Friday, November 21, 2014

Short Fiction: A Pennsylvania Haunting, Part Two

Part One available here.

Part Two

     Like all of his sex, this new man was contemptible, barely worth her efforts.  Prosaic in his habits, insipid in his demeanor and repulsive in his appearance, he inspired disgust over loathing, amusement over anger.  Calling him something as repugnant as a man elevated him.  Nevertheless, he was an outlet.  An avenging angel like herself had a duty to perform, and in her imprisonment she could not afford to be selective.
At first she waited, allowing them to become comfortable in her home.  She was soon familiar with their proclivities and preferences, their routines and rituals.  The eldest daughter played softball, exchanging femininity for athleticism.  The youngest lived with her face bathed in the glow of electrical devices of varying shapes, sizes, and functions.  The wife, relegated to the servant’s role of cooking, cleaning, and maintaining the house, had no more ambition than the sparrows that lived in the woods nearby.
And what more could be said about the husband?  The ghost’s own father, as buffoonish as he had been, was at least capable of discussing the works of John Locke and Charles de Montesquieu, to say nothing of Martin Luther and Rene Descartes.  In tedious contrast, this new man conversed in nothing but trivialities, offering at the best of times only the blandest of rhetorical victuals.
When it came time to poison them against each other, she began with subtlety, or what passed for it.  She put a foul stink in the nostrils of his wife and daughters whenever he drew near, prompting frequent and vociferous complaints.  Capon that he was, he would remove himself to scrub his body in the bath, using a variety of soaps and unguents to no avail.  It wasn’t long before even his wife shunned him, forcing him to spend his nights sleeping upon the living room’s narrow couch.
The wife, so proud of her meager talents in the kitchen, soon drew groans at the dinner table from ruined meal after ruined meal.  It was an easy task to switch salt for sugar in cake batter, or to pour an injurious quantity of red pepper flake into an unguarded pot of stew.  The ghost's trick of luring insects into a dish was old, yes, but effective, especially when the youngest daughter, already chary of eating, was made the primary victim.  Even the expedient of bringing home meals prepared elsewhere was spoiled by frigid drafts that congealed flavored oils to cold grease and turned crisp coatings into flaccid paste.
A simple distorting of perception was all that was needed to drive the youngest daughter to neurosis.  Every mirror in the house showed her to be grossly obese, covered in rolls of acne-dotted fat.  Between her mother’s tainted cooking and her own creeping instability, the girl barely ate enough to stay conscious throughout the day.  On occasion the girl would bring home bags of sweetmeats and other such viands, and then gorge upon them until vomiting.  Her skin paled to taut whiteness, showing the warp and weft of the bones beneath.
Of all her mischief, the eldest daughter’s ruination was the ghost’s favorite, not least because the girl had been especially fond of the contemptible man of the house.  She endured his phantom stench the longest until, when they were alone, the ghost began to whisper obscene suggestions into her ear in an approximation of his voice.  He denied saying such things, but before long, she refused to subject herself to his presence.  When she bathed, the ghost would open the washroom door to give her the impression that he had been watching.  Pairs of her undergarments would be found between the cushions of the couch he slept upon, and his illusory footsteps could be heard pacing at her bedroom door.
As months passed, none of them could bear the sight of one another.  The excuse for a man meekly submitted to his ostracism, spending as little time at the house as he could.  Both daughters shut themselves away, eschewing food and company.  Bemoaning her helplessness, the wife wept into her hands.
It was glorious.
    And tiresome, eventually.  The game had lost its luster.
She would end it tonight with a caress of his manhood, and as he lay there, alone and aroused, she would call to him in his eldest daughter’s voice, begging for help.  He would go to her, rampant and foul-smelling, and her screams would wake the dead.

2 comments:

17af79d2-19de-11e4-ab06-2f190bda8340 said...

Very rich, David. Your images hang like art in my mind's gallery. Well-written with a palpable ambience.

David Dubrow said...

Why, thank you, sir! You're very kind.