Dalia Habershon sat in her favourite high back chair and surveyed the room. The lights were dimmed, with a few candles to lend the right ambiance. The fireplace roared and the butler had set out tea for the guest. The peeling wallpaper was barely visible, and the cracks in the plaster melded into the gloom.
We haven’t had a visitor in ages. This could be a good day.
She shifted position to ease the twinge in her back. The chair creaked, and the faded upholstery rippled, threatening to tear again. Dalia smoothed the skirt of her best dress, ignoring the old stains and the tattered edges of the fabric. She had done her best to look presentable, fixing her hair, even adding a touch of lipstick.
She cocked her head, listening to the whispers from the shadows. “Shush, he’ll be here soon. Be patient,” she replied. More whispers, Dalia strained to make out the words. “Yes, I’m certain. He’s not the type to miss an opportunity. He’s nothing but a muckraker trying to jumpstart a career, make a name for himself. He jumped at the chance to interview the infamous Red Witch.”
The double doors flung open, and two figures strode into the room. Dalia’s butler announced, “A Mr. Phillip Cobb to see you, ma’am,” before bowing and backing out of the room. He shut the doors behind him with a bang that made Phillip Cobb jump.
He laughed nervously. “This place sure plays up the spooky atmosphere.”
“It’s the way we like it. Come, have a seat on the sofa.” Dalia waved her hand at the ragged piece of furniture, hoping the springs were still holding.
Phillip sat down as instructed and took out his phone. “Do you mind if I record this?”
“Whatever you need.” Dalia beamed, playing the perfect host. “Would you like some tea?”
Phillip shook his head. “Maybe later. I’d Like to start the interview. How did you get this local reputation as the ‘Red Witch’? Rumours have it you make people disappear with your magic.” He smiled, a slight edge of mocking to his grin.
“Did they tell you how I cast spells and feed my hapless victims to my demonic pets? Or perhaps the one about how I collect souls.” Dalia snickered. “Truth is, I’m just an eccentric lady and people like to talk.” She shrugged. “It’s not my fault if people disappear. Probably should have minded their own business.”
“So you’re saying that you’re just a victim of gossip and harassment, that—” Phillip suddenly yelped, pointing at the shadows, “What the hell is that?”
Dalia sighed. Damn the ghosts. They’re so impatient. “Just can’t stay hidden, can you? Well, come out then, since he’s seen you.”
From behind the chair, several ethereal figures floated forward, crowding around the sofa. Eager moans issued from their throats as Phillip shrank away from their outstretched hands. He yelped again as something else slithered across the floor, adding a trail of slime to the layers of dust.
Still shrieking, Phillip leapt to his feet. With her foot, Dalia shoved the coffee table into his shins, upsetting his balance and rattling the tea set. As Phillip tumbled back onto the sofa, Dalia reached between the chair cushions, then vaulted over the table, brandishing a knife.
“You wanted to know if I had anything to do with the disappearances? The answer is yes,” she snarled. “The Red Witch is a killer.” She slit his throat with a laugh.
His blood sprayed against her dress, adding a touch of bright red to the faded crimson cloth. Dalia licked drops of Phillip’s blood from her lips as she watched his moaning spirit rise from his body.
“Come my pets, you have someone new to torture.”
The other ghosts rushed in, moaning eagerly, and hauled Phillip’s spirit away to the darkest shadows. Dalia listened to his phantom screams as her pets played with their newest toy. She chuckled.
It will only hurt for a little while, Phillip. Then you’ll become one of us.
More shadows shifted, and a reddish tentacle reached out towards the sofa. It wrapped around the corpse’s neck and squeezed. Bones snapped and flesh dissolved until the head popped off. The slimy appendage dragged the head into the shadows and they both disappeared into the dim murk of the room. Blood oozed and pooled on the sofa cushions.
Dalia nodded. “That’s it, feast, my pet, but save some meat for me. Winter’s coming and the freezer needs stocking.”
She scooped some blood from the stump of the neck into a cup and poured in some tea. Dalia settled back in her chair, sipping her drink and licking blood from her fingers. She gazed at the body on the sofa and listened to the sweet sounds of screams and crunching bones.
Dalia smiled. “Well, it was a very good day indeed.”
~ A. F. Stewart
© Copyright 2020 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.