When your dues come.
Please note - trigger warning, descriptions of family violence.
The mirror showed a reflection that wasn’t my own, and Pa was a mighty cross I’d taken a peek!
It took me three days on my knees praying for Pa to be happy enough with my contrition before he did let me back in the house. I do not like sleep’n on the cold porch and going hungry, so I was very contrite indeed!
That night, I stood before him shiverin’, having had the unfriendly night’s air bight my feet ‘til they were blue. Pa sat at the table having his dinner, and it smelt mighty good! My rumbl’n tummy did announce my deprivation loudly. Pa smiled every time he heard my cavernous gut cry out.
Between every slow mouthful, Pa told me my deed had stained my soul, an I would forever burn in hell; unless I was a good girl and did exactly what I was told from now on. He said if I ever went into Muma’s ol’ room and touched her things again, the devil would suck my soul out of my eyes, an there would be nothing Pa could do to save me.
I promised I would be a good, good girl, an he let me sit on his lap and lick his plate clean as he ran his fingers through my hair. I know my shame ‘cos Pa always says I’m just like Muma, born in a body too good for me. He’s right! I can feel the lack of goodness in my soul.
So, I tried really hard not to peek at anything for a whole long time. A whole long, long time! The snow did melt, an the flowers did bloom before… Well, I guess… I broke my solemn promise.
Muma’s room terrified me ‘cos it sang to me on a daily basis louder than any of Pa’s threats did. Her room called unrelentingly to my weakness like the devil himself!
I struggled so very hard to do what Pa said. But standin’ in front of her big ol’ bedroom door like the criminal I am, I knew from the very depths of my soul I was gonna go in. At least, before I did break my promise, I prayed hard to let go her door handle, all warn down through the black paint to the brass below. But the little ol’ clickers outside in the summer’s heat beat the rhythm of my terrible desires. Their drumming thrummed clearly, ‘Go in, Darcy! Go dance and smell, feel and look. It’s only Muma’s room’.
I stood there with my fingers in my ears, but Muma’s Rose Tea perfume slithered out from under the door, rippen at my weak heart with its unforgiving claws, until I could take it no more and swung the door open.
Her pink bedspread with the little fluffy baubles hanging torn to the ground. The dusty carpet under my toes wore threadbare. Here, two dresses still in the draw, folded with her very hands. If I closed my eyes, she stood before me, sunlight shining through her blue dress, bouncing off her messy curls. White clean teeth bared as she bends, whispering in my ear, ‘Darcy baby Muma loves you so much.”
Mama loved to sing and dance!
For a while, anyway.
Pa would say Mama was an angel condemned to Earth. That’s why she could sing so sweetly. People travelled miles to hear her. They would sit and listen as her songs wrapped their delicate timbers around their hearts, reducing them tears.
Said she shoulda gone to the city and sung in one of them big opera houses!
Said she coulda been a star if she chose to be ‘cos Muma’s voice would put the birds of spring to shame.
That’s before her dues came.
When that happened, Pa had to chain her to her bed. He said the devil had whispered into her ear, and if he hadn’t chained her, she would have scratched her way to hell and taken me with her to pay the devil for her voice.
Well, that’s what Pa said.
We’re not allowed to talk about Muma anymore; it’s a sin!
Anyways, soon after the chaining, the banging night happened. Noises so loud they kept me awake and under ma bed, praying so hard that I would wake up to Muma making pancakes and Pa gone.
The next morning Pa came in, dragged me out from unda ma bed, an lay with me, smelling of sweat and whiskey. He held me so tight I could hardly breathe. There was to be no word of Muma and no going into her room, an definitely no touching her things!”
I can’t remember the last time I had a pancake.
And now, here I was in her room, drown'n’ in the glory of sin.
If Pa finds me, he’ll kill me or chain me too!
But I have to look; I have to see if my Mama is still there.
Her dressing mirror was covered by a thick cloth, feel’n like stiff leather but rough like my prickly winter jumper. It stood all innocent against her wall.
I know I shouldn’t have looked, but I thought just one more look shouldn’t be too bad. Just so I can tell my Muma I love her and miss her.
The cover fell to the floor, billowing up swirling glittering diamonds of dust, all caught in a god-ray stream’n through a hole in the blinds.
I stared at my feet for what felt like an age, too scared to look in case I saw the devil. Finally, I raised my head, an there she was, smiling as she had done before. All soft like a feathered angel.
I smiled back with my treacherous temperament. Muma hugged herself and whispered my name, setting a rapid tattooed deep within my chest. Her eyes so blue the sky itself would be jealous of their hue.
Muma sang me my favourite song about the little boy in a boat who got lost at sea until he was found by mermaids. Her voice was sweeter than honey and made me want to be with her ever so.
But Pa’s hands are as rough as sandpaper and as hard as a brick. His beatings carry a long and strong reminder. As those memories began to wave their fists about for my attention, my heart grew sad, for I knew I would have to say bye-bye to my mother.
