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 Nine?
Just to re-cap…..
“I was never personally drawn to the Shoes – and I didn’t know then that they were the cause of her death. I didn’t desire them; they didn’t desire me. I don’t know why.” She shook her head in wonder.
“Strange.” I said.
Joy continued: “I’d left them in a box at the back of a cupboard, and one day, they’d simply disappeared.”
In my mind I pictured the Red Shoes walking away in search of souls. Some souls desirable; some souls not. For reasons only the Red Shoes Twins knew.
The clink of her cup meeting its saucer brought me back to the present. Joy Lapierre’s grey eyes suddenly twinkled. “How is Alfred these days?”
~ Part Ten ~
It turned out that Joy had met my gran a while ago. Some – sixty years – while ago.
“We were hardly at home. Gareth travelled with his sales job, I worked part-time as a receptionist for an engineering company, and, at the weekends we often went exploring another corner of the British Isles. We started with a tent then ended up with a caravan. Whereas my sister, Isabelle, was a real homebody, I was too restless for that!”
“And you inherited Alfred as well…?”
“Yes. He was always an Alfred; it’s what Isabelle named him. James kept the other pets, the dog and the cat. I thought I could take care of him but I soon realised it wasn’t fair, us hardly being home.”
“So, how did you meet Gran?”
Joy laughed at the distant memory. “Oh, you say your ‘gran’ and it does sound funny, because I remember her as a girl of twelve or thirteen.”
I wondered what my grandmother had been like as a girl. Whether she was already outspoken and stubborn, or not. “What was she like?”
“I knew her because she delivered our local newspaper. She had that paper round for a long time. She was reliable, she turned up on her bicycle, whether snow or rain or sunshine. Long yellow hair plaited, freckles, trousers or shorts. She wasn’t a girly girl.
“One day, I asked her into the back garden – which had a gate in the fence, leading onto the back lane – to offer her a glass of water. It was rather hot and I felt sorry for her. We knew each other a little by then – I always waved to her if we saw one another – so we were more like good neighbours than strangers. I was asking after her mother when she caught sight of Alfred ambling towards her. She asked if she could feed him and I gave her a lettuce leaf to give him. And, that’s all it took – she was smitten with him – and he with her! I said she could keep him if she took good care of him and, of course, had her parents’ permission…” Joy’s voice trailed off with the memory.
“Well! Gran never told me that story.” I said.
“We live in a small world.” Lilly said and Joy nodded like a wise old tortoise.
“Can I ask you how your sister found the Shoes? Do you even know?” I asked.
“Yes, I know. I remember from what she told me in a letter, that she’d found them on her doorstep. She said, ‘like an unwanted baby in a cardboard box’. Except it was shoes. Expensive, exotic, brand new. She said, she couldn’t believe that someone would leave them there. It was very odd. She’d asked round to see if they belonged to someone, but nobody knew anything.”
There was a short silence and we suddenly realised just how dark the room had become. Joy reached out and we heard a switch of a button; the room warmed to a yellow glow, emitted from a tall standing lamp.
I could now see her clearer in the light and her face startled me. Whilst her voice had been even and good-natured, the tears wetting her eyes – the grey eyes so much like her sisters – spoke of her grief. Grief undiminished by time.
Before the carer knocked on the door, Joy implored me: “Find another like Will. A proper priest. One who can exorcise them.”
What do I do now? I thought. Do I spend my dwindling time finding a genuine exorcist priest, or, search for my own truth? Will might have been able to help me but the Red Shoes Twins had killed him. I was a ‘dead woman walking’. How much time did I have left?
My thinking was muddy. It was with great effort that I did anything, especially trying to make sense of the nightmare I was living. I wasn’t able to sleep straight through the night because of the severe physical pain in my feet, legs and back, and because of the dark dreams. I was left drained and took to napping like a cat. Grabbing at sleep whenever I was able.
I now dreamt of Isabelle as well as Will. Sometimes the three of us would be sitting in Will’s smashed-up car, the gold motes glinting off the hanging crucifix, dancing, scratching at Will’s blue and damaged face, the pervading stench of death and decay nowhere near the levels of guilt I felt. The discharge of the radio, its red light glowing and pulsating with the rhythm of Pistol Annies’ Hell on Heels – a country song I’d never before heard of, but, which, the radio-announcer enthusiastically said:
“You must hear this one. It’s a killer!”
Isabelle, silently sitting in the back-seat, would be wearing that same white shirt as the one in the photo, her grey eyes solemn. In fact, all of her was black and white as if she was part of an old movie. Her dry, croaking voice told me:
“Send them back to hell.”
Will, turning his head, looking at me, where I’d sit in the front beside him, with kind eyes from a face that was no longer human. Bluer than death. The dark hole in his forehead where the blood had dried black in its spill; encrusted over an eye, down a cheek, his neck, saturating his clerical shirt.
“Remember what I said.” He whispered to me.
They were trapped in their own hell. Good, normal people sent here by demonic entities. How many others were there?
I didn’t wish to join them.
Of course I regretted ever having set eyes on the damned things. What had I done wrong to be enticed, ensnared?
The only thing I could think of doing right then made perfect logical sense at the time. I went swimming.
…………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.