I've been writing a lot of short stories recently and entering them into some competitions. Not only is writing specific horror-themed stories cathartic, but it's also a great way to hone my craft and my writing skills and get more out there in the world.
You will see a lot of similar stories pop up, not only on This Side of Sanguine, but also in other mediums as I tackle a lot of different creative projects, such as releasing a story in an academic journal, and creating a short film series with a producer here in Canberra.
In the meantime, I would love to introduce you to my short story Letting them eat cake, which has been entered into the Questions short story competition, bringing up questions such as how far you will go to ease your pain. So without further ado, I bring you the first of many short stories in my series:
She had tried deep breathing and meditation, but none of it had worked. She had drowned her sorrows in litres of powerful-smelling vodka and cried until the mascara had run completely off her face and her eyes had become puffy. She had texted her friends in cycles, looping through the same questions and answers constantly.
“Why would he do this to me?”
“How could he have chosen her? I don’t understand!”
“But I love him…”
“I miss him so much.”
“He’s such a dick. I hate him.”
“I will kill them.”
The last sentence was sent in dramatic cynicism, but it had felt so right to Becky Prachett. She looked at the four little words on the screen and felt a rush of adrenaline. Without thinking, she tapped the social media icon on her phone and brought up his profile.
There he was in all his glory – Jack Gilligan. Twenty-seven years old, handsome, and well-built with short blonde hair and blue eyes. It was not hard to see why Becky Prachett had fallen for someone like him. He was charming, and forever playing the part of the protector. He wanted to save people, and for the better half of a year he had saved Becky from her self-loathing, her terrible self-esteem, and the haunting past of her broken family.
But he had also fed her disillusionment, keeping her weak so that he could continue to be the strong one. Becky had eaten it up like chocolate ice cream and had fallen hard and fast for Jack.
But Becky was not the only one that Jack wanted to save. He started to grow bored and restless, and refused Becky’s plights to be exclusive, citing modern day relationships not being “a thing”. He maintained an air of an unrestricted womanizer, ensuring he was never tied down to Becky and her normal exclusive desires, always out looking for another conquest.
Every night she was away from Jack felt like a knife in the heart because Becky forever wondered if he was in a bed with someone else. It filled her with anxiety and dread, causing more manipulation from Jack to keep her there on the sidelines. He would have his cake and eat it too.
But she was too in love with him to let him go, despite knowing how bad he was for her. She kept hanging on, hoping for his crumbs of love, only to be left with an empty plate.
Then one day, it all started to change. Jack’s wondering eye had landed on another woman who was innocent enough to let him pull the strings. She was twenty-two, and not his usual type. She was dark-skinned, short, and fairly unattractive in Becky’s eyes, with no interest in any of Jack’s particular hobbies or fantasies.
Not in the way that Becky was, or in the way that Becky could fulfil for him.
Jack called her up one morning while she was at work in her busy public relations firm. They had set a course to go out for dinner that night because Becky had been feeling left out from his attentions. She could feel him starting to drift away and her request for a dinner date was her way of trying to hold onto him, to prove herself.
But his phone call the morning of the date was the final nail in the coffin that was their relationship. He told her that this innocent new girl wanted to be exclusive with him, and he wanted to give it a shot.
“What about me?” Becky cried into the phone, tears running down her face. She couldn’t believe this was happening. “I’ve asked you countless times to be exclusive with me! Why are you suddenly giving her a shot? Why didn’t you give me a shot?”
“It’s not that she’s better than you Becky, it’s just that she’s newer,” Jack had replied.
Becky was devastated, and had spent the rest of the week crying to her friends who had little sympathy for her. They had told her time and time again that Jack was no good for her, that he was manipulating her and was a toxic person in her life. But time and time again Becky came running back.
And here she was again, still obsessing over him and why it ended. She had defriended him from social media, but his privacy settings were low so she could still see his daily activities. She stared often at the photos she thought was so cute, and felt nothing but a pang of pain and anger.
Why couldn’t he just be with her?
This night was different though. As she pulled up Jack’s profile she saw the change in his relationships status – they were official. There was even a photo of them standing next to a bed, his hand wrapped around her waist. His new girlfriend had taken the photo using a filter Jack would never have approved of, captioning it with “Date night dinner dates!” and had tagged a hotel in another city.
Looking at the photo for the first time Becky felt a sudden surge of hatred flow throw her veins. It seemed to permeate her bloodstream and into her very core; the leaden feeling of sickness in her stomach seemed to turn into a growling hunger for utter devastation.
Becky sat on her bed fuming. He had always hidden her away while they had been dating, telling her that he didn’t want a relationship with her, and trying to censor her on social media in case one of his other conquests happened across his profile. Not to mention the fact that he had never taken her away on a romantic getaway, and here he was just two weeks into a new relationship with this girl breaking all his rules.
