Dear reader, I had said I’d publish this short story in ONE GO, but it ran away with me, growing into a longish short story – too long for one sitting! So, I’m breaking it up into
3 or 4 as-many-as-it-takes parts, to be published every Sunday (the usual day when I posted The Hotel Unicus series). I’ll be rating it 16+ due to the mature themes, but as is my way there is more mystery in the absence of gory details, which terrify me. Horror/mystery/pretanatural. I hope you like it.
Have you missed Part Six?
Just to re-cap…..
I learnt about the various information Will had worked tirelessly upon acquiring. The history of the Red Shoes Twins, the drawings and paintings, the murals, the many similar narratives. There were files on the computer, paper files on the desk and even books.
At five o’clock Dougi left me in Will’s office. “I have to hear the confessions but you’re welcome to stay. Afterwards we can get something to eat from the kitchen. You can help yourself to tea or coffee – it’s the door next to the office one.”
~ Part Seven ~
Alone – or, rather, alone as I could be with the Red Shoes Twins – in Will’s office, my head was buzzing with all the information gleaned. I drank some tap water from a chipped mug, both found in and retrieved from the kitchen next door. I lay on my back on the soft sofa, legs stretched all the way out, and my head propped up by one of two cushions. Immediately, I sunk deep into its squishy embrace. If not for the riveting stuff I’d just discovered I could have quite easily fallen asleep. I glanced over at the Art Deco desk, looking at the mess we’d made with the additional paper files and books. But, I had only just begun: there was so much more to read up on. To work out.
I closed my eyes with a long sigh. Wishing I’d remembered to switch off the overhead lights. Thought about what Will had advised me in the dream. Could dreams really help?
Somehow, by pointing out to Mrs Briggs that the shoes – my shoes – wouldn’t fit her smaller feet, aided her in reclaiming her freedom. “She was thrilled to have met you because you have made everything like it used to be”. Lilly had relayed.
I considered what Lilly had then said: “They say that evil delights in lies. It seems to me that the truth will set you free.”
That was after unexpectedly meeting another, former victim, who urged me to rid myself of them: “I don’t know. I can’t help. It’s different for everyone.”
Even dear old Gran had rattled on about the Truth as she drowned us in tea and a personal unheard of tale of her own. The ex-boyfriend she’d dumped because he turned out to be a bastard.
So, what was my truth?
It’s true – there is no better word! – that a person can never truly know themself. Therefore, it occurred, I might never be able to answer that.
But, I daren’t – could not – afford to lose hope.
I knew I was dying. I’d been made crippled by demons; I couldn’t walk far and needed much rest because of the pervading and acute physical pain. Though, the damage on the inside, to the real me, was worse. I knew I was losing a vital part of me, that special place where joy and love and creativity spring; my soul.
Anyway, what about the next victim, say I was able to be free again? Wasn’t it morally wrong just to happily walk away, knowing that some other poor sod was going to go through the same hell, or, possibly worse?
Couldn’t the shoes be destroyed? Now knowing that they’d been around for at least the last 60 years, I was certain it had been tried. They made people desperate.
My busy, searching mind turned to the illustration of the demonic shoes. The Red Shoes Twins. The rendition was both fearful and comical.
Two fat white slugs stuffed into fancy shoes. Hot shoes, literally, with restless flames spewing. Teeth numerous, sharp like needles; eyes protruding, white and outraged. With something akin to tapeworms for limbs. To search out, to strangle, to suck out the life force.
Where had the image come from? The victim’s own imagination?
Who was Isabelle Andersen? Had she been the first one?
I was on the periphery of dreamland when I heard encroaching footsteps on the flagstone floor. At the same time my mobile phone rang. I forced open my heavy eyes.
The figure looming over me looked as surprised as I.
“I don’t suppose I need to ask what you’re doing here?” Mrs Briggs said.
Other footsteps, irregular and slow, together with a tapping, followed. Dougi peered round the corner. “Nadine!” he called out joyfully, and then: “Nadine, I hope you’re being nice.”
My phone stopped ringing. I pulled out the handset from my handbag. A missed call from Lilly.
“Daddy!” Nadine threw her arms around her father, enveloping him in a gentle squeeze.
So, Mrs Briggs was Dougi’s daughter. The priest and the prostitute, you couldn’t make it up. I never would have guessed. My phone started ringing again. Lilly.
I decided to answer. “Yeah, what do you want?”
Lilly laughed. “You’re sounding like your old self! Any positive progress made?”
I pictured her fiddling with her slipping spectacles. Sitting in her kitchen watching a microwave meal wind round.
“Yes and no.” Trying to be economical with words because I was in company, I briefly explained where I was – to honour Father Will – and who I’d happened to meet, Will’s friend, Dougi. Who told me about Will’s Red Shoes research and mission to help the victims. And, what I had learned so far by going through the accumulated information.
“Shall I come over?” She offered. In the background the microwave pinged.
Truth be told, I needed a good night’s sleep. And, I already had company. “Can I see you tomorrow?”
We arranged to meet for lunch at a favourite bistro. I decided to tell her about the Mrs Briggs’ connection then.
Mrs Briggs brought us a tray of tea in mugs and a big plate of cheese and pickle sandwiches. (“The only thing we have to eat – and my favourite.” Explained Dougi). We sat on the sofa, drinking and eating.
I had to ask her how she was able to free herself of the demonic shoes.
“I had a moment of clarity. My mind had been taken over for so long. I couldn’t think straight. I knew I couldn’t go on living the life I was living – I mean my life even before the shoes. I suddenly saw you with different eyes like I saw them with different eyes. They somehow fitted you…they were no ordinary shoes. I then knew what they really were and they no longer had their hold over me.”
[Above: illustration of the Red Shoes Twins, Isabelle Andersen, 1955. Source: The Book of Dangerous Shoes.]
…………to be continued!
Did you enjoy this story?
If so, I’d love to hear from you!
Inspired by: My own red Italian shoes (in another life when my life was more high heels than wheels).
The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen
The Red Shoes, the film, 1948
Copyright Faith McCord 2018
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.