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Fantasy Horror Suspense

“Do you kiss your children goodnight with those foul lips of yours?”

The way he said those words was confrontational and then some. There was a twinkle in his eye, but there was no humour to be found there, only something like malice. Like malice, only much, much worse.

“What do you mean?” Shirley blurted.

“You know full well what I mean…” he told her.

“I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about,” she replied.

“Like that is it?” he asked her.

“Like what?” she countered.

“Lies pass so easily from those lips of yours, but you don’t own them, let alone the consequences of all the poison you have spouted over the past years,” it was quite the speech and delivered with intent and passion.

“How dare you!” Shirley puffed out her chest and squared up to him, safe in the knowledge that he couldn’t prove a thing, that it was his word against hers, and neither could he touch her, after all, he was a man and she was a woman. There were rules covering that sort of thing, whereas there were no rules when it came to what Shirley said in her capacity as self-appointed town gossip. None that applied to her anyway.

The man who had not introduced himself,  and who had just strode up out of the wide blue yonder and confronted Shirley on her own doorstep as she was leaving the house, now took a step toward the posturing woman and placed his palm on her forehead, looking for all the world as though he were checking her for a fever. His hand was cool as stone and for a moment, they presented an almost intimate tableau and continued to do so right up until he pushed her casually backwards. 

Shirley fell in the most ungainly of manners and lay sprawled out in one heap of a human mess.

There was little in the way of physical pain, but it hurt all the same. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been pushed over. She must have been five or six years old, if that. The indignity of this assault upon her person was debilitating. She flushed with a mixture of embarrassment and indignation and her mouth worked silently because for the first time in her life, Shirley was completely lost for words.

The man stepped over the threshold and closed the door behind him, throwing Shirley into shadow and making her feel even smaller and more vulnerable.

The man leaned down so his face filled her vision, “my turn,” he told her.

Then he grabbed her ankle and dragged her unceremoniously into the living room.

Shirley’s unexpected return to the fold and the nature of her entry into the living space, as she slid into the room on her arse, quite caught her husband and her two feckless, grown up children quite by surprise.

Father spoke as the two layabouts gawped, “who’s this, Shirl?” he asked his prone wife.

She lay there, her leg still in the stranger’s grasp and she glowered at her husband. Right now, Bob was the poster boy for the death of chivalry and a lot of other deaths and dead ends besides. Not for the first time, Shirley wondered where the man she had married had gone. She was oblivious to her hand in wearing that man away until all that was left was a husk of a being that bided its time on its favourite armchair staring at a screen, eating, drinking and expelling gas at both ends.

The stranger looked at Bob and nodded as though he were counting and inspecting the inventory. He turned to note the two children on the sofa.

Dazzer eyed him warily, but did no more than move his eyes. The man looked like trouble and Dazzer avoided trouble. He avoided a lot of things did Dazzer.

Barb brought a pudgy finger to her lips in what she may have thought was a sultry move. Her act fell far short of sultry as did her skills as a hairdresser. Self-billed as such, even her father wouldn’t let her near the edges of his male pattern baldness tonsure.

“Dregs,” said the man.

“I beg your pardon?!” said Bob with something like a spark of defiance.

The stranger turned his eyes on Bob and the spark went out without even bothering to gutter first.

“No wonder you killed them, Shirley.”

The man said these words in a horrific monotone that caused four pairs of eyes to bulge wider than they ever had before. This was the closest to exercise they’d come to since leaving school, and even then it was a case of handing a note to the PE teacher to excuse them from the harsh rigours of physical activity. They were too good for such sweaty and sordid goings on.

“What are you saying?” gasped Shirley as she continued to awkwardly recline on the floor.

The man chuckled. The sound wasn’t at all right. It rattled and echoed as though an armoured creature was charging along a tunnel that was too narrow for its bulk, “what have you been saying, Shirley Bates?”

“Nothing!” she snapped at the man. 

He nodded with a certain knowing, then the nod morphed into a shaking of his head, “even now you will not admit your wrongdoing.”

“I’ve done nothing wrong!” she cried.

“Lies from a liar,” the man chuckled again, “how very novel.”

He twisted her leg so she could do nothing but turn onto her side and face the armchair that Bob was still sitting passively upon, as though this were all a part of his favourite soap opera.

“Ow!” Shirley cried, even though the twisting motion had not hurt one bit.

The stranger brought a finger to his lips and Shirley felt the air drawn from her lungs, and her head swam as the temperature in the room dropped impossibly low. She saw Bob’s breath billow out from between his lips, then his face was transformed from the usually gormless but partially amiable expression he’d never bothered to get changed out of, into a pained grimace that conveyed a world of recrimination in Shirley’s direction, where it washed harmlessly over her.

How could you?

Somehow Bob’s expression was asking this question of Shirley. It was a question she’d never bother answering. That was how she rolled and she wasn’t about to change now, not for Bob and not for anyone else for that matter.

