Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month. This month I will post reviews, lists of speculative works and some of my own work. By the way, please support my Go Fund Me as I raise money to get a new laptop and continue building my writing career.
Since Halloween and Dia de los Muertos are in a few days, I wanted to share an excerpt of a horror short story that I am currently writing. The tale is inspired by a Kara Walker piece and a few other folktales and myths. But I’ll let you figure that out on your own. As I continue writing more fiction, I will share portions of it here via my StoryCraft series on my blog. Enjoy!
The Haunting of Sweetness
It smelled like the rotting pulp inside of a candied apple. A musty, sugary, pungent odor that overwhelmed the entire empty house. Its inside was nothing like the outside — a two story white house decorated with shiny hanging jewels and gilded trim. The inside was not welcoming at all: drafty, dirty and dimly lit. There was no brightness he could grasp as he walked down the hall. No matter where he stepped, Cain could not avoid the resin puddles covering the floor. The stickiness made him feel like a fly caught in a web, each step forcing him to use more energy than the one before. He wondered who could possibly live in here.
“Hello?” No sound. He was used to strange people in strange places. He didn’t have much choice. If you didn’t want to starve, you took whatever job was available. Jobs were hard to come by in this area and it forced him to be a nomad, traveling around for work. It also didn’t help that he was a fugitive from a distant town. Whether it was harvesting crops or forging tools in the blacksmith’s shop, survival had made Cain a jack of all trades and the constant changing of work allowed home to remain low key. Today’s work was cutting and bringing wood bundles for an elderly woman named Hiera Phix who lived alone in border fields next to the countryside.
Cain carried the wood bundles further inside staring at the dark brown statues on all the tables dripping resin on the floor. Putting down the bundles, leaning them against the wall, he stepped closer to get a better look at them. It could have been his imagination but they looked nightmarish like the faces of panicked people trapped in amber. He wanted to quickly get his pay and leave as soon as he could. “Hello? Ms. Phix?” He sucked his teeth. “Forget this.” As he turned around, there she was standing in front of him. Cain jumped almost knocking one of the statues over. There she was–a skinny woman, only a few inches shorter than his 6-foot frame, covered in splotches of what looked like ash all over her face, hands and long tannish beige house dress and apron. She stared at Cain for a moment and then quickly smiled a strangely wide smile. “Hello! I’m sorry I didn’t hear you before and for my appearance. I was baking, so I’m covered in flour and powdered sugar.”
Cain continued to stare at her face. For an old woman, her brown face and skin that showed through underneath was unusually smooth and youthful. If it it wasn’t for the gray hair he would assume she was in her 40s.
“Um…hell..hello Ma’am . I’m … I’m just here to drop off the wood and for my pay and then I’ll be on my way.”
“Nonsense! Stay a while and have some of the cake I just made.” Her invite was too saccharine; it gave him sickly feeling reminding him of the smell of the house. He wanted to say no, but something about the house and her was overpowering his desire to leave. He rationalized it as not being able to refuse the request of a nice, old lady. “Sure,” he replied with a queasy smile. Rubbing his neck, he hoped the word and smile masked his disgust.
Hiera motioned her hand for Cain to follow her to the kitchen. Cain continued to struggle with the resin on the floor while Hiera seemed to miss all the puddles as if she memorized their places. As he slowly followed behind her, he turned his head back to the statues and continued to watch them before they disappeared around the corner into the next hallway. Walking down the dimly lit hall, he took notice of the hanging mirror on the wall. A circular mirror with a golden amber-colored frame. The frame held repeating numbers 1423 in a four petal design with a line going through the middle and the words I feed on the living image in each square variation.
He looked back into his reflection in the mirror. He fixed his eyes onto his own. Amazed by how the years of hard labor had taken a toll on his face — the leathery, slightly wrinkled, caked with a persistent thin layer of soot image looked unrecognizable. But the eyes seemed to taunt him, like it lived a better life in that mirror, that the heavens blessed it more than the reality he had here here. The more he looked in the eyes, the more the image smoothed out and cleaned up his reflection. The mirror’s frame started to bend and twist like laffy taffy, distorting his image and forming cracks in the edges of the glass.