I pulled the cloth up as quickly as I could so I wouldn’t see Muma’s sad face, but I whispered to her, “I’ll be back tomorrow, Muma.”
Pa didn’t say a thing at dinner. I watched him like a peeking cat from the doorway, just like I always do, hoping he wouldn’t be too hungry. When he’d finished and left me to clean up the kitchen, I made short work of the crust of his pie and the corn’s cob.
Next morning, Pa said after his meeting, he was going out to his friend’s. I was to stay home and clean and make his favourite poppy seed cake, ‘cos Mr Morris would be coming over.
He said I should be a good girl and do as I was told by Mr Morris. That I needed to get to know him better ‘cos I was gonna turn thirteen in three months, an that’s an awfully old age not to be married.
I do not like Mr Morris.
I do not like the way he tries to be friends.
I do not like how he smells, nor do I like how he sweats.
He leaves any chair he sits in wet!
And I particularly do not like how he’s always trying to touch my shoulders, my dress’s collar and my back. And I hate the way he runs his big fat fingers through my hair.
I do NOT like Mr Morris, and I know for a fact that Mama did not like him either.
That afternoon my mind became heavy with the thought of Mr Morris and his friendship. So, I sought solace from Muma and sat in front of her mirror, crying big fat tears.
She tried to sing me ma favourite song, but it only made me stop the big heavy sobs. I still felt suffocated under what was to come. I pleaded, “Muma, why can’t you come back to me? Come out of your mirror and rescue me? Don’t the devil have no heart?”
Muma was about to say something when she was interrupted.
“Darcy girl, where you be hiding at? I’m here to wrap my lips around your poppy seed cake.”
Muma smiled at me, a wicked devil’s smile.
“You in your Muma’s room? You know, Darcy girl, your Pa’s gonna be mighty angry at you!”
The door creaked open on its stubborn hinges, an there in the door frame he stood, all wet and rotund. His handkerchief trying hard to mop up his sweat.
“I should tell your Pa you're being a bad girl. But I don’t want you to get no spanking.”
He walked into the room smiling like a snake, ready to strike out at a mouse. Nodding at Muma’s bed, Mr Morris’ smile grew ravenous. “I’d be more than happy to keep your little secrete since we’re friends and all, but how about you come and sit on your Mama’s ol’ bed with me? We can show each other just how much we like one another.”
My body started shake’n with fear; I felt like a little rabbit caught in a hunter's sights. Nightmares walked into the room, reminding me what happened last time he wanted to be friends an I refused. Pa beat me so hard with a willow switch, I had trouble walking for two weeks.
Drownding in my darkening fear, I could only mumble one terrified word. “Muma!”
Mr Morris’ ol’ fat face crinkled up as I stepped away from the mirror, try’n to get out the door before he could grab me.
My Muma’s singing danced out into her mirror and into her ol’ dusty room loud and strong. She smiled sweetly as fat ol’ Mr Morris ignored me and came to stand still in front of the dressing mirror.
“Esther? Is that you truly?” His eyes were as wide as fried eggs in a hot spittin’ pan.
My Muma smiled all coy and sweet. “Oh, Bertram, I am so glad to see you. You’re a sight for sore eyes.” She grinned at him like he was an apple pie drizzled with cream.
“Esther, I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Youse just like you were before you ran away!”
Muma reached out a delicate finger up to and then through the surface of her shining mirror, indicating Mr Morris should kiss her hand in politeness, which he did.
“Oh, Bertram, both you and I know I did no running.”
Muma began to sing whilst she held Mr Morris’ hand, gently pulling him closer to the silvered surface.
“I always liked you, Bertram. You, with your little gifts. The way you would always offered a solution, shall we say, to my husband’s debts.” She laughed like a welcoming kiss.
When the cold metal rippled halfway over his fingers, Mr Morris finally realised his fate and panicked, hollering like a pig to slaughter, “No, Esther, you were taken by the devil himself; I will not pay your price for your wicked glory.”
The fat sweaty man pulled at Muma’s grasp, but she had a tiger's grip and a smile to match.
“You, Bertram, would know all about the devil and his intentions.”
Mama’s room darkened to dusk as Mr Morris screamed louder now, like a wild cat caught in a bear trap. He tried pulling away from the mirror, but Muma wasn’t letting go. The old man's mouth bubbled with spit as he swore at Muma and called her the devils whore, falling forwards to the mirror as he did.
Muma just smiled as his shoulder sank into her silvery world.
Mr Morris was halfway up to his chin when he bawled, “Darcy girl, help me!”
I could have, and I should have, but instead, my wicked heart made me do bad. I kicked his feet from under him, and that’s all it took for Muma to grip him hard and wrench him all the way in. I threw the cloth over the silver surface, blocking out his howls and terror-filled screeches.
Breathing hard like I’d been running from hell, I stood outside Muma’s bedroom door. I was bad. I knew that now without an inch of doubt.
But bad felt good.
No more Mr Morris.
No more poppy seed cake afternoons.
No more being friendly with Mr Morris.
