Henry loved reading horror novels and so did his daughter, Chloe. But there was one horror novel in particular that made Henry wish he had never borrowed it from the library.
Henry stumbled across the horror novel. The nightmares began after he read the book. It got so bad that Henry dreaded going to sleep. Every night, he’d read his daughter a bedtime story, wishing that he could read to his little girl through the night without needing to go to sleep himself.
Henry thought that taking the horror novel back to the library and returning it would stop the nightmares. But it didn’t stop. They got worse. The nightmare was always the same. It would begin with Henry running through a dark forest, trying to escape a faceless, naked woman holding a butcher knife.
In the end, the faceless, naked woman would catch up with Henry. Henry couldn’t scream for help, because the faceless woman would always paralyze him. She would pin him down and rape him in the dirt, before bringing her knife down on his face. Before the blade could penetrate, Henry would wake up gasping with his body drowning in sweat.
As the weeks rolled past, Henry’s nightmare became more elaborate and terrifying. Sometimes he would drift off to sleep and see the faceless woman standing over him. There would be no running or not even a chance of escape. She would immediately be there, ready to torment Henry with her butcher knife.
Henry’s nightmares would make him feel like someone trapped him in a room with the walls closing in. He missed earlier stages of his nightmare where he could at least escape the faceless woman’s wrath. He missed running through the dark forest. When the nightmares began, they at least made Henry feel hopeful. Now when Henry went to sleep, he didn’t have a prayer.
That horror novel planted a seed in Henry that he couldn’t get rid of. Lady Blade Kiss was the name of the novel, and it was about a young woman returning from the grave to exact revenge on her husband who killed her for having an affair with a slave. The book’s setting took place during the antebellum period.
In the book, the young woman’s husband catches his wife in the act. He becomes so enraged over his wife sleeping with a black man in their bed, that he chains his wife to a tree while she's still naked and uses a butcher knife to cut off her face. He watches as she bleeds to death.
Henry couldn’t stop reading the novel. It captured his interest from beginning to end. Since Henry was a black man, he loved how the woman exacted revenge for not just herself, but for the man she truly loved, which was the black man that her husband mercilessly slaughtered in front of her eyes before he chopped off her face.
The novel had an aura of romantic horror. Reading the novel made Henry feel like he was watching a motion picture. He could picture every chapter in his mind. Some nail-biting moments and sorrowful moments almost made Henry teary-eyed. The novel did its job at scaring the hell out of Henry. That’s what he loved about it.
Henry didn’t expect the horror novel to have a long-lasting effect on him. He didn’t expect it to affect his dreams, or affect his work performance at his office job. Henry had enough problems and he still grappled with the death of his wife.
Now things were getting worse. The faceless, naked woman no longer remained in Henry’s dreams. She first appeared in the doorway of his daughter’s bedroom. Henry was reading a bedtime story to his daughter when he thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye.
“You okay, Daddy?” Chloe asked. She felt concerned for her daddy after she watched him look around at her doorway in a panic. The little girl knew something disturbed her father.
“Yeah, baby. I’m fine,” Henry assured his daughter through a smile. He leaned down to kiss his daughter on the forehead with a little dark thought lurking in the back of his mind. The thought told Henry that he was not fine. He saw something. He thought it was a faceless, naked woman, and he kept telling himself that what he saw was an optical illusion.
He assumed his lack of rest caused his eyes to see things that weren’t there. He hoped they were hallucinations. He kept hoping that he was a victim of optical illusions.
When it happened again, Henry’s nerves shuddered. It seemed like a normal evening. The second sight came from the basement. Henry’s exercise equipment was in his basement. He prepared for his workout routine, but something prevented him from going into the basement where he kept his Peloton bike. He scanned for his sanity when he saw someone or something walk past the base of the stairway in the darkness.
Henry saw the bare feet of a woman. The feet were gnarled and bony. Every cell in Henry’s body told him not to go downstairs and investigate. He thought it was another illusion, but the blood and dirt on the woman’s feet seemed too real to be a trick of the mind’s eye.
“Who’s down there!?” Henry tried to put muscle into his voice. He didn’t want to be a coward because he felt that being a coward didn’t fit with his bulky, manly, tattooed outward appearance. Henry tried to make bravery an option, but he failed when he saw a bloody foot emerge from the basement darkness. The ghastly foot rested on the bottom step, producing a sickening thud that echoed up the basement stairway.
