The prompt: When Jean saw the man in the black business suit, she stopped, held her breath and prayed that he would not look up from his cell phone. Not wasting another moment, she hurried and ducked out of sight behind the garbage dumpster.

 

Jean hadn’t opened her letters for weeks now, she didn’t need to, the red ink said it all. Her bank account had been overdrawn for the previous six months and the rent due for the last two and so now the landlord had arrived. Jean waited and then sneaked a quick glance into the Laundromat’s window opposite, praying that he was gone. But she could still see a thin, warped shadow in the plate-glass, standing there like a stunted tree. It wouldn’t be so bad if he was a regular guy, she thought to herself, wondering if she could reason with him, but deep down inside, Jean knew there was no chance.

Alexander Baker prided himself on being fair, but he was as avaricious as they come and begrudged anything or anyone that lost him money. Eight weeks was too long to go rent-free and he eyed up the battered door in front of him as he finished the call. There was nobody in. He’d known that the girl was going to be trouble as soon as he saw her. Jean Bindoff was one of those ditzy, artist types that wore thrift-store clothes and was probably a vegetarian. It was only as a favour to his cousin, who’d had a brief affair with the student and wanted rid of her, that Alexander had let her move in. The rent had been on time every month for the last three years, but now she’d blown it. He looked up and down the street to make sure that no-one was watching, then skipped lightly down the steps, taking out the keys and sidling inside.

The studio apartment was pitch-black and he retched at the smell. For some reason, it reminded him of science class. What was that terrible stench? He fumbled for the light switch, pawing at the wall until he found it. Nothing happened and he cursed her, typically she hadn’t paid the bills and the electricity was disconnected. Alexander edged towards the window to open the curtains, but there was thick plyboard nailed across the wall in a rudimentary home-made shutter and he turned, tripping over and falling heavily to the floor, winding himself. He heard the door open and bright sunlight danced across his eyes as a shadow flitted past and then the darkness returned.

For the first time, Alexander felt a cold shudder of fear and tried to stand, anything to get away from the cloying smell, so strong now that he wanted to vomit.

‘You shouldn’t have come in here.’ He heard Jean say, followed by another flash of light that dazzled him, burning spots of light onto his retina. A small candle flame suddenly illuminated the room and then Alexander saw the tanks of formaldehyde floating in the eerie light, each with a different body part, suspended, timelessly circling around inside.

‘You really shouldn’t have come in here.’ Jean said shyly, walking towards him with the candle and knife, implacable and suddenly unafraid.


 

About the Author

When Stevie O’Connor was little, she knew there was something magical about words. She was in awe of the library, and the books appeared as infinite as stars, each with a different story or world. For her, the magic has never vanished. Discover more about Stevie and her work at her official site.

 

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