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The Stone House

Sylvia and Lauren stood at the mansion gate and took turns daring each other to go in first. Each Halloween, the house at the end of the road hosted a party. Only a select few were invited and this year, Sylvia and Lauren had finally made the cut. The parties were legendary and everyone who attended was part of the town’s elite. Each year the hostess, Madame Stone, held a costume contest with a mysterious but amazing prize. As a budding fashion designer, Lauren was certain that winning would launch her career. She had spent weeks pouring her heart into their costumes. Lauren was a beautiful summer fairy queen, and Sylvia was her rival, the winter queen.

They decided to walk in together. Hand in hand, they walked a winding path lined with beautiful statues and the women appreciated that the statues appeared to be wearing fantastic Halloween costumes. A haunting melody followed their progress as they made their way through the party. The mansion was easily four times the size of their tiny bungalow and the most beautiful place they had ever been. There was a golden chandelier in the lobby, rich tapestries lining the walls and a garden in the courtyard filled with more of those lifelike statues. The wealth on display was ostentatious, but the other guests’ costumes lacked the originality and dedication that Lauren had poured into theirs. Compliments rained down on them and they knew that the mysterious prize would be theirs. At last, Madame Stone, in a long dress encrusted in rubies with a matching red hood and mask that obscured her face, led everyone out into the garden to stand among the trees.

“It’s time to announce the winners of the costume contest. This year, I have chosen a joint entry created by a talented local fashion designer. When I saw her work at the fashion show, I knew that their costumes would not disappoint, and I am always right.” She paused while the crowd laughed. “Sylvia and Lauren, please come stand before me and let us feast our eyes on your creations. I am sure everyone here would agree, that your work is so beautiful that we could admire you two forever.”

Applause enveloped them as they made their way to stand before Madame Stone. Lauren was ecstatic. Her dream career was in sight. They spun in a slow circle to allow everyone one last look and then Madame Stone arranged them together in a dramatic embrace. She stood with her back to the crowd and faced only Sylvia and Lauren. Madame Stone raised her hood and took off her ruby mask.

Sylvia and Lauren had enough time to register the startling beauty of her eyes boring into them underneath her head of writhing snakes before cold overtook them and they joined the other statues in the garden.

*Originally published on October 6, 2020 in Dark Halloween: A Flash Fiction Anthology (Holiday Horror Collection Book 5) Edited by Eleanor Merry

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