The last request from the prisoner about to be executed for his crimes was incomprehensible to most. He asked that his head be upright and he wanted no mask covering his eyes.
Gladimus McCarran was as guilty as sin and as bad as they come. Chloe was sure there isn’t a place in Hell fitting enough for him. Hell must be terrified and doubtful of having someone badder than the head honcho in there. At twenty-three years old, he’d committed more crimes than any other in the history of this small island.
His last walk was accompanied by the most upbeat music, which he got the prison chaplain to have played for him. The seven officers who attended to his execution with sombre faces all tendered their resignations with twenty-four hours notice.
The reason for the strange request became clear exactly one year later when a security guard from the halls of death row fell to the ground writhing in excruciating pain. It all happened right there on the steps of the Hall of Justice. He fell to the ground writhing and holding onto his belly, his face twisted in grotesque manner. Visitors and employees alike scampered for safety, as though whatever was going on with him would be contagious. Nobody called for help.
Chloe’s position to assign seats to witnesses for the execution process was an unenviable one. For this reason she felt safe in her job of ten years, until she recognized the victim writhing on the steps. His job was to open the gates to the execution chamber.
After the initial fear of possible consequences due to her superstitious nature, she put it out of her mind and went on with her daily routine. Impossible. Memories of the past kept haunting her. She imagined seeing the chair in which the first client was electrocuted, right there in her living room. That was a botched procedure, and the smell of burning flesh and hair was prevalent within the confines of the prison walls for a while. She could now smell it in her room.
She sprayed air freshener, perfume, even sprinkled talc, but the scent stayed. Ergo, not her imagination. Could it really be that scent from so many years ago? Nah! No way. Must be her imagination. Throughout the years there’ve been many executions. The law was strict and showed no remorse, and no mercy for the heinous crimes committed by some. Appeals were down to a minimum, so once you’re guilty of a crime punishable by death, so be it. Sentence was carried out swiftly.
Gladimus McCarran was known to be a dabbler in the black arts. It had long been assumed that was the reason evidence was always lacking and no case against him ever stood up in court. His appearance, his facial features, took on the look of a deranged and evil individual. His brown curly hair always was unkempt and unwashed, his clothes dirty and smelly, and his house, nestled between two large immortelle trees quite close to the river bank, contributed to the stories being bandied about the small fishing village. At twenty-three years of age his face was that of a much older man. Like in his forties or so. His mother died giving birth to him, and his father, who witnessed his birth is said to have never spoken a word after coming out of the delivery room right up to his death when Gladimus was five.
With all that information from the dead past going through her mind, Chloe’s nerves were on edge. Deathly afraid to do the dishes in the kitchen because she’d be facing the window, and was absolutely sure that Gladimus would just materialize in the living room, she decided to leave the kitchen as is.
She slapped her forehead a few times and said aloud. “Get out of my head.” But the thoughts didn’t go away. With trembling fingers she clicked on the radio hoping to hear some music, but it was the top of the hour and the news was just starting. She couldn’t help herself, she just had to listen when the announcer said a body was found half burnt on the steps of the Hall of Justice. That body was also one of the officers who tended to Gladimus on that fateful day. She paced the tiny living room relentlessly, deathly afraid and wondering what would happen next.
When the strong wind slammed an opened window shut, it was akin to a bomb dropping on the rooftop, reminiscent of the vivid stories she’d read about the last world war and of the stories from her parents and grandparents about all the happenings around those who practice black magic. A scream escaped her mouth and with hands flailing she made a beeline for the front door knocking over any obstacle in her path. She jumped the gate and fell face down on to the graveled roadway, grazing her knees and bursting her lips. She also sustained a large gash on her forehead. But no matter, she rolled over and got up and ran again. Only this time she fell into the arms of Michael Romaine, the most arrogant and obnoxious person in the neighborhood.
“Whoa! Are the hounds of hell after you?” Michael asked as he held her up by the armpits.
“There.. there is some..something in my house!” She stammered a response.
“A burglar? Well let’s go see. Shall we?”
“No. No. Not a burglar. It’s… It’s Gladimus McCarran.” Michael froze in mid-step and in slow motion turned to face Chloe. “What did you say?”
