This past week has been a helluva long century. It feels like 2021 looked at 2020 and said “Hold my beer”. (Side note: I originally typo’d “Hold my bear” and to be honest, that also seems fitting.) I don’t know about you, but trying to do anything besides doomscrolling and staring blankly into the distance is a borderline Sisyphean task. I’m getting there, word by recalcitrant word, but it’s slow going. Since I don’t want you to think that I’ve forgotten you, I figured that I’d give you a quick little taste from what I’m working on dragging out of my brain while you wait…
* * * * *
A magazine page. At the top, a photo of a middle-aged woman with greying dark hair, sitting on a mildly worn clawfoot couch. She is somewhat heavy-set, dressed in a long, dark skirt and lightweight sage colored sweater, and is looking down at the floor toward her left boot. The room is a typical old New England farmhouse; exposed beams and scuffed wooden floor covered with a large, multi-colored braided rug, modern pellet stove set into the old brick fireplace, floral print curtains that offset the faded blue-grey painted walls. It’s a comfortable looking room, at first glance.
The lighting is somewhat dim, and the longer you look, the more you begin to notice that things aren’t quite what you initially thought. The far corner beside the built-in bookcase has oddly distorted shadows, and something in the back of your mind nervously whispers that it is occupied, though you can see nothing definable. The points of light on the evening-darkened window panes that you had dismissed as lamplight reflections look unnervingly like eyes looking back at you the more you look at them. Your gaze is drawn back to the woman on the couch, or rather, to the shadows beneath it.
They are too thick for the amount of light in the room and as you try to see into them the darkness begins to resolve into something that sends a chill down your spine. Deep in the shadow, you can just make out a pair of eyes shining a deep red and, worse, the faint glitter of too many barely concealed needle-sharp teeth. An unnaturally long-fingered hand the color of lampblack and ending in stiletto-like claws is reaching out from underneath that couch and rests lightly on the woman’s foot and ankle, at which she is smiling fondly. The scene is, overall, a blend of homey tranquility and deeply unsettling shadows in perfect balance with one another. Something about it makes you sure that there are no camera or clever editing tricks involved.
Below the photo, in bold, black font, the headline reads:
“Making Friends With Monsters: An Afternoon With Auntie Yaga, The Woman Behind The World’s Only Monster Outreach Program.”
(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)