After watching the Patriots lose pathetically to the Jets yesterday, I wasn't exactly in the best of moods to write a blog post. Everything I started to write was angry, and I didn't want to start off the week on a rant. So I took a step back, took some deep breaths, and gave it some thought. And while I wasn't intending on churning one of these out so quickly, inspiration struck and from there I had almost no choice.
Here's the story that was inspired by Nyx's winning suggestion announced Friday for my Simple Something post from last week. Again, here's what I had to go by:
Title: Lampshade Silhouettes
Name: Agnes Pennyworth
Agnes never used to mind living alone, but that all changed when she started to see things out of the corner of her eyes that weren't there. She had lived alone in her home for the past seventeen years, the lonely widow of the late Mr Pennyworth, and the strangely foreign way a house becomes when it's suddenly only you living within it's four walls was so much water under the bridge. At first she felt silly, if not a bit ridiculous when she began seeing the fleeting silhouettes hiding behind the lampshades in her living room. At eighty-three years old she was no spring chicken, and she could deal without the excitement, thank you very much. Still, the sliding darkness she could see on the edges of her vision was unsettling, and whenever it showed up, she always found something to do in another room. She had an entire house to herself, after all, and there was no shortage of work to be done.
It wasn't just the movement on the edge of her vision that bothered her. Ever since the silhouettes started showing up, there were times when she'd find herself standing in the middle of her living room, staring at the wall above the sofa where a large oil painting of a fox hunt hung, rubbing furiously at the small gold cross she wore around her neck. She would have no recollection of how she got there, or how long she had been standing. After a few “episodes” (as she came to call them), her chest became too scratched from the edges of her necklace to continue wearing it. It was all she could do to work the clasp to remove it, her fingertips and thumbs swollen with mysterious blisters. It was the first time in almost sixty years that it had not hung around her neck, having never parted with it even when her and her late husband tried for children. She felt strangely naked without it, but her fingers remained too tender with those oddly persistent blisters to put it back on once the scratches on her chest had healed.
The thing with the teacups bothered her, too. She had never been one to be careless with her possessions, least of all her fine china, but lately she had come across her best china teacups in the strangest of places. She had found one resting on a radiator in her late husband's study, another sitting on the roof of her car in the garage, and another on the floor in front of the trashcan in the kitchen. She was willing to admit that perhaps with the stress of the odd things she had been seeing that perhaps she was sleepwalking, to boot. That may have been all the explanation needed, save for the fact that each teacup contained freshly steeped tea, and the teacups were still warm, almost too hot to touch. This was the oddest part of all, for Agnes didn't drink tea. She had been drinking black coffee ever since she first started getting what her mother had called her “monthlies.”
One afternoon, three weeks after they first began, Agnes happened to catch in her field of vision one of the lampshade silhouettes. She was sitting in her chair by the window next to her knitting basket, where she always sat when she saw them, and when she saw the first hint of movement, she snapped her head to her right. The darkness, instead of disappearing like breath into cold air, continued to creep up the lampshade like pooling malice. The image of a hideous creature appeared, heavy with sharp-looking fangs and a pair of long, curved horns. As if it could sense her looking at it, the creature's shadow began to turn towards her. Agnes screamed, her voice cracking. She blinked, and it was gone.
Agnes practically flew out of the living room, cold fear coursing through her. She burst outside through a door that let onto the backyard, crunching the late autumn leaves under her feet. Get a hold of yourself, she said silently, her heart trip hammering in her chest. She pulled in a few deep breaths, and tried her best to exhale the fear she felt but could not stop asking the questions to which she had no answers for. What did I see? What is happening to me?
Am I going crazy?
There were no movements until almost a week later. By then, Agnes had begun to dismiss the matter, especially since the blisters on her fingers were finally healing. She had all but forgotten it altogether when she came down the stairs on the morning of the sixth day, holding her cross necklace in one hand and the railing in the other. She knew something was wrong the moment she put her foot on the last stair from the bottom. The room felt suddenly cooler, yet oddly like a fever. She looked up from her feet to the wall where the oil painting hung, and there it was. The same horrid creature's shadow, creeping along the mounted huntsman and their dogs. The stairs creaked beneath her feet, and the creature jumped at the noise and faced her.
What was first just a shadow turned into something three-dimensional, it's fangs dripping saliva that burned like acid into the plastic covers on the sofa cushions. It looked at Agnes hungrily, and screeched as it began to crawl out of the painting. The sound was ear-splitting, and made her vision shake. She felt something warm trickle from her nose, and absently reached a hand up to her face. There was blood on it when she pulled it away. Seeing the deep red on her index finger spurred her into action, and she flung her cross necklace at the shadow-creature.
Her necklace would have hit the shadow-creature squarely in the chest had it not recoiled while it traveled across the living room. It screeched again in anger and what sounded to Agnes like pain, and then it was gone. Her necklace hit the painting and bounced off, falling behind the sofa. Later, when she felt some semblance of strength in her bones she tried to move the sofa to retrieve it, but it was far too heavy.
The creature didn't return at all that day, but it was not gone for good. Agnes would see this shadow-creature almost daily over the next few weeks, not only in the lampshades that caught the afternoon sun and the oil painting over the sofa, but seemingly everywhere. She became afraid to sleep when she saw it one day in her bedroom, lurking in the picture frame she kept on her nightstand that contained her wedding picture. During all of this she continued to find the teacups of fresh, hot tea around her house.
On the day that Agnes Pennyworth died, she had come back aware after having one of her episodes to find a shadow-creature staring at her from within the oil painting. It's awful hands rested on the frame of the painting, the wood smoking as if the creature was giving off heat. She felt something in her hands, and looked down to see that she was holding her cross necklace.
She was still looking down at her hands when she saw that ever familiar movement in the corner of her eye. She turned to her right and saw a second shadow-creature pulling itself out of her knitting basket, the yarn smoldering into a multicolored mass. To her left she turned now, just in time to see a third shadow-creature take it's first steps towards her from behind her late husband's prized Crosley tube radio, the cloth covering the speakers melting and shriveling.
They advanced on her, chattering and chittering in an awful language that made her teeth hurt. She barely felt the pain, nor the blood that trickled from her eyes and nostrils. They screeched in unison, the sound bursting her eardrums and shattering her prized collection of china teacups. She had barely any time to make a noise in her throat before all three were upon her, and then there was nothing but sweet, blessed darkness.
Agnes Pennyworth, with no children to come calling due to her barren womb, was found by a concerned neighbor two weeks later. All of the doors were locked, yet the key that Agnes had given to her neighbor for “just in case” purposes seemed not to work. She peered into the kitchen window, and saw Agnes sitting at her kitchen table, slumped slightly over. She called out loudly to her, and when there was no response, the neighbor promptly called the police.
The door was broken down, and after the house was cleared and one of the cops had checked her cold body for a pulse, the coroner was called in. Pictures were taken and statements were made, but none of those who were in charge of clearing the scene noticed that the teacup that rested on the table next to Agnes' folded hands was still warm.
Almost too hot to touch.
Happy Monday, folks.