The birds were singing their goodnights when Pa finally came home. He didn’t ask about Mr Morris, not like he ever did, and I never said a word about him either, just like I always did.
The night seemed to be settling to be a quiet one, but Muma had other ideas.
As Pa sat down for his supper, I smelt her perfume first, slithering down the hall, sniffing me and my wickedness out.
“What happened to Muma?” I tried to sound as sad and as heartbroken as I once had been, hoping this would protect me against his fists.
“She did done paid her due to the devil himself.” Pa cut the poppy seed cake and smothered his slice with butter.
“Why did she have to pay the devil?”
“Because Darcy,” Pa looked up at me before taking his first fork full, “Like I have told you before, your mother was a fallen angel. She had no place here on this earth, an her being here was a sin. The devil came one night to collect his due for her voice. She wouldn’t pay, so he took her, an that’s all there is to it.”
Pa ate his first bite of Mr Morris’ cake and swallowed. I waited till his mouth was full of the second fork before I asked my next dangerous question.
“Did the devil take Muma into her mirror?”
Poppy seed cake flew across the clean white tablecloth as rage and spite filled my Pa’s mouth.
“You are nothing but a dirty, lying, two-faced little harlot, just like your Muma! I shoulda just sold you to Morris and been done wit’ you.”
Pa pushed the table to the side as I took off like a jackrabbit up the hallway, him in hot pursuit. But I don’t think he ever thought I’d be brave enough to go into Muma’s room.
Well, that’s what I read on his face when he stormed in behind me. Then again, maybe he wasn’t expecting to see the dust cover on the floor and Muma standing in her mirror, smiling at him like a blushing bride.
“Esther?” Pa came to a full stop in front of the dressing mirror. “Esther, you’re in the mirror, girl.”
“Oh, baby, I have missed you so!” Muma held out her hands, enticing Pa to step forwards.
“But Esther, you died, girl. You died in my arms there on this very floor.” Pa’s face was as white as the cold ashes from a fire.
“I know, baby,” Muma spoke, molasses dripping from her lips. “That’s all forgotten. You come here now and hold me like you used to. Put your lips to mine and tell me I’m still yours.” Muma’s blue eyes shone out brightly from her pale complexion, and in shock, Pa reached out to her.
The tiger’s smile was back, as were her whipping claws. Both hands reached out gently as first, then she'd slashed at Pa’s forearms, locking her nails deep in his flesh.
“Darcy!” was hollered out in panic, his eyes wide and white as I took a step backwards.
“What’s a matter, baby? Don’t you love me no more?”
“Darcy, she be the devil. She be the devil!”
My heart stood still as the words slithered from my pitch-black soul. “Takes one to know one Pa!”
He screamed my name like a lil frightened child over and over again, inch upon inch, as he slid under the slivered mirror’s surface. Muma smiled as she wound him in.
His big ol’ crying face with tears streaming down each cheek, puchn’ an a thrash’n to no avail. Muma had been hit enough to learn how to ignore the pain.
I put the cover back over and greeted the silence it brought with a wide devil grin.
Life was gonna be good without Mr Morris and Pa.
I love my Muma.
About the Creator
I have a dark sense of humour which pervades most of what I write. I'm dyslexic, which pervades most of what I write. Pandora's Box of Infinite Stories is a growing collection of my work, published and under development.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Original narrative & well developed characters
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Great words !!! Truely impressive Read my story too if anyone is interested in horror stories : https://vocal.media/horror/the-old-mansion-on-the-hill-73b50glm
Absolutely wonderful writing! A more than worthy heir to the throne of Flannery O'Connor herself. I bow before you & your marvelous craft. There were only two extremely minor editorial suggestions I would make. In the paragraph beginning "When the cold metal rippled halfway over his fingers, Mrs Morris finally realised his fate" I believe you intended "Mr Morris" rather than "Mrs". The other is in the third paragraph from the end where I believe you intended "I" instead of "It". Your story, style & gift have absolutely blown me away. Others may rise to equal them, but it's difficult to imagine anyone exceeding them.
This was absolutely AMAZING! I would like to pre-emptively congratulate you on your win lol
I love it , impressive story.
Very nice story
Awesome ✨ ❤️😉Congrats on Your Top Story❗🎉🎉🎉
Wow! That was…frightening! I’m a chicken and I wasn’t going to read…then I was going to stop reading- so glad I made it to the end. Brilliant! You are an incredible writer! Very deserving of top story!
Wow! Compulsive and brilliantly written!
Love the use of vernacular! It made it so immersive. Truly chilling.
Really good, just fantastic! I had to know the end!!
Fantastic!! ❤️Story! Congrats on the totally deserved recognition 🥇Masters level!
Wow! This was fantastic, so engaging, I was hung on every word. Very well-deserving top story!
Wow 😮 Great job on this!!! And Thank you so much for the warning at the top. I truly appreciate those! Congratulations on your awesome top story!! 😁😁👏
Magnificent horror story!!! Loving it💕💖😊