When the Lady Speaks
by Damien Angelica Walters
Marina locks the door, twists the blinds shut, and heads back through the beaded curtain, parting it with both hands so the strands don’t get tangled in her wig. Leaving the lights dimmed, she sinks down into her chair, as if her entire body holds the weight of what is yet unknown and unspoken.
The walls of what she calls the parlor are a dusky red, cluttered with
mirrors and tiny shelves with dragons and gargoyles and crystals. The table is a simple thing, but covered with several heavy tablecloths, all with tassels hanging from the corners. She found the chairs at a thrift store—the dark wood and velvet cushions from another time. A Turkish rug, another thrift store find, covers the floor completely. Every bit of fabric holds a trace of the incense she burns every morning before her clients arrive, a potent blend of frankincense and musk. But not too much; she isn’t a church and absolution doesn’t come in a deck of cards or a mouthful of evocative words.
She peels the fingerless gloves from her hands. Drops them on the
table with a weary sigh. In the center of her left palm, the tip of a
red thread pokes from the skin like a tiny drop of dried blood. When
she touches the thread, she smells the tang of oranges, tastes honey
on her tongue; both small gifts from the magic. She takes a quick
breath before she pulls the thread free. There’s a sharp bite of pain,
like the last little sting of a scab tugged from a wound. Not a gift, but a price to be paid.
About the Author
Damien Angelica Walters is the author of Cry Your Way Home, Paper Tigers, and Sing Me Your Scars, winner of This is Horror’s Short Story Collection of the Year. Her short fiction has been nominated twice for a Bram Stoker Award, reprinted in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction, and published in various anthologies and magazines, including the Shirley Jackson Award Finalists Autumn Cthulhu and The Madness of Dr. Caligari, World Fantasy Award Finalist Cassilda’s Song, Nightmare Magazine, Black Static, and Apex Magazine. Until the magazine’s closing in 2013, she was an Associate Editor of the Hugo Award-winning Electric Velocipede. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two rescued pit bulls and is represented by Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency.