the background of Beth’s litany of complaints. “Have another cup of tea. It will help ease your misery.”

A tear slid down Beth’s cheek. She wrapped her hands around the cup, as if to draw strength from the empty vessel. “I don’t think another cup of tea will help me. I think I’m going crazy.”

“Nonsense! You’re the sanest person I know,” Mable replied. “And I’ve known a lot of people over the 82 years I’ve been on this planet. Why would you think otherwise?”

“I’m losing my mind. I’m misplacing things. I sit my car keys on the table inside the door. I go to leave and they’re not where I know I left them. I look all over and finally find them. Sometimes on the floor. Sometimes under the couch. Once they were in the kitchen sink.”

“Many people forget where they sit things.” Mable patted Beth’s arm in an effort to comfort. “It’s not a sign of senility you know.”

“But I don’t misplace my keys. I never have. Not until I moved to this house. That’s not all though. Books end up on the floor. Lights come on when I’m not in the room. Last night a clock started ticking.”

Mable chuckled. “Why dear, a clock ticking isn’t unusual.”

“It is when it’s a wind up clock, and it hasn’t been wound for years.”

“You’re over tired, Beth. You’re working too hard. A good night’s sleep will cure what ails you.” Mable fumbled to open the Mason jar stuffed with tea bags. “Here, take some chamomile tea home with you. Drink a nice hot cup before bed and you’ll sleep peacefully. Works like a charm for me.”

Before bed Beth stared at the innocent, opaque bags sitting on the table, ready to plop into a mug of steaming water. “You’d better work,” she spoke aloud, as if the bags could hear – or would answer her. She downed two cups in a row, a double dose to ensure the tea’s effectiveness.

Despite her chamomile induced slumber, a low deep moan woke Beth. She sat up in bed. The darkness in the room settled around her shoulders as a cloak. I must have been dreaming, she thought.

Another stifled moan assured Beth that she was neither sleeping, nor dreaming.

“Who’s there?” she called out. No answer. No echoing moans. No sounds. Yet, an eeriness filled the space. Beth shivered with a quick involuntary chill. Goosebumps flooded her arms, from her wrists up to neck. She thought she should get out of bed and go check the house. She sat. Frozen. Unable to move.

A dark filmy shape, reminiscent of a woman’s form materialized inside the doorway. A wavy shimmer of hazy gray radiated from the faint apparition. Another moan emanated from the vapor. Beth rubbed her eyes. She looked to the doorway again and it was gone. Beth pulled the covers up around her neck, her brain in a frantic struggle in an effort to make sense of what she’d just seen. Was she dreaming? Was she crazy? A muffled voice floated down the hall. “Rose,” Beth thought she heard.

Rose? Flowers? What did a rose have to do with all of this?

Sleep eluded her and she remained awake the rest of the night. Never leaving her room. Never leaving her bed.

Dawn’s light peeking through the curtains had never been more welcomed. Beth tossed on some clothes, her tee-shirt backwards and inside out, not that she noticed. Racing out the front door, she saw a light in Mable’s kitchen, confirming that she too was up and moving.

Mable answered Beth’s frantic knocking, her terry cloth robe wrapped around her frail frame. “What’s wrong, dear?” she asked, leading her trembling neighbor to the kitchen, her typical room of comfort.

Beth reported the nerve-shattering events from the middle of the night.

“Rose?” Mable broke into Beth’s tale.

“It sounded like rose, but I can’t figure out what flowers have to do with all this craziness.”

“I used to know a Rose,” Mable murmured. “About twenty years ago. Maybe thirty, I don’t rightly remember. She lived in your house.”

“A Rose lived here. In MY house?” Beth’s face turned pale as the blood drained from it. “Did she move? Where did she go?”

Mable stirred her tea, staring intently at the liquid swirling around the white porcelain rim. Stirring, stirring – not answering.

“Mable?” Beth asked. “What about the Rose who lived in my house?”

Mable slowly removed her spoon and sat it on a saucer. “Rose died.”

“She died? How did she die?”

No answer.

“Did she die in my house?” Beth kept questioning.

“Rose was killed. She was my dear friend and neighbor.” Mable dabbed a tissue at the corner of her eye. “Her husband murdered her. He stabbed her to death. In the hallway outside their bedroom.”

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