This short story was previously published by Sips Card back in January. I thought I would share it for my month-long Halloween creep-fest. If you’ve never visited Sips Card website, check it out. They publish fiction short stories and poetry, and they are a paying publication.
In their own words, here’s what they are all about:
“Sips Card puts short fiction and poetry into local coffee shop venues around the country (and in Scotland). We are a publication run by artists, for artists. Each card contains a QR code, loaded with a short story, or set of poems, from a writer meant to last as long as a cup of coffee. The cards include the issue’s author, story title, and website/e-mail.”
Check their submission guidelines at sipscard.com/submit/ and send them one of your stories or poems. The next issue is their 2nd Anniversary.
by Lisa Yow-Williams
Gracila rummaged through the decaying wooden trunk, growing more horrified with each discolored, aging photograph she discovered. She touched each one apprehensively and swallowed hard to hold back the revulsion that caused her stomach to spasm.
She tossed the photographs in a haphazard pile and cautiously pushed them around, mixing and churning the display of horror, fearful that touching them might contaminate her. Dust swirled heavily in the dim rays of sunlight filtering through the lone porthole in the musty attic room. She wished she had never opened the old trunk.
She wanted to look away but couldn’t. She was transfixed, mesmerized by the realization that the photos changed everything. It meant the monsters were real.
The stories were supposed to be fairy tales; bedtime stories passed down from generation to generation. Gracila’s mother told her the fables of The Extinct Ones when she was a child. She believed and they frightened her then, but she grew up. Now, strewn on the scuffed, wood floor in front of her was the proof of their existence.
Closing her eyes tightly, Gracila tried to recall one of the bedtime stories from her childhood. She could picture her mother, Thyla, sitting on the edge of the bed animatedly mimicking The Extinct Ones.
Gracila’s wide eyes would stare at her mother in awe as she curled into her favorite velvety blanket, and pulled it up to her nose. She pressed her shoulders deep into the pillow as she tried to create a cocoon of safety around her to keep the monsters away.
Thyla would start the stories with, “Many, many seasons ago The Extinct Ones invaded and ravaged our planet with pestilence and carnage…,” in an eerie, high-pitched voice and wild eyes that she reserved solely for story time. Her mother would flail her arms like a feral animal attacking.
Gracila loved the vivid stories; loved being scared. But not like this.
The sound of the creaking floorboards wrenched Gracila from her memories. Her mother stood in the attic doorway looking as if she might faint; her face pinched and pale. Her trembling hand tightly grasped the locket around her neck, causing her knuckles to turn white. Gracila glared at her mother through wet eyes, speechless, with her mouth slightly opened in disbelief.
“I hoped you would never know the truth. I should have destroyed the photographs, but they are a part of our history that I couldn’t bear to eradicate,” Thyla said mournfully.
“Why, Mother? How can they be real?”
“I should never have told you that those bedtime stories were fairy tales. It was a mistake, I realize now. But now that you know they’re real, we must talk,” said Thyla as she entered the attic room and knelt down on the floor next to Gracila.
“So they were real, and they did all the horrible things from the bedtime stories?” Gracila hissed as she reached down to pick up one of the photographs. She bent it and thrust it angrily at her mother. Spittle flew from her mouth and a frothy glob settled on the edge of her lower lip. Tears flooded down her blotchy, red cheeks.
Thyla gently took the photograph from Gracila’s hand and said, “Yes, and much worse. But they can no longer hurt us or anyone else. They’re dead. Our ancestors gave them the name The Extinct Ones because they could no longer bear to utter or hear their true name. Over the centuries the stories have been passed down as tales, mostly so we would never forget. We just wanted to protect the children.”
“I had no idea they were so hideous, Mother. The stories didn’t prepare me for the site of them,” Gracila said as she gazed at the photograph her mother held. “They’re disgusting animals without compassion,” she gasped.
Thyla turned the ancient photograph over and held it up to Gracila as she said, “The name we no longer utter is here on the back of this photograph.” She pointed at the name as Gracila stared at it in dismay.
Gracila took the photograph from her mother and looked closer, attempting to pronounce the name correctly, “Humans? They were called Humans? What a repulsive name.”