Henry ran back up the stairs without thinking. He made it halfway up the stairway when the woman’s foot appeared a second time. Henry knew it was her, and he didn’t need to see the rest of her body to confirm his worst fear.
The urge to run out of the house overtook Henry. He needed to get his daughter first. As he bolted toward the living room, he kept pinching himself, checking to see if he was in a new nightmare. He didn’t want to alarm his seven-year-old daughter, but he had no choice. Henry hated himself for running into the living room and disturbing his daughter, who was sitting on the sofa playing a game on her pink phone called Princess Makeover.
“Daddy, what’s wrong?” Chloe’s voice sounded like a Mourning Dove. Her voice almost relaxed her father.
“We have to go, baby. We’re going to your Auntie Lisa’s house,” Henry told his daughter after scooping her up into his arms. Escaping to his sister’s house didn’t seem like the best plan, but it was the only plan he could think of. The image of bloody feet standing at the bottom of his basement stairway made Henry lose his breath for a minute. He had to collect himself, trying hard not to panic in front of his daughter.
Henry couldn’t believe that a horror novel he borrowed from the library was turning his life upside down. He believed the book held a curse. At first, he thought they were just random nightmares and then hallucinations from lack of sleep. Now he knew that the faceless, naked lady was real.
He discovered he wasn’t the only one who could sense her presence.
“Daddy, I hear someone coming up the basement stairs. Who is that? Is that Auntie Lisa?” Chloe still had an angelic tone in her voice. She didn’t understand why the blood had drained from her father’s face. “Daddy, what’s going on?” Tension entered Chloe’s voice. She didn’t like to see her father in a frightened state.
“It’s her, Sweetheart! The woman in my nightmares!” Henry blurted out to his daughter, knowing that she wouldn’t understand.
“Who, Daddy? What woman?” Chloe didn’t understand that her gentle questioning made her appear much calmer than her father.
“Never mind, baby! We just need to get out of the house.” Henry wanted to give his daughter answers, but his sense of urgency sent him into a fearful frenzy. He could hear her, or it, marching up the basement stairs. Henry told himself to stop trying to figure out what was coming for him and his daughter. He didn’t have time to figure it out. The icy tingle in his spine and the standing hairs on the back of his neck told him to run first and ask questions later.
Henry snatched his car keys off a table console that sat in the hallway. He gripped his daughter in his arms as he swiftly moved toward his front door. He could still hear the entity marching up the basement stairs. Pretty soon, the faceless, naked woman would be at the opposite end of his hallway, staring at him.
Henry didn’t want to see the faceless woman. He saw enough of her in his nightmares. He assumed that the creature would have a butcher knife in her hand. Henry unlocked his front door so forcefully that his strength almost cracked the doorknob. He expected to feel a rush of relief flow through him after opening the door. Instead, what he felt was a bottomless pit in his stomach.
Henry opened his front door to see that a vast dark forest had replaced his front lawn and his driveway. Miles and miles of tall woodland trees greeted Henry. He frantically searched for a residential street and the homes of his neighbors. Only a misty forest confronted Henry’s eyes.
It was the same forest Henry saw in his nightmare. This time, it was real. Henry kept telling himself to wake up from this new nightmare. He couldn’t swallow the horror of his current situation. Acting on instinctual fear, Henry took out toward the forest with his daughter sitting in his arms. He ran, not caring where he was going. He couldn’t stay in the house. A voice told Henry that if he remained in his home, the faceless, naked woman would kill him and his daughter.
Henry couldn’t let that happen. Running out into a deep, endless forest had just the same amount of fear input for Henry. But Henry felt that at least the forest wouldn’t stab him and his daughter with a butcher knife.
Turning back would have been foolish. Henry couldn’t turn back. The father feared he would trip over a log or a rock and drop his baby. Henry tried to push his fears off to the back of his mind. If the circumstances had been different, Henry would have been in his basement working out on his Peloton bike. Henry’s nightly exercise routine went through a transformation. He was experiencing an undesired exercise routine. Henry preferred his Peloton.
Henry’s sweat-stained white athletic tank top glued itself to his body. He felt the muscles in his legs burning from running hard on uneven ground. Henry couldn’t afford to stumble. He had to stay on his feet or else. The faceless, naked woman had left Henry’s house. She was already in the forest, pursuing Henry and his daughter. She wanted him, badly.
The only thing that could disrupt the heavenly sight of a nude attractive woman would be a gaping hole in her face where her eyes, nose, and mouth should have been. That’s all Henry could see in his mind. All he could see in each of his nightmares was that gaping hole that distracted from her blooming breasts. He could also see her butcher knife.
