Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

A Rude Awakening by Steven Holding. By Steven Holding

The laughter that awoke her was shrill and piercing; a diamond tipped drill-bit, skewering its way directly into the centre of her brain. Marion sat up in her bed, heart a heavy metal rhythm section, vague traces of a terrible dream clinging to her oily skin. Her bulging eyes struggled to cope with the thick blanket of darkness, to-ing and fro-ing inside her skull like a spastic metronome. She explored the stillness with contorted features, one ear pointed towards the darkest shadows in the furthest corner of the room. As if aware of her need for confirmation, a tiny hiccough of giggles seemed to float across the stale air of her apartment.

Marion swallowed quickly; parched throat aching as if she’d been gargling with shards of glass. Gary had been gone for almost a week now, disappearing amid a whirlwind of slammed doors, hurled insults, smashed bottles and tears. She had not left the flat since their final apocalyptic argument, content to wallow alone in a stew of booze and misery.

Another guttural chuckle broke the silence, snatching her back from her thoughts. Some form of action seemed preferable to none. Peeling back damp bedsheets, Marion placed a shaking foot onto the cold floorboards and slowly stood up. She stretched out a trembling arm and began a zombie’s slight shuffle into the suffocating blackness, inching her way towards the light switch on the far side of the room. A third feral bark of amusement froze her blood. She took another tentative step forward, her shin suddenly connecting with something unseen lying upon the floor. She stumbled, limbs flailing wildly, then crashed into the wall with a sickening thud. The fit of hysterics that had accompanied her fall ceased abruptly as she wildly pawed at the switch, illuminating the room in a blinding white glow.

It took a second for her startled eyes to become accustomed to the light. As she struggled to focus, she felt a wave of relief. The room appeared to be deserted. More perplexing was the devastation that surrounded her. Overturned furniture and shattered picture frames, ruined vinyl brutally snapped into a thousand pieces. Gary’s clothes, shredded and torn, dangled from every surface, strewn like discarded party streamers. Another bout of sniggering stole away her breath. Marion spun around. The closed bathroom door stood directly before her. As the tittering steadily increased in volume, she summoned up the last of her courage and yanked it open.

The manic cackling reached a furious crescendo as a flickering bulb lit the scene within. Each strobing snapshot left a burnt out after-image, staining itself upon her retina. The liquid, black as oil, that pooled upon the white tiled floor; the multiple handprints like a toddler’s artwork, smeared across the drawn shower curtain. The wild-eyed banshee with the gaping lunatic grin; gnarled frame twisted and buckled, writhing and convulsing in gleeful ecstasy.

Marion screamed and screamed as it roared with laughter at her from behind the cracked glass of the mirror.


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