Fiction Friday: The Lady

Before we hop into the flash fiction story I’m sharing with y’all today, I just want to get a few things out of the way.

First, this is not a cry for help. My mental health is pretty much as good as it gets at the moment, all things considered. (All things being a crazy work schedule, a pandemic, releasing a new book, etc, etc, etc). This is actually a re-write of a much longer piece I wrote about a decade ago that was lost on an old harddrive. It annoyed me that I lost it, so I wrote it again in a tighter format. This was some flash fiction practice. That’s all.

Second, I don’t normally do trigger warnings on content unless specifically asked to when submitting for a review/contest/etc. This time I am. Please skip this one of you find stories involving the following triggering: terminal illness, alcoholism, homicidal thoughts, and/or suicidal thoughts. I know that’s a lot for 499 words.

And finally, I hold the copyright to this fiction. You may not copy or reproduce it in part or whole without my written permission except for the purposes of review and other cases allowed by copyright law. Basically, don’t be a jerky pirate or plagarizer.

The apparition is here again. He sulks in the corner of the room, glaring at me with rheumy eyes. I’m so distracted by the way he wrings his gnarled hands and rubs his knobby knees that I don’t hear a word Dr. Hart is saying. I only notice he was speaking when he stops to glance over his shoulder. He can’t see Creaky. 

Dr. Hart writes out a prescription. He has to stop periodically to shake out a cramp in his hand. I take the paper, but I have no intentions of getting it filled. The last three drugs he prescribed did nothing. Creaky waves to me as I leave.

At work, more monsters lurk behind unsuspecting souls. The one that followed my old boss scared me the most; a small, gaunt creature with sunken eyes and grayish-purple skin. Only a few wisps of hair clung to its scalp. I never dared to give it a name. 

My own ghost is a lady in black who comes and goes. She never speaks, only stares at me with deep, knowing eyes. She is mysterious and alluring, yet something in my gut warns me never to let her whisper the secrets her smile keeps. At first, I only caught short glimpses of her from the corner of my eye. Now it seems she stays for hours or even days at a time.

Not every vision’s meaning is as opaque as my lady. The shades of my wife’s alcoholism are as obvious as they are obnoxious. They are the only ones that actually speak to me. One of them greets me at the door. I call him Bubba, and he smells like cheap beer. I ignore him and the piles of empty cans cluttering the entryway. I used to gather them up in bags, but I don’t even bother kicking them aside anymore. Jean will clean them up when one of her sober moments strike.

I find Jean in the living room, sprawled on the sofa with plastic children’s cup. I don’t need to guess what’s in it because the bottle of bourbon is lying on its side by her feet, soaking the carpet. She doesn’t look at me but turns up the TV volume, ready to drown me out with a game show or soap opera.

A new apparition dressed in black is sitting beside her. I meet his gaze and immediately recoil from the venom in his eyes. A shiver of fear runs up my spine, and I retreat.

The lady is waiting for me by the nightstand in the master bedroom. Her gaze is sympathetic, a balm after the sting of my wife’s hostility. She holds out her hands to me. I hesitate. She makes no move towards me. I know I have to come to her. 

I hear footsteps on the stairs. It’s time to choose.

My hand closes on the gun in the nightstand’s drawer. The lady’s hand covers mine. Together we lift it to my mouth.

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