Henry channeled the spirit of an NFL running back. He didn’t want to carry his daughter like a football, but he had to enclose his bulky arms around his baby as he maneuvered around the towering forest trees.
Chloe peeked over her father’s shoulder and her innocent eyes saw nothing but a vast ocean of trees. The child couldn’t see their house anymore. “Where are we, Daddy?” Chloe asked. Henry could hear a hint of anxiety in her gentle breeze of a voice. Chloe wondered if she was awake or asleep. Being in her daddy’s arms kept her from falling completely into a fear pit.
“I don’t know what’s going on, baby. We just have to get somewhere safe.” Henry tried to catch his breath while answering his daughter. He wanted to stay on his feet, but a rock caught the edge of his foot. It didn’t help that Henry was barefoot.
The small jagged rock sliced the bottom of Henry’s foot, causing him to fall into a tree. The father couldn’t catch his balance in time, but he turned his back so that he would land against the tree and not his daughter. A stinging pain erupted up from Henry’s foot. He didn’t even have to look down to know that he was bleeding. A warm moist sensation followed the stinging pain.
Henry couldn’t outrun his fear. The worst had come. When Henry attempted to stand on his injured foot, that’s when he heard it. It was the click of a gun. The click of an old Smith & Wesson.
“Where the hell do you think you're going' boy!? You think you can sleep with my wife and get away with it?” A man’s voice with a deep Southern drawl crept up on Henry. He looked past the tree to see a lumbering man wearing a burgundy tailcoat. The man sported a handlebar mustache with a gold pocket watch dangling from his left pocket. But what caught most of Henry’s attention was the man’s silver revolver that was being aimed at him and his little girl.
Henry lost his ability to talk when he saw the man and his revolver. He knew who the man was. Henry shielded his baby while shutting his eyes. He thought the man was about to shoot him. He did his best to shield his daughter. It seemed like every character in the novel haunted him.
“I knew I’d find you out here. Not even God is going to stop me from killing you! A slave should know his place! You sleep with my wife and defile my bed!!” The wrathful man hissed at Henry. He approached Henry and his daughter while clicking the gun’s hammer.
Now was a good time to wake up. But Henry would not wake up because this wasn’t a dream.
“Daddy!” Chloe tightened her arms around her father when the man stood over them, pointing his revolver in her face. She cried when her daddy’s hand caressed her face while shielding her face as well.
“It’s okay, baby. It’s not real,” Henry whispered repeatedly in his daughter’s ear. He opened his eyes, hoping to see the inside of his house again. The next scene frightened and fascinated Henry. He saw her up close and personal. She had a dainty physique. Her breasts and hips were commandingly gorgeous, but her pretty face was missing from between her flowing red velvet hair.
The faceless, naked woman slithered up behind the man with the gun. She tilted her disfigured head to one side while raising her butcher knife to his backside. Blood gushed out of the dark sinkhole in the young woman’s face. She cracked her neck before sinking the blade of the knife into the man’s back.
The man dropped his gun while falling to his knees. He didn’t have time to scream because the faceless woman filleted his throat with the knife after gutting his spine.
Henry watched as the naked woman’s face returned after she slaughtered her husband. A brilliant pearlescent glow framed the woman’s face. She was just as beautiful as Henry thought she would be. He saw her emerald green eyes and her delicate high cheekbones.
The woman smiled at Henry, and she reached out to touch him and his daughter. Before she could deliver her caress, an electric blue light knocked Henry into a library aisle. The father looked around, shocked to see he was standing in the library again, holding his daughter’s hand.
He noticed his hand hovering over a book on the shelf. The book was Lady Blade Kiss.
Chloe watched as her daddy's trembling hand drifted away from the book. She remembered what happened, and she understood why her father refused to lay a finger on the horror novel.
Henry looked down at his daughter, giving her a confused smile. “Do you wanna go to the zoo, Sweetheart? We can grab some ice cream on the way there?” Henry asked his daughter, knowing she’d say yes. He chuckled when his daughter gave him a toothy grin while twirling the end of her lavender sunflower dress beneath her denim jacket. Chloe playfully swung her father’s hand by her side as she skipped beside him. Her memory of the faceless, naked woman was fading and so was her father’s memory. The father and daughter made their way toward the library’s exit, leaving the cursed horror novel behind on the shelf, where it belonged.