The fire within Becky started to grow. They didn’t even look good together, not in the way she and Jack had. She stared into the eyes of her enemy and felt like her skin was going to burst into flames.
She hated them. She absolutely utterly loathed them.
She wanted to kill them.
Suddenly Becky heard a high pitched wailing scream coming from outside her window. It wasn’t the wind, as it was a relatively calm night, and the sheer terror in the scream seemed to reverberate through Becky, mixing with the hatred that seethed in her bloodstream.
Instinctively, Becky abandoned her phone and got off her bed, running over to her window. She looked out into the darkness into the direction of the scream and saw a terrifying figure standing in the yard just outside her window.
It was a woman. She wore a long Victorian-era grubby white nightgown and was standing barefoot on the grass, her legs splattered with caked-on mud. The woman’s hair was dark and tangled, hanging in front of her face. As Becky took in the dark ominous figure, the wailing that drew her to the window stopped.
Suddenly, the woman turned her face to stare up at Becky at the second story window and she caught a glimpse of her eyes that seemed to sear straight into her soul. The woman opened up her mouth and let out another ear-piercing scream, louder and more high-pitched than the last. Becky didn’t have time to cover her ears as she felt the scream pour into her like liquid, seeping into every corner of her body and setting her on fire.
All Becky could feel was hatred and pain as the world around her went dark.
It was four in the afternoon the next day and Jack pulled up into the driveway of his home in his pickup truck. He climbed out of the car, pulling his toolkit with him as he took in the fact that Maya’s car was still parked at the curb. His heart rose at the idea of her being in his bed, waiting for him.
Jack usually left early in the morning for his shifts at the construction site, so he often had left women waiting in his bed. Usually they would get up, shower, and leave, but Maya was different. She was his girlfriend now and she popped round whenever she felt like it.
It was something Jack was struggling to get used to, but he didn’t hate.
If Jack could whistle he would have as he strode up the path to his home. He was feeling settled in himself and his decision to start seeing Maya. She was a lovely, innocent girl and he felt he could bring a lot to the table for her.
Jack unlocked his front door and settled his toolkit just inside, pulling his keys out of the lock.
“Honey, I’m home!” Jack jokingly laughed, calling out to Maya. He walked up the hallway and into the bedroom, expecting to find her lying on the bed, playfully waiting for him.
Maya certainly was lying on the bed, but what Jack walked into was a terrifying ordeal that he could only gape at in horror.
Maya lay in a starfish pose in the middle of his bed, her legs spread-eagle and bare feet dangling off the side. She lay staring upwards blankly at the ceiling, her usual gleaming brown eyes a dull white. Her sternum was completely ripped open and wrenched apart, bits of ribs poking through dark reddened muscle and skin; some bent at strange angles, and a few broken off completely and lying in the pool of congealed blood around her. Maya’s lungs and organs had been pulled from her body, some lying all around the bedroom like they had been chucked over the shoulder by whatever monster had done this to her.
As Jack took in the horrifying remains of his girlfriend his eyes travelled upwards to the wall behind the bed. Scrawled out in Maya’s own reddish brown blood was five terrifying words drawn with bloodied fingers.
“Do you love me now?”
Becky whispered it to him again behind him and Jack jumped a foot, backing away from her and inching towards the bed. She was standing still in front of him, blood splattered all over her tank top and sleeping shorts, covering both her hands and her mouth.
“Becky?” Jack stammered, “How could you do this?” he asked.
Becky just stared at him, her eyes staring into his soul with anger. She raised her right hand and he saw that she held Maya’s heart in her fist; the bloodied organ that had made Maya who she was dripping onto the carpet of his bedroom. Becky continued to stare at him and she took the heart to her mouth and bit into it like it was an apple, making a horrible squelching sound as blood squirted out of the organ.
Jack was frozen. He couldn’t believe any of this was happening. Becky had been a little intense during their relationship, but he had never imagined she was a killer.
Becky swallowed the bite of heart and grinned at him, blood smeared all over her teeth.
“Do you love me now?” she asked, before she let out an ear-piercing Banshee-like scream that bore itself straight into Jack’s skull. He instinctively pulled his ears up to block the sound as best he could, but he could already feel it, wriggling inside him like a worm.
Becky launched at him while he was distracted, dropping Maya’s heart to the ground like the useless organ it was. She drove him backwards onto the bed, landing him on top of Maya’s dead body as she dug her newly-sharpened nails into him.
Since Becky had seen the Banshee outside her window, she had known that killing Jack and his girlfriend was the right thing to do. The world didn’t need another man who wanted to have his cake and eat it too. Besides, Jack should have seen this coming.
As they say, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.