It was a day when the light seemed to shimmer at the edge of buildings and the wild spirit of nature beckoned you from the undergrowth.
I was driving to meet some friends deep in the countryside and feeling hungry I decided to stop for lunch. I found myself meandering through a stretch of road that was banked on both sides by hills and suddenly came upon the inn.
The glow in the windows welcomed me and I parked the car and went inside.
I stood below the dark beams and inhaled a smell I will never forget. Someone had been boiling oranges and sugar.
That was when I saw her.
She appeared at the doorway wearing a long gown and ushered me into the dining room which was decked with silver and a fine array of foods. The entire room was lit by candles.
‘Please make yourself comfortable’, she said, ‘I will bring some wine.’
She had a radiance about her and her skin seemed pale blue and her eyes were of some unnatural colour I could not define.
‘May I see the menu?’, I said.
‘The food is set and ready to eat, you won’t be disappointed.’
Her voice came from far away, as if something other than her throat was producing it, and I waited for her to return.
When she did she bent and poured some ruby red wine into my crystal glass and I sipped it and watched as she sat next to me.
I ate the meat which was rich and tender and watched her slow carnivalesque movements, as she dipped her head slowly to raise the food to her mouth. It seemed the product of some rehearsal, as if she was unfamiliar with the act of eating.
‘We have been here for many years’, she said, ‘and passing travellers such as yourself often stop. They never forget the delicacies we serve.’
‘Do you always eat with your guests?’, I said.
She looked at me with curiosity.
‘You have an excellent chef.’
‘He has always been here, we have our own lambs which we butcher with pride, their tiny screams are like a morning song.’
‘I wasn’t aware there were lambs in these parts.’
‘Their flesh is sweet and easily rent.’
As I put fork to pink meat I caught a movement at her shoulder.
Some black shape seemed to wriggle there and vanish as I turned my eyes in her direction.
I became lulled by the ticking of the grandfather clock in the hallway, a soporific sound that brought with it an attendant unease, as if some soothing metronome were working a narcotic into my brain.
I struggled with sleepiness as she left the room and returned a few minutes later.
My hostess leant forward and loosened the top of her gown, revealing a portion of soft white flesh before placing on the table an array of small plump ducks and pigeons which she began to prod and poke with her fork, a drop of spittle on her lip.
I’m sure I heard one of them issue a shriek before it happened.
I looked at her and again saw a movement at her shoulder.
Something was moving inside her ear, a black leg was poking out of it and it was curling like a tendril in search of light.
I watched her as she continued cutting the meat with an obsessive glare in her face.
And the leg reached out and touched her cheek. It was followed by another and then the plump body of a large black spider wrestled itself from inside her head.
It crawled down her face and dropped into the food, scuttling away across the tablecloth.
And still she continued cutting.
Now another spider left her head followed by a swarm of moths that flew into the room and bombed the candles.
I stood and began to leave when she laid a hand on my arm and I felt ice.
I looked into her eyes and saw beneath their translucent surface the moving shapes of a thousand insects. And she seemed as empty as a shell, her skull no more than powder.
The table was full of rotting meat and worms and maggots were wriggling across the tablecloth and through its holes. It was moving with their coiled and creeping bodies.
I tried to pull away but she was strong. Despair made me cruel.
Picking up a candle holder I pressed it against her face and watched as her hair ignited and she exploded into a fireball, running shrieking from the room, her dress and body in flames.
As I was passing through the doorway into the open air she grabbed my legs and I dragged her out of there, across the gravel path and watched her dress ride up and her legs begin to cut and tear to nothing and issue no blood. Her skin seemed to tear like a pus-filled wound, small bits of gravel lodged in there and oozing fluid.
She was holding on tight.
Over by the well in the yard was a rusty spade and I picked this up and hit her across the head. It came away with the first blow.
The sight was nauseating and her body began to decay before my eyes.
I ran from there and the stench and got in my car.
I started the engine and drove back into the deep countryside.
In my rear view mirror I caught a final glimpse of a burnt out building with no roof.
Copyright: © 2010 Richard Godwin
Richard Godwin writes dark crime fiction, and he lets it slip the net like wash into horror.
His work has appeared in many publications, places like A Twist Of Noir and Pulp Metal Magazine, as well as in two anthologies. His story 'Pike N Flytrap' is in this Fall's issue of Needle Magazine, his story 'Face Off' is in the latest Crime Factory, issue #5. His play ‘The Cure-All’ has been produced on the London stage. All his stories and poetry can be found at his blog here http://www.richardgodwin.net/
His first crime novel ‘Apostle Rising’ is about to be published and will be released for sale onto the market on March 10th 2011. Use the link to watch a video ad of it.