This was inspired by The Man With The Yellow Face by Anthony Horowitz, a short story. Enjoy!
The Lady With The Red Fingernails
It stood, rather shabby, on the corner of Harvood Road.
The windows shattered, the doors rotten and wasting away.
I lived a few yards away, on the same road. My house couldn’t be more different; modern, neat and tidy, much like the houses toddlers would draw. This meant that I used to walk past it every day to get to school. I always gave it a wide berth and crossed to the other side of the street- there were no other short-cuts I could take. It gave off a kind of evil aura- you could almost see green smoke billowing out of the chimney, snaking through the weeds that had grown tall in the front garden. Every day I would tiptoe by, hands folded tightly across my chest, knuckles white. Every day I could feel eyes on my back, crawling down my spine like spiders. No one knew who owned it. No one knew when it was built.
But we could use our imagination to fill up the gaps. And so we did.
I conjured up all sorts of ideas with my friends: a werewolf, lurking in the darkest depths of the house; an old lady, who hadn’t seen the Sun in fifty years; or perhaps just a group of squatters? We would sit in a circle where one of us would tell stories and the rest of us, propped up on our elbows, would stare wide eyed, as quiet as mice.
It was a good past time, for sure. We all loved a good ghost story. But this was different. The house wasn’t a story. It was real. And that was what made all the rumours terrifying: it could be real.
Anything could be behind the door of Number 1 Harvood Road.
It was ten days into the winter term. I was in Science class, period four, writing revision notes for the upcoming test. Only one more period to go, I remember thinking. Only one more period and then I get to enjoy the bliss of the weekend. But all my thoughts of a relaxed two days off were ruined when a girl crashed through the double doors, screaming. Help me! Help me! She shrieked, causing chairs to tumble over and most of the class to stand up in surprise. Help me! Her bloodshot eyes swivelled desperately from one petrified pupil to another, until her eyes landed on me. Red everywhere… please help! Help! She collapsed on the floor, her arms and legs twitching. Her eyes rolled back in her head. Our teacher screamed for someone to fetch the nurse, but we all knew it was too late. She was gone.
Everything else happened too quickly for me to remember much. There was ambulances, teachers telling us to keep calm. An assembly, to tell us that a certain girl of the name Alice Durham had sadly passed away. My journey back home, past the house as quickly as I could.
That night, I felt like everything had been drained out of me, like I was a full bath and someone came along and pulled the plug. I was exhausted, but I just couldn’t fall asleep. After an hour of trying, I got out of bed and opened the window to breathe in the fresh air. Something caught my eye. It was that house. I looked closer. In one of the windows, right in the corner, was a doll. Avoodoo doll. Shaking my head, I closed the window and got back into bed. It couldn’t mean anything, could it?
The days after that were chaotic. Two girls went missing three days after the Alice Durham incident. Another two voodoo dolls were added in the window of the house. My friends became more and more scared. I had told them about the dolls in the window, and they reckoned the girls were connected. ‘It can’t be a coincidence, surely?’ One of my friends said in a hushed tone.
On the Thursday, three days after the most recent incident, I found myself staring out of my window at the three figures in the window. Their beady eyes were unnerving, looking out into the cold. Whenever I tried to look away I was drawn back. It’s like there was some kind of energy that was dragging me in. I couldn’t stop watching them.
And then one of their heads turned to face me.
I screamed, but an invisible hand covered my mouth.
The other two turned, slowly. They were ugly, decaying like the house they were in. All of them were smiling. Time froze. I didn’t know whether to keep looking or to turn around.
I could have saved myself but I chose to keep looking.
Whispers filled my head, whispers everywhere, saying join us, join us… And suddenly I felt strangely happy and calm. All I wanted was to be there with them. A face appeared at the window. A woman, beautiful with blue eyes and black hair. I was entranced by her beauty. She started singing, a lovely lullaby, that sweetened my senses. When have I ever been this happy?
The woman beckoned me. Her nails were painted a ruby red, glinting in the moonlight. Join us, join us… The whispers grew louder, which made me dizzy. I got up and walked, still in my pajamas, out of my bedroom door, down the stairs and out of the house. I could still see this beautiful lady, this lady with the red fingernails in my head, and my pace quickened. The house, once wasting away, had turned into a palace with pillars sky high. I opened the door and butlers greeted me with charming smiles. I was escorted into a room with luscious red carpets and golden walls. There were paintings of ladies with long dresses and gentlemen with charming smiles were hung up, and stained glass windows with intricate patterns.
And suddenly I saw her. Standing at a window with three china porcelain dolls. She turned and smiled. I took a step, and another.
The walls fell away. The dolls faces crumbled apart. And the woman herself turned into a monster so ugly, so gruesome there are no words to describe. I realised I had fallen in a trap. The whispers turned into screams and I swayed on the spot. I closed my eyes tight, wishing, wishing I could turn time back, wishing I was in a dream. But this was no dream. This was real.
I opened my eyes and in front of me were the three dolls, reaching out, smiling.
So now here I am. Here I am, with my stitched smile and sewn on buttons. Here I am sitting at the windowsill of Number 1 Harvood Road.
If I had just thought for a moment, if I had just looked closer at the butler and the walls, I would’ve seen a layer underneath. A layer underneath the majesty, a layer of decay and anger. But I was oblivious to all that.
So now here I am. And here I will be, forever more.