“I think it’s Gladimus McCarran. He’s back. And he is killing us one by one.” Chloe blurted out this last bit. She thought she recognized something akin to empathy in Michael’s face, but he burst out laughing, head thrown back. Chloe folded her arms, and knew her face was getting red by the feel of warmth slowly rising to the top of her head. She folded her arms and sobbed quietly.
“You really are hateful. You know that!”
“No. You’re getting me wrong. You were hysterical. All I was trying to do, was to shock you back to reality.” Michael explained.
“Well, is this reality enough for you?” She shook her fist at him. Ferociously.
“But I think maybe you’re right. Gladimus was a piece of work. I don’t doubt you.” He turned again and gazed at the house. “There’s smoke in your house. Did you leave the stove on?” He asked her.
“No. I don’t think so. But maybe I did. I did smell smoke. And I ran out. I thought it was Gladimus. I thought I saw him in the mirror. Please don’t laugh at me.”
Michael grabbed Chloe’s arm and shouted “Run!” Without a flinch she ran, and ran, heart pounding against her chest, hands trembling and seeing Michael’s back going further and further away; she knew that Gladimus was close. Then she felt the darkness enveloping her and she could no longer see Michael. She was running in one spot. Not moving. She felt her heart stop and dropped to the ground.
Chloe came to her senses, she knew not when, but looking around, she recognized the abandoned building on the outskirts of the village. She noticed the stench first, and then the menacing vines growing on the walls. They appeared to be alive, snaking around the pillars. A hoarse and gravelly laughter pierced the air and startled she rose to her feet, glanced around and praying aloud, she moved towards the exit, but Gladimus materialized at the far end of the building and said, “You placed them where they could see me and laugh at me.”
“It was my job.” She stopped and stammered a reply.
“A job you enjoyed.” He replied, his jagged and rotten teeth glowing like hot coals. “All of you hated me. And you never bothered to say why.” He stated as a matter-of-fact. “You all have to pay as per my last request.” He continued.
“Your last request?”
“You remember. The names printed on my back. So I remember.” He explained, growing more grotesque.
“My name wasn’t there.”
“No it wasn’t. Because you couldn’t be forgotten. Blood relatives are never forgotten.”
“What?” She froze at his unbelievable remark.
“You are my elder sister. But you never acknowledged me. You too good for me?”
“Your mother was…”
“We had the same father. Your mother was my father’s first wife.”
“My father died when I was two.”
“That’s what you were told. Your mother wouldn’t accept my father’s beliefs, so she left him. But not before you came along. You look like him.”
“You are like me. Black arts. Look at your palms.”
Chloe raised her hands to her face while Gladimus showed her his. The markings on their hands were the same. A black mole with one strand of hair in the middle of the palm, and a star near the little finger.
“This is nothing but a coincidence.” Chloe’s head reeling, she felt faint and disoriented so she sat on the floor right there. She didn’t see when Gladimus stretched his hand and waved it over her head. She did feel her hair stand on end and she sprung up from the floor, eyes blazing with hatred. With a surge of inhuman strength she lifted a steel beam and threw it at Gladimus. It went right through him and he laughed in that unearthly voice. Chloe was shocked and scared of herself in what she had just done. No. That wasn’t me. She thought to herself.
“Oh yes it was.” Gladimus answered, reading her mind. Chloe was shocked again. “We are the same, my dear sister.”
“No!” She shouted. And running out of the building screaming and crying, she felt herself going insane. She again met Michael, all bloodied and confused sitting at the side of the road.
“Michael. He said he’s my brother.” She blurted out.
“Your brother? Of course he is. I thought you knew that. Everyone did.”
“The reason your father never spoke after his birth is, unlike your mother, his mother didn’t know how to stop him from infecting the child.”
“You were protected. But only for so long. Now you are just like your brother and your father.”
This story previously appeared in The Siren’s Call, 2017.
Edited by Marie Ginga
Soter Lucio is a great grandmother who does ironing for a living and writes horror at night. She lives alone and her hobbies are reading and writing. She's been published by Sirens Call, Weird Mask, Dark Chapter Press and Migla Press. She can be found on Twitter @JanSoter and on FaceBook at Soter Lucio.