She looked on with shock and incomprehension as his shirt, the shirt that had been laundered so many times it was now grey as opposed to its original white, bloomed with a Rorschach pattern. The small stain appeared right over the place his heart lay and it crept slowly outwards.

Bob was shaking his head frantically, but that was all the movement he would ever make as he spent these last seconds on Earth. He sat back in his armchair and died with his eyes open. A look of sad surprise on his pale and podgy face. Three expressions in one day, he’d really pushed the boat out at the very end.

“Dad?” said Barb in a voice barely over a whisper.

Her Dad didn’t reply. Barb didn’t follow up on this lack of response, she wasn’t about to change the lacklustre story of her life. 

Shirley was just a little more vocal, “what did you do?!” she managed to gasp as her breathing went ten to the dozen, bellows fanning the fire of her shock.

“Me?” said the man nonchalantly, “you really don’t get it do you? There are consequences to your actions, Shirley. These are the consequences.”

“But..!” she blurted.

The man cut over her, “you’ve ruined lives and two people have actually taken their lives at least partially thanks to that acid tongue of yours. You divorced yourself from reality and spewed your horrendous bile, just so you could get a small thrill as you delivered your lies. You got this terrible twitch of perverse joy as you watched the lie land with your chosen messenger, then you fantasised about how much damage you would cause as those poison arrows found the hearts of innocent victims.”

“I…” began Shirley in a poor attempt at protest.

“Got a sexual thrill from ruining the reputation and lives of others? Devoted your life to dragging people down towards the hell you made of your own life?” asked the stranger as he looked down at her. 

Shirley shook her head in denial, peering up at the stranger who was partially obscured by her foot. The foot he still held easily in the air.

“No?” the man grinned at her, revealing vicious and uniform pointed teeth that did not belong in a human mouth. He nodded sagely, “oh! You were going to say that you killed your own family in some twisted act of penance weren’t you?”

Shirley was going to tell the stranger that she was not going to say anything of the sort, but she was interrupted by Barb before she could form the words.

“Mum?” she said in a voice Shirley hadn’t heard in over twenty years.

Shirley squirmed around desperately in order to see her daughter and discern what it was that was causing her anguish. She managed to angle herself sufficiently to see Barb leaning as far back against the sofa as she could, but however much she pressed herself against the failing springs and sagging frame, it was clear that she was not going to get away from an invisible threat that was all too real and all too deadly.

Shirley looked on in absolute horror as Barb’s left eyeball formed a small indentation. The pressure against her eye grew and grew until suddenly the eyeball popped and released a waterfall of fake tears. 

Barb’s mouth formed an O as her ruined eye socket ceased leaking clear liquid and instead a stream of blood flooded down her cheek and soaked her t-shirt. Barb twitched once and then lay still. That was all the effort she was prepared to put into dying.

“No…” Shirley sighed the word forth. She wanted to cry. She wanted to rage. But when it came down to it, there was nothing there.

There was nothing left.

“Oh dear,” said the stranger as he gazed down at her, “you’re really that far gone? I thought you’d be more fun than this.”

Shirley scowled up at the man in something like incomprehension, but what it really was, was denial.

“Ah!” gasped Dazzer.

With difficulty, Shirley broke away from the gaze of the stranger and looked beyond the prone and now very dead form of her daughter to see Dazzer clutching at his not inconsiderable guts. Blood oozed out from between his fingers. He was not going to be successful in plugging that dam, especially as it was evident that the leak was growing wider and wider.

It were as though Dazzer had been unzipped and once he was open from one side to the other he looked down at just how undone he was and he let go of what he had been holding. He raised his blood stained hands up to his eyes and stared dumbly at them as the stuffing fell out of him and rolled out over his knees, half of it hanging down to the carpet but not quite reaching it.

He sat there with the macabre blanket covering his lap and his legs and he gently lowered his hands to his sides, closing his eyes and with a sigh and a pathetic fart, he was gone for ever.

“Who are you?!” Shirley hissed at the man she mistakenly saw as the murderer of her family, remaining in denial come what may.

The stranger dropped her leg and it hit the stained carpet with a thud. He walked over to the sofa, eyed a small gap between the slain siblings, turned, lowered himself and unceremoniously pushed his palms against the side of both of their heads so they collapsed away and gave him just enough room to take his seat between them.

“This sofa has seen better days, but then haven’t you all?” He crossed his legs and straightened the seam of his trousers. This action drew Shirley’s eye to his shoes and a design on his socks. There were words there.

These Socks Are On Fire.

Below the words was a red devil.

“You’re…” Shirley’s voice was shaking as the penny dropped between them and rolled forgotten under the sofa.

The stranger nodded and his eyes glowed momentarily red, “clever girl!” 

“But why?” whispered Shirley.

“You sold your soul to me!” the devil rubbed his hands together and grinned down at the prone gossip monger.

“I didn’t sign anything!” protested Shirley.

“Well,” the devil shrugged, “I beg to differ. You see, you used my lies.”

“Your lies?” Shirley asked.

