Horror Bite Challenge #20

350 words inspired by the photo above.

350 words inspired by this strange photo.

The Replacements

by Darryl Foster

Lydia Moss had lost everything in a house blaze. She was 35, disfigured by the fire and haunted by the dying screams of her family. Her mind drifted on morphine, prescribed for her excruciating epidermal pain, and her thoughts meandered between senseless ideas of the living and the dead. She missed her family, and home, but she had plans to replace both.

Firstly, insurance money helped Lydia move into a new house. A neighbour dropped by, and he cringed at her hideousness: patchy hair, partial nose, mottled webs of skin grafts. He offered only hearsay during his short visit. He said her home was built over a landfill site where mafia victims begged for their lives before execution. She didn’t need to know that and shooed him away.

The next night Lydia enacted her final plan, and at the kitchen table she created dolls; effigies of her dead family: husband, four kids and granddad. Tomorrow she’d stake them in the garden for a pretend reunion. By four in the morning Lydia had almost completed the dolls when the front door slammed. Clatter tore through the house. The kitchen cupboards banged and something scratched and clawed beneath the floorboards.

Then silence.

Lydia believed it was a sign. Her family had come to her. She picked up the unfinished doll of her four year old daughter Alison and finished her work before bed.

Lydia slept until noon. After she woke she staked the dolls in the garden for the reunion. Alison was the last to be staked in this family of scarecrows. But first, Lydia had to braid her daughter’s straw hair. “There my love, all done.”

“I love you Mommy.”

Lydia’s heart cramped with fear, and she tossed the talking effigy to the grass.

The other dolls flexed on their stakes and turned their button eyes on her.

“Please help.”

“Don’t kill me.”

“I don’t want to die.”

These pleas were not her family, they belonged to the murdered. Lydia’s mind cracked and bled a sick revelation: if she couldn’t have her family then these poor souls, these replacements, would do.

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