“Of course!” the devil smiled his terrible smile and his eyes pulsed with the fires of hell, “I am the Prince of Lies, amongst a great many other things. I’ve collected titles galore over the years and I’m quite proud of the lot of them. That one though? It’s part of my core offering and everyone knows it. Even you, my dear.”

“But I didn’t mean it!” gasped Shirley.

“Oh, come now!” the devil shook his head, “are you really going to resort to that?”

Shirley actually nodded.

“Doesn’t matter what you say you meant or didn’t. Every word counts. Every word carries with it a value. It really does mean something and it matters.” The devil stood with a theatrical flourish, “and it matters to me, my dear! You’ve been spending my currency like there’s no tomorrow and I’m here to call the loan in!”

“Haven’t you already done that?” Shirley looked from Bob, to Barb and then to Dazzer.

“What?” the devil chuckled again, “them? No! They were just… well I thought that while I was here, I may as well... Hellishly inconvenient my having to come to collect you, you know, so I sometimes have a little fun while I’m about it.”

He crouched down, “what am I saying? Sometimes? Like I’d ever pass up the opportunity to cause a little pain here and there! You must get that? I mean you’ve been doing the exact same thing with your malicious gossip for years! Addictive isn’t it?”

“You killed them!” Shirley croaked the words in an approximation of a little girl’s voice.

“Oh contraire, you potty mouthed and insane old bint!” the devil grinned his grin and his eyes danced with the fires of eternal damnation.

Shirley gave him a puzzled look, struggling to take in what was happening to her. She would struggle all the more as she tumbled into the dread darkness of chaos. The abyss was now opening its maw and it was about to feed on the evil tongued woman.

“You did all this,” the devil told her, “with that lying mouth of yours. You brought it all upon yourself.”

He leaned in towards Shirley, so that he was so very close to her, “besides,” he whispered into her ear, sending a terrible chill across her nervous system, “have you seen your hands recently?”

She looked down. Her hands were barely recognisable as such, covered as they were in blood and gore. The wickedly sharp kitchen knife was unmistakeable though. A high pitched keening noise escaped from between Shirley’s dried and cracked lips.

“That’s it old girl,” just let go a little more and I’ll be on my way.

The keening sound stopped abruptly and a light went out in Shirley’s eyes. 

The devil was gone and so was Shirley’s soul.

Four days later, when a member of Shirley’s grapevine became concerned enough to contact the police, Shirley was found in her favourite armchair, surrounded by her ripening family. She was staring into the dark face of a TV that was not switched on. She was staring beyond the blank screen at something only she would ever see.

She would never tell another lie again, and her silence was a blessed relief for everyone in the town.

May 26, 2023 18:22

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11 comments

Tommy Goround
04:50 May 30, 2023

Original. Good voice. Pacing? Plotting? I dunno. And you are so good I won't let you think it is maxed out with five days left... Home invasion via baptism? Yes. He handled her like a preacher. The family lazing was great. Characterization spot on. Stealing lies? Good So..the story dawdled, broke immersion when devil has her leg in the eir, the eye popped, the guts ripped and the father was already failing in his duty. Why? How long can you keep a leg in the air? Like, if this was a real fight we would all scream scream: punch her! Ev...

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Jed Cope
08:25 May 30, 2023

Thank you. There's even more for me to think about and go at here. You've pointed out areas that I can revisit, hone and improve. I'm unlikely to revise this current story, but I have taken note and I will adapt my offering as I go forward. Something I will admit to is pulling my punches on here. I'm diluting the horror and the violence. I should just go with my darker instincts and tick the box for sensitive content when I submit. The leg remaining in the air was important. It was an act of ridiculous dominance. Shirley's reaction to that...

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Tommy Goround
15:04 May 30, 2023

Love it. (I had the impression that she "stole" from the devil. Which could be considered a contract by use.) If so, that's a unique take on the devil contract genre.

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Jed Cope
16:24 May 30, 2023

Maybe she thought she was "borrowing", but hadn't given much thought as to how she was going to give back what she had taken. Happens all too often, people not thinking things through to their logical conclusion... Makes for a rich seam of stories!

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Mary Bendickson
20:07 May 26, 2023

The devil may care, you say? 🎯On prompt. How did you get this put this out so fast?

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Jed Cope
20:16 May 26, 2023

Thank you - hope you enjoyed it? Once I'm in the flow, the words spill out.

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Colleen Ireland
23:24 Jun 07, 2023

Super creepy in the most complimentary way! The only way it could have been better is if I had samplings of the devil-does-care gossip Shirley was spreading; gossip horrible enough to cause the horrible death of her family-who, in my head, all looked exactly like Augustus Gloop!

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Jed Cope
00:55 Jun 08, 2023

Glad you enjoyed it! Augustus Gloop or maybe the Dursleys??

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Colleen Ireland
02:32 Jun 08, 2023

Ha! Yes, better fit with the accent

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Jed Cope
08:56 Jun 08, 2023

It's their likeability factor that sells it.

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Colleen Ireland
12:05 Jun 08, 2023

So true!

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